Friday, May 29, 2009

I Heart Kale

No secret, we love kale. I will put kale in just about anything. Okay, anything. It is so versatile and yummy, how could you not love kale? The other day I was making hummus and I had a couple of leaves of kale the kids had asked me to save for smoothies. I didn't feel like making smoothies for whatever reason so I made hummus and threw the kale in. It was so super scrumptious! I didn't add any olive oil so it was nice and light tasting. Perfect for dipping carrots on a warm day.I don't remember the exact measurements of anything, but it has kale, cashews, chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water, salt (maybe), and cumin (just a pinch). I don't always put cashews in my hummus, but I rejoined a local buying club a couple months ago to cut down on our food bill so I have something like 25 lbs of organic cashews in my freezer. I love cashews too! Due to my abundance of cashews, I made a dish I usually wait to a make once I have fresh tomatoes from the garden...Vegan Yum Yum's Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta.
I bought a case of canned tomatoes with the cashews so the night before shopping day a few weeks ago, I decided to make this dish with canned tomatoes instead of waiting for fresh. I used up all the basil we had growing inside at the time so this picture has dried basil instead of fresh over whole wheat spaghetti. A couple weeks ago, we were chatting with our neighbor, Greg when Rob arrived home on his bike. They continued to chat while I came in to make dinner as the sun was setting. I had no idea what I was going to make and then Rob comes in saying Greg was staying for dinner since Vicky was out of town. This is a great dish to make last minute for guests. We had a great time eating outside on the porch and Greg seemed to enjoy the pasta. Garlicky sauteed kale and cheesy kale puffs (my new take on Fat Free Vegan's wonderful Colcannon Puffs) for the side. I will share my revised version in a future post, but in the mean time, definitely make Susan's Colcannon Puffs if you haven't yet. We eat them at least once a week.
We had leftover Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream sauce one night (it is a staple again already, even with canned tomatoes) and Josie gave me the idea of using it has a topping for mashed potatoes. She always helps me cook and when I boil potatoes, I let her have a few before I put them in whatever dish I'm making. She loves to dip and this sauce is like crack for her so as she dipped her potatoes in the sauce, I thought, "Why not?". It was a good way to use us the sauce and we aren't big gravy people anyway. Pictured is more sauteed garlicky kale and Vegan Dad's Crispy Cajun Chickpea Cakes. I've been eyeing the chickpea cakes for a while as a change from the Veganomicon Chickpea Cutlets and the Chickpea Sensation Patties from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. I like to bake the cutlets and patties instead of frying so I baked some of Vegan Dad's cakes, but fried a few since they do have "crispy" in the title. The fried ones were better. They were good, but not Cajun enough for me and I'd rather not fry foods if I can bake them, but I'll try them again sometime when I have time to experiment. I don't follow the recipe completely for the cutlets and the patties is a sickness.

Pre-Garden and Playing at the Park

Rob found a cord thingy that allows me to get pictures from my camera to the computer about a week ago. I have been trying to use the computer only when the kids aren't around and it hasn't been hard because we've been super busy having a lot of fun lately, but now everyone is asleep so I thought I'd get some pictures out on the ole blog.
One of the things we've been busy doing is getting the backyard ready for a real garden. We had our soil tested last year (we live in an old house and I wanted to make sure we didn't have lead paint in the soil) and had a small garden (I hate to even call it that), but much of the backyard was taken up by small trees and overgrown bushes when we moved in. We have been slowly trying to bring some of our crazy order to the mix. The flowers behind Josie are pretty, but they grow like weeds and could now swallow a small child (this is from about 2 months ago). I haven't had a chance to look up what the plant is. At first, I didn't want to mow it down or do anything to it because it is good ground cover, but as it takes over more of our yard, I'm thinking we might have to do something.

This doesn't look like much, but it is part of a tree stump/roots which took its toll on both Rob and my backs. We worked on digging it up and cutting it out for weeks!
Here is part of the wretched stump/roots which we did get unearthed. I noticed the other day in our pile of stuff to give to someone to burn or haul to the city compost that part of this stump is growing green shoots. It is still not dying after it has been out of the earth for a couple weeks now!
Here next to one of our compost bins is one of the piles of "stuff" we've cut out of the yard.

