Mary Beth’s Kitchen: Famous Brownies

Editor’s Note: With this month’s issue, we are pleased to welcome to our pages Mary Beth Oxendine, who will be familiar to some of our readers through her WGGS television program, “Cooking with Miss O.” She is the author of a cookbook, “Healthy, Simple, Southern Style Cooking on One Income,” and is a member of Cross Point Church in Clemson. She was married to the late Tom Oxendine and has two married children. For more recipes, videos and information, visit MaryBethsKitchen.com.

I hope the simplicity of the way I cook will help everyone rediscover the joy of “cooking from scratch” for their families. I recall Sunday dinners with white linen tablecloths and Sunday dishes … food cooked from past summers’ canning and freezing, or summer-fresh … conversations starting up even while we were passing the delicious-smelling food: fresh creamed corn, wonderful roast beef-and-gravy or tender fried chicken, whipped potatoes made from cream and butter, fresh-cooked pole beans, pintos, biscuits, sweet tea, corn muffins, fresh garden tomatoes or home-canned pickles, and a wonderful chocolate cake or Southern pound cake with fresh, sliced peaches for dessert. Those meals could have walked out of the pages of Southern Living magazine. 

Mary Beth Oxendine

When I got married, I was going to have those wonderful Sunday dinners for my husband and our future children. And I wanted everyone at my house after church, eating Sunday lunch and relaxing on the porch. But, all of a sudden, everything changed. I was told my baby was very sick and couldn’t eat anything. She was so precious, and we were going to lose her. We cried and prayed and went to work, asking the Lord to lead us to what we could do, if anything, to save our child. We found that we needed to change the way we ate. I thought to myself, “How do you cook Southern style with soy and tofu?” I was afraid and mad, and I felt sorry for myself and overwhelmed. If you are in a similar place, I hope my recipes can help you. 

I’ve spent the last 18 years changing Southern-style eating into healthy Southern eating. Because I quit my teaching job in order to be home with my children, my cooking also had to be economical.

I hope these recipes will help you rediscover the joy of cooking your own food and the wonderful feeling that comes when your family loves and thrives on your cooking. We don’t have to stop our heritage of fabulous Southern cooking. We just need to make a few healthy changes, and we can once again have fabulous Sunday dinners (and church dinners) with wonderful Southern dishes.

I married a deep-South boy (Tom was from Dalzell, S.C.) whose mother cooked every Sunday. I tried to cook all of my mother-in-law’s food. She would take a pinch of this or that, and I would stick a measuring spoon under her pinch and write down how much. I changed the recipes to include olive oil and raw honey or pure maple syrup. Homemade bread and gravy were made from fresh-ground flour — the healthiest way to eat — and dessert was for special occasions.

Our whole family’s health changed. My husband was able to lose 30 pounds in six weeks, and he didn’t gain it back. This really is not a diet — it is just eating Southern food that’s prepared in a more healthy way. It is cooking from scratch.

The most important part of cooking this way, something that I have never seen mentioned in any healthy-cooking or diet book, is grinding your own grain. This one thing brings more nutrition to the body and helps prevent so many present-day maladies that I highly encourage you to add this step to your new, healthier way of food preparation. I believe it is the most powerful thing God has given us for a healthy body. 

In future columns, I will try to show you that having a pantry is essential for eating healthy, but also important for getting real food on the table. It not only helps you stay on budget, but it takes the stress off, because everything you need to make those meals is in your pantry. I’ll also help with your menus and grocery lists.

I hope you will find cooking and shopping with these recipes easy and fun, and that your families are healthier and happier!  

Famous Brownies

(This recipe was originally given to my mother by a friend in West Virginia when she was young, and it was the first recipe she taught my sisters and me when we were growing up. I entered the brownies in an 8th grade competition and at the Pickens County Fair — and won first prize at both! I later revised the recipe using fresh-ground whole wheat flour and other ingredients, which I will share in a future column.)

1/4 lb. butter (1 stick)
2 squares of bitter chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Powdered sugar

Melt butter in chocolate (in double boiler). Add sugar and mix. Add eggs one at a time and stir well. Add dry ingredients, nuts and vanilla. Spread in 9-inch square pan that has been greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar, cool slightly and cut into servings.