Menu Plan Monday

I recently discovered the Organizing Junkie blog, run by the lovely Laura. She hosts an event every week, Menu Plan Monday, so I plan on participating from now on.

Not only does planning out a week of meals save time and energy, it can save you a lot of money on groceries and make your trips to the store more productive!

Here is my plan for this week:

Menu for week of March 31 – April 6

Dinner – Sweet and sour konnyaku with sauteed okra
Dessert – Mashed bananas with whipped cream and cinnamon
Dinner – Caesar salad with eggs and sauteed vegetarian fish rolls
Dessert – Cinnamon sugar toast
Dinner – Fresh vegetarian spring rolls and curried butternut squash fries
Dessert – Oranges and yogurt
Dinner – Sesame mustard radish salad and stir-fried konnyaku
Dessert – Baked apples with honey and cinnamon
Dinner – Spicy thai papaya salad with chopped vegetarian fish rolls
Dessert – Toast with nutella
Saturday: Out with friends
Sunday: Leftovers

This menu provides some interesting insight into my diet. I enjoy dessert, and firmly believe that it should be the ending to every nighttime meal. Because of this, I eat light meals and try to have my desserts be slightly more nutritious than is typical. Whereas one person may enjoy chowing down on a hearty sandwich and skipping the sweets, I would prefer to have a wholesome salad or soup or mix of vegetables and protein PLUS a dessert that helps me get my required daily nutrients. My desserts are more than just a guilty nibble of some sugary creation; they are an intricate part of my life and I want them to stay that way.

If you’re reading this and suddenly my blog makes much more sense to you, I’m glad! I hope it allows you to indulge without regret and enjoy life to the fullest!

Look forward to some pictures and recipes of the above-mentioned meals. As always, happy eating!

Low Sugar Black Bean Brownies

When I saw this recipe over at 101 Cookbooks, I knew I had to try it. Many Asian desserts use the red adzuki bean and I always like them a lot. I recently bought a loaf of red bean bread, which is similar to cinnamon swirl – except the swirls were a smooth and creamy red bean paste. It was delicious. I wanted to try this recipe with the adzuki beans, but alas, I was short on time and couldn’t find canned adzuki beans. I did buy a bag of dried adzukis for another time, but decided to settle for black beans, at least for now.

I also decided to try three permutations of the recipe. I love butter, but some people watch calories. I subbed out the butter in 2 variations and tried them with applesauce and then with mashed banana. I made three half batches and tested them on my coworkers, friends, and roommates. I think the banana won out in the end, but the applesauce was a close second and (surprisingly) butter was a definite last.

Another change I made had to do with the sweetening method used.  I always cut down the sugar when I bake so this time I severely reduced the amount of agave nectar called for. If you like your desserts very sweet, up the amount of agave nectar to up to a 1/2 cup for the recipe listed below. You can also substitute honey for agave nectar at a ratio of 1:1. If you don’t know where to find agave nectar, try Trader Joe’s or any local health food store.

I made three half batches, so I’m going to list the recipe for a half-batch below.

  1. In the first version, I used creamy unsalted butter.
  2. In the second I used unsweetened applesauce.
  3. In the third I used mashed banana.

This is how (my version of) the recipe goes.

Adapted from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature’s Ultimate Sweetener by Ania Catalano.

Black Bean Brownies


  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter OR 1/2 cup applesauce OR 1/2 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup soft cooked black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup instant coffee
  • dash of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar


  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9×9-inch pan with wax or parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray (optional – but makes for much easier removal, as I found out. I did not use the spray, and mine stuck to the paper.)
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter/applesauce/banana in the microwave (about 1 minute). Stir to melt completely. Place the beans, 1/4 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a few spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into a food processor. Mix on high until creamy, about 1.5-2 minutes.  The beans should be smooth.*  Set aside.
  3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the rest of the walnuts, the remaining chocolate mix, the instant coffee, and the salt. Mix and set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs until light and creamy (I did this by hand and didn’t get them as creamy as I would have liked; the brownies turned out fine anyway). Add the agave nectar and set aside.
  5. Add the bean mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring well. Then add in most of the egg mix, saving a few tablespoons to drizzle on top.
  6. Pour the batter into your baking pan. Beat the remaining egg mixture a big more, then drizzle overtop of the batter. Using a toothpick, mix around the batter and egg drizzle to create a marbled effect.
  7. Bake about 35-40 minutes, until brownies have set. You can use a clean toothpick to determine whether they are done. Let cool, then cut into squares. It’s best if you refrigerate them before cutting as they are quite soft.

These are the ones with applesauce (I mixed the beans a little bit longer than I did with the buttery batch, so they look very smooth):

And these are the banana ones (they were slightly thicker because I used a different shaped pan):

The butter ones are pictured at the beginning of this post – as you can see, they are a little more chunky than either the applesauce or banana ones! As I kept on making batches, I learned the proper times for mixing the beans and the appropriate amount of egg mixture to reserve for drizzling. It all comes down to personal preference, so bake as you like!

