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Thursday, August 28, 2014

A sweet start to a milestone new school year

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Each new school year is a milestone for parents and kids alike. You can’t help but be surprised at how grown-up she’s becoming, how tall … and in my case with a new middle-schooler, how embarrassed she is of her very weepy mother.

When my daughter was born, parents and grandparents with grown children told me, “they grow up so fast” followed by “in a flash she’ll be going off to college.” Though Matti is not quite off to college, she is less than a week from her first day of middle school. We toured the building today and the poor kid looked downright scared. Supposedly, a boy was shoved into a locker, and thus my daughter has obsessed over meeting a similar fate all summer. As we moved through the uninhabited halls, my 11-year-old thoroughly examined the double-decker lockers lining the sixth-grade wing. Visible relief washed over her when she discovered they were less than 3 feet tall. No way could someone fit in there. ...

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Each new school year is a milestone for parents and kids alike. You can’t help but be surprised at how grown-up she’s becoming, how tall … and in my case with a new middle-schooler, how embarrassed she is of her very weepy mother.

When my daughter was born, parents and grandparents with grown children told me, “they grow up so fast” followed by “in a flash she’ll be going off to college.” Though Matti is not quite off to college, she is less than a week from her first day of middle school. We toured the building today and the poor kid looked downright scared. Supposedly, a boy was shoved into a locker, and thus my daughter has obsessed over meeting a similar fate all summer. As we moved through the uninhabited halls, my 11-year-old thoroughly examined the double-decker lockers lining the sixth-grade wing. Visible relief washed over her when she discovered they were less than 3 feet tall. No way could someone fit in there.

To me, being shoved into a locker seemed like such an irrational fear. Jocks in Molly Ringwald movies didn’t even do that. But to my tween, first-time middle-schooler, it was very real. Though we joked about it all summer, it wasn’t until I witnessed this little girl donning sparkly sandals recoil like a turtle, completely shell-shocked, that I remembered how scary middle school can be. What if no one sits with me at lunch? What if I get lost? What if the big kids make fun of my outfit? What if my teachers hate me? I wanted to scoop up my baby and reassure her that mama would be right beside her (you know, just like in preschool when they’d let you stick around for a few minutes until the kids settle in), but she is a tween and that would embarrass her.

So what is a parent to do? Some people do yoga, some run; I bake. I realize people are going all animal-vegetable-paleo lately, but a little bit of baked good and a little bit (okay a lot) of sugar can go a long way. In the case of these chocolate chip blondies – well, let’s just say I’m breaking the bank on the sugar thing. All those parents and grandparents were right about how fast she’s grown, and I can’t help but spoil her into staying young for just a bit longer.

This blondie is a treat from a turn-down service at the Centennial Inn, a boutique hotel in Concord. I was lucky enough to score the recipe, but when initially examining it, I gasped at the amount of sugar. Two cups, packed. This couldn’t be right, for there is only a cup of flour to that two cups of brown sugar. But as it turns out, the recipe was right. My advice: don’t fight it. It’s a treat for treat’s sake, but feel free to experiment with the sugar amounts.

The next thing that surprised me was the addition of cider vinegar, but after some research, I discovered vinegar is a common ingredient in baking. It reacts with the baking powder (think school volcano project) and aids in the rising process. With the help of the airiness of eggs, the blondies rise nicely without drying out. Do they taste vinegary? Nope. It’s only a tablespoon and the tartness cooks off completely.

I can’t fight the bittersweet milestones of growing up, but I can secure a bit of sweetness at the end of her first day of middle school. And who are we kidding: These blondies are just as much for a weepy mother realizing her baby is not a baby anymore, as they are for the tween.

We’ll go back to the kale chips and carrots on day two, but some milestones must be countered with nostalgia in the form of chocolate chips.

GRANITE RESTAURANT’S CHOCOLATE CHIP
BLONDIES

Yield: 18–24 bars.

¼ lb. unsalted butter (one
stick), melted and cooled,
plus additional for
greasing the pan

2 cups dark brown sugar,
packed

3 large eggs

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

1½ cups all purpose flour

1 cup bittersweet chocolate
chips

1 cup dried cranberries
(optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 13 X 9 X 2 inch shallow baking pan with aluminum foil (make sure to let foil hang over the sides to make removing blondies easier later). Grease foil with butter. Mix melted butter and sugar using a hand mixer or stand mixer until well combined. Add three eggs, vanilla and cider; mix thoroughly. While wet ingredients come together, sift baking powder, salt and flour together. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients a little at a time; make certain not to overmix batter.

Pour blondies into greased, foil-lined baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20–25 minutes until they just begin to brown. Remove from oven and let rest on a rack. Remove blondies by the aluminum foil and cut into squares, then triangles if you like.

Tina Philibotte lives in Waterville Valley. She blogs at courting sustenance.wordpress.com and can be reached at tphilibotte@gmail.com.