Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mint Brownies - Made Healthier

My husband requested these brownies after having one at the local Kneaders Bakery. He is a lover of mint chocolate chip ice cream so it didn't surprise me that he loved these brownies. As is usually the case when I experiment with a new recipe, we had some company coming over so I didn't dare trade out too many things. In this recipe, I left the eggs and traded out 1/2 the fat for bean puree. (I may get a little more brave the next time I make this. If I have success, I'll post the updates. I've learned that brownies can be tricky based on some other recipes I've played with so I decided to stay on the safe side.)

Here is the play-by-play:

Mix cocoa with melted butter

Add bean puree

Here they are together in the bowl.

Spray honey measuring cup with oil - this makes the honey slide right out.

Measure and add the honey

Here it is after I've added the sugar and the eggs and creamed it all together.

Add dry ingredients. I used white wheat flour (as opposed to red wheat flour) because the ground white wheat trades easier in recipes and doesn't require that you monkey with the liquid amounts.

They baked up well.

Here is a side view to show you how much they rose - when I first poured the batter in the pan, it didn't look  like very much so I wondered if they would be thin brownies, but no - they ended up thick and wonderful.

Spreading the mint icing

Ready to serve - they are rich so you don't need a big one. One pan will serve 20-24 people easily.

Mint Brownies

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup baking cocoa (not hot chocolate)
1/2 cup white bean puree
2 Tbsp honey
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 1/2 cups Chocolate Icing - make your own or purchase some

Mint Icing
5 Tbsp butter or margarine, softened
dash of salt
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
2 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp mint extract
1-2 drops green food coloring
2-3 Tbsp milk - may not be needed

For brownies - melt butter and mix in cocoa until smooth. Add bean puree, honey, eggs, and sugar. Cream together. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in nuts, if desired. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.

For mint icing - Mix everything together except the milk. Beat until smooth and creamy using a hand mixer. Add just a little milk, if needed, to thin the frosting so it is just a little thinner than traditional cake frosting. (You don't want it too thin or it will run off the brownies.)

Assembling - Spread the mint icing on the brownies when they are completely cool. Place pan in the freezer long enough to stiffen the mint icing. Remove the pan from the freezer and carefully spread a layer of chocolate icing on the top.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Field Trip Fun

Where are the lazy days of summer? With all my kids home, I am finding it difficult to find time to do blog posts. How did I ever find time to write a book? I knew the crazy days would hit as soon as school was over so this year I did my best to plan ahead for summertime fun.

In May I put together a list of Field Trips we could take that kept us within an hour from home. I then emailed the list out to many families that we know because I knew my kids would have much more fun (and there would be far less whining) if other kids joined us. I just did the list for June to see how well it would go. I am now in the process of putting together a list for July and August because we have all had so much fun!

The nightly question from one of my boys is always, "What are we doing tomorrow?" We've learned to expect it every night as we tuck him in. Having a list of of pre-thought-out activities has been helpful for all of us. (I'm sure other moms of school aged children will admit that when they are all hounding you for something to do, you just can't think creatively. The other thing that is difficult to do last minute is rally a whole group to go with you.) The field trip list has provided groups of 20-30 people at each activity and all of us have had a lot of fun. It has also helped us explore places around town that we have always thought would be fun to go to but just haven't made it.

I knew June would need to be a transition month. The kids were used to going to school everyday. They would still be feeling a need for something everyday in June. (It just takes a bit of time to convince them that summer is meant to be slower.) I decided to do about 2 field trips a week a June, transitioning to one a week or so for July and August. I also waited to put together the list for July and August until I could have some input from some of the other moms who were joining us regularly.

Here is a copy of the beginning of our list for you to use as an example. The majority of the field trips have been free or inexpensive so it helps us keep within our "Summer fun" budget.  So make a bucket list of the things you want to still do this summer and invite others to join in on the fun!

 Field Trips for Summer Fun
In an effort to be a little more ready to entertain kids this summer, we've put together a few opportunities for field trips during the month of June. We would love to have families join us. It is always more fun when other kids come along. All of these activities could accommodate large groups so feel free to invite others to join in on the fun.

