Friday, September 27, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Black Bean and Avocado Brownies

I woke up earlier than usual this morning and I just couldn't go back to sleep. So what did I do? I baked some brownies! I tried a recipe for healthy brownies that I found through Pinterest. The pin originated from Bakeaholic Mama. This gluten free, protein filled, coffee-laced brownie will get you through your chocolate cravings without ruining your diet. Sounds too good to the true, right? I was a little skeptical as well, but I was won over as soon as I added the cocoa powder to the batter!

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 avocado
2 eggs
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Gather all your ingredients:

I forgot to photograph the eggs. Poor eggs! Leaving out an ingredient seems to be my M.O.
Note: I highly recommend Pernigotti cocoa powder. It's really made the difference in my chocolate baked goods. Also, I used crunchy peanut butter, since that's what I had on hand. I am sure creamy would be just as delicious, if a little less nutty. If you'd like you can also add a pinch of ground cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon). I did! It doesn't flavor the batter, so much as add an extra layer of "something special" to the brownies.Having tried these brownies before I also new to reduce the instant coffee from 1 tablespoon to 2 teaspoons.

I drained and rinsed the black beans and dropped them into the food processor with half an avocado. Make sure your canned black beans aren't flavored, otherwise your brownies will taste like garlic and onion. Puree until smooth.

Weird combination for brownies, right? Don't worry, it will get worse before it gets better. Hang in there, it will be worth it!
Transfer the pureed mixture from the food processor to a bowl. Mix in the eggs, honey and peanut butter.
Hint: spray a little non-stick into your measuring cup so that the honey and peanut butter slide right out. Otherwise it can get a little messy.

The original recipe did not specify if we should mix by hand or mixer so I used my mixer. This is what the mixture looks like after blending:

I know, not pretty. It has a horrible green/ brown color that looks good on no one and nothing! Add the cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, cinnamon, and coffee. It will immediately transform the batter!

Beat until smooth. Can you tell the difference? The cocoa powder and coffee really brought it to life!

Bakeaholic Mama recommends you transfer the mixture into a 8x8 greased pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I decided to bake them as cupcakes or muffins. My goal was portion control! I filled the cupcake molds to the very top and baked them for 18 minutes. Remember every oven is different so your timing may vary. Adjust accordingly.

This is the final product. I saved the brownies for an after dinner surprise and served them with a scoop of my healthy banana ice cream. (I omitted the coffee from the ice cream recipe so I wouldn't have coffee overload with coffee flavored desserts.)

Looks delicious, right? It's cause they are! I couldn't even taste a hint of the avocado or beans. Instead I tasted mocha deliciousness! These healthy brownies are perfect for people who love a strong coffee flavor in their baked goods. If that's not your cup of tea, or in this case coffee, you may consider reducing the amount of coffee. If you are really watching your sugar intake you could probably get away with reducing the amount of sugar as well. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Sweet Potato and Halloumi Burgers

After last week's recipe I had plenty of leftover halloumi cheese. I didn't want the cheese to go to waste so I scoured Pinterest for an interesting halloumi cheese recipe. I didn't want to fry or grill the cheese, as I had last week; I wanted to find a different use for the cheese. I found my something different in The Purple Pumpkin blog. Here Michelle makes a sweet potato and halloumi cheese burger. Since David loves sweet potatoes I thought I'd give it a go.

  • 450g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped 
  • 225g halloumi with chilli (or plain halloumi and ½ fresh red chilli, chopped), grated 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed 
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped 
  • 2 tbsp wholemeal flour 
  • Olive oil
I am no mathematician so I used Gourmet Sleuth's gram conversion calculator to make sense of the gram measurements  The halloumi cheese was easy, since the package was measured in grams. Based on the conversion calculator I figured 450 grams of sweet potato is just about 3 1/2 cups.
Also, for the wholemeal flour I used whole wheat flour and I subbed out the spring onions for green onions. I also added red pepper flakes and paprika to the mixture.

Peel, chop, and boil your sweet potatoes. Try to cut them into roughly the same size, so they cook at the same time. 

