Healthy Fudgy Brownies – You Won’t Believe the Secret Ingredients

And the secret ingredients in these brownies are…. avocados and black beans!

Don’t leave just yet! Hear me out and you won’t regret getting in on the healthy little secret that makes these chocolatey brownies oh so tasty and good for you too. These are the perfect snack when you’re looking for a quick fix for your sweet tooth cravings, especially when you’re working hard to achieve or maintain your gorgeous muscles and/or curves. These little brownie bites can be worked into almost any diet, regardless your fitness goals. Check out my very first baking tutorial video below:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large extra ripe avocado
  • 2 tbs applesauce
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or stevia or honey (your choice of sweetener)
  • dark chocolate chips
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Use a blender or food processor to blend black beans and avocado into a puree consistency. Carefully add in the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour that black bean avocado mixture into prepared pan and fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out mostly clean.

I originally found this recipe on whatkatiesbaking.com, but she appears to have migrated the recipe somewhere else. I modified my original recipe with some of these adjustments mentioned by Ambitious Kitchen. Yum! Bon Appetit 🙂

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6 Ingredient Chickpea Blondies, Chicka-Wow!

Here’s a sweet valentines treat that won’t give you diabetes. No flour, no eggs, no problem! You definitely don’t need a valentine to share these with. They say peanut butter fills the cracks of the heart so these blondies will seal your heart right up. I absolutely encourage you to self-medicate whatever ails you with these bean-y blondies. I modified this recipe after stumbling upon Ambitious Kitchen and there was no turning back.

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These little babies contain exactly 6 ingredients, but I encourage experimentation! When I first started trying healthy recipes, I thought there was only one way to get the expected results. Now I’m a little bit older, not necessarily wiser, I realize I was absolutely right. If you don’t follow this recipe exactly to the T it will be a big frackin fail. Just kidding. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the sweetener of your choice. I used sugar-free maple syrup and a dash of vanilla.

chickpea blondie ingredients

However, you cannot make these without the main ingredient: Chickpeas! also known as garbanzo beans, also known as hummus to the cultured folks who like to dip fancy veggies and pretzels in that garlic-y goodness with the little pinky up -you know who you are. Guilty. Grab your blender or food-processor and add:

1/4 c maple sugar (can sub honey or agave syrup) brown sugar or stevia etc will also work!

2 tsp of vanilla

1/3 c natural, unsweetened applesauce

1/4 c peanut butter (can sub with nut butter of  your choice)

Combine all 4 ingredients and then slowly blend in a can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans. I cannot emphasize “rinsed beans” enough. If you don’t rinse your beans, the end result may come out tasting, well, a little beany. I added a handful to my mini blender, blend until smooth, add a few more beans, blend again. The mixture should be a smooth hummus-like consistency. If it’s too chunky or thick, add an extra spoonful of applesauce. I don’t have a food processor, so this entire process took extra patience to blend, stir to smooth out the clumps, blend in more chick peas, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Finally pour the mixture into a greased 8X8 pan. Top with dark chocolate chips and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees fahrenheit. Your blondies are done when they pass the toothpick test. When the toothpick comes out clean, you’re almost ready to eat this tasty twist on baked beans. Let them cool for 10-15 minutes and you’re ready to rumble.IMG_1255

These pair nicely with a big glass of milk. Or wine. Or an entire box of chocolates because cupid is stupid. Kidding! But who needs boys when you have blondies. What are your valentines day plans? What are you guys doing on Valentine’s day?! I don’t know about you, but I’m doing legs…Valentines leg day meme

Healthy African Peanut Stew – Sweet Potato Stew

Let me tell you about my FAVORITE little healthy dish. I have an obsession with sweet potatoes that is borderline unhealthy, and that’s saying something considered these little orange gems are chocked full of healthy macronutrients.

Grab your stew pot and prepare your tastebuds for an adventure with this spicy, savory, soul-saving stew that will convert you into a sweet spud believer. Here’s what you’ll need:

sweet potato stew ingredients

Ingredients :

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

1 lb ground chicken, beef or turkey (optional) I’ve also added shredded chicken!

1 can of diced tomatoes (I like the garlic, onion and green pepper seasoned tomatoes)

~2 cups of chicken broth

1/2 cup of chopped peanuts (I buy regular peanuts and pop them in my mini blender. You can also buy chopped peanuts or cut them up by hand, but BE CAREFUL!)

