You’re So Sweet: March 14


March 14 is quite a busy day for sweets on both ends of the Pacific Ocean.

In Japan, the day is called, “White Day.” No, it has nothing to with race, of course, but it has a lot to do with love and sugar. You see, Valentine’s Day, on February 14, is the Japan’s equivalent of Sadie Hawkins Day where a girl gets to ask a guy she likes out, or at least tell him how she feels about him, by giving him chocolates.

It’s a clever marketing ploy by a chocolate company, I tell you, but it’s a big deal for them gals!  Some of them wait an entire year for this special day and wait patiently until the 14th of the following Month, on White Day, to receive a response from the guy via white chocolate or marshmallow, hence the name.

Here, in the U.S., it’s National Pi Day!

The two events occasioned me to bake something sweet and because I wasn’t in the mood for pie, I went for some good old brownies, courtesy of Martha Stewart.  I know brownies have nothing to do with White Day or Pi Day, but I say sugar is sugar!


I used the Godiva dark chocolate bars that I received as a birthday gift a few months ago, and added one cup each of dried cranberries, chopped almonds, and white chocolate chips, in an attempt to clear out the freezer. I think these made the brownies extra decadent, perfect for the sweet March 14.

Black Bean Brownies


I’ve noticed that many bloggers I adore have vacated the blogosphere and moved on to other social media in recent years, sharing their thoughts via pictures and 140 characters instead of potentially lengthy, often time-consuming posts. It’s wonderful that I can still take a peak into their interesting lives and delicious food and craft adventures in catchy tweets and sepia color photos, but I miss their creative expressions through vibrantly written words.  Many of them are great epicurean, talented crafters and even better writers, and I miss savoring on their deliciously selected words!

On a separate note, this blog, Lavender and Olive (well, Time for Dinner for most part, until I changed the name), celebrated its six-year anniversary the other day, with more than 500 posts.  Six years!  Yipee!  The readership remains meager (I don’t think my family members even read this blog lol ) and I STILL don’t have a clear point of view (Is this a food blog?  Knitting blog? Sewing?  Soap making?), but this is an extension of my life and I’m really proud of it.  And thank you so much for your continued support.

Cheers to six more yummy years!  In the meantime:  Black Bean Brownies from Melissa D’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners!

Note: I substituted black beans with kidney beans (because that’s all I had in the pantry) but still came out delicious!  I might like this better than regular brownies, with the perfect combination of cake and fudge.  I think I’ll add more beans (maybe a whole can, instead of 3/4 cup) next time because I loved the texture so much (but they don’t taste like beans at all).


Black Bean Brownies
(Adapted From Food Network)


Butter, for greasing pan
3/4 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup vegetable oil, or olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 9-inch square baking pan.

In a blender, puree the beans with the oil. Add the eggs, cocoa, sugar, coffee, and vanilla. Melt half the chocolate chips and add to the blender. Blend on medium-high until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the blender and pulse until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until the surface looks somewhat matte around the edges and still a bit shiny in the middle, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting and removing from the pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Cook’s Note: Place a small cutout or stencil on the brownie before dusting to make a design.

Brownies for All the Lovers Out There!

I wonder if it’s just me, but I feel like February is the most uneventful month of the year. It is often overshadowed by two, action-packed months preceding it and noone really seems to get excited over what happens on the second month of the year. Sure, there are Super Bowl for men, Valentine’s Day for gals, and the President’s Day holiday for the kids, but if a year were a boy band, February would be that unknown kid quietly standing alongside breakout starts that noone cares about.

But then again, it may just be me. I don’t particularly care for Super Bowl, my boyfriend and I think Valentine’s Day is a hoax, and my work doesn’t even recognize the President’s Day as a company holiday. With exception of my father’s birthday (and this breathtaking song by Josh Groban), February is a relatively uneventful month at my household.

But I’m not going to rain on your parade, if February is a special month for you. Instead, I will share this wonderful brownies recipe that is perfect for the football-loving couch potatoes and lovebirds who cherish the Hallmark holiday. Happy February!

