Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

I know I said I would lay off the brownie recipes for awhile.  Well, I lied.

I am choosing this recipe to be my inaugural submission over at Ricki’s Blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs for her Wellness Weekend. I always get such amazing ideas and find new blogs though her Wellness Weekend but have not submitted anything of my own. Mostly because….I always forget! I am ending that trend today.

Yield: approximately 12 brownies

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup hot water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut nectar

1/4 cup coconut oil (liquefied)

2 packets stevia

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 medium banana (no brown spots)

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon instant coffee or coffee substitute

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons coconut flour

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a high-powered blender, blend together black beans, hot water, vanilla extract, coconut nectar, coconut oil, stevia and banana.

3. Add remaining ingredients and blend until just combined, stirring if necessary.Pour batter into a pre-greased 8×8″ pan. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40minutes, or until middle bounces back when pressed. Brownies will harden more as they cool. Allow to cool nearly completely before cutting.

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Super Chocolate Brownies

My cousin Kelly  is 6 months pregnant. She’s ecstatic and glowing and oh-so cute in her little dresses that show off a growing belly (and for once, the long-time  “Kelly belly” nickname actually makes some sense).

Anyways, I made these brownies a few days ago for her birthday. I thought about what I would want if I were pregnant. From what I hear, the closest I’ve ever come to that experience is the whole “that time of the month” situation. The bloating. The mood swings. The chocolate cravings. Oh — chocolate! (Sorry to my male readers — all 3 of you? — for having to endure the “girl talk” in this post).

Yes, I believe that if I were six months pregnant, I would most certainly want something very chocolaty. Pretty much all the time.  So of course I thought I had hit the jackpot of birthday treat ideas, until about halfway through the recipe when I realized that chocolate contains caffeine and pregnant women are supposed to limit caffeine intake. Pregnancy gift faux-pas? My research says no; chocolate in moderation is perfectly O.K. and perhaps even beneficial. Phew. But I suppose a whole pan of brownies to keep for myself wouldn’t be the worst thing ever…

Of course, I did test a few of the brownies on my fellow housemates before pawning them off to unsuspecting pregnant people. For those not keeping track, my “housemates” currently include my parents, husband and three dogs. Though not to worry, I didn’t test the brownies on the dogs (much to their dismay).

The brownies got a universal thumbs-up and were deemed “very chocolaty.” Perhaps I  really was channeling my inner pregnant woman. I did add a tablespoon of coffee substitute to the batter, as I’ve learned from my days as an Ina geek that coffee brings the chocolate out of chocolate dishes, adding intensity to the flavor. Again, keeping my audience in mind, I steered clear of real coffee and went with the fake stuff (which is surprising good in its own right, I must say).

And thus completes yet another gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free brownie adventure in my kitchen. With this recipe, I think my brownie count on this site is at six. I don’t know what it is with me and brownies. Truth be told, I think it’s the fact that every time I set out to make an old recipe, I’m out an ingredient and with that, a whole new recipe is born. Apparently, I can get very creative when I’m craving chocolate.

For a twist, I sprinkled these with chopped walnuts and gluten-free chocolate chips . It makes for a pretty presentation and adds a nice nutty flavor and crunch. Of course, these would also be good with more coarsely chopped nuts mixed into the batter.

Makes: 1 8×8″ pan (about 9 medium-large or 12 small squares)

Gluten-Free Very Chocolate Brownies:

¾ cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon dry Ener-G egg replacer

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon instant coffee or gluten-free grain coffee substitute*

¾ cup applesauce

¾ cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup coconut oil (liquefied), plus more for greasing

1/4 cup crushed walnuts and 2 tbsp. gluten-free chocolate chips (optional) for topping

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lightly grease an 8×8″ glass pan with coconut oil and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee/coffee substitute and egg replacer. Add in applesauce, agave, coconut oil and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.
4. Pour batter into pre-greased dish. Sprinkle with walnuts and chocolate chips and very lightly press into top of batter. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until brownies bounce back when pressed. Cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

* I used Dandy Blend instant herbal coffee substitute.


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Low-Fat Buckwheat Brownies

One of the challenges of sharing recipes with others is trying to manage expectations. I’ve posted several brownie recipes on this site (I should start a section just for “brownies” in my recipe index, there are so many options at this point), each with its own character, texture and taste. Some are cakey, some chewy, some fudgey. Some are sweet; others, less so. Some have added flavors and different dimensions, others are old-fashioned and pure chocolate. They’re all different, but each still good in its own right (in my humble opinion).

