Saturday, December 03, 2011

Low-Sugar and Whole Wheat Brownies with Walnuts (Grandma Willey's Brownie Recipe)

Low-Sugar and Whole Wheat Brownies.
These tasty brownies are only one thing we'll remember about Grandma Willey.

When you see my stack of darkly chocolate brownies with walnuts, you may think I'm posting them as a sweet treat for the holidays, but there's actually a much more heart-warming story behind this stack of brownies.   Just over two weeks ago my sister Pam's mother-in-law passed away.  When I went to the viewing for Grandma Willey there was a table of momentos of her life, along with a stack of printed recipe cards and a little sign that said "Dorothy's favorite recipe, please take one."  On the card was the recipe for Dot's Brownies. 

Grandma Willey wasn't technically a relative of mine, but I did see her often at Willey family events and always enjoyed her warm personality, her forthright comments, and her political philosophies, including a strong belief in women's rights that she held way before it became common.  The last few years of her life she suffered with very poor eyesight, and I admired the way Pam's husband Kelly and his sister Elizabeth took care of their mom's every need.   I'm pretty sure Grandma Willey didn't use a computer and I'm not sure if she even knew about my little blog, but I thought it would be fun to try the recipe and post it on the blog as a tribute to her if I could come up with a low-sugar and whole wheat adaptation that worked.

Grandma Willey's brownies had frosting, something I didn't think would be a good idea in a low-sugar version, and when I tried the recipe the first time just substituting the sugar for sweetener I thought they were not quite sweet enough, so the version I'm sharing here has an extra 1/2 cup of regular brown sugar for a recipe that makes 12 large brownies. Grandma Willey used margarine (probably this was a depression-era recipe) and I tried the recipe with all margarine and with half margarine and half coconut oil, and both were good.  I also switched the white flour for white whole wheat, something I use in almost all my baking experiments.  Even with my addition of a little brown sugar, this is not a super-sweet brownie the way I've made it, which suits my tastebuds perfectly.  I'll always remember Grandma Willey mostly for the goodness she instilled in her son Kelly, who has done so many nice things for me during my life, but now I have a great brownie recipe to remember her by as well.
Use the microwave to melt the margarine or margarine/coconut oil combination in a bowl that's big enough to hold all the ingredients.  (You can also use butter if you prefer, and I bet Grandma Willey won't care.)

Mix 7 tablespoons of cocoa powder into the melted margarine.

In a smaller bowl, beat 4 eggs with 2 cups of sugar, Splenda, or Stevia Granulated in-the-raw sweetener.

I liked the brownies best when I stirred in 1/2 cup of regular brown sugar with the sweetener.

Mix the egg mixture into the cocoa powder mixture.

Then add the flour, salt, and vanilla and stir to combine.

I loved the part of the recipe that said 1 cup nuts (hand broken) and I did indeed break them by hand.

Press the mixture into a sprayed baking dish.  I used a glass dish that was about 8" x 11" which gave me twelve large brownies.

Bake at 350F/180C for 30 minutes, and then let the brownies cool in the pan for a few minutes before cutting.

Low-Sugar and Whole Wheat Brownies with Walnuts (Grandma Willey's Brownie Recipe)
(Makes 12 large brownies; recipe adapted from Dot's Brownies, the favorite brownie recipe of Grandma Willey.)

1 cup melted margarine (or use half margarine and half coconut oil; do not use margarine that has water as the first ingredient)
7 T cocoa powder
4 eggs, well beaten
2 cups of sugar, Splenda, or Stevia in the Raw (use Splenda or Stevia for South Beach Diet)
1/2 cup brown sugar (optional, but recommended if you're using Splenda or Stevia, or use another 1/2 cup sweetener)
1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup walnuts (hand broken)

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Use a microwave to melt the margarine or margarine/coconut oil combination in a large bowl (big enough to hold all the ingredients.)  Stir the cocoa powder into the melted margarine.

In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs well, then stir in 2 cups sugar, Splenda or Stevia in the Raw.  Add 1/2 cup brown sugar (if using) and stir again.  

Stir the egg mixture into the cocoa mixture.  Then add the flour, salt, and vanilla and stir to combine.  Use your fingers to break enough walnuts to make 1 cup, and then gently stir them into the batter. 

Spray a glass baking dish with nonstick spray and then add the batter, pressing down so it's evenly flat.  (I used a dish that was about 8" x 11".)  Bake 30 minutes, then let the brownies cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

South Beach Suggestions:
If you're making this recipe for the South Beach Diet, it's essential to use Splenda or Stevia, margarine, and white whole wheat flour.  Using the 1/2 cup of brown sugar will add about 6 grams of sugar per brownie, so that would probably make it phase 3 (or a very occasional treat for phase 2) for South Beach.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.  

More Low-Sugar Treats with Chocolate:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Whole Grain Low-Sugar (or sugar-free) Chocolate Cookies with Pecans from Kalyn's Kitchen
Flourless and Low-Sugar (or sugar-free) Chocolate Shortbread Cookies from Kalyn's Kitchen
Flourless and (almost) Sugar-Free Cookies with Peanut Butter and Chocolate from Kalyn's Kitchen
Two Recipes for Sugar-Free and Flourless Chocolate and Oatmeal Cluster Cookies from Kalyn's Kitchen
Gluten Free Sugar Free Chocolate Biscotti from Gluten Free Goddess
Mini Chocolate Pavlovas with Fresh Berries from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti from Health Nut
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. I love recipes that are passed down from generation to generation. Grandma Willey would be proud that you were posting her brownies on your blog. These brownies look delicious. I love brownies that have nuts in them.

