This super easy and delicious dinner is something my mom made for me growing up all the time. While her versions weren’t vegan, they were a great and healthy way to use up the leftovers from the previous week. You simply layer grains, veggies, beans, salsa, guacamole and anything else you want between layers of tortillas (I like whole grain) for a mexican fiesta you can impress your friends with. Throw in left-over stir fry, cooked grains, or veggies that are about to go bad. Add vegan sour cream, nutritional yeast, hot peppers or anything else you want. Try drizzling the creation with a batch of Veganomicon‘s Cheezy Sauce. Bake it in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes until all the flavors have merged together and everything is heated through. When it comes out, slice it into pieces (like cake) and serve alongside a simple salad. To keep it looking pretty, create your layers in a spring-form pan. Not worried about presentation? Stacking it on a cookie sheet works as a messy alternative.
My girlfriend Alex mentioned to me today that she wanted to buy some carob powder, as she had never before used it. I told her I used it all the time in my smoothies because it gives me the chocolatey richness I crave without the added caffeine kick. She then blew my mind by saying “did you know carob comes from a pea?”
Well no, I didn’t. I then went straight to Google to do some intense research (cough, Wikipedia) and freaked my freak. Mainly what scared me is that I had been eating the stuff without giving a second thought to where it comes from. It really isn’t too surprising that carob comes from a pea when chocolate comes from Cacao, which is a bean.
So, a bit about carob. The sweet stuff comes from a tree that is a member of the legume family, and grows in long, broad pea pods. They are then dried and ground for consumption, although the pea pods are often used as animal feed, and as a thickening agent in many processed foods. Carob is viewed as a healthier alternative to chocolate because of the previously mentioned lack of caffeine, and because since the stuff is naturally sweet carob products contain much less sugar, if any at all. High in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, carob can be substituted for chocolate in baking, although the flavor is different. I find that carob has less of a richness and lacks the bite of a good piece of dark chocolate, but it is very nice and nutty.
I can now go to sleep well rested as I now know that carob comes from pea pods..so..that makes it a vegetable!? Right? Right?!
Yes, I will admit I was skeptical too..at first. I found this recipe for black bean brownies and was horrified ..and yet intrigued. I love beans, I eat them in everything, I eat them plain, I eat them cold, I eat them right out of the pot (or the can if I am feeling too lazy to cook my own)..I have even eaten them for breakfast. But the idea of combining beans and chocolate mildy terrified me. Likewise, the mention of them making rounds for years in the ‘diet circuit’ turned me off because diets remind me of deprivation..
And yet, I thought that the mere possibility of being able to enjoy a vegan dessert that was slam packed with protein, fiber and all other beany goodness while being unable to taste the beans seemed almost too good to be true. Did I mention they have barely any fat at all? Wayyyy to good to be true.
However, I set out to try it just in case, dragging Ben and two of my lovely room-mates along for the ride. The result was really surprising. We made the recipe exactly as is, which was hard for me, as I always want to improvise. Okay, I lied, I added walnuts because I felt they would only improve the recipe. The brownies were so fudgy that we could barely get them out of the pan (which we ate in its entirety in one sitting) but other than that, they were delicious. I couldn’t taste any beans at all, and the bananas I used were so overly ripe that the banana flavor was really heavy, which is a good thing in my opinion. Next time I make these (perhaps for my father without telling him the magical ingredient until the end, muahaha) I will cook them a bit longer, add 1/2 cup of flour so they retain shape, and sprinkle them with vegan chocolate chips. I urge you to try them, no matter how skeptical you may be.
Here is a contribution from my chef of a mama..
2 Cups Organic Chocolate Chips
1 Block (12.3 oz) of Firm Silken Tofu
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1½ tsp Vanilla
Melt your chocolate chips over very low heat, stirring so as not to burn!
Puree all in food processor until smooth and then ice your cake, or whatever else that may need a little adornment before devouring.