Black Beans Brownies

This recipe combines 4 very healthy ingredients into a yummy dessert – Black Beans, Cocoa powder, Rolled Oats and Coconut oil.

Each of these ingredients is a nutrient powerhouse in its own right and it just feels unreal that I can feed my family all these yummy goodness in the form of a brownie. And it’s really easy to make.

The only drawback to this recipe is the amount of maple syrup / honey added to sweeten the brownie. Feel free to reduce the amount of sweetener or replace with a sugar-free alternative like stevia.

Ingredients:

List A

  • 1 can (15oz) black beans; rinsed and well drained*
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey (or replace with stevia for a sugar-free alternative)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract

List B

  • 1/3 cup raw cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup oatmeal (made from rolled oats)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder

Other ingredients

  • Water (about ½ cup)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.

  2. Puree the ingredients in List A using a blender. Make sure the consistency is smooth and creamy. Add a little water if the puree seems too dry.

  3. Add List B ingredients to the puree and mix well using a food processor or blender.

  4. Add a little water if the mixture seems too dry.

  5. Once the mixture has reached a very smooth and thick consistency, fold in chocolate chips.

  6. Spread into an oiled 8×8 pan.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Every oven is different… so check on your brownies!! )

  8. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

 

* A note on black beans

I use dry black beans cooked in a pressure cooker because canned ones are not easily found in the local supermarkets in Singapore. Dry black beans, on the other hand, can be purchased easily in NTUC and they are inexpensive.

The equivalent of 1 can (15oz) of black beans is

  • 1/2 cup dry beans, before cooking or
  • 1.5 cups beans, after cooking

To pressure cook beans:

  1. Place beans in pressure cooker and cover adequately with water. (But do not exceed the ½ way mark in the pressure cooker pot)
  2. Add a little oil to prevent foam from clogging the pressure cooker vent
  • If beans have been soaked overnight (8 hrs) – cook for 12 minutes on high pressure. Natural Release method.
  • If beans are hard and unsoaked – cook for 25 minutes on high pressure. Natural Release method.
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Grain free Coconut Plantain Pancakes

I love pancakes, especially MacDonald breakfast hotcakes. A bite into those perfectly fluffy hotcakes drizzled with maple flavoured sugar syrup and I’m in heaven.

However, since I’ve decided to go wheat free, those hotcakes have been out of bounds for me. The only way I was going to satisfy any of my pancake yearnings was to either (1) purchase wheat free pancake mixes or (2) make my own wheat free pancakes from scratch.

Frankly, it’s more fun to make my own, although I do stock up pre-mixes for those days when I need pancakes pronto and I don’t have any suitable ingredients in the pantry.

This morning, we tried out grain free and dairy free coconut-plantain pancakes with a splosh of fresh coconut water. We also added a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to spice up the pancake.

Gluten Free Pancakes

*The white mixture in the glass is homemade coconut yoghurt, fermented from the flesh of young Thai coconuts.

While the final pancakes were somewhat fluffy, they were not MacDonald hotcakes. But then again, I wasn’t really expecting hotcakes. I have long given up in trying to mimic the flavour and texture of wheat. Instead, I’ve come to terms with the fact that going wheat free meant acquiring a new set of tastebuds and learning to accept and enjoy the rich and varied flavours of non-wheat flours or grains. Once I overcame this psychological barrier, my approach to non-wheat cooking / baking took on a new and liberating perspective.

Back to the pancakes… I liked the fact that the pancakes were not “eggy” in taste. A lot of coconut flour-based pancakes have very strong egg taste, which I don’t quite like. Additionally, the pancakes in this recipe draw their pleasant understated sweetness from the natural fresh coconut water used. It’s a unique sort of sweetness, very different compared to using cane sugar or maple syrup. The nutmeg and cinnamon powder really added a refreshing twist to the pancakes. The taste of these warm spices spurred me to dip my mini pancakes in hubby’s Roti Prata curry, instead of maple syrup.

In case you’re wondering, I got my coconut water from fresh young Thai coconuts which are available in supermarkets like NTUC and Sheng Shiong. Coconut oil can be bought either from health stores or Mustafa (surprise surprise). The plantain was bought from the wet market. It should be ok to substitute plantain with good old bananas if plantains are not readily available.

