Monday, September 19, 2016

But Are They Really Brownies?

I, like many of you, used to laugh at everyone that tried to make incredibly good-tasting, bad-for-you foods healthier. Cakes should be dense; brownies should be frosted; ice cream should be topped. How in the world is replacing delicious ingredients with things like fat-free applesauce and bananas ever going to work? But then one day, I decided that perhaps the root cause of never being able to lose those final three pounds (yeah, you know the ones) may or may not have something to do with the fact that I shovel copious amounts of cake, cupcakes, ice cream, and pie into my, well, pie hole. Appropriate nickname for the mouth aside, this obvious correlation was still startling. As much as I hate the meal known as lunch, I figure nixing it in favor of half a pint of Blue Bell after dinner wasn't something that could ever fall into the "I really know how to adult" category. If you told me as a child that as an adult I could eat all the dessert I wanted to, when I wanted to, I probably would've stopped listening after that. Never mind the "obvious consequences" speech. So here we are, years and many pant sizes and Jillian Michaels workouts later, trying to shed the final pounds standing between me and a year-round bikini body. I've gone to extreme lengths. Like buying froyo instead of Blue Bell, using calorie-counting apps, and replacing bad-for-you ingredients with healthy ones. That being said, you'd never know by looking at these chocolate peanut butter brownies that there's anything remotely healthy about them.
But they're made of stupid healthy ingredients.

And only three of them, to boot! That's right. I don't even really need to give you an actual ingredient list, although I will because clearly that's why we're all here. Or maybe you're just checking in to make sure I haven't lost my dessert-loving mind. Maybe I have, but those last three pounds went along with it, so I still consider it a win. Now, do these actually taste like brownies? This is a yes and no answer. They are dense, they are moist, they are sweet, they are chocolately, but they are also peanut buttery, so that makes a bit of difference in flavoring between plain chocolate brownie and chocolate peanut butter brownie, hence the name; if you hate peanut butter and chocolate, I have a substitution for you that will make these taste like plain chocolate brownies. See below. But even WITH the light cream cheese frosting, one brownie tops out at only 200 calories! And that's for 9 servings in a 9x9 pan. You could totally divvy these up into 12 servings and they'd only be 150 calories! Insanity!
No, this can't be everything? Oh, but it is.
Ha, three whole ingredients. It's so simple that it's actually borderline ridiculous. This is hands down the easiest dessert I have ever made, and you all know how much I love a good shortcut. All you need are 3 ripe to overripe bananas, 1/2 a cup of JIF creamy peanut butter (or Skippy if you hate your family), and 1/4 cup of dark cocoa powder.

Now, I'm quite new to the chocolate/peanut butter combo. I hated it throughout my entire youth, and then my taste palette grew into it as an adult. I know, I probably got the ordering there completely wrong, but what are you gonna do. If you have taste buds that die a little at the thought of this flavor combo, replace the peanut butter with almond butter. This will yield a classic brownie taste. I also have to avoid almonds because ingesting them gives me terrible eczema. Isn't the human body wonderful? I think some itchy elbows might be worth it in this case though. This is definitely a keeper of a recipe, so I'll load up on lotions and try it this way next time.

Back to the recipe and far, far away from discussing eczema while trying to sell you on food. Coat a 9x9 or 8x8 pan with cooking spray and preheat your oven to 350. In a large bowl or stand mixer, mash up the three bananas until completely smooth. Add in the cocoa powder and blend. In a small bowl, nuke your peanut butter for 30-45 seconds until melted. Add this to the cocoa powder and banana and mix for 1-2 minutes until completely smooth. Pour into your pan.
And forget to rotate photo.
Bake time is a little harder to gauge here. Since there is no flour or sugar in these brownies, they're not going to yield to a toothpick test. I baked for 25 minutes, until the top looked firm and set. You know, like my abs thanks to all this healthy eating we've been doing. I kid. Once set, I cooled for 10 minutes on a rack before moving to the freezer to finish because I'm impatient.
Hello, you firm devil.
While the brownies are setting in the freezer, it's frosting time. Now again, you can make some adaptations to cut even more calories out of this frosting. But even with a full-fledged, fatty fat fat cake, frosting is the most important thing in the world to me, so I refuse to go fat free. For my frosting I used one 8. oz. block of REDUCED fat cream cheese at room temp, 2 tablespoons of regular cocoa powder (not dark), 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 tablespoons of skim milk. I simply blended them all together.
Thick n' creamy. As it should be for frosting, but not your thighs.
Once the brownies are totally cool (in temp, not in an 80s reference), get a spatula and go to town. The frosting is thick, so if you need to heat up a metal spatula with hot water to get things smoothed out, go for it. Or, be an adult about it and just use sprinkles to cover up the unevenness.
Like so.
Let's have a talk. I am 29 years old and still not entirely sure what gluten is. I realize a lot of people in this world think they're allergic to it, so I have good news for you if you're one of these people. Upon my review, there is literally not a gluten to be found. I almost hate saying this, but if you're a vegan, you could find fat free/no animal byproduct cream cheese and almond milk for the frosting, and even you could eat these. I will draw the line there and not ask any questions about what it must be like to eat granola for every meal of the day. Just know, here's an alternative.
Seriously. Don't actually tell me what a gluten is. Even if I'm allergic to it, I refuse to make anymore changes. Banana-based brownies are all I can handle right now.
I love these brownies. But literally, the only thing that makes the dense, peanut butter and chocolate swirl of flavor taste even better? One scoop of salted caramel froyo. Yeah, I didn't realize froyo could be obtained by the carton. As a lifelong Blue Bell-er, I had never really given it thought. I've also recently gotten into smoothies because of this little factoid...take my Blue Bell away, Albuquerque, and you've forced me to look into alternatives. Healthy ones. I refuse to give up flavor, though. But now I just find a way to refine it into lower calorie desserts. Because one scoop of froyo a top a chocolate peanut butter brownie is still under 350 calories. I think the simple act of looking at a bakery brownie or glancing a carton of regular ice cream adds up to at least 500 calories, and that's not even ingesting any of it. So go crazy and try replacing the flours, sugars, and eggs with banana and nut butter of your liking. I promise you won't regret it. If these brownies aren't thick enough for you like a fatty brownie, just bake in a smaller pan or stack one on top of another, maybe with a little froyo filling. That's the great thing about being a health nut. You'll find the most creative ways to consume fewer calories! 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
I shall henceforth just refer to these as 'weird brownies.' ...not to be confused with weed brownies, of course. They're really brownies and really special (again, not that kind of special), but I'm still not sure how its possible.

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