College, Black Beans, and Brownies

People always said, “Oh yeah, once you are in college, you will miss having a home cooked meal every night.”  And the true meaning of this statement never sank in until I was actually in college.  I have eaten cafeteria food for a little less than a month, and I cannot wait to go home and eat my parents cooking.  Not that our cafeteria food is bad, it just isn’t the food I’m used to. For all my UC school friends that still have another three weeks of summer, savor every bite of home cooked food.  Appreciate it in its entirety.  You will miss it.

I was assigned to live in a room with three other girls.  I was very unsure of how it was going to turn out because living in a cramped space with complete strangers for nine months could go many ways.  Then, the week before I left to go to school, one of my roommates emailed us and informed us that she toured the room and we have a full kitchen and bath in our room.  Um, excuse me?  What?  How is this possible?  As it turns out, we were randomly assigned to the Resident Director’s apartment that was converted into a student dorm.  We basically won the entire housing lottery.  It has been such a blessing to have a kitchen and be able to make my own food once in a while.  The truth is that I wish I could make every meal for myself and not even have a meal plan.  But alas, since I’m living on campus, I must have a meal plan and I should use it or it would be a huge waste of money.

Anyway, I have made eggs, chocolate chip banana pancakes, two batches of chocolate chip cookies, toast, and as of an hour ago, black bean vegan brownies.  I even sent some cookies home to my mom and sister, because my sister made a comment over the phone that she and my mom were down to their last homemade cookie after sending me so many in a care package and how it was too hot to even think of turning on the oven to make more.  So I sent them some dorm-made cookies because I wanted to repay the care package favor.  Because really, no one should be without homemade cookies for too long, especially after school has just started.  That cookie in your lunch very well could be the highlight of your day some days. (Sadly, this is the case once or twice in life; you have bad days that require a cookie to make it better.)  I learned to check with the person who ships your package as to how long it will take for it to arrive, because once they got back home, they were a little crumbly and drier than expected.  It’s the thought that counts, right?

Anyway, tonight I made plans with a friend(yes, I made a friend. Can you believe it?) to try out this new vegan recipe I found on Buzzfeed.  We had no idea how it was going to turn out, but after being sick all weekend and therefore doing nothing but homework and sleeping, I had a little free time tonight to try it out.

The verdict is that they are super fudgy, rich, and dense, and completely and unexpectedly good.  When I heard they had black beans in them I was a skeptic, but these are definitely brownies I would make again.

 

I stole this picture from Farmgirl Gourmet (link at the bottom of this post). It was way better than any picture I could have taken. But mine did turn out looking like this. :)
I stole this picture from Farmgirl Gourmet (link at the bottom of this post). It is way better than any picture I could have taken.  Props to her for this excellent piece of food art. :)

 

Here is the recipe that I got from Farmgirl Gourmet, and then tweaked to fit the ingredients I had in my dorm:

 

Dark Chocolate Vegan Brownies

Ingredients

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and filled with new water

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder, because it was cheaper)

4 tsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup of water (the original recipe calls for Guinness beer, but seeing as I am underage, that wasn’t going to happen)

3/4 cup chocolate chips (or nuts, if you so desire)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Drain the can of black beans into a colander, rinse the can clean and the beans until all bean juice is gone.  Pour the cleaned beans back in the can and fill the can back up to the top with fresh water.
  3. Puree the beans and water in the blender and set it aside.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and instant coffee powder. Mix together.  Make a well in the center to pour your liquids into.
  5. Pour bean purée, water, and vanilla into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together, being careful not to overmix.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips or nuts and pour into a greased 9 by 13 pan.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through.
  8. Let cool and enjoy! :)


Note: Depending on whether you like coffee or not, I would adjust the amount of instant coffee powder.  The four teaspoons definitely makes it so you can taste the coffee-ness but not in a bad way.  I don’t drink or enjoy coffee, but I loved the extra layer of flavor it gave the brownies and it complimented the chocolate very nicely(as expected). Also, I haven’t tried it with beer yet, but I am curious as to how it tastes, so when I get home I will be trying it again, this time with the beer.  Lastly, I am not vegan, so I didn’t worry about using butter to grease the pan, so if you are vegan use canola oil or cooking spray.

PS Don’t worry, I promise I have made more than one friend.  I mean, who doesn’t want a friend who will bake them yummy goodies all the time? :)

Click here to see the original recipe!