1 can of black beans (optional)

a pepper (I used about a cup of mini sweet peppers)

1/4 cup of onion (not shown in this version)

a pinch of minced or chopped garlic

tsp of crushed red pepper

ground chicken

Brown your meat separately and set aside. Then cut your peppers and onions into small slices and sauté in your stew pot with a little olive oil.

mini pepperssalute peppers

While your peppers and onions are sautéing, peel and cut your sweet potatoes.sweet peppers & sweet potatoes

Next combine the sweet potatoes, diced tomatoes, black beans, and chicken broth in the stew pot with onions and peppers.
black beans

Blend your peanuts and sprinkle those crazies in along with the garlic and crushed red pepper. If you like your stew to have a nice bite with a bit of a burn, simply increase the red pepper.

blend peanuts

After the stew starts to boil, bring it down to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid.

african peanut stew

Now for the boring part, as you can see from Duncan’s adorable yawn. Let that stew simmer for about 45 minutes until the sweet potato cubes are soft and fall apart. The sweet potato will eventually turn to liquid gold if you stew it long enough. At least food gold that’s good for your gut and tantalizing to your tongue. Try not to drool.

duncan the pomeranian

45 minutes later, combine your meat with the mashed up masterpiece of sweet potato and flavors and voila! You know you want some. Now get cooking, good-lookin’ and this delish dish could be partying on your palate in no time.
easy sweet potato stewIf you’re feeling fancy you can top it off with some cilantro, for a clean finishing touch. What’s your favorite stew recipe?

Gym Rat Fishness

Fish stink. Literally. Personally, I don’t like them unless they have been fried or can be dipped in a cocktail sauce. However, we have to face the fishy facts.

  • Fish are super high in protein, low in carbs and are extremely soluble- meaning digestion friendly. They aid in lowering blood pressure, reducing risks of heart attacks and strokes, prevent joint inflammation, and give you a big sexy brain! I’m kind of kidding about the brain, but they do have beneficial brain functions and may decrease risk of Alzheimer’s, ADHD, dementia and depression!
  • What? Seafood can turn my fishy frown upside down? If you don’t believe me, take it from Big Mouth Billy Bass 

I decided that fish might be a more appealing entree if I had the pride of catching one myself (I have only ever caught one fish in my life and it was a baby bluegill about 7 years ago) So we dusted off the fishing rods, gathered up our gear and set off on a Gym Rat vs. THE WILD FISH adventure.

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I did consider photoshopping a fish into one of the pictures, but needless to say our fishy friends were very elusive and not only did we not catch ANY fish, but we also managed to lose two little fake minnow fishing lures. Le sigh. I returned home and dug some frozen salmon out of the freezer and prepared a tasty (unfishy) dish by seasoning my salmon to perfection after marinating it in lemon juice and a touch of olive oil and some low sodium Mrs. Dash! Excellent. We threw in some extra herbs after it was cooked to additionally mask the fishy flavor while still reaping the health benefits. Voila!  image-30 image-32image-31

For more great tasting seafood recipes check out these ones by Cooking Light! Are you guys skilled fishermen or fisherwomen? What’s your favorite sassy seafood dish? Share some of your magical fish tricks with me in the comment section!

Keepin’ It Real With Real Life Role Model Andrea

Everyone knows that one person who has undergone an amazing physical transformation (through hard work and diet, not the plastic surgery kind) and there are a couple of ways we respond to these proactive people.

  • We admire them because we like them and it motivates us and makes us feel good to see someone we like succeed
  • We get jelly because we don’t particularly care for them but are motivated nonetheless because they are clearly in control of their lifestyle and we may feel inadequate in comparison

I had the pleasure of talking with my friend, Andrea, who is one of those people and a true inspiration to all the young girls who struggle with body image issues. She decided she couldn’t continue to struggle with her insecurities so she faced them and turned her lifestyle around. She talked with me about facing the stresses of college life, the pressure to accommodate a lifestyle that includes indulging in junk foods and unhealthy habits and the challenges and victories of her healthy lifestyle journey which led to losing 67 lbs in one year!

before after

GymRatDiaries: What was your reason for choosing to make this lifestyle change?

Andrea: I was unhappy with myself. I hated the feeling of doing simple things in life, such as hanging out with friends, and constantly be worrying about how I looked compared to everyone else.  I became overweight around my sophomore year of high school after I had quit doing studio dance, and also gained even more weight from things that I went through throughout high school – I found that eating was something I could control, but not in a healthy way.

