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Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? I hope so. If not, please do. It’s the cutest movie EVER. Our daughter loves it, which pleases me greatly… because I’ve dreamed of throwing a Totoro themed birthday party since the time she was just a twinkle in our eyes.

Here are a few pictures of the simple Totoro-themed party that we threw for Cleo’s 2nd birthday party. Everything came together in the end very nicely, with a lot of help from grandparents and friends. We planned a late morning party, so we just had cake and coffee. It was really nice to have coffee talk with friends in the park before the day got too warm.

Look at the great cake that my friend Vince helped me make! Actually, this one I did by myself, but he came over and helped me make a trial run cake. The vegan “buttercream” frosting recipe (see below) that he came up with looked better than this one did, but it was so very tasty. I used a Dr. Oetker’s lemon cake mix, and instead of using eggs, I substituted 1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water for each egg, which is turning out to be my favorite egg substitute. It came out really well! There’s also a layer of organic blueberry jam in there between the cake layers serving as the filling. One of our guests wondered why I decided to make a cake that wasn’t vegan. He looked pretty surprised that it actually was. And there was barely enough for all of the guests. Oops.

Vegan Buttercream Frosting
1 c Earth Balance margarine, at room temperature
3 c vegan confectioner’s sugar
1-3 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp vanilla (Vince suggested flavoring it with fresh grated ginger! It was really good, but didn’t play well with the cake flavors we had planned here)
food color

Using a hand mixer, beat the margarine until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar; it’ll be crumbly. Add a tablespoon of soy milk and mix, adding more if necessary. Add vanilla, mix more. If you need more liquid, by all means, add more, but slowly. If desired, add food color. Now get to decorating! Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

Soot Sprites are abundant in Totoro’s neighborhood.

I made about 40 of them, with fuzzy faux fur, felt for eyes affixed with embroidery thread. Very simple, too (see my instructions, below, to make your very own). Making them was a lot of fun, but seeing the looks on people’s faces when presented with one was even better.

To make the Soot Sprites, trace 5″ circles (coasters work really well as a pattern here), and cut out 2 pieces for each sprite. The eyes are patterned by a quarter, and then use embroidery thread to affix them in a star pattern to one of the faux fur pieces (if you’re into that. Dots would work too). After attaching the eyes, place the faux fur pieces right sides together, and tuck the furry ends in toward the middle of the sprite so that you don’t see any fur sticking out. Pin the pieces together. Stitch around the edges (if you use a sewing machine for this, you will want a bigger needle and a longer stitch length. And you’ll also want to dust it out really well after this project. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Soot Sprites can be messy!), leaving about a half inch seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 2-inch opening! Turn the sprite right-side-out, and stuff with the stuffing of your choice. They would make really great bean bags, but I opted for stuffing. Light and fluffy! Hand stitch them up. Voila! A Soot Sprite is born!

Acorns!

Acorns and seeds play a part in Totoro too. Cleo’s grandmother was so generous with her time and made a bunch of these! They’re about 2 inches from end to end, and made with such care. She is a crafty lady, and I think she really enjoyed the challenge of working on something so small, using a new pattern, and making them just right. She made almost 30 of them, and they’re amazing. They still sit up on our bookshelf to be admired. Here is the pattern she ended up using. There are a LOT of cute things going on on that site. I might have to learn to knit. Again.

It wouldn’t be a party without treat bags…

And our young guests seemed to enjoy them greatly. They’re just basic paper gift bags, filled with bubbles, Soot Sprites, the fabulous knitted acorns, and some stickers. The Totoros are made from heavy duty scrap booking paper. I sketched my basic  Totoro shape on one, cut it out, and then traced it to make some clones. I kept it very basic. Less is more, and when you try to do details on a reproduction, it looks so much more… reproduced. I did the same with the Totoro tummy, and then used a hole punch to do the eyes. After gluing them all together, I just used a felt pen to put on the finishing touches and customize them with the guest’s name. Finally, tape the Totoro to the full treat bag, and you’re done!
Our adult guests didn’t go home empty handed though. The night before, I cut down some flowers I got in bunches at the grocery store and grouped them in half-pint mason jars. So cute! I chose jars that would fit into a car’s cup holder. I’d hate for our party favors be remembered for the mess they made and not for the cuteness of the event!

