Vegan Gluten Free Healthy Brownies

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In my previous post, I talked about my entire journey of becoming a healthier person. One of those things was to really watch what I was eating.  I became more cognizant of what i was putting into my body. No I don’t really count my calories – that is just not something that worked for me. But I watch cholesterol, sugars, and fats. I make sure I’m getting enough protein and vitamins.

(I shouldn’t need to put out a disclaimer, but just in case: no i’m not a nutritionist. I am not a doctor. Everyone is different. Please do not use this to make any life altering decisions.)

Also, another disclaimer. I am not vegan. I do enjoy eating a LOT of vegan meals, though. I will still eat chicken occasionally. I will not eat pork or red meat if I don’t have to. Too much fats and cholesterol for me. I will not make hard boiled eggs or scrambled eggs for myself, but if someone offers me a food, I will more than likely eat it. I eat cheese, but I try and limit my intake of that as well. A lot of people think that because I post about a lot of the meals I eat and label them as vegan, but I’m personally not a vegan, that I’m being a hypocrite. Well, the meal itself is still vegan, so I’m not going to stop that.

Okay back to these brownies.

One of my sisters has a dairy allergy. And I love to bake. So I wanted to try and find a good recipe that I could make for Christmas that tasted good and was also dairy free. I found a brownie recipe that I was dying to try: Black bean avocado brownies. Sounds gross, I know, but it’s actually VERY good!  I already ate a row of brownies. Okay, a small row. It is made in a 8×8 pan. 😀

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large flax egg
  • 1 – 15oz can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 medium to large ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking pan.
  2. Place flax egg, black bean, avocado, vanilla, and brown sugar and process in a food processor until smooth. Add in cocoa powder, coconut oil, baking soda, and baking powder and process again until smooth. Batter will be thick. If batter is way too thick and won’t process, you can add in a tablespoon or two of almond milk. This batter needs to be very thick in order to produce fudgy brownies. Fold in chocolate chip or sprinkle onto batter then transfer to prepared pan and use a spatula to spread evenly to sides. Sprinkle top of batter with 2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate chips.
  3. Bake for 22-30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out somewhat clean. We don’t want these to dry out, but we also don’t want them completely raw either! The top of the batter should be completely set and no longer jiggle. Cool pan completely on wire rack then cut into 12 bars.
NOTES
You may be able to sub the brown sugar for honey, agave or maple syrup. I would reduce to 1/3 cup though.
The brownies are best went made in a food processor so that beans can blend together better.
The brownies are best when served at room temperature or cold.

Recipe credit here.

Vegan GF Healthy Brownies

I followed the recipe almost exactly. Instead of the flax egg, I used a chia egg instead since I already have a huge bag of chia seeds. (To make a chia seed egg: For each egg, combine 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed (or flax seed) with 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well, and place in the fridge to set for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the result should be a sticky egg-like substitute) For the powder, I used Viva Naturals Cacao Powder, (which you can actually find on Amazon!) and the Viva Naturals Cacao Nibs for the vegan choc chips (again, hello Amazon!). I was a little weary about trying this at first because it’s black beans and avocado, but if I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed this was packed full of chocolate (not the vegan kind). I do not not taste black beans or avocados AT ALL.

I decided that since this is a relatively healthy recipe, and my sister can eat these, that I am going to bring them to Christmas for all to enjoy!

Happy baking!

P.S. I’m always open to making new things! Anyone have any dairy-free and/or vegan desserts they love? Post below!

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My Fitness Journey

In my entire year journey of getting back into shape and training for a half marathon and changing my diet, I’ve never shared any before or after photos of myself. To be honest, I rarely took any before photos because I was embarrassed. I untagged every photo that someone took of me. I offered to be the photographer so I didn’t need to be in a photo. I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t like how I looked, so why have a memory of that? I have measurements and my weight from before, but it hasn’t been anything I’ve shared.