Meanwhile grate the cheese, crush your garlic, chop your green onions. 
Once the sweet potatoes are fork tender drain and mash. I didn't go too crazy with the mash, I wanted to leave a little texture for a heartier patty.


Please forgive me pot, clearly it's seen better days! As long as it works I will continue using it!

Once the mashed sweet potatoes have cooled a little, add the cheese, garlic and onions. FYI my halloumi did not have chile, so I added red pepper flakes and a pinch of smoked paprika to the mix. It will look something like this:

Form into patties. Cover and chill in the fridge so they meld and hold their shape while cooking. 

Cook them with a little olive oil. They can come apart as you cook them, so be careful. You can bake them in the oven, but I don't think they will get the same sear and crunch. If you'd like to bake them preheat your oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 10-15 minutes. 

I ate my sweet potato and halloumi cheese burger wrapped in lettuce. I was inspired by In-N-Out's animal style, protein style burger. I added pickles for crunch and a little mayo mixture for an extra layer of flavor. I just mix a spoonful of mayo with a few drops of Sriracha and a little seasoning salt.

Verdict: The sweet potato and halloumi cheese patty was a little soft, the texture will not leave you thinking "humm I wonder if this is a meat patty," but it is super delicious. David and I both loved the burgers. Next time I will probably form and fry them as cheesy, sweet potato tater tots. I think the soft texture might be better in that format. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Halloumi Taco

I’m a Pinterest addict. There, I’ve said it. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. *Stretches, shakes off the old* Ahhh, that felt good. Now that I have that out of the way I can move on to the wonderful recipe I found on Pinterest! Pinterest is one of my favorite places to discover new foods and recipes. If you haven't tried it yet you should sign-up for an account today! See how I did that ;) *Muahahahahahaha*

A few weeks ago I stumbled across this pin. The pin originated from The Design Files Daily’s Tasty Tuesday Sandwich Club by Matt Wilkinson of Pope John.
Matt's recipe introduced me to a few new ingredients:
  • Halloumi cheese- A Cypriot gourmet cheese made from a mix of sheep's and goat's milk. It has a higher melting point than other cheese which makes it a WONDERFUL cheese for grilling and frying. OMG!!! When I discovered this I was immediately hooked! Plain halloumi is firm, salty and a bit rubbery; think thick feta. It has an odd texture uncooked, I wouldn't recommend to eat it this way. Cooked, the saltiness fades into a strong savory bite, with a slightly creamy texture. Now that's the stuff! Yummy!!!
  • Dukka- An Egyptian side dish consisting of a mixture of herbs, nuts, usually hazelnut, and spices. It is typically used as a dip with bread or fresh vegetables, and eaten as an hors d'Ĺ“uvre.
  • Chilli jam- Um jam and chile? I’d never heard of it, but I was willing to give it a try. I didn't need to research this one, it was pretty straight forward. Jam= sweet. Chile= HOT!
Here’s the original recipe:
  • 2 Barham Avocados (reed variety)
  • 12 slices of halloumi
  • ½ bunch coriander (roots removed, then wash three times and pat dry)
  • 4 tsp Egyptian dukka
  • 4 tbsp Cunliffe & Waters tomato chilli jam
  • 8 slices Phillipa’s bakery wholewheat and honey bread
What I did differently:
  • I used Hass Avocados. 'Cause it hass to be hass! Too corny? Sorry, I just can’t help it sometimes!
  • I used spinach instead of cilantro (what Matt calls coriander). I forgot to pick some up so I worked with what I had on hand. I considered using basil but I worried the flavor would overtake the cheese.
  • Couldn't find Dukka in any store, so I skipped it. If I ever find it I will definitely use it, it may add an extra dimension of flavor to this recipe.
  • I used Tabasco: Spicy Pepper Jelly instead of Cunliffe & Waters tomato chilli jam. Sometimes you gotta work with what you can find at the supermarket. 'Nuff said.
  • Instead of sliced bread I used naan. I liked the idea of eating it like a taco.
Do whatcha' like. Follow the original recipe or follow mine or invent your own recipe. Your taste buds be your guide let.  Yes, hmmm. <(-_-)>

This was a really easy and super delicious meal, I would highly recommend you give it a try.

