If you have a can of unsweetened cocoa, you have cacao. Cacao -- the beans of the Theobroma cacao tree -- and dried or canned black beans combine in minutes to make delicious brunch foods, main dishes, soups, sauces and desserts with just a few added ingredients. Cacao gives pumpernickel bread, mole sauce and Mexican atole their rich brown color, while black bean flour allows people with wheat allergies and celiac disease to enjoy pancakes and brownies.
If you don't have time to grind cacao beans, no worries. Unsweetened cocoa powder works just fine. If you only use it by the teaspoonful as a condiment or spice, one 8-oz. can lasts an entire month. Baking chocolate, available in 1/2-inch-thick bars, takes a few minutes to grate or melt before you can mix it with other ingredients. You can grate it ahead of time using a food processor or blender, pulsing for two to three seconds at a time, and store it in an empty shaker-top spice jar. Cacao adds body to mole, a brown sauce you pour over chicken or pork, and lends a rich, dark flavor to chili con carne.
Canned black beans allow you to make refried beans in 10 minutes or less. You can drain the beans in a colander, mash them with a fork or whirl them in your blender or food processor and fry them in a heated skillet with a touch of olive oil. Once you spoon them into tostada bowls or spread them on a flour tortilla with a spoonful of mole sauce, the kids can add their own chopped scallions, tomatoes and grated cheese for a quick burrito. Combining ranch dip mix with sour cream, chunky salsa and diced green chilies gives your burritos an extra kick. Bean paste takes even less time to make. Once you mash the beans and mix them with chili oil and soy sauce, it takes a mere three minutes in the microwave to finish. Stir bean paste into your next pot of hot and sour soup or batch of mapo tofu. Black bean flour makes excellent pancake batter. Garlic and lime juice give the pancakes a Caribbean or Latin-American kick, especially if you top them with a spoonful of guacamole, salsa and sour cream, as Epicurvegan site owner Nicole Reid advises.
Black bean cacao brownies take 30 to 35 minutes to bake in the oven, according to Marcia Vanderlip of the "Columbia Daily Tribune." You can also use the microwave, shaving cooking time to a mere five minutes. While the resulting brownies won't have the same consistency as the oven-baked ones, their flavor and moistness will still impress your family. If you omit the garlic and lime juice and add vanilla, cinnamon and a little honey instead, Reid's pancakes become the base of a tasty dessert. When topped with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with chocolate sauce and rolled like cannoli, they take 15 to 20 minutes to prepare, if you make the pancakes from scratch. If you make a triple batch, top them with the ice cream, roll them and freeze them in a covered storage container ahead of time, you'll have instant after-school snacks.
Black bean paste, cocoa powder, cornstarch and chicken broth make mole. Saute chicken or pork strips, add them to the mole and serve it over instant rice. Five minutes to make the sauce, five more to make the instant rice, 10 to saute the chicken or pork and five more to simmer and absorb the flavors from the mole, and you have dinner on the table. Combine canned black beans, northern beans, crushed tomatoes, some chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, diced onion, bell pepper strips and 1 lb. of browned ground beef or soy chorizo and you have a pot of black bean cocoa chili ready to eat in 20 to 30 minutes.
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