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Prune-Juice brownies

When I was growing up, my mother used to experiment with healthy recipes.
She really enjoyed the adventure of making cookies with yoghurt, cakes with
tofu, stuff like that.  The best one, though, was the prune-juice brownies.

My mom had discovered a recipe for brownies where instead of using butter,
you could use prune juice.  This recipe succeeds, clearly, on the extent to
which prune juice and butter are chemically similar.  Which, I am told, is
quite great indeed, except for the small detail that they taste very
different.  Something had to be added to mask the flavor.  And that
something was espresso grounds.  Now, if I recall correctly, coffee-flavored
cookies and cakes were in vogue at the time, and so making espresso-flavored
brownies would not, by itself, be particularly weird.  However, adding prune
juice and espresso grounds in a brownie together made for a mean and riotous
community of flavors.  And, if that wasn't enough, they had a powerful
laxative effect since the two main ingredients were caffeinated espresso
beans and prune juice.

So the prune-espresso brownies became something of a joke.  Our friends
would stop by, and we would offer them some fresh homemade brownies, and
challenge them to guess the secret ingredient.  These confections met with
near-universal reprobation, except from my weirdest friend, Darren, who was
quite excited by them and greedily swallowed three or four.  This attitude
would have been totally unbelievable except that it was coming from Darren,
a youth of singular quirk and individuality.  And so "Darren's Brownies"
became a code at our household for the nastiest of foods and

But time passed, and we forgot about Darren's Brownies as more palatable
creations were baked.  Then our thoughts once again turned to Darren as he
went to basic training with the National Guard one summer, to earn money for
college.  Because he was the only one we knew attending basic training, it
made Darren something of a celebrity.  My mother worried that he'd be
horribly lonely and sad during his training, so we wrote letters and sent a
"care package" with some chocolate and cookies.  A few weeks later we got a
letter back from Darren, saying that the Sergeant was terribly mean and
yelling all the time, and that he'd confiscated the chocolate we sent and
ate it in front of the new recruits.  And so Darren asked us not to send him
any more treats, but to continue writing letters with news of home.

Well, my mother realized there was just one thing to do.  Send a batch of
Darren's Brownies down to basic training, with a note saying "Darren, I made
you some of your favorite Brownies.  I hope the Sergeant doesn't confiscate
these and eat them himself."

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Last updated: Fri Feb 22 19:38:53 2008