February Brownies
Makes about 16

This recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart’s Fudgy Chocolate Brownies recipe, with slight alterations by me. I swapped the regular white sugar with agave nectar and evaporated cane sugar and reduced the overall amount from 1-1/2 cups to just one. I also reduced the amount of chocolate chips and added some later for that chocolate-y consistency. I also added instant coffee mix to bring out the intense chocolate flavor. Both recipes are equally delicious. Try both and let me know what you think!

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (to be melted)
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (to be added later)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 cup Evaporated Cane Sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant coffee
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Grease the 9 x 9 baking pan with butter and line with bottom with parchment paper (don’t skip this step, otherwise you will cry when you try to get the brownie out of the pan later).

Melt together the 6 oz. of chocolate and butter in a double boiler on a medium high heat. Make sure to stir regularly to ensure that chocolate doesn’t burn. Once everything is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir with a whisk. Add agave nectar, evaporated cane sugar, vanilla, and instant coffee and mix well. Add the flour and salt. Do not over-mix once you add the flour, as it produces a tough brownie. Simply pour the flour into the mixture and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the mixture onto the lined baking pan and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool before serving.

These brownies will last for about 3 days in a refrigerator but I promise you that they won’t last that long.

This is a recipe for those really ooey gooey brownies, closer to a chocolate fudge than a cake-y kind. If you like the dense brownies with intense chocolate flavors, this is the recipe for you! 🙂

If the Shoe fits: Dark Chocolate Madeleines

madeleine-2When I attempt a new baking recipe, I always follow the golden rules: ① read the recipe all the way through before proceeding, ② have all the ingredients measured and ready, and ③ always stay true to the recipe. But despite all the preparation, I always find ways to mess things up!

I baked Dark Chocolate Madeleines using Carole Bloom’s The Essential Baker cookbook. I followed the recipe (which were very well written and easy to understand) precisely, but the end products came out resembling petit chewy brownies, instead of the sophisticated French cookies that I was expecting. Other than the fact that they were slightly overcooked, the cookies tasted fine … but I felt a bit disappointed, not being able to recreate the delicate, buttery, cake-like delight that is Madeleine 😦

I read and reread the recipe several times afterward to try to identify what went wrong, and it dawned on me that this recipe was almost identical to the Brownie recipe I often use. Curious, I cracked open the cookbooks side by side to compare the two and there it was, the madeleine recipe showing up under brownies. So, perhaps I didn’t mess up the recipe afterall, and the cookies came out exactly how they should.

I just wished the recipe would call these little morsales what they really are, brownies, instead of giving them the fancier name so that I won’t be confused. But this baking cookbook, I must say, is pretty incredible. I love how ingredients are listed alongisde the instructions, making it very easily to follow, and Bloom’s writing is warm and welcoming. I can’t wait to try her other recipes in the book.

Dark Chocolate Madeleines From The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

madaleine-snapshotDirection (it’s been abbreviated from the original recipe from the book)

① Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.
② Place the chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler over low heat. Stir often with rubber spatula to help melt evenly. Add vanilla and blend well.
③ Place eggs in the bowl of an electric stand mixture using the wire whip attachment and whip the eggs on medium speed until they are frothy, about one minute.
④ Add the sugar and whip together until the mixture is very thick and pale colored, about five minutes.
⑤ Shift flour and add salt.
⑥ With the mixture speed on low, add the flour mixture to the egg mixture in three stages, blending well after each addition.

madaleine1⑦ Pour the chocolate mixture into the batter and blend in thoroughly.
⑧ Pour the batter slowly into each cavity of the Madeleine molds, filling them 3/4 full.
⑨ Bake until the tops spring back lightly when touched.
⑩ Cool the Madeleines completely on the racks.
⑪ Sprinkle powdered sugar and enjoy the brownies … I mean the dark chocolate madeleines 🙂