Chocolate Fudge Brownies… with Black Beans and Avocado!

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So you must be thinking that Ski Boots has gone off the deep end… Black bean brownies? Perhaps it’s the lack of snow we’ve been getting lately that’s made me want to experiment with some new recipes and ingredients. I had to try this one for a few reasons but mostly because I wanted to see if I could taste the black beans… Which you can’t… AT ALL.photo-225

In fact, everyone I served them to didn’t believe I actually made them with black beans. Nothing about these brownies are normal. Unlike your typical fudge brownies, where you feel sick after eating just one, these are dangerously perfect. They are rich AND light and you will most definitely not be able to stop at eating just one, Oh and did I mention they are gluten free? photo-228

Oh and did I also mention they are low fat? I wouldn’t feel guilty for a second eating these brownies for breakfast, they’ve got almost 5 grams of protein and only 150 calories per square (less if you use sugar substitute)… say what?! You won’t believe it until you try them for yourself but I promise you will enjoy them!

Black Bean & Avocado Fudge Brownies (Click for printer friendly version)
Ingredients:
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 of a large ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon olive or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute of choice
  • dark chocolate chips (to sprinkle on top)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Put all the ingredients besides chocolate chips into food processor (or a blender). Process or puree until ingredients form a smooth batter (scrapping down the sides with a spatula in between to make sure all the cocoa powder is incorporated.)
  3. Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips, nuts, or any other desired brownie topping and bake for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top of the brownies begin to crack.
  4. Cool pan completely on wire rack then cut into 16 squares.

And if the kitchen didn’t smell amazing enough with all those brownies baking… my valentines day flowers are just starting to blooming and its like heaven on earth in my living room!photo-227Enjoy!

Original recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

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Joanie’s Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

photo-220Happy Valentines Day everyone! Whether you’re a lover or a hater of this pretty ridiculous holiday- You’ve gotta love an excuse to stuff your face with baked goods, chocolates, fruit covered in chocolate, candy hearts and then wash it down with wine or (but preferably AND) champagne with out getting a belly ache… Yeah, good luck!

My friend Aly brought me these beautiful tulips, I’m feeling pretty lucky and its not even officially Valentines Day!photo-223These almond cookies are pretty outrageous- in the healthiest way possible. Pom Pom got this recipe from her friend Joanie and Joanie must have got this recipe from an angle because they are that good. photo-219

They are made with almond flour/meal which gives it a chewy, nutty texture. Then you mix that with a hint of mint extract and dark chocolate chips and it’s like a Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie and a chocolate chip cookie got married and had little chocolate mint almond cookie babies. Plus… they are gluten free, vegan and guilt free (kind of) after you eat the whole plate. Enjoy!

Heaven on Earth Almond Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups Almond flour/meal (this can be found in the bulk section at Whole Foods or any health food store. Bob’s Red Mill also makes it, usually in the gluten free section)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or canola oil (I used canola this time because I didn’t have grapeseed on hand but either is good)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup 70% dark chocolate, chopped (or use dark chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mint extract

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
  • Combine wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
  • Mix dry and wet ingredients together and stir in chocolate chunks
  • Roll dough into 1″ balls and softly press/flatten dough onto a well greased cookie sheet
  • Bake for 8-12 minutes until edges begin to brown.
  • Cool on wire wracks (if you can wait that long)
  • These would also make really good ice cream sandwiches- place a scoop of your favorite flavored ice cream or sorbet and let them set in the freezer for at least 1 hour before serving.

Salted Caramel Brownies

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Storm “Nemo” (which might I say could be the lamest name for “the fieriest blizzard since 1978”) has been the perfect excuse to cook up “a storm” in very kitchen that I learned so much about food and my love for making it- with my favorite cook, Palmer. There’s nothing better than a warm gooey brownie, especially on a cold day. Pair that with the sweetness of creamy caramel and savory sea salt and you’ve literally got the best combination on Earth. IMG_6770Then cut them into heart shaped, bite sized, pieces of perfection and you’ll have everyone asking to be your Valentine this year. In case you were wondering, this winter storm is not named after the fish Nemo, because according to this report... “that would be illegal.”IMG_6781Even our dog Tucker is pissed off by the storm. We let him out and he turned right back around to give us a look like “WTF it’s freaking cold out here, let me back in and give me some caramel brownies.” IMG_6760

My thoughts exactly, Tucker. While these brownies take a bit longer to make than your typical brownies, they are beyond worth it. IMG_6772

I served them with dairy free coconut milk ice cream but these would be great with real ice cream, whipped cream or a glass of milk. IMG_6700IMG_6705

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IMG_6722Palmer finally had to put the remaining brownies in the freezer so we wouldn’t keep picking at them.IMG_6727

Salted Caramel Brownies…Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Caramel

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
  • Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Brownie

  • 3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. For the caramel: Place a piece of parchment paper over a medium size plate and coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. It should be a nice copper color by the time its fully melted.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in butter until fully incorporated. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.
  4. Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. (Make sure you are using a plate that can withstand the temperature change- if you are not sure about your dish wear, you can always use a Pyrex dish.)
  5. While the caramel is cooling, heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.
  6. In a double boiler or medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. (This can also be done in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each.)
  7. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.
  8. Once caramel is firm, remove from the freezer and cut into 1-inch squares and gently fold all but a few pieces of caramel into brownie mixture.
  9. Pour into prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Place remaining caramel squares on top.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  11. Let brownies cool completely before cutting into squares or using a cookie cutter, cut into desired shape.IMG_6765

Original recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Mushroom-Barley Soup for the end of the world

According to the weather man tomorrow night the Eastern Seaboard from New York to Maine is going to shut down, as they are predicted to get 2 feet of snow…. um yeah. I’ve heard gas stations are running low on fuel and schools have closed before a single flake of snow has fallen. Nothing is better then some hearty soup on a snow day (besides a little Baileys in your hot chocolate or just more Baileys in your Baileys, but who’s counting). At least I’ve got a glass of fresh Limoncello to calm me down. This is one of my mom’s favorite soup recipes and as I am home in CT (the war zone) we decided to make it together. Barley makes this soup healthy and filling.

Fresh and dried mushrooms make the broth super flavorful and rich. It’s the perfect meal on its own or pairs with a sandwich, salad or main course too! Double the recipe and freeze some for the next blizzard of the century. You’ll definitely enjoy this soup and we all know you’ll have the time to cook it because if work hasn’t already been canceled for you, I know you’ll be calling in “sick.” Happy snow day everyone!

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 medium carrots (5 1/2-6 ounces), trimmed, peeled and thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 1 medium onion (4 ounces), peeled and very thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 6 ounces domestic mushrooms, washed and very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • about 1 ounce dried mushrooms (1/2 cup), crushed into small pieces in a mini-chop or with a mortar and pestle
  • 2 cups white chicken stock or lower-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (adjust if canned broth is used)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Place the barely in a sauce pan with 3 cups of the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, reduce the eat to low and boil very gently for 50 to 60 minutes. The barely should be tender but not mushy. set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. add the carrots and onion and cook over high heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add the domestic mushrooms, dried mushrooms, stock or broth and the remaining 2 cups water.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and boil gently for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the pepper, salt and barley with its liquid.
  6. Bring back to a boil. Stir in parsley.

Original recipe from Jacques Pepin’s Simple and Healthy Cooking.