Black Bean Brownies…yes, BLACK BEANS =)

First things first, these do NOT taste anything like black beans.  You wouldn’t even have a clue that the main ingredient was black beans unless I told you.  I promise!!!  They are really quite decadent!  They are super moist (not “cakey” brownies by any stretch of the imagination).  Give them a try.  Black beans are high in dietary fiber, help regulate blood sugar levels, and are full of antioxidants.  What’s not to love?

Amazing Black Bean Brownie Recipe  (original from www.101cookbooks.com, this is my adjusted version!)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Batter before baking

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup instant coffee
¼ teaspoon salt (I use Real Salt)
4 large eggs
1½ cups agave nectar (you can also use honey instead or half agave and half honey)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and lightly oil with oil spray.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high. Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely. Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and half of the melted chocolate mixture into your food processor. Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth. The batter should be thick and the beans smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee, and salt. Mix well and set aside.
In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the agave nectar (or honey) and beat well. Set aside.
Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture. Stir until blended well.

Batter before mixing

One tasty brownie!

Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter. Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 45 minutes, until the brownies are set. Let cool completely and then refrigerate so they harden enough to cut easily.  Store in the refrigerator.
NOTE:  I’m not a huge fan of nuts, so I actually leave out the walnuts all together and add an extra half cup of black beans instead.  I just figured I would leave it in the recipe for reference since some people are just a little nutty! =)  Sometimes, I also make them without any coffee for the kiddos.
March 28, 2010 in Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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Basic Bread Dough

This is the basic dough recipe (from breadbeckers.com) that I use for so many different things…sandwich bread, yeast rolls, pizza dough, hamburger buns, etc.  It is WONDERFUL!!!  Hopefully, soon I will be posting my first ever video tutorial for making bread dough.

Basic Dough Recipe
(makes 2 loaves)

1 1/2 cups hot water (the hottest tap water you can get)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp. Salt
1 egg (optional…I use one on occasion, but not every time)
2 Tbs. Lecithin (optional)
1 tsp. Gluten (optional, but I use it every time!)
4- 4 1/2 cups freshly milled flour (I use hard white wheat)
1/2 cup ground flax seed (optional)
1 Tbs yeast

Combine water, oil, honey, salt and egg.  Add lecithin, gluten, half of flour, and ground flax seed.  Mix thoroughly.  Add yeast and enough flour to make a soft dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5-6 minutes by hand or 3-4 in your kitchen aid set in speed 2 with the dough hook).  Put in a lightly greased bowl (I use a little olive oil) and let rise until double in size.  Shape as desired and place into 2 greased loaf pans (or whatever you want to use) and let rise again until double.  For 2 loaves (1 lb each), bake in oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

March 23, 2010 in Being Frugal, Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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Homemade “Natural Draino”

    We are trying to get away from harmful chemicals in our home, as well as find frugal ways to keep things clean, etc.  Here’s a recipe for homemade draino that I have come across many, many times and have finally decided to try for myself.  One thing at a time right?? =)

    1.  Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, immediately following with 1 cup white distilled vinegar.

    2.  Cover the drain so that it doesn’t bubble over while it’s working on clearing the blockage (some recommend a wet washcloth to do the job!).

    3.  Follow with a pot of boiling water 30 minutes later.

      March 23, 2010 in Being Frugal, Recipes
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      No more canned beans…

      I am not a big fan of spending two to three times as much for something that I can make myself with little to no extra work.  Example: Beans!  I can buy dry, organic black beans (or pinto beans) in the bulk section of my health food store for about half to one third of what I can buy it for canned.  That’s a BIG price difference!  Also, there’s nothing extra in my beans…I don’t have to worry about the sodium =)  I can make a big batch of beans in my crockpot and then freeze them in convenient packages for later use.

