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The First Time I Saw the Desert

I’d never seen the desert before, but I’ve always wanted to.  It seemed like such an intriguing  landscape, so different from the dense green rolling hills I was used to. Where palm trees weren’t a strange sight, and cactuses grew naturally.

One day I discovered some cheap flights to Las Vegas, and suddenly a week long desert adventure was being dreamed up. Five hours to the other side of the country was the longest I had ever spent in a plane. I loved every minute of it; seeing the landscape change before my eyes.

 In the rental car we explored the desert world for the first time. The land was so flat, with no tall trees, you could almost see straight across to the other side of the city.  Mountains stood tall in the distance, surrounding Las Vegas like a wall.

I stared along the palm tree lined streets, having never seen more than a few palm trees before.

I continued to stare out the car window as we passed all the famous casinos.  Strange to see them all in person. Only ever seeing them in movies, it almost felt like they didn’t actually exist.

Nestled around the shiny sparkling casinos, run down motels and other attractions lay as ruins, providing quite a big contrast.

Even the houses matched the desert color theme.

The seven days in the desert were off to a good start.

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Chocolate Orange Brownies

Chocolate with a hint of orange is one of my favorite things, especially around Christmas time!
I was trying to decide on a yummy, but different dessert to bring to Thanksgiving and I had the idea to make orange flavored brownies.

I found a few recipes online and combined them all into what I thought would be the chocolatiest, orangiest brownies ever baked.

And here’s what I ended up with! 


Ingredients
1 stick of butter

1-1/2 cup of sugar
The juice from one orange- about 1/4 cup
The pulp from one orange- about half a cup
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup of cocoa
1- 1/2 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of dark chocolate chips


Directions

Soften the butter in the microwave and whip it together with the sugar.

Add the orange juice, pulp and vanilla to the butter and sugar mix.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. 

Sift well and add slowly to the wet mixture.

Transfer the batter to a baking pan, and cook for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

Cover the top of the brownies in dark chocolate chips and then return to the oven for 1-2 minutes to melt the chips.

Spread the melted chocolate chips around evenly.
For the candied orange slices

Cut a whole orange into very thin slices.

Put the slices into a pot with about 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Boil for two minutes and then dump the water out.

Repeat this one to two more times, to remove the bitterness of the peel.
Fill the saucepan again with 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar.

Bring to a simmer, letting the sugar completely dissolve, and then add the orange slices.

Let them simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Remove oranges from sugar mix and let them cool on a baking sheet or cooling rack.
When the orange slices are cooled, add them to the top of the brownies. 

It’s best to do it while the chocolate chips are still melty, so they hold the oranges in place.

Then it’s time to cut and serve!

They were a huge success! This was my first time candying anything, and the oranges slices turned out even better than I expected. The bitterness was gone from the peel, and the sharp citrus flavor went perfectly with chocolate fudgey brownies.

I loved the bit of orange pulp mixed throughout the brownies. It gave the whole dessert the super orangey flavor I was hoping for. I will definitely be making these bad boys again. 
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Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I’ve been looking for a good chocolate chip cookie recipe and I recently found this one. The picture made my mouth water so I thought I would give it a try!

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup  unsalted butter
1/2 cup  firmly packed light brown sugar
6 Tbs. granulated sugar
1  egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups  semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, then add the egg and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl mix together all the dry ingredients, the flour, baking soda and salt.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture until incorporated, then add the chocolate chips.

Of course I had a supervisor!

Once everything is mixed, spoon out onto baking sheet, giving them plenty of room to spread.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown.

And enjoy!  

Mine ended up spreading out more than I hoped, so maybe next time I’ll make them a little thicker to start with. They were really good though!