VCU Massey Cancer Center


Recipe corner: treat your heart to chocolate

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Valentine’s Day falls in February, which also happens to be American Heart Month. What better way to celebrate love and hearts than with chocolate?  You may have heard dark chocolate is good for your heart. It contains flavonoids-plant based antioxidants-which aid in heart health, but that doesn’t mean you should overindulge with that rich chocolate mousse or chocolate fudge pie. Look for dark chocolate labeled 70% or more cacao for health benefits. One to two ounces provide the recommended flavonoids-along with 160 to 320 calories and 12 to 24 grams of fat, so portion control is important.

Cocoa powder also contains flavonoids. Two tablespoons has only 20 calories and a trace of fat, but not all types have the same benefit as dark chocolate. Avoid those labeled alkalized or Dutch-processed, as many flavonoids are lost in the processing. Instead, select cocoa powders labeled as 100% natural, unsweetened.

We hope you enjoy these two chocolate recipes that combine cocoa powder with select produce:

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Makes 16 servings


  • 1, 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed very well
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (NOT Dutch processed or alkalized)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt (1/8 teaspoon)
  • ½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, peppermint extract as desired, baking powder and salt, and process until smooth. Add ¼ cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares.

Approximate nutrients per serving: 120 calories, 3 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fibers, 95 milligrams sodium

Recipe courtesy of registered dietitians Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss, from their cookbook, “No Whine With Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms.”


Chocolate Stuffed Strawberries

Chocolate Stuffed Strawberries

Makes about 24 berries


  • 1, 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1, 16-ounce container fresh strawberries (about 2 dozen berries)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa (NOT Dutch processed or alkalized)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place cream cheese in a large bowl, and set aside to soften.

Rinse strawberries in cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut off the green tops and stand upright on a tray, cut side down. Make a cut three-quarters of the way down from the tip of the strawberry toward the bottom. Turn the strawberry and make another vertical cut so the strawberry has four sections. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa; set aside.

Beat the softened cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly. Gradually add the powdered sugar-cocoa mixture in small amounts, mixing well after each addition, until filling is well blended. You may need to add a few drops of water to reach desired consistency.

Place cream cheese mixture into a piping bag with a star tip. If not available, place filling in a small, plastic zipper bag, and cut off a small tip of the corner. Pipe filling into each strawberry and arrange on a decorative tray or dish. Refrigerate until serving.

Approximate nutrients per 1 stuffed strawberry: 45 calories, less than 1 gram protein, 2 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 37 milligrams sodium, 7 milligrams calcium.

Adapted from a recipe found at


Recipes prepared by Mary-Jo Sawyer, R.D., registered dietitian in the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic at VCU Health.