Monday, December 26, 2011

Healthy Chocolate and Peanut Butter Spread….Oh My!

So that the title of this post and the accompanying picture coincide I thought I would start of telling you about my latest “creation”. It seems like an oxymoron to say that chocolate and peanut butter could be healthy doesn’t it? If I hadn’t made it myself I would be skeptical too. But I promise you this isn’t bad for and it is also tasty.

December was a tough month emotionally. Even I am not immune to feeling down on occasion. When bad things happen which I can’t immediately figure out how to deal I often crave comfort foods, I am after all only human. However what is different about this for me now is that while I crave these unhealthy foods I also recognize what is happening and then I start trying to figure out how to satisfy my emotional need without doing something that I will regret later.

Since I have been experimenting with a lot of hummus variations, both sweet and savory lately, that was part of the inspiration for this recipe. I took the concept of sweet hummus and married it with the concept of black bean brownies and added peanut butter to the mix and voila, a healthy chocolate and peanut butter flavored spread.

I made this once, not long after surgery, and didn’t measure. However I wanted to introduce the idea of it now before I forget what I did. This isn’t something that requires a recipe though the next time I make it I will measure so I can share the details. All you need to do is cook black beans until they are very soft. Place the hot drained beans in your food processor or Vitamix machine (I used my Vitamix). Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to make a creamy base. Now add some peanut butter (I used my homemade reduced-fat peanut butter) to the processor and mix to combine. Add cocoa powder and stevia to taste. That is all there is too this. If you can make hummus you can make this.

The dish pictured above is cucumber slices with the chocolate peanut black bean spread and little reduced-fat peanut butter on the side, because you really never can have too much peanut butter in my opinion. Not to mention that I liked the look of the two colors together. LOL

Our Last Day of Togetherness in December:

Boo hoo, today (Monday) is the last day of 24/7 togetherness for Dan and I this month. Tomorrow Dan returns to work and I return to my usual routine. Can you tell that a big part of me isn’t looking forward to this? ;-) We decided to take it easy today and rest up for the return to “normal life”.

As usual I started my morning reading the current passage in “The Book of Awakenings”. This passage was very meaningful for me today so I wanted to share the concept with you to give you an idea of what types of things are in the book. Here is a sample of the passage:

“Our crucial task when in pain or despair is not to let the sour feelings spill into everything, so that they stain our sense of the world….Our inner work is often most demanding when we are sad and afraid, for we can so easily be overwhelmed by the power of these emotions that we can start to believe that world less possible or ourselves diminished.”

When I read this I was immediately struck by a conversation that I had with a friend on Christmas Eve. My friend hurt her back and was in pain. Her husband was working and she was alone and miserable. She told me multiple times that this was the worst Christmas ever and that she couldn’t imagine it being any worse. I tried to get her to look at what was right in her world so that she didn’t concentrate on what was wrong and make herself feel worse. I reminded her that her husband loved her, and that her condition was temporary. However my friend told me that she wanted to wallow and feel sorry for herself so in the end I backed off.

I believe that everything which happens in life does so for a reason. Experiences are here to teach us things if we are open to the lessons they bring. How we process what happens to us in life has more to do with our outlook on life than the situation itself. Take my life for example. It would be very easy to focus on what is wrong and ignore the good. Most people don’t see the bright side of cancer, but it is there if only you look for it.

If it had not been for cancer neither of us (Dan or myself) would have been as willing to make such dramatic lifestyle changes. Also had it not been for the cancer I would not have embarked on a journey to learn everything that I could about what we could do to be as healthy as possible. Once I “knew” the truth about nutrition and health it became my passion and something that I felt like I needed to share with others so that hopefully they could avoid the same situation that we have had to deal with. In the end cancer was not all bad for us. Don’t get me wrong I would never say that I am glad that cancer entered our life, but what I am saying is that if I can find something positive about cancer I feel like any situation has some gift to share with us if we are open to it.

What about you, how do you deal with problems in your life? When something terrible happens how do you react? My immediate reaction to problems now is to jump in and learn everything that can about the issue at hand. Once I feel like I know the basics then I feel like I can make a positive impact on the situation which gives me the feeling of some level of control. If I had hurt my back and been discharged from the hospital while my husband was at another hospital working I would have taken the opportunity to do some research into my situation. By the time my husband came home I would have taught myself the basics of the situation and would have tons of questions for him. Would you have approached the situation like that or would you have done something else?

