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by Sarah Steimer

I really wanted to make some sort of dessert to bring in for my coworkers. I started to preheat my oven while I mixed the ingredients up and right before popping the pan in the oven, I couldn't help but notice that it only climbed up to 200 degrees and just stopped. Fantastic. The solution? Slow-cooker brownies. I'll explain how to do both in this recipe just in case you are unlucky enough to find yourself in my shoes one evening.

I really wanted to make some sort of dessert to bring in for my coworkers. I started to preheat my oven while I mixed the ingredients and right before popping the pan in the oven, I couldn’t help but notice that it only climbed up to 200 degrees and just stopped. Fantastic. The solution? Slow-cooker brownies. I’ll explain how to do both in this recipe just in case you are unlucky enough to find yourself in my shoes one evening.

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by Sarah Steimer

I actually thought I overcooked these brownies, but the black beans kept them super moist. Unless you say so, no one would ever know there are black beans in this recipe.

  • 3/4 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I cut this back from the original recipe’s 2/3 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, optional

In a food processor or blender, puree the beans with the oil. Add the eggs, cocoa, sugar, coffee and vanilla.

Melt half the chocolate chips and add to the machine. Blend until smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and pulse until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips and walnuts, if using.

Pour into 9-by-9-inch or 8-by-8-inch prepared pan — either butter and flour the pan or line with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees or until the surface looks somewhat matte around the edges and the center springs back up to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Makes about 12 brownies.

Recipe adapted from: Melissa d’Arabian via the Food Network

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by Caitlin Saniga

I dedicate this recipe to my sister, Holly, who's gaga for peanut butter/chocolate combos.

  • 1 box brownie mix (The fudge type is my fav.)
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8-10 Reeses cups, broken into small pieces.

Reasons to make these: You're throwing a party; you like small things; you burned the outer rim of the brownies in the dish, and only the middle's still good.

Prepare brownies according to package directions, adding chocolate chips in when mixing together ingredients and using a 9-by-13 baking dish. Allow brownies to cool for about a half-hour, then use a warm knife to slice brownies into 1-inch squares. (Keep dipping the knife in hot water and wiping off brownie residue to ensure clean cuts.) Spread brownie pieces on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Put peanut butter in a small mixing bowl. Melt butter in the microwave, and add to peanut butter. Stir together until mixture is well combined and soft.

Spoon peanut butter in small dollops onto brownies. Then push a piece of peanut butter cup into the peanut butter on top of each brownie.

Makes about 75.

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It goes without saying that our mothers taught us a lot of what we know about cooking. We learned everything from how to saute onions without setting off smoke detectors, to how much raw cookie dough you can ingest before your stomach hurt (not that we listened). So in honor of our moms and obviously to outshine our siblings we each chose a recipe that was handed down to us from our mothers.

Gingerbread cake with lemon sauce

by Sarah Steimer

Gingerbread just for Christmas? Absolutely not.

Sometime during my adolescence I decided I didn’t like regular birthday cake anymore. I often chose a cake alternative: cheesecake, pie, ice cream cake and so forth. I asked for this cake a few times, a recipe my maternal grandmother made for my mom and her siblings. It may not be the exact same recipe she used, but I’m sure it’s just as good. Jameson women know how to bake — whether for six kids  and a husband or just herself.

For the cake

  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light molasses
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and baking soda.  Add softened butter, molasses, egg, and 1/2 cup water. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined. Beat on high speed for two minutes.

Mom with my little sister and a cake she made. Marth is a cake-decorating wiz. She made the kind of cakes that left other mothers wondering where she had the time and left her three girls convinced she was the favored daughter (I am, for the record).

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 8x8x2-inch pan or a 9-inch round cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes.

For sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons butter

In a saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and lemon peel. Stir in water and lemon juice. Cook and stir on low to medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir two minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Serve the cake and sauce warm. Refrigerate the sauce between uses. It will turn into a jelly-like consistency because of the cornstarch, but makes absolutely no difference in taste.

Recipe: Martha Steimer (mom)/Virginia Jameson (grandma)

Photo: Sarah Steimer

Take 5 brownies

by Caitlin Saniga

Maybe all you have on hand are stale pretzels, almonds and peanut butter... but no chocolate chips or caramel. Pop the pretzels in the oven for a few minutes to freshen them up, and chop up the almonds. Microwave the peanut butter until it's runny, and voila! A new take on toppings for Take 5 brownies. That's what my mom would do. Half the fun is experimenting!

One quality I love about my mom is her thrift. She can make something ordinary seem spectacular with a few thoughtful tweaks. Take for example her recipe for Take 5 brownies. We always had boxes of out-of-season holiday-themed brownies lying around for some reason, and we always had pantry staples like pretzels and peanut butter on hand. So one day, her sweet tooth got her thinking, and Take 5 brownies were born. Sweet and salty — these brownies never lasted more than a few hours with her three kids (me included) lingering in the kitchen.

Well, it's fitting that Mom gave me this image of her to post. 1. She's a graphic artist. 2. My sister, Holly, often makes her own darn dinner. 3. That said, Mom usually makes dessert.

  • brownies (made from a box according to package directions)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 15-25 square-shaped pretzels
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce

While the brownies are baking, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously for 7-8 minutes, or until all ingredients have smoothly melted together. Remove from heat and set aside.

After brownies come out of the oven, let them cool about 5 minutes. Arrange pretzels over the top of the brownies. Sprinkle peanuts over the pretzels. Drizzle the chocolate-peanut-butter mixture over top, allowing it to pool in spots. Drizzle the caramel sauce over top.

Place brownies in the refrigerator for about a half-hour so the chocolate-peanut-butter mixture has a chance to set.

Serve brownies cool, at room temperature, warm, with vanilla ice cream on top, with seven different kinds of ice cream on top, with Take 5 candy bars on the side, with more chocolate sauce and whipped cream, with sprinkles, with more pretzels, or however you darn well please.

Recipe: Stephanie Saniga (mom)

Photo: Caitlin Saniga (food), Stephanie Saniga (interpretive self-portrait)

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by Sarah Steimer

You know what it is... black n' yellow, black n' yellow.

OK, let’s get serious here. The Steelers are going to (win) the Super Bowl, so you all deserve some fan-friendly treats. I plan to stash some of these in my purse for snacks after polishing off a Primanti’s sammich while I watch the game this Sunday. Does chocolate go with Yuengling?

Lemon-chocolate shortbread cookies

  • Caitlin’s shortbread cookie recipe (not including the glaze)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon (or so) of lemon zest
  • yellow food coloring
  • 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Follow Caitlin’s cookie recipe. Add the lemon juice and zest to the dough, along with yellow food coloring until you reach an appealing hue. Refrigerate and bake according to the directions.

Once the cookies have cooled, melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Mix in the oil. Dip in half of each cookie and place on a parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Place in the freezer for a few minutes to let the chocolate set. Store in a cool place.

Terrible Towels and confetti everywhere: Carson Street in Pittsburgh following the 2009 Super Bowl.

Makes about four dozen.

Black n’ Gold brownies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • gold or yellow M&Ms

Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan (or whatever size you have as long as it’s not too big. I used a 7-by-11 or something). Line bottom with parchment or wax paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Butter paper; set pan aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Place butter and semi-sweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat until smooth,  stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in cocoa powder and oil. Add sugars, eggs, vanilla, flour mixture and  pecans. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with M&Ms.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Brownie recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart Recipes

Photos: Sarah Steimer

*Earlier in the season I made a chocolate Steelers cake you can check out here.

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