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November 2014
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January 2015

Friday Food: Vegan Black Bean Brownies

One brownieThis year I have learned quite a lot about cooking for vegetarian and gluten and dairy free friends. I think I am improving. I had planned on making Vegan Black Bean Brownies yesterday for Toddler Zoe's mum, but the day was just too full of things happening, and I baked them today instead.

They are fabulously easy. I found the tin of black beans at the local organic and natural food shop, along with dairy free vegan choc chips and baking powder. I used an egg, rather than an egg substitute and Australian olive oil, as that's the only oil I had anyway. These are Just So Easy: blend, stir and bake. The original recipe suggests baking in the actual muffin tin, but I don't trust the tins and so I used paper cases and let them sit in the tin after they came out of the oven for a good 30 minutes, They came out of the paper cases very easily and look fabulous. I can't eat them as they have chocolate in them. But I can tell you they smell marvellous!!!

Oh, I don't have any coffee. I can't drink it and so I don't buy it. I doubled the vanilla because I had to leave it out.

I made 8 brownies, and each was a heaped tablespoon (the one that I use for stirring things) so probably 20ml or more. You could also use the black beans as the base and whatever ordinary ingredients you have on hand. These are for MrsDrWho's niece, so I am making sure they tick all her vegetarian boxes and I can use an egg. Also sprinkles?? I think not.

 

Vegan Black Bean Brownies   makes 6-8

  • 1/2 cup drained and rinsed tinned black beans
  • 1 egg substitute or one egg
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 tspn oil, I used olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa or cacoa
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tspn baking powder
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract OR 1/2 tspn coffee granules, 1/2 tspn vanilla
  • 1/2 cup vegan dairy free choc chips, or whatever you have

 

Preheat the oven to 180*C and line a muffin tin with about 8 paper cases.

Blending up the beans

Put the beans, egg, sugar and oil in your food processor. Pulse, or whatever you do, until it is smooth. I could still see black bean pieces, but I thought it was blended it enough. They were very small, about 1mm.

Combining with dry ingredients

Put the remaining ingredients: cocoa, salt, baking powder, vanilla extract and choc chips into a bowl and stir to combine. Mix in the wet batter and fold through until everything comes together.

And all done cooling

Fill the paper cases with a heaped tablespoon of the brownie mix and bake for exactly 17 minutes. I did exactly that, turning the tray half way through. Then cool in the tin once they are out of the oven, for 30 minutes. The paper case peeled off perfectly and they look scrumptious.

I am not sure how long they will keep, maybe a week in the fridge? I don't expect they will need to do very much keeping though.

Vegan black bean brownies

Next Friday is the last Friday Food for 2014. Where has they year gone?? Happy Christmas baking!!!


He Wears 'Core' Blimey Trousers And He Lives In A Council Flat

It's not that I am actually wearing cor blimey trousers, but by jove my core muscles ached last week after going to Exercise Physiology. I am meeting, and now exceeding, the parameters of my usual three exercises, so I asked for a new one. It is like wasabi, deceptively banal: lie on the ground, activate your core muscles about 15% (ie, suck in your stomach a bit and hold it) keep breathing normally and then lift each leg in turn, a little, with a bent knee and slowly lower it back down. I couldn't even poke myself in the ribs gently, let alone have a Labrador or two leap joyously greet me on waking.

There have been quite a few attempts at a Christmas card picture. Gilly keeps looking worried, or sad, or her ears are weird. Peri is photogenic beyond belief and sits there looking poised and perfect. In the end I chose the least weird Gilly photo. Needs must!!!

Photo perhapses

The Labradors went to The Vet to have their weight checked on Saturday. Little did we know it would be Labrador morning!! We met two lovely new Labradors. I do believe that Labradors recognise immediately the innate 'Labradorness' of other Labradors.

Lab saturday 1

No-one barked or woofed or had their hackles up. Instead there was so much tail wagging that I am sure a micro-climate was created inside!! They sniffed and wiggled and generally had a wonderful time.

