Valentine Black Bean Brownie topped with Chocolate Chia Mocha Mousse
The Black Bean Brownie Base
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Short & Sweet - Cocoa Rocks! Chocolate Doesn't!
Here's the deal with cocoa. You really can have your cake & eat it too--as long as it's made with cocoa powder, no sugar, no eggs, & no added fat!
Impossible you say? Well, just follow along & I'll share some of the chocolate delights I've been eating lately, thanks to a little help from my friends: Amy, an HHLL reader and Wendy of Health Girl's Kitchen (another HHLL reader)
First the Science of Cocoa
The Greek name for cocoa means, "Drink of the Gods". Maybe they were on to something. Epichatechin is the polyphenol in cocoa that does its magic on the cardiovascular system.
- It lowers blood pressure
- It reduces insulin resistance and improves platelet function
- It increases nitric oxide production--that "magic gas" that improves endothelial function, and it has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- In a recent meta-analysis in the journal Circulation, 75 grams of dark chocolate for 3 weeks increased HDLs by 14% and decreased LDL oxidation. Lowering blood pressure took even less cocoa to do the job.
- How does cocoa do all this? It's probably because it increases the availability of nitric oxide, and it also increases arginase--which prevents nitric oxide from breaking down. It's a 2-for-one!
- Cocoa's best benefit? It inhibits the kind of inflammation that creates atherosclerotic plaque.
- This study will give you a good reason to drink cocoa daily. One of the tests for a healthy vasculature is the ability of our blood vessels to dilate. This study looked at the dilation of arteries after drinking a high flavanoid cocoa drink, compared to a low flavonoid drink. There was a significant increase in vasodilation with the high flavonoid drink--and nitric oxide levels increased as the level of flavonoids in the cocoa increased.
- Watch out! Avoid cocoa or dark chocolate that is "Dutch-Processed" or is treated with an alkali to decrease its bitterness--that destroys the flavonoids!
Healthy Dessert Heaven. Mix the Cocoa with Beans, Oats, Chia, Dates, & a Dash of Stevia. TADA!
Honestly, I rarely make desserts. But, when you need a little treat---or company is coming--sometimes you want more than just fruit.
Hard to believe, but the combo of cocoa, beans or oats, chia, dates & stevia really can produce a sweet chocolate treat that's acceptable to most any palate. Well maybe not for serious chocoholics. I'm sure my palate has changed over the past 4 years.
Take Amy's chocolate hummus for example--or chocolate garbanzo ganache, as Son #1 says I should call it. What's better for you? A quarter cup of garbanzo beans, cocoa, and half of a date---or a 300+ calorie dark chocolate bar? Hmm, I'll have to think about that one.
The Black Bean Brownie Topped with Mocha Chocolate Chia "Mousse"
Here's the back story on this recipe.
In January I heard from Amy, an HHLL reader who has been experimenting with creating healthy no-sugar & no-fat chocolate desserts. First she sent me her Chocolate Hummus recipe--which Son #1 says I should rename Chocolate Garbanzo Ganache--because it sounds better than hummus. And then Amy sent me her recipe for what she describes as, "The most delectable flourless chocolate black bean cake you can imagine."
But, her flourless cake had a big deal-breaker for me. It contained 3 eggs.
Amy has her own health turn-around story which sounds very similar to mine. She's always been fit, eaten a healthy diet & exercised. But, her "fit & healthy" mom also had triple bypass surgery a few years back & her grandmother died of a heart attack at age 69.
Last March, after reading my blog, Amy started changing her diet to about 95% vegan & no-oil--and at last count her own "too high" cholesterol has dropped 50 points, as well as her weight. And now she's enjoying delicious after-dinner treats like her "chocolate hummus" and frozen bananas.
In Search of the Perfect Egg Substitute for Amy's Amazing Flourless Black Bean Chocolate Cake
The Healthy Librarian's search for the perfect egg substitute to make Amy's Flourless Black Bean Chocolate Cake:
1. Flax eggs. First I made Amy's recipe with "flax eggs". 1 tablespoon of flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons of water for every egg. The Verdict: It was good--but not great. The "flax eggs" had a slightly bitter edge.
2. Ener-G. Next, I tried the recipe with Ener-G, a commercial egg substitute. The Verdict: The "flax eggs" were better. The Energ-G had an off-taste I didn't quite care for in the brownies. But, of course I still ate this batch of black bean brownies, anyway.
