Au Naturel Essence

All natural treats for body and soul


Black Bean Brownies

As a chocolate lover, I can’t imagine making brownies without some actual chocolate.  In fact, you’ll find a really easy and intensely chocolate recipe for brownies right here on my blog.

And then, that changed.

I found a recipe for Black Bean Brownies on Pinterest and pinned it to my Cleaner Eating board.  The pin links to a recipe on the Dr. Oz site for fudgy black bean brownies.  In my quest for cleaner recipes that still indulge my sweet tooth, I thought I’d give it a try.

Delicious Black Bean Brownies

Delicious Black Bean Brownies

The Recipe:

This is the recipe, as it’s found on the website.

2 cups cooked black beans or canned no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained 
10 Medjool dates
2 tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground chia seed
Raspberries or other berries for topping

Preheat oven to 200°F. Blend the black beans, dates, almond butter and vanilla in a food processor or high powered blender until smooth.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend again. Pour into a very lightly oiled 8×8-inch baking pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Cool completely before cutting into small squares. Top with raspberries or other berries.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

My Method

I followed the recipe with a couple of minor exceptions.

I omitted the chia seeds because I didn’t have any in the house.  Also, I didn’t make any kind of fruit topping for the brownies.

I blended all of the ingredients as directed.  This actually took quite a bit of time and elbow grease as the mixture was not very liquidy.  However, after some stirring, mashing and blending, I was able to achieve a smooth consistency.  Here’s a shot of the beans, dates, and almond butter before the blending began.

Dates, Black Beans, and Almond Butter

Dates, Black Beans, and Almond Butter Dates and Black Beans

Also, the recipe directs you to “pour” the mixture into the pan.  My mixture was very smooth, but not pourable.  So, I used a spoon to dig it out of the blender and then spread it around to the best of  my ability.

Black Bean Brownies - ready for the oven

Black Bean Brownies – ready for the oven

The Result

After very patiently allowing these brownies to cool for hours, I cut them into 16 squares.  They cut easily and didn’t stick to the pan.  Do they pass for brownies?


The cocoa powder gives them a great chocolate flavour.

The dates sweeten them nicely.

The black beans lend a nice texture to the treat.

I can definitely tell that they’re not full of sugar.  I like that.

They feel like an indulgence, which is exactly what I want to feel when I eat a brownie.

Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies


Lentil Loaf

I’ve been trying to expand my cooking repertoire recently.  Specifically, I’ve been trying to make things that require less gluten, less sugar and in general, more unprocessed ingredients.  I want our family to eat a bit cleaner.

A recent recipe that I tried was a Lentil Loaf.  Though I’ve never actually made a meatloaf, my guess is that Lentil Loaf is the Vegetarian’s answer to  meat loaf.

I found the recipe on Pinterest.  You can find on my Main Meals board by clicking here.  If you want to go directly to the website, click here.  You’ll find the recipe on The Vegan Stoner.

I love the way this recipe is laid out on the page.  It uses approximate measurements and clearly communicates that this is a forgiving recipe.  I don’t know about you, but that works for me!

Lentil Loaf by The Vegan Stoner

Lentil Loaf by The Vegan Stoner

I’ve tried this twice now…

The first time, I followed the recipe pretty closely.  I used frozen mixed veggies and garlic powder.  It was pretty good.  It held its shape when I sliced it and it was the satiating, healthy meal I had hoped it would be.  This was the final product.

Lentil Loaf

Lentil Loaf


The second time I decided to get more creative.  ( I was also much more diligent about taking photos!) Instead of frozen veggies, I sauteed the onions with red pepper and mushroom and garlic.

Most of the Ingredients for the Lentil Loaf

Most of the Ingredients for the Lentil Loaf

I used gluten-free crackers and chips, which I crushed using a mortar and pestle.

Crushed gluten-free crackers and chips

Crushed gluten-free crackers and chips

I also used an organic vegetable spread instead of some of the ketchup.

Sadly, the second time I made this, the loaf didn’t hold together as well as the first time.  It tasted great and was very filling, but I think it needed some more oven time and a bit more time to rest before we dug into it.

Lentil Loaf  with a side of Quinoa Salad

Lentil Loaf with a side of Quinoa Salad


I’m definitely going to make this again.  Though we probably cut it before it had a chance to settle into a solid loaf shape, it tasted great.  The best part was when my husband told me he liked it and even better, asked me when I would make more!

Do you have suggestions for the veggies I should include in it next time, or other variations for that matter?


Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

I’ve recently started to explore the idea of cutting refined sugar out of my family’s diet.  We don’t eat a lot of sugar, but it’s still there.  Frankly, my husband has already gone down this road and simply avoids sweet treats now, including the ones that I bake!  Hmph!

Cleaner Eating

My first foray into this world was with a recipe that I found on Pinterest.  Check out my Cleaner Eating Board here.

I chose to start this journey with Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies.  This a simple recipe that uses oats instead of flour and fruit instead of refined sugar.  There are actually quite a few variations of this recipe to be found.  I liked this one because it used apple sauce and I have a ton of that on hand!  You can see the original recipe here.

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

Here’s a reprint of the recipe.  I followed it to the letter with no modifications.

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies Recipe:
(Makes 30 cookies) 

3 ripe bananas
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash bananas in a large bowl, then stir in remaining ingredients. Let batter stand for approximately 20 minutes, then drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Freezing Directions:
Cool completely, then place cookies in a freezer bag. Seal, label, and freeze.


These were so simple to make. I actually made them while holding my 9 month-old son on my hip.  (He refused to be put down that particular afternoon!)

The raw batter looked like this.

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies - The Batter

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies – The Batter

The baked cookies looked pretty similar!  They taste like chocolate covered bananas.  Frozen, they remind me of an ice cream treat.  My hubby loves them.  This recipe is a keeper!

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies