A (slightly) healthier version of a traditional rich, chocolatey and fudgy brownies

I used to be a staunch believer that it was not possible to make a decent tasting healthy treat. This was back in the days when I would attempt to “health-ify” a cake or cookie recipe by using low-fat spread instead of butter, artificial no-calorie sweetner and other modified products. The end product ended up being dry and flavourless, occasionally too sweet, and more often than not would leave that horrible artificial sweetener flavour in your mouth after eating.

These days I am much more in tune with my body, and focused on good nutrition and healthy eating, rather than aiming to reduce calories through using chemically-modified and processed ingredients. I realise that my attempts at making a healthy treat back then probably resulted in an even unhealthier treat in the end.

A (slightly) healthier version of a traditional rich, chocolatey and fudgy brownies

So enough of that, lets talk about this brownie!  Everybody has their ideal type of brownie – some prefer a cakier texture, others need that fudgy centre. Some like walnuts or pecans mixed through, or maybe a berry or caramel swirl (or, my favorite – a salted caramel swirl… drooooool!) For me, the perfect brownie has to be fudgy in the centre, yet crisp on the outside, and unashamedly rich and chocolatey.

There are quite a few “healthy” brownie recipes out there that use a range of whole ingredients and have varying results, but I wanted one as close to a traditional brownie as I could get. I decided to start with Deb’s recipe for Best Cocoa Brownie, which I have made a few times in the past and is a definite crowd-pleaser. I made a few tweaks and the end result was perfect – decadent and fudgy with a deliciously rich chocolate flavour. I didn’t quite nail the crisp top – I’m guessing I may have to use chocolate to achieve that, but it ticked two out of the three boxes, which made it a winner in my eyes.

A few notes on ingredients here – I have used a mix of hazelnut meal and teff flour here. Hazelnut was an obvious choice for me as it goes so beautifully with chocolate, and I wanted to use a nut meal in place of some of the flour to increase the fudgy texture. Teff flour is a gluten-free whole grain, ground to be very fine (hence the fudgier texture) and also has a faint earthy chocolate taste that works perfectly for these brownies.  If you cant find teff flour, I assume you could use another flour (coconut may work well here) or more hazelnut meal although I haven’t tried either option myself so I cant confirm this. Also, make sure to use a good quality raw cacao (I use Loving Earth) this really adds to the flavour. I would advise against using standard cocoa, you want the really good, dark raw cacao here to get maximum flavor benefits. I have also added a little coffee to really draw out the rich chocolate taste.

And also a disclaimer – even though this brownie recipe uses less refined ingredients and healthier fats than a traditional brownie recipe – it is still a brownie, and should be consumed as a treat (no “it’s healthy so I can eat the whole thing” excuses here – although once you taste these fudgy little beauties you may struggle to stop at just one!)

The ultimate cacao brownie - to her core

A (slightly) healthier version of a traditional rich, chocolatey and fudgy brownies

The ultimate cacao brownie

Adapted from Best Cocoa Brownies by Smitten Kitchen

140g coconut oil
120g coconut sugar
60g cacao
2 eggs (cold)
40g teff flour
40g hazelnut meal
1 tsp coffee granules
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 170 C || 340 F

Melt coconut oil in a medium sized saucepan over low heat, and then stir in coconut sugar, cacao and coffee. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Allow to cool slightly, and then add in the eggs one at a time stirring well after each one. Then add the hazelnut meal and teff flour and stir a minute or so until mixture is smooth.

Pour the mixture into a lined 8x8inch pan and bake half an hour (start checking after about 25 minutes – the brownies are done when an inserted knife or skewer comes out almost clean – it should have a slight bit of batter, but not be completely coated).

Allow the brownies to cool in the pan 10 minutes or so, and then remove and cool completely on a cake rack.

Slice into squares and store in a sealed container at room temperature.


Quick and easy healthier chocolate treats by to her core

At Easter time as a child, we used to go into the “big city” – a large town of 125,000 people which was 45 minutes drive from our own sleepy little town – to stay with my grandparents. I remember the very first sleepover that started the tradition – my brother and father had headed off on a three-day fishing trip (which ended in their tent being covered in an unseasonable dump of snow) and my mother and I headed in to stay with her parents.

I was extremely excited – it was like going on a mini-holiday. I would get to see all of my cousins, and of course, there would be copious amounts of chocolate. Leading up to Easter Sunday however I started to get a little panicked realising there was one flaw to my ideal weekend – had anyone told the Easter Bunny where we would be so that he could deliver all my eggs!? My 8-year-old self woke up extremely relieved and excited to find chocolate eggs hidden all over the house the following morning.

Quick and easy healthier chocolate treats by to her core

I have always loved anything chocolatey, but there was always something particularly special about Easter eggs. I’m not sure if it was the shape or the fact that you could only get them once a year, but Easter egg chocolate was always my favorite.