Let me take you back to the beginning…

In college, I was 155 lbs. That was my ideal weight. I was playing volleyball – both on the club team at UW-Oshkosh as well as a rec league- and running. I was a casual runner in college… Maybe like 5 miles a week and definitely NOT consistent. Plus,  I walked to and from class. All that adds up. I was health conscious and ate healthier than most of my peers, but not really. Thank you metabolism. I graduated college in 2010 and moved back home. I continued to play volleyball in summer. I would run a handful of times, but nothing more than a few miles sporadically. I had a job at Sam’s Club which very much so kept me on my feet all day.

April 2012, I moved to Chicago. And this is when the slow downhill started. Yes, I had to walk to the nearest public transportation option, but then I sat. All. Day. Long. I had a desk job. And then being in a new city, all I did was eat out and eat too much. Thanks a lot Groupon. There was always a plethora of free food at work, which was never good for you. I gained about 10 lbs my first year working there. I still continued to play volleyball in summer though, so that was at least something. But summer in the Midwest… it doesn’t last long.

August 2013, I quit my job in Chicago and moved back to Wisconsin and in with my bf Josh. I quit because I found a job opportunity that was close to home. (Walking distance!) I thought it would be a good career move, but a few months later, they fired me for no reason. (Oh I have a post about that entire drama filled job…) Unemployment and depression led me down a very not good path. I was unemployed for MONTHS. Dec 19th, 2013 until May 22nd. 2014, I had no job. I had no motivation to work out. I cried myself to sleep often. I would go for days of eating burgers and ice cream and getting drunk and binge watching Gossip Girl.

Hello 185 lbs. 

I finally landed a job at Starbucks May 2014. At least i was on my feet all day, but I didn’t do anything outside of work. I ate crappy foods. I made excuses. “Oh I work weekends now. I can’t do anything.” “I work a morning shift-I’m too tired when I come home.” “I work a late shift, but I don’t feel like working out before work.” You name it, I had an excuse.

I quit Starbucks beginning Aug 2014 because I found a new role back at the company I was originally with in Chicago. I should have never left the company, but that’s another blog post. 

Commuting was hard. I left the house at 6am and didn’t get home until 8pm. The hours were brutal. (Shocker, I wrote about this previously too!) I was able to switch my hours after a few months (Nov 2014). So I was gone 6am to 630pm. Still a very long day. I ran occasionally, but not too much.

Summer 2015 I ran a few 5Ks with some friends and decided that I needed to run again and be active. I was so embarrassed of myself at this point. I hit 189 lbs at my heaviest. I never hit 190 lbs, but it was kind of a wake up call. I had become really good friends with Ally and she quickly became my running buddy. Aug 2015 was when we really started to think about our goals for 2016. We were running a decent amount, but focusing on stairs. We signed up for the Chicago Skyrise Climb. 103 floors up in Sears Tower (yeah yeah Willis Tower. It will always be the Sears Tower). I dropped a few lbs by this point, but I was still around 175-180 lbs.

Nov 8th, 2015. We climbed. 103 floors.  Words cannot describe how I felt that day. I almost cried when I finished. The fundraising money was for RIC, (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago). As I did my climb, firefighters in their gear passed me.  I passed a few older people who were walking with canes and a PT just in case. It was so incredibly inspirational. And then, the people handing out medals at the top of the stairs were in wheelchairs. People who could no longer walk.

“Why am I wasting my life not being active anymore?”

After that climb, Ally and I talked about our 2016 goals and decided that we should make a goal of running 1,000 miles in 2016. Very very high goal, but hey, we did the math and it was definitely feasible.

Dec 2015 I applied for an internal position which I got hired for (and an currently in this role) in Feb 2016. (My manager wanted me to stay for a month to train the new people. Yippee!)  My new job was way more flexible. I left my house at 6am, but I was able to be home by 540pm. It made all the difference. 

And running just took off from there.

January, I ran 86 miles.

Somewhere around March, Ally and I talked about doing a half in August maybe, so that was something we were aiming to do. We ran a lot. We read a lot about half marathons.