      Here’s what I do.  I fill my crockpots about 1/3 full with beans (this time I did pinto and black beans).  Then I cover them at least one inch over the top, cover, and let them sit overnight to soak (do not turn your crockpot on yet!).  In the morning I drain the beans and add fresh water, this time making sure there is about 2 extra inches of water on the top.  I put the cover on and cook for about 8-9 hours on low.  It really depends on your crockpot though.  One of mine cooks pretty fast and the other much slower.  If you check at 8 hours and the beans are not tender, let them go until they are!  You can add seasoning to them if want to, or just leave them plain to be used in whatever your little heart desires later.  After they are cooked, I divide them up into 2 and 3 cup freezer bags and freeze.  Generally, 1 can of beans equals approximately 2 cups of fresh beans.

      So really, how much work did that take?  And how much money did you save???  And is it healthier?????  It is soooooo worth it!

      March 23, 2010 in Being Frugal, Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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      Potato Skins

      Do you have some extra potatoes around that you need to use up?  Do you want a great snack that freezes well and can be popped out when your friends come over for game night?  Potato skins are a fun, easy treat to make at home.  Don’t think you have to go to your favorite restaurant for them…make them yourself!

      Put whole russet potatoes into baking dishes and roast at 425 for about an hour and a half, or you can microwave them if you are in a hurry.
      When done, slice in half and scoop out insides (you can use these for mashed potatoes!).  Line up skins on a baking sheet.  Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with cheese. You can add some garlic powder, onion powder, or fresh cut chives for that extra zing…..mmmmm.  Broil for 8 minutes, or until crispy and cheese is melted.  Top with sour cream.  You can freeze them and then when you’re ready, just reheat at 450 for 5 minutes.

      March 22, 2010 in Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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      Baked Oatmeal

      This is a wonderful recipe for baked oatmeal that my friend Christy shared with me.  We had it this morning and it was a BIG hit!  It’s on the sweet side, so we didn’t top it with sucanat and we chose to leave off the butter as well.  It was delicious though.  You can also put it together the night before and just bake it in the morning.  We are refrigerating our leftovers for tomorrow’s breakfast.  Enjoy!

      1 C oil
      1½ C sugar (I used rapadura)
      4 eggs
      6 C oats
      4 tsp baking powder
      1 tsp salt (I used Real Salt)
      1 tsp cinnamon
      2 C milk (I used organic fat-free milk)

      Combine all ingredients in order.  Put mixture in a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake at 375 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve topped with butter, brown sugar (sucanat) and milk.

      March 22, 2010 in Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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      Taco Soup/Chili

      Finally, here is the taco soup/mexican chili recipe so many friends have been asking for.  Sorry it took me so long!  It is absolutely YUMMY though, so it’s worth the wait.  I got it from a friend several years back and since then, everyone who has tasted it has loved it.  Definitely a crowd pleaser.  Sorry I don’t have a picture for it yet, but the next time I make it, I will be sure to add one.

      Taco Soup – makes 12 – 1 cup servings

      1 lb. ground turkey or lean ground beef

      1 large onion, chopped

      1 pkg. Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix

      1 pkg. Taco Seasoning mix

      1 can pinto beans

      1 can black beans or kidney beans or chili hot beans

      1 can whole kernel corn

      1 can stewed tomatoes (Mexican flavor)

      1 can stewed tomatoes (any flavor)

      1 8oz container of sour cream

      Brown meat and onions, drain. Mix Ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning mix into meat and put into pot (or crockpot).  Cut up stewed tomatoes into smaller bites, adding to pot.  Then, without draining the cans, add all of the other ingredients.  Stir well and simmer 1 hour, or put in your crockpot on low all day to simmer.

      This is wonderful served with baked tortilla chips and some sour cream on top (or you can stir it in before you serve)!

      March 3, 2010 in Being Frugal, Cooking Fun!, Recipes

      Homemade Chicken Stock

      Let’s just say this….I will NEVER buy chicken broth from the store again.  It is simply a colossal waste of money.  If you roast a chicken, you can make so many different things from it.  Not only do you get delicious chicken for dinner, but you can save the extra chicken pieces for other meals, make gravy, and chicken stock as well.  Here’s how I use my chicken carcass to make my own FREE chicken stock (broth).  The best part….it couldn’t be easier!