Thanks to all of the help that we had, I was able to arrive at the party site just half an hour before the party started to unload everything. I enlisted a few friends to help with the tablecloths on the picnic table, and to arrange the decorations on top of them. My parents brought a huge party pot of organic coffee from a local roaster and coffee house, and I set up a little coffee station with a selection of vegan creamers and sweeteners. This party was a true lesson in keeping things simple so as to truly enjoy the day.
Here’s one of my favorite moments from the party- Cleo walking with my dad. At first she was really wobbly while maneuvering the perimeter of the now-unused wading pool at the park. By the time she got halfway around, she was feeling pretty confident; by the time she’d lapped it, she wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. She’s growing up so fast!

Happy Birthday Cleo. Next year you can pick out your party theme. xoxo Mommy

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Oh my. Would you look at all that vegan sushi?

We had a party a little while back. I have always wanted to learn to make sushi, and found a friend who was willing to teach me, and a few friends who were willing to eat my homework.

We started with a big pot of cooked brown rice (because it’s healthier than brown rice, of course, and gave it a really hearty flavor), as well as some tofu strips fried in a little bit of canola oil:

My teacher brought a fabulous selection of roasted veggies. Those eggplants were the best!

We also had radish sprouts and avocado, as well as some roasted broccoli and sauteed portabella mushrooms to roll with. I would have taken pictures of the rolling procedure so as to teach you too, but after making my first roll, I was absolutely smitten. I loved the challenge of making neat and tidy little concoctions. I love how well contained the sushi roll is. I felt I had a gift for it, and wouldn’t stop to give anybody else a turn. Luckily we had two little rolling stations set up, so others were able to make a few rolls beside me.

Here are a few of my favorites (basically anything with a radish sprout or avocado gets that title): Broccoli with red pepper, tofu, and radish sprouts. WIN!

One of our guests made miso soup! She thought she might have gone overboard with the nori, but I don’t think so. Seaweed is really good for you! And look at those little baby mushrooms.

This was one of the best nights of my life. Learning something new (that I felt I was actually pretty good at right off the bat), eating A TON of food made from scratch that’s really good for you, and making something beautiful; all things I really enjoy. And, with people that I love! It was a pretty small party, but there were no leftovers. That’s just how we roll. AH-HAHAHA!

You might remember that I’ve got an ongoing organization project going on in my house. One thing that had really been getting to me was my flour collection. It was contained in a smaller cupboard (we have no pantry, sigh), and was basically a pile of flours that look like this, but much bigger:

It’s not that I have a flour hoarding problem, (ok, maybe I do, but it’s nothing like my toiletry issue!), but I need a variety of them because I’m always making goodies to share with my sister, who can’t tolerate gluten. I would reach for fava/garbanzo flour and find that the bag has been punctured. I’d pull out my spelt flour and find that the clip had popped off in the shuffle, and now it was stale. Ugh! Finally, we inherited a mid-century buffet, and were granted some more space. I have a little pantry! Time to act. I went out to the local home and garden store, Down to Earth, where I buy adorable little dishes, and found some canning jars. I bought a pack of 12, and they gave me a bulk discount! I also bought some labels, so that I wouldn’t get my flours mixed up. I dumped each flour into a jar, which was a bit messy, and discovered that Cleo has a taste for buckwheat flour. By itself. Anyway, here are my labeled jars:

This project was really easy, but it made such a huge difference in how I approach baking. No longer do I have to gingerly sift through a pile of bags, hoping that I won’t make a huge mess when I rip it accidentally, and now it’s so much easier to see what I have on hand before I head out to the market. Before tucking them into the buffet, I lined them up on the windowsill for a pretty moment, and relished in their neatness.

Finally! Order has come to my flour collection. What a relief.

Simplicity Pattern #2572

Look how big my baby is getting! I actually made this back in September, and it’s been hanging in Cleo’s closet waiting for her to grow in to it. Fortunately, the time came during the month that mommy went back to work, and baby went to day care. And brought home a variety of germs. Which brought the entire house down for about a month. Four huge cases of tissues, several prescriptions, and a few paychecks later, here we are.
Now- let’s talk hoodie. I always have SOME sort of problem with a pattern, now don’t I? This one was actually pretty easy to work with- though I got a little carried away gathering up the ruffle edges, and had to loosen them up. I always do that. It’s a very gentle gather, not some crazy circus petticoat trim, though that’d be fun! My only complaint is that the cuff edges are unfinished- you can see that just on the inside of her sleeve. I plan to clean it up with some bias tape, with the same treatment that the edge on the bodice received:

Can you see how challenging it is to get a photo of this busy little person?
My only advice for you, should you decide to make this hoodie, is that you choose a fabric that is not quite as dense as the flannel I’ve chosen. Those layers of (although gentle) gathers, sewn onto the bodice or sleeve, covered with bias tape, make for some challenging stitchery. And it’s not always pretty. And you might also consider choosing a bias tape that matches (rather than pops against, as I’ve chosen) your hoodie fabric.
Won’t this be the perfect little hoodie for a day at the coast?

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

2 tbsp arrowroot powder (cornstarch or potato starch will work, too)
2 c cold water or vegetable broth
8 tsp olive oil
1 c shallots, thinly sliced
1 large onion, quartered and sliced into half moons
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 portobello caps, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
3 1/2 c seitan, sliced into thin, wide strips
2 tsp salt
1 c Burgundy cooking wine
1 tbsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 c nutritional yeast
1/2 c plain soy milk
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 c frozen green peas
1/2 lb wide noodles, prepared according to package directions

Dissolve the arrowroot in the 2 cups of water; set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and onions, saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cremini and portobello mushrooms, and thyme. Saute for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron skillet with the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil, just long enough to coat it. Add the seitan and saute over medium heat about 25 minutes, until it is dark brown and crispy on the outside. If you are using store-bought seitan you need only cook it for 10 minutes.

Back to the sauce: add the salt, wine, and paprika (to the mushroom mixture). Turn up heat to high to reduce the liquid, about 10 minutes.

Lower heat to medium-high, add the arrowroot mixture, stir well, and let the sauce thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the nutritional yeast and mix well until it is dissolved. Add the soy milk and mustard and bring heat down to low; be very careful not to let it boil now because it can make the soy milk and mustard bitter (I just turned the heat down before adding it, and made sure those bubbles stopped. I didn’t want to take any chances). Add the seitan and peas; cook for 10 more minutes.

Divide the noodles into bowls and mix with the stroganoff. It is best to mix immediately so that the pasta doesn’t stick. You can top it off with tofu sour cream, but I like it just the way it is. Serves 6-8.

I made this for our wedding anniversary dinner last night. We’ve been married for 8 years! The time has gone by so fast, which is probably a good sign, right? At first Mike told me that he wanted me to make this for our special dinner. Though very yummy, I wanted more of a challenge, something new, and something special. Plus, I just got this cookbook, so I needed to break it in!
I saw that it called for a cup of shallots, one of my favorite flavors, and was sold! My only regret is that I didn’t make my own seitan for this. After making it from scratch, using storebought is such a letdown- so expensive and not as tasty. And the texture isn’t that great. Still, this recipe is a total winner. The sauce is so flavorful and rich. The shallots, of course! It smelled so good while I was cooking… I used a 2006 Pinot Noir from King Estate, one of our favorites, for the Burgundy wine. It was amazing. Plus, we had the rest of the bottle to celebrate our anniversary with!
Also, see that green stuff alongside the Stroganoff? That would be the most cooked side dish in our house- garlicky spinach. It’s so easy to make, and a good way to get your greens in for the day! Here, I’ll share the recipe with you. Maybe it’ll become one of your favorites too?

