Home > Nutrition > Nutrition Monday: Reviewing Rocco Dispirito's Now Eat This!

Nutrition Monday: Reviewing Rocco Dispirito's Now Eat This!

March 15, 2010

Black beans just don’t belong in brownies.  I knew this intuitively, but I so sincerely wanted to believe that Rocco’s Brownies, with black beans as a main ingredient, would taste like fudgy, gooey, brownie goodness that I suspended my native disbelief, and I truly expected these to taste amazing.  Man was I wrong.

As I continue to blog Nutrition Mondays, in honor of National Nutrition Month®, this week I’ll write the first of my cookbook reviews I announced last Monday.  I saw a few low-cal recipes from Rocco on ABCNews.com one morning as I was doing my early check of the headlines.  Apparently he had been on Good Morning America and prepared some recipes from his new book, Now Eat This!, including the aforementioned black bean brownies and a low-cal mac and cheese.  I seriously love mac and cheese.  So this seemed like a cookbook match made in heaven.  When I looked his book up online, I found that his concept was to makeover comfort foods, with a calorie content of 350 calories or less per serving.  I had to have that book, and it’s what got me started on this whole healthy cookbook review series.

I really respect that a full-fledged chef would decide to write a healthy cookbook, and I applaud Rocco for that, but my experience with this cookbook so far has fallen flat.  The brownies, a food processor slurry of black beans, cocoa, sugar free chocolate syrup, espresso powder, light sour cream, vanilla, egg substitute, and sugar substitute, fell flat quite literally.  Instead of the fudgy, crackly-topped, thick wonderful brownies pictured in the cookbook, that could compete head to head in any beauty contest with Ms. Duncan Hines, the brownies I removed from the oven were about half the thickness of a deck of cards, and the top was eerily reminiscent of a black sand beach in its smoothness.

“It’s okay,” I thought, “those food stylists can make Alpo look like Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, so of course the brownies looked better in the book.”  I sliced them up into 12 equal squares, thinking how awesome it was that I could have almost 3 of these brownies at 53 calories each for the 150 calorie dessert I allow myself each evening!!!  This was gonna rock.

Well, I took one bite, and my fantasy world of low-cal brownies came crashing down like college students from the top of a water tower who are up to no good when the police arrive.  I wanted to like this cookbook so bad that I scoured over it this weekend to see if there was something else I could make that might redeem it, but as I read, I realized I had a more fundamental problem with the book.  Rocco calls for lots of ingredients that aren’t easy to come across, and they would require trips to possibly multiple markets in addition to the regular neighborhood grocery store.  Now if I were confident that the leg work would pay off in an amazing dish, I might be inspired to do the shopping.  But after the brownies, I just wasn’t feeling it.

While some of the ingredients were obscure, others were readily available, but highly processed, kind of gross and not so healthful in my opinion, like rubbery 2% processed cheese slices.  I’ve always been a cheese snob – even as a little kid I wouldn’t touch this cellophane sliced stuff (and that was full fat – much less the 2%) – and I wasn’t about to start now just so I could taste some low-cal comfort food.  Rocco also suggests lots of brand name ingredients – something that typically turns me off with cookbooks anyway, as it tends to date them and also make them unusable (or leave you to substitute at your own risk) in portions of the country where a particular brand isn’t available.

Thus, I didn’t really find myself able to follow Rocco’s directive to “Now Eat This!”  Though there are a few recipes in the book I would still like to try, it probably wasn’t worth buying the whole book.  On the other hand, the book was fairly cheap with the online discounts, and it’s a bestseller right now, so if you’re a Rocco fan, you may want to check it out.  I will still make the mac and cheese at some point, and if it changes my mind, I’ll report back.  Let me know in comments if you have Rocco’s book and have had a different experience.  Next up in the cookbook reviews: Ellie Krieger’s award-winning The Food You Crave.  This one I’m excited about…

Here again are the first four healthy cookbooks, including Now Eat This!, that I’m planning to review:
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  1. March 16, 2010 at 2:12 AM

    I eat black beans for lunch most days and fudgy goo they aint!

