Somewhere between my usual plain protein-deficient oatmeal (a longtime breakfast habit I’ve tried to break) and eggs with sweet potato (what I eat when I’m trying to be healthier), lies the smoothie bowl. I began making smoothie bowls with protein powder because I could pour it on top of my oatmeal – without having to give up my oatmeal entirely. I quickly became addicted. For weeks Josh and I ate oatmeal smoothie bowls (over 20 grams of protein per bowl!) before I realized that something crunchy would better compliment the thickness of the smoothie than oatmeal does.
Chocolate granola is something I’ve been wanting to make since I finally bought and tried cacao nibs a few weeks back ( and subsequently used in a Nutella Smoothie and Homemade Chocolate). I’m always a little intimidated by the amount of oil, sugar and oats used in typical oatmeal, so this version is a bit lighter. I’ve replaced half of the oats with a current obsession: puffed brown rice (recently used as flour in Vegan Snickerdoodles), the sugar with maple syrup and most of the oil with… black beans. Inspired by black bean brownie recipes (like this one and this one), I made a healthy brownie batter that acts as the wet mixture for the granola. The result is a rich chocolate granola that is perfect on it’s own in a trail mix, with milk (non-dairy or grass-fed dairy), yogurt or, of course, this protein smoothie bowl.
WHY IT’S HEALTHY// Chocolate granola is gluten-free and a bit lighter than traditional granola because it is made with half airy puffed brown rice. It is also almost oil free, containing only two tablespoons of coconut oil in ten servings (read about the health benefits of coconut oil in 5 Reasons to Use Coconut Oil). The remainder of the wet ingredients are black beans, high in fiber and plant protein, and pure maple syrup which contains more polyphenols and essential nutrients than refined sugar. The health benefits of cocoa (or cacao) powder can be read about in our Sweet Potato Brownies post. //
A couple of notes about ingredients: The key to a good smoothie bowl is the protein powder. Make sure to buy quality protein powder without artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors. For vegans, look for plant-based protein powders, ideally soy and gluten-free, made with pea, brown rice and/or hemp protein. For omnivores, 100% grass-fed whey protein is a good choice.
- 2½ cups puffed brown rice
- 2½ cups old fashioned oats (gluten-free, if needed)
- 1 cup raw walnuts (or any type of nut)
- ½ cup cacao nibs
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ cup cooked black beans (1/2 15 oz can, drained)
- ½ cup pure maple syrup (or liquid sweetener of choice)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- ⅓ cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 flax egg
- ½ cup dried cherries (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (optional)
- Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (puffed brown rice, oats, walnuts, cacao nibs and salt).
- Add the remaining wet ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. The batter should be rather thin, like pancake batter.
- Add the wet brownie mixture to the dry ingredients and stir very well, until all the dry ingredients are coated.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the mixture evenly between the two sheets.
- Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, stirring the granola and rotating the pans every 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool and add in dried cherries and dark chocolate, if using.
- Store in an airtight container for a couple of weeks or freeze for later use.
- Add all ingredients to a high speed blender (I used my Vitamix) and blend until smooth and creamy.
|| This post was written in collaboration with Vega, who sent Our Four Forks free products to try. We only use or review products we genuinely like. Thanks for your support! ||