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(Black Bean) Brownies! Take 2

11 May

IMG_1731Oh, how I love a good brownie. Let me count the ways…This will be my fifth blog post about brownies (sixth if you count blondies), and my second recipe for black bean brownies (see the first recipe here).

These super fudgy chocolate cookie squares contain a whole can (1 1/2 cups) of black beans. And guess what else? The brownies are made without butter, eggs, or flour. WHAT?! How can they possibly be good? They are not good, they are great, and here is why.  Continue reading

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Cocoa Tahini Fruit Shake ~*Recipe ReDux*~

22 Feb

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This month’s Recipe ReDux challenge is all about chocolate matches:

Does your chocolate need a friend? What is your favorite chocolate match? Show us your favorite healthy chocolate combo recipe.

(See December’s Recipe ReDux post here. See January’s Recipe ReDux post here.)

My chocolate match for the month is cocoa and tahini! With a few Mediterranean-inspired fruit ingredients (dates and figs), because I am trying to channel warm vibes over here in my cold New York City apartment. Continue reading

Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and SMOKED SEA SALT Cookies ~*Recipe ReDux*~

22 Jan

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Oh, what a pinch of salt can do for a dessert. A pinch of salt can enhance the flavor of chocolate, perk up a lemon curd and make a pie crust pop.

What about SMOKED SALT?! I recently acquired a shaker of smoked sea salt, and I think it has great potential in desserts, if used sparingly, mostly with chocolate or nuts (sorry lemon bars and lemon tarts, I do not think smoked sea salt is your friend). Imagine a light sprinkle of smoked sea salt atop an intense chocolate brownie, a milk chocolate pudding or a pecan pie. Woah.

This month’s Recipe ReDux challenge is all about turning up the heat with smoke and spiciness.

“From boldly flavored smoked salts to actual smoking techniques, subtly smoked food is on-trend. The same can be said for spice as we savor heat from harissa, sriracha and smoked paprika. Show us the healthy dish you’re heating up with smoke and/or spiciness.”

I figured that most of the Recipe ReDuxers would be coming up with savory creations, so I decided to keep things sweet and smokey over here. Continue reading

Vegan Chocolate Loaf with yogurt, warmed cherries, and chocolate balsamic

6 May

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Because it’s Tuesday.

Because I’m in the thick of finals (last semester of grad school!).

Because I like to eat “healthified cake” for breakfast. 

Because sometimes, I like to plate my food up fancy. 

I ate a slice of this chocolate loaf for breakfast today. No shame. Vegan chocolate loaf cake with some plain, low fat yogurt, frozen cherries that were warmed in the microwave and poured on top, the juices seeping into the cake, and a final glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar that I re-discovered I had in the cabinet. This could easily be dessert.

Healthy decadence is my jam.

Nicole from CucinaNicolina and I are on the same page in terms of our mindset that life is too short not to have a slice of something sweet, especially when that sweet something is homemade, with a little bit of health mixed in. Throwing in some whole wheat flour and a sprinkling of ground flaxseeds helps make cake an acceptable breakfast in my opinion. Oh, and there’s a cup of coffee in hiding in the loaf, too. I always have a little extra from my morning French press, so this was a great excuse to use it up.

This weekend, I tasted the Brooklyn based White Moustache yogurt in sour cherry flavor. The yogurt company is a father-daughter business, and the yogurt is made from Hudson Valley Fresh whole milk and live probiotic cultures. While the price is steep, this yogurt was a real treat, and was worth every penny. Plus, you get to keep the container to re-use.

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This sour cherry combo got me craving cherries. Since cherry season is not quite here, I found some frozen cherries and just heated them up and poured them over this vegan chocolate loaf. Cherries, chocolate, and creamy yogurt were meant to be together!

Since I gobbled down my jar of White Moustache yogurt, I served the cake with my other favorite brand, Wallaby Organic Plain Low-fat Greek Yogurt. If you want to keep everything vegan, just omit the yogurt or make some sort of coconut based cream.

