Recipe: Dark Chocolate Whole-Wheat Brownies (and other Valentine’s Day Ideas!)

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Valentine's Day Snacks from 100 Days of Real Food

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how so many holidays seem to be centered around junk food? From Halloween candy to Christmas cookies to Valentine’s Day treats to Easter baskets it feels like my daughters collect enough candy from the holidays alone to feed an entire army (and we actually did help feed the army by shipping our Halloween candy to them one year!). And since holidays, which seem to pop up every other month, are intertwined with birthday parties, school rewards, and other special occasions (King Cake for Mardi Gras anyone?) I often feel like I don’t even get the chance to “treat” my kids to something special because everyone else does it for me. But that’s because we aim to let treats truly be a “treat” at our house, which means not getting one every single day (or even every other day), and it sometimes feels like the rest of the world isn’t quite on board with that idea. This post is not about that though…it’s actually about how “treats” can be fun and exciting without also being full of sugar or artificial colors (or from a factory)!

I know people get caught up in wanting to give kids something special – and some people even think I am “depriving” my children when I don’t want them to have highly processed junk food – but how special is it really if it’s also not good for their health? Sure a piece of candy here or there probably won’t hurt anything and my kids certainly eat junk food like that on occasion, but the point is I can offer something that’s better for them and just as exciting! I think it’s up to us to decide what foods are deemed as “special.” If I put a little extra thought into how a certain food is presented, and I tell my girls it’s extra special then guess what? They agree and get pretty excited about it. They are young (4 and 7) so I’m not sure how long this will last, but you should have seen how they were clamoring over the pictured heart shaped fruit (on the kabob sticks with ribbons) while I was busy taking a million pictures of them. They were thrilled when I finally said they could gobble them up. Was it a little more work than ripping open a Pop Tart? Sure, but not much and I personally think the extra effort was worth it to feel good about what I was feeding them. :)

So in the midst of the standard candy this Valentine’s Day I hope you’ll consider trying out some of these holiday-themed alternatives as well (as I’ve said before…cookie cutters aren’t just for cookies!):

  • Heart or X & O shaped cheese or fruit (apple, kiwi, & honey-dew melon pictured above) either by itself or with other pieces on kabob sticks.
  • Homemade whole-wheat brownies (pictured & recipe below) that are heart-shaped or have heart shapes on them using unsweetened coconut, homemade whipped cream, unsweetened cocoa powder, or crushed nuts…you could even stick a small heart-shaped strawberry on top.
  • Heart-shaped homemade whole-grain pop tarts.
  • Whole-grain breads (like banana, zucchini, or pumpkin) baked in heart-shaped muffin tins.
  • Whole-grain muffins baked in either full-sized or mini Valentine’s-themed paper muffin holders (can be found at Michael’s Craft Store or Target).
  • Heart or X & O shaped breakfast pancakes (pictured) either plain or with flavored cream cheese – try mixing in fresh pureed strawberries or an all-fruit raspberry jelly to make it pink – in the middle to make it a sandwich.
  • Fruit or cheese squares stuck with Valentines-themed toothpicks (can be found at Michael’s or Target).
  • Heart shaped PB&J sandwiches for lunch (save the bread scraps in the freezer to make croutons or stuffing another day).
  • A Valentine’s themed lunch with a heart-shaped sandwich, heart-shaped fruit, and even heart-shaped cheese on a salad!

Valentine's Lunch from 100 Days of Real Food

Please share your “real food” Valentine’s Day ideas in the comments below! And now here’s the recipe for those brownies…

4.1 from 22 reviews
Dark Chocolate Whole-Wheat Brownies
Serves: Makes 14-16 small brownie squares
Note: These brownies are "cake-like" and a very "dark" chocolate flavor i.e. not as sweet as typical store-bought milk chocolate products.
  • ¾ cup whole-wheat flour (I tested this recipe with King Arthur’s organic white whole-wheat flour, which is 100% whole-grain)
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa, you will have much better results if you use “dark” cocoa (Hershey’s makes some)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey - my family is divided because I loved the maple version and they loved the honey version)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9X9 inch square glass baking dish with oil or butter.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl including the flour, cocoa and baking powder and set aside.
  3. In a small pot on the stove melt the coconut oil together with the maple syrup and vanilla extract.
  4. Once the coconut oil is melted whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the egg and keep whisking until it's mixed together thoroughly. If using nuts fold them into the batter with a spatula.
  5. Pour the batter into the glass baking dish and bake for 16 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    Eat or store in an air-tight container at room temperature - enjoy!