Easy Garlicky Spinach

1 tsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tub of prewashed organic baby spinach
vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over low-medium heat in a large pot. Add the garlic and spinach, and mix it up. Pour 1/4 cup of water over the greens to keep the garlic from browning if you hear sizzling. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, checking and stirring often. Make sure you pull the greens up from the bottom of the pan so that they wilt evenly. Once all the greens are just wilted, remove from heat. You want them to still have that bright green color, but they will have reduced quite a bit in size. Add salt and pepper to taste, and if you care to, sprinkle some vinegar on top. My favorite is balsamic. Enjoy! Serves 2-6.

from Vegetarian Express by Nava Atlas and Lillian Kayte

Prepare the couscous salad:

1 1/2 c couscous
1 small package (2 c) fresh carrot sticks, cut into 1-inch lengths (I just used 3 large peeled carrots)
1 small white turnip, cut into sticks
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
1 medium zucchini, cut into quarters and then 1-inch chunks
2 medium tomatoes, diced
3 tbsp light olive oil
juice of one large lemon, or more to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro, minced (optional)

Cover the couscous with 3 cups of boiling water in a heat-proof dish. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the vegetables as directed. When the couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff it with a fork, then combine it with the vegetables and remaining ingredients in a serving bowl. Toss the salad well to combine.

Prepare the spiced chickpeas:

2 1-pound cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c chopped scallions
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground coriander
dark green lettuce leaves

Combine all of the ingredients except the lettuce in a serving bowl and toss well.

Place each serving on a bed of lettuce. Serves 6.

Seriously, this was one of the easiest meals I’ve ever made! It’s really nice and light, yet still satisfying. I was wary about using all of those raw veggies- uncooked zucchini activates my gag reflex like nothing else, but I’m trying to trust recipes in order to keep out of trouble. I’m so glad that I did! The lemon helps with any bitterness that might have happened with said zucchini, and gave the dish such a great flavor. And can we talk about the spiced chickpeas? So good! They were almost sweet, and it was such a satisfying accompaniment to the salad. The recipe suggested serving it with warm pita breads, and I used this whole wheat naan that I’m in love with. The author suggests sprinkling the leftover salad with some water if it gets clumpy, but it wasn’t necessary. It would be perfect to make ahead and pack in your lunch!

A week before Halloween, I decided to make this costume. In the past, I would have these HUGE costume birthday parties the weekend before Halloween, and in the last few years, I’ve somehow lost the urge to spend an entire month preparing for my birthday drinking weekend. I was actually really let down by myself; that I wasn’t eager to find or make the perfect costume for my little one- something that I’d always looked forward to doing as a mom. But that urge kicked in as I was dredging through the limited selection of reduced price costumes online a mere seven days before my favorite holiday. I saw a costume like the owl one pictured above in a virtual shop that my bestie showed me back in August, but it was too springtime flowery and too spendy. It haunted me as Halloween got closer. Finally, when it seemed that I already had too much on my plate between trying to finish up a commissioned portrait, taking a watercolor class, and the rest of daily life, the urge really struck.
Six days before the holiday, we headed out to the fabric store to purchase our fabrics. I used scrap felt for the eyes and beak, a scrap of fuzzy fleece for the chest and face, and the rest is purchased flannel, perhaps about a yard in total. I did a few sketches, and used an existing hood from one of her sweatshirts and a tighter hat as a guide for the owl’s head, and then constructed the rest of it on my own. I must say, I work best under pressure. Because in those six days, I was able to finish a 3×4 foot portrait of my nephew dog, prepare this cake (for the 4th time, with raisins, BOMB!) for mine and my mom’s birthday, spend a day with mom, learn some new watercolor techniques, carve some pumpkins (see below) and bust this costume out.
I’ve taken some pattern drafting classes in the past, and I must say, if you like to sew, and want to learn to sew your own clothes that fit perfectly, I highly recommend seeking some out. It definitely helps if you are one of those people who enjoys visualizing and translating a three dimensional idea into a two dimensional pattern and back into a three dimensional product, but it’s something that you can definitely get better at. I found my class at our community college, and learned SO much in just two trimesters.
I don’t have a pattern for this costume 1) because I didn’t have time to make one and document as I worked, and 2) because it’s so similar to the one I was inspired by. Next year though, I’m thinking ahead. I’m going to start early. It’s going to be fabulous. Hold me to this. Please.
Another festive thing that took place were these bars:

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars adapted from Shutterbean

Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
2 cups (1 package) Dandies vegan marshmallows

Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large (your biggest!) bowl, toss together popcorn, almonds and pretzels.  In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high.  Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color–8-12 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter).  Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.  Transfer mixture to dish and use a dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan.  Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

They were SO GOOD. I veganized them, using this awesome product called MimicCreme that I found recently at my market, in place of the heavy cream, and Dandies vegan marshmallows in place of the regular marshmallows. Those marshmallows have the best flavor, I had to resist eating half the package. It paid off, and these made such great treats to share with friends and family. As Shutterbean shared with me, the recipe claims to make 12 servings, but those would be HUGE. I ended up with 24. And I’m the queen of out of proportion portions! I’d recommend chopping up the marshmallows so that they melt more easily- though they aren’t jet-puffed, they’re not minis either! They’re much denser with a better flavor than the regular nastioso marshmallow. A special thanks to Bean for coaching me through this- from not disturbing the boiling sugar mixture to reassuring me that this concoction really WILL fit into that 9×13″ pan!
And, here are my pumpkins. I like to wait until just a few days before Halloween so that they don’t get all yucky and moldy, needing a shovel to be disposed of. Also, I was smart this year and wore vinyl (Latex would work too, if you aren’t allergic like me) gloves to guard against that awful dry skin that I always get from carving multiple pumpkins. I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this out. I always do a kitty as my warm-up pumpkin. It’s tradition:

I hope that you had a happy Halloween!

from Veggie-Wedgie by Nina Savidi

Here is the recipe!

So, this isn’t a new recipe, I made these tasty little bars shortly after she posted the recipe. They were so good though! I had to make them again when I found myself surrounded by lemons recently. We had some family visiting from out of town, so I was able to share. What I enjoy most about these is that they aren’t sickly sweet or heavy. I used to love the non-vegan lemon bar, but obviously it’s been a while since I’ve had one. Unlike the traditional lemon bar, this one isn’t sticky and heavy; the crust is a little drier and almost… savory. The recipe says coconut oil or butter, and I’ve only used the oil; I’ve never put anything like peanut butter into a pie crust, so I figured the oil was what she meant.  The coconut in the lemon filling brings this dessert to a whole new level, tempering the sour of the lemon (it has a nice pucker power!) with a slight sweetness.

Over the summer I became good buddies with a fellow painter, who is dating one of my best friends. His name is Blaine, and he’s fabulous. We became fast friends, made art together, and then he took off to live in a city two hours away from here. And he took my friend with him! RUDE! Still, we had a blast, and he got me out of the house every week or so for a painting night. Here are two of the paintings I made with him- the one above he wants to trade me some of his work for, but I won’t give it up until I have the promised something to hang in its place.
Here’s another one I did- I covered up a painting I’d started a few years ago (sorry Charles, I know it was one of the few pieces of art in the world that you liked), but I didn’t like where it was going, so it just kind of sat there. Gathering dust. No good! Now it’s hanging right next to me. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a blue-green slut. Evidence:

Both paintings are 30×40 inches. These days I am pretty into abstract art; anything too literal is too much of a commitment for me. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking at all of my work from when I was in school, and it so quickly brings back all of the feelings that I poured into it, and though I suppose that the communication of said emotions is the point of that work, it’s not what I want to hang in my home and look at every day. So the blue green one reminds me of oceans and dreams, and the yellow and grey one was inspired by one of my favorite bands, VNV Nation. Can you see it?
With each painting (and with most of the media I work with) there are several layers. I like painting big like this because it’s so tactile, and I can feel it out, rather than planning each step rigidly like I do with printmaking. (I have a block to cut, which I’ll blog about later; in the meantime, here is an example of one of my relief prints, and here is one of my serigraph prints.)
I’m a few layers in to a triptych, but those I’ve been working on for some time. I need to get to it! I get to a certain point in my layers where it looks so far removed from the outcome I desire that I lose momentum. And the distraction of cooking, baking, mommying, sewing and living don’t seem to help either.

from The Garden of Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

Decadent Brownies

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
3/4 c dry sweetener
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c soy milk
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c nuts (your choice), chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, sweetener, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the soy milk, oil, and nuts. Stir gently until “just mixed.” Pour mixture into a lightly oiled 8×8 baking pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 8-16 brownies, depending on how you cut them.

I didn’t set out to make two batches of brownies… it’s just that the first recipe really didn’t scratch the brownie itch I was feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the above recipe was indeed tasty and well received by my house guests, but they were too cakey for this dense brownie lovin’ girl. They were just like chocolate cake… granted I haven’t made a lot of brownies in my life, but would you peep that tower of a brownie? Looming over my Coconut Bliss was not how I’d pictured my dessert. I opted out of the nut invitation, due to allergies among our guests, and they were still tasty. I would definitely return to this recipe when seeking out a smaller chocolate cake. On to the batch of brownies I made later that week for a friend’s birthday celebration:

from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Midnight Brownies (a variation of the Espresso Fudge Brownies recipe)

3 oz semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
5 tbsp nonhydrogenated margarine (like Earth Balance)
2/3 c sugar
1/3 c nondairy milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
2 tbsp black cocoa powder (I couldn’t find this so I used regular cocoa powder)
a pinch of salt

Line an 8×8-inch square metal brownie pan with enough aluminum foil so that it folds over the sides of the pan by about an inch. Spray the bottom of the covered pan with a little nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350F.

Place the chocolate and margarine in a large glass mixing bowl. Microwave at 50 percent power for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until the chocolate is soft enough to melt into the melted margarine when stirred with a rubber spatula. Stir until smooth, add the sugar, and stir again to combine.

In a liquid measuring cup, vigorously whisk together the nondairy milk, cornstarch, and vanilla until foamy. Stir this into the chocolate mixture, using the rubber spatula, until completely combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt and fold into the chocolate mixture until moistened. A few small lumps are okay; do not over-mix. Scrape the batter- getting as much as possible- into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly to the edges of the pan.

Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs (but no gooey batter). Place pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes, if possible allowing the brownies to cool completely before serving. Slice into 12 brownies. Store in a tightly covered container.

Now THESE are what I was after. No cakiness here, the few crumbs are sticky and dense. No frosting or Coconut Bliss needed (though still welcomed. Especially heavenly with this, ungh!). And they would be really good with walnuts, if that happens to be your style. Next time I might try the mint variation offered.
This was quite the learning experience- comparing the recipes is really interesting to me- the wet to dry ingredient ratio should have been more obvious to me, but now I know! Each brownie had her strengths. Tall girl was great for soaking up her melting toppings, whereas Shortie satisfied me like the many slices of berry pie, oranges and tall glasses of herbal iced tea did while I was pregnant. And if you’ve ever been pregnant…