  2. March 16, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Ugh…I’m not even sure what else to say…black bean brownies? Does Rocco even try the food he makes, or does me have mutant tastebuds that might register that as delicious? Cuz it sounds disgusting (and yeah, apparently it was).

    Looking forward to the other reviews!

  3. March 16, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    It would be nice to try to “rescue” that recipe, but it seems so far gone…Let us know if you try any others…

    LOVE this series you’re doing!

  4. March 16, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    My aunt (while she was alive) used to make these candies of mashed potatoes rolled into a ball and then dipped in chocolate. When I thought about it, I recoiled. But after tasting one of them, they were fantastic. I do not have a recipe though. Somewhere in net-land there must be one. Not likely to be a low calorie treat though.

    • March 16, 2010 at 12:54 PM

      My mom makes something similar – basically confectioner’s sugar held together by a small bit of boiled potato, rolled out into a flat dough, spread with peanut butter, and rolled up. Delicious! Too bad black beans didn’t do the same for brownies…

  5. March 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    ugh sounds sooo gross! But I’m like you, I wish they were true and good. I would love a low cal brownie…esp today I’m starvin!

  6. March 16, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    Cool idea (reviewing these books, not black bean brownies)! I agree on the overly-creative substitutions. I plugged a family recipe for oatmeal cookies into a nutrition analyzer and decided it was better to make and enjoy them as my great grandmother intended rather than subbing out all the goodness. (Anyone remember Snackwells?)

    I have high hopes for Devin Alexander. I made a great pumpkin pound cake recipe she had. And she was once overweight, so she’s got some cred.

  7. March 16, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    Black bean brownies…I think I just threw up a little bit.

    sorry they didn’t come out for you.

  8. March 16, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    I’m looking forward to hearing what you thought of the other cookbooks. I love black beans, but not in brownies – yuck! When I want a brownie I try and have a small serving of a fabulous one!!

  9. Meredith
    March 16, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    I have had a zucchini flourless chocolate cake that was awesome, but never black-bean-anything-sweet-or-chocolatey. They’re so earthy! Maybe you were supposed to grind up dried beans, rather than the canned ones in liquid?

    • March 16, 2010 at 6:32 PM

      Earthy is a good description – lol. This particular recipe called for drained and rinsed canned black beans.

  10. CMC
    March 30, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    My wife made these today and they turned out exactly as you said, terrible. I’m convinced he did not feed the ABC hosts these brownies because they would have gagged or else they are very good actors because these were horrible.

  11. frank
    April 1, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    I saw that gma thing and it made me go out and get the book. I made the brownies. Everyone who has tried them so far hates them. I think i have even started to receive hate mail, and this is from my friends. Another friend said they reminded him of parched volcanic earth. He also asked me from what country did I get the recipe. Needless to say, they were a great big fail on a grand scale.

  12. Nichola
    April 3, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    I just made the recipe that this article is on – I sent my husband out running around to multiple grocery stores at 8 pm to get all the ingrediants because I was so excited – but I’m sorry to say that my results were exactly the same as this reviewer. My husband will each just about anything and he normally loves black beans but after manfully eating one of these he said he just couldn’t force himself to eat more. Such a waste of expensive ingrediants. Hopefully the other recipes will be better…

  13. Keith
    April 7, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Don’t knock it till you try it!!
    My mom made these with 3 modifications:
    She used real eggs, sugar, and coffee (instead of espresso). I was hesitant, but they were actually pretty good!!
    Fact: different people have different tastes; not just through different experiences with food… people are also genetically predisposed to different tastes (do a search for PTC “tasters” vs “non-tasters” to learn more).

    • April 7, 2010 at 6:20 PM

      I guess if you don’t mind the additional calories those ingredients add, and you need a flourless recipe, that could work. I made them according to the recipe as written in the book, and that’s what my review is based upon.

