Saturday, August 24, 2013

Real Black Bean Brownies

Ever since I heard about them I really wanted black bean brownies to work. The idea that something so rich and delicious could potentially be better for you is always appealing, but brownies!? really?

I've had different versions that have completely covered the spectrum. Some were chalky, powdery, hard, etc. Some were amazing. My sister has made some at my Mommom's house (who cannot have wheat) that were dense and gooey and so chocolaty that my grandfather never knew they were anything other than boxed. (We never told him). And my Aunt recently shared some with homemade almond flour, coconut oil, chocolate chips, and a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember. The almond flour gave them a great texture and depth of flavor that I will have to try sometime.

But when I asked both of them how they made them it was "Oh, a shake of this..." "A scoop of that." "You know, about this much..."

So I had to make my own. I've combined ideas. "Coconut oil is hard to keep smooth" said my sister. So I liquefied it and then stirred the sugar in to keep it from clumping. And "It seems to help mashing the beans with the cocoa, because otherwise you get bean chunks" was my Aunt's tip. So, taking all of that under advisement. Here's my version.

Real Black Bean Brownies (Tyson asked "Are those REAL brownies, or black bean...?" How dare he...)

1/2 can of black beans, drained
3/4 cup of dark cocoa
1/2 cup of coconut oil, warmed until liquid
2 eggs, or 3 for more cakey brownies, whisked together.
3/4 cup to 1 cup of sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
chocolate chips as desired (reasonably)

preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9x9 pan.

in a bowl, mash mash mash the black beans with cocoa using a pastry blender until it forms very small uniform clumps and you can't see any more of the whiteness inside the beans. take no prisoners! it will seem very dry and crumbly, but don't worry. stir in your baking powder and salt.

mix your sugar into the coconut oil. stir in your eggs and mix well. stir in vanilla.

mix the wet and dry together. pour into your prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. turn the oven down to 300 and bake another 15 minutes. check on them. if the middle still jiggles a little let them go another couple of minutes.

let them cool on a rack for a few minutes. if you used three eggs they may be puffy, but will settle down a little.

Serve with milk, whipped cream, frosting, ice cream, strawberries, raspberries, etc...

ps. this recipe does use regular white sugar, so they are not exactly "healthy". but I thought you should know that white sugar is much easier for your body to process safely when eaten without white flour. so high five to that!

Cannellini Bean and Leek Soup with Bacon and Sage

Has this summer completely skewed your perception of time? It has mine. It feels like I've had to go through this mental exercise of figuring out what day it is every morning when I'm waking up. Yesterday I actually had to ask Tyson. Thankfully he was still in bed, who knows how long it wold have taken me...
Anyways, this week when I made up the menu on Thursday I already had dinner planned for that night, but thinking it was Friday I didn't have a dinner plan until Saturday. This soup was what I came up with to fill in my (mental) gap. It was very flavorful. The beans have such a nice earthy flavor, but the sage and chives really kept it bright. You could even skip the potato if you wanted something a little less hearty and more summery.

Cannellini Bean and Leek Soup with Bacon and Sage

2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 leeks, white parts sliced thin
2 pieces of bacon
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 large russet potato, peeled, and diced smallish
3 1/2 or 4 cups of water
splash of white wine
4 sage leaves
chives, or garlic chives, to add color and zing (optional)

Slice bacon and place in a large heavy pan. Cook over med-low heat. When fat has rendered, add leaks and stir. another 5 minutes or so or until leeks are soft. Be careful that it doesn't burn and add a splash of wine if it starts to.

Add the tomatoes and their juice, simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the beans and potatoes and just barely cover with water. Season with some salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer gently until potatoes are soft. Snip your sage leaves into the soup and let simmer a couple of minutes more.

Snip your chives into each bowl after serving so that their color stays bright.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

matching headbands (my fashion advisor)

 I know, she pulls this off way better than me. But that's fair, it was her idea.

Ok, that's enough fashion...