Josie inside the hole we dug out to get at the tree stump/roots. This is still several weeks ago. You can sort of tell how deep the hole is. Just the top of her head peeks out. We finally filled in this hole a week ago. We ordered the dirt over a month ago, but it has been so insanely wet here that it just got delivered right before Rob left town for the long weekend. The kids were sad to lose their hole, but happy to have more garden to grow food in.
Working in the backyard requires lots and lots of breaks to play at "our park". The three amigos. Parker, Josie, and Dema (I'm not sure what they were playing, but I think Dema is supposed to be asleep). They are in motion so much, it is hard to get a picture of all three of them together. The other day, Dema asked if I could get pregnant again because he likes playing with Parker and Josie so much it would be nice to have another.
Josie hanging out in the swings.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It Doesn't Pay to Sell Out or A Girl's Gotta Eat

Back when I "went vegan", there were only a couple soy milks on the shelves. Nothing like it is today. Back then (and most of the time, even now) Eden was my brand of choice. Not that I had a whole lot of choice, but even if it wasn't fancy, it was good. Now there are so many soy milks (and other soy products, not to mention a bunch of vegan non-dairy milks made from nuts to hemp) brands, we need a score card. It is somewhat heartening, but possibly a tad crazy as well. With growth and higher sales, at least here in the USA, there comes "selling out". When I took a look at the score card for soy, I was a little surprised at how low Silk brand was rated. I had heard wonderful stories about Silk as a company from people in "the industry" and I knew they had been bought out by Dean Foods, but I hoped they kept some of their integrity. I mean, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Too much to ask or so it seems.

I've been a supporter of Organic Consumers Association for years and receive their emails on a regular basis. While I don't use any one source for information on food and the like, I do respect their organization and find the information useful. So I thought I would take a look at the store today to see if their latest claims about Silk no longer being made from organic ingredients (especially the soybeans) was accurate. Sadly, it seems to be all too true. I noticed the carton looked different. I checked all around and no longer saw the words "vegan" anywhere. I also noticed "natural soybeans" had replaced "organic". Sneaky. What is an "unnatural soybean"? A GMO soybean? It doesn't say "non-GMO" anywhere that I could see. It is sad to see a brand which seemed to be dedicated to quality organic farming here in the US be bought out and completely lose that which attracted customers in the first place. Boycott anyone?

I was selling out myself today. I was shopping at Meijer. A super store. I hate the mega stores for many, many reason, but one non-ethics based reason is they overwhelm me. I like smallish co-ops and natural food stores. I feel comfy shopping there. I prefer the local ones, but I even liked shopping at Bread and Circus (before they were bought out by Whole Foods) and Whole Foods (where there is no local HFS available) when I lived in the Metro DC area. I know I am in the minority for hating Trader Joe's, but I'll get into that some other time. Anyway, I can count on one hand the number of times I've shopped at Meijer, but I admit that the last time I was there, I was taken in by organic frozen fruit from the US on sale 4 bags for $10. We eat a lot of frozen fruit in smoothies or it is just nice to have on hand when the fresh fruit runs out. I am still happy to shop mostly at my local co-op and HFS, but when I can get to Meijer on one bus easily I will take advantage of deals on organic fruit. Or so I thought.

I looked for several minutes for organic frozen fruit. Going up and down the frozen food section with the kids in a ridiculously big cart. I finally asked two people who I guessed were being paid by Meijer since they were pricing or rearranging food. I will not say they "worked" there because they looked at me like I was speaking another language when I asked where the frozen fruit was and I added "organic" to make them completely unnerved. They acted like they have never seen such a thing in the store before. Perhaps it is the time of year and they don't stock frozen fruit in the summer (I doubt this because they seem to have enough space to stock mega containers of sauerkraut). I swear it was only a couple of weeks ago when I bought the sale organic frozen fruit. We went to Meijer then for some Lego set for a birthday present since to my knowledge we don't have a local toy store which stocks Lego. This is the only reason Dema thinks people go to buy Lego. When pitting Meijer and Toys R Us against each other, Meijer wins...don't ask me why, it just does...or did.

