Gluten-free Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
In every community wherever you are in the world, there are always certain acceptable ways of being “cool.” Unspoken guidelines about how to act, what to be interested in, and what to dislike. Some communities are more forgiving than others (most high schools being on the very low end of the forgiveness spectrum), but in general, whatever is outside of the box in terms of interests that are deemed acceptable are usually labeled “guilty pleasures.” As individuals, though, how many of our genuine interests do we end up feeling obligated to attribute to that feeling of guilt? Maybe this is in terms of what foods we love, movies or series that we watch on evenings home alone, books we read, the music we listen to, or it may even sneak into our personal creation process.
Now since I am someone who tends to carve my own kind of path, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not always naturally fit in with the crowd. I was not a “cool kid” in school, being far too interested in books, fantasy, musicals, and theater. Even in certain communities within my dance work, I have ended up feeling a bit on the outskirts. “Too theatrical, too emotive, not acrobatic enough” — all things that I have felt about myself in various circles and groups.
However, throughout the tumultuous years of middle and high school, I navigated my own way through artfully blending in just enough to not be left completely on the sidelines. I learned how to be a chameleon, changing my outer colors, but that odd lizard-like outline can always be seen if you look closely.
I thought that this whole thing would disappear after starting university and growing into adulthood, but the fact is, these rules of what is considered “cool” and “uncool” exist everywhere and among every age. In some artist communities, as soon as something gets too “mainstream,” it is not longer acceptable to like. For example, any pop music, So You Think You Can Dance, anyone who choreographs for a Justin Bieber music video, all of these things just don’t quite fit in to what is "cool" in several of the contemporary dance circles I have come across.
Of course, not all communities are like this and I have also been lucky to find groups and individuals with whom I naturally can connect, no personal adjusting or chameleon-ing necessary. I am hoping that most people are lucky enough to find this wherever they are- a community that accepts you for everything that you are and everything that you enjoy. What I am talking about more specifically is that moment when you stumble across those kinds of people or groups that suddenly make you feel on the outskirts again- like a teenager trying to keep up with the ever-changing definition of what is “cool” today. In the past couple years when I have been in these situations, I started to catch myself reverting back to my old habits of adjusting how I communicate and what I talk about according to my surroundings, finally feeling the weight of how exhausting it all is. Who cares, really, if someone thinks your interests are “uncool?” Why do we feel like we need to explain away certain things as “guilty pleasures?”
What I realized overall is that I am just so tired of this word guilty getting thrown around all the time. We should never feel (or pretend to feel) guilty about things that interest us or bring us joy.
I have to say, I am grateful for my own ability to adapt to situations and groups because in many ways it has served me well in traveling and living in a different culture. However, that surface level of only revealing certain acceptable parts of ourselves gets quite draining after a while, especially if you’ve been doing it sporadically since 6th grade. I believe that those random interests that delight us have value- it’s about time to own it all and eliminate the term “guilty pleasure” from our everyday vocabulary.
So here’s a list of some of the things I have decided to stop calling my own “guilty pleasures” and just start calling “things that I really enjoy,”
- Dancing to Spanish pop music (Yes, I still listen to Despacito)
- Rewatching old Mary Kate + Ashley Olsen movies
- New Age music- I happen to love Enya and Loreena Mckennitt when I'm in need of some relaxation
- Eating sour cream + onion Pringles as my go-to travel food
- Watching the TV show Younger because Hilary Duff is in it and I adored her as a pre-teen
- Reading fantasy novels
- The incredibly sugary and not-at-all-peach-like peach ice cream from Coloma, a little hole-in-the-wall place that opens up in Tangier only for the summer
Along with owning my so called “less-cool” interests, I have learned in recent years that if I admit to exactly who I am as an artist, people who appreciate what I do and perhaps create in similar ways will naturally gravitate towards my work. I should never apologize for or feel guilty about making work that tends to be more based on emotion and stories, as opposed to the more post-modern conceptual work that is still popular in certain circles. Of course I will continue to have encounters with these circles and can have true respect for what they do, but I no longer feel the need to try to “fit in” with things that just are not who I am. I love what I love and I work how I work. No guilt, no apologies necessary.
What are you determined to stop feeling guilty about?
You know what else no one should ever feel guilty about?
Brownies. Making them, eating them, loving them.
Now this may be a slightly health-ified brownie, but you’ll never see me calling any food “guilt-free.” It implies that there is something else on the other end of the spectrum that I should in fact feel guilty about and I am absolutely done with the word guilt being associated with eating in any form. Having a brownie or two once in a while brings me quite a lot of joy, so I am going to fully embrace that.
Even though this recipe is made with millet + oats flours and a hefty amount of vegetables, they still taste deliciously indulgent and rich. The pureed zucchini actually adds extra moisture, making them fudge-y, but with the perfect cake crumb. They would be the perfect addition to any summer picnic or potluck, or just to make for yourself on a breezy, lazy evening as a delightful and non-apologetic dessert.
Gluten-free Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
Makes 9 brownies, adapted from The Green Life's recipe
350g (about 2 large or 4 small) fresh zucchini, pureed
- 1/3 cup (75g) melted butter
- 2/3 cup (150g) cane sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (65g) oat flour (or blend rolled oats in a food processor until fine)
- 1/2 cup (70g) millet flour
- 1/2 cup (55g) cacao powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Pinch salt
- 100g dark chocolate chunks or chips
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and line an 8x8 square baking dish with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the zucchini puree, melted + cooled butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, mix the flours, cacao, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until smooth, then fold in the dark chocolate. Spread the batter evenly in your prepared pan, then stick in the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center.
Let the brownies cool completely (if you can wait!) before removing from the pan and slicing.