Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homemade Refried Beans

I've mentioned before that I tend to hang on to everything. My sister is always encouraging me to de-clutter my house by getting rid of anything I'm not using. I donate a lot, every month we have stuff to give away, but my argument for keeping some things is that maybe someday I can repair or re-purpose them. And it does happen... occasionally.

Last night my teen and I were gathered around the kitchen island developing a recipe for homemade re-fried beans. We would add an ingredient, pulse the processor, taste the result and repeat. About halfway into the recipe I pushed the button to combine the most recent addition and the processor did not whir into action. I unplugged it, plugged it back in, pushed every button combination possible, and still nothing. Normally, at this point I would lovingly pack up the machine and find a spot for it in my Appliance Graveyard, also known as the garage, hoping to have it repaired in the future. But this time I decided I was just going to face the fact that I'll never get it repaired, because it's already 10 years old and I'd probably have better luck just buying a new model. So, I picked up the heavy, motor-containing base and hauled it straight to the 96 gallon garbage can that had just been emptied that morning.
It made an awful bang and a crunch as it hit bottom. I hate to admit that the sound was sort of satisfying, since after all, it was its fault that I'll be mashing and stirring by hand for another 30 minutes. But at the same time I felt a pang of guilt for not giving my faithful KitchenAid processor its rightful spot on the retired appliance shelf.

Of course, there's no turning back now, so I returned to the kitchen for the accessories and tossed them in, with slightly less aggression.
Now, washed up and back to mixing, my teen and I discussed the sadness I felt over the sudden loss of my food processor. Okay, he looked at me like he was evaluating which level of security I'd qualify for in the loony bin, as I babbled on about how it had been a good machine for all these years, but it had a couple things I didn't totally love, but it always made a great pie crust...
Finally, the mixing was over. We had tasted and adjusted the re-fried beans to our liking, and now it was time to make some cheese and bean tostadas. I pulled my favorite (20 year old) griddle down from the top of the fridge and plugged it in at the kitchen island. I turned the dial to 375° and... nothing. No light, no heat, nothing.

I looked at Nick with saucers for eyes and he began to laugh. In between near hysterical squawks he managed to get out something like, "What are the chances that you would blow up two appliances in one night?!"
That's when I felt the shock on my face turn to complete horror, as I realized what had just happened. I looked back at him and repeated what he had said, emphasizing the TWO appliances part. His laughing stopped abruptly and his face mirrored the horror on mine for just a moment before changing to something that can only be described as resignation. He got up from the island and calmly said, "I'll go get it."

Just three dumpster diving trips, a couple scrapes on his torso and one on his arm, and we had all the parts and pieces back. You don't want to know what the processor looked like, but note that it cleaned up well and believe it or not, still works like a champ! As does Nick... well, the clean up part anyway. We moved the griddle to another outlet, crisped up a few corn tortillas, spread them with our Trip the Breaker Re-Fried Beans, topped it all off with shredded cheese and slipped them under the broiler until the cheese melted. Delicious, nutritious and an exercise in temperance!

Homemade Refried Beans (Gluten Free)

2 cups dried pinto beans
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons onions, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 garlic clove (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

Sort through dried beans and remove any pebbles, off-colored beans or debris. Rinse thoroughly and drain. Put beans in crock pot, add chicken stock and enough water to cover beans by about 3 inches. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or until tender.
Drain beans, but reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid and set aside. Reserve about 1/2 cup of cooked beans and place the rest into food processor (or a large bowl to mash by hand). Pulse a few times and then add oil; process to incorporate. Add tomato paste, vinegar, onion, jalapeno, garlic, salt, cumin and chili powder; process until smooth and combined. Add reserved beans and pulse a couple times; just enough to break them up. Serve as desired.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Great Beanie Brownie Experiment!

Brownies and donuts are like Kryptonite to my will power. I'm always testing or creating a new recipe and a few years ago, black bean brownies became one of the many unusual-ingredient recipes that I challenge myself to try once in a while. They were good, but at the time, altering or creating new recipes with black beans just wasn't a priority for me. However, I've been experimenting with gluten-free baking for a couple of years now and my interest was piqued again by the beanie brownie when I realized that many black bean brownie recipes don't call for flour; therefore, by default they're gluten-free. I've been calling recent weeks in my life, "The Great Beanie Brownie Experiment".

The real benefit of using black bean puree in brownies was replacing the fat in the recipe, making the brownies lower in fat... and dare I say, healthy! All kinds of beans contain dietary fiber, protein and no fat or cholesterol. So what better way to get your kids to eat a very healthy food, than hide it in their snacks? It's a win-win situation. In my case, my toddler who is learning to assert her independence wants to only eat two bites of dinner and then move on to dessert. I want her to eat six bites of dinner before dessert. Well, now I can accept two bites of dinner, knowing that she's getting 13 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein in that deliciously moist, chocolatey brownie! Sure, she leaves the table thinking she's pulled one over on mom. But as a parent, we have to pick our battles, right?

We don't have to limit ourselves to brownies though. Pureed beans can be substituted for all or part of the fat (shortening or oil) called for in a recipe, and make other goodies low-fat or even fat-free. Cannellini, great Northern and small white navy beans are great choices for homemade or boxed brownies, quick breads or muffins. Either canned or dried beans can be used. Dried have zero salt and are cheaper to purchase, but will require a little extra planning. When using canned beans, simply drain and rinse the beans well, then proceed with the recipe. To use dried beans, follow these three steps the day before you want to make the dessert:

1. Put 1 cup of dried beans in a bowl. Sort through the beans and remove any rocks or discolored beans. Add two cups of water and soak the beans overnight.
2. In the morning, drain the soaking water and gently rinse beans. Put the beans into a medium saucepan and cover with two cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and cook until beans are soft. Or, put them in a crock pot and cook on low for six to eight hours.
3. When soft, drain the cooking water, place the beans in a bowl and store in the refrigerator until cool.

To use the bean puree in a recipe that doesn't call for beans, put the cold, cooked beans (or your rinsed and drained canned beans) into the bowl of a food processor, or a blender, and puree until smooth. Add water, a Tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the consistency of shortening.
Although you can replace all of the fat called for, some recipes do have better results when some of the fat is left in. In 2005, a study was published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reporting that taste testers gave the highest ratings for flavor and texture to brownies with only 25% to 50% of the fat replaced with bean puree. And in Pocotello, Idaho, researchers from Idaho State University made a successful cookie with 75% of the butter replaced with beans. The beans helped these cookies go from 150 calories down to 105 and from 7 grams of fat to 3. At these percentages, the beanie brownies and cannellini cookies weren't much different than the full-fat options, except that they were considerably more nutritious.

Sometimes good recipes start with an accident and this is one of those times. I was simply trying to create a white bean brownie with flavors other than just chocolate. The recipe was great the first time out, but since I prefer fudgy brownies, the texture was too cakey for me to actually call a brownie. You can double this recipe to make a 13x9 pan and take it to your next bake sale. No one will ever know they're eating something healthy!

Gluten-Free Cranberry-Orange Beanie Cake
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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License