Lauri from The Moms Project here introducing you to Pamela Fishman Cianci, a busy mom and entrepreneur. Every Monday, Pamela takes an afternoon away from the madness of work to spend time with her kids. They spend the day preparing dinner all while learning how to cook alongside her. And today, Pamela is dishing on her tips and tricks, and sharing her grandma’s famous brownie recipe!
From Pamela… Although I could work every minute of every day, my family has taught me the importance of time well spent. Not just being around, which is important and great, but being present, engaging in a way that lights everyone up. It is not something easily explained, or done, it happens when you’re playing on the floor or dancing like no one can see you or listening closely to sibling interaction.
On Mondays at 4:30pm I cook with the kids. We started this special routine “class”/real family dinner a few months after we moved to our new home. I really wanted to share what my mother and her mother and her mother shared with me
As we fill a practical need (to make and to eat dinner) we turn Monday into a “fun day,” I get to spend meaningful time with the children that they can count on and look forward to. We include friends and neighbors whenever we can so we embrace the sense of community.
The homes of my childhood always smelled and felt welcoming, whether being the aromas of homemade foods cooking or fresh cut flowers from the garden. There was always a warm, special air. It came part from all the beautiful things surrounding us, part from the stories behind the objects that have created comfortable living environments for so long, but mostly it’s the laughter of children as they roll off 60 year-old chairs onto the floor, the clinking of the vintage glasses filled with delicious wine from grapes grown 100 miles away, the conversations of new neighbors becoming life-long friends and the meals from 80 year-old recipes served on 100 year-old china that make a home special and truly beautiful.
Even before I became a mother, I was all about efficiency. I figured out the most organized way to complete any given task. Cooking in general is a great way to teach, learn and interact and it supports so many lifelong skills like planning, systems, order and efficiency. And it’s FUN! Recently, we turned a Monday night cooking class into a full-fledged St. Patrick’s Day party with four neighboring families.
1. Shop Online: As promotional as this may sound, shopping online is an enjoyable time-saver, and it’s not just because I’m a Gilt employee. It’s easy, cost-effective and guaranteed to save you time. Searching the Internet is plain and simply the most efficient way to find what you need when you need it.
2. Keep it Casual: Kiss, hug, keep it silly. Life should be all x’s and o’s whenever possible. Set-up a spread of mostly room temperature, easy-to-prepare in advance items, one or two hot items if necessary and always have a yummy treat as the finale.Use nice platters, fun napkins and fresh flowers to make it feel special. Don’t invite people who don’t contribute to the fun. Life is too short and every get-together should be a time of sharing with positive people.
3. Practice: Learn how to make a few things well and make them often, as practice really does make a difference. Tasting food while cooking is a must as it is your opportunity to enhance, change or refine the flavors. Don’t be afraid of spices, herbs, salt and pepper.
I was almost seven when my Grandma Judy taught me to make the most incredible brownies. The smell of the chocolate melting and the hands-on experience is still vivid. I remember where we were in my kitchen, I can hear her and see her showing and telling me what to do, “make sure the chocolate is not too hot before adding the sugar or the sugar will melt not mix.” And “fold in the flour gently, do not over stir.” We would typically make one half the pan “male” aka with nuts, which of course at the time we didn’t “get” but nonetheless laughed along with the adults when they’d snicker as that is what kids do.
The brownies have been a go-to and one of Sugar & Spike’s most popular items (I spike that version with Kahlua or Baileys). I have rarely shared this fudgy family favorite, why I am not sure, as they are too delicious not to share… And believe it or not they are essentially a one-pot wonder.
- 1 cup salted butter
- 8 oz two Ghirardelli semi-sweet baking bars
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs beaten well
- 1 cup flour
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Optional: ¼ cup of chopped walnuts or pecan
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Prepare metal 9x13 baking pan
- In a medium to large pot heat the butter on low until it is melting
- Add the chocolate bars and stir as they melt
- Be careful not to let it bubble or burn
- Once both are melted remove from the stove to cool
- When the pot and butter/chocolate mixture is no longer hot, but just warm, add the sugar and mix until incorporated
- Beat the 4 eggs in the measuring cup used for the sugar, add the tablespoon of vanilla
- Add egg/vanilla mixture to the butter/chocolate/sugar and stir until incorporated
- Add the flour, fold in gently
- Batter should be smooth, silky and delicious
- Using a spatula, add the brownie mixture to the prepared pan, spread evenly
- Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top (if you choose the “male” brownie route add chopped nuts at this time as well but no more than ¼ cup)
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from the center
- Do not overcook, these are gooey brownies with some stability, but not cakey
- Allow to cool before cutting
- Cut into desired size squares (they are rich, so I shoot for 24, 4 cuts length wise and 6 cuts across)