3. Chia eggs. Then I tried, "chia gel". I love the no-taste of chia a lot better than flax. Why not give it a try?
Here's the chia egg recipe: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 1/4 cup of water for each egg. Mix well. Allow to gel for at least 20 minutes. I mixed up the equivalent of 3 eggs, and dumped 3/4 of a cup of chia gel into the flourless chocolate cake ingredients. After 20 minutes of baking it was totally mushy. Baked it for 10 more minutes. Still too gooey. After 40 minutes it still wasn't set, but I took it out of the oven--covered it up & stuck it in the refrigerator. The next day it was more solid, and I could cut it into squares. It was fudgey and delicious. I asked Amy to give it a try. She had the same experience as I did--but, it just wouldn't really turn into "cake" or even "brownies" as we know them--but they tasted good. It wasn't the same cake she made with 3 real eggs. So I kept on tinkering.
4. The fourth time was the charm. Instead of adding 3/4 cup of chia gel to the recipe, I added just 5 tablespoons. And to give it a little more "brownie-like" texture, I added in 1/4 cup of "freshly ground" oat flour--made by processessing some oatmeal (rolled oats). The no longer "flour-less" black bean brownie was done at 20 minutes--and it was delicious!
The Black Bean Chocolate Chia Brownie Topped with Mocha Chocolate Chia Banana "Mousse"
Click here for a copy of the recipe on one page.
- 1 can-15 ounces black beans, rinsed & drained
- 5 tablespoons chia gel (make this 20 minutes or more ahead of time with 3 TBS of chia seeds & 3/4 cup of water & stir well. After about 5 more minutes, stir again, so it's not clumpy & it's a nice thick gel--refrigerate leftovers (here's the link for the instructions)--then measure out just 5 TBS of gel) If you have time--make the chia gel ahead of time & keep it in the refrigerator overnight. It keeps for a week.
- 1/4 cup of cocoa (I love Penzey's natural un-Dutched cocoa--I can really taste the difference) (if you think it's needed you can add 1 add'l TBS of cocoa)
- 2 tsp. of baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp of instant espresso powder (I use Medaglia D'oro brand--and it's available everywhere in the coffee department of the grocery store)
- 1 TBS of vanilla (yes, a tablespoon)
- 8 pitted dates (9 if they aren't plump or moist) Use the biggest & moistest of the bunch.
- 3 packets of stevia (I like Sweet Leaf) I've researched stevia--and it's perfectly safe.
- 1/4 cup of oat flour or make it yourself with 1/3 cup of rolled oats processed into flour--then measure just 1/4 cup of "oat flour" Process the oats into flour before you do anything--and set aside.
- 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Process oats into flour (if you don't have oat flour) and remove to a bowl--I did it this way.)
2. Process dates until they are a paste. This can be annoying, with the need to stop & scrape it down, or use the Pulse function of your food processor.
3. Add the drained beans & process them with the dates until they're completely smooth & mixed well into the dates.
4. Add in the chia gel if this mixture is getting too hard to process & needs liquid to get it mixed up well
5. Add in the coffee, the cocoa, the vanilla & stevia.
6. Add the oat flour after everything is mixed well.
7. Add the baking powder & salt last. Finally add the walnuts, & pulse just a few times to mix in.
8. Place mixture in an 8-inch silicone pan. Any other is OK, too, but you might need to spray it so it doesn't stick. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes only, & test. You don't want it to overcook--but you don't want it too loose or undercooked. Go by "feel"--this is a moist brownie
Cool, cover tightly with foil.
Serve topped with a dollop of chocolate chia banana "mousse" (It's the chia breakfast pudding I posted about earlier. Very versatile!)
An HHLL reader saw my preview Valentine chocolate treat pics on my Facebook page & asked for the recipe ahead of time for her book club. Here's what she had to say about it:
"mmmmm. It was all a hit. I think this was the first time any of those ladies tried chia seeds in something! I finished the topping off with my green smoothie this morning.
I did not have stevia, so I used 1/4 cup sugar in the brownie and added some chocolate chips. I toasted the walnuts and served them as a condiment (forgot to add it to the batter). It was all very yummy. Thanks for sharing. :)"
My Tweaked Version of HGK's Grasshopper Chocolate Oatmeal Parfait with a Crazy Spinach Banana Frozen "Soft Serve"
HGK's Grasshopper Chocolate Oatmeal Nutrition Powerhouse Breakfast
Believe it or not, this crazy looking breakfast is delicious & will keep you filled for hours! It's another veritable nutritional powerhouse.
To get a copy of all the versions of this recipe on one page, click here!
Five Ways of Making This Chocolate Mint Breakfast Parfait
2. The Healthy Librarian's "make it in the morning" version.
- 1/3 cup regular oats (not steel cut)
- about 7/8 of a cup of soy or other non-dairy milk
- 1 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon good quality non-Dutched cocoa--Penzey's is the best
- 1/2 to 1 packet of stevia (or 1 tsp maple syrup)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
Mix everything together & microwave it in a large bowl until done--depends on your microwave.
