Vegan Black Bean Brownies

Some things seem just too good to be true… like free used mattresses or CD’s that help you master a new language in 30 days. That’s because they usually are. This is how I felt when I first saw this brownie recipe. Delicious fudgy brownies made with no oil, no eggs, and no dairy?? How is this possible?!

I was skeptical but intrigued for the secret ingredient in these vegan brownies is… BLACK BEANS. I know, seems too good to be true, right?

one of these things is not like the other...

Well, I’m happy to tell you that in this case, my doubts have been cast aside. As far as brownies go, I like the kind that are a bit crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside with that slight crinkly layer on top (corner pieces are my favorite!). These Black Bean Brownies, however, are more the moist-and-fudgy type, and yet I still ate 4 of them so… there you go. Plus it was so fun surprising my co-workers who seemed truly amazed that there were actual legumes in their chocolate treat. Make them for your vegan friends, or make them if, like me, you want to have your suspisions subdued.

At this point, there's no going back

Vegan Black Bean Brownies
adapted from

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts (if you like that kinda thing)

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.
(2)  In a large bowl, add the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, cocoa powder and coffee; whisk together. 
(3)  Drain a can of black beans and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear.  Return the black beans back to the can and fill with cold water.  In a blender, puree the beans and water until completely smooth. 
(4)  Add the black bean puree to the dry mix along with the vanilla and extra cup of water.  Stir to combine.
(5)  Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan around halfway through.  When the brownies are finished they should be firm in the center and the edges will be slightly puffy and starting to pull away from the sides.  It’s important not to overbake in the oven because they will keep baking once you take them out.
(6)  Let brownies cool completely then cut into about 35 small squares.

Siena Again-a!

Catania, Sicilia: Spring 2009

The best thing I ever did in college was to decide to study abroad. The spring semester I spent in Siena, Italy has really had an impact on my professional and personal life. Not only did it shape my passion for art but through it I also met some of my dearest friends. So I was completely overjoyed this weekend when my roommate in Italy, Laura, visited NYC from Florida this weekend! I hadn’t seen her in a year so it was wonderful to reconnect.

2.5 years later: NYC

As with every other person in our Siena program, Laura is a HUGE foodie. So of course, our weekend composed of some delicious eatings. We started off Saturday with a brunch at Poco where for $25 it’s all you can drink Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and Sangrias + entrée. I ordered the Florentine Benedict (crispy arepa, spinach, poached eggs & pimento hollandaise). I love any Eggs Benedict variation and the potatoes that came with it were divine. As a warning though, the service here is not the best and there is a 1.5 hour limit to how long you can stay at the table. So once you are seated, drink up!

Afterwards we spent the day walking around the East Village up to Eataly (of course!) in the Flatiron District. But inevitably no visit with me is complete without a stop at the Met. As we meandered Central Park we eventually ended our evening looking at Duccio’s Madonna and Child (one of the most famous Sienese painters) as well as making it up to the rooftop for sunset.

As with any good friend, every reunion is a chance to reminisce over old memories as well as make some wonderful new ones. Next reunion: il Pallio 2012. Long live the Aquila!

xo Ciao Bella!

Poco NYC
33 Avenue B, NY NY
(212) 228.4461
the Met rooftop (open only until October)
1000 5th avenue, NY NY
(212) 535.7710

bedroom makeover!

For the last several weeks, I’ve been hard at work redesigning my new bedroom. It’s been quite a process. After sleeping on an air mattress the first week and living without any furniture for the next two, I am proud to say that my bedroom is now complete! It’s no Extreme Makeover, but I’m quite proud of the transformation that came from these two tiny hands.


Mama Choo said: 'That room IS small!'

don't you like my luggage nightstand? so chic.

What I did:
  • paint room– color: Benjamin Moore Excalibur Gray 2118
  • took down wall shelves
  • assembled furniture (headboard, bookcase, dresser all assembled by yours truly. thank you college degree.)
  • hung curtains
  • hung up mirror, picture frames, wall hooks
What I bought:
  • IKEA mattress
  • Target headboard, dresser, bookcase, curtains (Target has such AMAZING shipping! I may write them a thank you letter.)
  • Martha Steward duvet cover
  • Martha Stewart quilt
  • pillow cases (white: Martha Stewart, purple: Hotel Collection)
  • I ♥ Martha Stewart
  • IKEA mirror
  • posters/pictures (all from & frames (Target and IKEA)

and with a little pixie dust… Voila!


So what’d ya think?! Here, I’ll take y’all on a little tour…

bed and vanity area

opposite wall (yes, that's a monogrammed lunchbox.)

just to the left: on top of my dresser


to the right of my bed, probably my favorite picture.

I think my taste is rather simple and minimalist. So while I may eventually hang a couple more pictures or add a vase of flowers, for the most part I’d say my new room is quite cozy enough for me. And for a month’s span of time, I’m pretty darn happy! This bedroom makeover certainly had its highs and lows, but as I lie on my comfy bed finishing up this post, I realize New York City is slowly starting to feel (and look) like home…

Autumn in New York

No, I’m not talking about that terribly sappy movie with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Though, I could never really bad-mouth Winona as Little Women has been, since 5th grade, my go-to rainy day movie.

Conservatory Water in Central Park

Actually, the origins of my last name Choo (추) mean ‘Autumn’ or at least that’s what my mom has always told me. Regardless, I like to think that’s why I have such an endearment for the fall season. I love watching the weather cool down, the leaves change colors and the consumption of any and all fall desserts. Treats that incorporate the bounties of fall like apples, cranberries and of course… pumpkin!

This past week, one of my roommates made these delicious pumpkin chocolate chip & pecan cookies. They were so perfect for the crisp fall weather. When I asked her for the recipe, she told me she got it off this site wait WHAT?! these cookies are delectable AND low fat?? Praise the pumpkin gods!

I decided to make a batch of these deceptively delicious cookies for my workplace, which seems to be riddled with all things mini-cupcaked and fun-sized. The only adjustment I made was to omit the pecans cause I’m not a huge fan of them (who eats pecan pie without the pecans?… guilty.)

Just check out the step-by-step photos for these Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

 then ADD…

 math can be so fun.

Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (low fat)
adapted from

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped pecans (optional)

(1)     Preheat oven to 350°; line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silpat.
(2)     In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and cinnamon.
(3)     In a large bowl, with a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugars on medium speed.
(4)     Add the egg, followed by the pumpkin and vanilla extract.
(5)     Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain; stir in the chocolate chips.
(6)     Drop 1 tablespoon of the dough at a time onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies become light brown at the edges.
(7)     Cool on baking sheet for 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 32 cookies, 1 tablespoon each

These were such a hit at work! not a crumb left in sight (unfortunately). I HIGHLY recommend making them. like NOW.

Pucker up!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what the heck do you do with limes?! That’s precisely the problem I found myself in this weekend with a bundle of limes on my hands.

Luckily I love limes, possibly even more than lemons. Key lime pies, limeades, margaritas, mojitos 🙂 With my limes, I decided to make these lime bars, a variation on my favorite lemon bar recipe. But honestly when you add butter, sugar, eggs and flour to anything, what wouldn’t taste good?

Lime Bars
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest (4 limes)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (6 to 8 limes)
  • 1 cup flour
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.
(2)  For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and salt, with the mixer on low, to the butter until just mixed.
(3)  Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9x13x2-inch baking sheet, building up a ½-inch edge on all sides.
(4)  Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly golden. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
(5)  For the filling, in a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
(6)  When ready to serve, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and cut into squares.