Monday, May 30, 2011

An experiment in chocolate

What would you do on the perfect day off?  I would sleep till seven. Yep, that is late for me. I wouldn’t want to sleep too late though. Morning is my favorite time of the day. This day is for me, so why waste it in bed.  I didn't quite make it all the way till seven but the last three days I have felt so rested.

I would have a large mug of flavored coffee. Butter toffee anyone? Served with steamed milk for a latte kind of feel.  Or better yet I would get one of these

I don't know what kind of magic exists in lattes but they make me so happy. 

My favorite thing to do when I have some extra time is play in the kitchen.  This weekend I was somewhat limited just because it was so darn hot.  I didn't want to turn on the oven.  I caved one day though to whip up some brownies.  A couple of years ago I made some cookies with white beans in them.  I wouldn't necessary call them cookies because the texture was somewhat off but they were a good sweet treat.  I have since heard of a few other ways to use beans in baked goods.  One of these being black bean brownies. 

Now, I am a big cookie fan.  Brownies are good but not my favorite.  Thus, although I wanted to test the black beans there were plenty of other treats on my list.  The brownies slowly fell down on the rankings.  This weekend though I was craving some chocolate.  So here comes the brownies.

Black Bean Brownies
Adapted from How to Cook Everything
Makes About 1 dozen
Time: 30 to 40 minutes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a little softened butter for the pan
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 can black beans, drained and mashed ( I used a food processor.)
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 9 by 13 baking pan with butter or line it with aluminum foil and grease the foil.

2. Combine the butter and cocoa powder in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is just about blended, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.

3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add black beans and combine. 

4. Gently stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla. Add in 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips.  Pour and scrape into the prepared pan. 

5. Top with remaining chocolate chips and bake until just barely set in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes. It's better to under bake brownies than to over bake them. Cool on a rack before cutting. Store, covered, at room temperature, for no more than a day.

OK, so the results are amazing.  I might have gone a little two heavy on the cocoa powder.  I actually misread the original recipe and more than doubled the amount of chocolate.  This is not a problem in my book but these are definitely DARK chocolate brownies.  Mr. J thought the chocolate was a little too heavy but he adjusted with a big glass of milk.  It might have been the extra dose of chocolate but you cannot taste the black beans at all. 

Now you may ask why you would even attempt to add black beans to a brownie recipe.  Well, black beans add extra protein and fiber to this dessert.  It also allows you to adjust the amount of butter and eggs in a recipe.  This all depends on whether or not you like cake or fudge brownies.  Regardless this was a fun way to experiment in kitchen.

Because the rain is BACK, spring pasta!

It was a little too good to be true, three days in a row of nothing but sunshine.  Perfect weather for the holiday weekend, except it was a bit too hot.  I was happy to wake to some rain this morning.  No worries though the sun is back in the forecast for this afternoon. 

This weekend was great.  Most people relax by not doing much.  I only get anxious when I sit and do nothing.  I accomplished so much this weekend mixed in with a little fun.  To me, this is the perfect scenario.  Top on my list was vacuuming my car.  It looks so nice!  It was not the most fun activity of the weekend but it is by far the one to make me the happiest.  I also did some cleaning around the apartment, organizing, and even so baking.  Even with the heat I couldn't resist turning on the oven. 

Today, though, I have a recipe with no oven required.  It is a hearty dinner with lots of veggies.  I loved it and even Mr. J said that we could have it again.  There was no meat so he sneakily grabbed some beef jerky as he did the dishes!

Spring Veggie Pasta
Serves 2

1/2 LB lingunie
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 zucchini, chopped in large pieces
3/4 artichoke hearts, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp pasta broth
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper


1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2.  In a saute pan, add olive oil and cook onions until they just start to soften.  Add zucchini, artichoke hearts and garlic, cook for about 5 minutes till veggies are cooked to desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Add in lemon juice and pasta broth.  Turn off heat and cover till pasta is done cooking.

5.  Drain pasta and combine with veggie mixture.

6.  Top with parmesan cheese. 

So what do you think of the new camera?  A bit more practice but I like it.  The thing is so small, I am afraid one of us might crush it. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Buff Chick

With Memorial Day weekend half over, I guess it's officially summertime.  The weather has been cooperating appropriately and Connecticut is hot and humid.  I have spent the last couple of night fighting with Mr. J about all the reasons why it is NOT a good idea to turn in the A/C just yet.  The main one is money - I hate paying bills, especially the utilities.  The thought of our electricity bill going up any more is cringe worthy. 

