Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Wow, I can't believe I've only posted four times this month.  Time just flew on by.  The lack of trick-or-treaters at my door is enabling me to write this post right now, or else I'm not sure I'd even have time to do this.  Who would have thought that living right outside of a military instillation would leave me with a limited amount of trick-or-treaters?  Now I have about 100 pieces of candy left... ugh.  Maybe I'll give the next child all of them?  It'll be like winning the candy lottery.  Boy, would their parents be pissed, or what?

The dessert I made the other night was like winning the dessert lottery.  In deliciousness.  (Wow.  I'm lame...and the fact that I'm cracking myself up over my last comment makes me all the more lame.)  I digress.  This dessert was awesome.  I've heard of black bean brownies and I've also heard some horrible reviews about them as well, ie: being "gritty", having the black bean flavor, etc.  So... I thought maybe if I'd mix something else with them, it would mask that so-called black bean texture/flavor.  The goal was to make this for a party that both adults & children would enjoy.  Easy.  I thought of cheesecake.  And I needed to make it fall-themed.  Easy again.  Pumpkin flavored.  Now, to combine these three flavors into a masterpiece that everyone would enjoy. Can I say easy again?  I won the best dessert prize and took a second batch to work the following day where my employees raved about them and my boss asked me to make 4 batches for an up-coming fundraiser.  This is definitely a winner in my book (and apparently everyone else's as well).

Pumpkin Cheesecake Swirled Black Bean Brownies
(brownie base adapted slightly from

serves 16

- one 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1/2 c Hershey's Special Dark cocoa (the dark flavor masks the black beans extremely well)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract + 1 tsp for the cheesecake mixture
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 6 oz nuefchatel (room temp)
- 3/4 c pumpkin puree
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line an 8x8 baking dish with foil.  Set aside.

Place the black beans into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  Add 3 of the eggs, the olive oil, sugar, cocoa, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and the baking powder.  Process until the mixture is smooth.  Add the chocolate chips and pulse until incorporated.  Pour the brownie batter into your prepared baking dish.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the neufchatel, pumpkin, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until creamy. (I added some orange food coloring because the fall party was so close to Halloween, and the brownies are so dark they look black - so it was a good black+orange combo.  You can definitely leave the food coloring out.)  Scoop spoonfuls of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture onto the brownie mixture.  Take a butter knife and swirl the two mixtures together. 

Bake for 35 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from the pan.  Cool in the pan for about an hour and then remove from the pan by lifting with the foil and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Slice into 16 pieces.

NOTE:  Just because these are made with black beans, does not make this dessert "healthy".  There is still a lot of sugar in these and they should be eaten sparingly.  On that note, I am going to attempt to make a version without sugar, oil, or eggs.  We'll see how that goes.  In the meantime, enjoy this version.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pancakes? Not the kind you're thinking of.

I've always been messy.  Not the type of messy where I don't clean up after myself - but messy as in I'm the one who dribbles every type of condiment down the front of my shirt & the one who has flour handprints all over my black trousers.  It never seems to fail.  My relatives say I take after my Nana.  Apparently she doesn't succeed in keeping her clothing free of food, either. 

Why tell you this?  Because of these pancakes.  Okay - first off, I really wouldn't call them pancakes... because they aren't your traditional pancakes.  I don't normally do packaged foods, but I recently found a new Asian mart, and the owner practically threw these into my arms, shouting about how delicious they were.  These "pancakes" are made with a yeasted dough and filled with a brown sugar/crunchy almond, pumpkin-y deliciousness.  It's undescribable.  Really.  Once the pancakes are heated and cooked thouroughly... they ooze the most amazingly flavored syrup. It's truely divine.  I'm definitely heading back to purchase more when I head up to my parents' house around the holidays!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Perfecting Pancakes

Boy, have I been busy lately.  I recently switched careers and I've been pulling in numerous hours of training + work.  As much as I'd love to have delicious food photos for you, there just isn't enough daylight in a day -
although I'm going to try my hardest to get as many photos/posts up as possible.  I definitely have some amazing recipes coming your way - including some that are Asian-inspired.  I recently found a local Asian market, which has everything I could possibly need + classes.  I signed up for the sushi-making class.  Go me!

