"The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine."
- Hippocrates

May 6, 2011


Every Spring I get the urge to do a bit of a diet cleanse...meaning for three weeks I tighten up my diet by eating more veggies and completely avoiding all caffeine, alcohol, sugar and anything processed. This helps realign my diet after a long winter of maybe not the best eating habits...and it doesn't hurt with the upcoming tank top and bikini season either!!

Anyway, we started this cleanse last week and all was going great...until yesterday - it was my and my husband's fourth wedding anniversary! We wanted to have a special dinner at home while sticking to our cleanse. We decided to have one of our favorites, pasta dinner - but we still needed a dessert! I remembered a recipe I had recently seen on my favorite vegan chef, Dreena Burton's blog, that met the criteria... Hallelujah, it was a hit, a big hit!

This brownie recipe is brilliant! It's completely raw, has no flour, sugar or added oils, and is very easy! Believe me people, I know my chocolate brownies, I consider myself an expert in this area...and these can compete with your best cooked version any day of the week! They are moist, nutty, and super chocolatey! And the icing has the slightest hint of coconut that pairs so perfectly with the brownie base. Now, for those of you on a real diet, keep in mind, these are not calorie free...not even close...but they are a completely whole food, raw, gluten free and healthy alternative. I highly recommend trying them!!!

Brownie base:
1 cup raw almonds (see note)
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1 3/4 cups (packed) pitted medjool dates (see note)
1/4 cup dried organic pitted cherries (OR more dates, i.e. can use 2 cups dates in whole - omit almond extract if not using cherries)
1/3 cup raw cocoa powder (or regular cocoa if you prefer)
1 vanilla bean (or regular vanilla extract, see note)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

1/2 cup coconut butter (not coconut oil; I used Artisana coconut butter found at my local health food store or Farmboy)
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tbsp raw cocoa powder (or regular if you prefer)
pinch sea salt

In a food processor, first add almonds and cashews and process until very fine (the almonds are the hardest, and need to be worked until crumbly). Then add walnuts, dates and cherries and pulse/process until mixture is quite crumbly, but not yet coming together. Then, add cocoa powder, salt, and almond extract, and pulse through.

If using vanilla bean - with a sharp tip knife, slice the vanilla bean down the outer side to open up the bean. Using a blunt (butter) knife, scrape out all the tiny seeds from the bean on both sides, and add them to the processor (or add vanilla extract). Process again, along with the almond extract if using.

Process until the mixture starts to come together but do not overmix so that the nuts release their oils (see note). Then remove the mixture and press into a brownie pan (8” x 8”) lined with parchment paper. Use a small piece of the parchment to help press and flatten the mixture evenly into the pan.

For the frosting, in a mini-food processor, first combine the coconut butter and agave nectar until smooth. Then add the cocoa powder and salt, and pulse through again until just combined. Do not overprocess or the frosting will begin to separate with the heat of the churning and become oily. (If you don’t have a mini-processor, you can follow the same steps stirring by hand in a bowl). Smooth frosting over base, and refrigerate for an hour or more until set.

Cut into squares and serve! You can also freeze the squares after cutting, and enjoy them out of the freezer!

(Note: A combination of ¾ cup almonds and ½ cup cashews also works well.)

(Note: You can substitute 1 – 1 ½ tsp of pure vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds.)

(Note: If your dates are on the dry side, you can add 1-2 tbsp of water to the mixture to help assist the pureeing and the mixture easily coming together.)

(Note: If you process the mixture too long, the heat generated by the food processor will bring the oils out of the nuts. If this happens, the brownies won’t be ruined necessarily, but they will have an oily appearance and be oily to the touch. So, process minimally to begin, rather than over processing the nuts at the outset.)

I got this recipe from Dreena Burton's blog, Eat, Drink and be Vegan. It's such a great resource, so I highly recommend you check it out.