      How to Make Chicken Stock

      1.  Save your chicken carcass!  If I don’t have time to make stock right away or if I want to wait until I have another one to make a really big batch, I will throw the carcass in a freezer bag and freeze it to use later.  We usually don’t buy pre-cooked chickens from the store, but since we were so sick this past week, we needed something easy!

      2. Put your carcass into a large stockpot.  Add in several chopped up carrots, celery stalks (leaves and all), 1 or 2 onions (quartered is fine),  parsley, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cover with water.  Note- this is a great way to use those vegetables that are past their prime (not rotten of course), but haven’t been thrown out yet!

      3.  Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer.

      4.  Simmer uncovered at least 4 hours, occasionally skimming off the foam that comes to the surface.

      5.  Strain the stock.

      6.  If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce it by simmering a few hours longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store.

      7.  Pour cooled stock into gallon size freezer bags.  Seal and lay flat on top of each other (takes up less room in the freezer!).  Make sure you label each bag with how many cups it has in it!  Store in the freezer for 6 months.

      March 3, 2010 in Being Frugal, Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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      Garlic Cheddar Biscuits (just like red Lobster!)

      These drop biscuits are simple and quick to make, but really pack a flavorful punch!  If you love the ones from Red Lobster, you will definitely want to give these a try.  Thanks Breadbeckers!

      2 cups freshly milled flour (hard white)

      1 Tbs. baking powder

      1 tsp. salt

      1/4 oil

      1 cup milk

      1-2 cups sharp cheddar (shredded)

      1 tbs. garlic powder

      Mix together dry ingredients (all but cheese), make a “well” in the middle.  Combine oil and milk.  Pour liquid into the well and mix with dry ingredients.  Stir in cheese.  Drop by Tbs. or ice cream scoop onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.  Makes about 1 dozen.

      March 3, 2010 in Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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      Make yogurt in your crockpot!

      Do you spend a ton of money on yogurt from the store?  Do you worry about all of the added sweeteners, dyes, etc.?  Have you ever thought about making your own yogurt?  It’s sooooo easy!  About a year ago I decided that I wanted to make my own yogurt so I started doing some research.  I didn’t want to buy yet another kitchen appliance just for the sake of making yogurt.  Finally, I found a recipe for making it in your crockpot and figured it was worth a shot….and it was!  Well worth it in fact.  It is much cheaper and healthier than most yogurt out there.  You can also sweeten it and flavor it however you want to.  You may decide on honey and granola one day and strawberry preserves the next.  Last, but not least, it is so simple!  Your crockpot does all the work =)  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

      Crockpot Yogurt (from crockpot365.blogspot.com)

      -8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk–pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized. (it’s easier to start with whole milk until you get the hang of yogurt-making, but you can make it with any kind of milk….just know that the less fat in the milk, the thinner your yogurt will be)

      -1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt (you need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter)

      -frozen/fresh fruit for flavoring

      -thick bath towel

      The Directions. (Total cook time 5 1/2 hours then 8 hours overnight insulated)

      This takes a while. I usually start mine around 4 or 5 in the afternoon so it can sit overnight and be done in the morning.

      I used a 6 quart crockpot, but a 4 quart works great too.

      Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

      Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

      When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.  (You can add in some vanilla now too.  Sometimes I will add in a packet of gelatin or some powdered milk to help it get thicker as well.)

      Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel (or 2) all the way around the crock for insulation.  Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

      In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened—it’s not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt.  It does get a little thicker in the fridge.

      Blend in batches with your favorite fruit, jam, honey, agave nectar, granola, whatever your heart desires!   (I don’t mix in anything until we are ready to eat it.  That way you can have tons of different kinds, depending on your mood each day!)

      Chill in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.

      March 3, 2010 in Being Frugal, Cooking Fun!, Recipes
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