I have also fought myself about what to cook.  This weather begs for grilling.  We don't have an outdoor grill yet, but that might change very soon if this weather keeps up.  I have been trying to come up with no cook but especially no bake meals the last few nights.  Turning on the oven is a No, No right now. 

That being said, last Thursday we broke the rule.  Thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker's program, I received a full size bottle of KC Masterpiece's new Buffalo sauce.  Now we all know Mr. J is a master buffalo sauce maker.  It was a bit of a challenge to convince him that it would be a nice change of pace to have a buffalo sauce that is all ready to go without having to search, buy and chop all of those spicy peppers. 

It was a quick, simple mid-week dinner.  I had purchased chicken tenders from the store.  We marientaed the 1LB package for about 30 minutes in the fridge with about 1/2 of the bottle of buffalo sauce.

We then baked the tenders on a foil-lined cookie sheet, 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  The sauce was mild at first but once in a while you got a bite with a kick.  I think the sauce would be great for the whole family if no one was sensitive to spicy foods.  Mr. J and I plan to use the rest of the bottle as a base for feature chicken wing endeavors.  

As for the batch of chicken tenders, I made a salad with blue cheese crumbles.  The buffalo chicken and blue cheese was a great combination.  The salad added a lightness to the meal and cut some of the spiciness of the sauce. 

Sorry about the pictures in this post.  My camera finally called it quits the other day and I have been restoring to my cell phone.  We have since ordered a new one and should have it up and running later today. Sadly, its not the Rebel.   Cannot wait to see what it can capture!

Any plans for Memorial Day weekend?

Is the weather where you are making a statement about summer?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Top 5 Birthday Wishes!

This year I am turning 27.  Wow!  I don't really feel old, just more and more adult every day.  I am one of those people who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES birthdays!  I think that you should enjoy your day of birth no matter how old you are, in fact, I have been known to celebrate the whole month.  Now, my birthday is not till September.  Yep, I am already getting ready for it, don't laugh!  So for all the lovely people out there who might consider celebrating by bestowing me with some presents.  Here are the top 5 I am eyeing:

1. Monogram mug from Anthropologie.  An E of course!

2. I saw this sign on Etsy awhile ago and fell in love.  I need it on my wall.  Its from The Steel Fork and they make all sorts of cool things.

3. Canon Rebel.  This is my biggy!  I cannot draw for the life of me, but I can take pictures.  My old camera is about 7 years old and let's just say it is time for an upgrade.

4.  "I'm leaving on a jet plane"  Yep, that is me singing. Don't I have a lovely voice? OK I don't want a plane but I do want to take several trips this fall and well plane tickets are damn expensive right now.  How is it possible that a flight from Connecticut to Chicago is about $40 more than a flight to San Francisco?  My logic says that 1/2 across the country should be 1/2 the price. 

5.  I have been pretty good lately about cookbooks.  And this one could be my downfall but I still want it.  I want it bad.  Its from a bakery in Brooklyn, NY and they make some mad baked goods.  Williams-Sonoma sells their box mixes but why get something like that when this cookbook allows you to make your own.  I am drooling already!

To find more Friday Fives visit Living like the Kings

Do you go all out for your birthday?

What is the biggest gift you ever wanted for a present?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Super Fun Funfetti

I think I have said it before but I typically don’t buy boxed mixes. They kind of freak me out not knowing what is in them. Plus I have no idea how long they have sat on the shelves. I normally have all of the ingredients to make whatever my heart desires on hand so it is never really a problem. That being said in the last 24 hours I found myself surrounding by not just one but TWO boxed mixes.

It all started last night when I went over to Kari's house. In general, these mid-week get togethers consist of dinner and a movie. Most of the time in PJs, you know, the quintessential girl’s night IN outfit. Our movie planning was a bit off with the Netflix schedule. Rather than trying to shift through the options for instant play we opted for a different form of entertainment – BAKING!