Thursday, May 31st -9:30am - 4pm Day trip to Bruneau Sand Dunes near Mountain Home - about an hour drive from here. The sand dunes are the tallest in North America. There is fossil hunting, a visitor's center and playing/hiking on the sand dunes. Some people have told me they have taken tabagons to slide down the dunes. I'm sure other sand toys would be well used. Everyone will need to take a picnic lunch. There is a $5 fee per vehicle. Meet at Andrus Elementary Parking Lot at 9:30 am so we can carpool. We'll plan to be back home between 3-4 pm. For more info check out this link. (We leaned a hard lesson this year. Please keep your shoes on because the sand can get VERY hot. One of the boys who was with us burned his feet very badly.)

Monday, June 4th - 11:00am MK Nature Center (the park where you see the fish through the windows) and picnic lunch at Municipal park in downtown Boise. Meet at the covered picnic area (back by the parking lot and bathrooms) of Municipal park at 11:00am.

Thursday, June 7th - 4:30-6:00 Boise Art Museum - The 1st Thursday of every month admission is free and they do an art experience beginning at 5 pm where the kids can do a directed project for free.

Monday, June 11th - 10:00 am Capitol building tour, Paddle Boats in Julia Davis Park, and picnic lunch. Meet at the Liberty Bell in front of the big staircase of the Capitol Building at 10:00 am. There is on the street 2 hr parking a couple of blocks behind the Capitol if you don't want to the pay the meter. A tour usually lasts about an hour. We will then go to Julia Davis Park and ride the Paddle Boats before eating lunch. The paddle boats cost $8 for 1/2 hour and carry 3 people each.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chewy "Healthy" Chocolate Chip Cookies

I finally snagged some time to post this recipe you have all been asking for. These are the most amazing tasting chocolate chip cookies! No one ever believes that they are lower in sugar and contain only half the fat of a traditional recipe. They are also egg-free, which for some is important.

Chewy "Healthy" Chocolate Chip Cookies

You and your kids can eat all the dough they would like since there are no eggs! These cookies are lower in sugar, lower in fat, and lower in cholesterol. You can't get much healthier than that and still enjoy a cookie! This is the result of a year's worth of experiments. I'm so glad I didn't give up!

½ cup butter
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vanilla
cup sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
Oatmeal, coconut, chopped nuts (optional)

Cream together butter, bean puree and sugars. Add flour, baking soda, and vanilla. It will look pretty dry at this point. Slowly add in the oil and mix until it has pulled together into cookie dough consistency. Stir in chocolate chips and any other optional ingredients you'd like. Roll into balls and place on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° F for 8–10 minutes. Pull them out of the oven just as they are beginning to turn light brown in a couple of spots. They still look pretty doughy overall. Allow to rest on baking sheet for about 5 minutes to set and them move to a wire rack to cool. Makes 3 dozen.

Here it is just before adding the oil.

Slowly add the oil, and watch the dough pull together. (I have also made these cookies using 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour. When I use the whole wheat flour, I sometimes have to add just a touch more oil to see the dough come together.)

Here it is all ready for chocolate. Isn't it beautiful!

Add the chips and any other goodies you would like.

I always roll some of the dough up in plastic wrap and freeze to bake later.

Form into balls by pressing the dough together. Place on a baking sheet and flatten slightly with your hand.

Bake for about 8 minutes. You just want them to barely be turning brown. They still look quite fluffy. Allow them to sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes after pulling them from the oven so they can finish the baking process.

Cool on a wire rack.

This recipe consistently make these gorgeous cookies!

Sometimes I bake a few trays of just plain chocolate chip cookies, and then I add some other goodies to the rest of the dough. Here I added oatmeal, coconut, and chopped pecans. Be careful not to add too much or else you won't be able to press the dough together into a ball. (This batch was right on the edge of too much.)

I was still able to press the dough together, but the cookies didn't spread out much on the tray. They were still good, but know that you have been fairly warned - too much of a good thing can be too much. Enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Favorite All-purpose Marinade for Summer Grilling Season

This makes a large amount. I mix up a double batch at the beginning of the summer and store it in a glass jar in the fridge. Then grilling is a cinch even on a busy day. Just pour what you need into a gallon ziplock bag and add either chicken, pork, or beef and allow to marinate in the fridge for between 30 minutes and 4 hours. We have loved it every time. Mix up a salad or a quick rice pilaf and dinner is done before you know it - with very little mess.

All-purpose Marinade

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp black pepper
2 tsp dry parsley flakes
2 tsp refrigerated, minced garlic

Mix all ingredients together. Use to marinate chicken, pork, or beef before grilling. The longer it marinates, the stronger the flavor.