Dark Chocolate Mint Brownie Bites (V)

IMG_2758You could ask any of the three of my immediate family members what their favorite week of the year is, and I guarantee they’d all be unanimous in their answer: our week at Edisto Beach. Though only about an hour from our home, this island makes the distance between us and normal life feel wonderfully expansive. The vacation has been a part of our lives for many years now: we’ve celebrated birthdays, performances, reunions, and graduations during this beloved week, many of them in the same house. It’s become an irreplaceable highlight to the summer season, one I hope will remain intact even as my sister and I grow older and eventually move on to careers and families of our own.IMG_2627

There are so many elements of this week about which I could lovingly elaborate, but a new one came to mind yesterday. We’d come down to the freshly exposed sand in shifts from the house–some of us taking walks along the shore, some bounding down to the water for kayak outings, some sprawling out on the whitest, softest sand with books in hand. After the first couple hours of the day, everyone tends to wander back from their choice excursions and regroup beneath and around our little blue canopy (a life and skin-saving addition to the vacation supplies this year). It was around noon when this occurred yesterday.IMG_2706

I was reading a Billy Collins poetry book, lounging in a small chair between my uncle with the snack bag in hand and my sister nearly asleep just outside the reach of our canopy’s shadow. My aunt was stretched across another sunny patch, and both dogs lay at our feet, everyone feeling drowsy now from the excitement of the morning and from the hypnotic blanket of the sun’s midday heat. My dad had taken his usual post at the water’s edge, fishing pole stuck faithfully into the sand on one side of his chair and my mom seated faithfully down on his other.

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I had nearly succumbed to the sun’s persuasive call to sleep–to my dismay because I HATE napping–when I noticed a slight increase in movement near the water. I lifted my head and observed as my dad got up from his chair and gripped his white pole, which had begun to take a sharp arc towards the choppy waves. I didn’t move yet, just watched from my chair as what would become a 15 minute fight with this mystery sea life ensued. My dad’s back was towards us, but each member of my family could feel the boyish thrill that had overtaken him as he executed the dangerously delicate dance of keeping tension on the line without risking a snap and adding another “the one that got away” story to his repertoire. Soon, each of us was perking up from our inattentive slouch and watching the battle before us. And not long after, so was every surrounding beach-goer on our length of shore. Fathers left their own hopeful stations by fishing rods, teenagers dropped their beanbags on the cornhole boards, moms stood from their towels and chairs, all to commune around the most action they’d seen in the day–my dad and his Moby Dick.IMG_2792

My heart fluttered with nervousness for him: his chance at winning this fight had suddenly changed from a personal victory to a chance at winning the hearts of his audience. Another tense 5 minutes went by, the hoard of onlookers following my dad as he paced back and forth with the beast of the water like a flock of ducklings behind its mother. Finally, with a final tug and a splash of salty sea, the opponent slid into view at the ocean’s edge: a massive stingray, tail missing from another battle in his life, flapped angrily in the center of the crowd as he realized his failure. My dad, high off the well-deserved win and the admiring eyes around him, raced through a ring of applause to his tackle box to get his pliers before squatting to release the hook from the ray’s mouth, a teenage neighbor pinning the glistening, muscular wings to the wet sand to keep it still. In maybe a hundredth of the total time my dad had wrangled in the ray, the frantic animal was released back to its home.

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The buzz of what had been the most action we’d all seen on the beach that day still whizzed through the air as the condensed mass dissolved into smaller groups of chatter. My dad received fist bumps and shouts of affirmation from strangers; I found myself in a friendly conversation with a middle-aged woman with a dog who I’d never seen before that moment. It was then that I realized one of the beautiful powers of the beach–it truly is an equalizer. No matter what social backgrounds, economic status, or political opinions people may carry with them, you can strip them down to swimsuits and throw them out on the sand, and suddenly they’re all the same, members of some unspoken community that’s bound solely by the rise and fall of the tides–and an occasional fishing episode.IMG_2770

It’s an idea that hearkens back to my recent fascination with unity. I guess you could say lately I can’t stop noticing little manifestations of our humanity, tiny hints that our blood truly does all run horizontally red despite the many ways in which we love to convince ourselves otherwise. Who knows whether me and the lady with the dog or my dad and the neighbor boy would have ever gotten along or even approached each other in our everyday lives. But in this short, isolated stretch of shoreline, stretch of time– on Edisto Beach, South Carolina, there’s nothing really separating us. And that may be just one of the things pulling us back to this paradise year after year.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

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Dark Chocolate Mint Brownies (V)

These little bites of gooey, chocolaty brownie are the perfect addition to any dessert table (for us it was the choice conclusion to our Father’s Day dinner). With a sweet, minty frosting and a slightly bitter dark chocolate top, they’re bound to please everybody. 

Ingredients

BROWNIES

  • 1/2 cup plus 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark 100% Cocao)
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 flax eggs (to make 2 flax eggs, mix 2 TBSP ground flax and 6 TBSP of water and leave to sit in the fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • vegan dark chocolate, broken into pieces (optional)

FROSTING

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter at room temperature (Earth Balance is great)
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2 tsp almond milk (I used unsweetened)

Instructions

BROWNIES

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two mini cupcake trays with liners. (Recipe makes about 16-20 brownies).
  2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a small bowl.
  3. In a larger bowl, stir flax eggs, sunflower oil, sugar, mint extract and salt together.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until smooth.
  5. Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Press a piece of dark chocolate into the top of each brownie.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 14-16 minutes, or until inserted toothpick/knife comes out clean. Allow them to cool in trays.
  7. They can be sticky–don’t fret–just enjoy the gooey chocolate goodness!

FROSTING

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, mix the butter on medium speed until light and soft.
  2. Gradually begin adding in the powdered sugar as you mix.
  3. When the mixture starts to become dry/crumbly, add the extract and almond milk.
  4. Continue mixing in the powdered sugar until completely combined.
  5. Mix in the salt, and then increase speed to high, mixing until very smooth.
  6. Use a piping bag to pipe frosting on brownies.
  7. Use a peeler to shave chocolate curls on tops of frosted brownies if desired.
  8. Enjoy!

 

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