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

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…

4.2 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!
* Omit the optional nuts to make this nut-free.
We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.


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  1. 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.

    • Kina |

      You took the words right out of my mouth.
      I am a big fan of real foods & had been looking forward to making this recipe. I even baked a double batch. A complete waste of some excellent & expensive items.
      Very disappointing!

  2. 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!

  3. debbie |

    So I made these today and when I took my first bite I guess I expected them to taste like the store bought ones I always make, but they didn’t, they were not chewy or gooey, more cake like, but they do taste pretty darn good, I added chopped walnuts and choc. chunks to the mix and I am glad I tried them b/c I know what all the ingredients are in them unlike the boxed ones. Yum.

  4. Tisha Swiger |

    Was trying this recipe and noticed that there was no salt. I don’t know a lot about baking and I hope this isn’t a stupid question. I have just never baked anything that didn’t have a little salt. Was it left off of the recipe by mistake or do you not need salt? Thanks!! Love all your recipes. Have been trying to switch my family over to real food.

    • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

      Hi Tisha. There is no salt in this recipe….and there are no stupid questions here either. :) ~Amy

  5. Erica |

    I am trying some of your recipes, but I have a few kids who are gluten free. What would you suggest to substitute as a flour? the gluten free flour mixes usually have brown rice, white rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and I am assuming that these aren’t any good?

  6. Kathleen |

    I swear, I have said your entire first paragraph word for word! It makes me sad that I feel like I can’t treat my own kids. But I do feel a bit better doing it with real food treats and not artificial junk.

  7. Debbie |

    Quick question about measuring the coconut oil – do you measure 1/2 cup as a solid (like you would Crisco)and then melt it? Looking forward to trying these!!

  8. Chris Wynter |

    I don’t use wheat flour (or anything wheat) so substituted with 1/2 cup of coconut flour and increased the eggs to 6 (coconut flour is a thirsty flour!). Folded the coconut flour slowly into the wet ingredients. Left out the baking soda and nuts. Turned out really well. :)

  9. Lydia |

    These are yummy! My family gobbled them up as did I. Curious what would be a serving size? Thanks for creating this website it has been very helpful!

    • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

      Hi there. One to two small brownies. :) Lisa’s recipes are designed to serve a family of four with leftovers.

  10. 100 Days of Real Food |

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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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