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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Roasted Tomato-Basil Pasta Toss

First, let me start by saying that I have been an absolutely horrendous blogger of late. I’ve neglected my inbox, let comments go unnoticed for days — heck, weeks. And I haven’t posted since, I don’t know, 6 weeks ago?

Second, let me explain. As I alluded to in previous posts, the year of 2011 marks an exciting yet stressful transition in my life. I got a job in Michigan, and a job that I love at that (hence, the excitement). When the position became permanent in February, my husband was still working in New York and in limbo, waiting to see what would come of my temporary status. Long story short, from February until now, we have put our New York apartment on the market, sold our apartment, my husband has moved out to Michigan, and we are now living with my parents, using my parents cars and basically freeloading until we can find a place and get settled here. Therein lies the whole “stress” part of the equation.

Now here’s the kicker. Remember my stress and anxiety over taking the New York bar exam last year — the exam I vowed I would never, ever take again under any circumstances? Remember my excitement upon finding out I had passed last November? Well, I have to do it all over again. Alas, a little thing called “reciprocity” (or lack thereof) stands in the way of my New York scores being relevant here in Michigan. So, in the midst of a new job, no home, and closing our apartment sale in New York, I am now studying for the bar exam (again).

I hope, given the circumstances, I will be excused for my horrid blog upkeep of late.

Anyways, in other news…My parents recently returned from the 2011 Vegetarian Summerfest and they were absolutely blown away by the amazing experience. Armed with t-shirts, books and other propaganda from their trip , my mom declared herself a reformed woman upon their return. (To think that just a year ago they were just flirting with the idea of vegetarianism). From the eye-opening talk of S.A.E.N.’s Michael Budkie on animal research labs, to Woodstock Animal Sanctuary‘s Co-Founder Jenny Brown, to Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn‘s informed presentations on the effects of a plant-based diet on heart disease and health, the trip was truly life-changing and educational for my parents. I’m especially jealous that they got a sneak-peak at my girl Marisa’s upcoming documentary Vegucated, which I’m told was every bit amazing as I expected it would be (and my parents are not known to hold back their opinion on such things).

Among the trinkets of knowledge my parents brought back to Michigan with them were the health implications of a high-fat, high-oil diet. I’m much too busy and tired to veer too far into a debate on the virtues of a high-fat/low-fat diet, but it was interesting to me that multiple renowned heart doctors echoed the theory that “good” fats such as olive oil and nuts are really not that good after all. True or not, I’ve always been open-minded about different dietary protocols, because it just means more of a challenge for me. I love a culinary challenge, and taking fat and oil out of a roasted tomato pasta sauce seemed like the perfect place to start. The end result, with sweet basil and tomatoes in peak season this time of year, was a rich and flavorful sauce that didn’t miss the oil or fat (or gluten! or meat!) at all.

Roasted Tomato-Basil Toss:

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes

1 cup vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable broth

1 tablespoon white wine

2 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced

small pinch of salt

fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 lb. gluten-free spaghetti

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. In a shallow baking dish, toss tomatoes with wine, broth, salt, pepper and garlic. Bake in preheat oven for 20 minutes, toss, then return to oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse if required. Immediately return pasta to pot and toss with roasted tomatoes and basil. Add additional salt to taste and serve.

 

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Low Fat Pumpkin Mousse Pie

pumpkin mousse pie 2My mom commented on the amount of buttery spread I had used in my lemon coconut pie crust. But pie crusts by definition contain butter, I thought. Then I thought some more. Was that really the case? After putting the dates I had been saving to make muffins to experimental use, I discovered pie crust can be more than a butter-ladden treat, and so much less fattening as a result. Then, the healthy pie crust  idea inspired a  health-conscious filling to match. I read somewhere that pumpkin is one of those super healthy things that people don’t eat enough of. In keeping with the theme, I added a whole can, along with silken tofu, to the filling. Healthy crust? Healthy filling? Before you run for your lives, I offer you this: I made this for a recent family party and even some of the non allergy-plagued guests counted this dessert among their favorites. If that doesn’t convince, I offer this: I don’t actually like pumpkin pie. In fact, I usually despise it. I loved this one.

If you avoid oats for fear of cross-contamination, try Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats. They test all of their oats to make sure they don’t have a trace of gluten, and process them using completely gluten free facilites. If you simply can’t tolerate oats altogether, well, I’m still working on a good, cripsy crust that’s gluten-free, vegan, and still tasty. It may take awhile, but I’m determined to do it, so check back in often!

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill dry rolled oats

1 cup dates

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling:

1 12-oz. package Mori Nu extra firm silken tofu

1 15-oz. can pumpkin

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Place all ingredients for crust in a food processor and blend until a large clump forms. Using fingers, press evenly into a 9″ pie pan. Bake for 22 minutes. After crust has baked, set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients for filling. When crust has cooled, pour in filling and chill in refrigerator overnight.

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