Black Bean Brownies

IMG_8358By: Nikki Nies

What would you say if I told you that to make brownies I need chocolate AND black beans?! Shocked? Surprised? Agreeable?

I admit, the first time I heard about this combination, I scrunched my face. Like many, I head to the dessert section of the restaurant menu to satisfy my sweet tooth, not for BEANS! Yet, during my latest rotation at Illinois’ Will County Women, Infants and Children Clinic, I had the opportunity to not only do a food demo, but to show women and children how they can use their dried beans that they may receive with their coupons in a guilt free, delicious manner!







Preparing: place black beans in a colander, sort thoroughly and remove any tiny pebbles; rinse under cold water

How to soak: the larger the bean, the longer they need to soak. The longer you soak the beans, the faster they cook.  Soaking beans allows dried beans to absorb water, which begins to dissolve the starches that causes intestinal discomfort. Soak beans in 3x their volume of cold water for 6 hours before cooking.

  • 1/3 cup dry beans=1 cup cooked beans
  • 1/2 cup dry beans=1 1/2 cup cooked beans
  • 2/3 cup dry beans=2 cups cooked beans
  • 1 cup dry beans=3 cups cooked beans
  • 2 cups/1 lb. dry beans=6 cups cooked beans

Black Bean Brownies

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Servings: 12 Serving: 1/12 of recipe


  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Mash  beans, 1/4 cup chocolate chips and oil with a fork

2. Add eggs, brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, baking powder and salt; cover and process until smooth.

2. Transfer to a 9-in. square baking pan coated with cooking spray.

3. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. 3. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Adapted from TasteofHome

Nutrition Facts per serving: 115 calories; 2.6 g of fat; 15 g carbohydrates; 2.9 g of protein

Black Bean Brownies with Mix

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Servings: 12 Serving: 1/12 of recipe


  • ½ 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ package brownie mix
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup chocolate chips, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish
  2. Mash black beans and water together until smooth.  Pour into a bowl.
  3. Stir brownie mix into black bean mixture until batter is smooth; fold in ¼ cup chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips over batter.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted two inches from side of pan comes out clean, 25-27 minutes. Cool brownies completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Adapted from AllRecipes

Nutrition Facts per serving: 150 calories; 5.6 g of fat; 25 g of carbohydrates; 2.3 g of protein

Nutrition Benefits of black beans:

  • ½ cup serving contains 113 calories
  • 1 cup serving of black beans ~15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein
  • Boost iron intake: 3.6 mg iron per cup
  • Folic acid, magnesium and potassium rich
  • 0 saturated fat

While the black bean brownies with mix recipe is great to have to have on hand with a time crunch, do you see a difference in nutrients between the black bean brownie recipe made from scratch and from the box? Have you tried black bean brownies before? What other ways have you added black beans into your dishes?

Photo Credit: Health and Happy Herbivore


Cincinatti Chili

By: Nikki Nies CincinnitiChili3

Growing up with parents that originated from Ohio, the thought of chili was always quickly associated with Skyline Chili and/or Cincinnati and rightfully so! Since I grew up eating this type of chili, I didn’t know better that this wasn’t a “typical” chili.

Compared to the more popular Texan chili, Cincinnati chili has a thinner consistency and is made with cinnamon, chocolate or cocoa, allspice and Worcestershire sauce! Yes, you heard me, those spices are in this reknowned chili!

Cincinnati Chili Sauce Recipe 


  • 2 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 medium onions, finely grated
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 5 whole allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 whole large bay leaf
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

In 4 quart saucepan, add ground beef to water; stir until beef separates to a fine texture.  Boil slowly for half an hour.  Add all other ingredients.  Stir to blend, bringing up to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 3 hours.  Chili should be refrigerated overnight so that the fat can be skimmed from top before reheating.

Recipe adapted from local newspaper in Cincinnati area

Make sure to boil some spaghetti and decide which “way” you want to eat your chili! SM0507_cincinnati-chili_s4x3

Two way: serving of drained spaghetti and sauce

Three way: serving of drained spaghetti, sauce and handful of shredded cheddar cheese

Four way: serving of drained spaghetti, sauce, large spoonful of kidney beans or kidney beans and handful of shredded cheddar cheese

Five way: serving of drained spaghetti, sauce, large spoonful of kidney beans or refried beans, large spoonful of chopped onions and handful of shredded cheddar cheese

**Additionally, oyster crackers accompany the meal**

This twist on the classic chili still packs a great amount of protein, fiber, B vitamins and iron! For those that have had Cincinnati chili before, what’s your favorite “way?” For me, I’m all about the four way, so next time you’re making some Cincinnati chili, make sure to call me up, I’ll bring my own fork!

Photo Credit: What’s Cooking America and Food Network

High Fiber Musts

By: Nikki Nies

High fiber diets are always tooted as a lifestyle must! What does high fiber mean, you ask? It means consuming a diet of at least 21-25 g of fiber for women and 30-38 grams of fiber for men.  If meal planning isn’t part of your daily routine, it’s easy to let the days go by and not fulfill the daily fiber recommendations.  Gradually increase your fiber intake as a quick surge in fiber can lead to bloating and gas.