I still bought some sale fresh organic berries so it wasn't a complete waste of time, but it was a tad disappointing. I recently had a discussion with some new vegan friends outside our local natural food store. They like Meijer because of the selection of organic foods and one stop shopping could be seen as kinder to the environment (I would buy that if Meijer or the mega store which shall not be named or shopped at for any reason, but begins with W ever located their stores in downtown areas). Anyway, since we don't own a car, I don't care how many stops we make. I have lots of friends who shop there and I want to get. I really do. I'm happy to save some money. Believe me. We are cutting corners as much as a family who eats very little processed foods, gardens, buys most non-food items second-hand, doesn't own a TV, and doesn't own a car can do. I'm just saying, we've never been ones for extravagant spending. Even when we made "a lot" (whatever that means) and we had two very decent incomes coming in with no kids, we lived in a very modest condo and took mass transit most of the time. Sure, we are "organic snobs". I mean today my 5 year old asked for the yellow raspberries because they looked "cool" and I picked them up to check out the label and my 9 year old said "Don't buy them mom! They aren't organic!!!". I told him it wouldn't kill them to eat one container of conventionally grown raspberries. Parker went into all the reasons we should buy organic and then after about 5 minutes of me convincing him it wasn't going to destroy the planet this ONE time to eat one container of yellow raspberries for goodness sakes. He said, "Okay, if you promise to wash them really well." I know he gets this from me (pre-kids, living in Maryland, I refused to buy produce one day because the store we were at didn't have any organic produce and Rob lovingly...or more likely exacerbated, but I'll remember it as lovingly... reminded me it is better to eat some produce than go without because it is conventionally grown) so I totally get him. Yes, we are organic freaks, but we do without some things or put more effort into others in order to buy where our heart is.

Is there a point in here somewhere? Silk selling out reminds me why I shop at the local stores when I can. I have some effect and some say (especially at a co-op) in what they stock. I vote with my dollars. Well, I feel like shopping at Meijer (for me....for now) is selling out. If I buy Meijer brand organic foods, I am supporting Meijer stocking organics and/or I am taking the money away from smaller companies who truly care about organics. Who do this not as a fad, but because they know it is right. I support them and hopefully they stay in business (and don't grow and sell out as Silk has done). I support Meijer brand organic foods and the others go out of business and then one day I shop at Meijer and all the organic options are gone. Who knows why. Maybe they decided the fad was over or they got tired of dealing with organic farmers or they grew so big there weren't enough organic farmers to keep up with the demand because the little guys are now out of business and Meijer no longer has the option to have its own organic brand. I then have no choice. None. I've "saved" myself into a corner and I can either grow my own food or buy conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Sure, I want to save money as much as the next person. Heck, in this economy, it is more than a want. My husband's employer lays off people every so many months. We've been through one lay-off around the time Josie was born and things worked out as they usually do, but I am no Pollyanna. I know times are tough. I'm not saying I will never go back to Meijer. I probably way over think things which in the end, I'm not sure I have much control over. I mean I am only one person with the spending power of one family of five. I can't stop the tide. Hopefully, organics and companies who truly try to practice sustainability are here to stay. Yes, I know there are bigger issues in the world. Don't get me talking about water. We'll save that for another day. Food is the main expense in our family which I have control over. I spend a lot of time thinking about food. What is best for my family to eat is very important to me. I love food and love to cook, but I don't take it for granted. We live in a part of the world and in an economic class and in a point in history where the food variety, availability, and abundance is completely unprecedented. I don't think even that is sustainable, but this is where I find myself. As such, I will continue to mull these issues around and try to do the best I can with the information and choices I have. I will keep figuring out what works for my family while balancing our checkbook and our values.

In the meantime, a girl's gotta eat.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blinds, Bike Beer Run, and Brunch

