Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie ‘Brookies,’ and an Epic Tale

I’m gonna let you guys in on a little secret today, or maybe a big secret, a sort of giant life lesson I’ve recently learned… and write you an epically long blog post. So, if you’re not in the mood, I won’t be offended if you bow out now (or scroll all the way to the very end, because this recipe is seriously ridiculous). Usually this blog is all rainbows and unicorns and happy things, but that’s not real life, at least not all the time. There is a lot beyond what happens in the kitchen, or on a special night out to dinner. The in between moments are the real stuff, and that’s what this secret is all about. Before you go getting excited, it’s not one of those kinds of secrets. It’s the kind that slowly comes over you, that settles into your bones, and sets up shop deep down in your soul. It won’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but once you know it, it definitely changes your perspective on life. Are you ready?

Here it is: Life Is Hard.

Now if you’ve been on this earth for more years than I, or are just beyond your years to begin with, then you’ve already learned this lesson. When I was little, I can remember having a bad day and thinking, when I grow up, this won’t ever happen again; when I grow up, everything will be perfect. I wasn’t a particularly disillusioned child, and I didn’t have a hard upbringing. On the contrary, I was fairly well rounded, had a loving family, plenty of hobbies to keep me busy, and was always pretty self-aware. But for so many years, I carried around this illusion that when I grew up, the hard things would go away. Money would be bountiful, work would be fun, friends would surround me, and decisions wouldn’t be so hard.

Chocolate PB Brookies

Boston Harbor Islands, June 2014

Last year, something happened in my life that quite literally turned my entire existence on it’s head. I’ve had difficult personal experiences before; I’ve lost family members, handled serious health issues, battled through depression, and more. These things are the tough stuff of life, but we all have them. But late last year, all of my tough stuff came to a head, and I found my world spiraling out of control so fast that I felt like I was falling without hitting the ground, for months. That’s scary stuff, I’ll tell ya, but when I finally landed on my feet again, I discovered with staggering disgust this big secret. Life. Is. Really. Hard. It’s not all happy and fun and easy when you grow up, you just grow out of old hardships and into new ones. In fact, being an adult is a lot harder than being a kid who got picked last in gym class, or who didn’t score a single point during a rec basketball game in 9th grade. Being an adult requires a lot more thought and planning, figuring out how to make your own decisions, learning how to listen to yourself, coaching yourself through challenging situations, and so much more. Being an adult is hard.

Chocolate PB Brookies

During the many months where my life felt completely out of control, I lost all of the essentials that made me, ME. This blog was on obvious one, as I let months lay silent without a recipe, a check-in, or anything. I stopped baking, I spent less time with friends, and I developed an attitude that the world was simply out to get me. Standing where I am now, I can look back and say that attitude pretty much sucked, because when you’re in that dark place, all you see are your shortcomings. I was so good at feeling sorry for myself, at rattling off a list of the ways in which I had failed, or the universe was conspiring against me. Every day was a battle, and I fixated on the unfairness of it all — Why me? What did I do to deserve such a miserable existence? It wasn’t until very recently that I made the stunning realization that I was wasting precious days of my life being unhappy. I started to consider there might actually be a way to feel better, and for the first time in ages, thought that maybe I could do it.

Chocolate PB Brookies

The past couple of weeks have been filled new personal challenges, and I have found myself distinctly alone in situations where I historically would have looked to someone else for help. I have learned that I alone am accountable for my decisions, I am in charge of making myself happy, I am the only one who gets to decide what side of the bed I get up on in the morning, and how I shape my days. I spent a lot of years hiding behind grief and pain and unfairness, but realize now, that those things are just the realities of life. So you deal with them. You don’t let them monopolize your time or steal your thunder. You just take them in stride, the best way that you can. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s definitely worth trying. If you let a bad day at work, or an unexpected disappointment, or some other unfortunate situation rule your life, then that’s a pretty hollow existence, and it doesn’t only ruin you, but your relationships, too.

Chocolate PB Brookies

So I’m slowly getting back into baking, and remembering why I love it. I’m making social time a priority, and trying to enjoy my alone time more fully. I’m gardening this year, and soaking up the glorious moments after work when I can traipse into the backyard and check on all my plants. I’m prioritizing things that make me happy over things that I have to get done. I’m trying to let the bad stuff go, and not get hung up on the hiccups of everyday life. Sure, I’m still grumpy when I wake up at 5am and I’m still negative sometimes, bad days still happen and I’m still susceptible to feeling bad about myself. But you better believe that I am trying. And I am so proud of that, because that is the best that I can do. It’s the best that any of us can do.

Chocolate PB Brookies

These brownies — or “brookies” if we’re getting really technical — hold a lot of personal meaning. It might sound like a funny thing, but for me, homemade food has a lot of value. These brownies are an ode to someone I love, and also represent a renewed commitment to myself, to making ME happy. I started this blog as a way to catalog recipes that I make and enjoy, not only for use for myself, but for bookmarking the stuff that makes my friends and family happy too. I have a coffee cake recipe that is several years old on this blog, which I revisit for family holidays throughout the year because I know my grandparents love it. There’s a brownie recipe I have used countless times whenever I want a total crowd-pleaser. A close family friend emailed me a few weeks back to let me know she was looking for a cookie recipe, and came upon my blog in her search. That stuff is pure gold, and it makes me so happy. So I’m trying to get back to more of that, to a place with more smiles, more brownies, more compassion, and less sweating the small stuff. It’s surely an uphill battle, but I think I’ll get there someday.

Oh… and in case you just came here for a recipe, and are wondering if these brookies are worth your time… all I can say if that they’re AMAZING. I fed them to a bunch of different people, and everyone who tried them loved them. I mean really, what’s not to love? Brownie on the bottom, peanut butter cookie on top, chocolate chips and Reese’s cups throughout. These will be the star of any summer picnic, I promise.

Thanks for reading. Be happy today!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie ‘Brookies'

Ingredients

    For the Brownie layer:
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the Cookie layer:
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • Generous 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Mini Cups (about 10), chopped*

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8x8 (for fatter brownies, like I made) or 9x9 (for thinner brownies) with parchment paper.
  2. For the brownie layer:
  3. In a microwave-safe glass bowl, melt chocolate chips and butter in 30 second intervals. Stir gently after each interval, until the mixture is completely smooth. Be careful not to burn!
  4. Once smooth and silky, add sugar, flour, eggs, salt and vanilla extract, and mix to combine completely. Pour brownie batter into parchment lined pan, and set aside while you make the cookie layer.
  5. For the cookie layer:
  6. In a large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla, both sugars, peanut butter and egg, and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix again just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  7. Sprinkle chopped Reese's peanut butter cups evenly across the brownie layer, then drop the cookie dough on top of the brownies and smooth evenly. Bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, a bit shorter or longer depending on the size pan you use. (You can start checking for doneness after about 30 minutes.) The bars will be done when the top of golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean (or with streaks of melty chocolate only!)
  8. Let cool completely before slicing, to best see the striking layers.

*I used the individually wrapped dark chocolate mini's here, but you could use regular, or the pre-unwrapped really mini ones.

http://www.sweetlyserendipity.com/dessert/brownies-and-bars/chocolate-peanut-butter-brookies-and-an-epic-tale/

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