Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

Need one more dessert for your holiday parties? These brownies are easy to throw together, delicious, and festive. I had such amazing unexpected success with my mint chocolate chip cookies that I had to try out the mint milk concept with brownies. If you’re a fan of the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint cookies, you will LOVE these. And…this particular rendition is gluten-free, too. 🙂

When I made my mint chip cookies, I used traditional peppermint in lieu of incorporating processed candy canes. All out of peppermint, these brownies include another mint I have growing at my house: spearmint. Like peppermint, spearmint can assist with gastrointestinal issues and can also help to remedy nausea. As I mentioned before, these desserts with real mint are the ultimate post-dinner dessert!

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With visitors in town and the daily grind of a newborn and a two-year-old, it’s been slower than usual on The Fresh Formula. After the holidays, I’ll resume posting progress reports on my journey to my pre-baby body and of course, sharing formulas and recipes. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

BROWNIES

Fills a 9 x 13 pan with approximately ¾-inch thick brownies

  • 2 cups flour –> I used 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup white rice flour.
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored plant milk –> I used ¾ cup almond.*
  • 1 cup sweetener –> I used ½ cup turbinado sugar and ½ cup agave syrup.
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup oil –> I used coconut.
  • 1 tbsp ground flax or chia seeds + 3 tbsp hot water (“egg”) –> I used flax.
  • 1 tsp extract –> I used vanilla.
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • OPTIONAL:  ½-1 cup chips –> I used ½ cup packed spearmint leaves and ½ cup mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan).

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*Because they are raw plants, the peppermint leaves themselves contain additional moisture, so I am using less milk to ensure that the dough/batter is the right consistency.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Puree the mint leaves and milk in the blender and set aside. In a large bowl, mix your dry ingredients, sans sweetener.  In another bowl, mix your wet ingredients (including mint milk), plus sweetener.  This includes your “egg,” which should be prepared separately before adding it to the rest of the wet ingredients. Slowly mix your wet ingredients into your dry until a dough or thick batter forms; different sweeteners and oils will change the consistency.  Point is, don’t be concerned if what you expected to be a drippy batter turns out thick.  🙂 Mix in your chips (if using) or save them to sprinkle on top.

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Lightly grease a 9 x 13 backing pan or dish (I prefer glass).  Spread your dough evenly throughout and top with chips, if you’d like. Bake for 20-22 minutes for a fudgy brownie or 23-25 minutes for a cakey brownie.  Using gluten-free flour and/or liquid sweetener? Baking time will likely be longer. These went for 27 minutes for fudgy. Enjoy!

 

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Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies

As promised in my last post, peppermint cookies are here! When I originally conceived this recipe—a holiday take on my classic chip cookies—I imagined it would come together with candy canes to really signify the spirit of the season. I was willing to incorporate an ingredient so heavily processed because I was including only a small amount of it…and I love candy canes. 🙂 The more I thought about it, however, I realized that there was a way I could get a purer peppermint flavor in my cookies, free of Red #40 and refined sugars.

Here you see my peppermint plant (I also grow spearmint). What better place to start with obtaining a peppermint flavor than with the plant itself?! Peppermint is truly a super food. Most notably, peppermint can relieve indigestion. The plant’s oil is even sold on its own for this and other medicinal purposes.

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I figured I would just throw the leaves right into my cookies, making these treats the ultimate post-dinner dessert: Help soothe your upset tummy after that filling holiday meal and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  CHIP COOKIES

Makes 24-30 small cookies

  • 1 ½ cups flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • ¾ cup unsweetened plant milk –> I’m using ½ cup oat.*
  • 2/3 cup sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • ½ cup oil or nut/seed butter –> I’m using coconut oil (room temperature, not melted).
  • 2 tbsps flax or chia seeds –> I’m using flax.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (depending on flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla extract.
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 2/3 cup chips –> I’m using 1/3 cup mini-semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan) and 1/3 cup packed peppermint leaves.

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*Because they are raw plants, the peppermint leaves themselves contain additional moisture, so I am using less milk to ensure that the dough is the right consistency.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Puree the mint leaves and milk in the blender and set aside.

