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, 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.

Split Pea Soup

IMG_0775Some find the color off-putting. In fact, I almost posted this split pea soup recipe sans photo, as it isn’t likely to win any beauty contests (unless it could really nail the talent competition). But those who can get past the unappealing color are rewarded with a healthy, hearty, full-flavored soup. We have a pot of this in the frig at least once a month, making for an easy lunch at home or work. It doesn’t magically appear in the refrigerator, lest you think we have a shoemaker-and-the-elves situation in our kitchen. No, it takes a couple hours to make, but it’s not hands-on labor. You get it simmering, and let it be.

I used to only make this soup when I could beg the ham bone off my mother after she’d hosted Christmas or Easter dinners. Then I discovered most grocery stores carry ham shanks just for making soup. Who knew? Now I make this high-fiber soup outside of holiday seasons. Making it yourself means you can control the sodium, a problem with the canned varieties. Making it yourself also means you’re saving big bucks—this is another soup that figures in at about a buck a bowl. Budget buster…BAM!

If a gallon of soup is more than you can handle, no worries. This soup freezes really well. You can have some now, and save some for later. I usually give a quart to my son Justin, who lives on his own, or my co-worker Annette, who loves it as much as we do. Just spreading the love. Oh, and where’d I find this recipe? In my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, copyright 1981. It’s the one where the homemakers are rockin’ really hot helmet hair-dos as they assemble Jell-O molds. 

Serves 8-10

1 pound bag dried green* split peas, rinsed and drained
8 cups water
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon marjoram or summer savory
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 ham shank (or ham bone)
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 stalks celery, washed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In Dutch oven, combine dried peas, water, onion, bouillon, marjoram, pepper, and ham shank. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove ham bone and let cool. Add carrots and celery. Bring to boiling again, then reduce to simmer for additional 30 minutes. Once bone is cool enough to handle, remove meat and coarsely chop. Return meat to soup and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

*NOTE: I once tried the yellow split peas, thinking it would be a fun change of pace. It was the most sickening shade of pale chartreuse I’ve ever seen. You practically had to close your eyes to eat it. Never again.