Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fudgey Black Bean Brownies

So, if you've been following me then you are aware that I am currently trying to get my self and my family to eat a little better. (Not that we were eating horribly before, but there is always room for improvement.) Less processed food and refined sugars and more healthy proteins, veggies, and just basically "whole" foods. Well, I decided that I would join a clean eating challenge that was happening on Facebook. It was a one week challenge to eat only whole and "clean" foods. It was during this challenge that the group leader shared the original version of this recipe. I actually waited until after the challenge was over to make these, because I wanted to use chocolate chips and since they have refined sugar in them (a small amount, but still) I couldn't eat them and still feel that I was staying honest to the challenge. So, now my challenge is over, and I have made them twice since then. 
   I know what you are thinking. Black bean brownies? No refined sugar? (Except for the chocolate chips) Gluten free, egg free and even vegan (if you sub in another sweetener for the honey)? How can that be good? Well, let me tell you they are! My children (my oldest especially) was one of the nay say-ers when he saw me making them. But, then he tasted them and was thrilled that I made them a second time a few days later (because the first batch disappeared in no time!).
   Granted, these are a different texture than you are used to. I love me some boxed brownies, even though I know how bad they are. And a close second are Dark Chocolate Bombshell Brownies. Both are crunchy on the edges and chewy throughout. Well, these brownies are neither crunchy or chewy, but they ARE moist, soft, fudge-y and gooey (as you can see by the picture above). Will these brownies replace the other "bad for you" brownies in my dessert arsenal? No. But will I make these brownies again and again? Yes! I like knowing that I am getting a bunch of protein with my sweets. It makes me feel a little less guilty. :)

Here's how you make them:

The first step is perhaps the most important: you MUST rise your beans REALLY WELL! Get all of the salty slimy stuff off of them, or it will mess up the chocolate-y flavor of your brownies.

The brownies can be assembled in a food processor, or in a bowl with an immersion blender. I opted for the immersion blender. (*If you choose to use a food processor, start with your oats, not the banana.)
In the bowl, blend up the banana first. This way you will be certain not to have any banana chunks in the brownies. They are here for sweetness, not flavor.

The next step is to blend your oats into a flour. (I do this in my single serving cup that came with my blender, but you can use your food processor (*see note above), blender, or even a mason jar with the blender blade screwed on) This is also how I blend my oats and fruit for my Homemade Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal.

Just put the oats in and blend until you have a fine powder, like this:

Most of the ingredients go into the bowl, and blended together. (If you opted to use a food processor, everything but the nuts and chocolate chips can be added at this point.)

Blend until COMPLETELY smooth.

Then you can add the oat powder/"flour."

Using a spatula, stir in the nuts and chocolate chips (both optional but very good additions!).

Pour the badder into a 9x13 pan (I greased it with a little coconut oil)

And smooth it out into a single layer,

Sprinkle on some more chocolate chips (again optional, but so yummy!) and bake @350F for 15 minutes or so. You want them set, but don't over bake! The more you bake them, the cakier they get!

When they are set, take them out and let them cool.

Cut into 20 squares (or however many you want, but these are pretty rich so you don't need a big piece to feel satisfied)

And dig right in! I went for a corner piece, because that's my favorite and I was hoping for crunchy edges. No crunchy edges, but all the chocolate-y goodness within made up for it. :)

Here's the recipe:
adapted from Black Bean Pumpkin Brownies

*If gluten free is a requirement, make sure to only use certified gluten free ingredients.
**For strict vegans, substitute maple syrup or Agave for the honey, and use vegan chocolate chips
*** Nut free, if using nut-free ingredients and leave out the walnuts

Fudgey Black Bean Brownies

  • 1 cup rolled *oats, 
  • 1 medium, very ripe banana (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup pureed)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup **honey (can substitute maple syrup or agave syrup)
  • ¼ cup organic melted coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder (I use the extra dark variety for a deeper chocolate flavor)
  • 1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup *chocolate chips, divided (optional but HIGHLY recommended)

Lightly grease a 9x13 pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Drain and rinse the beans VERY WELL. Blend the *oats into a fine powder (using a blender or food processor). Using a food processor, or in a bowl with an immersion blender, blend the banana until smooth. Add the salt, baking soda, beans, vanilla, **honey, oil, and cocoa powder and blend until completely smooth. Add in the oat "flour" (unless you started with the oats in the food processor) and blend again. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips (if using). Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out into an even layer. Top with the remaining chocolate chips (if using) and bake for 15 minutes (until set, and a toothpick comes out mostly clean). Take out and let cool. Cut into 20 squares and serve.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

I was watching The Chew the other day, and they were all raving about this Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew. I didn't have any plans for dinner that night, and I knew that I had most of the ingredients on hand so I thought I would give a variation of it a try. I am sure glad I did! I love this stew! It is sweet and hearty. It has no meat in it, but it is still very satisfying. It's a little spicy, but that can always be dialed down to your preference. My little ones ate it just fine (though they did comment that it was a little spicy). After my first bowl, I wanted another and another and another. I had wished that I made a bigger batch, so I could have some to freeze for later. But, I didn't so I will just have to make it again very soon. :)
   I just took a quick shot of my daughter's bowl before she ate dinner, so that is the picture you see. It is chocked full of tasty veggies (I actually added more than the original recipe), so I know my family is eating well. In case you're wondering, I served the stew with these Whole Wheat Cheddar Garlic Drop Biscuits (I reduced the amount of milk in the recipe because they were too wet). Everyone loved the dinner and cleaned their bowls. Some even asked for seconds. It's a definite win in my book. 
   Here's my recipe:

Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew

Coconut oil (or oil of choice)
Onion (finely chopped)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Carrots (sliced coins)
2 Large Celery Ribs (diced)
Garlic cloves (finely minced - 3 teaspoons)
1 cup Lentils (rinsed)
1 cup Split Peas (rinsed) (*you can substitute lentils if you prefer)
teaspooons ground Cumin 
1 teaspoon Coriander (toasted and ground)
3/4 teaspoon Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
5 cups Broth/Stock of choice (veggie, chicken or even water - I used chicken broth)
1 cup Water
1 medium to large Sweet Potato (diced; about 2 cups - I don't even peel it!)
1 small Zucchini (diced, about 1 cup)
bunch Kale (finely shredded)

In a heavy bottomed pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat, add about 4 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion. Season with salt and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft and a little brown. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Add in the rinsed lentils and split peas and cook for about 2 minutes, toasting in the oil. Add the cumin, coriander, chipotle chili powder, and turmeric, and continue to toast for another minute, or until fragrant. Add the broth, water and salt and pepper (to taste). Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low heat and gently simmer for about 10 minutes, with the lid on.
Stir in the sweet potato, zucchini, and kale, and put the lid back on the pot. Cook for another 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils and peas are cooked through but not mushy. (The sweet potatoes will break down some and mix into the broth. That's OK and makes the whole stew taste sweet.) Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Homemade Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal "Packets"/Mix

 Have you ever read what is in a packet of flavored oatmeal you buy at the store? You know, those convenient boxes of pre-portioned oatmeal servings that you can rip open, put in a bowl with milk or water and microwave for a warm breakfast in a hurry? Well, I highly recommend reading what you are actually consuming! My rule of thumb lately is that if I can't buy it at the store, pronounce it or make it at home then I shouldn't be eating it or feeding it to my family.
  Well, my oldest daughter is in love with oatmeal. I mean, seriously in love. She loves oatmeal like I love chocolate. Wholely and completely. She would eat it for every meal if we let her, and honestly it's not a horrible choice of food. It's heads above boxed cereal and other store bought breakfast foods. But, I felt guilty every time I saw her open one of those paper packets and dump out all those processed flavorings and additives. So, my solution was to make it at home. 

   It's actually a very easy tast to accomplish.  Just think about how you make oatmeal on the stove. What do you use? Oatmeal, water (or milk) and salt, right? You might add some sugar or other sweetener and possibly some fruit, but that's pretty much it. Well, microwave oatmeal is almost just as simple. The only difference is that you want to take one extra step to make your microwave oatmeal thick and creamy like the store bought kind: you want to blend part of the oats. I know. It sounds odd. But, if you blend a part of the oats then the "oat flour" thickens the liquid you add and makes the whole dish more creamy.

Now, I referred to this recipe as being Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal "Packets," but I couldn't see the sense in wasting all those little baggies for oatmeal packets. Can you imagine? Well, my solution to cut out the waste and the extra work is to put a measuring cup into a canister of the Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal Mix. That way, each person can just get a scoop, add milk (or water) and microwave for a quick meal. And just in case anyone forgets how to do that, I wrote the instructions on the outside of the container. (And yes, I just recycled an old rolled oats container. "Waste not, want not.")

If you prefer your oatmeal thicker, then add less liquid. If you like it thinner, then add more. I find that microwaving 1/2 cup of mix with 3/4 cup liquid for 1 minute, stirring and letting it sit is the right consistency for my girls. It looks pretty runny when it first comes out of the microwave, but after letting it sit for a minute it thickens right up. (I was going to take an "after" shot of a pretty bowl of oatmeal, but my "Squishy" got to it first. So, I took a picture of a half eaten bowl of oatmeal.) :)

*I added a small amount of sugar to the recipe because it's difficult for my kids to add just a touch of honey or pure maple syrup to their oatmeal without making a huge mess, or adding way too much. This way, everything is together and the oatmeal is already slightly sweetened.
*You can make this just Strawberry Oatmeal by leaving out the powdered milk.
*I add the sugar to the oats in the blender, so that it becomes superfine sugar and get more evenly distributed throughout the entirety of the oatmeal mix.
*You could leave out the flax if you didn't have it, but it's better with it.
*I used old-fashioned rolled oats, because I use them for everything calling for oats; but quick oats work too (and would have a more "store bought" oatmeal texture).
*If you decide to make actual "packets," put 1/2 cup oatmeal mix in each bag/packet.

Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal Packets/Mix

7 cups rolled oats, divided
5 cups freeze dried strawberries, divided
1/2 cup ground flax seed (I use organic golden flax meal)
1 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup sugar (optional, to taste)
1 tsp fine salt

Put 5 cups of rolled oats into a large bowl with 2 cups freeze dried strawberries, flax seed meal, powdered milk, and salt. In a blender, blend up 2 cups of rolled oats, 3 cups of freeze dried strawberries and the sugar (if using). Blend to a fine powder and then add to the oat mixture in the large bowl. Stir until everything is well combined. Store in an airtight container. 
1 serving is 1/2 cup of oatmeal mix, with 3/4 cup milk (or water).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Whole Wheat Sourdough Waffles

 As I mentioned in my last post, I have been all about making things ahead of time and freezing them for later use - especially breakfast items. One of the easiest things to do are waffles. They freeze incredibly well, and they go from freezer to toaster just like the store-bought kind but are much healthier and tastier. The kids can grab one from the freezer, toast it up and have a healthy and hearty breakfast in a matter of minutes. They don't even bother with adding maple syrup, because they taste that good! (And there is NO sugar or sweeteners in the recipe!) This is my family's favorite waffle recipe. The waffles turn out crispy on the outside and soft and chewy in the center. I can't say enough good things about them.
  A few weeks ago a woman in our church was giving people some of her sourdough starter. She had been growing it for some time, and there was more of it than she needed, so she was giving some away. Lucky me I was one of the recipients! I'm so excited to have it, I've been baking sourdough recipes left and right. I even made one of my old recipes, my Amish Friendship Bread Muffins with this starter. (I added 1/4 cup sugar to that recipe since I was starting with a sourdough starter, and not a sweet starter like it calls for.) And the muffins turned out great! But, my favorite recipe so far has to be these waffles. If you have a sourdough starter in your possession, you need to make these now! And if you don't have a starter, then find someone who does (or make your own) and get some ASAP! Seriously, your breakfast world will be changed forever after you make these. I know mine was!
   (I apologize profusely for not having step by step photos yet again, but I haven't found the balance of documenting my recipes and taking care of Baby Girl in a fast and efficient manner. Lately, it's been all about speed. Forget the camera and get things done! So, the next few recipes I post will just be "after" shots but hopefully I can get back on track soon! Sorry.)
 These waffles cook up in your waffle iron like other recipes, but because of the sourdough starter the dough actually puffs up quite a bit! Don't be alarmed if you see the waffles growing. ;)

 When they are done cooking I just put them on a cooling rack, so both sides stay crunchy.

 The inside of the waffles are remarkably light, airy and chewy. See those air bubbles? You don't get that with a regular waffle recipe! It makes me think of a churro. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. In fact, if you were to cover these in cinnamon and sugar I bet they would be remarkably close to a churro! Incredibly delicious, easy and healthier than regular churros (because they aren't deep fried.)
   My two middle daughters chose to eat their waffles with some organic blueberries. One in each square of course. :) "Jelly Bean" ate hers, one square at a time, eating a blueberry each time.

"Squishy" likes to eat the blueberries out first and then eat the waffle. Another favorite way of eating them is to cut the waffle into little sticks and eat them one square at a time that way.

As with most things these days (especially breakfast food) I make a ton and freeze what we don't use that day. I quadrupled the recipe and made 32 waffles. 

As they came out of the waffle maker, I just cooled them on the cooling rack and then piled them high when it was time to take out the next batch.

You may be asking, how do you freeze them so they don't all stick together? Well, just like I freeze most things: in a single layer on a baking sheet. I lay the waffles down on some parchment paper (so they don't stick to the baking sheet) and put down as many as I can in a single layer, making sure that they are not touching.

Then I place a second piece of parchment paper on top.

And put down another layer of waffles, just like the first. You can pile them as high as you need, making sure that the layers are separated with parchment or wax paper. Once they are completely frozen, just put them in a labeled zip top freezer bag and put back into the freezer. They are ready to take out and toast (on a low setting) any time you need! I would assume they have a freezer life of about 3 months, but since they never last that long in this house I can't say for certain.
These waffles truly are remarkable, and have changed our breakfast lives forever. I'm so thankful to my friend Kim for sharing the recipe, and to Joan for sharing her sourdough starter!

*I always encourage using organic ingredients, if possible.

Here's the recipe:
from The Elliot Homestead

Whole Wheat Sourdough Waffles
makes 4 large -8 small/medium waffles, depending on waffle maker (mine made 8 waffles)

5 tablespoons active sourdough starter (fed within the last 12 hours)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or fat of your choice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Start the night before you want to eat them!!

Combine the sourdough starter, 1 cup milk, and whole wheat flour together in a bowl. Cover and let sit overnight (at least 12 hours is ideal).

The next morning, in a large bowl, beat the eggs and 1/2 cup milk until frothy. Add in the vanilla extract and melted coconut oil. Mix in the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
Lastly, whisk in the flour mixture in with the egg mixture. Mix gently until just combined.
Bake the waffles in a preheated waffle iron. The cooking time will depend on your iron, follow it's manufacturers instructions. Mine took 4 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Consume right away, or freeze for later use.