Our genius idea was to make Funfetti cupcakes. If there is one thing worth using a box mix for Funfetti is the one. Yum! Then, Kari came up with a super genius idea (or she just looks at a billion blogs a day and found it) to make Funfetti whoppie pies. Super genius right! It was just like having two cupcake tops!  By the end of the night we were super entertained and stuffed for of food.

Did I also mention she made this for dinner

Yum! I would call it a good night.

The next boxed option hit me this morning when I was craving a muffin. Our kitchen has the corner spinney cabinet. I refer to it as the lost cave. Things go in and never come out. Talk about not know how long a box mix sits. This muffin mix went in to the lost cave who knows when.

Upon closer inspection though I realized this was a great, quick, and healthy breakfast treat. And the box only made 6 muffins, perfect for two people. I know what you are thinking. No, we didn’t eat all 6 THAT morning. But most muffin recipes are for a dozen and I am always freezing some because that is just too many muffins for two people to eat before they start to turn.

OK back to the muffin mix box.

This is what I did.
I followed the directions but swapped out the oil with applesauce. 
Added 1 tsp of cinnamon.  Got to love the cinnamon.
Added 1/4 C of raisins.

Volia!  Raisin Bran muffins in 5 minutes flat. 

Another genius idea!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to say Groats?

Mr. J likes to think he is smarter than me.  Whenever he is right about something, he says how he is always right and I should just listen to him.  However, I know this is not true.  I am truly the smarter one in this relationship.  To prove this point, this weekend I was on a mission to get some Buckwheat groats.  I had seen the recipe posted below for quite some time and wanted to try it.  This recipe called for buckwheat groats and every time I saw it posted the author stated that it was a very difficult ingredient to find.  I had been on the lookout for a while for buckwheat groats and knew the local natural food store carried not just one but three different varieties.  So off I set to get me some buckwheat groats.   I happened to bribe Mr. J to come with me (trips to the natural food store is just not at the top of his list for fun activities) with a promise of lunch out. 

Anyway, off we set to the store. Mr. J found it quite amusing to be going out special for this one ingredient that he had never heard of.  We got to the store grabbed the groats and  paid.   He kept saying grOATs over and over.  To me it sounded like GROSS.  I was 100% convinced that it was called grOUTs.  Like sprouts with a g.  I corrected him a few times, but he kept going back to groats.  I was amused by his mistake. 

Then we got home and he pulled out the package clearly showing that it truly was groats and not grouts.  He was RIGHT!  ARG! One point for Mr. J.  I was a good sport though and let him celebrate his victory. 

A few hours later we were bumming away Saturday watching Chopped on the Food Network and low and behold one of the ingredients in the second round was buckwheat groats.  For the next 15 minutes the TV kept rubbing in my face that I was wrong. ARG! times two for the day.

Despite all of the humiliation of my error, I am glad I went to the trouble of getting the buckwheat groats.  This breakfast was good!  Plus I now know a few other ways to use buckwheat groats after Chopped.  

Buckwheat Bakes
Directions below are for one portion.  I doubled to share with Mr. J.

1/4 C raw buckwheat flour [ground from raw buckwheat groats in a blender]

1 Tbsp raw buckwheat groats
1/2 mashed banana
1/3 C frozen or fresh blueberries
1/4 C coconut flakes
4 Tbsp almond milk
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Chia egg [1Tbsp chia seeds + 2.5Tbsp warm water, whisked, sit for 3-5min]
1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix flax egg and set aside.

3. Mash banana with a fork and mix in milk, vanilla and maple syrup.

4. Mix in flour, groats, berries, chia seeds, cinnamon, and baking powder.

5. Stir in flax egg.

6. Grease a ramekin [or something oven safe 4-5” diam] and pour in batter.   Bake for 30 minutes, center should be set.  Let cool for about 5 minutes and flip out onto a plate or eat straight from the bowl.

One came out perfectly.  I was going to give this one to Mr. J.  He had one look, scoffed, and toasted a bagel.  Oh well, more for me!  They refrigerate well, so tomorrows breakfast is already made!

The second one didn't turn out quite as well.  I was able to add enough topping (sunflower butter and coconut butter) to hid the mess up.  Not that I really cared to begin with, I thought it tasted great and that is all I care about. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

It's only Tuesday and I already feel like I am behind.  We had some whopper storms pass through last night.  I work up at least twice because of thunder that was so close it shook me.  Then, it poured.  I haven't checked on my poor plants outside but I hope they are alright.  This is such a crazy year for weather.

