Brownies and I have a long history, one that started when I first learned to bake at the age of 12…
Boxed Brownie Mix: It all started with simple boxed brownie mix. All I did was add water, vegetable oil and eggs, mix and bake. These warm, gooey chocolate squares were about the best thing that I’d ever tasted! My childhood best friend, Alison, and I would make boxed brownies together nearly every weekend, giving different brands a try, and getting creative by mixing in chocolate pieces and nuts.
Real Food Brownies: When I started to care about the nutrition of my cooking, and not just the taste, I stopped using boxed brownie mix. The ingredients were simply too processed and too high in sugar! I was beginning to expect more from my food.
My mind was opened to the possibility that brownies could taste amazing, cure my chocolate craving, AND give a nutritional benefit.
This was my first recipe for real food brownies, which at the time I named The Ultimate Brownies. Ground walnuts replaced wheat flour and raw honey replaced cane sugar. I was ecstatic that nutritious brownies could taste this good! And I officially said goodbye to my beloved, boxed brownie mixes.
Those days were behind me, and I had no idea how many more brownie recipes lay head in my future…
Black Bean Brownies: A year after giving up boxed brownie mix in favor of my first real food brownie recipe, a popular trend caught my eye. Maybe you remember hearing how people would put black beans in brownies–I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first. After looking into the popular recipes I quickly saw a problem. These recipes were still using the same unhealthy brownie ingredients -flour, sugar, boxed brownie mix and were then throwing in ¼ cup of beans and calling it healthy.
So I set out to create a black bean brownie that was filled with only wholesome ingredients and an entire can of black beans. This new version of real food brownies replaced wheat flour with almond flour, reduced the amount of honey used, and took a full can of black beans!
Once again I was blown away by how darn delicious this nutritious, lower sugar brownies tasted.
Zucchini Brownies: A few months after the black bean brownie revelation, my garden produced a super crop of zucchini. I was putting zucchini in everything, trying to put it all to good use. After zucchini cakes, zucchini muffins, zucchini loaf, zucchini boats, stuffed zucchini, zucchini flat bread, zucchini date cake, zucchini buttered noodles, crispy zucchini and zucchini sticks it hit me…zucchini brownies!
Zucchini added moisture to a pan of brownies and was virtually undetectable. I brought a plate to a family 4th of July party for some taste-testing feedback. Without telling anyone about the secret ingredient, I put the plate out, then sat back to watch for honest reactions. The kids immediately gobbled them up and my nephew came over to ask for the recipe. Ha! The look on his face was priceless.
Quinoa Brownies: Today I’m adding another innovative brownie recipe to the list, one that uses cooked quinoa instead of wheat flour and a combination of stevia and coconut sugar instead of cane sugar.
My intention with this recipe was to produce a brownie with stellar nutrition in each bite and a reduced number of sugar grams. Sure, the sugar grams that I’ve been adding in these real food brownie are wholesome calories, but as anyone working to reach and maintain a low body fat knows, even wholesome sugar grams will impact your blood sugar, which ultimately impacts your body fat levels.
My real food brownie recipes went from containing a full cup of raw honey to now containing ¼ cup coconut palm sugar and liquid stevia.
That being said, depending on where you are with your diet, you may want to modify the sweetener ratio from how I have it here. This recipe can be made with 2 cups of coconut sugar and no stevia, to make it taste more like a traditional brownie. If you are new to real food brownies then I suggest that you start with that ratio. As you begin to reduce the amount of wholesome sweeteners in your diet, then adjust the ratio of coconut sugar to stevia in this recipe, to suit your nutrition goals and your taste bud’s desires!
Let me know what you think of this new real food brownie recipe!
¼ cup coconut sugar (up to 2 cups)
2 teaspoons Liquid Stevia (more to taste or remove completely if using more coconut sugar)
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup blanched almond flour
2 cups cooked quinoa
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of an 8x8 brownie pan with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut palm sugar, stevia, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.
In another medium bowl, combine the almond flour, quinoa, cocoa powder, baking powder, sea salt, and espresso powder. Mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared brownie pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until small cracks appear on the top and the middle of the pie doesn’t jiggle when you shake the pan. Set on the counter to cool. Cut into 20 squares and serve. Enjoy!