Chocolate Torte

IMG_2594Avoiding wheat? Here’s a sweet fudgy treat just for you. My co-worker Nita went the extra mile for my birthday recently, digging around online to find a gluten-free cake option. She lucked out when she stumbled on this treasure, because it’s the rare flourless baked good that actually tastes GREAT!

So many gluten-free cakes and cookies taste like A) glue or B) sand. I’d given up trying to make gluten-free cakes or cookies. Better to just eat a chunk of chocolate or handful of peanut butter M&M’s to assuage the sweet tooth! In fact, another co-worker once texted me, asking what local bakeries had good gluten-free muffins. I texted back, “There is no such thing as a good gluten-free muffin.” Mary’s response was crying laughing emoji and “Seriously, where can I get good gluten-free muffins?” And I texted again, “Good gluten-free is an oxymoron. I’m serious, there is no such thing as a good gluten-free muffin!” (I’m kinda proud of myself for using “oxymoron” in a text. No need to dumb down our vocab just cause we’re using our thumbs, now is there? crying laughing emoji…)

But Nita found an exception to the rule (on allrecipes.com, flourless chocolate cake II), and I think you’ll love this quick and easy recipe as much as I do. I’ve made it a couple times now—for one of our famous November family birthday parties (4 outta 7 have b-days that month), and again for my book club. Raves all around.

Makes 8 Servings

4 – 1-ounce squares semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter, and dust with cocoa powder (this keeps it entirely gluten-free).

Put chocolate and butter in a large glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, and repeat for an additional 30-60 seconds as needed to melt chocolate. In large mixing bowl, combine melted butter and chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla, and stir with wooden spoon until just combined.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve right away with ice cream, or let cook completely and serve next day.

TIP #1: Cover with dish towel or loose foil if keeping overnight. If covered with plastic wrap or tight tin foil, it will get soggy.

TIP #2: Anyone else have trouble cutting brownie-like treats? They seem to get all crumbly and fall apart as you try to slice them, and even the sharpest knife won’t help. My fellow book clubber, Sherie, said she always cuts brownies and gooey bars with a plastic knife, so I tried it. VOILA! It worked like a charm. #kitchenhack

Mexicali Pie

IMG_2275This nummy Mexican-inspired casserole is one of my quick dinner go-to recipes for busy weeknights. We love the spice mix, and that it’s meat, a few veggies, and corn bread all in one meal. But we especially love that it’s great left over, and it travels well in a container, even when in a back pack on Mitchell’s back, jostling around as he rides his bike miles and miles to work. Not every dish can pass THAT test.

This recipe was published some time in 2003 in Family Fun, by Ken Haedrich, a contributing editor to that magazine at the time. He gave a list of spices to mix in, but I use Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning mix to make it easy on myself. I’ll give you the author’s spice mix below, in case you don’t do Penzey’s. (Which is easy to order online, so you totally can…) Note that the recipe called for ground beef, but I make it with either ground beef or ground turkey—both taste great.

I used to make a hot cheddar cheese sauce to ladle on top, but lately I’ve liked the fresher taste of an avocado, Greek yogurt, and some cilantro instead. The cheese sauce is great for comfort food in the winter time, but leads to that dreaded need for an afternoon nap. You know, the food coma. Since work-naps are frowned upon at my place of employment, it’s best to keep with the lighter toppings when bringing this for lunch.

Serves 8-10

Casserole
1½ pound ground beef or turkey
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Penzey’s chicken taco seasoning mix *
2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or 1 (15-ounce) can of corn, drained
2 (14.5 ounce) cans Mexican or chili-style diced tomatoes, or regular diced tomatoes

Corn Bread Topping
1 cup yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

Toppings
Diced avocado
Greek yogurt, or sour cream
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Brown ground beef or turkey in a large non-stick skillet, breaking up as it browns. Use a slotted spoon to transfer all the meat to a mixing bowl. Drain all but about 3 tablespoons fat from pan. Put pan on medium-high heat and sauté onions until translucent. Add green pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and the taco seasoning, and stir and toast spices until fragrant. Stir in corn and tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, cover pan, and reduce heat to low. Return meat to the pan and stir to combine.

