Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brownie Experiments With Black Beans

Doesn't that brownie look good? Well, it is...its got all the chocolaty goodness you'd expect from a brownie & its got fiber and protein from black beans. Um, yes, you read right.

Why would I ever think of putting black beans in brownies? Well, I'd heard rumors of them, but didn't give the idea a second thought (I mean really, black beans in a sweet treat?!?) But my father's recent passing has made me hyper-health conscious and I want to take better care of the family left behind. Of course, I find a lot of my solace and solutions to life's problems in the kitchen...hence, the black bean brownie experiments.

I admit the combination of chocolate and black beans just sounds wrong…but trust me, the results are good…actually better than good. Fine, make a face, but keep reading.

I tried several recipes and tried them out on unsuspecting children and adults (all related). The results were 99 percent positive.

To save time, I used canned black beans, rinsed and drained to remove the extra sodium and the canning liquid. Black beans add protein, fiber and moisture to your special brownies and are a great way to give your children (and yourself) a tasty treat that’s actually on the healthy side.

The simplest recipe I found is:
1 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed & drained
1 box brownie mix (I used Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownies, but use your favorite)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

NOTE: You are essentially skipping the oil and eggs


1. Preheat oven according to box mix directions and spray/grease a 8”X8”pan.
2. Place the black beans back into the can and add enough water to just cover the beans.
3. Place the brownie mix, beans with water, and vanilla (if using) in a blender & process until combined and smooth.
4. Mix in the chopped nuts (if using).
5. Pour into prepared pan & scatter the chocolate morsels on top (if using).
6. Bake according to box directions. Test doneness by inserting a toothpick or knife at the center and should come out clean.
7. Cool & serve. These got rave reviews from my kids, my 14-year-old nephew and adults who managed to get some.

Note: I love blenderizing my having to drag out my pretty, but heavy, stand mixer.

Flourless, Sugarless, and Oil-free Black Bean Brownies – Okay, I know these don’t sound like Brownies at all, but they were a hit with adults. My darling husband described them as smooth & peanut buttery. Personally, I loved the coffee flavor. The kids suggested I leave out the coffee…um, not happening.

1 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs + white of 1 egg
1/3 cup cocoa powder (don’t go for the extra dark)
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
½ cup Splenda or other sugar substitute (or less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ to ¼ cup instant oats (optional – leave them out if you want grain-free brownies)
½ cup chocolate chips (divided)


1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees and spray/grease a 8”X8” pan.
2. Put black beans, eggs, cocoa, apple sauce, flavorings (Vanilla to Chipotle), Splenda and baking powder in a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Stir in oats (if using) and ¼ cup of chocolate chips.
4. Pour mix into prepared baking pan and sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top.
5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the edges start pulling away from the side. You can also do the toothpick test.
6. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Please Note: The batter --still waiting to be baked -- looks very, very chocolaty!

Now, if you want recipes a bit closer to traditional brownies, i.e. including some flour, oil and sugar in the mix, I found two very decent ones:

Weight Watchers Black Bean Brownies

Melissa d'Arabian's Black Bean Brownies

Happy Eating!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Song & Memory: Besame Mucho & Banana Bread

My father died January 4 and I find myself at an emotional standstill, still trying to accept that fact. Outside, I'm functioning, taking care of my mother who had to move in with me. Inside, I have stalled. I have other priorities now...being strong for my mom, taking care of paperwork, making doctors appointments, cooking proper meals for the family and more.

What I'm not doing is writing...really writing. Slowly, I have resumed my newspaper column, but other than that...nada. My blogs have stagnated, I haven't written a new story since last year. To write is to feel, and I'm afraid to feel.

Last year, before any of this, I had been part of a fun twitter conversation and suggested this month's #Letslunch idea: Music inspired food. Life was light then.

I was going to sit this one out, but then I got a kind note from one of #Letslunch pals and she said she'd love to read anything I had to share about my dad. So here goes.

For your listening pleasure, I'm sharing Besame Mucho, a song I found downloaded on my Papa's new iPhone.


Click on it, listen and read on.

A large part of who I am today is thanks to my Papa. He lived well, taught me much and made some wonderful memories.

We both enjoyed food, shared a curiosity about new ingredients and complex kitchen processes and relished flavors and textures — from the balance of sweet and sour in a pickle to the buttery softness of fresh baked bread. If he saw something new and interesting and edible, he'd buy it and try it.

His sailing career allowed him to taste an adventurous variety of foods, from octopus fried rice to cooked camel. Despite trying all the exotic fare, one of his favorite things was my mother's banana bread — preferably still warm from the oven.

He loved this homey treat my mother essentially threw together to use up overripe, black bananas we all refused to touch. A cup of coffee and a slice of banana bread was enough to make him a contented man. He always enjoyed his treat with a smile.

After his death, we had an outpouring of calls, visits and stories from family and friends. And we kept hearing stories about my father and banana bread.

At the time of his death, my father worked at Home Depot. If any of his co-workers happened to be going through a rough time or if they were celebrating a birthday or a promotion, a banana bread would show up on his or her desk (if the recipient was on a special diet, then it could be a granola bar or oranges).

My father apparently believed my mom's home-baked goodness could cheer up anyone and fit all situations. He loved playing the banana bread Santa at his store.

His colleagues remembered him by wearing ribbons and the management surprised the staff with a banana bread break in his honor.

On a personal level, my father's death, funeral service and burial passed in a blur. While my heart ached, worry about my mom and the need to be strong took over. My mother didn't just lose her husband, but also her best friend and co-conspirator.

I'm spending these months with her because, well, we need each other right now, more than ever before. Emotions ebb and flow. One moment we are laughing over a funny Papa story and the next we are sobbing out a monsoon of tears.

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking and reminiscing. Recently, I was helping clean out her refrigerator and discovered some gooey, black bananas. This perfect coincidence stole my breath for a moment. Then we baked banana bread and shared a cup of coffee in honor of the amazing man we both love. I can't think of a better memorial.

I hope you enjoy listening to Besame Mucho with a cup of something warm and a slice of my mom's banana bread.

(part of this post was originally published in the San Angelo Standard-Times)

Mom's Banana Bread


2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 or 3 ripe, medium bananas

2 teaspoon lemon juice

¾ cup vegetable or canola oil (you can use butter if you prefer)

1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream

1 cup sugar (or ½ cup Splenda)

2 eggs

¼ cup chopped pecans

¼ cup raisins or craisins


1 Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

2 Grease a 9X5X3-inch loaf pan with cooking oil spray. Set aside.

3 Sift together all the dry ingredients, except for sugar (from flour to baking soda), and set aside.

4 In another bowl, mash the bananas with lemon juice and set aside.

5 In a large bowl, whisk together oil and yogurt, sugar (a bit at time) and eggs (one at a time). Add in the mashed bananas.

6 Add in the dry ingredient mix into the wet ingredients a little bit at a time, mixing or folding as you go. Reserve about ¼ cup of the dry mix.

7 Toss the reserved flour mix with the pecans and raisins, and then fold these into the bread batter.

8 Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake 45 minutes.

9 Lower temperature to 300 degrees and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until done. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out dry.

10 Cool & serve.