Oh Labradors at the vet

MrsValley is back from her travels and we caught up for lunch today. It was lovely to see her again. I have been baking and I made some kangaroo biscuits for her. I also experimented with Reindeer 'cookie' sticks. They are not perfect. I didn't have any Smarties for the noses and the pupils are a single 100 & 1000. The warm brown colour looks pink and the sticks are crooked. However, it's a start!! I don't consider them a fail at all.

Baking

The Gradient Beams Cowl is finished all bar the buttons being sewn on. I am very pleased with it, and the Naturally Loyal 10ply worked perfectly. Not too thick, not too heavy, just right!!

Gradient beams 2014

Now I'm crocheting something. My new crochet hook is a delight to use. The handle is cushiony and fits nicely into my hand. You may perhaps guess what it is, generally???

Crochet

MrsDrWho's class made Ungingerbread Houses. They are so much fun to construct and very OTT. MrsDrWho is of the opinion that generally her class doesn't like gingerbread, but they love biscuits!! Win-win.

More Ungingerbread Houses

And here is a not very good photo of my Christmas Dress with extra tree bauble-age. I really like it. I am just accepting that I am no supermodel and I wear things I like. I interfaced the skirt part of the lapped side zip and it sticks out. I need to unpick it and un-interface it. Oh and I need to tie my belt so it doesn't look like a string round a sugar bag- or work harder on my core!!! Other than that I feel very festive wafting about. I have sewn another dress, a cool A-line shift really. My FBA was amazingly easy and worked really well.I did forget to remove the extra seam allowance when I bound the armholes so I need to unbind them and fix that. The back hem dips lower than the front. I need to make a shoulder seam adjustment. Photos to come, because we have a new mirror and can't find a good place to put it. I also read that you should take photos from above, not below, as it is more flattering. I would like to be more flattering!!!

Last but one dress

The weather has been a tad warm, but otherwise deliciously cool, even cold. There were damaging hail storms in the South yesterday, but we only had a five minute downpour. This time last year we were experiencing hellish heat, so we are Very Grateful for the coolness.

Tomorrow I am having a serendipitous hair cut. I went in on the off chance earlier this week and there had just been a cancellation. What good luck!! I am looking forward to a shorter fringe. I can't bear it in my eyes and marvel at people with an uber fashionable fringe-in-their-eyes.

Friday Food: I am thinking of either Christmas Spice Shortbread or Brownie Bites that are dairy and gluten free. And preferences???


Friday Food: White Christmas (no copha!!)

White christmas pieceIt is not that I hate copha, but if I can avoid it, I will. I make my coconut ice with condensed milk and not copha, and so I especially looked for a non-copha White Christmas this year.

The White Christmas doesn't look as pretty as the one with copha, so I topped it off with some extra chocolate and glace cherries.

I think you could add a variety of ingredients: different glace fruits, maybe cranberries and other dried fruits and even red and green candy covered chocolate beanies!! Oh what the heck, I mean Smarties or M'n'Ms!!!

It really is a simple melt and mix treat. I toasted the pistachios and coconut. I thought the coconut had gone too far, but when I tasted it, it was fine. It is a very sweet slice, and so it can be cut into quite small pieces.

This will keep really well for quite a while, weeks in fact, in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

White Christmas    makes 24-36 pieces, depending on how you slice it

  • 500g good white chocolate, melts or a bar
  • 100g red glace cherries, chopped
  • 100-150g shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed rice breakfast cereal (rice bubbles)

Line a 20 x 30cm tin with some baking paper before you start.

Chocolate

Melt the white chocolate slowly and gently, either in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave. Either way, remove from the heat when it is not quite melted and stir till smooth.

Coconut and pistachios

While the chocolate is melting, keep an eagle eye on it, put the pistachios and coconut in a 160*C oven on a lined baking tray for about 6 minutes. I chopped the pistachios roughly after they were toasted.