April 2nd, 2016, Ally and I ran a 10K… in 28 degree weather… IN THE SNOW. It was my last run in my 20s so there was no way we were backing out of this one. It was a tough run to get through. I lost feeling in my toes after the second mile. But we finished it! And we knew if we could get through that, we could get through so much more.

In May, we realized how far we had come, and signed up for our first half marathon in June! JUNE!

June 18th, 2016 – we ran our first half-marathon. It was beautiful. It was hot. And I cried when I was done. My family and bf were there to meet me at the finish line. Hello emotions. At this point, I was around 165. I watched my diet, but not too much. I was starting to feel so good about myself! We even signed up for another half marathon in Sept!

junehalf

July 2016 I did a 5K obstacle course in Madison. As I was sliding down the slide, I jammed my knee. This was a little bit of a setback; however, I took more initiative than the Old Megan would have done. I went to see a PT, I got some exercises to do (and actually did them!!). I took a little time off running to heal up. I would do some slow jogs, but stopped when the pain went from an achy dull pain to a sharp pain.

Aug 28th, 2016 – I ran another half marathon with my coworkers. I had signed up for this one months ago, before I hurt my knee, so I unfortunately had to walk the majority of it because my knee hurt so badly.

aughalf

Sept 10th, 2016 – Yes, 13 days apart, Ally and I ran another half-marathon, and I even beat my time from our first one in June!

septhalf

The longer runs because easier. And I just wanted to keep running. Running kept me happy. It kept me sane. I hit a plateau with my weight – I was hovering around 163-166 lbs. I wasn’t even all that concerned about it. I’m not really one to weight myself often, mostly because it led to disappointment. But I wanted to know what more I should be doing. Well, the one thing that didn’t really change was my diet.

Nov 2016: November was a huge month for me. I made a goal of running 100 miles this month. One. hundred. Miles. At the end of Oct, I was at 367.5 miles total for the year. Not where I wanted to be. I knew 1,000 miles would not happen this year. But Ally and I teamed up and added our miles together. This has been a learning year for us, and we didn’t want a number to get us down. So we are doing a team effort of 1,000 miles this year. Well, I still wanted to reach a high goal, so 100 miles it was! Not only did I run more, but I changed my diet. I had gotten a wellness exam at my work, which showed a slightly elevated cholesterol level. 212. 12 points above the max “normal” range. Because my good cholesterol was at 92, they told me “you really don’t have to worry about it because 100milesnovyour good cholesterol is so high, that it balances out your bad cholesterol.” But all I heard was “you have a slightly high cholesterol level.” I cut out red meat, pork and eggs, and I VERY much so limited my dairy. I made a conscious decision to eat more fruits and veggies. I had oatmeal with pb and bananas almost every morning. I just felt SO much better. By the end of Nov, I didn’t want a ton of cookies. I didn’t want to have a steak dripping in butter. I felt great. I was getting plenty of protein and fruits and veggies. I didn’t really track calories as much as I just paid attention to sugar, cholesterol, fats, sodium and ingredients. If I couldn’t pronounce it, I didn’t eat it. If it had WAY too many ingredients, I didn’t eat it. Yes of course I helped myself to some not so good foods, but it was a few times the entire month, instead of a few times a week. Hey, I’m not perfect and I love chocolate. I ended up hitting my 100 miles in Nov. It was amazing.

Well this ENTIRE story leads up to this photo and the reason behind this novel:

scale

I randomly decided to weigh myself on Monday (I always weight myself at night before going to bed. Gotta keep it consistent) and I was 158.7. Wait, what? I was back in the 150s. I weighed myself every night, but I never got above 159.6. It was anywhere from 157.9 to 159.6.

Holy crap. This whole eating healthy thing actually works. 🙂 Ha. Not that I had my doubts, but when you start seeing results, there’s just NO turning back now.

I’m 30 and I feel better now than when I was 25.

(Also, side note. I really love the app I used. Ha. PicsArt)

And here we are Dec 9th, 2016 and I’m already on pace to hit 100 more miles this month.

I got this!!