There’s a hole in the bucket

Periodically Otto and I discuss the things which we feel will be important to us, as a couple and as a new family, once we’re all living in the same house. For example: Otto feels it a crucial matter of family unity that we all enjoy watching Mythbusters, whereas I am mostly trying to impress upon him the mileage that can be gotten out of regular foot rubs.

One of the things we quickly reached agreement on was our mutual desire to attain a healthier lifestyle, despite the fact that both of us are generally happier sitting on the couch eating pie than jogging.

Now, Otto and I both really love to cook. This is a welcome change, for me—that he both enjoys cooking and is good at it—because I have been doing all of the cooking around here for, um, forever. And I don’t mind, really, but it would be nice to know that if I COULDN’T cook for some reason, or if I was just tired or needed a break or whatever, that there might still be food other than Cheez-Its and Froot Loops.

So the other night we were talking about how hard it can be to make preparing truly healthy food a priority. For one thing, it’s a pet lament of mine how much more expensive fresh, chemical-free foods are than the alternative. For another, it’s so easy to cook with processed components and not even think about it (how many recipes call for a can of soup? processed breadcrumbs? etc.) as opposed to truly preparing from scratch. The end result is that the healthiest way to cook and eat is both much more expensive and time-consuming. Hmph.

I’m also becoming concerned about the amount of (less than healthy) snacking I’ve been doing. (Me like food! Food nice! Chocolate food SUPER NICE!) I think that making an effort to just be more aware of what I’m preparing and eating will help me to curb some of my mindless nibbling.

Today—with our recent discussion of these issues in mind—I took a chicken out of my deep freeze and made soup. There is little in this world that I find more delicious and comforting than homemade chicken soup. It simmered for half the day and made the house smell amazing.

Monday is often a busy day for me, and perhaps I didn’t think this plan all the way through; I had to go skim the soup a few times, true, but that was no big deal. It was when it was done that I remembered all of the post-production work soup requires. I removed the chicken and veggies for cleaning and either discarding or chopping (I save the carrots and parsnips, but the celery and onions are frightening), then strained the broth and set the pot in the garage to cool.

In a second (smaller) pot, I layered in the saved veggies and some of the chicken, then set that in the garage as well. That will be the soup we eat this week, once I remove the fat from the broth and add some back in to that pot. (And then add either noodles or rice.) Then I pulled out containers to freeze the rest of the broth in (to be used for future soups, or to cook with).

I still had quite a lot of chicken, so I picked through it and set some aside for homemade pot pie (dinner tomorrow night) and made up a small container of chicken salad (lunch for me a couple of times this week). All the while I was feeling very pleased; so many meals—completely from scratch, with fresh ingredients—all along the lines of the healthy choices we’d been discussing.

Once all of that was done, I found myself wishing I’d bought a nice loaf of bread to go with the soup. Wait! Hadn’t I read a recipe for a bread that didn’t require kneading? Why yes, I had! I could probably make that bread without screwing it up. I hoped. (Look; I don’t normally make bread or anything that involves either yeast or handling of dough. My pie crust has the consistency of cardboard, and my previous attempts at bread have resulted in impressive doorstops.) Well, I’d give it a shot.

I got the dough mixed up and set it on the stove to rise. Of course, it’s a little chilly in my house. It’s ALWAYS chilly in my house, but today was a windy day and it was particularly drafty. Maybe I’d just turn the oven on for a bit, to make sure the dough bowl didn’t get too cold.

You know, once the oven’s on, I may as well just go ahead and bake something. Not the bread; that would have to rise for another 12+ hours. Maybe something for dessert? Maybe I could figure out something.

Or maybe I’d open up the pantry and come face to face with a box of brownie mix.