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Vegan Chocolate Loaf

adapted from Cucina Nicolina

makes 1 loaf or ~8 servings

Nicole says, “As always, replace the whole wheat pastry flour and/or spelt flour with all purpose if that’s all you have. A non-dairy milk or plain water can be swapped for the coffee, but I love the coffee note in there and would be loathe to miss it.” I used whole wheat and all purpose flour to keep things simple, and yes, I LOVED the coffee note.

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds

3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used slightly less)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup room temperature coffee

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard sized loaf pan with oil or butter (omit butter if keeping this vegan) and lightly dust with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, flaxseeds, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together coffee, olive oil, and vanilla.

Dump the wet ingredients all at once into the dry and whisk until just combined. The batter will be more firm than wet.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt, some warmed cherries, and a glug of chocolate balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar would work, too). 

Homemade Snack: The Weelicious Chewy Granola Balls

8 Apr

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This is my second time making the Weelicious rice crispy balls, granola ball bites, whatever you call ’em.

After watching her adorable videos 1 and 2, I ran out to the store to buy brown rice cereal, but I spaced out and bought puffed rice instead of crispy rice. The recipe still works with puffed rice, but the texture is not as, well, crisp, without the crispy rice cereal.

I had a jar of brown rice syrup sitting in my pantry for over 2 years and never knew what to do with it until I saw these recipes. Brown rice syrup is slightly less sweet than regular sugar, and it’s great for n0-bake recipes like this because the syrup is so sticky it acts like glue. When melted together with nut butter, I wanted to lick the hot pot it smelled so good.

Add-ins are endless, but I love the combo of some dried fruit and chocolate chips. How could you not?

Balls (insert dirty joke) are indeed cuter and more fun to eat than bars. Sometimes I will just eat one after lunch to satisfy that post-meal sweet craving. Other times I pack 3-4 with me and enjoy them for a mid-day snack. Up to you.

The recipe makes about 25-30 balls (depending how much you eat in the process!). I stored about half of the bites in the fridge because they are a little crispier when cold, and I froze the other half  batch for later.

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 A Random Assortment: Granola Balls, PS4 Controller, Mattress, Bikes

The Weelicious Chewy Granola Balls

adapted from Weelicious

makes about 30 balls

1/2 cup nut and/or seed butter (I used a combo of sunbutter and cashew butter)

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1 1/2 cups crispy brown rice cereal (I didn’t have any, so I used puffed rice…works fine but crispy would be better for texture)

1 cup granola (any kind you have, but I used Hot Bread Kitchen Granola)

1/4 cup dried fruit (i.e. cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots…) and/or chocolate chips

1. Place the nut/seed butter and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over low to medium heat and warm for 2 minutes or until it becomes smooth and combined.

2. Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

3. Pour the warm nut/seed butter mixture into the bowl with the granola mixture and stir to combine.

4. Roll into 1 inch balls (you can use a mini ice cream scooper to scoop out each portion, or a tablespoon). Alternatively, you could press the mixture into a square pan, let cool, and slice into bars.

Happy snacking!

 

Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread

26 Mar

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Do I really need another banana bread recipe? No.

But, when I had some extra lemons on hand from last week’s Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote workshop, and when an “accidental” two bunches of bananas were sprawled on the counter that needed to be immediately eaten, frozen, or baked with, my wheels started turning.

Currently, my top three go-to banana bread recipes include Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked-Up Banana Bread, Cookie and Kate’s Honey Whole Wheat Banana Bread, and my Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

My rule of thumb? Always better with chocolate chips/chunks. And, just saying, a little whole wheat flour makes chocolate-studded banana bread okay to eat for breakfast, too. Finally, don’t mash to oblivion; just lightly mush the bananas with a fork so you have some puree and some small pieces.

IMG_2245Classic Figs In My Belly Loaf Shot

I bookmarked Heidi Swanson’s version of Melissa Clark’s Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread a while ago, and this was the perfect opportunity to try a new spin on my obsession with banana bread, and quick breads in general.

The taste is classic banana bread, with a subtle hint of lemon zest and a little zing of olive oil at the end. I love it.