This Easter, I have my heart set on a particular Easter egg that I want (specifically this if you are reading B – who knew popping candy in chocolate could taste so good!?) but other than that I have been experiment with raw chocolate quite a bit and plan on making some of my own raw chocolate treats. Starting out with these chocolate coated berries. They are incredibly quick and easy to make and deliver a good dose of antioxidants as well being high in vitamin C. Plus they taste DELICIOUS – the crisp chocolate shell cracks open when eating to deliver a sweet and juicy berry in the middle. If you love berries and dark chocolate as much as I do, you have to try these.

Quick and easy healthier chocolate treats by to her core

Raw chocolate berry balls

1/4 cup organic coconut oil
1/2 cup raw cacao
3 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla (optional)

1/2 cup of mixed frozen berries

Add the coconut oil and sugar to a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the oil has melted and the sugar dissolved. Add cacao and vanilla if using and stir well ensuring no lumps are left.

Add the frozen berries one at a time to the chocolate and using a teaspoon coat the berry in chocolate and remove, placing it on a greaseproof sheet. Continue with the remaining berries, and then repeat so that each berry has two coatings of chocolate (or more depending on how much chocolate you have left). During this process the cold temperature of the frozen berries should quickly set the chocolate, whilst at the same time the berries will gradually defrost.

Makes around 30 balls

Greens + eggs breakfast bowl - to her core

I have always loved sweet food at breakfast time – cereal, smoothies, pancakes, muffins, fruit with yogurt. I never really understood savory foods at breakfast time. Occasionally I could do bread or toast but that was about as far as I would delve into savory breakfast items.

When my mother and I first went to South East Asia, we were staying at a hotel in Bangkok and they had the most amazing breakfast buffet – breads, cheeses, deli meats, fruit, yogurt, cereal, pastries and an egg station that served up eggs every which way you wanted. And then there was a whole other section of local foods – savoury porridge (!!), assorted stir fried vegetable, rice and noodle dishes and unidentified meat objects.  I quickly walked past this table and loaded up a bowl with homemade muesli, yoghurt and an amazing assortment of fresh tropical fruit.

My mother is far more adventurous than I am when it comes to food, so when I got back to our table it didn’t surprise me at all that her plate was loaded up with all of the local food, topped with the unidentified meat objects. We ate our breakfast in mostly silence, aside from a few “Mmm!”‘s from my mum and a few glares from me (her food was doused in fish sauce which was contrasting horribly with the fresh, fruity aromas coming from my bowl).

dukkah mix - to her coreSlowly, however, I am becoming somewhat more adventurous with my breakfasts. I’ve started eating eggs in the morning. I love a good rosti or some fritters first up. My go-to breakfast meal is still a smoothie – largely due to the convenience and ease (unfortunately there is no way I can find the time to cook up a hot savoury breakfast for my week day breakfasts). However I am eating less and less sweet things and my smoothies these days usually have at least two different types of vegetables in them, if not more. Then of course there was the raw fish at 6am incident.

greens + eggs breakfast - to her core

This dish is based on a delicious breakfast I had on a recent trip to Sydney. A big serve of steamed greens mixed with herbs, perfectly poached eggs, soft, creamy avocado and finished off with a generous squeeze of lemon. The original dish came with a scoop of quinoa which I didn’t have on hand, instead I’ve added some dukkah for extra flavour, protein and healthy fats. This dish not only tastes light and fresh, but is incredibly satisfying and will keep you feeling full – but not heavy – for hours afterward.

Greens + eggs breakfast bowl - to her core

Greens + eggs breakfast bowl with dukkah

1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 scallions (green onions), sliced
1 tsp grated ginger
2 large handfuls each baby spinach and roughly chopped kale
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh herbs (I used 1 part mint, 1 part parsley, 2 parts coriander)

1/4 cup each almonds and hazelnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 Tbsp each cumin and coriander seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp Himalayan rock salt

4 eggs
1 avocado, sliced

Lemon wedges, to serve

To make the dukkah, toast the nuts in a dry skillet a few minutes or until they start to brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool.Repeat the process with the nuts and seeds. Once cool, grind in a food processor or mortar and pestle with 1 tsp salt.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium heat, add the shallots and ginger and fry a minute or two, then add the kale. Cook, stirring another minute or two until the kale starts to wilt and then add spinach, stir through and then add fresh herbs. Stir until the spinach has wilted, around a further minute.

To cook the eggs, bring a pot of water to a slow boil and add a dash of white vinegar. Add the eggs slowly and reduce to a simmer. Add a pinch of salt. Cook for 3 minutes for a soft centre, or an extra minute or two for a set centre.

Divide the greens across two bowls, add two eggs to each bowl, half a sliced avocado and dust with the dukkah.

Serves 2