This pancake recipe is worth a try… as long as you are ready to accept that they will not taste like regular wheat-based pancakes.

The next time hubby buys Roti Prata for breakfast, I’m going to whip up this pancake, just so I can enjoy his savoury curry together with him. Great bonding always happens over a curry dip.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized plantain (very ripe)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 /2 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 small eggs
  • A pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon powder
  • Some coconut oil to grease the pan

Method:

  1. Blend all the ingredients well to make pancake batter.
  2. Lightly coat a frying pan with coconut oil.
  3. Pour batter into the pan to cook pancakes.

Almond Flour Cookies

Almond flour cookies

These gluten-free cookies were a hit with the family and they are best eaten when warm.

And because almonds have a naturally sweet taste to them, I sometimes omit adding the sugar totally and the cookie still tastes delicious. This healthy option of omitting sugar also makes this cookie a favourite among my friends and family who struggle with diabetes.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 115g unsalted butter (soft)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (sugar can be omitted completely for sugar-free recipe)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Chocolate chips / toasted nuts / raisins (whatever suits your taste)

Method:

  1.  Preheat oven to 190 degree Celsius.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar with an electric beater for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla, followed by the eggs (one at a time).
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well.
  5. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and blend well to create a homogeneous dough.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips / toasted nuts / raisins.
  7. Bake cookies for 10 – 12 mins.

Coconut Flour Vanilla Cupcakes

This recipe makes a surprisingly light and airy cupcake that is both nutritious and high in fibre. The vanilla extract and maple syrup adds a certain fragrance to the cupcakes.

Coconut flour is available in Singapore under the Bob’s Red mill brand at supermarkets. I have not been able to find coconut flour anywhere else in Singapore. If anyone knows an alternative source of coconut flour, please do share!!

 

Ingredients:

Dry ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of coconut flour (sifted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt

Wet ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/6 cup of oil
  • 1/8 cup of natural maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Method:

  1.  Preheat oven to 175°C.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Combine all the wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Use an electric mixer to incorporate dry and wet ingredients well.
  5. Pour batter into cupcake liners.
  6. Bake for about 10 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cupcake comes out dry.
  7. Cool and serve.

Makes about 6 small cupcakes.

Gluten-Free Almond Flaxseed Loaf

Almond flaxseed loaf

This almond flaxseed loaf of bread is nutritious and easy on blood sugar levels. It’s also very simple to make. All ingredients are available at Phoon Huat.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cup blanched almond flour
  • ¾ cup arrowroot powder
  • ¼ cup flaxseed meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
  2. Combine almond flour, arrowroot, flaxseed meal, salt and baking soda in a bowl
  3. In another bowl, blend eggs until frothy.
  4. Stir honey and apple cider vinegar into eggs.
  5. Mix the dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  6. Scoop batter into a well greased baking tin.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
  8. Cool and serve.

The joys of baking with Almond and Coconut Flour

First things first. Why not bake with wheat flour?

Variety is one reason. I like experimenting with new ingredients.

But more importantly, wheat has been receiving a lot of bad rap in recent years because of the hybridization process it has been subjected to over the years. The positive result of this hybridization is a crop that is resistant to drought and fungi, and boasts a greater yield per acre. What is less desirable are the structural changes that wheat proteins have undergone as a result of the hybridization. And these structurally modified proteins are not friendly to the human gut, thus causing a host of digestive and health issues when consumed in the long run.

You can read more about the harms of modern-day wheat at the Wheat Belly Blog.

The journey away from wheat…

It is very difficult to cut wheat out totally for very obvious reasons. Wheat is a cornerstone in our diet and is found in breads, pastries, cakes, pies, pasta, egg noodles, macaroni etc. My kids love bread and pastries and it is exceptionally challenging to ask them to stop eating the stuff. Even if I implemented a complete ban at home, they still get to eat breads and cakes in their preschools.

For a period of time, I tried wheat-free (gluten-free) baking in hopes of providing healthier alternatives for the family. I can’t stop them from eating wheat completely, but at least I could minimize their exposure to it. However, I eventually gave up because a lot of gluten-free recipes out there call for a confusing array of ingredients ranging from sorghum flour to potato starch to xanthan gums. Apart from the hassle of handling so many ingredients, these alternative flours and starches are high in glycemic index and cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes. So I gave up gluten / wheat free baking for a while.