Ladle meat mixture into a 9″x12″, 3-quart casserole dish, then make cornbread topping. In mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk egg, milk, and oil in separate bowl. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix on low until blended. Pour batter over the meat mixture and even out with the back of a spoon. Bake for 22 minutes or until topping is golden brown, and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with suggested cold toppings.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: You can make the meat mixture, put it in the casserole dish, and cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Then pull it out and just mix up the corn bread topping, pour it on, and bake.

*If not using Penzey’s taco seasoning, use:
2 teaspoons chili powder
1½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon flour

Date, Cashew, and Coconut Bars

IMG_1550The name says it all…only three ingredients needed to make these delicious Lärabar fake-outs. Having just finished week one of the Whole30 cleanse, I was missing “treats,” meaning bars or cookies, so I went searching for something to scratch that itch. (I know you aren’t supposed to feed your “sugar dragon,” but you are allowed to do snacks for when you’re on the go. So let’s just pretend I’m on the go. A lot.)

I had taste-testers at work and at home try these no-bake bars, giving no explanation other than that they were gluten-free. Everyone who tried them—GF, DF, or not—thought they were really good, and did NOT think they tasted like they were gluten-free. The dates provide both sweetness and glue for the other ingredients, and the nuts and coconuts give them good flavor and crunch. (Since I found this recipe multiple places online, I don’t really know who to give credit to, so pardon me for not citing my source!)

You will need a food processor to mix these, and I don’t think a blender would work as a substitute. These can be pricey ingredients, so I looked around before buying. I found the best price for pitted dates at Costco (if you get your kicks pitting dates, go ahead and do that—I’ve been cooking and chopping my butt off this week, and pitting my own dates would have put me over the edge). I got my raw cashews and unsweetened coconut at Trader Joe’s, as the price was better than Whole Foods or Cub. Next time I purchase ingredients, I’ll take note of the exact prices and figure out how much these cost per bar.

The first time I made these, I used just three ingredients, which worked great. I just made these again, and added the zest and juice of one whole lime, and it helped them stick together better, and made a moister bar. But if you aren’t in the mood for citrus, you can certainly leave that out! Word of warning: you have to keep these refrigerated. They stay chewy if kept cold, and get mushy and fall apart if left at room temp. That’s where packaged Lärabars have these beat—those are more portable.

Makes 12 bars

1 cup whole pitted dates (Medjool or Deglet Noor)
1 cup raw cashews*
1 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
Zest and juice of one whole lime (optional)

Preheat oven to 375º. Layer the raw cashews on a baking sheet, and toast in oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring once. Toast until golden brown. May sprinkle cashews with salt before toasting. Let cool.

Combine all dates, nuts, and coconut in food processor. Add lime zest and juice, if using. Pulse for a couple minutes, until the ingredients are in bits, and start to stick together. (See below.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and transfer date mixture to pan. Push together to form a ball, then flatten into rough rectangle. Place a layer of plastic wrap on top, then continue pressing into a smoother rectangle, until about ½” thick. (See below.) Chill for 30-60 minutes. Cut into bars, and wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store in frig to grab as needed.

*NOTE: Why toast the nuts yourself? Because most pre-roasted nuts are cooked in canola oil, and that’s not Whole30 approved. If you’re making these for a nutritious snack and not as part of Whole30 cleanse, then go ahead and purchase the roasted nuts.

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Rutabaga Whip

FullSizeRender-1Get some variety in your veggies with this easy rutabaga side dish. If you’re Scandinavian, chances are you’ve grown up on this meat-and-potatoes staple, and if you’ve not tried this root vegetable yet, you’re in for a treat. I found this basic recipe in my ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookbook ( you know, the one with the 80’s helmet-haired ladies I’ve mentioned before…). The only trick is letting the rutabaga chunks boil until they are good and tender before adding the potatoes. Rutabaga takes much longer to boil than potatoes do, and it’s tempting to think they are done before they are. We love these as a side to roast pork, smoked ham, or grilled chicken—they just have a little more flavor than plain old mashed taters, and are great when you’re craving some comfort food but want to switch it up a tad. And this may be easy, but it’s still worthy of a place at your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. (Rutabaga whip is pictured here with smoked pork roast, courtesy of my husband, and a golden melon, grapes, and raspberries, drizzled in a simple mint and lime syrup, courtesy of my friend and fabulous cook, Karin.)

