“What’s the point in having a sweet tooth if you don’t use it?”–unknown
I blame my parents. Who else am I supposed to blame for my sweet tooth? While both of my parents eat an overall healthy diet, they also like their dessert from time to time. I confess, I am the same way. It’s all about moderation and balance, and, well, never underestimating the power of chocolate . . . or peanut butter!
About a month ago, I baked my grandmother’s traditional recipe for chocolate frosted brownies. It is a family favorite from an old 1930s or 40s vintage Betty Crocker cookbook. While it is not vegan, I can say it is vegetarian; and anyway, I am not about so-called perfect eating. Besides, it’s not like I bake Grandmother Helen’s brownies on a regular basis.
My mom had dinner with us on the evening that I baked brownies, so I sent a few home with her. The next day, my daughter walked into the kitchen where I was food prepping my work lunches for the week, laughing and shaking her head. She said that while talking to my mom on the phone, “Gran’ma confessed to spreading peanut butter all over the brownies before eating them.”
At first, that seemed sacrilege! How could she desecrate that beloved, treasured family recipe? The horror of it! What was she thinking?
“Sounds like a good idea to me!” said my husband. “I just might try that!”
He had a point. Peanut butter–and almond butter for that matter–are like dessert. Nothing can improve a bad day like nut butter. In fact, I would argue that nut butters, as a rule, have a certain calming quality to them! During my younger years, when annoying bodily afflictions, such as acid reflux, were nearly non-existence, banana and peanut butter was one of my favorite go-to meals. This led me to thinking . . . which is always dangerous!
I began to wonder if there was a plant-based, gluten-free compromise-recipe I could find or create. Thus, my research began. Scrolling through one web-site after another, I eventually landed on two different recipes. One recipe was from a web-site entitled, “It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken,” and the other recipe was from a web-site called, “Purely Kaylie.”
Using both of their recipes as scaffolding to create my own variation, I did a bit more research on baking with both oat milk and oat flour. These two ingredients, I decided, would not only increase the nutritional value, (Read between the lines–ease the guilt of my sweet tooth!) but also eliminate gluten and dairy products since I have celiac disease and prefer to eat plant-based. Additionally, I also conducted a bit of research on the science of baking with dutched cocoa, my preferred cocoa, and I learned that it bakes more effectively with baking powder, rather than baking soda.
I made this recipe on a Saturday afternoon, and our entire home was redolent with the scent of baking chocolate. The recipe was super-easy, requiring only one bowl, and honestly took no longer than 10 or so minutes of active kitchen time. The oven did the rest. Once cooled, I cut the recipe into 9 generous sized squares and stored part of them in a plastic container in the fridge. I could have frozen them for future weekend cravings, but they did not last that long.
Give this recipe a try. Enjoy it for breakfast, as a dessert, or a grab-and-go snack. It’s a mostly healthy, guilt-free way to have your cake and eat it too!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bars
2 *fleggs (2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds + 6 tablespoons water)
1 cup ripe mashed banana–about 2-3 bananas (The bananas should have brown spots.)
1/2 cup sugar or equivalent sweetener
⅓ peanut butter
¼ cup favorite milk (I used oat-milk.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour (I used oat flour to keep it gluten-free, but any all-purpose flour would work.)
½ cup cocoa powder (I prefer to use Dutched Cocoa powder as it dissolves more quickly.)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life chocolate chips. They are dairy and allergy-friendly.)
Combine ground flaxseed with water in a small bowl and set in the fridge for about 15 minutes to thicken.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly coat, with nonstick cooking spray, a square 8 x 8 baking pan, or line it with parchment paper.
Mash banana in a large mixing bowl.
Mix in sugar, peanut butter, milk, vanilla extract, and flegg.
Stir in the dry ingredients–flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, & salt–but do not over mix. Gently fold in half of the chocolate chips.
Spread batter evenly as it will be fairly thick.
Sprinkle batter with remaining chocolate chips.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, preferably longer, before attempting to cut into 9-squares.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to three months.
*Flegg= flax “egg”, which is a plant-based, allergy friendly substitute for eggs.