First I gathered my ingredients. Mise en place and all that jazz:

I then sliced the halloumi and, in a pan with a little oil, fried it.

I had a little help today. Now that's the way to cook, with a handsome man by your side!

While David fried the cheese I smashed the avocados in a bowl. If you don't know how to cut and peel an avocado see this tutorial. Season with salt and pepper. Go easy with the salt because this cheese is really salty. I also heated the naan 'a la tortilla style, straight on the burner of my gas stove. Just watch out when you flip them, they get really hot!

Once the naan is nice and warm I slathered on the smashed avocado, followed by some pepper jelly.

At that point the cheese was ready to go so I layered cheese on one side of the naan, spinach on the other. Taco style.
That's it. It's ready to go into your mouth!
Doesn't it look yummy? If you said yes, then you would be correct. Easy, yummy and totally different.

Lessons Learned
  • Have no food earlier in they day. You want as much room as possible in your tummy when you eat your halloumi sandwich. I could eat the fried cheese on it's own, it's that good. But the other ingredients take it to a whole 'nother level!
  • The pepper jelly wasn't too hot. David actually added Sriracha (what my sister-n-law calls cock sauce, due to the rooster on the bottle). It might be that another brand of chile jam or pepper jelly is spicier, so feel free to branch out a little and adjust accordingly.
  • Next time I will try it with cilantro, I think it might add a nice layer of flavor.
  • I've made this recipe twice and found that some brands of halloumi cheese are firmer than others. Try to use a firmer cheese. It makes the frying process much easier. If it's too soft it will melt away as you fry it. The brand I showed in the pic (Christis) fried really well. Also, don't slice your cheese too thin.
Off to Greece via my halloumi cheese taco. Now that's the way to travel!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Mocha Banana Ice Cream

I have a weakness for ice cream. If there's ice cream in the house I'm gonna know about it and I'm gonna eat it! Any type of ice cream will do! I'm no ice cream snob! Gelato, sorbet, frozen yogurt, soft serve, even shave ice, with, of course, a scoop of ice cream underneath. It all tastes good to me! As you can imagine this isn't exactly a healthy habit, so in an effort to combat my icy sweet tooth I've started to make frozen banana ice cream. The taste and texture is very similar to ice cream and it's a much healthier option. What more could a girl ask for?
There are a lot of recipes out there, but with a few modifications I have found the combination that works for me. And because I like you guys I will share it with you!
3 large ripe bananas
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of instant coffee granules

Select three bananas. Not too ripe, or the banana flavor will overpower the entire ice cream. Not too firm, or it won't blend to a creamy consistency. Channel your inner Goldilocks. Find the bananas that are just right, the median of those two extremes.

Slice your bananas and freeze them for at least 2-3 hours. If you blend them too early you will end up with banana pudding instead of banana ice cream. I tend to freeze them overnight and make ice cream the next day.

Place your frozen bananas in your food processor. Blend them until smooth.

About half way through it will have course crumb texture. Just scrape down the sides and keep on blending.

When you see it come together and take on a creamy texture it's ready for the next set of ingredients. 

Now add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and coffee.

Blend to mix. That's it, you've just made ice cream.

See how easy that was? And it doesn't even taste like banana. It tastes like mocha heaven!
You can eat it right away, it will just be on the softer side. Or you can freeze it for an hour or so and eat it later. If you freeze it longer than an hour, let it sit out on your counter for a while or it won't be very "scoopable."

This will produce enough for 2-4 servings, depending on what you consider a normal ice cream serving size. Of course you can double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe to your ice cream delight!

It is really easy to modify this recipe. Increase the peanut butter for a sweeter, creamier mixture. Sweeten with honey or agave instead of peanut butter. Add almond or soy milk to make it creamier. Change the ice cream's flavor by adding different types of fruit, e.g. strawberries, mango, etc. Add nuts for texture.
For what it's worth I've tried strawberries and the water content lead to an icier ice cream. So if you eat it immediately it's good, but if you freeze it and eat it later it's not as creamy.