Gluten Free For Good


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In keeping with my off-beat blog titles, this post could also be called, “Caffeine: the good, the bad and the stupid.”

I even have a research study to go with it, so pour yourself a cup of coffee and put on your geek hat. If you’re not in the mood for my take on liquid lubrication or the good and bad of caffeine, you can skip right to the recipe. Scroll away, I’ll never know.

But you might find this interesting. It’s cutting-edge (okay, just edgy) stuff from a group of researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia. Their multiple experiments revealed that not only does caffeine increase attention, information-processing, and the twitchy jitters, it also makes us more susceptible to influence. We can be persuaded to change our minds more readily if we’ve been drinking coffee. We’re more gullible.


And all this time I thought it was wine that made me do stupid things. Just think, we can start and end the day by being persuaded to do something we might not normally do.

Caffeine-mediated arm twisting followed by wine-induced lack of judgement.

Now that you’ve had that cup of attitude-adjusting coffee, can I interest you in a brownie? They’re delicious and full of dark chocolate flavor. In fact, they’re even moderately healthy. What do you think? I know you want one. They’re gluten-free.

Were you persuaded? If so, you can pick up the recipe at the end of the post, but first I’m going to give you my take on coffee drinking. You might be surprised, especially coming from a kale-eating, yoga-practicing, holistic nutritionist.

Caffeine: the good the bad and the stupid.

We’ll start with the good (sort of).

• Boosts memory and alertness
• Improves circulation
• Increases metabolism and conversion of fat to energy
• Relaxes smooth muscles in the digestive tract
• Boosts muscle strength, speed and endurance in some situations
• May reduce asthma symptoms
May reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease
May reduce the risk of gallstones
• Coffee is the #1 source of antioxidants in the American diet (yikes! that’s not good)
• Coffee contains dietary fiber
• May reduce the risk of developing Type II Diabetes
• May be associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer
• Good, organic, high-grade coffee smells divine and tastes wonderful (my opinion)

On to the bad.

• Caffeine increases cortisol (the stress hormone) levels causing the fight or flight response
• Causes a rise in blood pressure
• Can inhibit adenosine (neurotransmitter), which calms the body, causing sleep disturbances
• Continuous adenosine blocking wreaks havoc on normal circadian rhythms
• Interrupts the deep sleep cycle and along with it, important rest and regeneration
• Is addictive and functions much in the same way as amphetamines
• Can give you a temporary boost, followed by fatigue and mood swings later
• Is addictive and causes unpleasant detox symptoms upon withdrawal
• May interrupt conception at levels over 500 mg per day
• Studies show caffeine is bad for the developing nervous systems (children)

And now the stupid.

• Caffeine makes you more susceptible to persuasion (see above study). You might get talked into buying a purple, metallic, PT Cruiser or a tight, leopard-print, mini-skirt. You might even say yes to taking on a project you have no time or interest in.
• A Starbucks Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha is 700 calories! Yes, 700 calories.
• A coffee grande from Starbucks contains about 550 mg of caffeine, almost 3 times as much as a NoDoz. The half-life of caffeine in the body is around 6 hours, so if you drink a 200 mg cup of coffee at 4 PM, at 10 PM you will have 100 mg of caffeine floating around your system and blocking your adenosine receptor sites. That will mess up your sleep cycle, which is not good.

Bottom line? There are some good things about coffee, so like everything else in life, moderation is the key. One cup of coffee in the morning is fine. If you “need” it to wake up and “need” it throughout your day, that is bad. Choose a high-grade, organic coffee and enjoy a cup on occasion (unless you’re hypersensitive).

Gluten-free coffee cranberry pistachio brownies (inspired by Coastal Living online)
what you need
1/4 cup coconut oil
4.8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (or close to that, see notes below) *
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (see notes below) *
2 large eggs
1/4 cup cooked and puréed beets (this adds sweetness and moisture to GF baked goods)
2/3 cup organic Turbinado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix
1/2 cup dry-roasted, unsalted pistachios
1/3 cup dried cranberries

what you do
1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil.
2. Pour water to the depth of a couple of inches int to the bootom of a double boiler over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Place coconut oil, chocolate chunks and coffee granules in the top of the double boiler over the simmering water. Cook, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs on low speed. Add puréed beets, sugar, vanilla and salt; beat until blended. Stir in chocolate mixture and fold in Pamela’s mix. Stir in pistachios and cranberries.
4. Pour into prepared baking pan, spreading batter evenly. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 to 32 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with only a few crumbs. Cool on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Cut into squares and serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Like coffee, these little treats have caffeine, so don’t eat them before bed, although I’m not suggesting eating them for breakfast either. Hmmmm? Life can be full of dilemmas.

