No one can hide from the truth forever, so here is my truth: I am a very poor excuse for a food blogger. Some of this may be due to the fact that I’m not really a food blogger, I’m just someone with a blog who happens to enjoy cooking.
Mostly, though, this is due to another truth: I gained a lot of weight during my unfortunate marriage, then gained even more after its abrupt end.
I tried lying at first, telling myself I hadn’t really gained that much. But my pants never lie, and they told a different story. Lose it, they said, and after a while, I listened.
Dieting is hard, and being a food blogger on a diet is harder still.
A better person than the one I am would probably write about healthy food and low-calorie eating, but not me: I am in deep denial that anyone could find kale edible under any circumstances, and furthermore, I don’t want to be anywhere near a kitchen when I am trying not to think about the kind of food I actually do want to eat.
When I’m not on a diet, the kitchen is place of memories, inspired by the comforting smell of roast chicken, or the astonishingly light weight of my grandmother’s beloved cast iron skillet. When I am on a diet, the kitchen is simply a room full of reminders of things I’d rather be eating: A hundred or so cookbooks, many of them devoted to cakes, pies, and cookies.
I like the idea of healthy eating. I own a juicer. It was a gift, and I’ve never actually plugged it in, but I dedicate valuable countertop space to it, and I feel like that must surely count for something.
My pants disagree.
I started my diet in the early fall. By the end of fall, I had lost some weight, by which I mean, more than twenty pounds. Three pants sizes.
I donate my disagreeable pants to charity, and take myself shopping for a happier pair.
The holidays roll around, and though I begin the season worried about the upcoming buffets and potlucks, it turns out it is not that hard to just eat a little bit of everything, when that has become the habit. I find I’m relaxed – enjoying myself, even. I look forward to baking the things I will contribute. I look forward to writing about them on my blog.
The stars seem to align for the return of my blog, but my friends have other things in mind: They all have their favorites, and with each invitation comes a request for something I’ve made before. Tradition! I make Sugar Cream Pie for a potluck, and Eggnog Cookies re-appear with the return of my annual cookie exchange.
Thanksgiving finds me without much to do; months ago, I volunteered to work, since my office needed one person to be on call, just in case something needed attention. It was a convenient excuse to avoid cooking the same meal I had made so many times. The Child spends the day watching movies with the Red Dog, while I do things around the house and occasionally refresh my browser to see if there is anything to actually do at work, apart from logging in. We’re invited to a friend’s house in the evening, so on one of my breaks from not working, I make a quick batch of brownies for The Child to share with her friend, while I sip wine with her friend’s mother.
I make Cocomalt Brownies. If you don’t know what Cocomalt is, there’s a good reason for that: it hasn’t been manufactured for decades. I discovered the term over the summer, in a 1946 copy of The Household Searchlight Recipe Book that I picked up in an antique mall in Wisconsin. A little research leads me to the conclusion that it was something like Ovaltine – a chocolate malt powder that can be added to milk, hot or cold.
They still make Ovaltine, so I use it as a substitute when I attempt one of the recipes, for Cocomalt cookies. The Child pronounces them delicious, and before I have a chance to get a picture of the cookies, she offers them up to a group of her friends, and they disappear.
Then, she does it again.
I wanted to make the cookies a third time, but I don’t want to be away from my desk too long, so I do a little bit of hunting and discover booklets dedicated to Cocomalt recipes, one of which contains a recipe for brownies. I substitute Ovaltine again, and it works just fine, even using a slightly larger pan than originally called for.
The brownies mix up quickly and require no special technique – just mix everything up in order, and dump it in the pan. I lined the pan with parchment for ease in removal. The resulting brownies are light and slightly malty; The Child says they are like Cocopuffs, a fairly accurate description. They’re as easy as brownies from a mix, but a little bit special. They can’t foul up your diet, either, because like the Cocomalt cookies, they disappear very quickly when kids are around.
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup melted butter
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup Ovaltine (chocolate malt powder)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, as you prefer
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Mix ingredients in order given.
- Line a 9-inch square metal pan with parchment paper, letting paper hang over the edges to act as a sling. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly into the pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Let cool ten minutes in pan, then use parchment to lift out of the pan. Finish cooling on a wire rack, and cut into squares of desired size.