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.



Indian Creek & [Flourless] Almond Butter Cookies

28 Thu, 2011 § Leave a comment

We always wish we had something sweet when sitting around the fire.

[photo by David Finch]

The smore suggestion is often thrown around, but vegan marshmallows are expensive & usually use syrup — & Allie-approved graham crackers & chocolate aren’t exactly cheap either…& I’m out of homemade chocolate…already.

We went with cookies, because cookies are easy & easy to tailor.  I did not want a flour-based one that might leave us feeling heavy for climbing, so these use almond butter as the base with ground flaxseed to bind everything together.  They are a little crumbly — not so much so they disintegrate on you, but they might not survive milk dunking —  subtly sweet & [almond] buttery.  Cookies that were exactly what I was wanting for our camping trip:

Almond Butter & Cacao Nib Cookies

makes ~16 small cookies

Preheat oven to 350*F.

  • 4 dates, pureed into paste
  • 1 C almond butter, unsalted & stirred well
  • 1 flax “egg” (whisk 1 T freshly ground flaxseeds with 3 T warm water, allow to thicken ~10 minutes)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ~1/4 C cacao nibs (or mini-chocolate chips)

Combine all ingredients except cacao nibs & mix well [you don’t want to bite into a salt or baking soda cloud].   Stir in cacao or chocolate pieces.  Spoon into tablespoon-size balls & flatten onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for ~12 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack & cool 15 minutes longer.


What sweets or treats do you take camping?

Blue Skies & Simple Almond-Oat Cookies

11 Mon, 2011 § 4 Comments

Who doesn’t love a blue sky?

The type of sky meant for





sweating under.

The blue sky of warm days that leave you deliriously happy from exhaustion.

This weekend did not have this type of blue skies.

When the sky did decide to show itself Sunday, it was still too snowy & cold to venture out for long; so after a quick jaunt to the grocery store, we opted to stay huddled inside, but a certain man in my life has an affinity for a different type of Blue Sky.

The smell is enough to give me a sugar high…& make me a little sick.  It smells like Smarty candy.

Let’s not kid ourselves: energy drinks & soda — even the “natural” stuff — are not good for us; arguably, they are quite the opposite.  Dave isn’t kidding himself, but likes to indulge occasionally; he has it so rarely, after only a couple sips, he is flying.

He is like a kid on a candy high, serenading me with songs so ridiculous he could only be making them up on the spot.  When he assures me he is not — they are true, genuine songs — I can only wonder how why my husband knows all of the words by heart.

He is not just silly when the sugar rush hits though; he is quick-witted & fu-NNY.  As much as I dislike these types of drinks, I love when he is hyper. 🙂

He reminds me it is ok to be silly & not to sweat the small stuff.  Though I am 5.5 years younger than Dave, I think HE will help ME stay young.  I like sharing my life with a man who will always be a kid at heart.

And what kids doesn’t want cookies?

One of his favorites is Pecan Sandies, & Saturday he was having a major craving.  I was determined to meet it…

without the sugar rush though. 😉

Almond-Oat Cookies

[makes ~a dozen small cookies]

Preheat oven to 350*F.

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal (or almonds)
  • 1/2 kamut flour
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 T brown rice syrup

Combine oats (& almonds if not using almond meal) in a food processor & process to a flour consistency.  Combine in a bowl with almond meal & kamut flour.

Combine oil & sweeteners separately (I have also made these with agave in place of one of the other sweeteners; you could probably use honey as well).

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients & mix well.

Form into small balls — the smaller the cookies, the better they turn out — mine were about 1.5-inch balls, but I think I prefer 1-inch.  Flatten onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake 15 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet.

These delicate, little cookies are perfect on their own & even better dunked in vanilla hemp milk!  We have whole pecans from the CSA, but no cracker; otherwise, I think I would have added ground pecans for more of that shortbread-pecan-cookie flavor.

I think I can speak for both of us when I tell you we loved these & are in need of a fresh batch!