We moved into our 100+ year old house a couple years ago and we have so many projects, it is hard to get anything completely done. It seems like there is always something calling for attention. Then we fall into the squeaky wheel circle and never finish a project. We are not great at the DIY thing, but money (or lack of) requires we get better. The house came with some very, very old curtains on some of the windows, hideous metal blinds on others, and some others were completely bare. I had grandiose plans of buying window treatments for the entire house as I did at our first house, but less money and more windows equals a couple of years making due. Well, two and half years later, we finally caved and bought some not so high quality wood blinds for our bedroom. Nothing fancy, but nice to get rid of the hideous ripped roll up blinds with a scratchy shear curtain. Saturday was a beautiful day so we had to relax and enjoy the day some, but we also tackled a few projects. Rob's project was installing the blinds. He did a nice job and they greatly improve the quality of sleep (I didn't realize how much light was coming in before, the blinds really make the room darker). There was some cussing and frustration (mainly due to the construction of the blinds, but you get what you pay for), but it all worked out fine.To top off our day, Loretta and her sweet family came over for an impromptu dinner. I love doing the last minute thing, especially with Loretta and David. It always seems to come together better than if we planned something in advance. She texted me during the cussing part of the blinds so I wasn't sure if it was going to work out, but Rob said he was game as he finished them up. I had no idea what I was going to fix until 20 minutes before they were supposed to arrive. We had just used up the last of our cooked beans so I thought I might make something with lentils since they cook quickly. I needed to avoid tomatoes and we had some fresh broccoli which needed to be used up. I stared at the broccoli for a couple minutes while Rob kept asking what I was going to fix (nothing like pressure from the spouse when I'm in a time crunch). I decided on a curry. I pretty much winged it, but it was similar to In a Hurry Thai Red Curry except with ginger and blackstrap molasses added...I may have thrown something else in, but I don't remember. We realized we didn't have any beer in the house and Rob went on a beer run on his bike last minute. His Xtracycle has been out of commission for a while due to some brake issue and he never has time to work on it so he carried the beer on his commuter bike in his Timbuk2 bag. That bag is amazing (Rob is too, of course) and has lasted for years through lots of abuse (bike wrecks on ice, hauling an obscene amount of stuff, things spilled on it, etc.), but I don't remember him hauling quite this much alcohol in it before. No, the four adults did not drink all this beer in one evening.

Loretta and her crew brought roasted brussel sprouts and an excellent pasta salad from La Dolce Vegan. I love loaning out my cookbooks to friends because then they try recipes I haven't yet and I know what to make when they give them back. Such will be the case with this great pasta salad which includes Parker's new favorite, artichoke hearts. We added a mixed greens (from our first CSA pickup of the season!) salad with black grape raisins (an impulse buy the other day at the store) and cashews. Rob made his version of Green Goddess dressing and almost forgot the tahini (I told you we were in a hurry). All the food was super yummy. The kids had seconds and thirds of everything (okay, maybe we did too). Parker finished up the curry after everyone left so I made more the next day. It wasn't quite a good without fresh broccoli, but the kids devoured it just the same. As always, it was great to sit around after dinner and chat until the kids crashed.

Sunday morning we got up first thing and rode our bikes over to Ricky and Catharine's house for brunch (another one of our favorite thing to do). Ricky made pancakes, potatoes, and grits. Super as always. The kids had a great time playing and we had a great time chatting until Rob had to get home for a 4pm soccer game (last game of the season...woot!). It was a beautiful day! I think brunch with friends is my favorite meal. I would open a restaurant in a second if it could just be a brunch place. People could come in to eat around 9 or 10am and stay until 3 or 4pm socializing. All I need is the financial backing...anyone with deep pockets want to lend us money for an all vegan brunch restaurant where we encourage people to hang out all day??? Hmm, pretty quiet. Maybe we'll just buy Vegan Brunch and have people over every weekend.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

As Good As it Gets

Lately, we've been very good about cooking at home and Rob takes his lunch most days. Even when I'm out with the kids, I usually make sure they are fed before we go or take food with us. But, this week it was fun to splurge a little and enjoy the local businesses our town has to offer.

Wednesday night we had a rare date night (thank you, Karen!!!) with our friends. The guys wanted to watch the hockey game so we started out at Guido's downtown for a drink and some disappointment as the Capitals lost pretty badly to Pittsburgh. Dinner was at Bombay Indian Grill where we ate our fill (and still had leftovers) of samosas, bindi subji, channa masala, and aloo gobi. We went to the Blind Pig for a drink for the guys and then to Bolitini for a martini for us girls. When I was growing up, our downtown went through a period where it was pretty much deserted. Businesses closed and there was not much to do downtown. I rarely remember going there. In my late teens I moved away and then came back and ended up working downtown for a local telephony business which has since been bought out by big corporations a few times. Rob and I met working downtown and at that time things were just turning around. It is so nice to be back here years later and live about a mile away from what is now (even in these economic times) a pretty thriving downtown.

