Full of (black) beans: An affordable, versatile and easy way to boost winter health
Kelly Donlea's brownie recipe calls for healthier twists with the addition of black beans and cocoa powder in place of some of the chocolate. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Black Bean Brownies
(From Kelly Donlea)
¾ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup mini chocolate chips, divided
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease square baking dish. In blender, purée beans with oil. Add the eggs, cocoa, sugar, coffee and vanilla.
Melt half of the chocolate chips and add to the blender. Blend on medium-high until smooth.
In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to blender and pulse until just incorporated. Pour batter into pan, and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Bake 20 minutes.
Updated: January 18, 2013 9:54AM
Remember your can opener? That trusty device can be a key to a healthier diet this winter.
Canned or fresh, black beans are among the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to get a natural boost of iron and fiber.
Fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthier digestive tract, may also help reduce risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, according to Mayo Clinic researchers. You would need to eat about four medium-sized apples to get as much fiber (15 grams) as you would in just one cup of cooked black beans.
“They’re one of my smart ingredients,” says food blogger, cookbook author and cooking instructor Kelly Donlea.
Her smart ingredients are foods that are quick, easy, affordable and healthful. They include wholesome items that are easy to keep on hand like frozen spinach, canned tomatoes and frozen mixed vegetables.
But a full grocery cart won’t amount to a hill of beans without recipes. Donlea features recipes using smart ingredients on her website, www.OrganizingDinner.com. Black beans are among the most popular, and appear in recipes like Fajita Tortilla Soup, Black Bean Rollups and a black bean bruschetta called Mamaschetta.
Another favorite black bean recipe, which Donlea makes to treat her family at home in South Barrington, is Black Bean Brownies. Beans puréed in vegetable oil replace some of the cocoa typically found in brownie batter. While her kids notice the treats aren’t as heavy with chocolate, the healthier sweet is still a welcome snack.
“They can tell the difference, but it doesn’t stop them from eating them,” Donlea says.
Donlea’s Black Bean Dip is an appetizer, but can also be used to enhance tacos, fajitas or tortas. It is made by puréeing black beans, giving the dip a consistency like hummus.
In the bean dip, 12 ounces of black beans get a smack of flavor from cumin, garlic, cilantro and two tablespoons of smoky chipotle peppers.
Bringing a little heat and smoke to black beans isn’t a bad thing, especially when developing ways to put more of the iron-rich morsels into meals.
“Black beans are more texture than flavor. They have flavor, but it doesn’t really punch you in the face,” says Michael Paulsen, chef/owner of Abigail’s American Bistro in Highland Park.
Paulsen makes a chipotle pepper ranch dressing to give his Black Bean Wrap some zip.
“Beans and smoke have always been a harmonious marriage,” he says.
He recommends spicing beans as carefully as any other food.
“While it’s necessary to give black beans heat and smoke, you don’t want to overpower them. Just like any seasoning, you can put in too much,” Paulsen warns.
And some would argue black beans taste just as good cold as hot.
The shiny, ebony-colored morsels fill in for Beluga whale eggs in Texas Caviar, the poor man’s version of the appetizer of affluence. The cold bean salad is a mix of diced peppers and onions, chopped cilantro and a blend of spices and red wine vinegar.
Whether cold or hot, sweet or savory, spicy or not, there are plenty of ways black beans can amp up a winter diet.