When bad things happen to you how do you pull yourself out depression or isn’t that an issue for you? I find that when I am researching topics (like cancer) it allows me to think of it (the cancer) in the abstract. By thinking of the disease in general I frequently forget that it is more personal than that. Also my “sense” of control over the situation means that I am more optimistic. Did you know that there are many studies that indicate that a patient’s attitude is correlated with better health outcomes? This was something that I knew nothing about until I embarked on my research project (which is what my husband calls my health and nutrition obsession).

Okay enough questions about life let’s get back to the food. ;-)

Breakfast this morning was a simple bowl of steel cut oats, sliced banana, homemade almond milk and a little homemade no-oil, no-sugar granola on top for crunch and nutrition. Dan loves oatmeal for breakfast so I like to oblige when I have time to make it. I wish that he would eat savory oatmeal (since it is much higher in nutrition) for breakfast, but I guess I shouldn’t complain since his diet is SO much healthier than the average American male. Sometimes I need to remind myself of how good he is when it comes to his food habits. ;-)

Lunch was a bowl of split pea and barley soup that I made quickly in the pressure cooker. I use my pressure cooker almost exclusively now when I am preparing beans. It is hard for me to believe that I used to be afraid of pressure cookers. Fortunately I worked up the courage to use mine. Now I am not sure I could eat like we do without it. If you eat a lot of beans and you don’t have a pressure cooker I highly recommend them. I think you will be very pleased by how simple and safe they are to use now. Today’s pressure cookers are nothing like the ones our mothers and grandmothers used. If you need any suggestions on what to look for when buying one please ask. I am happy to share what I have learned using mine.

After lunch it was time to run errands. Like usual we had things to do which we had been putting off all week. After a quick trip to the library to return books we headed to Hunt Valley because Dan wanted to stop at Wegman’s. Since I love grocery shopping (because I am weird like that) I was all for it. I picked up some dried organic beans (you can never have too many IMO), organic low-sugar unsulfured dried fruit, organic raw cashews, cauliflower (love my cruciferous veggies) and argan oil for my hair.

While we were standing in line I couldn’t help but notice what was on the convey belt behind us. *sigh* This young couple (okay not really young but younger than us which isn’t saying much) had the following items: cream cheese, port wine cheese spread, a block of something that looked like cheddar, cocktail sausages, water crackers, Diet Dr. Pepper and chocolates. As I looked at their food I could not help but notice that not only was there no nutrition in their cart but everything was literally toxic. I find it so depressing that people seem to be oblivious to the healthfulness or lack of healthfulness in the food they are consuming. In my perfect world everyone would at least understand the ramifications of their choices on their health. Who knows maybe one day our educational system will actually teach nutrition and not the BS that is currently taught based on studies funded by the dairy council, pork producers, etc. *ugh*

When we were leaving Wegman’s Dan decided that we should stop at Jesse Wong’s for a little veggie sushi. He said it would be more relaxing for me since they would be no prep or kitchen clean up. I protested his idea for at least half a second and then gave in. After all who really likes to clean up the kitchen after dinner? No me that is for sure.

We started our meal with a pot of green tea because you really can never have too much of that stuff in my opinion. Dinner was two orders of veggie sushi (shitake and asparagus) and edamame (which I forgot to photograph). How long have I been blogging? LOL

As you all know Dan’s loves the faux duck at Jesse Wong’s so he really wanted to order that for dinner. I tried to convince him to try something new but he likes what he likes if you know what I mean. It is a guy thing I have decided. He did agree to try the faux duck with mixed vegetables instead of the Hunan faux duck in the interest of being adventurous. ;-) We asked them make the faux duck with mixed vegetables spicy and that was a good decision for extra flavor. If you make it to Jesse Wong’s don’t forget to order your entrée with brown rice. Frequently we forget and have to change that after our entrée has come to the table. However they are always good natured about making the change.

The fur children were all waiting at the front door when we arrived at home. They insist on “investi- cat-ing” all the packages that we bring into the door. I am not sure why they feel the need to check out everything we do. However Dan and I both joke around that it is because they know that they are smarter than we are and therefore they are protecting us from ourselves. With our three little Einstein felines this is not as farfetched as it sounds. ;-)

Happy Thoughts:

December has been a rough month for us but things have definitely turned around. We had a good Christmas and many things to be thankful for such as:

• The weather today was very pleasant. The air was a little crisp but with a light coat and gloves it was a nice day to be outside at the mall. Being outside when there is a little snap in the air always reminds me of being a child and who wouldn’t love that?

• Dinner out this evening was a nice surprise. I always enjoy veggie sushi and spending a little less time on kitchen clean up duty. ;-) Not to mention it was delicious and a very relaxing way to spend the evening.

• I wore my new red sweater and Levi’s tonight for dinner and both of them fit great. Dan did a wonderful job picking clothes out for me. I even had on some of my new jewelry this evening. Somehow wearing a new outfit always makes me smile.

