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).

Sweet Memories- Dairy Free Ice Cream

ice cream quote

Growing up, my grandparents, aunts, and my family all went camping together over the 4th of July in Lone Pine, at the base of Mt. Whitney.  The campground itself is about six miles outside of Lone Pine proper; it is a dry campground, meaning pit toilets and spigots for water, and unless you bring a solar shower, y’ain’t showering.  We would celebrate my birthday on the 5th; side note: my grandma without fail would bake a cake and bring it up when she and my grandpa came(usually a day or two later after my family), just so I could have a proper birthday cake on my birthday.  We would hike and fish and play in the stream and go exploring and offroading in our Jeep.  There wasn’t cell service or electricity; it was pure uninterrupted bliss.  Midway through the trip, like clockwork, either my grandpa or my dad would decide we were going to go on an adventure.  My sister and I would ask, “Where are we going?”  to which he would reply, “Crazy.”  We would drive into town to the Frosty Chalet for soft served, hand-dipped in chocolate ice cream cones.   It was always such a treat to sit down to a cold, sweet, delicious ice cream cone, as we were all hot, sticky, covered in dirt, and probably some fish guts too.  Coming from our mutual love of ice cream, wherever we travel, we eat ice cream at least once.  It’s a tradition, just like cinnamon rolls and egg burritos are on Christmas Day.

With that being said, one of the biggest things I miss about not being able to eat dairy is, as you might guess, ice cream(cheese is a close second though).  I have tried the soy and almond variations of ice cream and liked most of them, but it is so expensive to buy.  I thought regular ice cream was expensive, and then I started buying dairy free and paying double the price for half the volume.  It is ridiculous.  Add that on to the fact that many ice cream places don’t have a dairy free option(I wouldn’t expect them to, but it would be awesome if they did), and it is kind of a bummer to go out as a family for ice cream to uphold the tradition, and not be able to eat any of the thing I love so much.

So being the resourceful young lady that I try to be, I decided that making my own dairy free ice cream must be cheaper than buying it, and it must taste better too because everything that is homemade tastes better!  I searched online for recipes, and found that a lot of them called for ingredients that I wasn’t so sure about like xanthan gum(where do you even buy that?) and others, but I finally came across one that looked relatively simple.  Cocoa powder, bananas, almond milk, and sugar.  It was simple enough and pretty healthy looking too, so I tried it.  The result was a great base to start with! I, personally, think it needs to be a little less banana flavored, but it still was really good.

 

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. In a microwaveable bowl or cup whisk 1/2 cup almond milk with the chocolate cocoa and sugar until fully incorporated. Microwave for 40 seconds and then stir.

  2. Place bananas plus the remainder of the almond milk into a blender along with the cocoa mixture and purée for about 10 seconds.

  3. Place mixture in the ice cream maker and process for 20 minutes or until thick.

  4. Serve right away or store in the freezer for later use or to firm up a bit more if desired.

dairy free iC

NOTES:  I topped mine with chocolate chips and cinnamon, which made it better, but it still needs some help.  My sister and I decided that crushed Oreos, mini chocolate chips, or peanut butter cups could be mixed in as it is in the ice cream maker to give it a better and more ice cream like flavor.  Next time, I am going to try it with Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk instead of regular to see if I can intensify the chocolate flavor and get less of a banana flavor.

I hope to find and try a mint chocolate chip recipe soon; it is one of my favorite flavors.  If you have a recipe that I should try, feel free to comment with a link to it, otherwise I will make sure to make an update post once I perfect a couple different flavors.