I have always had a ridiculous sweet tooth.
When I was a kid, I would beg my mom and dad for any sort of sugary treat. I particularly loved pixie sticks, baby bottle pops, and sweet tarts, and I was even notorious for dumping sugar packets onto lemons and eating the whole thing (no wonder I’ve had more cavities than I have teeth). My nagging sweet tooth meant that we never had high sugar items around the house, and I would only get such treats occasionally as a reward (or bribe) for accomplishments like successfully sitting through church without causing a scene.
While shoveling in 15 pixie sticks might make me vomit now, I haven’t outgrown my sweet tooth and I LOVE treats like brownies, cookies, and scones. A nice cup of strong, dark coffee with a slice of carrot cake gets my dopamine pumping just thinking about it!
However, calorically dense desserts high in fat and simple carbs aren’t the best source of energy for fueling an active lifestyle. While a cookie from Levain is delicious, I know it’ll make me feel sluggish and tired with a tummy ache.
The solution? Make the desserts better for you! I love trying to bake my favorite sweet treats with less refined sugar and white flour; two ingredients that are a recipe for an energy crash.
So, I’ve decided to take on a brownie vegetable challenge.
It’s simple, I make the brownies, and Jeremy sees if he can guess the vegetable!
1.Vegetable Brownie #1: Zucchini
I went this THIS recipe from Cafe Delights, but I halved it.
I was surprised by how closely I followed the recipe. I was particularly pleased in myself for straining the zucchini. Usually I forego inconvenient steps, but this one seemed rather important (what can I say… I wasn’t born to be a baker). However, I did have a couple set backs.
Qualm #1: I didn’t have proper measuring cups, meaning there was a lot of shrugged shoulders and “I hope this is right”s…..
Qualm #2: My baking tray is small and I have a lot more brownies in the near future, and I thought I was being resourceful by halving the recipe. BIG MISTAKE. There wasn’t enough batter, resulting in flatter than desired brownies.
They were extremely moist and dense with a perfect gooey texture that was far more fudgey than cakey. You couldn’t taste the zucchini in the least bit, although you could see a bit of green here and there. My great downfall was halving the recipe. They were too thin. I will certainly be trying again, but with the full recipe.
Could Jeremy Guess the Vegetable?
2. Vegetable Brownie #2: Pumpkin / Butternut Squash
I used THIS recipe from fitfoodiefinds, and only made a few adjustments
First things first, what Australians call “pumpkin” Americans call “butternut squash”. I am yet to find canned “pumpkin” here in Hobart, Tasmania, so for this recipe I had to get resourceful and make my own puree.
The daunting task was shockingly simple. I steamed the squash then blended it into a puree in the nutribullet. Easy!
I resisted the urge to meddle with the recipe and more or less followed exactly what I was suppose to do. The most challenging part was knowing when to take them out of the oven. My track record with coconut flour isn’t great. The last time I made coconut flour banana bread, I cut into it after an hour of cooling just to find a completely raw center.
I failed you as a food blogger, and I have no idea how long I left the brownies in the oven. My guess is around 50 minutes?
They had an exquisitely rich chocolate flavor and were cooked just right without being overdone. The pumpkin added a nice fudgey texture, although I will say that the coconut flour gave them a pesky graininess that could be forgiven, but not forgotten.
Could Jeremy guess the vegetable?
3. Vegetable Brownie #3: Beet
I used THIS recipe from Fit Mitten Kitchen.
I adore beets, but the process of peeling and cutting them never fails to leave my kitchen looking like a horror movie, leaving me caught red handed. The idea of a beet brownie sounded too good to pass up, so I cheated and bought a can of beets that I stuck in the nutribullet to puree.
I followed the recipe with only a few changes, the biggest one being swapping in oat flour for almond flour. The batter was thick and certainly not too sweet, and I popped it into the oven with that “best one yet” feeling.
The baking time caught me off guard. I checked in 18 minutes in and it was already done. In fact… it was over done. Whoops.
Maybe I over baked it, maybe the oat flour was a poor choice, or perhaps it was just the recipe, but the “brownies” turned out more like a boring chocolate cake. They were far too fluffy with only hints of fudgeyness from the melted chocolate chips, and I’ll be bold and say that these weren’t sweet enough.
Could Jeremy guess the vegetable?
The beet brownie was a total miss, the pumpkin brownie was fairly tasty, and the zucchini brownie was a total win!
Food isn’t innately “good” or “bad,” and such labels only feed into an unhealthy food culture. I prefer less demonizing phrases, like “nutrient dense,” and “energy dense.” All three of these brownies weren’t as energy dense as your typical brownie while being far more nutrient dense.
You can absolutely sneak veggies into a tasty, decadent treat that packs in the flavor without delivering a mega sugar crash.
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