You guys. I made the best – no, the BEST – clean eating, healthy brownies that have ever been made. Let me explain: last week for Valentine’s Day I had dinner all planned out (surf and turf, my boo’s fav) and totally forgot about dessert until the last minute. We haven’t been having dessert around here lately because we’ve been avoiding sugar, but come on, Valentine’s Day is special. And the treats I made before are good for like, a snack or a more casual dessert but not appropriate following filet mignon and shrimp, ya know? So I did a quick google search for clean eating brownies, clean eating zucchini brownies, clean eating chocolate desserts – but didn’t see anything that looked legit.
I come from a family who has the best brownie recipe perfected down to a science and I have grown up making them often enough to know the recipe by heart (embarrassing…) so I took what I already knew and made it as healthy as possible and I’m here to tell you it is a very decent substitute. Full disclosure: they aren’t so good that you don’t realize you’re not eating something full of butter and sugar, but it’s the kind of thing where you go, “Huh. That’s actually really good!”. They are gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and even have a vegetable hiding in there somewhere BUT I promise that if you are looking for a treat that won’t make you feel guilty and might actually make you feel good, this. Is. It.
Let’s talk about some of these ingredients because they may seem odd or unfamiliar. Skip this part if it bores you to tears (I won’t be offended).
Oat Flour is literally oats (like oatmeal) ground down super fine. You can make your own by putting regular oatmeal in a food processor or coffee grinder or just buy it in the health food section of your grocery. I prefer to buy mine only because you get a closer consistency to real flour, but I’ve baked goods with oats I ground down on my own and it was fine; it’s just slightly more textured. Really you can use any flour here; if you’re trying to go Paleo (more power to ya..) coconut flour or almond flour could be used.
Xylitol Brown Sugar. Xylitol sounds like a scary chemical, but in fact it’s found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, and can be extracted from various berries, oats, and mushrooms, as well as fibrous material such as corn husks and sugar cane bagasse (source). It’s shown to improve dental health and helps reduce ear and upper respiratory infections (random, but okay?) – but the most important fact to me is that xylitol is absorbed much more slowly than regular sugar and does not result in high blood sugar levels. Let me explain my relationship with sugar: it’s like sugar is an abusive boyfriend. He sounds all sweet, makes me feel good and I can’t get enough of him, but then he does terrible things to me – like forces me to keep eating when I’ve really had enough. And then calls me fat. See? We’re just not the best fit for each other. But this xylitol brown sugar is like the knight in shining armor. I can bake with it and it does a great job of sweetening with fewer calories and allows me to keep myself in check. It is still a processed food, but it’s a much better alternative to regular sugar and this is still considered a once in a while treat – not part of an every day diet. Also – pets can’t eat this because it’s bad for them: just FYI.
Grated Zucchini. Literally, take out your cheese grater, turn it to the finer side and grate it like cheese. Once baked, you will never see the fibers, nor will you taste any thing resembling a vegetable. It’s like it magically disappears in the oven. PROMISE!
Apple Sauce – a little secret is that I actually buy baby food apple sauce because it has the fewest ingredients and it comes in perfect portions so I don’t have to buy an entire bottle that I won’t end up eating.
Chocolate – get the unsweetened baking chocolate. Don’t get the semi-sweet because it’s already loaded with sugar. This gives you a little more control over how much to sweeten too.
Coconut Oil. Don’t even get me started with how awesome coconut oil is. Yes, it has tons of saturated fats however they are made up of short and medium chain fatty acids that are actually great for you and will even help you lose weight. Regular saturated fat that everyone is so freaked out by is made up of long chain fatty acids which aren’t so great. (I think I said all that right, but I’m not an expert so…) Oh it’s a wonderful fat. Read more about why it’s so wonderful here.
Double Dark Chocolate Clean-Eating Brownies Recipe
- 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate2 cups grated zucchini
- 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 cups xylitol brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups finely grated zucchini
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or one 3.5 oz package of baby apple sauce)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, melt chocolate squares and coconut oil in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in another bowl, sift together oat flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda (this gives it a finer texture, but you can just whisk together if you’re in a hurry).
- Once chocolate and coconut oil have melted, stir together and add xylitol, salt, eggs, applesauce and vanilla. Mix well.
- Add water and zucchini to the mixture, making sure to add any liquid from the zucchini as xylitol absorbs moisture and can dry out the brownies during baking (this is why we add the water also).
- Add the dry ingredients mixture to the chocolate and zucchini mixture. Mix Well.
- Pour in to 9″ x 13″ greased baking dish and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Makes 24 brownies.
I quickly tied these up with parchment paper and baker’s twine because it was pretty for Valentine’s Day, but an added bonus I didn’t expect was that it was much easier to control portion sizes because each one felt like a special present to open and made us savor them more. Also important to note on why portion control is important with xylitol: eating too much (over 65 grams) can cause an upset stomach. That would be like eating four of these bars in one sitting, so don’t do that :)
What do you think? Does this make you want to get in the kitchen and make a healthier alternative to your old standby treat? Let me know if you’ve made something like this before – I’d love to hear! Happy baking!