As Thanksgiving is approaching, I’m going to be posting some of my favorite holiday side dishes the next two weeks. Most of you probably have your go-to family recipes at the ready—like grandma’s stuffing recipe—but if you’re in the mood to shake it up a bit or add to your répertoire, you’ll have some options.

Serves 6-8

Rating: easy

1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons butter
2-4 tablespoons milk
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Fill large saucepan or small Dutch oven half full with water. Add rutabaga, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt to the water, and bring to a full boil. Reduce to medium heat, and cook rutabaga for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender to a fork. Add in potatoes, and return to a boil. Reduce to medium heat again, and boil for additional 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender when prodded with a fork. Drain off water. Place cooked rutabaga and potato in mixing bowl fitted with wire whisk attachment, or food processor bowl. Add butter and milk, and whip or process until smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Smokey Fifteen-bean Soup

FullSizeRender-1Who loved Campbell’s bean with bacon soup as a kid? One whiff of this 15-bean recipe simmering on the stove top will transport you back to your childhood home, when Mom occasionally served this for lunch with a side of grilled Wonderbread and Velveeta sandwiches. But this hearty gluten-free soup has soooooo much more flavor than the canned variety. It’s also easy and cheap (great qualities in a soup, not great qualities in a woman…)with the shredding of the ham shank being the most time-consuming step—and it’s a budget-buster at about $11-12 a pot. This recipe is off the Hurst’s Hambeens 15 Bean Soup package, and I’ve always made it in a big Dutch oven on the stove top. But on their website, hurstbeans.com, they say you can make this 15-bean soup in the slow cooker (aka: Crock Pot) as well. Maybe I’ll try that next time, so I don’t have to stick around the house on a Saturday, keeping an eye on the pot. Oh, and when you’re shopping for a bag of dried beans, you may run across bags boasting a whopping 16-bean soup mix. But I think that’s taking it just one bean too far, don’t you? Let’s not go crazy, people.

Serves 12-16 (freezes well, if a gallon of soup is too much for you!)

Rating: easy

1 (20 ounce) bag Hurst’s HamBeens 15-bean Soup mix or other brand 15-bean soup mix
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (optional—my addition to Hurst’s original recipe)
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large ham shank* or smoked sausage (leftover ham bone from the holidays works great too!)

Quick cook method: Rinse and drain dry beans, reserving enclosed flavor packet for later use. Place rinsed beans in a large pot with 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours. Stir occasionally. After boiling, add onion, diced tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, garlic, and ham shank (or sausage). Stir. Bring back to a rapid boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove ham shank (or sausage) and let cool on plate. Stir in reserved flavor packet. Once ham shank is cool enough to handle, pull meat off bone, cutting away cartilage and membranes, and dice meat. Add meat back into soup. If using sausage, dice and stir into soup.

*NOTE: Sometimes I have trouble finding ham shanks, so ask your butcher for help if you can’t find them. If you can’t find the ham shank, try it with the sausage. I’ve never tried this recipe with smoked sausage, but I’m sure it would be delicious as well.

Chicken Enchiladas

FullSizeRender-1Fresh cilantro and parsley take these easy enchiladas up a notch in flavor, so much so, that no one will know the main ingredients are store-bought salsa and tortillas. They’re a great make-ahead meal you can refrigerate, then pop in the oven for a simple weeknight dinner. Or dress them up with a side of fresh guacamole and corn chips, plus a green salad, and you’ve got a company meal that wasn’t a ton of work. I got this recipe years ago from a friend who said it came from a low-cal cookbook, but I’ve always used real cheese (not the recommended reduced-fat stuff), and upped the cheese amounts, so I make no claim that this is still a diet dinner.

