The Simplest, Most Delicious Homemade Brownies. And All About Fats.

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is really no reason to make brownies from a box, full of ingredients that are not only hard to pronounce but also not really food, and cups of processed oils. Processed oils, while cheap, are often hydrogenated,  highly refined and full of trans fat. Let’s talk about fats and hydrogenated oils for a minute, because it can get confusing. (I’ll admit, this is as much of a refresher for me as it is for you.) Diets high in trans (and saturated – but this is controversial) fats are linked to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, and saturated fats usually contain lots of cholesterols and often contribute to raising the level of your bad cholesterol. Most saturated fats come from animal and plant sources. So, they’re naturally occurring. All of this is what the American Heart Association and the FDA guidelines will tell you. And it’s true, to an extent. “Everything in moderation, right?”

However, this is not to say that we should be replacing our butter with margarine and eliminate eggs and red meat from our diet. Fats from animal and plant sources provide lots of concentrated energy for our diet and are naturally occurring (as opposed to, say, highly refined vegetable shortening like Crisco). They also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. Eating rich foods high in fats slows down our nutrient absorption and keeps us feeling fuller, longer. Fats are essential for many bodily processes.  So, the theory that there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart disease isn’t necessarily a myth, but it is flawed. Low-fat diets are effective in weight loss but are hard to stick to (causing low energy, difficulty in concentration, and even weight gain!) I’m going to get kind of political on you here (yes, this is supposed to be a post about brownies) so skip right along to the recipe if you like, or keep reading if I’ve piqued your interest…

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

pumpkin choc bread pudding

Are you a fan of bread pudding? It seems to be particularly relegated to the South and I’ll admit it took me until about two years ago to actually try it. There are so many variations on a theme that the possibilities for bread pudding are endless… Sweet? Savory? Fruity? Chocolatey? This particular recipe is from the “Well” column in The New York Times and was originally vegan. I threw in a couple eggs for good measure, but they are easily omitted if you’d like. I was excited to have a venue for it at one of our Cincinnati Family Dinners. (Yes, this is a proper title and deserves capitalization.) My husband is from the ‘Nati and we have an extended family of his friends that live here in the District as well. We get together every few weeks for a potluck and it is one of my favorite things about our new home in DC. This was not my favorite bread pudding I’ve ever made (perhaps I’ll post that one another time) but it got an A from one particularly picky member of our Cinci family, so I’ll take that as a sign that it’s post-worthy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo post-baking as it was a party and I didn’t quite feel like tearing myself away for mobile phone photos of questionable quality. Mine dried out a bit, but I was using an oven that didn’t have a thermostat so I had no idea what the temperature was. 🙂

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