Brownies With A Twist

Most of the time when I read a recipe that doesn’t sound appealing, I just pass it by.  I mean, why make something that doesn’t even sound good.

This was different.  It was the strangest recipe I had ever seen. So of course I had to try it.  You don’t see black beans as the major ingredient in brownies every day.

I guess this isn’t a new idea, but I certainly hadn’t heard about it before.  I saw a few different versions of it here, here and here.  But in the end decided on the Meal Makeover Moms version.

As I gathered all the ingredients, I have to tell you — I fully expected these to be nasty.

I mean, really — these are the base for brownies?

But I forged ahead.  Pureeing the black beans.

And then mixing in all the other ingredients and pouring the batter into a pan and sticking it into the oven.

When they came out they looked fairly normal and good. But I was still skeptical.

All the recipes say to let them cool fully and give them time to do their thing.  Once I cut into them, I was shocked.  They look pretty dang good, don’t they?

And with no flour.  Weird.

And how’d they taste, you ask?  Surprisingly — good.  They were definitely better a few hours after I’d let them sit and cool.  They really don’t have a bean flavor at all, and the texture is bizarrely normal.  Not bad for gluten-free brownies that are only 12o calories each with 5 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein and feature black beans. Who woulda thunk?!

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Hot Chocolate On A Stick

I’ve been wanting to make the adorable Hot Chocolate On A Stick that I saw featured on the kitchn for weeks.  It just looked so darling.  With the rain drizzling outside and a few hours to spare, I finally did it today.

You just take some good cooking chocolate, an ice cube tray and a lollipop stick and go for it.  (I added some peppermint extract for extra yumminess).

It’s so easy.  Just melt down the chocolate in the microwave.

Pour it into the ice cube tray and add a stick.  Then you just pop it into the freezer for five minutes to harden up.

Pop ’em out, and stick the chocolate pop into a mug with some hot milk.

And you get yum!

It’s even better shared with someone you love.

Cold Feet

Guess what happened last night?  It snowed!  

This morning watching the chickens experience walking in the snow for the first time was pretty funny. They were like, what’s this stuff?

And they remain addicted to their cracked corn — snow or not!

Gratitude – 2009 Style

As 2009 is coming to an end, I’ve been thinking about all the things I am thankful for that have happened this year.  It’s been a wonderful year of learning new things, discovering new parts of myself, and slowing down to really appreciate what’s in my life.

So in no particular order, here are a few of the things I’m most thankful for from 2009.

First up, I can’t imagine my life without my little love bugs.

Or my favorite gluten-free take-out places — Bellagio’s Pizza and Chipotle.

And who knew how much I would love my backyard garden.

And its amazing bounty.

Or the crazy chickens who came to live in our backyard in August.

Giving us lots and lots and lots of yummy farm fresh eggs.

Not to mention, that living in this beautiful state where you can go on hikes that look like this really never gets old.

I also love all the amazing berries you can pick all summer long just down the road.

And I can’t forget about my new job where I get to work in the most beautiful office ever.

With super fun and smart colleagues, who are also friends.

And as cliche as it sounds, I’m so grateful for being healthy this year and am pumped about my re-found love for working out.  I’d forgotten how awesome sweating is.

By far my favorite workout partner for 2009 is Lady Gaga.
Her music + the gym = happiness.

And last, but certainly not least, I’m most grateful for all the wonderful friends and family I have in my life — with the top of the list being this guy.  I don’t really know how I got lucky enough to be his wife, but I’ll take it.

Happy end of 2009!  I can’t wait to see what 2010 brings. It’s gonna be good.

Ina’s Salty Caramel Candies

In case you didn’t know, I love this woman.

Ina Garten — better known as the Barefoot Contessa to many — is pretty much my idol.  I love her down-to-earth from scratch approach to food.  I find myself making more of her recipes than anyone else’s.  My mom and I say stuff like, “Did you see Ina today?”  and “You know, Ina’s roasted chicken is really the best.”  It’s like we know her.  Even if we don’t really know her, we really do love her. 

If you haven’t tried them, her caramel sauce and caramel candies can’t be beat.  In my final hurrah to homemade goodness for the holidays, I made a quadruple recipe of her fleur de sel caramel candies.   The salty and sweet combo never fails.

First I gathered everything I needed.

Next, I got two pots going on the stove — one for the sugar mixture and the other for the cream and butter.  If you ever wondered why caramel tastes so good, here’s why.

After cooking the sugar mixture until it was golden brown, I poured the cream and butter mixture into the sugar mixture and used a trusty candy thermometer to get it up to the right temperature. 

I even got Jason in on the action.  

After it was all ready, we (and yes, it really was a two person job) poured it into a prepared pan to let it cool.

After it cooled and hardened, I dumped it out onto a big cutting board and cut it into little bite-size pieces.

Don’t forget to add the fancy salt on top!

Next up was wrapping 200 of these little buggers. 

And putting them into my little bags with, of course, my beloved labels I had made from my favorite place. Too fun!

Chicken Pops

Let me start this off by saying that I didn’t set out to make chicken pops. It just sort of happened. 

See, I’m making caramel candies for Christmas gifts and so I set out to find a local candy supply store — which I did, the awesome old school Decorette Shop.  

I knew it was going to be bad when I walked in and got giddy.  I mean, look at all the fun stuff in there.  A million crazy cupcake and cake molds.

Aisles and aisels of baking goodies and supplies.

Chocolate of all colors and kinds.

Super cute teensy weensy sugar creations.

And then I went upstairs and it was over.  They had a gazillion kinds of candy molds. 

That’s when I spotted it — a chicken pop mold.  I had to have it.  You understand, don’t you?

Well, anyway, I brought it home and went to work.  Super easy, by the way.  And yummy — since it’s solid chocolate.  Here are all the supplies I needed — some melting chocolate, food coloring, paint brushes and lollipop sticks.

You just whip up the colored chocolate (white chocolate + food coloring) and go to work.

And how’d they turn out, you ask?

 Hysterical.  Check ’em out.   Bawk! Bawk!

Homemade Holiday Goodies

Remember when I put together the homemade vanilla a few months back?  Well, it’s ready.  And it’s all bottled up for friends and family for the holidays.  I think it turned out pretty cute, don’t you?

I decided on the stainless bottles so they would ship well and not break (as to not repeat my last year’s issues shipping glass across the country – not a good idea I found out the hard way).  And of course, I couldn’t do without my beloved labels.

In addition to the vanilla extract, I am also making some homemade granola and packaging it up for folks.   It looks festive in it’s little bag and should be a yummy treat mixed in with yogurt, eaten as cereal, or just right out of the bag! 

Up next, Christmas card addressing and fleur de sel caramel candies!