Fun with Friends

Last week some friends were in town for a visit. We grabbed every chance we could for long conversations and drank in every minute we had with them. Some would say we drank wine every minute we had with them.....Ahem......Here are some other highlights from our week.

Rock throwing. They have a lovely rascal of a boy who likes to jump and throw rocks (not at people though because that is not nice). We went for a visit to some Roman ruins, and while the grown ups toured the site, O and I gathered great piles of rocks and threw them as far as a nearly 2 year old boy's arm can throw. The memory of how delightful this was to him continues to bring a smile to my face.

Les Thermes D'Antoinin

Brunch and Potluck dinner with friends. My friend Lauren is a legendary brunch maker. When I can squeeze the Creme Brulee French Toast recipe out of her I'll post it.

I had heard that you could take your own bottle to the corner store and have it filled with fresh, cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil.

Sure enough, I was able to buy 1 liter of beautiful olive oil for roughly $3.00. Does anyone else find that absolutely amazing? We spent the rest of the evening eating countless baguettes dipped in this peppery, mono-saturated fat, goodness.

We also ate these.

Trimmed down to their hearts and pan roasted with cherry tomatoes and zucchini. And then of course sloshed with lots of olive oil and sea salt that was infused with the zest of a Bergamot orange.

And then we finished the week off with these.

We sent our friends back to Prague on a sugar high, and, with a few extra rocks stowed away in someone's pocket for another afternoon adventure.

Brownies with a Pretzel Toffee Crust
Brownie adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Makes 24 brownies
For the Pretzel Crust:
3 cups crushed pretzels
1 cup butter melted
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup caramel sauce
For the Brownie:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
For the Pretzel Crust:
In a mixing bowl combine the crushed pretzels, melted butter, and dark brown sugar.  Stir well to combine and then pour into the prepared pan. Using your hands evenly spread the pretzels over the bottom of the pan and press down firmly to form a crust. Evenly drizzle the caramel sauce over the crust and set aside.
For the Brownie:
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
In a large bowl combine the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder. Set this over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, keeping the bowl over the water and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should now be room temperature, if not allow it to cool a bit longer.
Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and vanilla and whisk again until combined. It is very important that you do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey and not the lovely fudgy texture you want.
Sprinkle the whisked flour over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
Pour the batter over the pretzel crust and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
Let the brownies cool completely, and then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.


  1. I've read this post six times now and each time I get a little too weepy to comment sanely. We miss you. And we have rocks in our washing machine.

  2. I have a special rock from my date with O. It sits on my coffee table and I treasure it. We have a big Green sized hole in our hearts and, I have Rhinestone Cowboy stuck in my head!