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12/4/12blog post

shaking up our brownie recipe

It’s that time of year when we often look to make lifestyle changes. You may be looking to make some of those changes in your kitchen. The Dayton Children’s dietitians gathered again and tested various brownie recipes made with some alternative ingredients to improve nutrition.

Why would you modify a recipe? We can modify recipes to change the taste or match up with ingredients in our pantry and refrigerator. We all follow different diets. To fit our favorite recipes into our dietary goals, we may wish to alter the nutrition content in our recipes. In doing so, remember the ingredients’ roles during cooking. For example: fat and sugar are both necessary for the chemical processes that occur during cooking plus contribute to the overall taste of the recipe. Cooking is a science, when you alter ingredients, the overall product changes.

What nutrients are often modified?

  • Decreased: calories, fat, sugar, salt
  • Increased: fiber, vitamins, or minerals

How do dietitians modify recipes in their own homes?

  • Fat: substitute half coming from applesauce or other fruit puree (try prune puree in chocolate type recipes); replace, in part or whole, with tofu or flaxseed meal
  • Sugar: substitute half coming from sugar substitute, add fruit or fruit puree instead or as part of the sweetener
  • Salt: cut back to half or skip altogether
  • Fiber: add applesauce or prune puree; substitute ground oats for half of the flour; add flaxseed meal or ground/chopped nuts.

What is the bottom line? Make small changes to make small alterations in the end product. Fat, salt, and sugar provide flavor. When cutting the salt and sugar, add extra salt free seasonings, fresh herbs, or spices to enhance flavor. When cutting the fat, add extra smoothness from another ingredient. Refer to the Fatfree Vegan Recipe website for more ideas on modifying recipes.

Recipes: The brownie recipes tested were each made with an alternative ingredient: avocado and black beans. The dietitians looked to improve fiber, fat, calorie and protein content of the brownie. We had fun sampling the various brownies and talking about how we modify recipes in our own kitchens.

Black Bean Brownie: (provided by diabetes dietitian, Marisa Vanschuyver; Recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers)


1 box brownie mix (such as Duncan Hines)

1 can (15.5 oz) black beans


1. Preheat oven according to brownie mix instructions.

2. Drain and rinse beans. Pour them back into the can. Add water to can until it’s filled to the brim. Pour contents of can into a blender and puree very well. There should be no graininess, or too-visible brown specks.

3. In a medium bowl, combine bean mixture with brownie mix. Follow the rest of the cooking directions as you read them on the package.

4. For thicker brownies cook in 9×9 pan, as these brownies tend to come out thinner than regular brownies.

Dietitian thoughts: Very similar to a “typical” brownie – both consistency and taste; cakey; would choose this for a brownie; a good gooey brownie; a good fat substitute; delicious! Some of the dietitians’ kids liked this brownie; our kids took seconds – even knowing it was made with black beans. We will surely make this recipe in our house!

Nutritional information for one brownie (yields 20 brownies): 125 calories, 2.1 grams total fat, 1 gram fiber, 26 grams carbohydrate, 175 mg sodium.

Avocado Brownie: (provided by Dayton Children’s Clinical Nutrition Manager, Rachel Riddiford; from the July 2012 Oprah magazine)


2 cups walnuts or pecans

13 oz pitted baking dates

1/8 tsp coarse sea salt

1/8 tsp orange zest

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 avocado, pitted and peeled

½ cup raw cocoa powder

In a food processer, mix all base ingredients; pat down into an 8” square baking pan.


3 avocados, pitted and peeled

1/8 tsp sea salt

½ cup raw cocoa powder

½ cup raw agave nectar plus more to taste

Puree all frosting ingredients in a food processor and spread on base.

Cover and freeze at least 3 hours. Cut into 2 inch squares and serve cold.

Active time: 40 minutes; total time: 3 hours 40 minutes

Dietitian thoughts: Big fiber boost; good but not the “typical” brownie taste; fun being frozen and at room temperature; yummy and really creamy; it grows on you – take more than 1 bite; it would be good even without the frosting. Some of the dietitians’ kids said, “too weird”; my kids tried it without knowing they were made with avocado. They did like them.

Nutritional information for one brownie (yields 16 brownies):278 calories, 36 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 6 grams protein, 17 grams fat

Please refer to the education handouts we use at Dayton Children’s: Ingredient Substitutions and Suggested Cookbooks. Check out The Ohio State University Extension’s fact sheet for recipe modification.

I would like to thank the members of the Clinical Dietetic Work Group here at Dayton Children’s for their brownie recipes and feedback on recipe modification in their own kitchens…and experimenting on their own children.