Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beans, Beans, Good for Your...Dessert???

I have tried a lot of odd recipes in my life but I usually know before I begin pretty much how it is going to taste and feel.  I read this recipe on the blog Chocolate Covered Katie and was intrigued enough to make it, but had absolutely no earthly idea how/if it would work, much less how it would taste.  So, of course I decided to experiment using my book club as Guinea Pigs.  I told them this was a trial and asked for complete honesty but did not reveal the secret ingredients until after they had tasted it.  Without further ado I give you Black Bean Brownies.

                                                                                            Black Bean Brownies

1 15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed very well
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Blend until you think it is smooth and then blend some more.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into a greased 8x8 inch pan.  ( Or if you are like me an 8 inch round cake pan)  Cook for 15-18 minutes.  Let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut.  Makes 9-12 brownies.

I have eaten several vegan and or gluten free desserts before and thought they all tasted like sweetened muck with no real form or anything remotely close to whatever they were intended to be.  Sorry but if I eat frozen pureed bananas, and you call it ice cream it is still nothing more than frozen banana mush.  I tried these with the same skeptical attitude.  I have to admit I was blown away.  Though the consistency is different than a flour based brownie, the taste was very similar.  In fact these were  a denser chocolate flavor and very fudgy.  It is something I will make again, just because it is much healthier than a traditional brownie.  Since it uses coconut oil in the recipe there is a very subtle coconut undertone, but it is slight and does not overpower or take away from the chocolate flavor.  If anything it enhances it.  You could make this with another vegetable oil or margarine I would think but can't tell you how it would be since I have tried this only once.

These keep well in the fridge, but you do want to let them warm to room temperature before eating.  If you eat them cold the chocolate chips are hard and it makes the whole bite feel a little funny in your mouth.  I did not try rewarming them, but should have.  I think it would be a little better than room temp.  I served them completely plain, but will admit to taking a bite of this one after I snapped the photo.  It was not bad at all with a dollop of whipped cream.

So from here on I will keep an extra can of black beans in the pantry just in case brownie fever hits.  Try for yourself and you just might find it a little easier to justify eating brownies.

    Monday, November 26, 2012

    Leftover Leftovers

    Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are still eating and eating and eating the remnants of the day. A person can only eat so much turkey and dressing and green beans and pecan pie and roasted vegetables and, and, and, until you just want to quit eating anything  to have some relief from the same food.  Right  when I was cleaning the kitchen after Thanksgiving, I did what I always do:  removed all the meat from the turkey then boiled that carcass.  This year I got well over 20 cups of fantastic turkey broth which was deposited directly into the freezer in 5 cup bags.  Today I grabbed one so it would defrost in time for supper.  Most of the leftover turkey was frozen in individual packs with just enough in each  for a single meal for 2.  We will have it at least once a week until Christmas, at which time I will NOT cook another bird.   Even with the individual meal packs we still had enough left to eat about 4 times since Thursday.  I noticed there was about 1 cup of very scrappy bits left in the bottom of the zip lock bag.  Broth, turkey bits, leftover roasted carrots, mushrooms and onions,  and a few sweet potato slices.  Sounded like a soup night.

    Leftover Leftover Soup

    5 cups turkey broth
    1 cup leftover turkey bits and pieces
    1 cup leftover roasted vegetables ( I had carrots, mushrooms and onions)
    1 small leftover baked sweet potato cut in slices
    1/2 cup leftover cooked brown rice
    salt and pepper to taste
    Few shakes, thyme, parsley and a pinch of ground sage
    1/4 cup pearl couscous* ( also called Israeli couscous)

    Toss everything but the couscous in a large pot and bring to a boil.   Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes.  Since everything is already cooked, the simmer just allows the flavors to meld.  After 30 minutes put the couscous in the pot and cover it.  Keep it on low for about 5 minutes and then cut the heat off but leave the cover on the pot.  Serve immediately with or without oyster crackers.  As you can see  in the picture I added a dollop of fresh leftover cranberry relish to mine.  The Hub decided to leave it off his.  I thought it added some flavor but I am a sucker for fresh cranberry relish.  He liked it fine as it was.

    The only downside is now I have about 2 cups of  soup so tomorrow I guess I will eat leftover leftover leftover soup for lunch.

