Chocolate Protein Brownies

I’m waving the white flag of defeat! After over a year of trying to resist, I finally broke down and purchased protein powder—ugh. A little background for my readers… I’ve been working with a personal trainer doing strength training for a little over a year. I always had the mindset that lifting heavy weights was taboo for women, so it’s been exciting to feel (and see) myself getting stronger. I usually try to aim for getting about 30% of my calories from protein and I recently increased the amount of calories I’m eating each day. Although eating more food is always exciting, I’ve been struggling to get enough protein each day. A girl can only eat so much baked chicken and black beans.

Back to the protein powder. I’ve always had this mental stigma that only ginormous body builders use protein powder. I also like to try and get most of my nutrients from “real” foods. Regardless, I decided that I’d give it a chance. So I did what I always do when I’m faced with purchasing something new—I headed to Amazon. After a good hour of research, I settled on what looked like a reasonably priced option that several reviewers promised tasted just like chocolate milk. I was skeptical. Two days later (thank you Amazon Prime) my protein powder arrived and I was excited to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised that it was fairly tasty when mixed with soy milk. Was it as good as chocolate milk? Not quite.

Can you see where my story is going? The next logical step for me was to try baking some desserts with my newly acquired protein powder. Over the years I’ve managed to make my desserts low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sugar. However, I’ve never been able to make them high-protein. After researching tips and tricks for baking with protein powder, I assembled my own recipe for chocolate brownies. This recipe has another secret ingredient—black beans—which I promise you can’t even taste in the final product. As always, Matthew is the brutally honest taste tester of all my baked goods. Although he doesn’t like chocolate (blasphemy in my opinion) he told me this was the best healthy dessert I’ve ever baked—which I consider a definite win.

Chocolate Protein Brownies

Servings: 12 • Calories: 124 • Fat: 4 g • Carbs: 14 g • Fiber: 4 g • Protein: 9 g • Sugar: 3 g • Sodium: 152 g

Ingredients
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 large eggs
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
15 ounce can black beans, drained
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup peanut butter flavored candy melts, optional

Directions
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil and grease. Set aside for later use.

In a food processor, mix together all ingredients (except candy melts) until batter is smooth. Pour batter into greased pan. If you want some peanut butter flavor, warm candy melts in microwave and drizzle over top of dessert. Use a toothpick to create swirls in the batter.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You want the brownies to look a little underdone, as they will firm up once cool. Cool brownies on a baking rack for about 20 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Keep in mind that protein powders tend to toughen baked goods. That’s why it’s nice to have a very moist batter, which this recipe does. As a result, make sure you do a good job of thoroughly greasing your pan so the brownies don’t stick to the edge and are easy to remove.

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Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

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Things have been a little quiet in the Sweet Precision kitchen lately. Don’t worry, I haven’t disappeared. And I actually HAVE been baking things. I’ve just been a little remiss when it comes to snapping some pictures and coming up with inspiration for a post. So instead of coming up with something witty to write about, I thought I’d just tell you how we’ve all been doing over the past month!

Life has been unexpectedly relaxing in Ann Arbor as we’ve headed into summer. Matt finished up his third year of school and is now beginning to study for his preliminary exam which he will take in August. One look at the list of books he is required to read has me thankful that my summer reading list only includes this and this. I had a quick trip to Minnesota to see a friend graduate as a Physician Assistant and to celebrate Mother’s Day. We then got to entertain when my college roomie visited Ann Arbor for a long weekend. Maya has been taking obedience classes (with limited success) and much amusement on our part. And now that it’s June, we Matt can plant the seedlings in our his garden. So that’s a run-down of what we’ve been up to over the past month!

Now onto the baking side of things…

Today, I wanted to share a no-bake recipe with you because as summer heats up, I find myself wanting to use my oven less and less. These granola bites are incredibly versatile and you can tailor them to include whatever strikes your fancy. I think they’re a great snack to keep in the refrigerator for those moments when you need a little treat. They’re like a homemade granola bar, but have the bonus of coming in a portion-controlled, bite size piece.

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Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

Servings: 24 • Size: 1 inch balls • Calories: 106.0 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carbs: 19.0 g • Fiber: 1.0 g • Protein: 1.0 g • Sugar: 15.0 g • Sodium: 1.0 mg

Ingredients
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups dry old-fashioned oats
4 ounces unsalted cashews (chopped)
4 ounces mini dark chocolate chips

Directions
On a cutting board, roughly chop the cashews and set aside. Combine the dates and honey in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the oats, cashews, and dark chocolate chips until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon or cookie scoop to shape it into your desired size of energy balls. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Dates are a great alternative for sugar in certain recipes. With a subtle sweetness, they can be perfect for brownie batter or the base of homemade granola bars. Substitute two-thirds cup for one cup of regular sugar.

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