  2. Grandma Willey must be a happy soul watching this :-)
    I never used margarine for brownies or for anything else but i am really curious about using coconut oil. Must try.

  3. How can you call this low sugar?

  4. Uh oh. I have all of the ingredients for these brownies in my pantry! Good thing my kitchen is taken over with cookie decorating (for donation) this weekend, or I'd be very tempted to try these right away. I loved your story about Grandma Willey, too. She sounds like a fascinating woman.

  5. I think Grandma Willey would be so proud of your adaptations! These look so dense and delicious...would never know that they were healthified!

  6. What a wonderful idea to offer a recipe to visitors as a memory of someone who has passed on. Dot lives on each time someone bakes these brownies.

  7. I too love recipes that are passed down. I am very impressed with how healthy this is. Some people have green thumbs. I think you must have the "healthy touch" Kalyn. That touch keeps us coming back for more.

    Glad to did not use the frosting. I've never been a frosting person on brownies.

  8. I'm so glad people like the sound of the brownies. I did think it was a wonderful idea to offer a recipe as a memory of the person (and I couldn't help but wonder what recipe my relatives would choose as a memory of me. Maybe the Shrimp and Macaroni Salad that I make for every single Denny family party!)

    Words of Deliciousness, for years I didn't like brownies with nuts and now I love them!

    Sangeeta, I've used coconut oil for baking a couple of times now and really like it. I might have to try these with all coconut oil.

    Lydia, you would have loved Grandma Willey. She was active in the Utah Democratic Party most of her life and tap danced for years with a group called Dancing Grannies! Definitely a fascinating woman.

    Thanks Joanne. Grandma Willey was under doctor's orders to eat a candy bar every day so she didn't need the lower sugar version, but they're better for me!

    TW, I hadn't ever seen it before and I thought it was so charming.

    Sam, you are so sweet; I do work hard to figure out healthier substitutes for my recipes.

  9. I was not ignoring the comment that said "How can you call this low-sugar"; for some reason it just barely came to my e-mail. (I hate it when that happens.) I can call this low sugar because 1/2 cup sugar in a recipe that makes 12 large brownies (less than 6 grams of sugar in one brownie) is really quite low in sugar, plus the recipe does give the option to use all sweetener if you prefer.

  10. Have you ever tried using butter instead of margarine in this recipe, or real sugar instead of splenda? Obviously, it would have more calories...but I seriously recommend everyone research margarine before ever using it again in your cooking. May have less calories/fat in the short term...but its long term effects... yuck! I also suggest this for splenda. I am going to try this recipe with real ingredients. May not have as few as calories...but it will be real food which I think is better for my health in the long-term...

  11. Anonymous, if I had tried other versions I would have said so in the recipe.

    You're welcome to make it any way you prefer. However my blog is not the place for "food police" type comments that imply that your food preferences are the right choice for everyone. I believe very strongly that everyone has the right to make their own food decisions (and that includes you if you make the brownies with butter and sugar.)

  12. Bookmarking this to try Kalyn, and what a lovely idea, to have a great cook's recipes available to try when everyone gathers to say goodbye - wow!

  13. Donalyn, isn't it just the best idea ever? Hope you enjoy the brownies.

  14. What a lovely idea to have recipe cards of her favourite recipes.If these brownies taste as good as they look, Kalyn you have a winner.

  15. Thanks Barbara. I thought it was such a unique and fun idea. I doubt my healthier brownies are *quite* as good as Grandma Willeys high sugar ones with frosting, but they were pretty good!

  16. Such a fun story behind this post. I'm sure Grandma Willey would love that you made her brownies.

  17. What a unique idea as one of the momentos to remember Grandma Willey by - she would be proud of you. I've yet to make brownies with whole wheat flour, but I understand it works terrifically.

  18. Jeanette, I use the white whole wheat flour for pretty much everything (I don't even buy white flour.) I did wonder how these would work with partly almond flour; might try that version.

  19. Gorgeous! Love the whole wheat flour! I'll do anything for guiltless brownies!

  20. I'm a sucker for brownies. A weakness of mine :) I love that you're making them more guilt free!

  21. Kalyn - what a sweet, sweet story. I just think the idea of putting out a favorite recipe for people to take along to remember her is such a wonderful idea. I have 3x5 cards (obviously from long, long ago) that are in my mother's handwriting, or from some of my grandmother's friends, even, and I wax nostalgic every time I glance at them. Remembering the person. But doing it at a viewing is just nice.

  22. So glad people are happy with the healthful aspects of this recipe! Maybe not 100% guilt free, but definitely better than the original.

    Carolyn, I don't have any original recipe cards, but I do have some printed copies of a few of my mom's recipes, and I treasure them.

  23. Do you have a recommendation for a margarine that you like that doesn't list water as the first ingredient. I typically just have unsalted butter or Brummel and Brown on hand.

  24. I'm traveling so I can't check, but I think I used Smart Balance. Just check the label.


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