Making Cake out of Beans (because we do crazy things like that in San Francisco)


This is a socca — garbanzo flatbread. Video of cake to follow sometime, when I master video.

On Saturday my sister and her girls came to town for the day (they live about 90 minutes north of here, on a bucolic hilltop in Santa Rosa).  We took a chilly morning walk along the Embarcadero with our strollers and ended up at the South Beach Marina playground for a spell, where Babygirl and my older niece took turns trying to get injured on the merry-go-round (aka, the Wheel of Pain and Tears).  My brother-in-law would be working for the next, oooh, twelve hours or so, and like any self-respecting mother of two toddlers facing an entire day of activity planning solo, my sister looked thoughtfully out over the water and the still-low-lying sun and announced, “You know, I think we’re just going to keep walking for a while after all, if you want to stick with us.”

Babygirl has gymnastics every Saturday about halfway across town, so we agreed that we’d just walk the three miles or so thataway, and then meet up after class for the walk home.

We took Sutter, because it’s the “flattest” route (this is San Francisco, mind), and also tolerably un-scuzzy, being on the Nob Hill side of the Tenderloin (as opposed to the drug-riddled heart of the Tenderloin two blocks down).  I was somewhat unprepared for such a long excursion and had to stop partway at a corner liquor store for a bottled water…“And can I have a squeezy?  And a bar?  I needa milk!  I mean, can we have a treat?”  As I hustled around gathering provisions, my sister peered in from her post outside with the strollers — her double-Bob and my Bugaboo were no match for the tightly packed shelves — and called, “Ooh! They have kombucha!  Will you get me one of those, too?”

“Of course!” I said, grabbing two.  It sounded so refreshing!  And then we looked at each other and burst out laughing.

I mean, who gets this excited about kombucha?  We are literally Northern-California-bred parodies of ourselves.

If you follow me on Instagram then you know I’ve been noodling around with this thing called the Reinvent for the past month.  And judging from the rate at which I’ve been gaining and then losing Instagram followers, the Reinvent is confusing people who think I’m some kind of clean-eating blogger, only to be disappointed that mostly I write about being a mom and muddling through life without any hard-and-fast rules or answers.  Ooops.

So what is the Reinvent?  Well, its creator, Michelle Pfenninghaus, has a pitch on her website Find Your Balance, but here’s how I describe it: a four-week program of mindful, whole-food meal planning and eating, including experiments in eliminating certain foods (in my case: gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and processed foods including all processed oils such as canola and soy).  Also, sigh, you have to eat fermented foods every day.  Enter kombucha.  And sauerkraut.

Quick background: I got involved with the Reinvent last year through my work on postmodyrn, where Michelle was a sometime contributor on topics relating to health and food.  She invited me to do her program in April (then called the Reinvent 21) and I found it to be an incredible exercise in mindfulness; you can read the piece I wrote about the experience here.  Anyway, after the holiday rush — and, if I’m being honest, a really logistically and emotionally challenging back half of 2015 — it felt like a good time to take stock again, and I re-upped for the New Year session.

Full disclosure: I have NEVER in my adult life been interested in any kind of restrictive or circumscribed eating plan.  I had a fairly serious eating disorder as an adolescent and struggled with a disordered relationship to food well into my twenties.  I am very careful — particularly now that I have a daughter, and two nieces — about that slippery slope of deprivation and obsession.  But something about Michelle’s approach appealed to me: in that it is actually a program about feeding yourself.  In a lot of ways, it’s kind of liberating.

Also, for a home cook like me, who prepares up to twelve meals for four different people every single day, a program like this is a way to get out of a rut (that rut where it’s okay to have a scoop of Nutella and three cups of coffee and call it breakfast, for example).  Is there a lot of quinoa involved in the Reinvent?  Yes.  And I’m not going to lie to you here: a lot of dark green veggies and a lot of beans, nuts, and eggs.  (Like, a lot of those things.  Like tonight, I’m making giant white beans in chipotle and I think my husband might cry when he finds out.  Please don’t tell him.)  So it’s a creative culinary challenge, in many ways: a chance to, say, Hey, I’ll scream if I cook another bean, so maybe I’ll try something new!  And guess what?  Now when I pick up my mom’s Sunset and there’s a recipe involving amaranth, I’m not intimidated by it.  (In fact I welcome it.  Because I have about two pounds of amaranth in my pantry I need to get through before the weevils find it.)

Truth is, if I were to get hit by a truck tomorrow, my children would probably say something like, “When I think of Mommy, she’s in the kitchen somewhere.”  I live in the kitchen.  And if I’m going to spend that many of my waking hours cooking for others, I should be thinking about myself in there too.

I will leave you with this Reinvent-friendly recipe for chocolate cake made out of garbanzo beans.  Try it if you dare.  (But actually, you should try it; it’s kind of amazing.)

Dark Chocolate Garbanzo Cake (adapted from the Nourishing Connections cookbook)
Note: This tested the limits of my counter-space-friendly Mini-Prep; I recommend a proper blender if you have one.  Also, for this to be REALLY Reinvent-friendly you need to increase the raw honey to 3/4 cup and use cacao powder instead of chocolate.  I’m just being honest here.  It will still be good.

1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I’m sure you could cook your own here, but why?)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate chips or broken up dark chocolate (see Note)
1/3 cup raw organic honey
3 large free range eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In food processor or blender mash chickpeas
3. Add sweetener, baking soda, and chocolate and quickly blend them into the chickpea mash
4. Add the beaten eggs and pulse until they are integrated into the batter. It will look like cake batter.
5. Pour the batter into an ungreased 8 x 8 square pan.
6. Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cake will be springy but firm on the center, just like a cake made with flour!

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