Spicy Black Bean Brownies

30 Mon, 2011 § 4 Comments

Dave & I are particular about our brownies.  We like them dense & moist.  You know the kind that leaves its mark on your napkin?

These flourless, black bean brownies just looked like they would suit our taste.  It seemed more than a little strange to use black beans as a base, but we were willing to give them a try.  Amazingly, they create perfectly dense, rich, bite-sized, fudge-textured brownies with a subtle kick from the cayenne I added.  Not even a hint of bean flavor lingered.  They were a hit at a recent potluck.

Because the original recipe calls for 4 eggs, I knew substituting them would change the consistency.  I have yet to find a really great vegan brownie recipe & wanted these to be fudgy & moist.  I feel good about the eggs we buy from a woman I know who loves her chickens & takes really great care of them.  In general, I do prefer to bake without eggs because I can usually make it work; so please offer suggestions that will keep these dense & moist.  I was afraid 4 flax “eggs” would make them too “flaxy” but let me know if you try it…

…because you need to try these.

They are especially delicious with coconut ice cream.

Adapted from Baking with Agave Nectar by Ania Catalano

Fudge Brownies with Black Beans, Cayenne & Agave

Makes 45 (2-inch) brownies.

  • 4 ounces extra-bitter chocolate
  • 1 cup Earth Balance
  • 2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained & rinsed well
  • 1 cup almond meal, divided
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ cups raw blue agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 11- by 18-inch rimmed baking pan with parchment paper & oil lightly.

Melt the chocolate & butter in a double boiler (or microwave).  Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely.

Mix the cayenne with 1/2 cup of the almond meal.  Combine this with the beans, vanilla extract & a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture in a large bowl.  Using an immersion blender, blend several minutes or until smooth.  The batter should be thick & the beans smooth (otherwise they might be gritty). Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup almond meal, the remaining melted chocolate mixture & salt.  Mix well & set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until light & creamy, about 1 minute with an electric whisk.  Add the agave nectar & beat well.  Set aside.

Combine the bean/chocolate mixture with the almond meal/chocolate mixture.  Stir until blended well.

Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/4 cup.  Mix well.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Using an electric mixer or whisk, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light & fluffy.  Drizzle over the brownie batter.  Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set.  Let cool in the pan completely before moving to the fridge.  They will remain soft until refrigerated.  Cut into squares.

~

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Sublimation

26 Thu, 2011 § 3 Comments

In New Mexico, a Navajo man with a mental disability is kidnapped & branded with swastikas.

People demand “proof” in the form of corpse photos.

A video of a beheading was posted to the web, a horrified public…hit Google.

Last year, the domain name sex.com sold for $10,000,000 $13,000,000.00

Bumper stickers reveal our souls with little true thought for what is actually being said.  ie: “If you don’t stand behind our troops, stand in front of them.”

The desire for mature sex appeal has blazed through teenagers & is targeting an even younger group.  We have dubbed them “Tweeners”, making it even easier for marketers & media to zero in.

This is the pop culture of my era.

When did the body first set out on its own adventures, after having ditched its old traveling companions, the mind & the soul?  It must have got tired of the soul’s constant nagging & whining & the anxiety-driven intellectual web-spinning of the mind, distracting it whenever it was getting its teeth into something juicy or its fingers into something good.  It had dumped the other two back there somewhere, leaving them stranded in some damp sanctuary or stuffy lecture hall while it made a beeline for the topless bars, & it had dumped culture along with them: music & painting & poetry & plays.  Sublimation, all of it; nothing but sublimation, according to the body.  Why not cut to the chase?

But the body had its own cultural forms.  It had its own art.  Executions were its tragedies, pornography was its romance.

~Margaret Atwood, Oryx & Crake

I’m not a prude.  The body is beautiful.  Death is part of life; we don’t need to shield ourselves from it.  But the vulgar?  The disrespect?  The obsession with (& numbing to) violence?  Spectacles for sheer shock?

I know it isn’t all like this.  There is a lot of beauty, intellect, kindness & art in the world, but the shallow filth can be so loud.  Lately, I have felt assaulted by it.  I’m just sad.  How do I dim its noise?

Nature.

She muffles it.

Whether it’s a short hike, an after work bouldering session with friends or a more extended camping trip into the desert, “escaping civilization” through nature reminds me there is beauty & sanity in the world.  Dave & I often transpose “wilderness” & “civilization”, claiming we escape the wilderness when we leave the city & nature is truly civilized.  It makes sense, follows life’s rules & lives in balance & harmony; even when aggressive or hostile, it serves a purpose.  The simplicity it casts reflects back on us, reminding me what matters & what I would like to reflect into the world myself.

If every one spent a little more time connecting with & actually seeing the natural world, a lot of the ugliness would disappear; we would act with love.

Trad Leading

16 Mon, 2011 § 1 Comment

I thought I was a boulderer.  Does this really make sense?