Now onto this post's recipe.  Peanut Butter & Jelly Pancakes.  I've been on a pancake kick lately and here's the reason why:  when my husband and I had first moved in together, I was making him extremely intricate recipes.  One Saturday he asked me if we could have simple pancakes for our Sunday brunch, and I agreed, although I had never actually made pancakes before.  Complete disaster.  I remember, vividly, after flipping my "burning" pancakes, throwing my raw-batter covered spatula across the kitchen.  I was not a happy camper.  It was my second attempt that morning.  For some reason the outer part of my pancakes were burning but the center was still raw batter.  So, I turned the heat on my stove down.  They didn't cook at all.  After that Sunday morning, I vowed never to make pancakes again.  My husband eventually bought me a waffle maker for my birthday.  So, since living together, Sunday mornings have been filled with waffles.  Don't get me wrong, I love waffles, but sometimes you just need to mix it up.  So, while my husband has been on his little deployment (little, ha, more like 9 extremely long months),  I've made pancakes for myself every Saturday morning.  I am going to perfect them.  Seriously.  And then I'll cook my husband as many as he wants.  And he'll want a ton of these.  Because - honestly - they are the bees knees.  (Ha, I love that saying.)

Peanut butter whole wheat pancakes, slathered with strawberry jam, topped with a creamy peanut butter sauce.  Who wouldn't want to make these every day for the rest of their lives?  I probably would if I didn't like skinny jeans so much.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pancakes
serves 2

3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c almond milk
3 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. 

In a liquid measuring cup, measure your milk & add the peanut butter and vanilla.  Whisk until the peanut butter is incorporated into the milk.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix until a batter is formed, but do not overmix.

Lightly oil a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Using a 1/4 measuing cup, scoop the batter into the pan.  Cook until golden brown on both sides.

Spread strawberry (or whatever flavor your prefer) jam on your pancakes, instead of butter.  Pour peanut butter sauce over top  (Microwave a few tablespoons of peanut butter until creamy.).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chili + Some Thoughts

I've been trying to post more recipes + photos lately, but honestly... my photos are a bit rubbish and the recipes I made this week were nothing to blog about.  However, I did find a great base to chili.  There was definitely components missing from it, so I'm not going to post the recipe, but I will once I perfect it.  I'm thinking it needs to be a little thicker, maybe some corn added to it, and more spices.  A lot more spices.  Maybe I'll even add some jalapenos.  We'll see.

I thought I'd take this time to write a few things I've stumbled upon that I absolutely love. 

                        Picture taken from website below.

A Coffee Bar: This might be the most amazing idea ever.  The husband and I probably won't do something like this while we're renting, but both avid fans of coffee, I'm sure we'll be doing this sometime in our future.  It's such a good thing that I promised E I'd become a master at making flavored coffees, now I have a reason to consume as much as I'd like.

Tokyo Terrace:  Ever since I found this website, I felt the need to read it from start to finish.  See, when I was in high school, I had this obsession with Japan.  I thought I'd teach myself the language by sticking stickers of Japanese words in all their correct places around the house.  I'm pretty sure my mother can still find stickers every once in a while, stuck to the bottom of curtains or on the underside of lamp shade.  I would also buy travel books and read them from front to back, dreaming of the day that I would walk the streets of Tokyo.  Not only does this website make me long for those dreams all over again, but the recipes she has on this website are absolutely devine looking.  Apple Spice Syrup for coffee, anyone (perfect for my coffee bar!)

                        Picture taken from the website below.

Stockholm Scarf: Um, this scarf is absolutely gorgeous.  I took a knitting class a few weeks ago, before I started working again (working definitely puts a halt on the projects I wanted to do), specifically with this scarf in mind.  I even bought the yarn, but I haven't even finished my moose cross stitching project.  Hopefully I will get around to completing both projects. 

Closet Cooking: This is another food related blog that I absolutely love.  Trust me, it's like this guy is in sync with exactly what I'm craving.  I'll think of searching for a recipe one night and the next day, this guy posts the exact recipe I was looking for on his blog (it's happened like 5 times).  The food that I've made from this blog is absolutely scrumptious and his pictures are so mouth-watering, so if nothing else - go to his site for the photos!

Boots:  So, I'm really loving boots this season.  I really want to buy this pair, but I can't fathom spending an entire paycheck on a pair of shoes.  The problem I have with buying boots?  Most don't fit around my calves.  I have huge-friggen-calves.  So, unless I want to spend 5 hours walking around a mall that we don't seem to have in the area I live (no mall?  I know - I hate it.) I don't get boots... because I definitely can't wing it and purchase the boots online.  Ugh - problems!

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