Healthy Vegan Brownie Bites + Being an Adult Child of Divorce

By Amanda Paa – Updated April 23, 2021
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No-Bake Healthy Vegan Brownies (minis!)

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About these No-Bake Healthy Vegan Brownies:

I shouldn’t be left alone with them. They fall along the lines of healthy-ish chocolate caramels crossed with a brownie, made from dates, dark cocoa, ground pecans, unsweetened coconut, and a bit of maple syrup. Whirled in a food processor until ground to a paste, until glossy…. They have the perfect chew, and hold their shape beautifully.

The dark chocolate drizzle is a must, taking them from plain jane to a little bit fancy. I did something similar with these caramels! I love the extra decadence it gives, but most importantly, something for the pecan dust to adhere to.

And they just happen to have a superfood boost from maca.

Maca what? It’s an adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, but due to its unique properties, it’s considered one of the world’s natural “super foods.” Grown high in the mountains of Peru, the pleasant tasting root is ground down after harvesting. It has a positive effect on hormone balance and energy levels. *I used Megafood’s Daily Maca Powder powder which also includes Chaste Tree Berry, Black Cohosh and other herbs to help maintain a healthy hormonal balance and manage that unpleasant time around your period, as well as menopause if you’re in that stage.* I honestly never knew that I could be using something natural instead of relying on ibuprofen. Let alone add it to healthy vegan caramels. Double win.

Mid-afternoon snack, cookie platter (nobody will turn these down!), dessert, or even a last resort bite as you’re running out the door in the morning, I think they’ll fit into your repertoire. 


About life lately, as an Adult Child of Divorce:

As I drove back from Thanksgiving, home being a few hours away in southern Minnesota, tears shed down my face. I was alone, except for the open country road, harvested fields, and abandoned farmhouses. Brian was with his dad’s family, as he should have been, and I visited my mom and family at the house I grew up in, and then headed to my dad’s relatives. It was great to see everyone. Lots of chatter, discussion, and smiles. Lots to be thankful for…. people who love me, health, and food on the table.

The tears were not meant to be sad ones. But they were. My parents divorced when I was 25 (seven years ago now), after being married for 25 years. It was a good thing. They weren’t meant to be together, and that was evident from a young age. We lived a “perfect on the outside, deep issues on the inside” family life, which was very hard, and had effects that I still carry with me.


When the day came that my parents finally split, I did not choose sides, although some who looked at the situation said I was crazy for not blaming my father because of infidelity. As an adult, I was supposed to rationalize what happened, and put myself in mom’s shoes. Which I did. I cannot imagine the heartbreak, the void. But for me it wasn’t about what finally caused the split….. and I didn’t want to lose either parent because of it. . I needed both of them in my life, and my one wish for them was to be happy, and I felt that being set free would be the beginning of that.

I would argue that having parents divorce as an adult is harder than being a child. Few talk about the different and additional layers this adds to an already complicated situation. Unlike a child, who is innocent and unknowing when divorce happens, as an adult you become an active participant. I fell into an awkward position of having to provide emotional support for both of them, and help them through the process. They may not have intended for this, nor do i blame them, but it happened.

Both are in happy relationships with other people now, and have started new paths, for which I am grateful for.

But holidays are hard. Those tears that dripped off my cheek like big raindrops were because I have this vision of a family picture of us each year as we continue to grow older, and watch the years across all of our faces. Those were frustration tears, for always having to decide where to spend the holidays. Those tears were for not having a family unit. Those tears were for wanting to have traditions that were just ours.

So maybe I need to start my own traditions, with Brian. Or find a different solution that brings me happiness, that fills me up. It is no one’s fault….. just a part of life as an adult child of divorce that I need to figure out.

Disclosure: This healthy vegan brownies recipe was sponsored by MegaFood as part of my participation in their Ambassador program. I am a strong believer in their farm to tablet philosophy. All thoughts and opinions are my own. *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

If you make these healthy vegan brownies, be sure to tag me on instagram with hashtag #heartbeetkitchen or @heartbeetkitchen!

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No-Bake Healthy Vegan Brownies Bites

Healthy-ish chocolate caramels, made from dates, dark cocoa, ground pecans, unsweetened coconut, and maple syrup.
No ratings yet
Prep Time :20 minutes
Total Time :20 minutes
Yield: 16 squares
Author: Amanda Paa



for garnish:


  • In a food processor, puree pecans for 1 minute, until they are broken down and start to release their oils. This is important so that they disappear into the mixture. Then add dates and coconut.
  • Puree for another minute, scraping down halfway in between, until the mixture is relatively smooth. Then add remaining ingredients and puree until mostly smooth and sticky.
  • Pat into parchment lined small pan. I used two mini loaf pans like this. Smooth down and press firmly, with additional parchment paper on top so your hands don't stick. Then put in freezer for 20 minutes. Remove and lift parchment out of pan, loosing edges with knife if needed, and cut into small squares.
  • Melt chocolate and coconut oil until smooth in a small pan, or bowl in microwave. Then drizzle on top of squares, and add crushed pecans for garnish.