[Binou’s Crack, Indian Creek, by David Finch]

I like the short, intense aspect of bouldering, so anything on a rope starts to feel long & never-ending rather quickly.  I can’t help myself though.  Recently, I have fallen for the challenge of overcoming my fear of trad leading.

It is difficult to put into words the satisfaction & confidence (& delirious excitement) gained when placing my own gear into the cracks, nurturing trust in my ability & coaxing my body to climb above these placements, pushing myself the entire length of the crag.

For me, trad (short for traditional) climbing is a head game.

The routes I touch when leading trad are not physically limiting to me.  I choose grades completely within my abilities.  Each move is well within my range.  I know I can do it, but often, I won’t allow myself to know it.  I let fear kick me off the wall.

The urge to retreat is strong — I want to give up & lower to the ground — as the “what ifs” & “I can’ts” echo in my head.  When I climb on, through this fear, I learn something about myself I get to take off the wall & carry with me:

I am stronger than I think I am.   I am capable of much more than I give myself credit.  I do not have to live in fear or stress.  I do not give up.

You don’t have to climb mountains (though you might like it if you try), but I challenge you to find something that is hard, something you have to work for, & push yourself.  It shouldn’t necessarily be physically limiting but mentally challenging.

In those moments we push through the constraints of our minds, when we go beyond what we previously thought we were capable of doing, we are liberated & rewarded with a glimpse of our true selves.

There is only room to grow, only room to expand, so stop limiting yourself.

~

How do you push the bounds of your mind’s self-imposed limitations?

I Wish…& Simplicity

13 Fri, 2011 § 7 Comments

I wish I didn’t second guess every post.

I wish I didn’t immediately hate every thing I create.  Maybe I am an unknowing artist.  Ok, so I do make some pretty tasty meals, & sometimes, I sit back from the screen or paper & feel good about my expressions.  Too often, after I hit “publish”, I cringe.

I wish I felt secure in my own voice & style.

I wish I didn’t worry about being fresh, original.  I want to accept my randomness & share significant aspects of myself without worry you’ll hate it or find it inconsistent or too far from the niche (which I actually don’t want to fall into).

I wish I didn’t feel the pressure to post every day…& guilt when I “fail”.  Maybe I don’t have something to say every day.  Maybe my expressions are limited.  Ok, that’s not true, but maybe my infinite expressions are not limited to the forms of writing or this blog.  And that’s ok.

I wish I didn’t get caught up in this peculiar blog-a-sphere & forget why I started aroadmorebalanced in the first place.  To explore my creativity.  To share & exchange insights.  To talk about food.  To talk about passions.  To talk about life.

I wish I always cooked for the sake of cooking & food & strengthening my relationship with them, rather than for the sake of blogging.  I wish I wasn’t afraid to share my overly-simple “recipes” which aren’t recipes at all.  Why am I afraid to share rather than relish & celebrate what I love?  Simple, delicious, fresh food; where the colors & textures & taste speak.  No frills, because that’s me.

~ Get back to the root of it all.  Remember why I love food & cooking & blogging. ~

Monday evening, I suddenly found myself in the kitchen mixing spices.  What looked like a lot of work to Dave was therapeutic to me.  I lost myself in each step, absorbed in the aromas & textures of fennel & cumin seeds, peppercorns & coriander.  I immersed myself in the quick, but semi-tedious process of individually toasting & cooling each nut & spice seed, before thoughtfully grinding them together by hand in the mortar & pestle.  Dukkah is an Egyptian spice Heidi Swanson shares in her recent cookbook Super Natural Every Day.  I knew immediately I would be won over by this version.  It is fragrant, earthy & lovely.

Egyptian street vendors sell small paper cones with their unique blend of this spice, along with strips of pita bread.  Customers dip the bread into the vendor’s bowl of olive oil & then in the dukkah.


Mine was generously sprinkled on soft-boiled, local eggs, roasted golden beets & arugula, followed by a drizzle of olive oil.

I hadn’t planned to take a photo but simply enjoy the intimate experience of combining simple ingredients by hand to yield a beautiful spice; but my last bite drew me outside into the fading sun…because even though this is not a recipe, this is what I want to share sometimes: Moments, not just the food, that arise from the kitchen.

~

Do you have a blog?  Is it moving closer or further from your original design & intent?

Do you need to reconnect?

I Boulder

10 Tue, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’m a boulderer;

or rather, I boulder.

[on Tranced Out & Dreaming in Ibex, Utah by David Finch]

Give me a rock with a few, fun, strenuous, limit moves, I’m content to fall off it for hours.

Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense.

Because I don’t like falling.

Actually, I don’t mind falling; it’s hitting the ground I dread, even from a short distance.  Considering the bad ankle sprain I earned after one of my first gym bouldering sessions, this is a reasonable fear.