Do you ever drink energy drinks?

Have you tried using ground oats &/or almonds in place of some of the flour in baking?  HIGHLY recommended. 🙂

“Raw” Chocolate with Sea Salt

29 Tue, 2011 § 4 Comments

I am sort of insecure when it comes to cooking or baking for people.  Yes, selfishness might play a small role when it comes to sharing some of my treats as well 😉 ; but I have such different taste than many people, I worry.

I said I would practice & perfect my chocolate making before sharing a “recipe” – I will still practice & perfect, don’t you worry – but after approving “mmms” when Dave took some to work to share with friends, I decided I could share what I did.  [Honestly, I think they were simply impressed by the fact I made chocolate myself.]

The idea of making my own “raw” chocolate was initially intimidating, but there is not much to it!  And you need only one pot.

This isn’t really a recipe but loose instruction on what I did, which was actually just a lot of pouring, melting & tasting.  If anyone is interested in giving chocolate-making a go, maybe this will give you a good place to start.

I mentioned before I read equal parts of fat, chocolate & sweetener by weight is key.  If you try this & have a kitchen scale, please let us know if this is accurate; also, feel free to include approximate, coordinating volume measurements too! [for those of use without a scale]

I started with equal parts coconut butter & [shaved] raw cacao butter, totaling about ¾ cup.  I melted this in a small saucepan over low heat & removed from the burner once it was liquid.  I stirred in a scant 1.5 cup raw cacao powder until mixed well; then added 2 big spoonfuls of almond butter, mashing & mixing until well incorporated.  I also stirred in 1 – 2 tsp [alcohol-free] vanilla.  I used raw blue agave to sweeten, maybe 2 – 4 T – with the agave I really just squeezed a bit from the bottle, tasted, squeezed a bit more, tasted, etc.  It is really about tasting as you go & finding your perfect preference!  You could also use raw honey or maple to sweeten instead.  I finished off with a couple [or maybe just one] teaspoons of sea salt & poured into molds to freeze.  I also sprinkled a little sea salt over half the cups for extra saltiness before freezing — you really have not lived until pairing chocolate with sea salt.  You could add other flavors like cinnamon, mint instead of vanilla, espresso powder, finely chopped dried fruit or nuts or make it really pretty with pink Himalayan sea salt.  My next batch will include lavender-sea salt.

This made enough to fill 12 silicone cupcake molds halfway, which is a lot of homemade, dark chocolate!  I am not complaining though. 😉  We keep them in an airtight container in the freezer & chop each cup into quarters.  They are going to last awhile.  A small piece is indulgent.  In the future, I will make half the amount & freeze in mini cupcake molds or small candy molds.

To start off our anniversary weekend, we paired a couple pieces of this chocolate with vanilla bean coconut ice cream & vanilla-wafer-like cookies by Country Choice.  Now I just need a recipe to make our own vanilla wafers.

Thank you for the sweet anniversary wishes!!!


Do you have a kitchen scale?  I am considering getting one.  What do you find most handy about having one?  Have you ever made homemade vanilla wafers?!


“W” is for Allie

24 Thu, 2011 § 6 Comments

When you question your decision to be there within the first 5 minutes, you know it is going to be a good spinning class.

Traci at FAC makes you hate your life; & it feels so good.

Spinning is about pushing yourself past what you think you are capable of doing.  A good spinning class should never let up, feel absolutely brutal…& have really good music.

Last night’s class was gooood.

Wednesday is “guys’ night”, so you can find Dave shooting bad guys online with one of his guy friends most of the evening.  Ladies’ night has become Allie’s night.  I might hit the climbing gym….or torture myself spinning…or drop in on $5-Wednesday yoga.  I can kick up my heels — I can paint the town red. 😉  I can do whatever I’d like.  Wednesdays are for Allie.

Then I can go home & cook…read…blog…write…or just play & cuddle with Eis.  I wish playing the piano was on this list.  It will be again.

