Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beany Brownies & Minty Avocado Frosting

EEEUUW! Black bean brownies with avocado frosting? My reaction exactly when I googled "St. Patrick's Day recipes" and dialed in on "dye-free green food" and  this recipe appeared. We were invited to dinner, and our contribution was to be dessert following the traditional corned beef and cabbage fare. Gotta have green, right?

Of course the first recipes that appeared were for mint and chocolate swirl brownies with the full load of flour and sugar and green food coloring. No thanks. I'm ready to try something new. Black beans and chocolate had an odd appeal. Like, let's go on vacay in the kitchen and sample a different reality. 

PK was doubtful. He asked what we could bring as a back-up, and called me on my cell in the grocery suggesting I pick up some good ice cream and chocolate. He of little faith!

I made the brownie recipe exactly as directed. It is thin but moist and tasty. No beans can be detected. Next time I may add more chocolate. I made significant alterations to the frosting recipe, however. But still, to me it looked like guacamole smeared on a bean cake.

PK pledged not to divulge the key ingredients until after everybody had tasted. To our delight and surprise, the dessert was a hit! It was fun to reveal that beans replaced flour and that the green frosting was avocados. 

Don't wait for next St Pat's day to try this. It's easy and delish and gluten free, if you care about gluten. I think the frosting needs the powdered sugar, but the brownies could probably get by on Splenda or some other sugar sub. Have fun! And don't let the eaters in on the beans and avo secret until they're praising your culinary chops.

Beany Brownies 

  • 1 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sweetener (I used half Splenda and half sugar to make a mounded 1/2 cup
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 square baking dish with cooking spray. 
  2. Combine the rinsed beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, sweetener and baking powder in a blender and mix until smooth. The mixture will be thick.
  3. Scrape into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until the top is dry and edges start to pull away from the sides. Check after 25 minutes.

Minty Avocado and Lemon Frosting

  • 1 medium/large avocado
  • 1 tbsp softened butter
  • 2 tbsp (or more) softened cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch salt
  • finely chopped fresh mint to taste (1 tsp to mix in, the rest for sprinkling on top)
  • a couple of whole mint leaves per brownie for garnish
  • chopped nuts (optional)
Use a mixer with whisk attachment or an immersion blender (my choice) to mix the avocado, butter, cream cheese, mint, salt, and lemon juice. Add the powdered sugar slowly until incorporated. If the frosting is too thin, blend in more cream cheese. Remember the frosting will become firmer after refrigeration. Keep the brownies and the frosting refrigerated and separate until shortly before serving. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if using, and mint. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Girlfriends' Getaway to the Oregon Coast

Sunshine at the gorgeous Oregon coast with women who have shared decades of friendship celebrate birthdays (3 turn 60 this year) and the joy of life. Left to right, Nancy Fleischman, Marcy Landis, Paula Stone, Joanne Costantino, Gail Frank, Mary Walgrave, Dawn Welch, Chris Costantino, Pat Bange. In case you're wondering, I was behind the camera. But happily!
Girlfriends can be the healing balm for life's cruel wounds. Sob. They can provide shoulders for weeping, hands for holding, and ears for floods of feelings and fears. They will listen to your bitching, commiserate when you have woes, and nod in agreement when you need holding up. We need each other.

On the other hand, girlfriends can also be fantastic, crazy, epic FUN! I am so blessed with friendships, many of 30, even 40 years, duration. Too many girlfriends are far far away: Susan(s), Grace, Bev, Laurie, Patty, Terry, Jeanne, JoAnn, Michele, Margo—but I wish they all could have been along for the friendship ride the past weekend. Below are a few of way-too-many photos. If you want more, links to albums follow.
Making our way from our fantastic oceanfront rental near Bandon to our private beach. Actually, there's  no such thing as a private beach in Oregon because some long-ago visionaries, to whom we are forever grateful, went to the trouble to make sure nobody can "own" one. But access to this beach is limited, hence it was ours alone. The 30-second video below tells the tale. I haven't learned to edit videos, but most of it is lovely.

The HuffPost ran a recent blog entitled Five Reasons Why Every Woman Needs a Girls' Weekend.  The woman who wrote it is a lot younger, apparently, than our group as she included "boy talk" as a reason. We don't need no stinkin' men to have a great time, and we don't need to talk about them, either. (Ironically, many of us became friends because of our husbands' annual men's trip, going now on for 30 years! The same 10 guys. Remarkable, I think. I am so happy for PK that he has these long-term lifeline friendships. Just like most women I know.)

Friendship and fun. That's the story for the female flock pictured above. We had a couple new faces and were missing several regulars. (Don't worry. We toasted you all. More than once, I'm sure.) Speaking of toasting, we drink a lot of wine. One friend told about girl trips she's taken where the mostly retired-teacher participants drink very little. Instead they smoke pot. Ha!

Historically, this groups heads over to Mt. Bachelor near Bend, Oregon, to ski for a few spring days. But over the years, skiing became less attractive to some, and we shook out into two groups: skiers and shoppers. A coast trip brought us together. And then some.
Paula enjoys a little solitude.

Patty, Mary and Nancy yuck it up.

The Rental. Even better than it looks, and with a stunning ocean view.
Shore Acres state park is just down the road . We enjoyed the formal gardens and
the wave-lashed cliffs.
It was a jungle gym with little girls cavorting. Little girls ages 50-something to almost 70.
Gail had the idea for us to catch some Dungeness crabs with hopes of having a great appetizer, but no such luck. Lucky, however, for the two crabs of legal size that we  ended up liberating. 
Waiting to pull up the crab pots on a pier in the port of Charleston. A little beer and some really terrible but tasty junk food—jalapeno cheese crunchy thingies—helped pass the time. 
Patty's eye beams penetrate her sunglasses as she clutches her beer
and calls forth the crabs.
The Stone sisters check out the latest crabby bunch hauled up from the bay bottom. 
Just one steep slippery patch required we accept assistance at the bottom of the trail to the beach. Alpha women do not like to accept assistance. But it seemed preferable to a red-dirt butt.

Tossing a baci ball onto the beach for our upcoming game.
Throwing into the wind on a beach sloping to the sea complicated baci ball accuracy.
About 10 minutes of relaxation before moving on to the next fun thing. I think it was shopping.
Yes, we are women and we do shop. A group feeding frenzy in a chic boutique made for a happy shop owner and heated-up credit cards. There's something about trying on a garment that costs way too much, then parading before your friends to a chorus of ooooohhhhs and aaaaahhhhhs. Anyway. I have three new tops. I think I need to revisit the year during which I bought nothing new, except, of course, for food and sanitary supplies.

We made a haul shopping on a blustery afternoon at Devon's Boutique 
in Bandon, a surprisingly classy shop for a tiny coastal burg.

Learning the electric slide, one more time.
Gourmet meals are part of the deal in a take-turns cooking plan where two-person teams each plan and make one meal. This is a French fish stew called bouride. Fabulous. Thanks, Dawn and Patty.
The birthday girls in a blurry shot. Only a few days, weeks, or months
remain for them to enjoy being 50-something. Someone else is enjoying her last
months of separation from being 70. Moi. 
Frenetic game of pass-the-paddle ping pong. 
Gail was one of three birthday girls during the "year of the horse." 
Group dance to Mustang Sally made for lots of trotting action to Wilson Pickett's beat.
Wanna see more pics? Here you go.  And more? They just keep going. One more?  Clearly, I was out of control.