Even before a boulder starts to approach true “high ball” status, I might burst into tears in my desperation to top out.  In these moments, I’d give anything not to hit the ground; I’d much rather be taking my fall tied into the end of a rope 60 feet up.

So why boulder?

Bouldering strips rock climbing to an even bearer, rawer state.  Little equipment is required.  If I was truly a purist, I’d be climbing naked, chalkless & shoeless.  Once I step up to the rock, “the mechanism clears”: it’s just me…the rock…my body…moving with the stone…yielding to its permanence…pushing the bounds of my own limits.  There is no physical reward at the “top” — no significant or measurable height achieved; no bird’s-eye view — only the victory of inner growth, the submission of the ego (beaten down by falling over & over again) & a connection with what is truly greater than all else.

Presence.

Bouldering isn’t the only rock climbing I do; but when I need to touch rock now, the most natural tug leads me out the door with a simple pair of shoes, a pad (or two or three) & a little chalk.

~

Where do you find presence?

Detox?

5 Thu, 2011 § 10 Comments

 I feel sucker punched, like I did 1,000 crunches yesterday but the only thing working my abs were severe stomach cramps that knocked me off my feet mid-day.  I resisted the Spring “cleanse” / detox trend earlier this year, but today I am changing my tune.  I am not a fan of long-term “cleanses” or fasts & disagree they are really that good for your body; however, restricting & monitoring my intake seems to be the only way to narrow down the cause.

After work, I had planned to trail run or hike with Eisley before my spinning class.  I had not intended to leave work early & whimper in the fetal position until Dave got home.  These are definitely cramping my style.  At least a long phone call with an old friend distracted me a bit, but I wanted to move & sweat yesterday!

Years ago I realized sulphur dioxide, found in many packaged dried fruits, & other preservatives were to blame for tying my stomach into painful knots.  Now, I eat clean.  My diet is primarily plant-based & made up of whole foods only, void of  harmful preservatives.  The cause of my cramps has to be an intolerance to something specific.  Gluten plays a role, but I am not exactly sure to what extent.  Whole wheat seems to hurt, while spelt & kamut — which still have some gluten — sit better in moderation.

A “detox” seems like so much work — especially because I eat clean!  I’m tired of these cramps that “randomly” creep up & knock me flat though, so yesterday I started a food diary & plan to eliminate the common culprits:

  • all added sugar ~ I already avoid processed sugar
  • coffee ~ I don’t drink coffee regularly; as a treat, I might enjoy a cup once every few months
  • alcohol ~  I like the occasional glass of wine, vodka tonic, whiskey straight or quality dark brew, but again, I drink pretty rarely
  • gluten ~ recently I have been eating gluten rarely & in moderation
  • soy ~ I also eat tofu & tempeh in moderation & avoid most processed foods that sneak soy in
  • dairy ~ I have not been consuming any dairy for the last several weeks

Do you understand my frustration?  I have already eliminated most of these or consume them rarely.  Gluten stands out to me, & I did recently make a.mazing millet muffins with whole wheat pastry flour.  The culprit perhaps?  I tested another muffin yesterday evening, but no cramps happened. ??

I’m confused & feel a little lost.  I will figure this out though.

~

If you have any detoxing tips or experiences finding a food intolerance, please share!

I Want Pecs

3 Tue, 2011 § 3 Comments

A poster of this hangs in the weight room of our gym.

I sort of want it.

I have wanted to focus on working my chest specifically; & fortunately I have a husband willing to step in as my lifting partner a couple days a week & create really solid workouts for us.  The following are last week’s; if you like feeling worked through your pecs, you’ll enjoy these, especially #2, which was really felt the next day.

#1 Chest_Back (Monday)

Alternate between 1 & 2 each set; as well as 3 & 4 each set — so do 20 DB Press, then 20 Rows, short break, then 20 DB Press, 20 Rows, etc.  Adjust weight according to your own abilities.

  1. DB Press 20 @ 12# x 2, 12 @ 20#, 6 @ 30#
  2. Rows on machine 20 @ bar only x 2, 10 @ 20#, 6 @ 40#
  3. Decline Press 20 @ 35# x 2, 8 @ 55#, 6 @ 65#
  4. Reverse Flies 20 @ 7# each x 2, 8 @ 12#, 6 @ 15#
  5. Incline DB Press 20 @ 10# each, 8 @ 15# each, 6 @ 20# each
  6. Push ups to failure: 21

#2 Chest_Shoulders (Thursday)

  • 3 x super set: Push Ups x 10 @ BW & DB Butterflies x 10 @ 15# each
  • Butterflies (machine) x 8 @ 40#, x 10 @ 40#
  • 3 x super set: Assisted Pull Ups & Dips (40# on machine) 1) x 10 each exercise (rest) then x 8 each (rest) then x 8 each
  • Lying Overhead bars x 10 @ 25# x 2
  • Assisted Windshield Wipers x 8

~

Are you a woman who likes to work her chest or does it make you nervous?

Where Am I?

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