    * I used the couscous because I bought it on an impulse and served it one night like regular couscous. We really did not like it at all but it is perfectly fine as a soup filler.  I am going to have to make a lot of soup because I have about a pound and a half of it to use.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Ooh La La Y'all

    A couple of  days ago I was in the back yard doing a few chores when I noticed the herb pots were going crazy.  I guess the temperatures have been mild and we have had enough rain to keep them alive.  I had been ignoring them just assuming they were finished for the year but they were flourishing.  I managed to harvest quite a bit of basil, mint and the most beautiful tarragon of the season.  After washing, I chopped the mint and basil and froze it in ice cube trays for use later, but the lovely tarragon scent begged to be part of that night's supper. Tarragon reminds me of the flavors of France so my first stop was a French cookbook.  The recipes sounded fabulous but required a lot more time than I was willing to invest in a Monday night dinner. What to do, what to do?  It had to be a quick fix, but I wanted it to be extremely tasty.  A couple of google searches later found 2 recipes that could be combined and tweaked into something  possibly delicious.

    Tarragon Chicken with Dijon Sauce  (How is that for an inventive name?  The folks on Madison
                                                                  Avenue are probably tracking me down as I type this)
    4 small chicken breast halves
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 shallot, minced
    salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 cup white wine
    1/2 cup cream
    1 tablespoon dijon mustard
    2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped fine

    In a saute' pan, melt butter and add the olive oil.  Add the chicken breasts and slowly brown, turning once, adding the shallot when the breasts are turned. Salt and pepper as desired  Turn the heat to medium low and cook until the shallots are wilted.  Pour in the wine and cover the pan cooking on low heat until the chicken is just cooked. ( About 10 - 15 minutes depending on the breast thickness)
    Mix the cream and dijon mustard and pour it over the chicken.  Stir it picking up any brown bits in the bottom of the pan and incorporating it into the cream mixture.  Sprinkle the breasts with tarragon, cover and let it cook on low for about 2 minutes.

    I suppose you could serve it over rice, pasta, couscous, or mashed potatoes, but we live in the south and I happened to have grits handy so that is what I used.   Since we had some asparagus in the fridge along with a bag of small sweet peppers, the sides pretty much picked themselves.

    This was a tasty meal.  I thought the consistency of the grits was a perfect bed for the cream sauce, and the wonderful light licorice flavor of the tarragon was a nice pairing with the sharp dijon flavor.  It would work with or without the wine.  I didn't notice any particular flavor it added, but it did give some needed moisture.  The same amount of chicken broth would probably work just as well.  I used whipping cream, only because it was available, but next time I will use a lighter cream.  It should work just as well and would lighten the recipe a bit.

    This will become part of our meal rotation.  It really is tasty enough for guests, so if you are a tarragon fan and want to come over give me a call.  Just make sure you catch me before the frost hits and kills the gorgeous plants.

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Another Pinterest Fail

    Tonight was a little cool and The Hub was watching a ballgame ( I really mean sleeping) and I was really bored, so I started flipping through my Pinterest pins just to see if there was something I could do to amuse myself. ( Other than the much needed house cleaning I should do, of course!)

    I thought about doing a project but everything seemed to require stuff I just don't have readily available.  Naturally the next step was to start  flipping through the pinned recipes.  I found this one and thought why not?  I like  an occasional Almond Joy as much as the next guy.   A quick look through the kitchen confirmed I had everything needed on hand so I began the very quick process of making....

    Almond Joy Hot Chocolate

    1 Cup almond milk
    1/4 Cup coconut milk
    1/3 cup chocolate chips ( milk or semi sweet both work)
    a drop or two of pure almond extract ( if desired)
    agave syrup as needed for additional sweetness

    Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  WIth a wire whisk stir until the chocolate is melted and the drink is hot, but do not boil.  Remove from heat and test for sweetness, adding a little agave if needed.  Makes 1 large or 2 small servings.  Serve hot!

    This is supposed to taste like a molten Almond Joy.  I just didn't get that while drinking it.  You can taste the different components of almond, chocolate and coconut but not in the good way an Almond Joy delivers it.  I poured it into 2 demitasse cups because it looked a little rich.  Mistake number 1:  The cups were in the china cabinet and were cool.  I should have run hot water in over them to warm them. After a couple of quick sips the chocolate cooled quickly.  Mistake number 2:  I did not make fresh almond milk.  According to all the food blogs I should have, but I had a quart of Silk Almond Milk in the fridge so I used it.  If you are interested in making it fresh look here:    Mistake number 3:  Drink this as quickly as possible.  To say it thickens fast is an understatement.  I left for about 2 minutes to change over a load of clothes.  When I got back the hot chocolate  consistency was more like a thin pudding than a beverage.  That is when I just tossed the whole thing.   The only thing that really worked in the whole process was the demitasse cup, saucer and spoon.  I guess I will have to try some other  after dinner hot drink another day just to enjoy using them.

