Super Fudgy Nut Butter Brownies (With Maca)
So I'm thinking I may just scrap this whole health counseling thing and write a dessert blog. Because that is unintentionally what has happened here. In fact, I spent the better part of last week doing R&D on a handful of treats that I was hellbent on perfecting, as I had a couple of in-store events for Yogasmoga over the weekend (a really rad, newer brand of super high quality activewear) and was commissioned with bringing "healthy" desserts for sampling. Being that the store is in the heart of Beverly Hills, I knew that I had to come up with something extra outstanding (so many healthy options out there already), and extra "healthy", (that particular part of town is brimming with very...picky...eaters). But, I definitely wanted to make sure that whatever I made was also packed with antioxidants and fueling ingredients - not just a "modified" dessert. My dessert rule is, 1. it shouldn't taste "healthy" - if a food isn't 100% satisfying, I'd rather just have a smaller portion of the real deal. 2. it should be breakfast-worthy, when it comes to nutrients, fuel, and sugar content. I'm all about the fuel, guys.
I'm proud to say that the big winner not only met said criteria, but was taste-tested en masse and, the masses enthusiastically approved. The upsides to this brownie is that it's actually fudgy. I've tried many "healthy" brownie recipes and they tend to end up on the cakey side...meh. This brownie is also packed with antioxidants from the dark chocolate and almond butter, and I love maca as a hormone balancing supplement. They're low in sugar (and free of refined sugar) when compared to the "real deal" - about 8 grams per brownie, and the fiber in the dates and fat from the nut butter and oil help slow the sugar absorption. But, all this healthy talk is really distracting - just try for yourself, and let me know what you think!
(adapted from Elana's Pantry)
- 1 cup almond flour (not meal)
- 4 ounces baking chocolate - 70% + cacao
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)
- ⅔ cup very soft dates, pitted and soaked for at least 10 minutes
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup melted + 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp smooth organic almond butter
- Pulse almond flour, maca, salt and baking soda in a food processor or high powered blender.
- Add squares of dark chocolate one at a time, and pulse until crumbly.
- Add in dates, pulse until crumbly (like coarse sand).
- Add eggs and pulse, should be starting to look more like a batter
- Add coconut oil and coconut sugar until mixture is smooth
- Transfer mixture to a greased 8 x 8 inch baking dish OR 9 x 13 for thinner brownies, OR use a muffin tin, filling 3/4 of the way.
- Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes - toothpick should pull out clean.
- Cool for at least 2 hours, but these are definitely even better after being covered and refrigerated overnight.
Directions: Peanut Butter Glaze
- Whisk together 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil.
- Make sure when you drizzle this onto the brownies, that they have been well chilled, as the cool temperature will cause the coconut oil to harden. Keep refrigerated.
Note: If you're feeling indulgent, adding dark chocolate chips, walnuts, or....(wait for it) chopped up Justins Dark Chocolate Almond Butter cups, takes these to the next level!
Secretly Very Healthy Trail Mix Cookies
Recently I had the chance to hang out at the Yogasmoga (<- a newer line of activewear. If you haven't heard of them yet, you will - the fabric is legit unmatched) in Beverly Hills for the afternoon and share some of my favorite desserts with the people wandering through. I knew it would be tough to convince people putting on form fitting pants that these cookies would, in fact, help them look even sexier in said form fitting pants, so I had to pull out the big guns. These guys are packed with antioxidants, vegan, flourless, gluten-free optional, and very, very low in refined sugar. Now that we've chatted about the things they aren't, let's talk about what they are: totally. freaking. delicious.
Delicious as in, if you happened to fail to mention the fact that they're free of like, 99% of foods that people find offensive, no one will be any the wiser. And I stand by that - you can call me out if I'm wrong.
The base recipe is adapted slightly from one of my favorite blogs, OhSheGlows.com, but the beauty of this cookie is that you can add virtually whatever you like...which I've done here. Literally, I went digging through my pantry and just grabbed whatever I had to add to these. In fact, I'm thinking about renaming it the Everything But the Kitchen Sink cookie.
Anyway, I won't force you to read anything else. Let's just get to the point here.
- 1 cup rolled oats (GF optional), blended into flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup rolled oats (GF optional)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds or nuts of choice. (I used both almonds and walnuts)
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (the darker the better!)
- 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tbsp raisins or dried cherries
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Shake of nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground flax + 2 tablespoons water (<- this is called a "flax egg")
- 1/4 cup organic, runny nut butter of choice (I love cashew!)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or powder
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- With a fork, stir together the flax and water in a small glass or bowl and set aside so it can firm.
- Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- In another bowl, stir together the wet ingredients, including the flax mixture until well combined.
- Add the wet mixture on top of the dry and stir until combined. This will take a fair amount of stirring - make sure all of the dry patches of flour are gone. I may or may not have used my hands.
- Roll the dough into small balls, and place on the baking sheet, spacing them a couple inches apart (they won't spread out much).
- Bake 15 minutes until light golden brown on the bottom. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack until completely cool (or they'll break).
Clean Almond Joy Bites
Whoever made up the quote "Life is short, eat dessert first" was on to something...BECAUSE IT'S SOLID ADVICE.
Now that you know how I really feel, I should probably mention that I try to avoid sugar for the most part because it makes me moody and I promise, Moody Meg is not someone you want to hang out with (more on this soon). However, I'm also human...and this human does love her a sweet treat once in a while.
In my everlasting quest for satisfying said sweet tooth without turning into a psycho, I decided to try and give my favorite dessert from my favorite vegan restaurant a whirl in my own kitchen. Made mostly of dark chocolate and unsweetened coconut, these are rich enough that you'll only want one (ok, maybe 2), they actually contain antioxidants and healthy fat, and are relatively low in sugar. (about 10 grams per truffle compared to about 20 in a chocolate chip cookie). Oh, so you're interested? You're lucky- I just ate one and I'm still in a good mood :)
- 2/3 container of dark chocolate chips, or a large bar of dark chocolate (I recommend 70% + cacao for low sugar/high antioxidant)
- 1 bag or about 1.5 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/4-1/3 cup raw honey or coconut nectar, to taste
- 1 tbsp coconut oil - you'll want it to be solid, not melted, preferrably
- 10-12 almonds
- Parchment paper or very very well greased glass/tin foil (<- try at your own risk)
- 1. In a bowl, combine coconut, honey, coconut oil, and a few good shakes of cinnamon
- Roll into tablespoon-ish sized balls. If the mixture is too crumbly to form balls (starting to feel like Tom Brady here), it means the coconut oil is too soft. Pop it in the fridge for about 20 and try again.
- Once rolled, put back in the fridge until good and chilled.
- In a double broiler, melt the chocolate until it's liquid. If it's not thin enough, add a tsp of coconut oil to do the trick. (If you don't have a double broiler, you can either put a frying pan on top of a large pot of gently boiling water, or you can microwave at half power in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted).
- Using a spoon, roll the balls (sigh) around in the chocolate until coated, carefully place on parchment, and top with an almond or 3. You can put these in the fridge if the chocolate is taking a long time to solidify. Enjoy!!!
Cold Buckwheat Porridge
Ok, I know I'm getting a little breakfast heavy here - but when it's 95 degrees outside and I'm living sans AC, I can't so much as even think about hot food - and find myself eating salad after salad for lunch and dinner (I'll share some of those soon too though, promise). Luckily, the world of possibilities is endless when it comes to cold breakfast food, and this particular recipe combines a couple of things I really love:
- Nuts/ Nut butter
- Frozen Fruit (well, the frozen part is optional, but this is coming from a girl who scrolled through her phone contacts last night looking for any friend with AC who might want to host me in her couch).
- Old Timey Words in the title (<- "Porridge," if you didn't catch that)
Anyway. Buckwheat is currently on heavy rotation in my life. It kinda reminds me of Grape Nuts cereal, a childhood favorite of mine, but it's technically a seed. This means it's gluten free (for those of you who have a sensitivity) and contains some healthy fat as well! Usually, I find myself just eating it like cereal - cold, topped with almond milk and fruit, but I stumbled across this recipe a few weeks back and when I have a few spare minutes in the AM I definitely take advantage of the situation and whip this up (It really only takes about 5 min, but it's a little more labor intensive than simply pouring them in a bowl and slicing a banana on top).
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 2/3 of a cup of buckwheat soaked in 1 cup of water
- 1 ripe banana
- 1/2 a cup of blueberries (+ more for topping)
- 1 peach, cut into cubes
- 1/4 of a cup of preferred milk
- 1 tablespoon of almond/peanut/etc butter
- 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
- Optional to sweeten: 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup
- Put the buckwheat in a bowl of water and let it soak overnight. Don't skip this step or it won't turn out right - trust me, I learn most of these things the hard way.