It’s not my FAULT. I really TRIED to turn over a new leaf and I was all, fresh ingredients! Cooked from scratch! So healthy and wonderful! And I was just trying to complete the picture of domestic bliss by making my own bread, you know. That’s why I turned the oven on. But then that box of brownie mix leapt out of the cabinet and demanded that I add two eggs and some water and oil to its delicious, sugary, chemical-laden goodness and put them in the oven. I tried to bat it away from me with what was left of a bunch of leeks but they weren’t strong enough.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that chicken soup can lead to standing in your kitchen, eating warm brownies directly from the pan. With a spoon.


  1. Lady M

    In a mad attempt to be more domestic, I’ve been making chicken soup to freeze and add to Q’s meals later, since he loves soup. It also goes well with the frozen taquitos and other processed foods we eat. Oh well.

  2. Zee

    Oh, you cruel woman! I’d write a lengthier comment and say something intelligent, but I have to go to the grocery store to pick up some brownie mix. BAH!

  3. falwyn

    Hey, look at it this way — you could have made a processed chemical laden dinner (and lunch, and other dinner, etc) to go along with those brownies. So progress!

    I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the fabulous, fast made brownie mix brownies — I have yet to find a from-scratch recipe that’s that good. But your broth sounds delectable…

  4. Melanie

    That sounds like me. If I cook, I might as well make dessert. Preferably from a box. But there is a really good brand of organic cake mix, Dr. Oetker’s, if you want to spend the extra money for it. I think the cake I made with that was the best box cake I’ve ever had.
    (Note for Falywyn: For homemade brownies, the secret is to use a recipe that calls for unsweetened cocoa powder and sickening amounts of butter. Like this one from Epicurious is truly, truly awesome:

  5. Karen Rani

    Dear Otto,
    Love Karen

    Dear Mir,
    I want brownies now. At 1:20 a.m. There are no signs of chocolate in this house, and nothing is open in my city at this hour, and even if it were, it’s -26 degrees Celcius which is minus a million in American-speak.

    Conclusion: while I love you, I don’t like you very much right now. You with your spoonage of brownies. Guess what I get to spoon now? Sir SNORE-A-LOT. Yay.
    Grumble grumble,

  6. Cele

    I try very hard to use good fresh foods, and I usually don’t do, well too bad. But then those damn Lil Deb Heart Shaped Valentine cakes that they make just for Valentines Day, but they make them early, because darn they only make them for Valentines day JUMPS into my basket and begs me to take them home and make them happy in my tummy.

    A girl can’t win. But the little cakes were good.

  7. LyndaL

    You use a spoon? Classy!

  8. Carolyn


  9. el-e-e

    (Homer Simpson voice): ggggggggggaaaamhmhmmmmmmmmm, brownieeeeeeessss.

  10. Sara

    I just had the very same day, but with turkey. Brownies are the answer to everything. I’m convinced that brownies could bring about world peace.

  11. tori

    Mythbusters is one of my favorite shows. I think you did a great job of being more healthy. Everything I have ever seen says never to deny youself any particular food or you will just crave it more. I take that to mean brownies are good for your mental health…or something.

  12. Karen

    So…did you make the bread?

    For the record, I find that cooking/baking from scratch is indeed more time-consuming but usually not more expensive.

  13. BOSSY

    The leap from chicken soup to brownies makes perfect sense to Bossy. It’s like six degrees of indigestion.

  14. David

    Wow. I never knew soup was so complicated to make. And here I’ve been just adding a can of water and digging in. I’m probably going to be well preserved when I finally kick the bucket, hole or no hole. I should also state that NO box of golden brown, vanilla-flavored, disc-like pieces of heaven can survive for more than 24 hours after opening. Just doesn’t happen.

  15. Zuska

    You didn’t really make brownies from a box; no, what you did was purge your pantry of one more chemical laden treat. No use wasting what you already have!!

    I got my favorite homemade brownie recipe from Katherine Hepburn…well not directly from her, but from an article I read about her ages ago. Insanely easy, incredibly gooey, perfect for eating with a spoon.

