Today saw multiple culinary adventures blossom into various stages of success. After leaving the black beans to stew in water for about an extra twelve hours (note: although I could attribute this as my fantastic bean know-how at work, it's really because I was feeling uninspired and lazy last night), I decided to see what they were made of. Or, to be more accurate, to see what I could make of them. My palate plan of attack? Sweet and spicy.

The result turned out to be almost exactly what I wanted -- sweet (although a little too sweet) and spicy (again, a tad too spicy for me, but my husband said he could go for more of the taste bud inferno). The original plan that I pieced together from several on All Recipes called for a whole lot of white sugar. It seemed a bit excessive, so I replaced the sugar with applesauce. When I taste tested the cooking beans and veggies, my eyes and mouth watered -- in pain. I enjoy tangy foods, but spicy foods, while still yummy, are not quite as much up my alley. So I added some sugar-free maple syrup (which is surprisingly yummy by its own right). While I think I may have added a little too much of the syrup, I think it turned out well in the end. I really enjoyed this meal. My only regret is that, due to concerns about the concoction turning into a soupy mess, I served it to two rather full stomachs, so we did not get to enjoy it as much as we otherwise might have. Would I make it again? Oh, yes. Maybe even sometime soon.

My other adventure arrived in the form of healthy, low-fat cookies. Isn't that a grand word combination -- "low-fat" and "cookies"? Unfortunately, I negated the healthful benefits of these treats by munching away on trail mix while attempting to thread together a plot for my NaNo novel. Nonetheless, I wanted to create a cookie that combined oatmeal, banana, and peanut butter. Based off of a recipe from All Recipes, I came up with the beauty you see here. Healthy? For sure. Tasty? They're okay. I wanted something crispier and these were baking more like bread, so I broiled them for a few minutes before removing them from the oven. They were still quite fluffy in the middle, so next time I will flatten them after plopping them on the baking sheet. Ah, well. I suppose you can't be too fussy when it comes to healthy cookies . . . right?

Sweet 'N' Spicy Beans

canola oil non-stick cooking spray
2 cups black beans, soaked in water 24 hrs (or 1 can of black beans, rinsed)
1/2 cup chopped onion of your choice (I used yellow)
2 T minced garlic
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 T dry cilantro
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 dash each of chili powder, cumin, cinnamon
1/8 cup maple syrup (you may also want to try honey)

Cover the bottom a skillet with the cooking spray and cook the garlic and onion over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Stir in the rest of the vegetables, followed by the spices and maple syrup. Let the whole mess cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the black beans and allow the concoction to come to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer at least one hour. (I had mine cook for about 1.5 -- 2 hours, and the beans were still rather firm. If this happens, increase the temperature slightly.) Serve hot or cold. Be creative with your presentation -- these beans would be great served in tortilla-lined bowls, topped with tortilla chips and salsa, or as burritos. Have fun!

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