The best way to consume a high fiber diet is to eat more foods that have a higher fiber content! Can you guess what tops the list of the highest fibrous foods per serving?


  1. Corn bran, raw: 1 oz.=22 g of fiber
  2. Navy beans or white beans: 1 cup=19 g of fiber
  3. Yellow beans, cooked: 1 cup=18 g of fiber
  4. Adzuki, French, or black turtle soup beans: 1 cup=17 g of fiber
  5. Split peas, cooked: 1 cup=16.3 g of fiber
  6. Kidney or cranberry beans: 1 cup=16.0 g of fiber 
  7. Mung or pinto beans: 1 cup=15 g of fiber high-fiber-diet
  8. Lentils, cooked: 1 cup=15.6 g of fiber
  9. Black beans: 1 cup=15.0 g of fiber
  10. Oat or wheat bran, raw: 1 oz.=12.0 g of fiber
  11. Lima beans: 1 cup=13.2 g of fiber
  12. Baked beans, vegetarian, canned, cooked:1 cup=10.4 g of fiber
  13. Artichoke, cooked: medium=10.3 g of fiber
  14. Green peas, cooked: 1 cup=8.8 g of fiber
  15. Raspberries: 1 cup=8 g of fiber

A high fiber diet + adequate fluid intake is the right combination for smoother digestion, lower one’s risk of obesity, heart disease and/or cancer.  Furthermore, since fiber isn’t digested, it moves through the body quickly, helping to aid in constipation.

Have you added more fiber into your daily diet?  What changes have you seen accompany these fibrous additions?


Common Misperceptions of Salads

Original Image by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flckr
Original Image by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flckr

By: Nikki Nies

I’m currently in my community rotation in my dietetic internship.  I recently gave a presentation to Avalon corporation’s employees.  The premise for the presentation was to debunk some weight loss myths.

As an introduction, I asked the employees what they eat for lunch.  Whether they were bringing lunch from home or eating out, 9/10 they stated they ate salads for lunch.  I got a kick out of it, as yes, salads CAN be healthy.  Yet, there’s such a spectrum of variety of others foods that are screaming to receive attention as well.

A 2005 study on the Big Four fast food chains–Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, found that 5/8 of the salads used as “evidence” of their healthy contents were actually higher than normal for salt and fat content.    For example, a classic cobb salad with chopped bacon, egg, blue cheese, avocado, and creamy dressing, or a standard restaurant chef’s salad loaded with Swiss cheese, roast beef, eggs, and dressing  can add up to over 1000 calories and 80 g of fat!

Unfortunately, the toppings and/or salad dressings that people use on their salads can be the culprit to extra calories and fat, which backfires the plan to eat healthier.

Tips for healthier salads:

  • Fill up your salad with veggies: at 25 calories or less per 1/2 cup serving, it’s a great bang for your buck for nutrients!
  • Choose a variety of colors for your salad–red and yellow bell peppers, red onions, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers and hard boiled eggs
  • Stick with raw or lightly steamed vegetables instead of fried or those drenched in marinades
  • Opt for lean protein to stay fuller longer: i.e. 1/2 cup tofu; 3/4 cup of chickpeas, lentils or kidney beans; 3 oz. skinless chicken; water packed chunk light tuna, wild salmon, wild sirloin steak, 4 egg whites
  • Avoid fatty meats, such as bacon or or salami
  • Choose one extra goodie: aiming for between 40-70 calories; i.e. 2 T of cheddar, feta, goat cheese, Parmesan or Swiss; 1 T of chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds; 1 T of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds; 1 oz. avocado; 10 small olives; 1/4 cup croutons; 2 T dried cranberries or raisins
  • Lightly dress salad! Unfortunately a healthy salad can quickly become unhealthy when drenched with a fatty dressing; when ordering, ask for the dressing on the side, limiting use to 1 to 1 1/2 T
  • When available, opt for fat free, light or low fat salad dressings
  • Make your own vinaigrette: using one part oil to 3 parts vinegar with mustard, lemon or added spices of your choice

I applaud the employees for wanting to healthier, but I wanted to encourage them to eat more variety, to get more nutrients and to have more fun with their meals!


When Canned, Bean It!

When Canned, Bean It!

Canned goods get a bad wrap for the high sodium and potential botulism. However, don’t let those cautionary tales refrain you from venturing out and trying new types of beans. Sometimes, convenience trumps fresh, but keep in mind these lines of canned beans!

Meatless Proteins


By: Nikki Nies

With healthy eating constantly on the brain, it’s constant job to ensure balanced meals are consumed.  Meatless proteins aren’t for vegetarians and vegans any more, with more and more opting for meatless proteins.  Meatless proteins are often low fat, low calorie, with the added protein punch!