Easy Chocolate Truffles

This is embarrassing. My blog has needed some love since my last post in May and I am just getting around to it. Awesome.  I guess its a sign of a great summer if I never seem to have enough time to sit down and finish a blog post! I have a bunch of friends who are babysitting over the summer(and alas this post is late as summer is rapidly drawing to a close) and I thought I would blog about my favorite babysitting activity and maybe give them a new thing to do with the kids they watch.

I was babysitting a six-year-old and a two and a half-year old for six hours.  I had a brilliant idea to do special things for their parents while they were out, but was completely at a loss on what I could do, without it being super involved and too hard for them.  Luckily, my wonderful mother is super crafty and creative, and she suggested making truffles!

She pulled out her handy-dandy, cooking with little ones cookbook, and flipped right to the recipe.  It was perfect. It only called for three ingredients and did not require dipping the truffles in chocolate to make a shell.  I went to the store, picked up some fun sprinkles to decorate with, changed my clothes into something that could get messy, and drove on over.

Once I got there, they already had mugs to paint for their grandmas and aunts, so we painted those first and they turned out really super cute.  I am always amazed at the creativity of little ones, that have no boundaries and confinements of their imagination.  They create so freely, and here I am just more than ten years older, struggling to make something I think is beautiful, because I am constantly comparing my masterpiece to those of people far more gifted than I.

Creativity at its finest!
Creativity at its finest!

There is a painting of mine hanging in our guest bathroom.  Accompanying it is a picture that my younger sister painted.  She laughs when she sees mine; it truly is a comical sight.  We painted them in kindergarten; mine has a yellow sun, green grass, a blue flower with a  dark purple stem, and a random red streak on the left side of the stem of the flower, because no one had told me that red lines don’t go in pictures, just cause you wanted to use the color and had no where else to put it, or that flowers don’t have dark purple stems and blue petals. My sister’s painting is more normal. It has green grass, a red tulip with a green stem, a blue sky and a yellow sun.  I always took pride in that picture because I thought, “I taught my sister how to paint.”  Reflecting on this though, I realize that there is no right or wrong way to create art.  That’s why its called art; it doesn’t have to please everyone and not everyone has to understand it, as long as you, the creator, is happy and proud of your work.

Anyway, that was a long tangent. After painting we ate some awesome dinner, and then got out the ingredients for truffles.  The two-year old helped me pour the different sprinkles into little bowls, and the six-year-old helped mix the cocoa powder, cream cheese, and sugar together. We set out big sheets of wax paper, in case it got messy and to set the finished truffles on, and then we got started!  I rolled the truffles and put them in the sprinkles they chose, and then they picked up the bowl and rolled the ball around in the sprinkles to cover it.  On the first ones, they used their hands to roll it around, instead of just holding the bowl and rolling the ball in the bowl, and their hands ended up covered in chocolate.  So we switched methods, so that my hands were the only ones thoroughly covered in truffle mix.  They had so much fun and the truffles turned out amazing! They were interested and involved the entire time and loved every minute of our baking adventure! I got a lovely text from the girl’s mother after I had left, saying how she was so surprised and how thankful she was.  Don’t worry, I had talked to their father beforehand to see if it was okay.

They turned out so super cute!!
They turned out so super cute!!

I ended up doubling the recipe because a single batch only makes eight or so truffles and I wanted each girl to be able to make more than four.  They ended up making ten each, so maybe I was rolling them smaller than the recipe suggested.  Anyway, here is the recipe:

Chocolate Truffles

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

¼ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup cream cheese

sprinkles

¼ cup chopped nuts(optional)

 

1. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder(and nuts if desired) in a mixing bowl.  Stir until well mixed.

2. Roll the mixture into marble sized balls in the palms of your hands.

3. Pour sprinkles into a bowl and then roll truffles around in them to coat.

4. Serve in paper candy cups or on a cute decorated plate!


Note: Subsequently, I tried to make sugar cookies with them, and they were interested for the first couple cookies, but lost interest very quickly and then i was scrambling to finish the cookies on my own.  So I guess the interest levels vary from day-to-day (duh).