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224 comments to Recipe: Dark Chocolate Whole-Wheat Brownies (and other Valentine’s Day Ideas!)

  • Ashley

    First, the brownies were great! Second, and more importantly, thank you for your website. I have always been a label reader but not an ingredient reader. WOW what I have learned in such a short period of time. My husband keeps saying “this is on the new ‘diet’?!” because all of your recipes have been wonderful, nutritious and we don’t feel like we are missing anything. If anything they are more delicious that my other recipes because I am using whole fat products and we are getting them fresh from our co-op! Thank you for opening our eyes!

  • Katrina

    I was really surprised to see negative comments about this recipe because I loved it and will continue to make it. I used 2 eggs, maple syrup and coconut oil but may try butter instead of coconut oil next time. It definitely kicked my chocolate craving to the curb :)

  • Here’s a post on my experience with this recipe. Thanks for continuing to give us true “real food” desserts.

  • Stephanie

    The brownie flavor was great but they were SO dry. I know it says they are cake like and I was expecting some dryness but this was a lot. I think if I topped them with mixed fruit or something it might make it better but I didn’t have any on hand because I am pet sitting at someone elses house. I won’t be bringing them in for the bake sale tomorrow unfortunately because they are just too dry.

  • Bekki

    Is there a recommended substitute for the coconut oil? Thank you

  • I tried out your brownie recipe with a little spin of my own for my college lifestyle blog Your Best Four Years – here’s a link to the post I love your recipes and this one is no exception! Thank you :)

  • Rachel

    I love most of Lisa’s recipes, but this one was a total flop for me. I followed the recipe exactly-I used the honey to sweeten instead of maple. They were extremely dry brownies and had no taste. Worst of all, i wasted a lot of expensive cocoa, honey, organic eggs on this recipe. I won’t make these again.

  • Tamara

    I used less vanilla and it was still too strong. Did she mean to write teaspoon instead of tablespoon?
    Thanks so much. Loved the brownie btw!

  • […] recipe was first inspired by 100 Days of Real Food Whole Wheat Brownies recipe.  I made them and thought they were pretty good…enough for my chocolate fix, but were […]

  • Jessica SS

    Just wanted to share a tip – as noted by many reviewers and Lisa herself, these are more cake-like brownie and can be a bit crumbly. To zazz them up a little, after baking mine I treated it like a poke cake – poking holes all over the brownies and then poured organic half & half (maybe 1/3 cup?)in the pan and let it sit for about an hour. I also whipped up some organic peanut butter (no sugar – just peanuts), honey and a little bit more of the half and half to get a nice spreadable consistency and spread that on top of the brownies. The “poke” treatment really made them moist and more brownie like and the peanut butter icing was a decadent combo! A real treat – they were a big hit at a party we went to and no one could believe they had no sugar!

  • 100 Days of Real Food

    So it sounds like you didn’t add any sweetener then (the honey or maple syrup)?

  • Amy

    Yes, I did add sweetener, I used honey. I am thinking the raw cacao is a more chocolate taste than nestles cocoa. I also think my whole wheat flour was not ground fine enough which made it gritty (I also have a nutramill). Have you ever used liquid stevia to cook with? I wonder if I use honey and maple syrup together or maybe add some liquid stevia if that would make it sweeter? I will try this again using the exact products you did. I may have to cut back on the raw cacao powder when using, dont really know.

  • 100 Days of Real Food

    I agree that the freshly ground flour would cause the gritty texture. I have a wheat grinder as well, but test recipes with the same stuff that everyone else will be using so I’ve experienced that difference in sweet baked goods. Also, we don’t use stevia…I think it’s fine if you process the leaves yourself, but most people are buying it already processed, which can be questionable.

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