Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Let's face it: as good as black bean dip tastes, it is UGLY. Greyish-purple, with green flecks if you add cilantro...people just don't reach for it first, you know? But I make it all the time because I have THE best recipe.

Cilantro Black Bean Dip
2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 19-oz. can, drained and rinsed)
2/3 cup packed chopped cilantro (leaves AND stems)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. flax seed OR olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt (or less - I add this last, as canned beans tend to be kind of salty)
1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper powder or cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Throw all in a blender or food processor and whiz it up! Add a drizzle of water if you prefer a thinner dip. This recipe is from Jae Steele's "Get It Ripe".

Now, just to make it more appetizing, I take a page from my friend Shanti's (at Twig and Toadstool) page by adding some pretty pepper garnishes. It's still kinda UGLY, but it sure tastes nice.

Now for the Good and the Bad:

I try to follow the KISS principle as much as possible (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This is partly because to do anything else would be near impossible with my three small kids, farm life, addictive knitting habit, and part time job. But mostly it's a rebellion against the "Better Mother" disease that afflicts our society. Like, I'm better because I made a homemade cake. No, I'm better because I used only organic ingredients. No, I'M better because I got all the ingredients from my own farm. And on and on. I don't think women really think like this. But our society does TRY to create this sense of competition amongst mothers, and encourages our imaginings that women DO think like this. I used to love Mothering magazine but increasingly found myself with a vague sense of...failure when I read it. What? I have to make BENTO lunches for my child now? I've cancelled my subscription.

Honestly, we do enough. We have enough. We ARE enough. I had to remind myself of this yet again during a recent visit to Michael's, a huge craft store. A staff member was demonstrating a Cricut machine FOR FONDANT ICING. This is a groovy, retro-style, shiny red appliance that is digitally programmed to cut out scrapbook-type shapes from overpriced sheets of dry fondant icing. My head almost exploded. I blurted out, in a horror-movie-terrified-whisper-that-turns-into-a-shout, "This. is. INSANE!!!!!!"

Heads turned. The demonstrator levelled her gaze at me. "Why?", she asked. I tried to explain. About mothers. About how busy we are, how hard we work, how hard we try to make sure everyone is happy, fulfilled, loved, nurtured, has healthy food, does neat crafts and has lots of outside time, and has regular bowel movements. And now we have to turn out professional looking cakes on a $500 machine that we'll use 4 or 5 times a year until it malfunctions and we have to figure out where to put it??

Yes, I maybe overreacted. What makes me quake is that women buy into this, and maybe feel inferior if they can't afford one, or even if they just buy a cake mix to keep it simple.

Anyway, in rebellion (and also because I wanted to have a backup plan), I bought a Duncan Hines cake mix for Jude's birthday cupcakes. The morning of, however, he declared he wanted a CAKE. In our house, there are about 3 cakes worth baking. I'll share the other two some other day, but here is the Good in this post:

Decadent Chocolate Cake
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Grease and flour a 10" tube pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, pour boiling water over chocolate and butter to melt. Stir in vanilla and sugar. Whisk in egg yolks, one at a time, and blend well. Combine baking soda and sour cream, then whisk into chocolate mixture. Sift flour and baking soda together; stir into batter. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/4 of egg whites into batter, to lighten, then fold in the rest. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 min. until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then turn onto plate to cool completely before frosting.

Now, to put over the top, ice it with this icing:

In a heavy saucepan, combine 2 Tbsp. butter, and 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips over low heat. Whisk until melted. Add 6 Tbsp. whipping cream, 1 1/4 cups icing sugar (sifted), and 1 tsp. vanilla. Cool. Frost cake. Garnish with flowers, berries, nuts, etc.

And here it is: The Good. The very, very good.


  1. I LOVE this post! Oh, how it resonates. I feel like I should go pull aside the organic products that are hiding the embarrassing CANS of spaghetti -- and let those cans shine in all of their shameful glory!

  2. Yes yes YES.

    It's not only mothers that are affected by this. It's every woman. "You should have a career AND a family AND cook all organic meals for yourself every night AND have a spotless perfect Martha Stewart-inspired home AND..." The list goes on and on and on.

    We ARE enough.

  3. Awesome yummy gorgeous cake!

    Stephanie...thanks for the boost this morning. Being real, being genuine, being enough with who you are and what you have is what makes us shine as women and as mothers. We all make different choices, but it is the BEING there for our families that really matters, not all the organic stuff we haul home from the grocery store. I would love to hang out some time soon!

  4. YES.
    (Have I mentioned lately how proud you make me?)

  5. Ahhh, this is all so true. This post comes on a morning that I forgot (again and again) to send a cheque to school for a JK tshirt for Hazel. Very well timed indeed. I suspect that that feeling is always lurking sometimes further below the surface than others. Why is it such work to keep it in check?
    Also, your bean dip recipe looks quite similar to a simple go-to dinner make once a week....take that dip, place between two flour tortillas, add cheese and presto...quesadillas that all will happily eat.
    Thanks for giving me just the start to my day that I needed.
    Hope yours goes well.

  6. Great blog! So glad your sister "hipped" me to this. Thanks for making us moms feel that we're not a failure if a boxed Duncan Hines cake mix sneaks its way in beside organic cocoa! :)

  7. Stephanie - I just have to tell you how much I enjoy reading your postings - in fact, everyone morning before I begin my long TO DO list I hope you have put up something new (no pressure!). It is an uplifting way to start the day and reminds me that if I don't finish that TO DO list it's OK - I am still a good mama! it's a good reminder that there is no 'best' mom and that what we are already doing is already the 'best'. So, THANK YOU.

    Also - I am going to make that black bean dip and eat it with some fresh scrambled eggs from your farm.... they are BEAUTIFUL.

  8. Isn't it freeing to just BE who you are and not give a hoot as to what anyone else thinks? What would our lives be like if we weren't influenced and pressured by magazines like "Mothering", television shows like "19 and Counting" (WHAT??) and by media/culture/friends and family. It is hard to find authenticity in a world where we are bombarded by how we SHOULD be. This entry probably made a lot of mamas sigh a sense of relief this morning before their busy days began.

  9. Hello. I just ended up here via the circuitous linky internet. I like this post. I make a lot of yummy dips that look sort of ugly and get sadly ignored at potlucks. We'll see if some bright peppers can beautify next time.

  10. Amen to that! And my, does that cake look a thousand times more yummy than all those super pristine detailed cakes in the store! It's the taste that counts, isn't it? I soooo want to go and try it this weekend, just because I can :D


This space is a creative outlet for a busy mama; I warmly embrace your comments and feedback, as well as questions/requests for details. I do check them daily and will respond where appropriate! Thank you for visiting the Knitty Gritty Homestead!