The problem is, when you call something a “brownie,” there are still certain underlying expectations: a) that the recipe in question is chocolatey, and  b) that the finished product is sweet enough to satisfy a certain level of sweet tooth. My concern with this recipe, while possibly unfounded, is that it will satisfy neither expectation to the fullest. Sure, there is chocolate. And sure, these tend toward “sweet” on the sweet-savory scale. But then there’s the whole buckwheat factor, which adds a light nuttiness that sets a backdrop for the more subtle chocolate taste, and the fact that these are not that sweet when compared to other desserts sharing the “brownie” title.

Nevertheless, I’ve decided, based on the fact that I love this recipe, to abandon any inhibitions I may have about this recipe and just post it already. Because, after all, just because they’re not a “typical” brownie doesn’t mean they’re not good in their own right. In fact, I’m willing to argue that one of the most crucial components of a good brownie isn’t the sweetness or overall chocolate content at all, but rather the texture. These are soft and chewy — the perfect combination.

In keeping with my most recent self-imposed challenge to cook and bake without added oils, the only oil required for this recipe is a light spray of the pan to keep the finished product from sticking. Otherwise, these gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free brownies are oil-free as well. If that sounds sufficiently disgusting to you, make this recipe anyway. You might just be surprised at what a little applesauce and soy yogurt can do.

Yield: 1 9×13″ pan of brownies

Low-Fat Buckwheat Brownies:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill buckwheat flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup plain soy yogurt*

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup coconut nectar**

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

oil for spraying pan

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add in remaining ingredients and gently stir until incorporated.

3. Pour batter into a lightly-greased 9×13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until top bounces back when lightly pressed. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

* I used WholeSoy & Co. unsweetened plain soy yogurt. Many plain soy yogurts do have some added cane sugar, so if you use one that is not unsweetened, be mindful that it may increase the overall sweetness of the final product.

** I believe agave may be substituted with good results, but it will still likely change the overall texture, at least slightly.

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Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Blondies

I’m trying to pace my posts these days. After all, it won’t be long (I hope) before I actually join the 9-5 workforce, when testing 4-5 recipes a day is no longer a luxury. Then, I’ll wish I’d saved up some recipes to avoid the last-minute scramble for a post after a weeks-long hiatus.

All that said, these blondies were too good not to share right away. Like, today. Like, hours after I made them an devoured 3. I’ll justify my haste by reminding you all that pumpkin is at its peak of abundance right now. Come the new year, you’ll be circling the neighborhood grocery stores, desperately pulling away cans of sweet potato and butternut squash puree, hoping there’s a last, lingering can of pumpkin tucked away back there. I know that feeling all too well, which is why I’m taking full advantage of the overflowing shelves of pumpkin these days and want you to do so as well before it’s too late.

The best part about these blondies (ok, maybe second best — taste probably takes the #1 spot) is that they are pretty simple to make. I tried to stay away from too many ingredients, so I only used one type of flour in this recipe and no gums or starches. The pumpkin and yacon hold everything together very nicely. You can store these in the refrigerator for a few days, but I feel obligated to tell you (after all my previous hype) that they are really, really good slightly warm.

Pumpkin Blondies:

These blondies are chewy and moist. To make them a bit cakier, bake in an 8″ rather than a 9″ pan. I made my own sugar-free chocolate chips (I provied the recipe below as well), but you can feel free to use whichever chocolate chips you prefer in recipes, or you can chop up your favorite chocolate bar and use that. This recipe is a good option if you’re on a low-glycemic or anti-candida diet. But if you’re not, feel free to play around with other sweeteners, as yacon and stevia can be somewhat pricey (though the stevia, at least, will last you a long time). If using a different brand of stevia than NuNaturals, make sure to start with less and experiment with adding more to taste in the batter — I’ve found other brands in such high amounts overly bitter for my tastes.