* I used 1 and 1/2 bars of organic Chocolove 61% dark chocolate (one bar is 3.2 ounces). Check here for details.

* I used Mount Hagen organic instant coffee, but any will do. You can buy Mount Hagen by the jar or in single serving packets. I love the single serving packets for backpacking (seriously wonderful stuff). Check here for details.

You might also like:

Dark chocolate details (another off-beat blog post)
Carnival of love (okay, my archives are full of quirky posts)

Peace, joy and persuasion (the good kind).

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23 Responses to “gluten-free coffee cranberry pistachio brownies”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wendy Gregory Kaho, Melissa. Melissa said: New post. Coffee: the good the bad and the stupid. via @AddThis […]

  2. Was just pulling on my leopard mini-skirt and heading out in my purple PT Cruiser for a double tall latte when I saw your tweet. You are so funny. I am happy to see you use Pamela’s Baking mix as a base for your treats. I feel like such a slacker because I use it instead of messing around with all those flours, but it works so well for everything I try. We had pumpkin waffles for dinner last night and I used Pamela’s. Gotta finish my Italian roast and head to the barn to feed two hungry horses. Brrr. Without that cup of coffee, I wouldn’t have the courage to face temps in the teens and digging out my Honda-I mean PT Cruiser– from the 4 inches of snow yesterday.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wendy Gregory Kaho, Gluten Free Emily. Gluten Free Emily said: Gluten Free For Good gluten-free coffee cranberry pistachio brownies: In keeping with my off-beat b… #GlutenFree […]

  4. I’m glad I added you to my google reader–this was the post right at the top today! Very funny, and surprisingly informative (I thought I had a Ph.D. in coffee, but I had no idea about any of the points in the “stupid” bullets! (Well, except for the huge amount of calories in typical S’bucks drinks. I had an inkling on that one).

  5. Alta says:

    Does this mean that when you combine alcohol and coffee, (for example, in those god-awful hybrid energy+alcohol drinks) that means you also multiply the stupidity? (Don’t answer that – it’s kind of a rhetorical question.)

    I am a coffee drinker. I am pretty picky about it though. Gotta be a nice high-quality coffee, and of course, I grind my own beans and all that. But I don’t up the calories – no cream, no sugar. (once in a blue moon I might splurge for a soy cappucino at Starbucks, but I can’t do much soy so that’s a rare occurrence) And while I do have more than 1 cup a day (I usually do 2), it is before noon for sure. I’m sensitive to caffeine, enough so that if I drink after about 2-3pm, it disturbs my sleep.
    Now, onto these brownies. Yum, and I would like to submit my order for 3 dozen. Think you can get them to me by Christmas? Thanks a bunch! 😀

    • Alta, I can speak from experience with the mentioned caffeine and alcohol combo in my college days-it’s not just multiplicative in stupidity, it’s exponential 😉

      I love, love, my coffee, and am completely aware that I am addicted.

      “Caffeine-mediated arm twisting followed by wine-induced lack of judgement.”

      Yes. This is me on my most expensive read: shopping days.

      Oh, and the brownies! Totally trying these. Love the idea of pureed beets, but have to admit I’m a bit scared of beets, the whole dyeing of your skin thing. If I’m not brave enough I’ll just go the applesauce route.
      Thanks for making me smile as always Melissa! I’m just now starting to get over a really crappy case of bronchitis. Yuckers.

  6. Elese says:

    Thanks Melissa–love your posts! Always fun and inspiring. 🙂 I’m also lovin’ the fact that you use Pamela’s baking mix…makes life so much easier, and it works every time for me. These brownies look ridiculously good. Can’t wait to try them. Thanks again!

  7. Elese says:

    Thanks Melissa–love your posts! Always fun, informational and inspiring. 🙂 I’m also lovin’ the fact that you use Pamela’s baking mix…makes life so much easier, and it works every time for me. These brownies look ridiculously good. Can’t wait to try them. Thanks again!

  8. Girl, I cannot keep up with all the tasty goodness you bring into my life! Not to mention the quirky humor, but I will:) I have all the ingredients for these and will now be making them for my special peeps – like my hairdresser and petsitter, etc.
    Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

  9. LOL at this post (and at Wendy’s comment)!! I think I have to agree on all the good, the bad, and the stupid coffee points here! But, I just cannot say no to my beautiful espresso machine every morning. I think it actually gives me mean looks if I do not give it it’s daily exercise. Great post, my friend! I loved this one!

  10. I do believe this might explain a few things for me Melissa! I have a coffee “issue” and have looked into coffee detox centers to no avail (I sometimes have 5 or 6 cups!!)

    Maybe if I cut the coffee, my obsessive compulsive goldfish disorder will go away. I would really like that!

    Wendy, wish we lived closer so I could borrow your leopard mini skirt, LOL!

    Oh, I’ve had coffee from Kim’s beautiful espresso machine and it is mighty fine indeed! 😀

    Thanks for the great info Melissa and your brownies are gorgeous.


  11. Ha ha, you sneaked in some beets! Another great post, Melissa. 🙂 You always feed my brain and my stomach. Pretty much the only caffeine I get is in chocolate. I gave up all other caffeine years ago … guess I’m not getting the benefits of the good … rats. As far as that calorie count from Starbucks, that fact immediately reminded me that I had a salted caramel hot chocolate there the other day. OMG, that was good. I don’t want to know how many calories it contained though. I’m just grateful that Starbucks is 25 miles away!

    Have a wonderful Christmas, Melissa! xoxo,

  12. Hey Melissa… As always, another great post! I’m loving the offbeat blog post titles lately. =) Lately, given our current cookbook project, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying coffee via mocha cupcakes. SO tasty! Hope you have a wonderful holiday, end of year, and New Year! (How’s the skiing? I’m jealous…)

    Cheers, Pete

  13. Cid says:


    This week will be madness here for one reason or another so I’ll take the time now to wish you and all your readers a very merry Christmas and happy holidays.

    Pity I can’t be with you for coffee and gf brownies…. one day though. Melissa, I echo the comments of other readers, many thanks for all your wonderful posts, I look forward to each and every one.


    p.s. since the sad demise this year of the faux leopard print, anti slip all terrain slippers, I have searched for a worthy replacement. You may not be surprised to hear none have matched such exacting standards…. subsequently I spotted an identical pair and grabbed them quickly before anyone else had the same idea. The shop assistant seemed pleased to see me and added that she hadn’t exactly been inundated with requests 🙂

  14. Coco-Emily says:

    Why am I not surprised beets sneaked into this recipe of yours?! 😉
    My parents used to give me a bit of their coffee (and 5 tablespoons of sugar because that’s they only way it tasted good to a child of course) in a sippy cup when I was in preschool!!! Knowing things like this now, it is hard not to be slightly annoyed… but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were giving it to me for the antioxidants, hmmm.
    Fantastic, fun post as always friend!

  15. Anne says:

    Just left the soup kitchen to pop in and wish you and your readers a very Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Content New Year.
    Sorry I have not been commenting much of late, been busy looking after things. Hubby had not been well and my repertoire of soups had to be extended. Needless to say, Melissa, they have worked their miracles and all is well at the base camp :)!
    Talking of miracles, I don’t know how you manage to do all you seem to do – amazing!.
    Keep well, Melissa and thank you for your wonderful writings,

  16. My dear friend it has been such a pleasure getting to know you this year. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas! I will be thinking of you! xo Carol

  17. Mmm these look absolutely delicious, I like the combination of tart cranberries with the pistachios in the brownies.. will definetly try this! The addition of beetroot sounds interesting, I may try that instead of apple puree… Thanks for these!

    Great post too, useful info on the coffee… I dont touch caffeine but I never really knew the nutritional benefits and other things. Thanks! Oh and that vintage style picture is gorgeous!

    The Teenie Foodie

  18. Melissa says:

    Happy New Year everyone! That’s how far behind I am. I wrote this post almost 2 weeks ago and although I read every comment (THANK YOU, I LOVED EVERY ONE), my responding got lost in the holiday shuffle.

    Hope you all had a Merry, Merry Christmas and here’s to peace, love and lots of healthy food in 2011!


  19. Aurea says:

    Have you tried the Chia seed flour? It’s like wheat flour, but gluten-free, its flavor is completely normal. You can substitute regular flour in recipes like cake, cookies or muffing. I used this product and recommend it 100%, my grandkids love cookies and brownies. This is a very good product for the whole family. There are many articles on You Tube for preparing all kinds of recipes (Nuchia Food) is an excellent product that offers Nuchia Foods.

  20. […] free brownie recipes from other food bloggers: -Hazelnut Brownies from Lexie of Lexie's Kitchen -Gluten-Free Coffee Cranberry Pistachio Brownies from Melissa of Gluten Free For Good -Rockbrook Espresso Brownies from Lori of Gluten Free Best […]

  21. […] Gluten-Free Coffee Cranberry Pistachio Brownies by Gluten Free For Good […]

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