Mixing

And now it is just a case of adding the glace cherries, nuts, coconut, puffed rice cereal and vanilla extract to the melted chocolate. Gently fold together and then spoon into the lined tin. Press down relatively firmly and then refrigerate and check after about 1 hour. The recipe says longer, but I found it was well and truly set after 1 1/4 hours.

Into the fridge

Cut into squares with a hot knife, and then keep in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

And we're done

I chose to top my White Christmas with extra dollops of white chocolate and glace cherries. I used an extra 125g of white chocolate and 12 glace cherries, halved. I think it looks quite festive.

White christmas


Pop, Pop, UnPopular Music

What lovely weather here: warmish most days, but it has been cool and rainy this evening and Peri and Gilly have been outside playing in the rain. In the mornings it can be cold, and they love a rainy and cold walk the best.

Hello from Peri and Gilly

On Saturday Rafa's Dad and brother and sister (human) came for a walk with us. Everyone went to the top of the Lookout,

Peri at the top

except for Lorelai Gilmore, poor baby. She was stuck at the bottom of the evil and slippery stairs. No amount of coaxing, cajoling or treats would entice her up the horrid stairs. We all come back down again!!

Gilly at the bottom

I currently hold an unpopular and relatively unvoiced opinion. It is about the media reaction to the death of a cricketer. What an awfully sad thing for his family, friends and team- for him to be killed on the pitch in the middle of a game in a freak accident. What I don't understand is the offer of a State funeral, the lowering of flags across the nation and the whole media circus. To me, it seems out of proportion, but then I don't understand the whole male team bonding thing in sport and war. Or Team Australia. I find it exclusive, rather than inclusive. Many people die in the course of their jobs, and I'd like to remember them today. Come home safely from work.

MrsDrWho and other teaching friends are on the home straight now. I make an Advent Calendar each year for MrsDrWho. This year I knitted Santa's Laundry Line, or Dirty Laundry Line 2014 as I named it, after a TV show I quite enjoy.

Dirty Laundry Live 2014

It is a great pattern and filled in my internet-less hours very happily. I sewed a laundry bag and made a little belt and a peg basket too. There is definitely another line of laundry in my future. I knitted in 4ply with 2.5mm needles. Here is the line, thus far, in MrsDrWho's classroom. Each item is accompanied by one or two Lindor chocolate balls!!!

Dirty laundry line

Last week I was so busy with Christmas events and outings that afterwards I went to bed for two whole days to sleep and rest. I made a few little Christmas crafty things.

A few christmas things

Oh I just heard on the radio that the Geminid Meteor shower will be occurring in Australia on the evening of December 13th. Don't look, I can't ever look because I have read The Day Of The Triffids so many times and seen the excellent TV adaptation with John Duttine too many times to count. I worry, irrationally, that the meteors will blind people and triffids will lash everyone with their 'tongues' and then herd them and eat them. No!!!

In a similarly obsessive way I have a new film that I MUST watch to the end to make sure everything works out in the end: All The President's Men. As a plus, it has young Robert Redford ( Red Hot-ford) and young Dustin Hoffman (or should I say Hot-man!!)

There has been knitting: first a DoggyHawk in Noro Kureyon, and Gradient Beams which I am still knitting. It is a 10ply cowl/scarf. I am knitting the scarf part, longways and then you pick up bands at each ends and add buttons. It can be a cowl or a scarf. It is for our Friends' Christmas where we each buy one gift for someone else.

Knitting

I have made a new dress. A Christmas material dress. No matter which way I tried the pattern, I ended up with inappropriate things in the bodice region. Mostly wreathes with a bauble, and believe me, I need no extra embellishment in the 'baub-ular' area!! In the end I cut out some extra Christmas trees and appliqu├ęd them over the wreaths and baubles. I am very happy now and I wore it today. Can you spot the extra trees?? They have no pots.

Dress

I have been doing a lot of reading. Lots of thick Library books came all at once. When I was busy, I was too tired to read my new John Flanagan book. That was very telling indeed. I had to wait a whole week, and I have only read the start.

It must be time for bed. Any minute now Peri will appear at the door way. She will want to go outside to the Forbidden Zone and then have a biscuit for being a good girl and doing a wee before bed!!! Gilly runs up the stairs too. Anything for a biscuit really.

I am not panicking about Christmas this year. Ordinarily I am overwhelmed and the weather is hot and it is all too much. This year I know that if some things don't happen, that's OK!! It was this time two years ago that I was feeling very depressed and low. I like my new attitude and it has been hard work, but worth it. I hope everyone is feeling calm and excited and ready to face Christmas with a smile!!!


Friday Food: Chocolate Gingerbread Biscuits

Chocolate gingerbread biscuitAnd we're back, with some spicy chocolate biscuits for Christmas. I have already made and baked these, so I can vouch for them. I even tasted a tiny corner or two, although they are chocolate and I shouldn't!!

I cut out snowflake and reindeer shapes and decorated them ineptly. I like to think of them as rustic and charming. I really need to improve my decorating skills next year.

 

 

This is an easy and forgiving dough, and it makes a lot of biscuits, more than 40. You can increase or decrease the amount of spice and the recipe calls for cocoa and real chocolate as well. I found whole nutmegs in the baking aisle and so I grated half a small one into the mixing bowl.

It's a little beating and some melting and that's it. The trick is to make sure the dough is cold, and then to put the dough shapes into the fridge again for 20-30 minutes before they go into the oven. This helps them to have a nice crisp cut edge.

You can decorate the biscuits any way you choose, with fondant, or royal icing or glace icing and some sprinkles. The dough will keep well in the fridge, or frozen, and so you can make it way before Christmas and they only take 10 minutes to bake in the oven.

NB An Australian tablespoon is 20ml or 4 teaspoons

 

Chocolate Gingerbread Biscuits     makes 40 or more

  • 180g ( 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 110g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbspn ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tbspn cinnamon
  • 1/2 tspn ground cloves
  • 1/2 tspn ground nutmeg
  • 450g (3 cups) plain flour
  • 60g (1/2 cup) good cocoa. Dutch is good!!!
  • 1 tspn bicarb soda
  • good pinch of salt
  • 60g good dark chocolate
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) treacle or molasses
  • 1 large egg

 

Put the softened butter, brown and caster sugars, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg into your mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until combined and then on a high speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is pale and creamy.

Creaming

While the butter, sugars and spices are creaming, melt the chocolate and treacle together. I use the microwave for 30-40 seconds and then take it out before the chocolate is fully melted and stir until smooth. Allow to cool a little.

Add choc, egg, treacle

Add the cooled chocolate and treacle to the creamed mixture and when it is all combined, add the egg. Beat for another 2-3 minutes.

  Dry ingredients

Measure the flour, cocoa , bicarb and salt into a bowl and sieve or whisk thoroughly. When the batter is pale and fully mixed, turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and then gradually add the dry ingredients.

And the dry ingredients

When it starts to clump, remove the bowl and bring it together with your hands to form a dough. Make into a disc shape and refrigerate in a ziplock bag.

Dough and refrigerate

Take the dough out of the fridge and use a piece about as big as your fist. Roll it out between two sheets of baking paper, this means you don't need to add extra flour, which spoils the dough. It should be about 5mm thick. Cut out shapes and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Pop the tray into the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so. You can cut out lots of biscuits and refrigerate them all at once. While the biscuits are in the fridge, preheat the oven to 170*C.

Rolling and cutting shapes

Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes, I rotated and swapped the trays half way through and my biscuits only took 10 minutes. Cool for a minute on the tray and then transfer to a rack to cool.

And cool and bake and cool again

Decorate with ordinary glace icing, or royal icing, or fondant. Or just eat them as they are: spicy and chocolaty gingerbread. And now you know why I need to be better at piping icing: all those reindeer have Marge Simpson hairdos where there should be antlers!!!

Gingerbread spicy biscuits