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup yacon syrup (you can experiment with agave, maple syrup or molasses here as well)

2 teaspoons NuNaturals vanilla liquid stevia (if you only have NuNaturals plain liquid stevia, add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract to the batter)

1/2 cup melted Earth Balance Buttery Spread

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

homemade chocolate chip/chunks (recipe below)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. In a small bowl, whish together flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together buttery spread, stevia and yacon until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients and beat slowly until incorporated. Beat in applesauce and pumpkin until everything is just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Turn out batter in a pre-greased 9×9″ or 8×8″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until center bounces back slightly when pressed (will feel less done than a traditional cake — this is O.K.). Let cool about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Homemade Sugar-free Chocolate Chips:

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat until heated through, about 1-2 minutes. Add chocolate and stevia and whisk until shiney and smooth. Pour into a deep baking dish or parchment-lined container (the less shallow, the better — you don’t want the chocolate to spread too thin), cover and freeze for about 1/2 hours, or until completely hardened. Chop into pieces immediately before using.

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Black Bean Brownies

I’ve been working on perfecting a recipe for black bean brownies for about a week now. At first, I wasn’t even going to create a recipe, as Ricki Heller’s looked so good that I was just planning on making hers (sometimes I just want someone to take the guess work out of it for me, ok?). But when I went to make them, I realized that the recipe called for Baker’s chocolate, and all I had was cocoa powder. So I tried to see if I could compensate by changing around some other ingredients in the recipe. The first round of tweaking didn’t go so well (my fault, and nothing to do with the original recipe, as I had NO idea how to go about substituting cocoa powder for solid chocolate) but I saw potential. At that point I wanted to try and get it right, so I had to put Ricki’s recipe off for another day, and I tried again. A little closer that time, but just a little “wet.” The next time a bit dry. Then just right. The one problem was that they didn’t really seem to me like brownies. Gennaro certainly didn’t recognize them as brownies when he texted me one night (I was at class): “I really like those chocolate bar things in the fridge.” Whether or not they’re brownies or “chocolate bar things,” he liked them, which was a good sign.

This month, I am honored to be a part of 30 Days to a Food Revolution, a blogging event organized by Diane over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang, which was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Now, Jamie Oliver has received some backlash for his show (in addition to the loads of support), which has struck me as a bit odd. I understand that it’s a network show and that cynicism is inevitable when the guy starting the revolution is rich, famous and good-looking. But with diabetes and heart disease on the rise and obesity a growing problem (and increasingly among our younger generations), I wonder why there is such resistance to making some changes.

At the same time, I understand that food, like religion and politics, is personal. People don’t want to be told what to eat or what they shouldn’t be eating. I get this. I also get that people have come to view eating healthfully as somewhat of an elitist thing. As a law student (soon to be graduated law student looking for a job as a lawyer…in a bad economy) I’m well aware of the painfully high prices of organic foods, fresh produce, and specialty ingredients. But I also think that the assumption that a “food revolution” necessitates  an all-organic Whole Foods-esque lifestyle somewhat misses the point. From what I gather, Jamie Oliver’s goal is to reconnect people with what they are putting in their bodies. And it’s nearly impossible to connect with something when it’s passed to you through the window at a drive-through, or thrown into the microwave for a few minutes before it’s hurriedly eaten in your car.

My great-grandmother worked in the Detroit auto factories for most of her life. She wasn’t rich by any means. But she cooked real food. Whole foods. Cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden. Chicken paprikash and noodles and cabbage and goulash and fresh crepes. Some of my greatest childhood memories were at her house, and they revolved around her food. I’m not advocating that we all morph into Alice Waters overnight here. I’m just saying: home-cooked meals and family dinners and fresh dinners don’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — a privilege. My great-grandmother could tell you that. That’s why I think it’s great that Diane is trying to make healthy, whole food recipes accessbile for those who are interested in making a change, but don’t know where to start. Today’s my guest post, and I did my best to contribute a recipe that could be made from scratch, but was still healthy and cheap.

But there is one thing that I AM going to force on all of you. Today also happens to be Oprah’s “No Phone Zone” day, which means to make your car a no phone zone: DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE. It’s stupid. Really. If you agree, you should sign the pledge. Anyone who knows me well knows that I cry at the drop of the hat. Literally, you could probably drop your hat and I might cry about it. But all kidding aside, I REALLY don’t want to have to cry over any more Oprah episodes about people who’ve lost their lives because of texting and driving. THANK YOU.

