197. Caught Red-Handed Red Velvet Brownies [Grain Free, No Added Sugar, Vegan]

Red Velvet Brownies [Grain Free, Vegan, Colored/Sweetened Naturally w Beets] || Ann Ning Learning How It’s the end of my unofficial vegan week!  But I still have some flax seed left so you might see more vegan stuff in the future.  Today I’ve got a remake of Katie’s Red Velvet Brownies – the non vegan but grain free treats that are colored and sweetened naturally with beets.  My vegan remake would have been redder but my beet was tiny.  On the upside, though, I peeled it myself (carefully) and cut it up with the large butter spatula with the serrated side I’ve been favoring lately.

Joy ride - 32.  Concessions

Joy ride – 32. Concessions

Remember how I have wheelchair longing?  Let me remind you, before anyone gets peeved at the fact that I miss a wheelchair – I am very thankful to have the ability to walk and the choice to sit in a chair or not.  Many don’t have this opportunity – but when I reference “wheelchair longing” I mean that I miss the relative safety it offered me.  I did fall out of my chair once, but that was before I believed that I couldn’t walk so I just got up out of my chair so I could lie down on my bed at RIO (3rd Hospital).  Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.  PS:  Sorry for the commotion, everyone. I understand the ramifications of being on my feet now, and along with being able to walk comes the risk of falling, knocking your teeth out, etc.  There are amazing upsides – e.g. you can go where you want and you can get into tight spaces where a chair won’t fit, but you just need to recognize the risks and take them into account as you plan your movements.  All that said, I despised my chair when I had no choice but to sit in it. But now I view “Charlie” through rose-colored glasses and remember that I was pretty stable when seated and rolling around, and I could reach the laundry machine etc.  and didn’t worry about falling. So on Monday I broke down and after around 9 months of looking wistfully at the fleet of wheelchairs parked in the lobby at Planet Rehab I begged Mommy to let me go for a joy ride.  I chose a little one with no leg attachments and only one arm, leaned Leo against an obliging pole and took off down the hall.  I planned to go show myself to R at the coffee cart.  “This will be our little secret, okay?” I was going to say.  But R wasn’t there.  You know who was? M (37).  Of all days she chose that day to eschew the lunch she had packed and visit the coffee cart instead (for some healthy snacks but nothing caffeinated – I applaud your food choices, M). It was too late for me to turn around and hide so I wheeled up to her, grinning.  What are you doing? was all she said.  Seriously, I’ve been in rehab there for a long time, and the one and only time I commandeer a chair I get caught red-handed.  So that’s the origination of the name of these brownies. Caught Red-Handed Red Velvet Brownies [Vegan, Grain Free, No Added Sugar] Preheat oven to 350 and grease a small pan – I used a loaf pan this time – this is a small batch

  • 1.5 c cashews
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 flax egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 splashes of vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 beet (raw, peeled and cut up into smaller chunks)
  • 1/3 c cashew cream
  • 1/2 c white vegan-friendly chocolate chips

Instructions:  Grind the cashews first (I used a Vitamix).  Add everything else to the blender except the white chocolate chips.  Puree.  Fold in the chips at the end.  Pour into your greased pan, bake for 12 minutes at 350. The original recipe:

157.  Katie's Red Velvet Brownies

157. Katie’s Red Velvet Brownies

They are named for Katie, a sweet little girl (8 ish, I think) who had an AVM rupture like mine.  She’s been going back and forth between RIC (the Rehab Institute of Chicago) and Lurie (Children’s Hospital) bc of respiratory issues.  She’s still on the ventilator but has been doing great on the trial runs of breathing on her own.  They did that for me early on.  Later, at Vibra (2nd Hospital) I heard one of my nurses explain which number indicated my oxygen level to my Mom.  From then on I pulled the pulse ox thing off my finger and threw it across my bed because I was fed up with all the wires and the number was big enough on the screen for me to see that it was near 100.  To keep up with Katie’s progress, visit Love for Katie.

158. Floppy Me

Aren't these lilacs pretty?  They didn't bloom the year I got sick, but now they're back in action (like me).