Make Your Own Sandwich Bags

Picture this: A mother is packing a school lunch and pulls out a small plastic bag, shakes it open. "Flash" The camera pulls back so now you can see 300 people, all packing their lunches and simultaneously pulling out small plastic bags. "Flash" All over the country, and the world, people throw these bags away. Many of them end up in land fills which is bad enough, but a lot of them also blow around, hang in trees, wash down drains etc. Whales have been found with stomachs full of plastic bags.
I'm not trying to change the world by making sandwich bags, but once you know something it's hard to just keep doing the same thing every day without feeling some pang of guilt.
Enter the homemade sandwich bag! I saw the idea in a book and modified it a little. The fabric I used is called PUL fabric(I found mine at JoAnn Fabrics), it's laminated on one side so it's waterproof. I used the knit kind so that it has some give.

To care for them, just turn them inside out and clean under hot water, rubbing any food spots off. If they really need a good cleaning after some heavy onioning or something, throw them in a gentle wash. They should always air dry, otherwise the laminate will eventually dry and crack.
Here's how I made them.
Cut a rectangle about 13x7, slightly curving the top corners.
To make your own bias tape... ^^ by about 20 inches of a thin cotton fabric with no stretch.
Working slowly, fold one long edge to the middle and iron. 
Apply bias tape to the straight/bottom edge. Fold up a little more than 3/4 of the way and stitch the sides, laminate on the inside.
Leaving about 1/2 inch overhang at the bottom, match the raw edge of your tape with the edges of your bag. Pin in place and stitch.

To make it easier you can use ready made bias tape or a thick ribbon. With ribbon you will only have to fold it over once because of the lack of raw edges needing to be encased.
As with most projects, your first one will take you the longest, but once you've done it you can really zip these out.
And tell me; Are you too busy to make these? I'm considering selling them from my Etsy shop, Which style would you prefer? Would you purchase them?

The Perfect Chocolate Cake Recipe

Our friends Jason and Becky had some friends visiting from Bethel this weekend and they asked us if we would like to come over for meatballs Saturday night. Of course! Becky makes the best meatballs! Yes I have asked what makes them different, yes she has told me how she makes them, yes I have tried doing what she said. And No, they were not the same.

So anyways, I volunteered to bring dessert, but honestly I was so looking forward to said meatballs that I was having trouble feeling inspired. Fruit cobbler (...ehh) pound cake with blackberry sauce (...ehh) chocolate something. Yeah. Chocolate cupcakes...
London and I hopped on our bike and picked up sprinkles, cocoa and coconut flakes, and behold the results. Pretty decent. Considering I never make cupcakes.

But what really made it was this chocolate cake recipe that my Mom clipped out of a magazine ages ago and had passed on. Nothing mysterious about it, nothing complicated, nothing over the top devils-triple-chocolate-gooeyness about it. Just perfect chocolate cake that stays moist for days. Not that it ever lasts long enough to know...

I don't own cake pans (I know!) so I always turn this into cupcakes.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes
cupcake liners, makes about 30 cupcakes
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 TBSP baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups buttermilk (I used a scant less than 1 1/2 cups of milk and added a tsp of vinegar to sour it. Just let it sit a couple of minutes...
1 ½ cups hot water
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill your tins with cup liners. 
  2. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into mixer bowl.  On low, stir in eggs, buttermilk, hot water, oil, and vanilla; beat until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary.
  3. I use regular muffin tins and bake for about 15 minutes, just make sure to test them

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Elderberry Hunting and We Found Water lilies

 We went out elderberry hunting this morning. There's a road about 10 miles west of us that has a small stream running parallel with just the right amount of shade to grow a few elderberry trees.
Every year we slowly drive it, scanning, scanning, scanning... STOP THERE'S A TREE!
They always seem to grow on very steep banks with water filled ditches at the bottom. It makes for some gymnastics worthy scrambling-hanging-clinging-picking. None of that is very conducive to good pictures, at least if you're the one doing the picking and the shooting.

But after we'd filled our bags we pulled over to look at a beautiful swamp chock-a-block with water lilies.
We saw a turtle and a newt, and heard a cacophony of frogs. Picked some water lilies and watched the rain start up on the surface of the water. It sounded like applause.

Spencer and London are such pals. London adores him, thinks everything he does is hilarious, wants his help and wants to help, and Spencer protects her and explains things to her that are way over her head. When we got back they were chilling on the sofa before nap time. It's such a warm feeling to watch them be so close and comfortable.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Focaccia To Melt A Man In His Boots

As if he isn't busy enough. About a month and a half ago we had a little barbeque planned and the day of Tyson went to replace a rotten board underneath some porch windows... and found that all the boards it was nailed to were rotten. Welcome to the ongoing house project.

