Mother-F………ABULOUSNESS! You didn’t think I was going to say something else, did you? Not that I haven’t used that particular turn of a phrase before (to great effect), but I’d never utter it in a tribute to the maternal set. There are too many wooden spoons out there standing at the ready. So with Mother’s Day upon us, I thought I’d take this opportunity to expound on all the wonders of this curious being. Whether wicked good, wicked bad, or just plain wicked, there’s nothing like a mom. What other creature would willingly wipe all sorts of disgusting substances from your (and their) person, sit beaming through recitals while you butcher otherwise lilting melodies with musical instruments, sew a giant sweet potato costume so you can be the BEST beta carotene food in the second grade production of “Nutrition can be FUN!” or still love you even when you have destroyed their window/rose bush/pearls/car? Mothers need not have given birth to you, be married, related by blood, raise you from birth, or even be a woman. They travel in all different kinds of shoes across this earth. And if you are lucky, really lucky, you may even have one you like as much as love, and can call friend.
I’ve never been a mom in the traditional sense. Like many of you, I’d thought I would at some point, but as life moved forward, motherhood didn’t follow. I even considered doing it on my own once. Did you know that in addition to being one of the largest exporter or raisins, strawberries and technology geeks, California is king of the sperm bank? I’m not kidding! So I gathered all the data on the ins and outs of dating daddy in a test tube, and then ultimately decided that flying solo as a parent was not for me. And when I let that go, I realize I was sort of mother of a different kind. The kind who comes into your life for a time short or long to nurture, care, feed and love you. One who’ll hand you tissues and hug you without letting go, then goad you out of your miserable mood until you laugh so hard you pee in your pants. And one who’s not afraid to call your bluff because you’re worth so much, and lovingly pushes you to suck it up and put your grownup panties on.
I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful mother (who is on her third hanky by now), but more than that, I’ve had wonderful other mothers too. So to all of them, and all of you, I send a BIG thank you and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
While never having ‘birthed a baby’ myself, I do have two kids I consider mine — my terrific niece and nephew. My nephew Chris turned 21 this week, and of course birthdays require baked goods. This year I adapted my go-to brownie recipe with the addition of peanut butter swirls and salty peanuts. The result was a dense, sweet and salty treat, and since they have peanuts inside and on top, they’ll go nicely with his my boy’s first “legal” beer.
Salty Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Makes one 13x9” pan full – how many you get out of that is up to you!
- 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder (this is a mild chili – you could leave out, or if you wanted it spicier, substitute ¼ - ½ tsp cayenne)
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts, plus ½ cup peanut halves for top
- 4-6 TBSP creamy peanut butter
- Ganache for drizzling on top (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Spray foil with cooking spray. (This will make it easy to remove the cooled brownies from pan and cut up.)
Microwave chocolate and butter in large bowl on HIGH 1 ½ – 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and nuts, mix well and pour into prepared pan. Drop 4-6 TBSP of peanut butter around the top of the pan, then take a butter knife and drag it through the peanut butter, making swirls as you go for a marbled design. (Be careful not to put the tip of the knife all the way down to the bottom or you’ll tear the foil.)
BAKE 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not over bake.) Let cool while you make the ganache.
For ganache drizzle:
- 3 ½ ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (if using bittersweet, add 1/2 tsp honey)
- 2 TBSP butter
- A pinch (about 1/8 tsp) sea salt
- ½ tsp strong coffee, espresso, or instant espresso powder
Melt the ingredients over double boiler or in the microwave (1 minute should do). Stir until completely incorporated and pours well off a large spoon. Drizzle ganache over the top of the warm brownies, and sprinkle the peanut halves on top.
Chill brownies thoroughly before cutting. Use the foil to remove the brownies from the pan and cut into squares. These can be made a day in advance. Store in refrigerator and take out 15-20 minutes before serving. Leftovers keep well in the freezer, but I have a feeling storing leftovers will not be necessary.