Did you make this?

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December 7, 2016


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  1. Lisa

    Thank You. You are a Beautiful Person. Blessings and Joy.

  2. Cassy

    Hey Amanda,
    Thanks for sharing this. I am going through something *quite* similar, though circumstances of the split are different. I would also argue that it’s harder to cope with parents splitting when you’re an adult…though no doubt it would still be awful to experience as a child. I’d say it just sucks, period. For the parents. For the kids. For the extended family, and even for friends. It changes so much, and sometimes it’s hard to deal…to know what to say and do. And the holidays just add another layer of complication.
    Just wanted to offer a bit of empathy. May things get easier for you…and cheers to making new traditions of your own!

  3. Sherrie

    As you already know my story is similar, having parents divorce after 28 years of marriage. And it’s like going through a death in a way. And you put it quite well, you are, without desire an “active participant” in that process. 8 years later I find myself in the exact same positions. Wanting to please both parties, while bringing peace and harmony in my life. Practically an impossible feat. Making new memories and traditions is probably the best place to start. I love that. I will embrace more of that. Thank you for your guts and honesty. I love you.

  4. danielle

    Amanda – thank you for coming forth and opening up your chest and mind of feelings – ones that aren’t exactly as glamorous and glistening as the holidays. Your words resound with me and I have been holding them close, pairing them next to my own. I’ve been making this argument for some years now – as I am also an adult child of divorce. I don’t speak about it often because it tore/tears my heart in half, even though both my parents are now happily remarried (to which I am also incredibly grateful for). Being emotionally developed and conscious really made the divorce hard for me – perhaps the biggest struggle is knowing that things will never be the way they were as when I was growing up. They split for the right reasons, but I, too, yearn for lost traditions – eager to make new and beautiful ones. So much love to you and your holiday. xo

  5. Emily

    Thanks so much for sharing the thoughts and struggles on your heart. I have a good friend whose parents went through a divorce a couple years ago, and I know she can relate to a lot of what you mentioned. For as much joy-filled celebrating there is around this time of year, I find that loss and hurt is often magnified. Sending so much love to you across the miles. And these chocolates- so fancy looking, and maybe even a little healthy? totally sold. I need to try maca… putting it on my grocery list!

  6. Brooke @ Chocolate + Marrow

    Ah Amanda, I’ve read this post a few times now and my heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing so openly, so vulnerably, with the world here. I think more sharing of moments like these — our not-quite-so-perfect families and our less than perfect holiday days — is important. At least to me it is. Reading this made me feel so much less alone in my own experiences.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you, I think it’s definitely harder to experience your parents getting divorced as an adult. I was young when mine split but have seen adult friends experience it later in life and how painful it’s been for them. It’s interesting, though, because my parents’ divorce, I guess because of my age at the time, never really bothered me too much growing up. During the holidays, my sister and I would always complain a little about having to drive between the houses for the various dinners and events but it was never too terrible because we had each other to whine about it with LOL and, truthfully, we made a lot of memories in those car rides between houses over the years! When my sister died in our early twenties, THAT’s when I felt the effect of their split. I know that sounds strange, that my parents’ divorce felt more prominent fifteen years after the fact than it did in the earlier years, always the absolute worst during the holidays. I felt a whole new level of anger and resentment and abandonment from their not being together, I guess because at that point I was the only child who had to deal with the holiday BS solo, and truth here, I’m still not sure I’ve moved through that feeling fully. I don’t know if you have any siblings but if not, I send extra extra hugs your way.

    With all that said, recently, Barrett and I have been making our own holiday traditions. The past couple of Thanksgivings and Christmases have been spent with friends, many who also have families divided and find the shuffle stressful and painful. And to be honest, they were some of the absolute BEST holidays I’ve had in my adulthood! I guess that’s the key to it all. Grieving what is not, or what is no longer, and then making peace with what is so that you can find the holidays just plain fun again. Anyway, I wanted to share with you and debated about whether to write you privately or share publicly here. I opted for the latter because your words and experiences made me feel less alone. It felt fitting to offer it back.

    All the hugs to you this season, my dear. Thank you again for your words. <3 <3

    PS: If you and Brian ever want to join in on our friends-only holiday celebrations (they really are super fun) you know where to find me. :)

    • amandapaa

      Brooke. I don’t even know where to start. First, thank you for sharing your story, which brings tears to my eyes as I read it. I’m sorry for the loss of your family unit, and then your sister. And I can completely understand how that would actually make everything else with the divorce harder than it was when you two could navigate it together. So many feelings and emotions…. I just want to reach through the screen and give you the biggest hug.