There is an optional glaze that you can whisk up (Swanson uses a mix of confectioners’ and brown sugar [I found the granules of the brown sugar too “crunchy” for my taste] and Clark just uses confectioners’ sugar), but I tried it and found that when it comes to banana bread, I prefer mine naked and de-glazed.

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This Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread is definitely going on my list of favorite go-to banana-breads.

Oh boy, do I love a good loaf.

Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread

recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks, Originally adapted from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

1 cup / 125g all-purpose flour
1 cup / 140g whole wheat flour
3/4 cup /125 g  dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup / 4 oz / 115 g coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (leave some bigger chunks!)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups / 340 g mashed, VERY ripe bananas (~3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used 2% low-fat yogurt)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F, and place a rack in the center. Grease a 9- by 5- inch loaf pan, or equivalent.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate pieces and combine well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the olive oil, eggs, mashed banana, yogurt, zest, and vanilla. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Swanson says, “You want to get that beautiful color on the cake, but at the same time you don’t want to bake all the moisture out of it. So the minute you’re in that zone, pull it. Erring on the side of under-baking versus over.”

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan to cool completely.

Easy Chocolate “Wartime” Cake

4 Mar

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Raise your hand if you don’t like mayo?! There’s always someone who has a weird, jiggly story to kill the mayo buzz. When you think about it though, mayo is just egg yolk, oil and vinegar. No bigs.

Over the years, I have learned to get along with mayo (especially when you add garlic and call it aioli). If you are still not ready to commit to slathering your sandwich with mayo, maybe a taste of this awesome chocolate cake will get you past your fear…

Mayonnaise is the secret weapon in this cake. It replaces the butter and all but one egg.

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This recipe hails from Cooks Illustrated’s The Science of Good Cooking cookbook. It is a “wartime” cake because ingredients like butter and fresh eggs were scarce during World War II, so cooks came up with cakes that worked without them–often using mayonnaise.

Ready for some science?! Mayonnaise contains lecithin, an emulsifier that helps keep the oil in the mayonnaise suspended in micro-droplets. These small droplets aid the oil’s ability to coat the flour’s protein particles, leading to a supremely tender cake. The test kitchen even tried replacing the mayonnaise with butter and an egg, and oil and an egg, but those cakes were less moist and the crumb less velvety than the mayo cake. The final recipe calls for an extra egg paired with the mayonnaise to give the cake an even richer flavor and springier texture. Now thats my kind of science.

Just a little more tasty science: To deepen the chocolate flavor of the cake, the recipe calls for “blooming” the cocoa powder and a touch of chocolate in hot coffee. Cocoa powder contains solid particles of fat and protein with tiny flavor molecules (!) trapped inside. Dissolving the cocoa in hot water causes these flavor molecules, which would otherwise remain imprisoned, to burst forth, amplifying overall flavor. The roasted notes of the coffee reinforce the nutty, roasted notes in the chocolate.

Are you on board yet?

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If you get bogged down with the science, just remember that this is an “Easy Chocolate Cake.” It’s one of those dump-and-stir cakes: mix the dry, mix the wet, dump and stir.

Whether it’s the mayo, the coffee, the cocoa or the science, this is the darn best chocolate cake I have had in a long time, if ever. There’s a magical top layer that forms after baking that I just wanted to cut off and call my own.

If you have any birthdays, occasions, celebrations or cravings, this is the cake you should make. And by gosh, get over your fear of mayo!

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Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar, dollop it with whipped cream, or drizzle it with yogurt (Greek vanilla works nicely!). My new favorite crunch-tastic topping? Rainbow sprinkles!

Easy Chocolate Cake

from The Science of Good Cooking cookbook

Serves 8

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 cup brewed coffee, hot

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream or yogurt (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350. Grease 8-inch square baking pan, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pan.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. In separate bowl, combine cocoa and chocolate. Pour hot coffee over cocoa mixture and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Gently whisk mixture until smooth, let cool slightly, then whisk in mayonnaise, egg, and vanilla. Stir mayonnaise mixture into flour mixture until combined.

3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. Bake cake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes.

4. Let cake cool in pan on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Cut into squares or rectangles and serve either straight from the pan or out of a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, dollop with whipped cream or yogurt, or enjoy as is.