GRD: How did you go about your new decision to change your lifestyle? Did you have a certain workout routine or diet plan?

Andrea: Portion control was something I had a hard time with and weight watchers helped me realize how much I was actually eating and what I was consuming. I did not do anything super sophisticated as far as working out, but I made sure I went six days a week, and my off day I made sure that I was eating extremely well.  I also changed up my workouts every few days so I was not just working on the same muscles day by day.

GRD: What motivated you to continue and stick with your decision to change your lifestye when many girls find it so easy to slip back into an unhealthy routine? What were some of the challenges you faced?

Andrea: There was always this thought in my mind “in a month from now, you will be so angry at yourself for all of the opportunities you chose to not work out, and now you are unhappy. I want to be happy” My motivation was thinking that this is only going to be one/two years of my life that I need to do some serious changing and if I keep up with this, I will live even longer  – so at the end of the day 2 years is nothing. Some challenges that I have faced, and the one I am currently at right now, is “the plateau”.  Where I have gone some time with the face on the scale not really moving or changing much and it leaves me a little unmotivated at the end of the day sometimes. When this happens, I just have to remember that I have gone through this multiple times within the past year and I have had results that I am extremely happy and proud of myself for so I just need to keep going or change some workouts up a little.

Another one was the darn scale.  I was at a point where I checked the scale, 3, 4 times a day.  This got me into a lot of emotional instability.  I would freak out and think that just because my weight fluctuated throughout the day that it meant I was gaining weight, but I know now that that is certainly NOT the case. I had to mark it on my calendar to one day a week of when I could check the scale, and that really helped.

 GRD: What are you most proud of accomplishing since your fitness journey began?

Andrea: How much confidence I have gained!! This time last year, I would dread going out with my friends, or even trying to talk to peers in class. I wish I had the confidence that I have now, back then. What took me a year to work on was the fact that I am going to be me no matter what, 67lbs heavier or not.  I have always been a social bug and it killed me to always feel like I couldn’t be myself.  I am soo much happier now.

 GRD: What advice would you offer to other girls who are struggling with body image issues?

Andrea: Do it for YOURSELF and do NOT give UP. It took me almost a month and a half for me to see (and by see, I mean the numbers on the scale, not physically be able to see) results.  You are going to go to phases where you are not noticing anything different with your body, but that doesn’t mean things are not changing.  Also, DO NOT check the scale more than once a week!

GRD: Thanks for answering my questions, Andrea! On that note, I have one more question for my vivacious viewers and radical readers: Do you have a particular person that inspires you to reach your fitness goals? What motivates you?! Go ahead and share in my comment section below! You know you want to 🙂

Interview with Personal Trainer and Bodybuilder, Erick Brockman Hulk Status

Check out my latest Gym Rat Diaries post! A sassy, shredded interview with fellow workout-a-holic Erick Brockman.  We’ll touch on basic diet and nutrition info as well as how to overcome those dreadful plateaus (when your nutrition and workout remain consistent but you aren’t getting desired results).

Erick has competed in two body building competitions and is a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist. He is  committed to helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle. He also coached me through my first bikini body building competition!

Cookie Monster

Despite the video teaser, I couldn’t leave you guys hanging, so here’s Erick demonstrating his hulk status in the pictures below. My question of the day for YOU is: Have you ever done a fitness competition or would you ever consider doing one?

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Physique Photos

Pump Up the Jams

I admit I am a fist-pumping, booty-shaking, sing-out-loud with your headphones on kind of gym rat. The music just speaks to me. Seriously though, I feel as if every song on my ipod is 100% applicable to my life:

I have a bad habit of falling in love with a song and listening to it over and over until I absolutely hate it because I’ve heard it so many times. Does anyone else have this beat buzzkill disorder or is it just me?

Anyhow, the best beats to get my head in the zone and ready to take on the world include good ol’ Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia and many similar artist mixes that fall under the house music genre. There’s just something about that party music that makes me want to sprint a little faster, pump some iron a little harder, and break out my best dance moves (which are limited to jumping up and down and fist-pumping) When it’s time to take it down a notch, during my cool downs or when I just need a chill song to listen to I love Timeflies Tuesday

What music do you like to listen to when you feel stuck in a funk and need a heavy dose of musical medicine?

I’m currently taking recommendations!

If you are looking for songs with the perfect tempo to match your running cadence or that might challenge you to pick up the pace, check out this article by Shape Magazine.