FullSizeRender-2IMG_1055Make it even easier by grabbing a already-roasted rotisserie chicken, or grill your own chicken breasts or tenderloins for the meat. If neither of those options work for you, fry up your chicken in a pan. Fresh herbs too pricey? You can use dried herbs, but you’ll take a bit of a hit in end-product taste. Fortunately, the lime and garlic will still bring the zip to the recipe, so you’re safe. A blender or food processor is your secret weapon, making short work of the salsa sauce that is the base of this dish.

Not only is this a quick family dinner, it’s a perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for bringing to friends who need a meal post-baby or due to family crisis. Kids will eat it cause the “green stuff” is pulverized into the sauce and won’t offend their picky little eyeballs, and adults love it because it’s not lasagna or spaghetti, the usual drop-off meals. I’ve not yet tried it using corn tortillas instead of flour, but I’m thinking that would sub in nicely for a gluten-free alternative.

2 cups mild salsa (Pace thick and chunky salsa or picante is just fine!)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro)
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
½-1 clove garlic, quartered
4 cooked chicken breasts, cubed, or 8 cooked chicken tenderloins, cubed, or 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded mozzarella or monterey jack cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 flour tortillas or 12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Combine salsa, cilantro, parsley, lime juice and zest, and garlic in blender or food processor, and pulse until sauce is smooth. Mix half of salsa sauce with cut-up, cooked chicken, ½ cup mozzarella, and ½ cup cheddar cheeses in large bowl, and toss to combine. Place about ¼ cup of meat mixture down center of tortilla, roll up, and place seam side down in a 9″x13″ baking dish. Continue with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over the tortillas in pan, and top with remaining grated cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes uncovered. (Can also cover with foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days before baking.)

Three-Bean Turkey Chili Con Carne

FullSizeRender-1It’s safe to say soup season is officially upon us, and this staple chili recipe is perfect for a filling lunch or a hearty dinner when the weather turns nippy. This is such a fave, that frankly, I’m surprised I’ve not posted it yet! Although, I need to give a disclaimer here. It used to be a family favorite for for everyone in our household, but when I first went back to working full-time a dozen years ago, I was hard-pressed to come up with recipes to throw on the table in a hurry after 5 p.m. I had previously been freelancing from home, and could putz in the kitchen between projects. That luxury was lost when I had to be elsewhere from 8-5. Sooooooo… I would whip up a batch of this chili in the evening or weekends to have on hand for dinner. But apparently, I relied on this a little too much, and my sons started groaning, “Chili, AGAIN???”

We took a much-needed break from chili, and I found other recipes I could make in a snap when we needed to eat and run to guitar lessons or hockey practice, etc. (Many of those fast favorites have been posted on this blog.) Were my offspring a little harsh on me regarding this dutiful recipe? I think so. Especially when my son Brandon made this for a church youth group chili cook-off fundraiser, and won the coveted first prize trophy—an ancient can of beans glued to a block of wood bearing a “First Prize” plaque. (Helped that he’s stinkin’ cute and there were lots of teen girls voting…) Who’s dissing my chili NOW, huh?

The original recipe came from my Mom’s friend Arlene, one of those women who always makes great food. I believe she got the recipe from the St. Paul Pioneer Press sometime in the 70’s, but I’m not sure. (Feel free to comment, Arlene!) I’ve altered to suit our changing tastes, and now use turkey instead of hamburger, and have added black beans (unheard of among suburbanites in the 70’s), butter beans, more vegetables, and some additional seasonings. Serve this with the Corn Bread recipe previously posted, and you’ve got a winning combination. Maybe even first place.

Serves 10-12 (But freezes well, if that’s more than you need!)

