I was all set to dazzle you this week with more of the scintillating “stuff” that I have come across as I wander around on the ‘net, but I found something even more exciting in my mail.

It is proof positive that 1) the U.S. Postal Service is alive and well; and 2) you are still out there. It’s been a while since I have heard from any of you.

A few weeks ago I was talking about how much I have come to like black beans and how much I have been using them in the past year or so. I mentioned that they are delicious, good for you and versatile, and said that somewhere, I’m pretty sure I have a recipe for black bean brownies.

Well, an anonymous friend of the Exchange sent me a clipping from that column, along with her recipe for black bean brownies. I feel much better knowing that they are not just a figment of my imagination.

The brownies have a few unusual ingredients in addition to the black beans, such as quick oats, maple syrup or agave and coconut oil. Sounds like a good recipe to take to Coulee Region Cooks the next time I go there.

Karen Vick of La Crosse wrote to thank us for the chicken casserole recipes made without canned soup, and proclaimed the chicken, pasta and mixed veggie casserole recipe to be very good. She wrote: “I love it!! Made it and shared with family and friends. They enjoyed it also!” She plans to try some of the other chicken casserole recipes as well.

Along with her thanks, Karen shared one of her favorite summer recipes with us. Her summer fettuccini with fresh veggie sauce will definitely help you use up some of your garden bounty.

Karen says her fettuccini and vegetables is nice served with garlic bread on the side, and that it goes great with chicken.

Back in February I mentioned that Betty Crocker was planning to introduce a gluten free rice flour blend sometime around the end of July (possibly sooner). Well, it doesn’t get much closer to the end of July than this, does it? So start looking for it on your grocers’ shelves, and if you don’t find it there, ask for it.

Speaking of gluten free, I have noticed that “guar gum” often turns up in gluten free recipes, but I had no idea what it was. Wikipedia informed me that guar gum “is a substance made from guar beans, which has thickening and stabilizing properties useful in the food industry . . . . guar seeds are dehusked, milled and screened to obtain the guar gum. which is typically produced as a free-flowing, off-white powder.”

Guar gum is increasingly being used as a thickening agent in the hydraulic fracturing process, as well. If I were reading this, there would be black question marks of varying sizes floating in circles around my head right about now, and I’d be thinking, “hydraulic what?!” I turned to Wikipedia again and found that hydraulic fracturing is “a well stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by a pressurized liquid.” The information went on to mention welbores, proppants and aluminum oxide, all of which meant very little to me. All I know is that the process uses guar gum. And that is all I needed to know.Black Bean Brownies

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed well

2 tablespoons cocoa powder, Dutch process or regular

½ cup quick oats

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

⅓ cup pure maple syrup or agave

2 tablespoons sugar (or omit, increasing maple syrup to ½ cup)

¼ cup coconut or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ to ⅔ cup chocolate chips, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in the chips; pour into a greased or sprayed 8-by-8-inch pan. Sprinkle extra chips on top if desired. Bake 15 to 18 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. (Shared by an anonymous friend)

Summer Fettuccini with Fresh Veggie Sauce

3 or 4 ripe summer tomatoes, cut in thin wedges

1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

8 to 10 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

Combine all vegetables; marinate in oil 2 to 3 hours at room temperature, before serving. Cook pasta according to package directions. Serve pasta topped with veggie sauce. Top with shaved fresh parmesan cheese. Serves 4 to 6. (Shared by Karen Vick, La Crosse)

Send requests, recipes and/or cooking tips and techniques to Alice P. Clark at: Reader Exchange, c/o La Crosse Tribune, 401 N. Third St., La Crosse, WI 54601; e-mail: readerexchange@lacrossetribune.com.

Liven up your Thursday mornings by tuning in to Coulee Region Cooks from 10 to 11 a.m. on 1410-AM on the radio dial.

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