Cauli-Power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

cauliflower

I was filling out an interest survey today for a class, and one of the questions was, “Where is your favorite place and why?”.  Interestingly enough, one of my favorite places in the world is at our family’s dining room table.  Not just because my parents make amazing food, but because its my one hour in every day where I can relax and be with my family.  Sometimes our schedules are so jam-packed that the only topic that gets covered is the “family’s” schedule.  Other times I end up laughing so hard that I cry, because we are just that funny.  And then there are times where we just catch up with one another or have another family over for dinner, and those are both great too. I just love that precious hour (longer on the weekends), stenciled into my schedule every day, that I spend with them just sitting at the table.  I remember the moment in elementary school that I found out that other kids my age didn’t eat dinner with their families every night.  I was mind blown, completely and absolutely astounded.  It seemed so normal and comforting to me; this new revelation about them made them seem almost alien to elementary school me.  I felt bad for them and wanted to invite them over for dinner, so that they could eat dinner like I did and see how wonderful it was.  I still feel bad for those people who don’t eat dinner with their families on a regular basis; they don’t know what they are missing.  I encourage you to start small this week by trying to eat dinner with your family for just one night, if you don’t normally do so.  The memories and positives that come out of it will far outweigh any negatives.  Go ahead, you could even try it with the new recipe I am posting below.  I would suggest that you could cook it together too, but I don’t want to get too crazy.

With my enjoyment of the dinner table and all it brings, it only seems natural for me to like cooking and baking new things for us to eat.  And I do.  Cooking and baking are therapeutic for me.  So, consequently, I like to try new recipes and experiment with old recipes.  This recipe was an adventure for me.  It was vegan, soy free, and sugar-free.  And it required nutritional yeast.  I had no idea what in the world nutritional yeast even was.  As far as I was concerned there was only one kind of yeast-the kind you put in breads to make them rise.  Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, I actually found this recipe on Buzzfeed (which lead me to Oh She Glows-link at bottom) , but it appealed to me because it was dairy free.  When I started my freshman year, my immune system fell apart.  I was sick almost every month with colds that wouldn’t completely go away for around two weeks.  It wasn’t until last year that my dad and I discovered that running cross-country put so much stress on my body that it couldn’t defend itself against the common cold AND eating dairy made me more susceptible to colds and intensified them.  After that discovery, I limited my running, giving my body time to fully recover from the colds, and I began to transition off of dairy products.  The result was I got sick less often and felt way better because I wasn’t congested all the time!  Now, after reducing my dairy intake to little to none, when I cheat and eat it, I get a nice stomach-ache.  A long story to say, I am trying to find healthy dairy free foods so that I can avoid the stomach-ache.

My first attempt at photographing my own food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.
My first attempt at photographing my food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.

Wow, I have taken so long to just get to the review of the recipe.  Overall, this was really good.  I over sautéed the garlic once, Facetimed my dad to double-check that it was burnt, and started over.  TIP: Only sauté the garlic until just golden brown, on medium low heat.  DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF IT!  The nutritional yeast is surprisingly good and has a nice flavor-make sure to get the powder/flake form and not the pill form(seems like common sense but they sell both).  I added an extra garlic clove, and used the larger amount of pepper and garlic  powder- the result was a pretty spicy sauce.  Next time, I am going to tone down the garlic, both clove and powder, and pepper.  I can always add more after the sauce is blended if it needs it.  I threw in some mushrooms on top to garnish with the parsley. NOTE: I wasn’t a big fan of the parsley garnish at all- it looked pretty though! I suggest saute-ing the mushrooms and then putting them on top at the end.  One could also add bacon to this if they were looking for extra flavor, but it certainly doesn’t need it.

 

Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 heaping cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (from 2 med/lg cloves)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or nondairy milk of choice)

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

  • Fettuccine pasta of choice (I used whole wheat)

  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower florets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a low boil. Once boiling, cook for another 3-7 minutes until fork tender. Drain.

  2. Meanwhile, add the oil into a skillet and sauté the minced garlic over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.

  3. In a high-speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sautéed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until a super smooth sauce forms. If using a Vitamix use the tamper stick as needed. The key here is to get a really smooth sauce so don’t be afraid to let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.

  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.

  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the pot (you can use the same pot!) and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste (the pasta dilutes the flavour).

  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Feel free to add in your favourite sautéed or roasted vegetables. I think peas, spinach, or broccoli would work very nicely! I added mushrooms, but I wasn’t overly crazy about them in this dish.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/20/cauli-power-fettuccine-alfredo-vegan/#ixzz2s8gs81Q3