• I was thrilled to find organic argan oil at Wegman’s this evening for my hair. Go Wegman’s! Sometimes it is the little things in life that make me happy.

• Dan told me this evening that he will also be off next Monday. *woo hoo* Don’t you just love four day weeks? I will have to start thinking now of something fun for us to do with his day off. I think a day trip may be in order for us. Now the only question is where to go. Decisions, decisions. ;-)

• Spending every morning reading “The Book of Awakenings” has definitely become a habit for me. I really enjoy that book and it nice to have a little time to myself each morning to get myself in a good frame of mind for my day. If you haven’t seen the book please see if your local library has it. I first found it at my library and enjoyed it so much that I ordered a copy for myself.

• I have been very touched by all the welcome back messages that I have received the last few days. Thank you all so much for your kindness. It really means a lot to me that I was missed. Hugs to you all!

Signing Out:

Tomorrow we get back to the regular grind. *sigh* Dan will be returning to work and it is my job to try to get the house back into some semblance of order. Clearly after taking a month off on the house front I definitely have my work cut out for me. With a little luck the homestead will be presentable by Friday afternoon. *fingers crossed* I wonder if I can convince the fur children to lend me a hand. LOL, fat chance, but it amused me to "say it" out loud.

Talk with you again tomorrow. I hope the holidays are treating you well. :-)


  1. I agree with your life "philosophy" and my husband and I both follow it!

    I would enjoy your recommendation for a pressure cooker because we do cook a lot of beans and I dislike using so much electricity.

    Take care :)

  2. A quick comment about attitudes at Christmas. A co-worker/friend of mine (another instructor at the gym) lost her husband ON Christmas Day, after a VERY long battle with cancer. Personally - I think there's little that can one-up the "worst Christmas ever" of that kind of experience.

    As a side note, I'm so glad to see your posts again. I had been thinking of you for months (and being useless about communication, presumably because I felt out of place, since I knew you would have your close friends about you and what not). I'm so glad to see you're well.

  3. Possum (Nadine),

    You are much wiser than I was at your age. I only wish I had this attitude years ago. :-)

    I will try to write about pressure cookers this week since I now know there is interest in them. If you haven't used one I am sure you will love them.

    Thanks for your concern. We are doing well and have every intention to continue to stay that way. ;-)


  4. Gloria,

    I am so sorry to hear about your friend. That is a terrible way to spend Christmas. :-( Having a diagnosis on Christmas Eve I understand what cancer can do to the holidays. *sigh* I hope your friend is surrounded by loved ones now.

    Life has been very hectic at our house recently. I have felt bad that I didn't have time for the blog but I just couldn't fit it in. Don't worry about not communicating, my email box is also piled up. Like I said life has been crazy. But it is starting to return to normal again. Now I just need to get this house back in order. LOL

    talk with you later,

  5. Ali,

    I think I ruined it with too much stevia. When I first put it in my mouth, my brain says, "Yum, that tastes like chocolate!" But then an unpleasant aftertaste kicks in. There were several factors that I did a little different though that might have also been contributors.

    1. I didn't cook the black beans. I used whole can, and 1 tblsp of the bean liquid.

    2. I didn't have organic peanut butter on hand, but I did have a new product that I wanted to try that I saw on Dr. Oz which is called, "PB2." It's a powdered peanut butter that has the fat pulled out of it, which results in only 45 calories per 2 tblsp and only 1 gram of total fat. You reconstitute with 1 tblsp of water per 2 tblsp powder, so that made a total of 3 tblsp liquid. When it still didn't taste right, I thought maybe it was the powdered peanut butter, so I threw in some non organic peanut butter. Hmm, as I'm typing I'm thinking maybe the powdered pb is why I got more of a pudding like consistency.

    3. I forget how much cocoa I added. But I did go back and add more because mine isn't as dark, but it still has the aftertaste. My has more of a pudding consistency also.

    4. I used NuNaturals powdered stevia, 3/4 tsp. I started off with only 1/4 tsp, but I could still taste the beans, so I kept adding until I didn't taste the beans anymore.

    I'm finding that it's kind of fun to actually troubleshoot a recipe!

  6. Christy,

    Given the aftertaste you mention I agree with you about the stevia. I don't use that brand but I only use a tiny amount of the stuff no where near even 1/4 teaspoon. But all brands may be a different concentration.

    Depending on how "bitter" it is adding more black beans, peanut butter, etc my fix it. Since you are using peanut butter powder if it is too thin add that dry and let the it rehydrate in the bean mixture. Does that make sense?

    I hope that helped!


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