Thursday night I biked downtown with the kids (Dema and Josie on my Xtracycle and Parker on his own bike) for a WEFT meeting at the Blind Pig. WEFT is our oldest community radio station which I've mentioned before. We just finished our Spring pledge drive, but that doesn't mean you can't still give (can't help the little plug). No donation is too small or too big. Anyway, Rob met me downtown on his way home from work so he could take the kids during my meeting. They went to Jupiter's for cheeseless pizza with black olives, green olives, pineapple, and artichoke hearts. After they came by to say "hi" (read - check to see if my meeting was over), Rob took the kids to Equire for a black bean burger (I tell you those kids can pack away the food) until we needed to all bike home so he could tutor our friend, Kurt, for the last time (he is moving on to college in California).

I had a meeting at WEFT Friday around lunchtime so I walked downtown with the kids, hoping the sprinkles wouldn't turn into thunderstorms before we returned home. I asked if they wanted to ride bikes, but Dema said he preferred to get "xtracise" so walking it was. I love walking with my children. Josie was on my back in the mei tai, but she still managed to hold hands with her brothers and hug and kiss them from time to time. We looked for the snakes as we passed the house with the raised flower bed next to the sidewalk. One warm sunny day when we were riding our bikes, we almost ran over the snakes who had uncharacteristically slithered out of the raised bed onto the sidewalk to sun bathe. The kids love to look at the snakes, check out the gardens, and point out favorite houses as we walk downtown in our neighborhood full of old houses where they all have their own character and soul. We play math game or recite history sentences or try to answer the tough questions in life. Such as, what is the indentation under your nose and over your lips called? Philtrum (this is why I have an iPhone). We find sticks and other interesting things on the ground and enjoy getting a little wet and predicting the weather. We talk about lava and the sun and other hot things. Sometimes a knee gets scraped and we talk about blood and how helpful it is to clean out a wound and a certain five year old who may become a doctor some day (no pressure) gets into how much blood is too much blood while his older brother (and maybe his mom) gets a little woozy. The conversation evolves into hearts and being "warm-hearted" and having a "big heart". Eventually, we get to Aroma for a snack to keep them occupied while I'm in a meeting. We go with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (this kills me since I could easily make a much better and somewhat nutritious organic almond butter and fruit spread sandwich on whole wheat flax nut bread which they would enjoy much more, but I thought a hummus plate would be too messy to eat at the station) and fruit (again, I shudder a bit at the non-organic fresh fruit cup), but it is Friday. I appreciate that we have several options in our little downtown and all of them locally-owned non-chain establishments so I'm happy to support them.

After my meeting, I was hungry since not a crumb was left from their snack so I decided to check out Cafe Kopi. Rob and I used to go in for a hummus and eggplant experience when Kopi was one of the few places we could get something vegan, but we don't go as often as we used to. I noticed they had some new sandwiches on their menu and after ensuring it was vegan, I walked out with a Thai tempeh panini. It hit the spot and we walked and shared the sandwich and some more fruit on the way home. When we reached our park, we saw our neighbors, Vicky and Greg leaving for a bike ride. They stopped to chat and push the kids in the swings. We walked a couple block from our house to register the kids for some art classes through the park district and hung out at another park. On the way home we stopped at our neighborhood pub, Huber's, for a sucker. Huber's is a throw back to another time. They have a little window for kids to buy candy and many of the neighborhood kids will ride there bikes to Huber's for a candy fix quite regularly in the summer. We aren't big candy people so this is a rare, but fun treat for my clan. We saw neighbors all along the way and stopped to chat and pet their dogs.

People come and go in our town. Such is the life with a Big Ten college. We loose many friends to the ebb and tide of college town life. Soon the friends we went out with Wednesday will be moving on. Sometimes I miss the moving on part of our lives, but I'm settling into my role as a townie. Well, as settled as I ever feel. Yes, there are times when I wish we lived in a bigger town. There are lots of days when I miss the DC area, riding the Metro and walking in NW DC to work at Fannie Mae, talking with people about politics because everyone is into politics in DC, eating at great veg restaurants, activism, Great Falls, Carderock, the ocean, camping trips in the mountains, museums, culture, diversity, friends (many who will never make it to our little part of the country and I can't blame them). I especially miss my beloved Maryland and the way it made me feel like home and so alive. A long drive from my family of origin and a very expensive place to live that metro DC area. Crazy, crazy, crazy traffic. Lots of pressure and two incomes is a necessity not a luxury. Not seeing friends for weeks, even when they live five miles away. I get to spend leisurely time walking and biking around town with my kids on beautiful Spring days. I see neighbors daily and friends multiple times a week. I have time to cook meals, hang my laundry outside to dry, and learn with my kids while I run a little business. My husband gets to have dinner with us every night, even when he works late. He has time to play soccer, chess, and go out with the guys and still be a great husband and father. I have very mixed feelings living in my hometown, but sometimes it is as good as it gets.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Things You Should Take a Look at on Other People's Blogs

Since I may never be able to find the cable thingy that gets photos from my camera to the computer, I will resort to sending you to other blogs to see the wonderful food that awaits you. I did indeed make these dishes, but there is no photographic record on my end since I have given up all hope of being able to share photos anytime soon. In reality, I have been so incredibly busy enjoying spring with my family that I haven't really looked for said cable. I promise I some point.

