Real Cooking

I just finished reading Bridget Jone’s Diary by author Helen Fielding. The novel chronicles a year in the life of, well duh, Bridget Jones -and here I’m quoting from the book jacket- “a 30-something Singleton” who is certain she would have all the answers if she could:

a. lose 7 pounds

b. stop smoking

c. develop inner poise

I found the book charming and witty, if not “screamingly funny” (book jacket, again). My favorite part is when Bridget tries to cook. Or when Bridget goes to the Tarts and Vicars party. And I loved revisiting London through Bridget’s eyes, going to Oxford Street and to Marks and Spencers.

OK. I liked the book. Bridget begins her diary on Jan. 1 with two lists headed “I Will Not” and “I Will.” These are her goals for the new year. Her entries include, “I will not waste money on pasta makers, ice cream machines or other culinary devices which I will never use” and “I will learn to program video (VCR).”

So, being inspired by Bridget-who does in the end accomplish some of her goals-I thought I might come up with a “I will, I will not list” just for the summer. Maybe, if my list is for the short term, I’ll be more able to realize some objectives.

Here we go…. “Cheryl Jost’s Diary” goals for the summer.

I Will Not…

…harp at my husband for sending the Kunkel Construction crew home so he can finish our building job by himself. I will not point out more than one time a week that he has not had the opportunity to work on the house since the fieldwork has picked up. I will not wander aimlessly through the unfinished rooms crying, “Why? Why?”

…put off painting the exterior of the house for yet another year.*

…be envious of friends who are going on summer vacations. Especially those friends who are going on an extended European holiday. Will be content with going to South Dakota for a weekend wedding. Oh, should put this bit in the “I will” section.

…eat potato chips for breakfast. Need to remind family not to leave chips out on the counter as mother can’t “eat just one.”

…let all of the vegetables rot in the crisper.

…embarrass my kids at their ball games by wearing weird hats or by shouting too many instructions through the fence.

…let all of the flowers that I have planted die a slow death from lack of water.

…keep forgetting to pick up all of the junk from out of the car after each trip out of town or to the ball diamond. Remember: waxy paper cups from McDonald’s have a tendency to melt in hot cars, the remnants of soft drinks turning into gooey messes in the bottom of the van’s cup holders.

I Will…

…be supportive of my husband’s desire to save money by finishing our building project by himself. At least for the summer.

…start to get the children’s photos, newspaper clippings, awards and recital programs rounded up and placed in creative scrapbooks or beautifully framed montages in preparation for their high school graduation parties. Realize that after going to this year’s graduate’s parties that I am sorely behind in chronicling my children’s lives. Have only seven years to catch up…will need every minute.

…help a young person achieve a goal.*

…wash the kitchen floor every day. Will perhaps be able to see the decorative pattern again.

…be happy that the only summer trip we will make this year will be to a small town in South Dakota for our nephew’s wedding (at the same time as our friends will be touring the Mediterranean).

…find a suitable outdoor home for these chickens that are still in my dining room. Had to postpone transfer to garage as large snake has taken up residence under the garage refrigerator. Husband not able, as yet, to route snake to another home. Fieldwork, you know.

…eat more fruits and vegetables. Doesn’t moo goo gai pan contain a lot of vegetables? Chow mein? Happy family?

…purchase a funky, yet child-approved summer hat to wear at ball games to protect my pale skin from sunburn. And I will remember to wear sunscreen.

Let the summer begin…I’m ready now.

*Just made a deal with our niece. She is willing to paint our house to earn money for college. All right. Two goals down. It’s working already.

* * *

I made some of these brownies for last graduation weekend and was asked to share the recipe. It’s a bit lengthy, but the bars really go together very quickly-just be sure to allow enough time so the different layers can cool properly.

I do use amaretto and generally have a bottle available for flavoring different dishes. Most liquor stores carry small “airplane size” sample bottles of many liqueurs that are found in recipes and are quite convenient to have stored in the cupboard when a tablespoon is needed.

Truffle Topped Amaretto Brownies

For brownies:

1 (1 lb. 5 oz.) fudge brownie mix

1/2 cup oil

1/3 cup water

2 Tbs. amaretto or 1 tsp. almond extract*

1 egg

3/4 cup chopped almonds

For filling:

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup chocolate chips, melted

2-3 Tbs. amaretto or 1 tsp. almond extract*

For topping:

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup toasted sliced or ground almonds

Combine brownie ingredients and spread into a greased 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 26 to 33 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

Combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and the amaretto and spread mixture over cooled brownies. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until filling is firm.

For topping, melt the chocolate with the whipping cream over low heat, stirring constantly. When smooth, carefully spread over filling. Sprinkle with almonds. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

*If using almond extract, increase water in brownies to 1/2 cup. Use almond extract and 2 Tbs. of milk in the filling.

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