Aren’t these lilacs pretty? They didn’t bloom the year I got sick, but now they’re back in action (like me).

I had a funny moment yesterday.  I was having a cup of green tea right before 6 o’clock (this is when my drinking window closes – I was advised in the hospital to limit liquids after 6 so I wouldn’t be getting up all night), and I remembered that Katie’s Red Velvet Brownies are indeed NOT dairy free as I originally stated (unless you use soy yogurt).  So I fixed all of the pictures/text I could that was already online, and I apologize for misleading anyone.  It was unintentional, I promise.  I blame the brain injury.  In case you missed it, a large chunk of my cerebellum is missing.  The cerebellum isn’t in charge of remembering the ingredients in a recipe, but I surmise that messing with one portion of the brain didn’t have a truly isolated impact.  I have never asked my surgeon how much since it doesn’t really matter anymore – I’m proof that you can live with a partial brain and knowing the hard number (I do know a ballpark via my neurologist, but I don’t state it publicly) won’t impact the way I live.  I feel the way I do, and I try to compensate – it’s been the same since before I was aware anything had been removed during surgery, too.  I just trot out the fact that I’m functioning with fewer grey cells than pre-AVM as a convenient excuse when I have a brain flop moment.

Side Note:  I saw a heartbreaking picture yesterday (like the one below) of wheelchairs waiting behind a police barricade at the Boston Marathon.  I have been assured multiple times that removing anything during surgery is a necessary life-saving action, and nothing is removed unless it HAS to be removed.  I would assume the same rule for amputation.  To those who lost limb(s) at the marathon, in combat, in a car wreck etc. – you can and will learn to live again.  

from yahoo news

from yahoo news

A brain flop moment is more desirable than a falling flop moment – when you actually fall while walking.  The first time I fell in public my sister consoled me by telling me a story of a lady walking into the elementary school at the same time as Ai Ai.  The lady tripped and her stroller went rolling but thankfully my sister caught it and the baby before they got too far away.  So falling happens even to perfectly able-bodied people.  It just happens more often to me than you.

Falling is becoming such a normal part of life I’ve learned to barely notice it any more.  I might lose my balance and gasp, but I move on as quickly as possible since it’s such a commonplace occurrence and I’d rather continue the conversation I was having or keep my activity going, etc.  A few weeks ago I was at Pool Therapy and E asked me if there was anything new going on.  I had been absent for a while and I showed up with my back hurting.   “Any falls?” she asked.  “Not on the floor or anything,” I told her.  But then I thought a little harder and was like, “Okay, maybe once on the floor.”

I had honestly forgotten!  I’m glad I’m able to forget things like this.  Of course, I’d rather not fall in the first place, but since I do fall I’m pleased that it doesn’t rattle me like it used to.  It’s a common saying that if you fall, you get up again [and do whatever you were trying to do].  It helps that I know how to fall, and am used to minimizing the chances of sprawling on the floor.  But even in handling the mini-flops (e.g. when I can brace myself against a wall or a piece of furniture) I am too interested in living life to be distracted for long.

Ed would like you to read this:

157. Katie’s Red Velvet Brownies

Katie's Red Velvet Brownies [Grain Free, NSA] || Ann Ning Learning How

I love being an Aunt.  And I am so pleased to be able to do things for MY children again – I used an immersion blender to make pink milk (strawberry milk, as in Charlie and Lola) for Hannah and Josh and I more recently used the Vitamix to make some healthier ice cream for Karine and (Dairy Free) for Ezra.  Peter’s too little to eat ice cream yet, but his time will come.  Ohhh yes, his time will definitely come, especially since I’m back in action.

The Aunt of a dear little girl who had an AVM rupture in the same location as mine recently found me via my site/blog.  That’s one of the primary reasons I write, BTW, so people who hurt can find me.  I think Katie recently turned 8 and was recently admitted to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  Love for Katie is her FB page.

She is currently working on simple goals, e.g. head control.  When I first showed up at RIO (3rd Hospital) I had never been out of bed for more than an hour, and I was horrified to learn that a wheelchair with a headrest was unavailable my first day.  A (2) built one out for me as soon as he could.  Consequently, I spent the day in the wheelchair (and clothing that was not a hospital gown) for the first time, but Mom had to hold my head up for me.  See?

