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.
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?!
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.
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
- 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?
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”.
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?
20 Mon, 2010 § 8 Comments
Only five days until Christmas? Really?
In need of a last-minute gift or a little something to enhance an offering? I was. Natalie saved me with her suggestion.
Simple, pretty & I needed only three ingredients.
- 1 bag [12 oz?] of dark chocolate chips [I used Guittard 60% cacao, non-dairy]
- ~1 cup almonds [I had leftover almond crumbs, but I’m sure I can think of something to do with these. ;)]
- sea salt, to taste
I Love Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt.
It is my current favorite combination. Salt brings out the complexity of dark chocolate, & I’ve been CRAVING it recently. It didn’t take much to convince me to make this bark, & it definitely lived up to expectations.
Mmmm…now I don’t want to share.
Line an 8×8 baking sheet with parchment paper if you have it — or take your husband up on his offer to run back to the store when you realize you forgot it — it is worth it for the ease of cleanup & removing the chocolate from the pan. Use a larger baking sheet if you want thinner bark.
Toast the almonds, chop [the food processor is great for this] & spread them over the parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate. You can do this in a microwave or using a double boiler. I love melting chocolate with my double boiler — there is something therapeutic about stirring the chips & watching as they slowly melt into dark, rich liquid.
Pour the melted chocolate over the almonds, spreading gently if needed.
Sprinkle with sea salt,
to taste by sight — ok, so you can’t really taste test yet; I just guessed & thought it best to error on the lighter side for the sake of general taste [of others]. Start with a light dusting & increase the amount on your next batches if desired — you’ll want to make more. Promise.
Allow to cool & harden [I left mine in the fridge overnight].
Remove the harden bark from the baking sheet & break into pretty pieces. [This is fun.]
Fill a clean mason jar with chocolate bark pieces.
Tie a couple pretty ribbons around the jar for a nice, finishing touch. I also cut a circle out of gold tissue paper & inserted it between the lid & screw-top to hide the not-so-pretty, generic writing.
This made enough to fill two 12-ounce jars.
I keep thinking how pretty pink, Himalayan sea salt would be…but these are still very pretty.
Natalie also brought up that pistachios & dried cranberries would be a festive alternative to almonds. That would be a fun combination — let me know if anyone tries it — you simply can’t go wrong with almonds though.
Thanks again for your help Natalie!
Friday was downstairs. Here’s a little look at the upstairs.
Hook a left & meet the linen closet & full bath.
Keep hooking & you’re in the spare room.
I love the storage space in our rental. This closet will be perfect for our outdoor gear.
The spare has become the workout room for now.
If you hook a right at the top of the stairs:
another nice closet…which has some of Eisley’s things, & she knows it. 🙂
I like the tree right outside, & yes that is our bed for the time being “rolled” up against the wall. The memory foam mattress pad is perfectly cozy for me, but Dave’s heavy, broad shoulders sink to the floor…I can see how that could be a bit uncomfortable. We padded it with thick blankets underneath, so he doesn’t hit the hard floor any longer. I like having it out of the way during the day — plenty of play room for me & Eis — but I’m sure we’ll be getting an actual bed soon.
Aw…& a walk-in closet.
In case you don’t see enough of Eisley 😉
& want close-up of the “bed”.
Sometimes she reminds me of a deer.
What “last minute” things do you need to take care of this week before the holidays? I think I just have
one two gifts left & some cards to make — oh yeah, & a family portrait to take.
Hope you enjoy your Monday!
17 Fri, 2010 § 7 Comments
I promised a friend I would post a recipe for roasting chickpeas as soon as we settled into our new place. One problem: apparently I didn’t bring any pots. Not one. I think I had this “plan” of saving packing room & getting a nice set of stainless steel ones once we had moved. Since I prefer cast-iron skillets, I don’t need a full set; but, it is a little more difficult to find pot-only sets than I had anticipated…plus there’s the issue of the “budget” I mentioned Wednesday.
Looking over our week’s menu, not having a single pot was going to be a dilemma for more than just cooking chickpeas. Fortunately, I found a stainless steel stock pot on a great sale at Sears — only $8!
Phew! Close one!
So far, it has worked wonderfully — even if it’s been a little tricky having only one pot in the kitchen, but I’m crafty like that 😉 & now we can finally roast chickpeas!
Now, this isn’t exactly a “recipe”, because you don’t really need one. These are simple, versatile & should be made to suit your own taste; but I think I have the cooking method down after trying several different oven temperatures.
I have made these with everything from garlic salt & savory herbs to spicy cayenne to Indian spices to smokey paprika [probably my second favorite] to sweet, warming spices like cardamon & cinnamon.
My favorite way to have these though is simple, classic olive oil & sea salt.
Soak dried chickpeas overnight [you’ll want at least 1 cup — they shrink back down after roasting] & cook, covered, in simmering water with kombu 2.5 – 3 hours until just cooked [they don’t have to be extremely soft because you are going to bake them].
Drain & rinse canned garbanzo beans/chickpeas for convenience.
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Spread cooked or canned chickpeas out on a rimmed baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil [~1T] & toss/shake the pan around.
Sprinkle with sea salt to taste or seasonings of choice & toss again.
Roast chickpeas for 45 – 60 minutes, watching closely & shaking every 15 – 20 minutes to promote even roasting. You might have to rotate your baking sheet as well since the back of the oven is often hotter. Cook until they are golden & start to split open. They will “crisp” up more as they cool, so don’t overcook.
These protein-&-fiber-packed snacks are delicious tossed over salads, with trail mix or just eaten by the handful. It’s a great change up from the usual movie night popcorn too!
Here’s a little something extra for anyone who is curious. I hate taking such plain photos [with the flash no less], but I promised Ashley simple, snapshots of our layout. Here’s a little downstairs tour…
We weren’t able to get a townhome with a fence after all. 😦 Maybe it wouldn’t have been worth the extra $30/month…(sigh), we’ll never know.
As you walk inside, you are met by the stairs, but we’re not going up there today. 😉
The carpet isn’t that brown. It looks awful in the photo, but it’s closer to taupe.
There is a nice coat closet to the right of the front door. See how the hooks hang inside & backwards? That’s how all of the “rods” are throughout the house.
When facing the stairway, if you turn right, you are in the living room,
which has a large window on that right wall…& doesn’t house much other than our camp chairs currently. 🙂
It’s a pretty small space. I’m sure we’ll really feel that once the piano is in here. Homey, we’ll call it. 😉
If you go left of the staircase, you would be in the dining area,
& view our sole holiday decorations [for the time-being]. There are french doors on the left wall,
& a bar opposite these.
I really like the bar & am excited for it to not look like a mess.
Around the bar.
Across from the stove.
The rest of the kitchen.
A nifty little broom closet next to the fridge, perfect for the garbage can. [That’s my kitchen laundry bag hanging on the door.]
I love the pantry that faces the fridge & broom closet, & it’s not too deep — I basically had to dive into our former one to retrieve anything from the back.
If you go past the pantry & closet, there is a half bath which leads into the utility room with the W/D hookups. This might be a great space for Dave’s work bench. Bodhi’s litter box is in there around the corner, & his crate is in the doorway [because we forgot the kiddie gate] to deter Eisley from enjoying canine “Almond Roca” [cat poop]. Yeah, my pup is gross, but your dog would like it too. 😉
So there you have it…even if you all didn’t ask for it.
Happy Friday 🙂
I think the best part will be decorating & expressing our personalities in a new space. What’s your favorite thing about moving into a new place?
Ever tried roasting chickpeas? Which seasonings do you like/think you would like best?