“Forget love – I’d rather fall in chocolate.”
Who doesn’t like chocolate? Exactly. The dark stuff not only tastes good, but it’s one of those foods that can have a real emotional impact on us. It has the power to make us feel o so happy – sometimes chocolate is the only answer to complete satisfaction, right? But, on the flip side, there’s the all too familiar guilt associated with our favourite sweet treat, especially when we’ve over indulged.
Most of us know it may not necessarily be the healthiest food option. This is true in many respects, your average chocolate bar, cake, cookie or snack is going to be laden with sugar or other undesirable artificial sweeteners and trans or saturated fats. But there are numerous health benefits to including good quality, dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa solids – into your diet. Dark chocolate is packed with the minerals magnesium, potassium, iron and copper, all necessary for good health, as well as containing flavonoids, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant properties and have shown may help to lower blood pressure, improve vascular function and lower bad LDL cholesterol. And there’s likely a chemical reason for why chocolate gives you that feel good feeling too. In one 2009 study, a group of ‘highly stressed’ people were asked to consume dark chocolate daily for a couple of weeks. At the end of the test period they were all found to have considerably lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone catecholamines. So grab some chocolate and chill out!
In my attempt to make a ‘healthy’ brownie that would pack in plenty of protein to support my training, as well as satisfy my chocolate craving, I got ‘experimenting’ in the kitchen. Early attempts produced what I can only describe as chocolate cardboard…. But after some research I read that surprisingly the magic missing ingredient could possibly be…. beans! Yup, that’s right. Sounds a bit strange I know (disgusting even?!), but they help to keep the brownies nice and moist, whilst another added bonus is the extra fibre they provide. So give these a go and feel good without the guilt. Be(an) Happy!
- 1 can of black beans
- 1/2 cup of peanut butter – see my peanut butter recipe!
- 1/4 cup of maple syrup
- 1/2 a mashed banana (if it’s a small banana, use the whole thing! And if you don’t like bananas, use 1/2 cup apple sauce)
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 3 x 20g scoops of protein powder – the whey protein I like to use is Pulsin’s 100% Natural Flavour. Or a good vegan (non-dairy) alternative is Sun Warrior Natural Brown Rice Protein. For this recipe I prefer to use a flavorless protein, but the choice is yours!
- 1/2 cup of Green & Blacks 70% cocoa powder or another ‘dark’, good quality cocoa
- 1/4 cup of soaked goji berries – I soak mine over night in water and cinnamon to make them soft and plump
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 1.5 cups of oats
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- If you want a REAL big chocolate kick, roughly break up some chunks of 70% dark chocolate – about half a large bar will do!
- Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with a little coconut oil or other oil.
- Into a food processor, add the beans, peanut butter, maple syrup, mashed banana, cinnamon and salt. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the protein powder, cocoa and oats and hit the pulse button a few times until the mixture has combined nicely.
- Stir in the goji berries and raisins – and chocolate chunks if you’re being decadent! The consistency of the mixture should be spreadable and not too dry. If it does seem a bit dry, add a little water, if it seems too runny add some more oats to the mixture.
- Spread the mixture in the pan and bake for 15-18 mins. Keep an eye on the brownies, don’t let them ‘over cook’ as the added protein can tend to make them go hard and cardboard like if they are cooked for too long.
- Let them cool a bit – if you’re not too impatient! – cut into 16 squares and enjoy They should keep for a few days in refrigerated.