Head Control | #PT Rehabilitation | Ann Ning Learning How

By the time I left to fly to MD a month later, A told me during one of my last PT sessions to set up my chair perfectly for transfer (to a mat), which I did – I pointed my toes away from where I was going and landed on the mat, proving that I had indeed been listening even though I looked pretty spacey all the time.  “It’s like working with a different person,” he told me.  And I was – I was beginning to suspect that this situation was real after all, so maybe I should try and learn something from these people while I had the chance.

Fast forward 22 months, and my recovery’s pace (and trajectory) have slowed dramatically. It didn’t have to be as good as it was/is.  I am thinking more and more about the part I wrote in “Caring for a SNC” where I was like, even if I didn’t improve one bit I know my family would love me for who I am today.  Don’t get me wrong – I want improvement above anything else – I just take comfort in the fact that my family’s love and support is independent of my physical progress.

Apparently a lot of people love and support Katie and her family as they walk through this.  They had a benefit dinner in her honor this past weekend.  It’ was out of of state, plus my stamina wanes as the day marches on, so I couldn’t go.  I did, however, make some Red Velvet Brownies for Katie.  These are my favorite out of the things I’ve baked so far.  These are grain free and have no added sugar/honey/stevia – nothing.  I am not allergic or diabetic – for more info on why I eat like this, read this.

These might suit you if you need GF foods, but nuts are the base, so if you’re allergic to nuts, stay away.  Otherwise, enjoy – they are nice and chocolatey, and I liked these both warm and straight from the fridge.  Also, I am trying a lot of nut-based experiments since I’m not into flour lately (although I tolerate gluten with no problem), but I don’t feel like buying a supply of almond flour or a GF blend, etc.  I don’t even want to go buy some almond butter (my friend R recommended this to me, and it is indeed, delicious) since I am the only one in our house who would eat it, and it would likely sit in our pantry until 2020.  We do, however, have bags or whole nuts in the freezer.  I’m using cashews here since they are mild in flavor – Mom keeps these around so she can toast ’em up and add them into some of her dishes.  I can use whole nuts relatively easily since I have a Vitamix – I just dump the  (thawed) nuts in first and then grind them before adding the other ingredients.  The nuts get mealy but I’m too impatient to wait for them to turn into butter.  If, however, you are not enthused over using whole nuts, I would not hesitate to use the nut butter of your choice.  Also, you could puree the beet before hand if you don’t want to make this in the blender.

One final note – although these are grain free and contain no added sugar, I still consider these a treat.  The cashews I used contained 13g of fat per 1/4 cup.  You do the math.  I think there’s talk of good fat etc. but I’d recommend playing it safe and regulating your intake.

Katie’s Red Velvet Brownies

Inspired by the Detoxinista’s cookies

Preheat oven to 350, Grease small pan – sorry, I forgot to measure again.  I used a small pan that would fit in the toaster oven – probably somewhere in the range of 6×10…some of my brownies were really thin and I would have used a 6×6 square if I had one on hand.  


  • 1.5 c cashews
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 splashes of vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 beet (raw, peeled and cut up into smaller chunks)
  • 1/3 c Greek yogurt (try soy yogurt if you want dairy-free brownies)
  • 1/2 c white chocolate chips (optional – I want to try a version without chocolate chips.  I’m going to cut the pan of brownies in half, slather my Greek yogurt-cream cheese “frosting” in between to make a sandwich, but if you want to eat these straight up, go for the wcc’s.  I also enjoyed the sprinkles on top because they were pretty.)

Instructions:  Grind the cashews first (I used a Vitamix).  Add everything else to the blender except the white chocolate chips.  Puree.  Fold in the chips at the end.  Pour into your greased pan, bake for 10-12 minutes.  (I baked mine for 10, but Mommy opined that they could’ve used a couple more minutes.  I think that would have been fine, but I do have to say that I really like that dense, moist, almost fudge-y texture when it comes to brownies.)

P.S. Happy ANZAC Day!

My other Grain Free Favorite: