If you’re looking for a chewy, gooey, fudge-like brownie, we’ve got recipe for you. It involves adding a surprising ingredient — dates! — to boxed brownie mix .
In an effort to reduce the calories in box-mix brownies, we often use Greek yogurt to replace most of the oil called for in the directions. Many brownie mixes call for half a cup of oil. That ingredient alone adds nearly 1,000 calories to a batch of brownies. That same quantity of low-fat Greek yogurt has a little more than 100 calories.
Over the past several months, every time I reached for a brownie mix in my cupboard, I had to push aside a bag of dates. And each time, I asked myself: “What am I going to do with these dates?” Years ago, I used to make brownies with puréed prunes in place of the oil. The prune puree gave the brownies a fudgy texture and really enhanced the chocolate flavor. I thought dates might do the same thing.
Native to the Middle East, dates are the fruit of the date palm tree. They’re naturally sweet and rich in fiber, and they also provide potassium, iron and calcium.
I needed to get the dates into a puréed form and started by rehydrating them in very hot coffee to give the brownies a café mocha flavor. (You can use water in place of the coffee if you prefer.) Because my dates were rather dry, their coffee bath lasted about an hour. I then used an immersion blender to purée the dates and coffee into a smooth sauce that had the consistency of a thin pancake batter. This date and coffee mixture should measure three-fourths of a cup.
Though there are several varieties, you will likely find deglet noor dates or medjool dates at the grocery store. Either variety will work well in today’s recipe. Buying them pitted is a real time saver.
If you’re looking for additional ways to use dates, try them in quick breads, muffins, cookies, energy bars, salads, slaws, couscous and pilaf dishes, or chopped on top of oatmeal, yogurt or rice pudding. The ideas are endless.
Darlene Zimmerman is a registered dietitian in Henry Ford Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute. For questions about today’s recipe, call 313-972-1920.
Pecan and Date Brownies
Serves: 16 / Prep time: 1 hour (includes soaking time for dates) / Total time: 1 hour and 35 minutes
Vegetable oil cooking spray
½ cup dried dates
½ cup very hot coffee or water
1 box (18.3 ounce) brownie mix
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup pecan or walnut halves, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray. Place dates in a small bowl, cover with very hot coffee or water and allow to sit for an hour. Using an immersion blender, food processor or blender, purée dates and coffee until smooth. (Consistency should resemble a thin pancake batter and will yield ¾ cup of pureed liquid.) Place brownie mix in a large bowl and add date mixture, egg, oil and pecans. Mix according to package directions. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until done.
Allow brownies to cool before cutting.
Created and tested by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, for Heart Smart®.
171 calories (21% from fat), 4 grams fat (0 grams sat. fat, 0 grams trans fat), 33 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 104 mg sodium, 13 mg cholesterol, 7 mg calcium, 2 grams fiber. Food exchanges: 2 starch, ½ fat.
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