vanilla

Really Awesome Black Bean Brownies

I've been playing around with black bean brownies for a while now, because they're so delicious and nutritious. Think about it, a dark chocolaty brownie made with protein and fiber-rich black beans that's also lower in fat and sugar than a traditional brownie but still has all the chocolate and flavor. Breakfast! They seem to make a lot of sense here in Mexico, the land of black beans and chocolate, so it's not surprising that my amigos here love them.

I've made 4 different variations of black bean brownies in the last few months, and all of them were super-yummy, but my most recent batch was awesome. I nailed the ingredient ratios, making a dark fudgy complex brownie that plays off of 5 different kinds of beans: black beans, cacao, carob, coffee, vanilla. I also used just enough natural sugars, just enough flavorful fat, just enough dark chocolate, and just enough booze to make these decadent and beautiful tasting without going over-board and making a sugar-coma inducing empty calorie-packed brownie. So as rich as these are, they're rich *and* healthy: full of fiber, protein, natural sugars, antioxidants, and love!

There is one unusual ingredient in these that may be hard to find, and that is carob syrup. I managed to score some in a little Asian import shop in the Zona Libre (the "Free Zone" between Mexico and Belize). Carob syrup is naturally sweet and delicious, great stuff, and you can probably find it in Middle Eastern grocery stores. But if you don't have it, you can still make these brownies and they'll be delicious with or without carob.

Really Awesome Black Bean Brownies
(aka 5-Bean Brownies)

Puree and blend together:

2 c cooked black beans
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
*1/4 c carob syrup
1/4 c agave nectar or honey
1/4 c Kahlua liqueur (or brewed coffee)
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c coconut oil or unsalted butter (melted)

Sift together, then blend into the wet ingredients:

1/2 c cocoa (preferably not Dutch cocoa)
2 Tbsp tapioca starch (or corn starch)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (use 1/4 tsp if your beans are salty or using salted butter, otherwise use 1/2 tsp)

Mix in:

1/3 - 1/2 c chopped dark chocolate

*If you can't find carob syrup, substitute 1/4 c carob syrup for:  2 Tbsp honey or agave + 2 Tbsp water +  3 Tbsp carob powder
*If you don't like carob, you can substitute 1/4 c carob syrup for:  1/4 c honey or agave +  2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Sugar-free: use brewed coffee instead of Kahlua. Substitute the chocolate for unsweetened carob chips (or sugar-free chocolate).

Egg-free or vegan: I'm pretty sure an egg substitute for 2 eggs would do the trick - if anyone tries please let us all know in the comments. See comment #18. Thanks Jen!

Grease and dust a smallish pan - I use a 10" x 7.5" stainless steel pan greased with coconut oil and dusted with icing sugar mixed with a bit of cinnamon (cocoa or carob works too). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 till set - about 20 min. Allow to cool to room temperature then cut into squares. Store in a sealed container in the fridge - they'll firm up a bit - I really like these cold out of the fridge.

Baking & Real Estate II

I finally have a bit of time to write, since I've been organizing, staging, photographing, and polishing our condo for the market. We've gotten nothing but stellar feedback on our stylish pad - now if only we could get a couple of keen buyers and a friendly little bidding war, that would be really sweet!

Everything I've read about staging a home talks about the importance of good smells. With all the fresh flowers and baking that goes on here, our place smells great. Since one's place should be spotless all the time when it's on the market, I lean towards easy recipes that don't involve too many bowls, utensils, or appliances. I often bake half of the cookies from a recipe (and store the other half of the batter in the fridge) and bake the rest another day to save time and effort. I've been avoiding baking peanut-butter cookies on the off chance that someone with a nut allergy comes through. I use high quality Mexican vanilla and cinnamon in everything for the best flavour and aroma. Things I've been baking:

Sweet Ambrosia Cookies
These are quick and easy to make - you can mix everything by hand in one bowl. Coconut and pecans add lovely complimentary fragrances.

Tahini Oatmeal Walnut Cookies
Another delicious easy one bowl concoction. Add 1tsp of vanilla to make these even more fragrant.

Patty's Pumpkin Pudding
Tis the season for these aromatic winter squash baked delights. The higher quality the spice, the better the bouquet! I throw all the ingredients in a blender to make prep and clean-up quick and easy.

Wish us luck!

Food of the Gods

Mayan chocolate discs

Real Mayan chocolate from the Yukatan, Mexico.

Another great score from Mexico ~

Hand made in the Yukatan, the only ingredient in this chocolate is cacao. We spoke with the woman who made it, and she told us how to prepare Mayan-style hot chocolate:

Blend for 1 minute: 1 disc of chocolate with 1 liter of hot water (or hot milk). The hot chocolate should be nice and foamy. Serves 4.

This will produce a very bitter drink. I'll add 1 - 2 Tbsp of Mexican honey and a splash of vanilla when I make it.

Besides honey and vanilla, other ingredients traditionally included can be: cinnamon, chillies, anise seeds, sesame seeds, ground corn, allspice, achiote, and aromatic flowers.

Vanilla Walnut Shortbread Cookies...

I made somewhat traditional shortbread cookies over the holidays that went over very well. They were actually more like Mexican Wedding Cakes as they included a generous amount of ground nuts. The thing that made the cookies extra special was the large proportion of walnuts, the sweet cultured butter (butter made from fermented cream - popular in Europe), and the exquisite Mexican vanilla. The texture of these was beautiful as well: they literally melted-in-your-mouth.

Healthy?

Well, not exactly. These have a lot of butter, sugar, and refined wheat flour - though I'm sure they would taste great made with a fine whole spelt or wheat flour - or even possibly a gluten-free flour mix...

Cultured butter may be healthier than regular butter since it has lactic acid bacteria (from the fermentation), and almost no lactose. Cultured butter is also slightly higher in fat. I love the flavour of this type of "sweet" butter :-)

Walnuts are definitely healthy: very high in omega-3 fatty acids, high in Magnesium, and they help lower "bad" cholesterol.

Recipe: Walnut Shortbread Cookies