    If anyone tries this and likes it please let me know what I did wrong.  I really did want to love it.  Fortunately I can use the almond milk in cereal and  the leftover coconut milk will become Thai coconut soup for  tomorrow's lunch.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012

    Soup's On!

    I thought it had been a while since I last posted here and then I looked at the date and it has been several weeks.  Don't think I have been so lucky to eat out every meal the entire month of October because I haven't.  I have just tried very little new and/or different food.  It seems like we have been eating a lot of previously frozen soups and entrees.  I guess I am cleaning the freezer of all of our past meals, getting ready for an onslaught of holiday leftovers ?

    I was browsing through the old Junior League  "Magic" cookbook trying to find a different type of soup.  We eat boatloads of soup during the fall and winter.  It  is probably my favorite thing to eat  ( other than chocolate of course) and I keep a container in the freezer for all the odd bits of vegetables we have leftover from meals.  When it is full I toss a little leftover chicken in it and we have some variation of chicken and veggie soup.  But I wanted something different and more substantial, plus I didn't have quite enough in the  freezer container to make  a dinner soup.

    Thanks Junior League for the idea!

    Tamale Soup

    1 pound ground beef
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 bell pepper, chopped
    1 16 ounce can stewed tomatoes
    2 cans undrained pinto beans
    1 can creamed corn
    1 can beef bouillon
    2 jars Derby hot tamales or 2  16 ounce cans of any brand, sliced
    salt and pepper to taste

    Brown beef, add onions and peppers and cook until the vegetables are nicely wilted.  Drain the meat vegetable mix and put into a large pot.   Add all ingredients except for the tamales and simmer for about an hour.  Add the tamales shortly before serving .  Put a lid on the pot and without stirring allow the tamales to warm on top of the soup.  Serve and enjoy.

    If you have been reading this you know I use recipes as guides only.  I had some frozen already browned beef so I used it. ( Check off another item from the freezer!)  I only had 1/2 of a bell pepper, but I also had a small jalapeno so I used it too.  I had portions of 3 different types of onions in the fridge so this had a combination of sweet and sharp onions. 

    Instead  of the stewed tomatoes I used a pack frozen this summer.  They were not cooked, just blanched and frozen, but I figured they would be stewed by the end of the cooking process. ( Maybe 2 cups of tomatoes?)  

     I did use the canned pinto beans.  I have been boycotting canned foods because of the  toxic inner plastic lining.  Fortunately Organic Harvest carries a brand that has no lining and the beans are organic. Add to it that they were on sale____bonus!  

    I can't find organic creamed corn, so I kind of cheated on this on.  I took a can of regular niblet corn ( organic and non GMO corn)  and added a tad of milk and cornstarch to it, heated it to slightly thickened and dumped it in the pot. ( And for the record, since I am avoiding all GMO corn I do buy organic cornstarch) 

    I have never even heard of canned bouillon so obviously I didn't use it.  I had a carton of vegetable stock I used instead.   I used the whole carton and it was about 2 cups of broth.  It probably thinned the finished product out a little but it's soup.  The soup didn't care, so neither did I.

    After letting it simmer for about 30 minutes I tasted it and found it to be a little boring.  A quick look in the spice cabinet was the remedy.  I have no idea how much I added but would start at 1/2 teaspoon of each and adjust to taste:  Chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, dehydrated garlic ( should have used real garlic at the beginning)  paprika,  ground chipotle, and a dash of pepper.  With literally just a few shakes of a few jars the soup took on an entirely different personality.

    My MISTAKE and I will not make this one again.  I used canned ( yeah I know I railed against canned earlier) Hormel tamales.  Next time I will run up to The Cool Corner and buy 3 tamales to slice.  The canned Hormel tamales tasted exactly like what they were_____canned tamales.  Buy decent ones from the start.  I think it will make all the difference in the world.

    Not only will I make this again, but The Hub specifically asked me to get everything needed so we can have it again next week.  Winner!  I love when someone makes a meal request.  I like cooking but sometimes hate deciding what to cook!

    For the two of us, I halved everything and it was enough for both of us for dinner plus about a cup for a future lunch.

    Now does anyone have any ideas for using leftover Trick or Treat Hershey Bars?