Ok, back to the fun stuff: the brownies. You have to let these cool substantially before cutting into them. Better yet, cool them in the refrigerator a bit. Considering these brownies are grain-free, vegan, high in fiber, very low in sugar and a fairly decent source of protein and good fats, they’re also pretty darn good. But like I said, they’re not your typical brownie. A bit fudgey and gooey on the inside, but not very sweet, these treats are best referred to as “healthy brownie bars” so as not to confuse anyone looking for a classic brownie here. But for those looking for a much healthier option, these are a great alternative to the classic.

Brownie Bars:
Inspired by a recipe from Diet, Dessert and Dogs

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup coconut oil (liquified first)

1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/4 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup flax seed meal

1 teaspoon vanilla stevia*

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder**

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup unsweetened carob powder

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a blender, on high speed, blend all ingredients except cocoa powder and carob. You may need to coax the mixture a bit with a spoon, but it will eventually get to a smooth consistency, which is where you want it. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and fold in cocoa powder and carob powder until incorporated.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased 9×9 inch baking dish or brownie pan. Spread with a spatula or spoon to smooth. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. I would suggest waiting at least a few hours for brownies to cool before slicing and, better yet, letting chill in the refrigerator first.

* I used NuNaturals

** traditional baking powder is not technically grain-free, but for a grain-free baking powder recipe, check out Kelly’s over at the Spunky Coconut.

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Gluten-Free Brownies

When it comes to brownies, most people are aware that there are two schools of thought: cakey and fudgey. I am definitely a fudgey girl, though the last brownie recipe I posted here might as well have been called “fudge” because they were so dense and rich. I decided to go a bit more classic today. No mint, no coffee, no nuts, no frosting. Just plain, old fashioned brownies. They are still in the “fudgey” category, though there is a hint (just a hint) of cakeiness.

In addition to liking my brownies fudgey, I also tend to like them less than sickeningly sweet. I’m aware that “sickeningly sweet” means different things for different people, though, so feel free to play around with the amount of agave in these brownies, but be aware that it might change the texture (and moisture) the more you add.

You can, of course, add nuts or chocolate chips (1 cup of chopped, toasted walnuts proved to be very tasty here) — anything you normally like in a brownie. I do like, though, that these brownies call for very few ingredients and are relatively fuss-free, especially when you consider that they can be made using just one bowl.

Update: following some reader feedback, I’ve made some specifications below that I think will ensure these babies turn out right. First, I’ve indicated below that the bananas used should not be overripe (i.e. no brown spots). I would have noted this earlier, but I had no idea that the ripeness of the bananas would make such a difference. Thanks for prompting me to figure this one out, Lauren! . Below is a photo of a brownie from the new, improved method.

brownie

Yield: about 9-12 brownies

Brownies:

2/3 cup mashed banana (about 2 small bananas — yellow; not too ripe)

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup Earth Balance buttery spread, melted

3/4 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup sorghum flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, applesauce, agave, buttery spread and vanilla. Add in flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and whisk until mixture is smooth.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased 9×9″ or 8×8″ baking dish.* Bake for about 30-40 minutes (brownies should still be somewhat soft in the center — but shouldn’t “jiggle” when you shake the pan).

4. Let cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.

* I’ve made these brownies with both sizes. The 9×9″ brownies are more chewy (more brownie-like, as pictured), while the 8×8″ will be much more thick and cakey, almost like a chocolate cake — both good!

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Mint Brownies

These brownies are rich and fudgey —  just the way I like them! In fact, I would consider them more a fudge-bar than a brownie. Sound good? Then whip these babies up! They’re simple to prepare. The accompaniment of mint, while not necessary, is the perfect addition. In order to get a really intense chocolate flavor, I added brewed coffee to the batter. There are several possible additions to these brownies. Walnuts, pecans or chocolate chips would be great here. As I sit and type this, I’m watching Iron Chef America, with an eye on the Vikings-Saints game as well. These brownies are the perfect, indulgent treat to round out an anti-Sunday-feeling kind of night! The best part about it is that, while indulgent, the use of high-fiber, high-protein garbanzo bean flour and coconut oil, which is heart-healthy, makes these brownies not quite so indulgent as they seem.

Gluten Free, Vegan Mint Brownies:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2/3 cup coconut oil

1 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup hot water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons brewed coffee

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 1/2 cup (better mint-chocolate balance) fresh mint leaves, minced

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together garbanzo bean flour, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in coconut oil, agave nectar, water, vanilla and coffee. Fold in applesauce and mint.

3. Pour batter into a greased, 9×9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.

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