The lack of sunshine is making my body crave comfort food. Everyone has their own sense of comfort. Macaroni and cheese is high up on my list, as is spaghetti and meatballs and clam chowder. Yum! This weekend though I was struck by the thought of mushroom risotto. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I have seen risotto recipes with nice spring veggie. However, for me, risotto is a bit heavier and cheesy. I haven’t made risotto for quite a long time. After looking through a few basic recipes I came up with this simple version.

Mushroom Risotto

4 cups chicken broth, low sodium
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1/2 crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 onion and 1 clove garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, herbs and butter. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Season again with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Saute 1 minute then remove from heat and set aside.

Coat a saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute.

This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.

Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more.

The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Transfer the mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cook briefly until melted.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Craving Carrots

Happy Monday!  I wish you a great start to the week.  In case you need a bit of help with this, I have, for you, a delicious, easy, healthy cookie recipe.

A few weeks ago another food obsessed co-worker, Gina, sent me a cookie recipe and said it was a must try.  We have very similar taste in food and basically anything she recommends I know I will end up loving. She is also very healthy so there is no worrying about my figure widening like some of my other want to try recipes.  These cookies have a few different ingredients that I don't regularly have in the pantry, mainly coconut oil.  Thus, it took a little effort before I could make them. It was well worth it though.  These are great cookies, and a healthy snack.

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
From 101 Cookbooks

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour ( I used regular whole wheat flour.)

1 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
1/2 cup unrefined (fragrant) coconut oil, warmed until just melted
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the nuts and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and ginger. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies. 

So did you notice there there is no animal products or sugar in these cookies?  I guess that means they are vegan.  I didn't realize the sugar part until after I had mixed them all together.  These cookies are moist, chewy, and sweet enough for my taste.  There mini size means you can have 2 4 at a time. 

They are very, very easy to put together.  The longest part is shredding the carrots and as you can see I had a little help.  I am still waiting for Mr. J to taste them but I am pretty sure they will be a success.  They already are in my mind.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Girly girls

I have said it before and I will say it again, why do weekends go by so fast?  This one was by far a whirlwind of activity.  Luckily I got a nap in BOTH days. 

Saturday came with way more sunshine than anticipated.  My little potted plants finally go to dry out a bit from the continuous rain of the past week.

I met Kari at the gym and she motivated me to run for the first time in almost a month.  I was able to run 4 miles out of nowhere.  We then when in search of cheap paperback books at the local library sale.  There were so many people and I was a bit disappointed in the book selection. However if you were in the need of VHS there must have been over a 1,000 to pick from.  Clearly, most people have advanced in their technology.

The evening was capped off with our Connecticut blogger meet up in North Haven.  We dined at the lovely Olive Garden.  When are they ever NOT packed?  Unknowingly it was Yale's graduation weekend, making it hard to find anywhere to go without a crowd.

Meet Kim, Kari, Kat, Molly, and Katie. All of our blogs take a different spin on life, running, food, family, and happiness.  I had a great time getting to know everyone a bit better and in REAL life.

Katie was even sweet enough to bring us each a little something special, her favorite new scent from Yankee candle.  Come on, you have to get along with a Yankee candle fan. 

We let our waitress in a on the secret that most of us had never met.  Thank goodness our group was not the awkward silent bunch. 

Cheers to a great evening!

Today Mr. J left me for basically the whole day to go golfing.  Let to my own devices I did what any good wife would do.  I cleaned, shopped, and baked. 

Cleaning included bathrooms, floors, kitchen, and some laundry.  Yep, I think I might deserve a reward.

Then came some shopping.  First off was some fruits and veggies I forgot at the grocery store yesterday.  Then once home I just might have explored, Amazon, DSW, Etsy, and  You have to love the Internet!

Next, I made a batch of new cookies.  I have had this recipe for a few weeks now.  It has been calling my name.  Thank goodness I answered.  Carrot oatmeal cookies coming up tomorrow.  They are delicious!

Enjoy the rest of Sunday, I am off to prepare supper.

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