Retirement has to be one of the most magical words in our language! When a person retires, they quit the hustle and bustle and hopefully do all the things they have placed on their bucket list. It’s the stuff of dreams to us working folk who are still years away from it, the proverbial carrot that moves us along when we are frustrated in our career, and reminds us that financial diligence now will quite literally pay dividends later.
Superman and I talk about our dreams and plans for retirement regularly. Do we like our current investments, or should we diversify more? Will we stay in this house? In this state? How often do we want to travel? Do we want to be snowbirds? How will we balance grandkids with our desire to travel? What if one of our parents needs to live with us? Do we buy a Lincoln or a Bel Air convertible for fun? Talking about what we desire in our retirement helps us to stay focused on our financial goals, and ensures we are on the same page when it comes to when and how and where. Plus, it’s really fun to imagine a life where every day is Saturday.
I love what retirement signifies- all the years of hard work, sacrifice, and financial planning that enables a person to stop living their life around their job, and start living their life around living! To shift gears and focus their time and attention on the things in life that truly matter. Things like enjoying time with family, that long-overdue Italian vacation, playing with the grandkids in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, and being the boss of your own time. And then there’s the smile that always accompanies the “When is your last day?” conversations. I LOVE that smile. It holds promise, adventure, peace, freedom. Retirement is a milestone in life, and I love to see and hear the excitement and joy that just oozes out of the soon-to-be-retired.
This week, a great guy that Superman has worked with for many years is retiring. Superman came home and said this gentleman had 5 days left. You could fit the rest of his working life into just one hand. Now that’s exciting! I asked him to find out what he would like for his celebration snacks. Superman told him I would like to make him whatever treats he would like- as in walk into a bakery and pick whatever you want. Without hesitation, he said brownies. Well, brownies it is! And these brownies had to be the best brownies ever- they were, after all, retirement brownies.
Truth be told, I cannot think of a single time I have sent Superman into work with brownies. What kind of person doesn’t send in brownies? They are one of my favorite things in the world, how could I have never sent them in? Well, I send things that are grab-and-go, and my brownies are very soft and crumbly, and I try to steer away from items that are a potential mess. Maybe that’s why, but I’m not really sure. My go-to treats are cookies, muffins, and their favorite treat ever- Crack! Don’t worry, I will be doing a post on Crack in the next couple months. You will understand, then, why it is called that. Getting back to what I was saying… I was so excited to make brownies for such a special occasion, so happy that this man knew exactly what he wanted, and really loved that he felt comfortable making a request. I love to bake for any reason, or no reason at all, but something like this is special. I see it as the last time I will bake for this man, and I want it to be the most delicious, baked send-off ever. I know it’s just brownies, but to me it’s so much more than just food.
The next day I went to the store to get a fresh container of Nestle cocoa powder, grabbed my favorite brownie recipe, and got to work. My favorite brownie recipe of all time is from Nestle. They do, after all, make the very best chocolate (N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best, choooooocolate). It’s their Chewy Cocoa Brownies, which cannot be beaten. They are soft, chewy, super chocolatey, and plain ole YUM! I used to make these pretty often in my huge oven-safe skillet. I would immediately serve a slice in a bowl, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and some chocolate syrup. We call it Skillet Brownie, and it is still one of my family’s favorite desserts of all time. You really should try it that way if you want an amazing restaurant-style treat at home.
I hope you aren’t sad that my amazing brownie recipe isn’t mine after all. There are some things in life that are so tasty they don’t need to be recreated. This recipe is one of those things. If you are looking for a little something extra, feel free to spice it up with 1/2 C chocolate chips, some mini M&M’s, or my favorite addition- peanut butter swirled into the pan right before it goes in the oven. For this occasion, however, I’m going to stick with the original, and dust with powdered sugar at the end for some presentation.
Nestle’s Chewy Cocoa Brownies
- 1 2/3 C Sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks Butter, melted
- 2 T Water
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 tsp. Vanilla
- 1 1/3 C Flour
- 3/4 C Nestle Tollhouse Baking Cocoa
- 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 3/4 C chopped Nuts (optional)
- Powdered Sugar for dusting
PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
COMBINE granulated sugar, butter and water in large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; stir into sugar mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan.
BAKE for 18 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into bars.
***I made a double batch of batter and baked in a 9×13 for 30 minutes. I like thick brownies, and a double batch of batter in the pan accomplishes that. DO NOT OVERBAKE! I took the pan out of the oven the second they were baked through and set it on the cooling rack until it was completely cooled. Then dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares. There is some kind of magic that happens when you allow a pan of brownies to cool completely before slicing. (I’m not talking about personal willpower to just let them sit there, but that should be noted as well)
Normally, I would send the brownies in a Rubbermaid container and let the guys grab and go. Covid-19 made that a frowned-upon thing, so I put 1 brownie into each sandwich bag (x24) and made grab and go possible again. It should be noted that when Covid-19 hit I stopped sending in treats for 3 weeks because I was unsure of how to proceed. I knew the guys would eat them no matter what, but how would the management team feel about it? Then one day Superman came home and said there was a lot of discussion that day about how to get the treats back. The guys decided that it would be acceptable to have treats again if I was willing to put them in Ziplock bags. They seriously crack me up! These guys are used to getting treats every week, and a 3 week drought was apparently hurting their collective sweet tooth. I will not try to deny that it made me feel really good. I try to do my little part to help the 12 hour shifts seem a little less long, and the time away from family and nice weather a little more bearable. Those are my boys in there, after all, and I want them to know they are appreciated.
Well, our retiree was very happy and his sweet tooth was satisfied. My kids were bummed that I didn’t make them their own pan of brownies, so that’s probably tonight’s agenda. When I make this recipe in the future, I will think of our new retiree and send up a prayer that he is healthy, smiling, and enjoying his well-deserved life of perpetual Saturdays. And that wonderful thought will nourish my heart.