Rating: Easy

1-1¼ pounds ground turkey (or hamburger)
1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped (optional)
3 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (14.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans with cumin and chili spices (do NOT drain)
2 cans corn
1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
1 (15-16 ounce) can butter beans
1-1½ tablespoons regular chili powder
1 tablespoon chili con carne seasoning (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½-2 teaspoons salt

Toppings

Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped scallions
Sour cream

In large fry pan, cook turkey until no pink remains. Put into large Dutch oven, or other large pot in which you will be simmering your chili. Using same fry pan, sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add green pepper, carrots, and zucchini (if using). Sauté until onions are translucent, and other vegetables are slightly softened.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and black beans to pot with cooked turkey. Stir in sautéed onion mixture. In colander, rinse and drain corn, kidney beans, and butter beans. Once drained, add to pot. Stir in chili powder, chili con carne seasoning (if using), cumin, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to simmer, and cook on low for 30-60 minutes. Serve with toppings. Or store in frig to serve later.

Lime Bars

IMG_1078Feeling citrusy? Try these refreshingly zippy lime bars for a break from all the pumpkin-flavored offerings that take over the world in the fall. These are the same recipe as the lemon bars you’ve all tasted before (they often appear at potlucks or post-funeral lunches), just subbing in lime for the lemon in the same amounts. I won’t give credit to any one source, because it would be easier to tell you who doesn’t post this recipe on their blog or have it printed in their cookbook—that’s how popular it is. I did see one source that suggested the yield was 72 bars. Maybe if you’re feeding mice, you could cut them that small. But not on my watch, no sir! I like my sweets substantial. If your teeth don’t ache from the size of the bar and the concentration of sugar, I’ll hang up my apron for good.

Makes 18-24 bars

Rating: Easy

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 cup butter, cold
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
13  cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
Additional confectioners sugar for topping

Preheat oven to350° Fahrenheit. Combine flour and sugar; cut in butter. Press crust into 13″x9″ pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs on high with whisk attachment until pale yellow. Gradually add sugar, salt, lime juice, and lime zest. Continue beating on high. Pour over hot crust.

Bake another 20-25 minutes until golden brown. May need to cover with foil to avoid over-browning towards end. Dust with confectioners sugar. Cool and cut into bars.

Paper Bag Leaves

IMG_1070Here’s a way to use up extra paper grocery bags AND decorate for fall at the same time. This might even be considered “up-cycling”—the new trend in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” movement. How hip is that? Since most of us have cupboards or closets brimming over with used paper bags, you’ve got most of the supplies you need for this craft already! You might need to pop out to Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s for the paint and brushes, and maybe for some Aleene’s tacky glue or a hot glue gun as well. But these supplies are pretty cheap, so this isn’t a break-the-bank project, even if you didn’t have everything on hand already. Here’s the supply list:

  • Craft paper bags, preferably with twisted raffia handles
  • Twisted raffia cord in natural, if your bags don’t have raffia handles*
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Sponge paint brush
  • 2-ounce bottles of metallic acrylic craft paint (in fall colors)
  • Fall leaves to trace—maple, oak, birch, aspen
  • Hot glue gun or Aleene’s tacky glue (not pictured)

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First step: Take a walk and look for good leaves to use as your patterns. If you want to use these as a grouping on your table, mantle, or whatever surface needs a touch of fall whimsy, try grabbing leaves from a variety of trees. Heck, you could even offer to rake your neighbor’s yard to find some choice specimens!

Once you have your leaves in hand, you’re ready to begin. Cut the paper bag down one side, and cut off bottom. Discard bottom of bag, as the folds and double-thickness make it not usable for this project. (If you think of another use for the bottoms of the bags, please let me know! If I think of a project using bag-bottoms, I’ll be sure to let YOU know.)

IMG_1101Remove handles from bag. (I’ve got a Chipotle bag pictured here, but a lot of places use bags with the twisted raffia cord handles. I suppose this would work with white bags as well as the brown. Would need more paint to cover, probably…) Cut each handle into 4 pieces, for a total of 8. If you’re using purchased twisted raffia, cut pieces 3-4 inches long for leaf stems. (*NOTE: I could not find the twisted raffia cord at Michael’s, Jo-Ann’s, Hobby Lobby, or Walmart, places where I’ve found it in the past. But I did find it online at www.papermart.com.) Set aside.

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Trace leaf shapes onto printed side of bag with a pencil. Trace as many as you want! The bag pictured here would yield you about 8 leaves, perfect for the number of leaf stems you get from cutting up the handles. Making a bunch at a time is easy, and then you’ll have more to work with when decorating later on.