*Note: In Asian desserts, sometimes the red beans are whole. If you want more of the bean flavor in these brownies, don’t blend them too long in the food processor. When I make these with red beans I’m only going to mix for about 30 seconds to keep some of the beans from being completely mashed.

Lemon sponge pudding

This is one of the coolest desserts I’ve made yet. For one thing, it’s a pudding – I adore pudding. For another, it appears to be much more complex than it actually is. You mix up the batter, pour it into ramekins or bowls, and as it cooks, it separates. A light, airy crust forms above a rich and creamy pudding. I got the recipe from a fantastic book, How to Read a French Fry, by Russ Parsons. I inadvertently changed it and forgot to add the last egg white, but it still turned out well. I did almost everything else according to the recipe, except I used chocolate almond milk instead of regular and I substituted margarine for the butter. My lemons were organic and fresh from my backyard. I think they were actually a bit strong compared to the lemons you would normally buy in the store, so their flavor was quite powerful. I enjoyed it; if you are more sensitive cut down on the lemon juice content.

Lemon Sponge Pudding

3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (I used chocolate unsweetened almond breeze)
3 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter, melted (I used margarine)
1 large egg white (I accidentally forgot to add this)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter 2 3-cup molds or 8 1/2-cup ramekins.
2. Mix flour, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the milk, egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Then stir in the melted butter.
4. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until they form peaks (but not too dry!). Gently fold into the batter.
5. Pour into your molds; place in a large baking pan. Pour in very hot water about an inch high. Bake until the top is just browned; about 35 minutes for the big molds or 20 for the ramekins. Serve hot or at room temperature.

I baked mine in bowls with water in them – I couldn’t find a baking pan.

The pudding is underneath this light, bready crust. It’s really incredible how the two separate out while cooking. I’ve had something similar happen once before, though – when I made my “light” Dutch babies, the egg whites sank below a lighter crust. There is so much to learn about the science of cooking and I hope to take some classes on it some day 🙂

Asparagus and sesame salad

This is another Delica inspiration. The asparagus salad with sesame dressing is so good. Bobby got it in his bento box lunch and let me try it – at which point I decided I HAD to make it, and soon. I went to Marina on Saturday and picked up the asparagus, and here we are. My version is slightly tangier than Delica’s. If you wanted it milder, just omit the lemon juice from the dressing and halve the vinegar. I like the tangy version better, so I won’t be changing anything the next time I make it. I am so glad I found Delica – the best inspiration is always right under your nose. I hadn’t been making much of an effort to cook recently because I’ve been trying to adjust to working and my new house and new life, and cooking wasn’t a priority. But once I started again, I became a lot happier. I really do love to cook/create/enjoy. And I can’t wait to go back to Delica for more ideas!

Asparagus with Sesame Dressing

Dash of salt (Kosher is best)
1 lemon, juiced
1 large bunch of asparagus, cut into 1.5-2-inch lengths
2 carrots, grated

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon sugar
dash of dried red pepper (or other spicy seasoning)

1. Boil about 3-4 cups of water in a large pot. Add the juice from one lemon and the salt. Add the asparagus and carrots to the water and boil for 3-4 minutes, making sure to mix them around occasionally. Drain and let cool.
2. Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet until golden-brown. This takes about 5 minutes. Let cool.
3. Use a mini food processor to grind up the sesame seeds. You could also use a mortar and pestle. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix again in the processor.
4. Either drizzle the veggies with dressing, or mix them all together.

Hijiki salad

This is my attempt to replicate Delica rf-1’s Hijiki and Soybean Salad. I changed it a little and added some things, but it’s pretty close and tastes great! I decided to omit the soybeans, fried tofu, and wolfberry. I added carrots and lotus root. I love lotus root.

Hijiki Salad

1/2 cup dried hijiki
1/2 cup finely sliced konnyaku
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cup lotus root, sliced
1/2 cup daikon, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup celery, sliced
3 cups of spring mix, chopped

2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
dash of paprika
dash of salt

1. Prepare the vegetables. Once you’ve done this, you can pretty much just mix everything together. See the following for specifics…
2. Dried hijiki: place in a bowl and add 2 cups of water. Let sit for 25 minutes, then drain in a strainer. If the water gets absorbed before the 25 minutes are up, just keep adding more water.
3. Lotus root: boil 1-2 cups of water. Slice the lotus root and boil for 20 minutes. Let cool.
4. Konnyaku: boil 1-2 cups of water. Slice VERY thinly and boil for 5 minutes. Drain, change the water, and repeat. Drain and let cool.
5. Edamame: if they are frozen, just boil them for 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.
6. Slice the daikon and celery; shred the carrot. I chopped my spring mix a little finer than what came out of the bag.
7. Mix all prepared vegetables except the spring mix together.
8. Make the dressing – whisk together sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, paprika and salt.
9. Add the dressing to the mixed vegetables, then stir in the spring mix last.

Next time I might cook the shredded carrot in with the edamame, but aside from that I’ll keep everything the same.