dairy-free

heart-shaped Black Bean Brownies for Valentine's Day

Share the Love (and a Brownie) on Valentine’s Day!

Tomorrow is the big <3 day and I like to make something special for the Valentines in my life.  This year, I am sharing my recipe for Black Bean Brownies, which I made and cut into heart shapes for each of the four boys that light up my life!  Love you guys!

 

If you are still looking for a special treat to share with your loved ones, this one is easy to whip up.  All of the ingredients get dumped into a food processor or blender and mixed together.  Just be sure to plan ahead because it needs to bake for an hour and a half, a bit longer than a usual brownie.  But it will be worth it, I promise!

 

February is also Heart Health Month.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.  That’s a scary statistic.  But what makes it less scary is that YOU CAN PREVENT IT by making healthy food choices.  And the biggest diet change that you can make to lower your risk of heart disease is to lower your cholesterol by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.  This recipe for Black Bean Brownies is packed full of heart-healthy ingredients – black beans, nuts (in the form of almond butter), ground flax seeds, dried cherries, even the chocolate!  All of these will help your heart to keep on ticking.  And you can still feel like you are indulging in a well-deserved sweet.  You’re welcome 🙂

 

You could make this dessert even prettier by serving it with some fresh strawberries or raspberries or some homemade whipped cream on top.  My big Valentine is traveling for work this week and one of my little Valentines is home sick from school so we are keeping things simple around here.  No time for whipped cream!

 

But, as usual, I hope that you take the recipe and make it your own!  Be sure to share in the comments if you try out any fun variations!

 

 

Black Bean Brownies
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups canned black beans, drained
  2. 3/4 c pitted dates (about 12 dates)
  3. 2 tablespoons almond butter
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. ½ cup cocoa powder
  6. 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  7. 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  8. 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  9. ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (less if you don’t like it too spicy)
  10. ½ cup dried cherries, chopped
  11. coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
  12. dark chocolate chips (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with coconut oil and set aside.
  2. Blend the beans, dates, nut butter, and vanilla in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the cocoa powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon, and cayenne and blend again. Add the dried cherries and pulse until combined.
  3. Transfer batter to prepared pan (batter will be very thick). Press down until evenly distributed. Sprinkle coarse sea salt on top of batter and press lightly so that the salt sinks into the batter. If desired, you can also sprinkle some dark chocolate chips on top and press these into the batter.
  4. Bake for 1 ½ hours. Cool completely before cutting into brownies. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *Be sure to use canned black beans for this recipe. I usually like to use dried, soaked, and cooked black beans in my recipes but the brownies turned out too dry and crumbly when I used my dried beans.
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/

 

snowy trees in winter

Winter Comfort Foods

This is usually about the time of year when I start to feel like winter lasts forever and there is no end in sight.  Especially when the groundhog predicts 6 more weeks of winter!  Luckily, as with most problems in my life, I can usually find a way to fix it with food.  😉 

 

But, seriously, I know that a lot of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (or more aptly referred to as “SAD”).  I do, too.  I mean, sure, I try to tell myself things like, “The trees look so pretty all covered in ice!” or “Another snow day means I get to spend more time connecting with the kids!”  And those things are true and they even work to cheer me up for a while.  But, at this point, I am just done. with. winter.  

 

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system.  Moving on!  And since winter is certainly not done with us just yet, we all need to find ways to keep looking on the bright side!

 

I’ve started thinking of wintertime as a hibernation period for myself.  A time of year where I allow myself to sleep more, slow down, do less, read more, and eat lots of comforting food.  Warmer, flavorful meals that fill your body up and leave you feeling better about life.  Sometimes, this is in the form of a dessert.  But, more often, it is in the form of a soup or stew or – my new favorite this winter – a curry dish.  If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve been trying out lots of curry dishes this year! 

 

Today I am sharing two comfort food recipes that I hope will help you (and me!) get through the next 6 weeks of winter.  The first recipe is for a slow cooker butternut squash soup.  I made this recipe over the holidays when our family was all in town visiting and came over to our house for dinner and a gift exchange.  I have a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when it comes to parties and gatherings so I love to choose slow cooker recipes that can be prepared earlier that morning or even the night before.  That way, when the guests are mingling and talking and laughing, I can be right there with them instead of being stuck in front of the stove stirring a pot or putting the finishing touches on a fancy dish. 

 

For this particular recipe, you can peel and chop the ingredients up to a day ahead of time and put them right in the crockpot to store in your fridge overnight.  In the morning, just add the liquids, pop the crockpot insert into your slow cooker and turn it on.  Even if you’re not entertaining, this is a great way to have a warm, comforting soup ready for you when you get home from work on a cold, winter weeknight!

 

 

If you’ve never prepared a butternut squash before, or just wondered if there is a “right” way to do it – there’s not.  But here is how I like to break it down when I need a peeled and cubed butternut squash for a recipe.

 

 

If you do end up trying this butternut squash soup recipe, I highly recommend topping it with these chickpea “croutons” from My New Roots.  We love making these for soup or salad toppings, or even just to have around for a healthy snack!

 

 

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 6 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  2. 3 carrots, chopped
  3. 1 cup scallions, shallots, or mild onions
  4. 8 fresh sage leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried sage)
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
  6. 3 cups vegetable broth
  7. 1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk
Optional toppings
  1. roasted pumpkin seeds
  2. crumbled bacon
  3. yogurt
  4. roasted chickpeas
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  2. Remove from heat and blend soup using an immersion blender until smooth. Serve with the toppings of your choice. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. Makes: 6-8 servings
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/

 

The second recipe that I am sharing today is for Vegetarian Loaded Baked Potatoes.  This is another great example of a healthy version of a comfort food that will leave you feeling full and satisfied!  

 

 

Vegetarian Loaded Baked Potatoes
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Ingredients
  1. 6 large potatoes, scrubbed
  2. 1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  5. ½ cup onion, diced
  6. ½ cup carrot, diced
  7. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  8. 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  9. 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  10. 1 tablespoon honey
  11. 1 teaspoon chili powder
Optional toppings
  1. sour cream
  2. shredded cheddar cheese
  3. chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and pierce with a fork on all sides. Bake for 45-60 minutes, turning once, until tender when pierced with a fork or knife.
  3. Place lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer gently, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Strain off any extra liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the pepper, onion, carrot, and garlic until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, soy sauce, honey and chili powder and simmer for 15 minutes, until sauce has thickened and reduced slightly.
  5. Add cooked lentils to tomato mixture and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes, or until mixture is warmed throughout.
  6. Cut a slit in each potato and top with vegetable-lentil mixture. Top with additional toppings, if desired. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. Makes: 6 servings
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/

 

For the rest of this cold winter, you will find me warming up in the kitchen next to our woodstove cooking something comforting and delicious…

 

What is your favorite winter comfort food?