Of course, Wednesdays should be for chocolate too.

I have mentioned my affinity for raw chocolate — dark chocolate in general actually.  Most chocolate still has sugar though, & raw is quite expensive.  I finally broke down & ordered cacao butter so I could make my own.  I found what I thought was a good deal for quality cacao from Green Planet Paradise & realized it shipped from Sedona, which is only about 40 miles from here.  Plus, they plant a tree for every pound of cacao you buy.  That’s two trees for me!

I used Kathryn Budig’s “recipe” video as a guideline, but left out cinnamon & espresso powder, tasting as I went.  The first round was too buttery, but I was not about to waste my cacao; so I remelted my pieces & added more cacao powder & agave.  This round: Mmm.

They are rich & quite decadent.  Next time I will make less, & I suggest using little molds instead of [silicone] muffin tins for more appropriately-portioned pieces.  A little of this chocolate goes a looong way!

I have heard equal ratios of fats, sugars & chocolate is key.  Without a kitchen scale, I can’t tell you if this is really the case.  It seems like this would be more sweetener than I used.  Once I narrow down the perfect homemade chocolate ratio, I’ll share!  For now, I will just have to practice. 😉  I know it’s not technically 100% raw, but I’m ok with this.


Do you ever take days that are just about you?  You really should.

Just Sweet Enough

14 Mon, 2011 § 8 Comments

Sugar is sneaky.

It appears sweet & harmless.  A little here; a little there…it won’t hurt.

If you know me at all by now, you know I am pretty strict about avoiding refined sugar.  Recently it has been creeping in though, initially in one of my favorite dark chocolate bars with sea salt [thank you, Dave for tempting me with a 12-pack – oh yeah, those babies are gone ;)].  Honestly, I do not fret this too much.  Dark chocolate is generally lower in sugar than many other sweets.  A small piece may even be good for those daily indulgences which I am a fan of, though I do prefer raw chocolate sweetened with agave – [but who wants to spend $6 for a chocolate bar every time?!].

My cravings have become a bit more of the addicted nature though – when you crave it first thing in the morning, it is likely due to a sugar crash – & I have found it more difficult than usual to turn down offered sweets.  I have even reached for Dave’s sour licorice straws, which are SWEET!  [Normally much sweeter than I can handle.]

Sugar makes me feel lousy, so I want to nip it in the bud before it really takes hold.  Rather than sticking myself in a NO SUGAR mindset, because restrictive mentalities have a tendency to harbor negative connotations, I have decided to focus on the positive.  I can indulge daily — the type of indulgences I enjoy & feel good about eating.  By allowing myself a modest, healthy & delicious indulgence every day, I do not feel restricted, can look forward to it & not feel the need to binge.

Saturday, I perused the aisles of New Frontiers looking for cookies, chocolate…something I would feel ok about putting in my body & still leave me satisfied.  Unless I wanted to splurge on my favorite raw cookies, nothing was fitting the bill that day.  I grabbed a few bulk ingredients [which saved us some spending $$] & opted to throw something together at home.

The beauty of this is I simply started throwing ingredients into the food processor while dinner cooked & adjusted it to suit my taste.  This is on the LIGHTER side of sweet, so feel free to add maple, agave – whatever sweetener you feel good about eating.

These tasty treats hit the spot for me.

Carrot Cake Crispies

  • 2 medjool dates, pits removed

Chop in food processor & add remaining ingredients.

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
  • ample sprinkling of cinnamon
  • dash of ginger
  • dash of cardamom

Pulse to combine before adding final ingredients.

  • 2 T shredded coconut
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 T coconut oil, melted
  • 1 T tahini

Pulse until just combined.  Press into a parchment-lined dish & put in freezer until set, 10 minutes – 1 hour.  Remove from freezer & cut into 1-inch squares.  This made about 12 squares.  I like that they did not freeze solid — they were still soft with just enough crunch.  I think I will leave them in the fridge after they set up though to keep them on the softer side.

These little crispies are full of simple, clean ingredients — I was actually surprised they turned out so well — they are a perfect, light treat & would be amazing with a coconut icing.  Now that I know how simple [a.k.a. not scary] it is to toss this stuff in & process, I’m excited to explore other flavors & make crispies often.


What kind of sweet tooth do you have?  Do you like sweet sweet or just sweet enough?

Earn It

24 Thu, 2011 § 9 Comments

I am sort of annoyed with this “earn your carbs” mentality I have come across recently; so instead of ranting, I decided to share one of my favorite carb snacks.

I like air-popped, because then I can drizzle it with melted coconut oil.  You can also pop it over the stove in oil though.  Let me know if you need specs for the stove top method.

My current obsession is sprinkling maca powder over it, which is reminiscent of butter scotch, along with sea salt.

I first read about maca in Thrive & started adding it to my recovery coconut-hemp drinks.  It can help reduce cortisol levels caused by stress, which will aid in recovery & repair from physical exertion [aka exercise].  It’s boasted to help achieve greater strength, energy & stamina.  The difference for me has been subtle but noticeable.

Faith recently revealed how easy it is to make my own herb salts though, so my popcorn might just get fancy.  What herbs would be good on popcorn?  Ideas?


Rather than “earn your carbs”…let’s try, “earn your sweat” or “earn your body’s love”.

Yesterday, I had my own personal, long-distance trainer. 

Natalie set me up with a grueling circuit with this exercise challenge.  I almost backed out, because my stomach felt off when I got home.  I decided giving it a try & pushing through might be worth it & make me feel better.  It was, & I did.

Circuit Training x 3 rounds

  • Push Ups to fatigue (start on toes, when fatigued – keep going on knees) ~ 15-15 / 17-10 / 15-12
  • Squat Jumps to Squats (jumping squats to fatigue – switch to prisoner squats) ~ 21-31 / 25-30 / 26-30
  • Pull Ups (true – assisted) ~ 4-10 / 13-12 / 3.5-10
  • 1 min High-Knees (both legs up = 1) – 1 min Lateral Hops – 1 min Jump Rope ~ 94-63-150 / 84-70-153 / 88-70-149
  • Jumping Lunges to Regular Lunges (once fatigued jumping – switch to reg.) ~ 30-30 across the board
  • Bicep Curl & Overhead Press (as many as you can) ~ 2, 10#s ~ 20 across the board
  • 1 minute Mountain Climbers ~ 67 / 66 / 73 (both legs forward = 1 count)
  • 3-way Lateral Raises (Palms facing forward ~ 5#s, backward ~ 2#s & floor ~ 5#, 10-12 each) ~ I did 10 each for all 3 rounds
  • 5 Plank Ups Downs (each side) – start in plank, come down to elbows in a “walking” motion, come back up
  • 15 Burpees (without push up)
  • Tricep Dips to fatigue ~ 30 / 30 / 25
  • 25 Tuck Ups* (lay on your back with feet & arms out straight; bring knees to chest & upper body off ground)

*Wasn’t sure how to do these, so I did static butt raises instead.

This sucked – in a good way. 😉  One of the great aspects of this circuit was how Natalie alternated the exercises.  The more weight-focused exercises provided just enough of a rest as I caught my breath but still continued to work specific muscles to fatigue.  Changing it up like this never gave my body a chance to adapt, which is how I like it: drenched, grunting & pushing through the whole time.

Thank.You.Natalie.  Why do you have to live so far away again?

Give her circuit a go or check out one of her many workouts @ FollowMyFitSteps.com.

p.s.  Whole food carb sources are ok.  Obviously, don’t go crazy, & avoid processed stuff, but eating balanced means not beating yourself up over a bowl of quinoa.  I mean, c’mon people!

We all do this from time to time, but I do not like instilling an “earn my food” mentality & prefer to view, appreciate & relish in food as fuel.


What are your thoughts on earning your carbs/food?

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