Nearly Guilt-Free Brownies (gluten free, dairy free, veggie sneak)

My Perrin loves my desserts. Oh, he won’t admit it because as an army officer he has to be rough and gruff, and he tells my Mahrree he’s only “being nice” when he has three servings. But I’m sneakier than the Guarders he plots against. He has no idea that in these brownies I’ve slipped in black beans and zucchini. A man who eats as much steak as he does has to get his veggies somewhere.

The BEST thing I’ve ever made: Nearly Guilt-Free Brownies (gluten free, dairy free, veggie sneak)006
It’s “Nearly Guilt-free” because while there are black beans and zucchini smuggled into these, there’s also a lot of butter/margarine, sugar and eggs to balance them. (It’s a dessert, after all.) However, at the bottom of the recipe is a recommendation from a friend to make these slightly healthier.

Nearly Guilt-Free Brownies
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 cup of grated zucchini (can be fresh or frozen–defrost first, if frozen)
¾ cup baking cocoa
2 sticks of butter, OR use one cup of margarine for dairy-free. (I like Smart Balance dairy-free butter. I don’t recommend substituting applesauce because it’s far too liquidy and throws off the balance of the recipe, even when you add tons more flour; clearly I’ve had some unfortunate experience with this.)
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cups oat flour (I grind my own oats using a WonderMill, but you can puree oats in a blender. They won’t grind down as finely, but it will be good enough for this recipe.)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. xanthum gum, optional (I’ve had pretty good results without, but xanthum gum does help bind the batter to make it less crumbly)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13” pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Black beans pureed with zucchini. (Don’t sample the batter in this state–really.)

In a blender (or equivalent) pour in the rinsed beans and the grated zucchini, and whiz it around until it’s unrecognizable and has become a color no one has yet dared label.

In a large bowl combine the cocoa, butter/margarine, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk one minute or until the eggs are obliterated. Add the bean/zucchini mixture (don’t let your family see this part, or they’ll reject the brownies and you’ll have to eat them all by yourself) and mix until thoroughly incorporated, about another minute. Add the oat flour, baking powder, and optional xanthum gum, stirring until just blended.

Pour into the prepared pan (will be the consistence of a thick cake batter) and bake for 30-40 minutes. Test for doneness at 30 minutes by inserting a toothpick or matchstick into the middle. You want it a bit fudgy—a few bits clinging to the stick—but if it’s still liquidy in the middle, bake for another five minutes, test again, then maybe another five minutes if necessary.

brownies with logoarmy badgeCool in the pan for about half an hour (or shove it in the freezer like I do, which makes the brownies even denser), then lift out the brownies by the foil, set on a large cutting board, and cut with a pizza cutter. Makes about 24–or just 2, depending upon how you cut them.

*My friend Katie Shields tried this recipe with butter and sugar alternatives. 
Her recommendation: Substitute the butter/margarine with 1 cup coconut oil, and replace the sugar with 1 cup of honey.  She also told me, “since I didn’t have the patience to grind the oat flour finely and puree the veggie paste smoothly, I decided to add shredded coconut and chopped hazelnut to make the texture seem like it was on purpose. Then I threw in some dairy free dark chocolate chips, because it was the right thing to doI thought they were quite good, for healthy brown things.”

I’m not entirely sure it’s still the same recipe anymore, but that’s what gluten free baking is all about–experimenting.

If you want to wreck the notion of healthiness and add a layer of frosting before cutting, you certainly may. (The veggies are still there, just smothered and whimpering, that’s all.)

Chocolate frosting
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine (for dairy-free)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk (can use rice or almond milk to keep it dairy-free)
2 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar (or more)
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until it comes together. If the frosting is a bit runny, add more powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s the consistency you wish.

Yes, these brownies make great mint brownies, too.

Mint frosting
4 Tablespoons butter or margarine (for dairy-free)
1-2 Tablespoons milk (can use rice or almond milk to keep it dairy-free)
1 teaspoon mint extract (more or less to taste)
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until it comes together. If the frosting is a bit runny, add more powdered sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until it’s the consistency you wish.

Top off the mint frosting with yet another optional layer of guilt:

Chocolate Glaze
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I haven’t tried this with dairy free, so I’m not sure how well it would work)
6 Tablespoons butter or margarine

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