And then one day, I discovered almond flour and coconut flour. I have not looked back since.

…to almond and coconut flour

Almond flour is simply blanched almonds that have been milled into powder form. We all know that almonds are considered one of nature’s superfoods. So it just seems brilliant to me that I can get my kids to eat almonds by using it to bake cookies and bread. Almond flour is sold in NTUC as well as Phoon Huat. A caveat on using almond flours: almonds are nutrient dense and high caloric so don’t overeat them. Remember that 1 cup of almond flour contains about 100 almonds.

Coconut flour is a natural byproduct of coconut milk production. After coconut milk is pressed and extracted from coconut meat, the leftover pulp is dried at a low temperature and ground into a fine powder. Coconut flour is very high in fiber and protein. It is also a good source of lauric acid, a good saturated fat.

Coconut flour is more difficult to find in Singapore. So far, I’ve only found it in Cold Storage and Mustafa, sold under the Bob’s Red Mill brand. It’s pricey but a little goes a long way because only a little coconut flour is required in most recipes. Coconut flour can also be ordered online from iHerb.com. Alternatively, if you happen to have Filipina friends who are coming to Singapore, you could ask them to bring some over for you. In Philippines, coconut flour is cheap and costs only about SGD3-4 for 5 kg.

For more info on baking with Coconut Flour, hop over to Nourished Kitchen.

Both these flours have very little carbohydrate and sugar which is wonderful considering the amount of sugar and refined carbs we eat in our typical Singaporean diet. Recipes crafted around Almond and Coconut flours are straightforward, easy to follow and involve very little ingredients.

So far, I’ve used these flours to bake cookies, breads, cakes and make pancakes with much success. The taste is slightly different but still very delicious on the whole.

If you are into baking and would like to try wheat-free recipes, do consider almond and coconut flours. I’ll be posting the recipes that have worked for me on this blog. Keep an eye out for it. You can also google for recipes.

Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast in a Jar… how cool is that!

Muesli breakfasts at home typically means muesli with milk or yoghurt, with a sprinkling of raisins / nuts on top. Healthy, but very bland. After a while, it becomes downright boring.

Yesterday I tried something different instead. I followed an oatmeal-in-a-jar recipe from The Yummy Life, modifying it a little based on existing ingredients I had in the pantry. The dish turned out wonderfully tasty and satisfying. It had a creamy consistency that was neither too gunky nor runny. Most of all, I think it’s just so cool to prepare breakfast in a jar and eat out of it.

Oatmeal in a jar

This recipe calls for the use of Chia seeds, which are wonderfully nutritious little seeds. They are mild tasting and perfect for people who have overly sensitive taste buds. These seeds are easily available from health stores and I always have a packet available in my pantry. If you’ve not tried Chia seeds before, why not try some? Chia seeds also double up as healthy cooking substitutes in the kitchen.

This oatmeal-in-a-jar doesn’t involve any cooking and is unbelievably easy to make. The fact that it can be prepared the night before and packed neatly in a jar also means it makes a healthy Grab-and-Go breakfast when I need to rush to work. Easy Peasy.

Cross over to The Yummy Life for more ideas of the different flavours you can prepare! Better still, once you’ve gotten the hang of the dish, start creating your own flavours. Experiment with the ingredients and try out new combinations.

I swear I’ll try a durian-flavoured version one of these day 🙂

In order to ensure that the oatmeal doesn’t turn out too runny or watery, be sure to use Greek yoghurt, which is thicker in consistency. According to The Yummy Life, regular yogurt is thinner so if using regular yoghurt, the amount of milk added will have to be reduced.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup almond milk (sweetened with agave nectar)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (vanilla flavoured)
  • 1.5 teaspoon Chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sweetened applesauce
Method:
  1. Place all the ingredients inside a jar with a lid.
  2. Shake the jar to mix the ingredients well.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Eat chilled.

A lower calorie version can be prepared by using unsweetened apple sauce, skim milk and plain Greek yoghurt.