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Cocoa & Olive Oil Brownies

I read somewhere once that one of the ways you can help curb cravings for unhealthy foods is to commit to cooking or baking them at home rather than going to a fast food restaurant or buying prepackaged sweets.  This has helped me tremendously with my cravings lately.  I still give myself a day off every week when the Hubs and I will go out to dinner or get takeout to give myself a break from cooking and the chance to indulge a bit, but the rest of the week I try very hard to cook our meals and snacks at home.

Baking sweets at home can be a little challenging, but I love being able to swap out some of the ingredients for healthier options and to eat snacks that are preservative free and wholesome.  Like when the craving for brownies struck last week, and I found an awesome recipe using extra virgin olive oil in lieu of the usual vegetable oil or butter.  The other perk was not having to melt or temper chocolate.  I first thought that just using cocoa powder would result in less chocolate flavor or a drier brownie, but I was totally wrong!

These brownies are so decadent and fudgy, and they came together so simply.  The original recipe called for sprinkling the brownie batter with cacao nibs, but I had some organic mini chocolate chips available in my pantry, so I used those instead.  I felt good about using extra virgin olive oil instead of butter (which I haven’t even purchased once since moving to Texas!) because of the added health benefits such as the ability to lower bad cholesterol and aid with mild hypertension.  Be sure to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil so that your brownies will not have a strong olive oil flavor – I couldn’t detect any in mine.  While this recipe does not call for any leavening agents such as baking powder or soda (that startled me at first!), it does make it suitable to use either natural or alkalized/Dutch-processed cocoa powders.

It’s important to note that natural cocoa powder should be used when possible as it truly is a super-food with amazing health benefits.  Natural cocoa has more antioxidant-rich phytonutrients and flavonoids than any other food and is an excellent source of copper and magnesium.  It also contains a wide range of natural “feel-good” chemicals such as phenyethlamine (PEA), serotonin, tyramine and anandamide, which have given chocolate its reputation as an aphrodisiac and an anti-depressant.  I’m happy to know that it’s not my imagination when I think that chocolate makes me happier!  Now everyone has an excuse to bake these amazingly chocolaty brownies this weekend!

Cocoa & Olive Oil Brownies

from Family Style Food

(makes 1 8″x8″ baking pan or 9 servings, 45 minutes)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 cup natural cocoa powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips, cacao nibs, or nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat an 8-inch square glass or porcelain baking dish with olive oil.

Sift together the dry ingredients (except the chips, nibs, or nuts) in a bowl.

Beat the eggs in a separate large mixing bowl with an electric mixer for 1-minute on low.  Increase the speed to medium-high and add the sugar 1/2 a cup at a time.  Beat the eggs for about 8 minutes, or until pale and thick.

Decrease the mixer speed and slowly pour in the olive oil and add the vanilla extract.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just incorporated, being sure to scrape down the bowl.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with chips, nibs or nuts, if using.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set, or until a toothpick inserted near the center is removed with just a few moist crumbs.  Cool the pan completely on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

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