The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

I’ve been on and off Weight Watchers for the last three years and it’s safe to say that I’m really and truly off right now. Like, I just went to the site to track my points for the first time in weeks (and weeks and weeks) and I didn’t even recognize the log in page. There was a whole year where I tracked points religiously. Or maybe I mean to say continuously. Because it was an all-day-everyday thing. It was half of what I thought about and three quarters of what I talked about. And then, one day, I stopped. I mean, not totally, but I stopped being such a psycho about calculating points and weighting myself. I had lost a very decent amount of weight. I missed drinking good beer in large quantities and eating meals that were not mostly composed of green leaves. And I really, really missed baking.

I went a whole year without baking more than probably six or seven times which now just seems ABSURD to me. Baking has been one of my hobbies since I was a kid. Now, I bake a lot. Maybe more than I should? It’s kind of negatively affecting my life. Like an addiction!

Whenever I have some sort of gathering to attend, I feel the need to bake something before it. So, if this gathering is on a weeknight, I spend the whole night before baking. Which means I don’t go to the gym or do laundry or read or write or do whatever other thing I had planned on doing that night in addition to baking but don’t actually do because I have a job and need to sleep. I also inevitably eat a lot of what I make. So, I’m like a person who cooks meth and then does some of it before giving it to other people. (That’s an apt comparison, right?)

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to start baking in moderation. Or at least, not when I need to get other things done. I’m telling myself that I’m going to plan ahead and stick to those plans! Which is, I guess, something that I learned from Weight Watchers many moons ago before I fell off the wagon.

Anyway, I’ve annoyed myself by writing all of the above because my original intention was just to tell you about two good things I baked recently!

1. Pumpkin-Chocolate Swirl Brownies

I used this Smitten Kitchen recipe (well, adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe) that I’ve been a big fan of since I first tried it last fall. Pumpkin and chocolate are amazing together and these brownies have just a little bit of cayenne pepper, setting them apart from other “fall” desserts. The only part of the recipe that I didn’t follow was the whole melting the butter and chocolate with a double boiler. I don’t have a double boiler and I also am too lazy to purchase one. The microwave worked just fine for the task.

Two of my favorite things.

I meant to take a photo of the finished product when it came out of the oven, but I didn’t because I was in a rush. So, I took a picture of the last brownie left in the batch!

 

Note: These are even better after a few days!

2.  Banana Blackout Cupcakes

OK, I made up the name for these chocolate-banana cupcakes myself. I needed to call them something clever because they were for our book club discussion of David Carr’s The Night of the Gun, which incidentally is about addiction. I adapted this recipe from Joy of Baking. And by adapted, I mean I tried to halve it and then I accidentally added twice as much milk as I needed and then I tried to fix it by only adding a little bit of vegetable oil. But they turned out to be amazing! They were really moist – I think because of the bananas – and um, basically perfect. I’ll just have to figure out what I did exactly before I try to replicate my success.

Banana Blackout Cupcake Leftovers

I also made my own frosting for these…by hand. Aggressively stirring a bunch of butter and sugar and cocoa powder together at 11 PM isn’t so much fun, but the finished product was delicious!

 

(I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for Ultimate Chocolate Frosting.)

What should I try making next? (Now that I’ve written about these I’m excited to try something new!) A pie? One of the cakes in Baking by James Peterson? Whatever I do, I’m going to set aside an afternoon weekend for it so it doesn’t make me crazy.

Also, there won’t be a Friday Roundup this week because I’ll be in Montreal, which I’ll tell you all about once I’m back!

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Friday Reads: Religion and Royals and Other Stuff

I think this is now a weekly roundup! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did and aren’t bothered by the fact that like half of them are from the New York Times. (I wasn’t reading super diversely this week.)

Vintage Contemporaries (Talking Covers): Talking about those old Vintage Contemporaries covers. (I actually read this one last week but I think it’s still good.)

Why I Love Mormonism (New York Times): Some/a lot of thoughts on the Mormon idea of God and Mormonism’s place on the spectrum of contemporary Judeo-Christian religion or something.

A Literal Epidemic of Crutch Words (The Atlantic Wire): Basically a follow up to the original discussion of crutch words we use today.

Salman Rushdie on Salman Rushdie (The New Yorker): An account of the days and months after he was sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini.

David Carr on Neil Young (New York Times Magazine): I think I love anything written about Neil Young and this was no exception.

Prince Harry, Millenial Royal (The Awl): From Emma Garman’s wonderful series on British celebrities.

An Interview with Jessica Valenti (The Hairpin): Nicole Cliffe interviews Jessica Valenti about her book Why Have Kids?

John Jeremiah Sullivan on Cuba (New York Times Magazine): OK, I haven’t read this yet but I know it’s going to be good because John Jeremiah Sullivan is always good. (Did you read his thing on the Williams sisters a couple of weeks ago?)

And in case you’re interested, here’s what I’m reading in books this week:

– Still working on this.

– Just started The Night of the Gun by David Carr (lots of David Carr this week) and I feel, um, not great about it so far. But I’m only 10 pages in!

– Also picked up In Cold Blood, which I have never read even though I really like true crime books? And duh, it’s really good.