First up is Vegan Planet. Robin is my go to gal for a quick, yummy, inexpensive meal. She never disappoints. I love her cookbooks and she is incredibly generous on her blog posting lots of great recipes (all the more reason to run out to your local book store and buy her cookbooks, if you ask me). My husband came home from work the other night and was hoping I would have dinner hot and waiting for him on the table, per normal (insert lots and lots of laughter). The day was too nice to spend inside so the kids and I were playing at our park when he arrived home. I could tell he was pretty hungry and I had nothing at all planned, but I didn't let on. I went to Vegan Planet, found Spicy Coconut Noodles and was back on track for wife and mother of the year. My family probably thought I planned this meal in advance, but I like to fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. I used broccoli instead of peas and I didn't have cilantro or parsley (I don't usually have fresh herbs until I grow them myself), but we did buy some celery from the farmer's market. We aren't huge celery fans (we use it a lot in soups or other things, but it isn't something we go looking for unless a recipe calls for it), but we were told fresh celery is very different from the stuff we can buy in the store. The tops of the celery smelled so good so I used them in place of the cilantro/parsley and it was super yum! I am a celery convert. I think we may have to grow some next year. I also added the soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and ginger while I was still stir-frying the tofu and it worked really well. I might make it a tad spicier next time, but everyone loved it just the way it was.

Next, is Happy Herbivore. I promised the boys I would make Lindsay's Vegan Black Bean Brownies since her post. I just never seem to have cooked black beans and bananas at the same time in the house. We try to shop once a week and bananas disappear the day we go shopping and since we usually buy fair trade organic bananas, I don't restock them through the week. We eat a lot of beans around here...a lot. At least once a week, I soak six to eight cups of dried beans (this week it was 3 or 4 cups of black beans and 3 or 4 cups of pinto) to cook and then eat throughout the week. 1 cup of dried beans roughly equals 3 cups cooked (a can of beans is a little less than 2 cups). So, we are talking at least 18 to 24 cups of beans a week (or 9 to 12 cans of beans). You can see why we don't often eat canned beans and why when people ask how to cut down on their food budget I usually suggest buying dried beans (in bulk, if possible, we buy 25 lb bags from our buying club or local food co-op, but most natural food stores will be happy to order them in bulk as well). Now, my kids love beans. Dema and Josie often beg for a bowl of plain cooked beans while I'm cooking. Black bean burritos and black bean burgers are our quick lunch and/or dinner when I'm in a hurry. Beans and brown rice is always a hit. So, I'm not trying to sneak beans into the family, but they saw the picture of the brownies on Happy Herbivore and begged for them. I can't believe I put it off until today because they are so incredibly easy. All three kids gobbled most of them up before Rob got home tonight. I didn't put the optional sugar in and I'm glad. They were plenty sweet. The 1/3 cup of agave nectar seems excessively expensive so I might have to figure out a sub (maybe dates). I love agave nectar, but 1/3 cup in one recipe is tough for me to swallow. I would also think about using flax seeds instead of oats, but they are great for when you crave something quick and sweet and chocolaty, but also want something somewhat good for you. They are also gluten (if you have gluten free oats) and soy free for those of you avoiding gluten and/or soy. I might cut down on the cinnamon as well, but now I'm nitpicking because they are good. Rob likes desserts which aren't too sweet, but he wasn't super impressed. I think it was the gooeyness (didn't bother the rest of us) so I might work on that next time. He wasn't surprised when I told him they were made with black beans because that is how I roll, but I don't think he would have guessed on his own. I've made desserts with lima beans before from David's Pure Vegetarian Kitchen, but it has been a while. I think I'll try the Vegan White Bean Strawberry Blondies next, but I'll make the brownies again. The kids will make sure I do.