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With an electric hand mixer, cream together the coconut oil, extract, and sugar. Add the dry ingredients and stir by hand to combine. Stir in the mint milk and finally, the chocolate chips.

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Grease 2-3 baking sheets or line with parchment paper.  Place heaping spoonfuls of cookie dough into your palm and form a loose ball (doesn’t need to be perfect). Space approximately a 1.5 inches apart. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the cookie edges are slightly golden brown.

 

 

 

 

Staying on Track During the Holidays

I am pleased to report that while I didn’t see a decrease in numbers on the scale this week, I’ve noticed my body starting to tone up and change shape. After my previous failed jogging attempt, I decided to hold off on trying again until this week. So, in the past week, I focused on continuing to do some light toning with hand weights and ab exercises.

The real victory for me in the last seven days was getting back into my skinny jeans! I hadn’t attempted to wear them until this past Saturday and was excited to see that they slipped on easily and fit just as I remembered them. At six weeks post-partum, I’d say that’s not bad.

The holidays—and my December birthday—won’t stand in the way of my progress to reclaim my pre-baby body. Today, I’m offering some tips that have worked for me and will hopefully get me all the way through the New Year:

Eat more raw plants. If you tuned in for my one-week raw food challenge, you know that it resulted in an easy three-pound loss and left me feeling more energetic than I have in months. I strategically took on the challenge at a time when my weight loss plateaued, hoping to kick-start my metabolism and continue to achieve my goals. It worked, and I even succeeded in sticking with it despite Thanksgiving falling in the same week. I am not suggesting that you give up eating cooked foods – there are so many that are highly nutritious, besides being darn tasty! What works for me is to plan ahead. Since cooked foods are higher in calories and generally less nutritious than raw, if I know I’ve got a decadent cooked meal coming up, I try to eat raw only (or pretty close) the day or two leading up to that meal.

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I don’t splurge like I used to, but I still do to some degree. You won’t see me eating any turkey, but I’ll probably have a good two helpings or more of vegetarian (but probably not vegan) green bean casserole. I won’t “pay” for this indulgence later because I was proactive about making room for the splurge. My thirty-first birthday was last week and let me tell you, I didn’t hold back on more than one piece of cake and a whole bunch of cocktails. 🙂 I was sliding into my skinny jeans just two days later…

Offer to host. The holidays are a time for more frequent family gatherings and parties with friends. Chances are, you’ll attend at least a couple of events from November to January and there will probably be an abundance of meat and dairy served at the majority of them. If you want to control how you are partying this season, offer to host.

I’ve written several posts—starting with Nolan’s second birthday party—about hosting a non-vegan crowd with a totally vegan menu with great success. When guests come to my house, they know that they will be eating an entirely vegan meal that also extremely healthy and satisfying. No one complains and there is always at least one dish served that guests are truly raving about. When I host potluck-style, I never have to ask my family and friends not to bring meat; they just don’t. The respect that in my home, I don’t eat it, and there’s never a discussion. They typically bring dishes that are vegetarian and I never bat an eye – not everyone eats as strictly as I do and it won’t hurt me to go off the beaten path now and again.

Make your own satisfying treats. What many Americans—myself included—love about the holidays is the opportunity to eat special foods that they don’t prepare year-round. Every year since childhood, I look forward to my mom’s traditional Christmas cookies, which are definitely not vegan…and I will definitely be eating a few. 🙂 Surely you’ve indulged in a treat or two already and we aren’t even halfway through the holiday season.

So, don’t be left out. Make treats. Be a part of the holidays. Just do it on your own terms. I’ve proven time and time again with my dessert formulas that you don’t need butter and eggs to make a rich dessert.

Coming up on the blog before Christmas: thumbprint cookies made with leftover cranberry sauce and my classic chip cookies with peppermint. I’m starting a new cookie tradition—Nolan needs something to leave for “Santa,” after all—and not missing out on any of the holiday fun.

Many Americans gain significant weight over the holidays – you can still enjoy yourself without being one of them. 🙂