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Rocco DiSpirito’s Miracle Brownies

You'll never guess the secret ingredient in these delicious 110 calorie treats.

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By 2005, Rocco DiSpirito had starred in a hit TV show, won a James Beard Award and nabbed a mention as one of People Magazine’s sexiest men alive. Figuratively speaking, DiSpirito had an impressive number of notches in his belt.

The problem was that the holes in his actual belt were increasing as well. The effects of a busy schedule full of great food had left the chef tipping the scales at over 210 pounds. DiSpirito’s life changed at a routine visit to his chiropractor. The specialist asked Rocco if he would assist with a charity event, and the chef immediately agreed.

DiSpirito explains he didn’t realize what he was in for. “When he told me it was a triathlon, I said, ‘A what?’” After initially toying with the idea of volunteering at the event, Rocco chose to take the challenge head on and compete in the race. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” he says.

Five years later, DiSpirito has transformed into a fit and trim triathlete. Rocco has completed a number of races, including two half Ironman triathlons. He now relies on a smart diet to keep him in top form. “I use delicious, healthy food both for enjoyment and for fuel to have the energy to train,” he says.

While the chef credits his weight loss to monitoring carbs and calories and lowering sugar and alcohol consumption, he doesn’t believe in self-deprivation.

The idea behind his book Now Eat This! is that no food is off-limits—the recipe just might need some tweaking. “I realized I could eat just about anything I wanted to if I re-imagined it in a healthier version.” In the book, Rocco has worked culinary miracles, making over brownies, Buffalo wings, fettuccine alfredo and even General Tso’s chicken into healthful, low-calorie meal items. 

In 2011, Dispirito has his sights set on completing both a half Ironman and half marathon. He believes that if he can do it, anyone can. “Many will say that they don’t have the time to work out or eat healthy. I understand that completely. But I promise once you make the choice you will figure it all out.”


Fudgy Brownie Bars

Calling all chocoholics. This richly flavored treat is a cross between a brownie and fudge. What could be better? And by the way, you read the recipe correctly. I use black beans. Does that conjure up memories of last night’s burrito? Don’t worry. The beans add texture and moisture. And unlike a burrito, they’re even better the next day. Also, the brownies will seem underdone when you take them out of the oven, but they will firm up once they cool. The result is a very moist and fudge-like brownie. For added texture, top the brownies with 1/2 cup of slivered almonds before putting them in the oven. Or stir 1/4 cup nuts and 1/4 cup raisins into the batter before baking.


  • Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
  • 15 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 3 tbsp. whole-wheat pastry _ our
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Combine the beans, cocoa powder, espresso powder, egg substitute and pour in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, about two minutes, scraping down the bowl halfway through. Add the agave, butter and vanilla. Process until all of the ingredients are combined (about one minute).

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the dish halfway through the baking time. Then turn the temperature of the oven down to 300°F and bake for another five to eight minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with little bit of soft batter clinging to it. It should not come out clean, if it does it’s overcooked. Let the bars cool completely at room temperature in the baking dish on a wire rack. Then put them in the fridge for at least three hours. When they’re cold, cut them into 12 squares and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Nutritional info per serving:
110 calories, 1.5g fat, 24g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein, 103mg sodium