gluten free brownies

Black Bean Brownies

Dear Leah Renee, 

My husband and kids love when I bake, but I don’t like all the bad ingredients it takes to make them taste good!!!  When I look at ‘healthier’ versions it seems like there’s tons of dates in there somewhere or skimp on taste.  Do you have anything for us, that’s gluten free too?  Thanks Leah! ~Danica B., Pittsburgh, PA





It is hard to not compromise flavor and texture when switching up ingredients to make for a healthier sweet treat!  If you don’t have an earthy palate like many of us raw foodies or vegans, finding something the kids and husband will like (and you too!) can be difficult.  I find that substitutions using avocado’s, applesauce, coconut oil, dates, honey, maple syrup, agar agar, flax seeds, and mashed banana’s are just some items that can really contribute to a family friendly dessert in both the health and taste categories.

One substitute I didn’t mention: black beans.  Insert the black bean brownie.  You can insert a YUM in there too–because these are really good!  Adapted from My San Francisco Kitchen, the recipe below is simple to make and the only difficult part is allowing them to cool long enough so they don’t fall apart!  If you can keep your hands off until then, you’re good.  Then again, if these are for just you and the fam, who cares if they’re crumbly, right?!  Dig in!

Here’s what you need:


  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (15½ oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil *I used coconut oil*
  • ½ cup granulated sugar *I used brown sugar*
  • ¼ cup and 1 tbsp cocoa powder *I used unsweetened*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips for topping (optional) *I chopped up some 70% organic dark chocolate and used that as the topping*
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender (or the hand blender like I used) and blend on low until all ingredients are well blended (there should not be any whole black beans in the batter–it should be smooth)
  3. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish and pour batter inside (I spray coconut oil to grease).
  4. Top with chocolate chips or nuts if desired.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean after inserting in the center.
  6. Cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving (otherwise they will fall apart).
Makes 9 brownies (I cut them smaller so there were about 14).  A batch of 12 will have (a piece) about 120 calories, 15g total carbs (includes fiber), 8g sugar, 4g protein, and 5g fat.  Not too shabby!!!
Enjoy!  See who notices a difference!

What To Do When the Sweet Tooth Calls?!

Dear Leah Renee, 

I have a terrible sweet tooth and I need help! Do you have any suggestions for healthier dessert options? ~Bonnie, TX

Oh, if only chocolate didn’t taste sooo good!  Maybe chocolate isn’t your thing, but it’s safe to say most of us crave sweets from time to time (or in some cases daily…hourly…).  Sometimes we’ll say the heck with it and just indulge in the most decadent dessert possible.  Other times we’ll want to be a little more conservative, satisfying the craving without having the guilt or suffering the consequences of a sugar hangover.

First order of business: choose your poison.  Next, choose the alternativeor get even more hardcore and choose the even healthier option.

justin's pb cups

Choosing organic candy or chocolate is not necessarily going to be any less caloric or contain less sugar than its conventional counterparts, but it will take away all those nasty chemicals and bad ingredients (like GMO’s) that organic will leave behind.  In my opinion, this is so important.  Our body’s were designed to digest and filter ingredients it knows, and that means as natural as possible.  So, I say if it’s chocolate and peanut butter you love, go for Justin’s Peanut Butter cups (instead of on like Reese’s).  In this particular case, there’s 7 less grams of sugar in Justin’s.  Want a homemade option?  Try this:

chocolate peanut butterYou can use a spoonful of each, first peanut butter then topped with chocolate chips, or you can use what’s left in the jar and add the chocolate chips right in the container.  I like sprinkling some cinnamon or add a little raw honey too!  You could even warm the chocolate chips up a little first to make it even more decadent.

If your more of an ice cream person, again, choose one with minimal ingredients, or even one without dairy at all.  If you’re thinking of frozen yogurt, I would do ice cream instead.  Fro-yo tends to contain a whole slew of harmful ingredients.  Check out this by Food Babe for the low-down on just how crazy the additives in frozen yogurt has become.  And if that weren’t enough–adding all the toppings available, unless it’s fruit, will be a total sugar and chemical overload.  Here are some ice cream brands that are a step above the rest IF you are not making your own at home (click pic for info):

365 Organic Ice Cream



coconut bliss


Down to make your very own at home?  You can do it with as little as one ingredient!  Frozen bananas!  Yes, it’s that easy.  They need to be frozen beforehand, I usually just gather up some that are too ripe to eat anymore, slice them in half, and freeze them (without the skin) in the morning or before bed.  Put some in your Vitamix, food processor, or high speed blender, wait until they’ve defrosted just a little (enough to start blending, or you can add a little almond milk), and start blending.  Want a mint version?  Add a little peppermint oil or extract.  Vanilla?  Add vanilla extract.  Want the works?  Add a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter and some chocolate chips.  If you like it fruity, put some berries on top, or blend with it.

None of this may do it for you because you prefer baked goods.  Click here for my black-bean brownies (trust me on this one) and here for a no-bake cookie dough bites!


cookie dough bites

Whatever your poison, there’s a healthier fix!  Enjoy your occasional indulgence, guilt-free.