  14. Lynn Tribuiano
    April 9, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    I too made these brownies and much to my horror ( after spending the whole afternoon in search of the ingredients) was grossed out by the results. Not only did mine look the way you described but they tasted horrible. I also made the mac and cheese and it faired a little better. My daughter and husband enjoyed it very much but I was less impressed. My son spit it out in the garbage. Most of the recipies call for ingrdients that are very difficult to find. I could not find the whole wheat panko bread crumbs so I gave up and just used the plain panko bread crumbs. Needless to say I don’t think I will attempt anymore of the recipes from this book…very disapointed!!!!

  15. May 7, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    Just made these and LOVE them. mine did not come out super tall and were about half the size of a deck of cards but they were cracked and fudgy looking on top. I used the exact ingreidinents the recipe calls for. I was intrigued by these because I saw Rocco on The Doctors show and the Doctors looked as if they LOVEd these too. My browines came out very choclatey and fudgy. I am actually surprized at the reviews on here as mine did not come ut like other’s have said. The taste is a tiny bit chalky but moist and gooey as the recipe says they should be. I will definitely make these a lot. :)I will post a review of these on my website (blog) and even post a picture of them after they came out of the oven.

  16. Kathy
  17. Jim
    September 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Man do I wish we looked up reviews for Rocco’s recipes before traveling to the many places for the brownie ingredients. I actually think the batter tasted (slightly) better than the finished product. I would say they were the worst brownies I have ever had the displeasure of tasting, but I believe they disrespect the word ‘brownie’. There is NO WAY he fed these to the 2 little girls and the gma crew on that segment. I would not punish my kids with these. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Mac & Cheese. The congealed “cheese” which would not stick to the macaroni was nothing as expected. I think we’re done with 1 exception. He introduced us to Greek Yogurt which is so close in taste and texture to the sour cream we use for chips and dip, we’ve leaned in that direction for our snack, but a cook book that does not make.

  18. Margaret
    March 30, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    I agree with most everyone above. I wanted so badly to love this cookbook. I am a choco-holic, used to low-fat sweets and thought the brownies were pretty disgusting. And the chocolate chip cookies with beans did not bake the way the recipe stated – I could not get the consistency right. I was trying to use Truvia and sugar on separate attempts but the consistency was runny not thick for cookies. I tried 3 times and the ingredients were expensive! And the mac n’ cheese was too oniony with the onion puree. Lastly, the mozerella sticks were a complete failure. He doesn’t mention that you should freeze the sticks before baking them because the cheese leaks out after 5 minutes in the oven – he suggests 15 minutes. Many, many problems with this book. I am so disappointed. Shame on you Rocco for not doing better testing ro preparing your audience better for mistakes.

  19. Pam
    May 26, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    I had exactly the same results when I made the recipe. The picture in the cookbook is a flat out lie. They were quickly thrown away.

  20. Pizza-girl
    July 26, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    I tried his deep dish pizza unfortunately he used 100% whole wheat flour. This gave the crust the texture of shoe leather. Healthier comfort food? Great idea, sloppy execution. Did he even try the recipes?

  21. Kerrie
    October 30, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    These brownies were horrible! You do not have to eat beans in your desserts to lose weight. Someone needs to tell Rocco that, lol. I have a recipe for a chocolate cake that is great. It’s a cross between chocolate cake and a brownie and you won’t regret this recipe, I promise. 🙂

    -1 1/4 cups oat flour (substitute- all purpose flour)
    -1/2 teaspoon salt
    -1 cup sugar
    -1 teaspoon baking soda
    -1 cup warm water
    -1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    -1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    -2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    -1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
    -powder sugar (for dusting)

    1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix until just combined.  
    3. Coat a loaf pan or 9″ round cake pan well with non-stick cooking spray and pour in the batter.
    4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
    5. Dust with powder sugar before serving.

  22. Julie S
    November 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    You must have done something wrong. I made them and they were thick, chewy and delicious.

  1. March 24, 2010 at 9:40 PM
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