- In the morning, drain the water from the buckwheat using a sieve or a fine mesh strainer. Rinse it pretty well unless you like the extra goo (you'll see what I'm talking about when you get to this step).
- Place 2/3 of it in the blender with your milk, chia seeds, banana, blueberries, nut butter, and sweetener, and mix for about a minute until it's creamy but not 100% smooth. Divide it between two bowls, top with the extra buckwheat, blueberries, peaches, and you are all sorts of good to go.
PS- you can totes get creative with this recipe - try adding different blend-ins and toppings depending on what you're feeling at that moment.
More Breakfast in a Bowl: Low Sugar Acai
Acai bowls have been all the rage for some time now - and I'm not going to lie, I jumped right on this bandwagon the minute I had my first bite! Because well, they're damn delicious, and let's be honest - they look awesome on Instagram.. But because I also tend to be skeptical of trendy health food and try to always do my due diligence, I got right to researching just how great this amazing little berry actually was. Turns out, while it hasn't been popular in the US to have totally conclusive studies, it's thought to have similar antioxidant properties to similar dark berries, such as good ol' Blue (good enough for me!). They were also described as being very low in sugar and rather tart. Well, based on what I'd been eating, these bowls were anything but tart. A quick conversation with the nice lady behind the counter at the Acai bowl store and a peek at their nutritional info on the website confirmed my suspicion: these puppies are loaded way up with sweetener (in this case, a product called Guarana - but the sweeteners vary by location). A more thorough internet search turned up some sad, sad news: most acai bowls -even from the healthiest of juiceries- contain anywhere from 40-50 grams of sugar. (For some context, the American Heart association recommends women have no more than 25 grams per day). You can read more about the downfalls of sugar here.
I did not let this news stop me! Knowing that pure acai is almost free of sugar, I was determined to come up with something equally tasty, without the crash and negative effects. A little experimenting in the kitchen (complete with a few flops) led me to a version of my favorite breakfast bowl with considerably less sugar, almost entirely coming from a banana, not a sweetener, and enough fat to help with it's absorption. Without further adieu, here's how it all goes down:
Blended Acai: Ingredients
- 2 packets froen Sambazon No Sugar Pure Acai
- 1/3 cup light coconut milk
- 1 tbsp nut butter of choice (feel free to throw in a tbsp of PB2 to amp up the flavor)
- 2/3 banana, reserving the 1/3 for topping
- Optional for added nutrients: a handful of spinach
Toppings - choose from any mix of the following, or pick your own!
- 1 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 tsp buckwheat groats
- 1/3 banana, sliced
- 1 tsp cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips, but this will increase sugar content slightly)
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1/4 avocado, cubed
Blend acai packs, nut butter, and banana in a high powered blender, slowly adding coconut milk. You may need a little more or less depending on the kind of consistency you desire. Pour contents into a bowl, and sprinkle on your choice of toppings. Enjoy!
Butternut Squash Tacos
These are inspired by one of my favorite vegan restaurants - Cafe Gratitude. Every person I have ever made these for, including the most skeptical of the bunch (e.g., my father, who absolutely despises anything "trendy- healthy") has been completely and utterly wowed by the combination of sweet squash and savory black beans. I wholeheartedly recommend serving these up with a batch of skinny margaritas!
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1/2 medium butternut squash
- 1 medium onion sautéed
- 2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
- 1/2 medium avocado
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 medium lime
- 1 medium tomato chopped
- 1/2 can black beans
- 1 tbsp chicken broth or water
- 1/2 cup purple cabbage chopped
- Pepitas, for topping
- Cilantro, for topping
- 4 tacos wraps of choice, such as corn tortillas, collard green wraps, Ezekiel Sprouted grain tortillas, etc.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place squash, cut sides down, in a 9x13 baking dish. Make sure to scoop out seeds before cooking. Pour broth or water into dish around squash halves. Bake in the preheated oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, about an hour. Carefully remove the skin with a fork; it should be very easy to remove. Check the squash after 45 minutes
- While the squash is baking, oil a pan with coconut oil, thinly slice onions and cook over medium-low heat until caramelized.
- Once the squash is baked and cooled, scoop squash and put in blender with a spoon. Add salt and pepper. Blend until pureed but still slightly chunky.
- In a side bowl, lightly mash avocado with a fork, and add juice from lime, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired.
- Warm beans, tortillas (if applicable), and chop tomato and cabbage is separate side dishes to create a taco bar.
- Assemble tacos by adding butternut squash, beans, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, hot sauce and cabbage to tortillas.