  16. Daisy

    We think so much alike. I have a chicken soup in the crockpot even as we speak. I have to drive my child back to college today in the c-c-c-cold, so after 5 hours on the road, I’ll come home to home-made chicken soup. I’ll just have to add dumplings. Or rice. Or noodles. Easy.
    No brownies, though. Darn.

  17. Ben

    Didn’t the Mythbusters gang do a show on brownies?

    If not, they should have. Seriously. And double-fudge-chocolately.

  18. Bob

    doesn’t most chicken sold in supermarkets contain some amount of injected “liquid” to boost the moistness (and weight) of the chicken? What does this injected liquid contain? all natural ingredients?

    just askin’.

  19. Aimee

    Well, for cryin’ out loud! You can’t be expected to go COLD TURKEY. I think 90% healthy food made from scratch and 10% chocalate-y processed goodness is a pretty good ratio to start with.

  20. The Other Leanne

    “I took a chicken out of my deep freeze and made soup.”
    When I first read this part I thought it said “the children” instead of “chicken.”
    mmmm….brownies…do you have some left over for breakfast?

  21. Crisanne

    Kind of a “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” kind of day…

    Mmmm, chicken pot pie. Want to share your recipe? Most of the ones I know contain the aforementioned can of soup.

  22. MMM

    I use egg whites instead of whole eggs, and applesauce instead of oil. Cuts the fat and calories, and makes them so very moist and yummy! I do this with all of my cake and brownie mixes. Doesn’t change the flavor. And, I know I’m eating a much better version!

  23. Mom2One

    Brownie box mixes are sneaky things. As are 1/2 gallons of frozen yogurt, cheese crackers, your kid’s stash of reward candy, etc. etc. . . .

  24. Liise

    What does it say about me that I covet the chicken over the chocolate?

    Oh I know, not PMS-ing.

  25. Otto

    A correction: While I love watching Mythbusters, I’m not entirely sure it’s a great idea to have kids watching it.

    However, This Old House will be mandatory viewing. Every Good Person I know was raised watching This Old House, it is one of the few things I know will Make A Person Right.

    Also, everyone will read the morning newspaper. Even if it’s just the comics, it’s good to read something new every day and what’s newer than the newspaper?


  26. JayMonster

    Mir –

    If you use rBGH free Milk, Organic Free Range Eggs, and Non-hydrogenated oil (ie Canola, Walnut Oil, etc.), then even your brownies are technically heathier than they were before, and they are MUCH healthier than Pre-made store versions.

    Otto –

    Newspapers are SOOOO 20th century. I mean what is in a newspaper that you didn’t see the day before on,, etc. etc.? By the time you get the paper… it is “Old news” these days. (And judging by flagging newspaper sales across the country… I’m guessing others think so as well) Other than perhaps a Sunday ritual of coupon cutting, the only reason I can think of to read a paper, is to avoid conversation with others at the table. (just my couple of copper pennies).

  27. steph

    ok that post totally reminded me of the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!

  28. InterstellarLass

    Oh to spend the whole day in the kitchen and end up eating brownies! Cause/result isn’t always linear, is it?

  29. Heather

    Thank you for sharing,.. I’m sitting here laughing, and I needed that:)

  30. dad

    I may be old fashion, but I like a morning newspaper. Besides, without it I probably wouldn’t be able to start a fire in our woodstove…and of late, that it really important. Yesterday morning I slipped my boots and a parka on over my pajamas just to run out and pick up the paper. Noticing that that it was a bit brisk outside I turned on the radio to discover the windchill was minus 24.

    note: I did read the paper before immolation.

  31. WheresTheCoffee

    Crisanne & I were thinking alike. If you give Mir an organic free-range chicken, then she’ll make soup. If Mir makes soup then…

    Mythbusters is definitely the key to family unity, btw!

  32. D

    Mythbusters: boxed brownies, sludge or safe? Up next on Ottomatic!

