Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hallelujah

So, did we all survive the torture Hell festivities of the past few days? Hanukkah, Eid, Divali, Solstice and Christmas are over and done with for another year, while Kwanzaa is just beginning and the holy day of Ashura is tomorrow. The holidays are always a fairly rough time for me physically as well as emotionally, but with the support of my friends who are able and willing to lend a (virtual) ear and shoulder to cry on if I need it I'm glad to say I made it through another round!

I don't mind telling you all this now, and hopefully you don't mind knowing, but over the past year I've been working with a therapist to address several anxiety and depression related issues I have. It's been by far one of the greatest things to have happened to me since falling ill, and regardless of the stigma that comes with the "mental help" I'm seeking, I know I am the better for it! My counsellor, as an added bonus, is a bona fide foodie in his own right, and more often than not my counselling sessions become more rounds of "brain dumping" - I always leave there feeling about 20 times lighter than when I went in! Of course we talk about "serious" stuff too, but the fact that there's a shrink out there that's even in the same stratosphere as me is a total plus!

We also share another common link - J.R. (the counsellor) and I - food allergies! While my interest is purely selfish, seeing as I'm the only one in my immediate family with them (excepting my sister's apparent problem with something in cured ham), J.R.'s adult son was just diagnosed with four serious food allergy triggers to common items... dairy, tree nuts, peanuts and soy. They're coping extremely well (mostly) on their own, really, but while the dairy, tree nuts and peanuts have become fairly easy to avoid commercially or replace in home baking, the soy has proven to be more of a challenge. Soy is everywhere in prepared products - canned soup and processed cheese products as a thickener or texturizing agent, as the shortening in pastry crusts and cookies, even some cereals have soy protein in them thanks to their "fortification". The real kicker for this guy though is his sweet tooth. J.R. jr. (for lack of a better name!) apparently has a penchant for dark chocolate - not a problem with just the dairy and nut allergies, but soy lethicin is used in almost every chocolate bar product as an emulsifier. Aside from a very select handful of companies making dairy and soy free chocolates (mostly web-based), the only solid form I've found that's soy free is Baker's Unsweetened blocks.

When I heard about the allergy saga from J.R., I immediately became consumed with figuring out a rich, somewhat sinful chocolate treat that his son could eat safely. Butter, coconut oil and shortening were on the no-no list obviously, as was my usual go-to egg replacer of silken tofu. Now, his son can eat eggs, but I try to avoid them in my baking because my family goes through a carton of 18 a week without any baking, and I don't want to leave them in a lurch by using 4 of them in a brownie recipe! However, I found the inspiration for my answer in the pages of Lindsay's blog Happy Herbivore, where she wrote about her version of the (now infamous) black bean brownies! Having already made her recipe verbatim twice before (and oh my God is it delicious!), I brought some of the goodies in to be "judged" before Christmas. While they were rated as delicious by both J.R. and his son, his daughter didn't like the banana flavour, and they all thought the chocolate could be a bit more pronounced. Nobody knew about the beans, though, and they never suspected it either (though I did let J.R. in on it when I gave him the tweaked recipe!).

So while enjoying one of Lindsay's originals myself (actually, I realized later that I doubled the cocoa in hers as well by accident!), I set about re-writing the formula for their tastes. First, I doubled the recipe to make a 9x13" pan, then doubled the cocoa powder again (I used an extra dark kind too) to make a total 1 cup of it. Then, for even more chocolate (because really, how could you not?) I tossed in a couple soy-safe unsweetened blocks of solid chocolate, and amped up the richness with coffee. What would have equated to eight eggs in the doubled recipe (four bananas) became a rather interesting blend of ingredients, though. I did add a single banana (unripe though, to give the "body" but not the flavour), but then I used a helping of home made apple butter to replace another egg, and two "flax eggs" as well. Finally, just to be on the "safe" side, I added a real egg. Thankfully, he's not allergic to those, so at least I did have the option! Having run out of my tiny bottle of agave nectar, I used honey, which worked out fine too.

The result? Well, it wasn't a HH creation for sure, but it was definitely welcomed by the recipients - sometimes we all need is a little bit of sugar in our lives!

J.R. Jr.'s Brownie Bars
Serves 24
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/3 cup hot coffee
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 3/4 cups cooked black beans
1 banana
1/3 cup apple butter
1 egg
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz rolled oats (I used certified GF oats, you can use instant too - 2 packets)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, line a 9x13" pan with parchment and lightly grease.
  2. Whisk together the flaxseed and coffee, let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Combine all the ingredients, except the oatmeal, in a food processor.
  4. Blend until completely smooth, scraping the sides of the processor as needed.
  5. Pulse in the oatmeal.
  6. Bake 35-40 minutes.
  7. Chill in the fridge before slicing for best results. 
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 125.5
Total Fat: 2.4 g
Cholesterol: 8.9 mg
Sodium: 31.3 mg
Total Carbs: 25.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g
Protein: 4.2 g

1 comment :

Johanna said...

sounds divine - I have tried a version of beanie brownie which just didn't work so I will set this one aside on my to do list to try - glad your counselling is having many benefits