Meatless Protein Description Protein Amount per ½ cup How to Eat Tips
Quinoa Packed with fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and folate, low cholesterol; contains all essential amino acids 7 g Stir Fried Vegetables and Quinoa, Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil Lemon Dressing; Toasted Quinoa with Chiles and Corn Drain in a fine mesh strainer after cooking; add to soups, hot breakfast cereal or tossed with vegetables
Edamame Have as much fiber as 4 slices of wheat bread; great as an appetizer or within an entrée 8 g (shelled) Edamame with sesame, scallions and almonds; Roasted Edamame Steam instead of boil, which will preserve nutrients; can be served hot or cold
Chia seeds Great source of brain boosting omega 3 and fiber rich; contains great source of iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc; plump up and take on gelatinous texture when soaked in a  liquid 9.4 g in 2 tablespoons Mango Coconut Chia Pudding; Clementine Chia Pudding Use in jams, smoothies, oatmeal, salads, soups, etc.
Lentils Packed with B vitamins, folate, fiber, protein and are heart healthy 9 g Italian Lentil and Broccoli Stew Limit salting or using acidic items to lentils until cooked
Greek Yogurt Low in calories, protein packed; great substitution for sour cream or mayo; less sweet than some regular varieties 14.5 g Grilled Tropical Fruit with Greek Yogurt; Greek Yogurt with warm black and blueberry sauce Be wary of flavored containers that are packed with added sugar
Tempeh Soy bean based ingredient has great texture; firmer than traditional tofu 15.5 g Tempeh Burger; Miso glazed tofu On it’s own, tends to be quite bland, but is great with a marinade
Seitan Made from wheat gluten; has familiar texture of a piece of chicken or beef; brings out any flavors paired with it; looks like duck meat 21 g Mock Peking Duck; Seitan Stir Fry with Black Bean Garlic Sauce No need to add salt as many packaged varieties can have nearly 13% of daily intake
Peanut Butter Contains 2 g of fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fats per serving 32.5 g Peanut Butter Banana Raisin Sandwich; Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Opt for reduced fat or natural peanut butter and “no stir” to limit messes
Chickpeas Aka garbanzo beans; fiber rich; can help cut LDL levels; low calorie 7 g Chickpea Stew with Eggplants, Tomatoes and Peppers; Cumin Spiced Chickpeas Look for chickpea flower, which is a great alternative to those that can’t eat gluten
Eggs When in moderation, can be great protein source; low in calories; may improve HDL levels 7 g/egg Baked Eggs with Cheese and Zucchini, omelettes, quiches, hard boiled, scrambled, sunny side up Choose cage free variety since they’re nutritionally superior and more humaneFound to have 2.5 times more omega 3 and twice amount of vitamin E in eggs of pasture raised hens
Cottage Cheese Affordable, can be eaten with reduced fat, calcium rich for bones, 13 g Combine with fresh veggies or with fruit and cinnamon Can be used as a replacement for ricotta cheese or sour cream in certain dishes
Pumpkin Seeds Great grab and go snack 7 g/1 oz. Pepita Corn Bread In fall, roast fresh seeds; be mindful of serving as seeds can be high in calories
Dried Black  Beans Low fat, fiber filled protein 6 g Cuban Black Bean Soup Opting for dry beans allows one to control sodium and additive intake; soak in large bowl overnight in water and rinse clean afterward, simmer on low heat and enjoy; make with cumin, garlic, red pepper, etc.
Soy Milk Convenient and versatile; often fortified with calcium and 4 g Espresso Soy Milk Shake Vanilla’s great in cereal and coffee; chocolate flavor’s great as a regular treat
Almonds Contains monounsaturated fats which are considered heart healthy 6 g/1 oz. Chili Spiced Almonds Sliced almonds are great over a salad


Protein 101

cehProtein 101

Say Hello to Rienzi Products


By: Nikki Nies

It recently came to my attention that you can use black beans as a healthy substitute in brownies.  Yes, I said it, black beans.  As I was perusing the grocery aisles, I was looking for a brand of blacks beans with the lowest salt content.  I immediately looked at the nutrition label of the ShopRite “low sodium” black beans, which stated it contained 460 mg of sodium.  Just to check, I started looking at other brands of black beans and I found that the store brand of blacks that advertised low sodium, was in fact, NOT the brand with the lowest amount of sodium.

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Long story short, I was shocked to find that Rienzi had the lowest amount of sodium, with a solid 24 mg.  I checked out Goya, ShopRite brand, etc.  Have you ever heard of Rienzi?  I hadn’t before I had started my comparison shopping, however, it’s now my new best friend.

After purchasing the black beans, I was intrigued why I hadn’t heard of this healthy alternative.  With some research, I’ve found that Rienzi is a local brand from Astoria, NY.  The website provides some great recipes one can use while incorporating Rienzi products into everyday meals.

I was disappointed to find that the brands I thought would be low in sodium, listed sodium in the hundreds of mg.  It showed me one really has to look beyond the advertising and know exactly what’s going into one’s mouth. There’s often a misperception that Organic means healthy, but the ShopRite Organic black beans contained 130 mg of sodium, approx. 72% more sodium than the Rienzi can of black beans.

Your supermarket has a wealth of knowledge, invest a little time comparing labels the next you’re grocery store.  I’m not hear to advertise, but I believe good nutrition comes from great foods.  Check for the blue labeled cans in your local supermarket!  Above, you can see a couple of other known brands that your local supermarket may sell, however, Rienzi had the best nutrition content overall!