If you already have a batch of chocolate slow-cooker steel cut oatmeal made, you're already halfway there. Scoop out 1/4 of the batch for layering. Warm it up, or not, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of chia into it.
Here's how to make my chocolate steel cut oatmeal in the morning if you don't have a slow-cooker, or you forgot to get it started last night.
1. Follow all the directions for the slow-cooker recipe, but CUT THE WATER DOWN TO ONE CUP--and CUT THE MILK DOWN TO TWO CUPS.
2. Heat the one cup of water in the microwave & mix the cocoa in it to properly mix it together.
3. Mix all the ingredients into a saucepan, and heat until it starts to boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer, stir with a wooden spoon occasionally. Keep a careful watch, but, this should take about 15 to 25 minutes to absorb most of the liquid, and get creamy and delicious.
4. The crockpot/slow-cooker version is a lot better tasting--but this works!
The Spinach Frozen Banana "Soft Serve" Layer
1 large frozen banana or 1 1/2 small frozen bananas (be sure to freeze bananas already cut up into pieces!!!)
1 cup frozen spinach--the kind that's in a plastic bag--not a solid frozen block
about 1/4 cup of soy or non-dairy milk
1/8 tsp peppermint extract---if you're not fond of mint flavoring, leave this out & add vanilla
Mix the frozen spinach, the milk, and the banana in a VitaMix or food processor & blend until smooth & creamy. Add a little more milk if necessary. You'll need the plunger with the VitaMix.
Now layer the oatmeal & minty soft-serve and enjoy!
Don't have a VitaMix? Don't have a food processor? Don't have any frozen bananas in your freezer? No problem.
No worries--mix the spinach & a regular banana with the mint extract or vanilla in your regular blender & eat your oatmeal like this! I call it, "Green Eggs and Chocolate Ham". It looks ridiculous, but it tastes fantastic!
Short Order Green "Eggs" and Chocolate "Ham" for Breakfast
Check out the nutritional content of this breakfast. Based on rolled oats (not steel-cut) and soy milk. You will feel full for hours!
Grasshopper Chocolate Oatmeal
Serving Size: 1 recipe
|Amount Per Serving|
Amy's Chocolate Hummus Renamed Chocolate Garbanzo (or Cannellini) Ganache
As a Snack with Half a Banana
Served with Berries
It's hard to believe that a can of garbanzo beans, cocoa, a little espresso powder, some dates & stevia can make something SO Delicious, but it does!
Full Disclosure: Be careful with this hummus! It's so good you'll be tempted to eat it by the spoonful.
For a copy of the recipe on one page, click here:
Makes about 2 cups
Serves: at least 8 servings
- 1 15-ounce can of garbanzo or cannellini beans. UPDATE 3/2/12: Cannellini beans are better!! Unlike garbanzos, they have a perfect omega 3:omega 6 ratio--and they make a superior & creamier hummus/ganache!
Do not drain--you'll need the reserved liquid for the hummus!!!
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or Better'N Peanut Butter or the best choice: mix up your own with defatted peanut butter with PB2. Good news! PB2 is now available at Whole Foods, where I live.
- 1/2 cup of non-Dutched cocoa. Penzey's Natural is THE Best Tasting.
- 3 packets of stevia (I prefer the Sweet Leaf brand) I've read the research on stevia, I've talked to the company, and I'm personally 100% comfortable using this product.
- 1 teaspoon of instant espresso coffee (I use Medaglia D'Oro brand--availabe at most groceries)
- 4 large pitted Medjool dates--pick out the plumpest, moistest ones.
- 1 teaspoon of good quality real vanilla extract
- 1/4 or more of the reserved liquid from the garbanzo beans. Start with 1/4 cup of the liquid, add more until it's the consistency you like.
- a few grinds (or a mini-pinch) of sea salt
1. Empty the entire can of garbanzo or cannellini beans & liquid into a heat-proof bowl. Microwave it until it's nice & warm. This helps with the blending.
2. Carefully drain the beans, but reserve the liquid to add back into the hummus to make it creamy
3. Prepare your PB2 if you are using it.
4. Throw everything into the food processor, including 1/4 cup of the reserved garbanzo/cannellini liquid. That's all there is to it! Note: It's really too hard to make this in a blender--it's thick--and it will be hard to get it out of the blender jar/perhaps a VitaMix would work, but a food processor is preferred. That's all there is to it.
5. Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week. Enjoy with sliced bananas, berries, or however you like.
What's Your Favorite Healthy Chocolate Treat?
If You Try Any of These Recipes, Please Give Us All Feedback! I Love Hearing From You.