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Next, tear out the leaves along the pencil line. This works best if you use both hands, and keep your thumbs and index fingers tight to the pencil line—that way you will be able to control the tear best, and keep your leaf shape in tact. The leaves look the most natural if you squiggle as you tear. So don’t aim for perfection.

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Glue your stem to the printed side of the leaf, which will be the back side. If you use a hot glue gun to adhere, you can continue on with the project right away, perfect for the impatient crafter. If you use Aleene’s tacky glue, let stems dry for 30-60 minutes before continuing. Aleene’s tacky glue is MUCH preferred over Elmer’s school glue, which takes forever to dry, and makes paper soggy.

FullSizeRender-2Here comes the fun part. Fold your leaf along where the main veins of a leaf would be, and then crumple it. Doesn’t that make it look like a real leaf? Well, you’re getting there. Some paint will help…

 

 

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Paint front side of leaf with metallic acrylic craft paint, let dry a bit, and then flip and paint back side and stem. Once dry, flip and give front a second coat, if needed. I’m using purple paint in this tutorial so it shows up against the craft paper, but for my leaf grouping, I used gold, bronze, copper, rust, burgundy, and dark green. (See final picture.)

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Once, your leaves are dry, you will need to crease at veins and crumple again.

Place all your leaves in a grouping in your fall display, and enjoy! And when it’s time to put these away and pull out the Christmas decorations, throw these in a Ziplock bag or a box, and they will be ready for service next fall. I’ve had the leaves you see (pictured last) for about 15 years now. I came up with this project when we needed a cheap fall craft for kids ages 6-12 at my kid’s school one year, and it was a hit. But there’s no reason to let the elementary crowd have all the fun! Make your own batch and enjoy fall colors indefinitely.

Black Bean Brownies

IMG_1093If it wasn’t in the title, you wouldn’t believe the secret ingredient in these moist and chocolatey gluten-free brownies was a can of black beans! I found this recipe on food.com, and it  had been raved about by many-a reader. I’m experimenting with a gluten-free diet, and have been going crazy for some baked goods, preferably something that didn’t taste like ground chalk had been used in lieu of flour. (Those of you who’ve had to avoid gluten for a while know what I’m talking about…) This looked intriguing, and as it only makes a 9″x9″ pan, I figured I didn’t have much to loose if they were nasty. But surprise, surprise! They weren’t a waste of ingredients or time—they went together in just minutes, and tasted pretty good.

IMG_1080The first time I made these, I added both a teaspoon of baking soda and baking powder to the mix, as other reviewers suggested it would make them more cake-like. That was too much leavening, and they tasted metallic. (They also sunk in the middle, another sign of too much soda or powder.) I dusted them with powdered sugar instead of frosting them, and as my co-worker Darin said, they looked so rich and dark, you expected a little more chocolate taste than you got. (Darin is SUCH a whiner… Not!) So the next time I made them, I frosted them with half a recipe of buttercream frosting (from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa container), and that gave me the rich chocolate flavor I was lusting after. Using only 1 teaspoon baking soda worked better, too. The next time I make them, I think I’ll try them without any soda, and see if they come out fudgey, or just gooey. 

Note that you will need a blender or food processor to have success with this batter, and you’ll want to puree until no grains of bean remain before baking. Other than that, this recipe is a piece of cake! Or more accurately, a chunk of brownie. 

1 (15½ ounce) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
3 eggs
3 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup sugar

Buttercream frosting

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until completely pureed. Pour into a greased 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ cake pan or baking dish. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting or cutting.

For frosting, cream butter in medium mixing bowl, using wire whisk attachment for mixer. In separate medium-size bowl, combine powdered sugar and cocoa. Add about half of sugar and cocoa to creamed butter, then drizzle some milk into bowl and stir. Add the rest of sugar/cocoa, and the vanilla, and as much milk as needed to make frosting a good spreading consistency. Frost cooled brownies. Lick bowl, spatula, beaters, etc. Wipe face to remove evidence.