Every week I sit down to make the menu and ask him "Any meal requests?" He replies "Umm... Nah." Not very helpful. But last week he says "Focaccia!". So the night that he was finishing his porch project I had focaccia in the oven, filling the house with that herb/garlic smell. He walks through the kitchen with some tool or other, takes a deep breath and exclaims "MMM! That's enough to make a man melt in his boots!"
Well, that's almost enough to make me give up the cauliflower fritters with quinoa and make him meatloaf and chocolate pudding four nights a week if that's what he wants. I told him this. He screwed up his face and said. "Oh. That probably wouldn't be a good. But thanks for the thought!"

Dad's Helpers

Herb and Garlic Focaccia
Adapted from Staff Meals by David Waltuck
for the bread
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus some to oil the bowl
3/4 tsp course salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for the counter
for the topping
1 tsp dried rosemary
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves peeled garlic
3/4 cup olive oil
Course salt to taste and fresh black pepper
mix up your dough four hours ahead
sprinkle yeast on water in a large bowl. stir in sugar and let sit for a couple minutes, until it's a little bubbly looking. stir in the oil and salt and 1 cup of flour. Gradually stir in the rest of the four cups. The dough will be soft but workable. Pour onto a floured counter and knead about ten minutes, or knead in the bowl.
Clean your bowl and rub inside with oil. put dough back in a cover with a clean towel. let sit 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.
Punch it down and let it double again, about 1 1/4 hours.
(Rising time is not a precise science. If you need to stretch it out a bit to make it bit your dinner time, don't worry.)
prepare topping
mix herbs and garlic with oil and whir in a blender until sage and garlic are roughly chopped. let sit.
preheat oven to 425. generously oil a 15 x 12 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan.
press the dough into the pan, cover with a towel and let rise until you can poke it and it doesn't spring back, about 30 minutes.
using all your fingers, make dimples all over the surface of the dough. pour/spread your garlic/herb/oil mixture over the dough. sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
bake until the focaccia is golden brown and puffed, about 15 minutes. serve hot or room temp.
Watch them melt in their boots!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chippers

You can kind of see the deeper color of the butter...

Ready for the "setting up" in the fridge

Did I eat the whole other half...?! Oh, they're in the oven

Cookies, as far as the eye can see
Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Joy The Baker

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Brown the butter in a saucepan.
Place butter in a heavyish pan if you have you one, regular pan if you don't, and melt over medium heat. once it's lost it's shape it will start to sizzle and pop. This is the water cooking out of it and it will take a while with two stick, but be patient.
Once the sizzle has slowed down the bubbles will get smaller and it will start to smell nutty. Watch this very closely.
Start to swirl the butter a bit to see through the froth. The bottom will start to darken and when this has turned a deep amber color (and smells unbelievable! I mean, the only thing in here is butter, right?) immediately pour it into a glass measuring cup, scraping all the brown bits in.
Let it cool about 20 minutes.

Cream the sugar butter and eggs.
I use a wooden spoon for this because the butter is liquid. Beat the butter and sugar for about a minute until the sugar has started to dissolve. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, molasses and beat a bit more until it's smooth.

Mix dry ingredients together.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a different bowl and add all at once to your butter. Stir it in.
Stir in chocolate and nuts.

Spoon dough onto a piece of parchment paper and wrap. Let it set up in the fridge (remember, the butter was liquid) about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line your cookie pans with parchment paper.
Drop dough two tbsps. at a time onto your pans and bake for 12 minutes, being very carful to keep the bottoms from getting dark. Because the butter was already cooked once this seems to happen easily. Keep 'em soft!

(No explanation needed)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Reusable Grocery Bag w/ Cityscape Applique

I've posted a new bag in The Shop (
This one is about the size of a brown paper bag with two pockets and a cutout cityscape.
I'm very particular about my grocery bags. My biggest complaint is that they're too big, more specifically, too wide. If the bag is too heavy to carry once it's full then make it smaller.
I try to keep all my bags a realistic size and rugged enough to carry whatever would fit in them.
If you try one out please please please give me a review. I would really like to know how they handle themselves out of my care.
Thanks! Cass