  33. Christina

    Here is my homemade brownie recipe, probably not any better for you but super easy and sooo yummy! Plus it makes a 9×13 pan while a lot of the mixes only make a 9×9 or 8×8 pan, so twice the goodness:
    Prep. 20 min.
    Bake. 30 min. @ 350
    Yield: 1 – 13×9 pan (18-24 brownies)

    4 oz. unsweetened chocolate 1 ¼ C flour
    2/3 C shortening 1 tsp baking powder
    2 C sugar 1 tsp salt
    4 eggs 1 C chocolate or peanut butter chips
    1 tsp vanilla (optional)

    Melt chocolate and shortening in large glass bowl in microwave; chocolate first for 2 minutes, then add shortening an additional 1 minute and stir. Mix in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in greased 13×9 pan. Bake 30 minutes at 350 or until it starts to pull away from the sides of pan. Cool slightly, and cut into bars. Also if you love nuts in your brownies you can substitute the 1 C chocolate chips with 1 C nuts.

  34. Rachel May

    I can’t resist: Dear Liza, Dear Liza. There’s a hole in the bucket, Dear Liza, a hole.

    Well, fix it, Dear Henry, Dear Henry, Dear Henry,
    Well, fix it, Dear Henry, Dear Henry, fix it.

    Please let the NyQuil remove this from my head tonight.

  35. Bah

    Brownies should be included in every healthy diet.

    Brownies = Happy
    Happy = Energy
    Energy = Activity
    Activity = Health

    Where’s the problem?

  36. Otto

    JayMonster –

    You want to take on the journalism professor on the importance of newspapers?

    Okay … the advantage of television, radio and the web is its immediacy – this is what’s happening RIGHT NOW! Live! Local! Breaking! Which is great.

    But what the morning paper does, when it’s done well, that tv, radio and the web can’t do the day before is provide context, to provide background. To put a story in its historical or community perspective. To give the reporters and editors time to look at the news, to bring in relevant background, to put it in the context of the day/week/month that it took place in.

    The web has that opportunity, and some places are doing it. But radio and tv report and move on. There’s no ability to pause or ponder, to linger on an issue. That’s the advantage of the morning paper – depth and time.

    As for ciculation declines, at the larger papers, that’s true. But small local papers (which is what gets dropped on my driveway every morning) are doing okay. CNN and MSNBC are not going to cover the Athens city council meeting – my local paper does and will.

    We could go into a long discussion of what “doing okay” means, but I’ll leave it at this – newspaper investors got used to 35%+ profit margins, which were unrealistic. If you could turn a 20% profit annually out of your business, you’d be happy. Newspapers can easily hit that target, but Wall Street is demanding the same margins from when newspapers were, essentially, monopolies. That attitude needs to change. A newspaper isn’t a financial investment, it’s a public trust – good citizenship comes from good local knowledge. Good local knowledge comes from newspapers.

    -otto out

  37. Randi

    Heh…heh heh heh…we now have a war brewing on Mir’s comments! Can I join?!

    I was a Journalism major in college and I remember, vividly, that I learned more from actually doing the job then from the classes. There is a very distinct possibility that my professors were terrible, but I remember when my editor got her hands on me she had a fit! She couldn’t believe that while I knew how to write well, I did not know how to write for a newspaper well.

    This is NOT saying you’re a bad teacher, Otto, because I’m sure you’re not! I just wanted to chime in on the journalism thing…

    Oh..uhh…Hi Mir! You live here too?!

    (Brownies for Breakfast kick butt…)

  38. Jennifer

    MMMM you just made me hungry for brownies.

    I think I’m delurking today. To talk about food. That is so typical. So what I wanted to say was I’d been living in Italy since 2000 and the can of soup in so many American recipes is a pet peeve of mine. There are so many things that are SO EASY to make without that can of soup, or pre-prepared whatever. And they are tasty too. Most things I eat here have three or four ingredients and they are delicious. I’ve applied this to all my mom’s classics, and the results have been amazing. Even my Italian husband requests my meatloaf on his birthday.

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