Heart to Heart with Natalie Coughlin Natalie Coughlin

If you haven’t been living under a rock, chances are you know that February 14th is Valentine’s Day! Most of us traded those cute little Valentines as youngsters, and in years following, yearned for heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, huge stuffed animals and bouquets of our favorite flowers from that special someone. Now, my husband and I enjoy cooking at home to avoid the Valentine’s Day crowds.

I may be a professional athlete, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a piece of cake and sweets every now and then! So, when I first learned that February was “Heart Health Month,” I knew I could rely on a certain secret weapon to give my heart the nutritious love it deserves, all while enjoying some of the best things life has to offer (cupcakes, brownies, cookies…right?). The secret? California Dried Plums. Yes, I really just said prunes, AND I’m not off my rocker! Let me break it down for you:

  • A California Dried Plum Purée can be used as a healthy replacement for butter, margarine, oil or shortening in baking recipes or packaged mixes. The purée makes your favorite baked treats healthier by providing moisture while decreasing the amount of added sugar and fat usually needed in the recipe.
  • California Dried Plums support bone health, digestive health and heart health. For starters, they naturally contain no cholesterol. Soluble fiber and other compounds found in dried plums have also been shown to decrease blood cholesterol levels.¹ In addition, other research suggests that consuming dried plums may help slow the development of atherosclerosis.²

Many of you know that I’ve had the opportunity to create amazing recipes as the spokesperson for the California Dried Plum Board, but there’s one in particular that I’m positive will make you a believer: Moist and Fudgy Brownies with California Dried Plums. These are the most delicious, indulgent brownies, and you’d never know that they are only 176 calories per serving–and good for your heart, too! Check out my full recipe and cooking video below.

Moist and Fudgy Brownies with California Dried Plums

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Serves: 16

INGREDIENTS:

Cooking spray
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup California Dried Plum purée
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat oven to 325ºF. Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving the paper overhanging on 2 sides; spray paper with cooking spray. In large heatproof bowl, melt chocolate with oil over simmering water. Whisk in sugar and dried plum purée until mixed; whisk in eggs and vanilla. Fold in flour and salt just until blended; fold in walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Bake about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the brownies comes out clean. Cool in pan at least 10 minutes; remove from pan and cut into 2-inch squares.

Nutrition Information Per Serving (1 brownie): 176 calories; 26 mg cholesterol; 10 g total fat; 3 g sat fat; 1 g mono fat; 4 g poly fat; 0 g trans fat; 27 mg sodium; 20 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 94 mg potassium

  1. Tinker, L.F., Schneeman, B.O., Davis, P.A., Gallaher, D.G. and Waggoner, C.R. “Consumption of Prunes as a Source of Dietary Fiber in Men with Mild Hypercholesterolemia.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 53 (1991): 1259–65.
  2. Gallaher, C.M. and Gallaher, D.D. “Dried Plums (Prunes) Reduce Atherosclerosis Lesion Area in Apolipoprotein E-deficient Mice.” British Journal of Nutrition 2009; 101(2):233-239.

I can’t wait to hear what you think!

XOXO,

Natalie

P.S. Don’t miss a very exciting Valentine’s Day Twitter Party with @HelloGiggles and I (@NatalieCoughlin) on Thursday, February 14th at 10AM PST! I’ll be sharing healthy tips, recipes and more! Submit your questions now to @HelloGiggles. Make sure to use #heartdriedplums in your tweets!

Sponsored by: California Dried Plums

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