      I think we are going to start our own traditions, and may take up traveling over some of the holidays. I do like the idea of spending all day cooking for just the two of us as well, and doing some sort of mini house project. Yes, that sounds nerdy, but also a fun way to spend time together and create.
      All the love, so glad to connect with you on a much deeper level. You are not alone either. xo

  7. Killeen

    While sitting here re-reading this as I prepare to tease it on MegaFood’s blog, and I can’t help but recall the conversation we had over dinner when you came to visit. I hadn’t known this piece of your family story, yet remember delving deep with you into my mantra on how I don’t believe humans aren’t designed to be with one person for *always.* It can be done, but I feel it’s somewhat unnatural.

    Your words resonate strongly with me despite being only 10 when my family officially divided. However, the day I discovered that fate was a fast-forward into “growing up.” Holidays were a confusing struggle in which I had to decide how to split my time between households fairly. Today, we all celebrate together, with the passage of time allowing for civility and letting bygones be. But I’m still not, nor will I ever be, a “holiday person.” :)

    …Always a joy to read you.

    • amandapaa

      I remember that conversation like it was yesterday. One that I loved for it’s openness and talking about relationships, marriage, and partnership. Thank you for sharing that with me, even though we had literally met less 10 hours prior.

      10 years old also seems like it would be a difficult age. And fast-forwarding so quickly and having to be an adult, or expect to understand the whole process must have changed the way you lived your life without even knowing it. But all these things make us who we are, and that is one piece of this that I always think about. Our stories, our differences, our experiences. They’re unique and beautiful. xo

  8. kristie

    These are gorgeous! Can’t wait to make these for Christmas dinner. And thanks for your honesty. It is nice to read a blog that has so much heart! my parents split when I was six months, so I didn’t get a chance to be upset, as I was too young. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been as an adult, when your emotions and intellect are fully developed. I hope every Christmas jus gets better for you. xx

    • amandapaa

      Kristie, that is an interesting story as well, having your parents split when you were under a year. I’m sure it comes with it’s difficulties too. What you said about the emotions and intellect being fully developed — that’s exactly it. And when you’re young, you’re allowed to feel hurt and anger. But as adult you step into the support role, or even the mediator. All the love to you, xo.

  9. Imen

    Hi Amanda, this post made my heart break! I never thought about being an adult child of divorce (I am a child of divorce) and how hard that would be for different reasons (and same reasons). I think it’s good to create your own little traditions, maybe invite the entire family over to yours for one Thanksgiving, could everyone get along? How special would that be? Or rent out a big old rustic cabin and ask everyone to come? I know this is complicated! Sending hugs.
    Also, those sweets look and sounds amazing.
    Much love,
    Imen x

    • amandapaa

      Hi Imen! Thanks so much for reading. As you said, no matter how old you are when the divorce happens, you as a child, me as an adult – it is hard. I think one of the hardest parts for me is still not having them be able to be in the same room together. I would cherish the day that could happen peacefully. I love the idea of inviting them to our place, and think I may do that for Christmas dinner. All the love, across the pond, xo.

  10. Betty

    Oh Amanda. Huge thanks for sharing <3. I'm 25 now and I can't even imagine going through something like that. I think we're so often swept / blindsided by media representation of holiday s- ie endless sometimes nauseating cheer, so thank you for being honest, for sharing this part of yourself and your story with us.

    PS these treats do look amazingly delicious!!

  11. Faith (An Edible Mosaic)

    Oh gosh, lady, so much to say. I know what you’re going through and I agree 100% that it’s harder to have your parents split as an adult. For me, it happened only 2 years ago and both my parents are still alone, which breaks my heart. Also, the fact that memories of Christmases past and our family all being together are and will be forever in the past hurts. I think my parents were in a similar situation as yours though; stuck in a marriage of convenience where love wasn’t a big component, so in the end I think it’s better for them to not have to live like that anymore. It hurts though. Sending love to you. xoxo

  12. shanna

    Someone said to me recently, The holidays are hard for people!, and I said, Nobody acts like that’s true!, and she said: That’s part of why they’re so hard. I hadn’t thought of it like that before. We have these fun Hallmark movies and flashy family cards and we think everyone’s family is one big fun party, but that’s not really true. Thanks for being honest about where you’re at — it’s brave, and it’s helps people reading know they’re not alone.

    • amandapaa

      That is exactly how it goes. Most people I think try to put on happy, fake it ’til you make it sort of… Which works for awhile, but it doesn’t last. I think it’s okay to be honest about how we’re feeling, and it isn’t easy, but for me it’s therapeutic. Thank you so much for commenting, happy holidays shanna. xo

  13. Sarah | Well and Full

    Oh Amanda. It must have been really hard to share what it was like to be an adult during your parents’ divorce, but I really respect and admire your bravery. I’ll say a prayer that you find peace during this holiday season, and that your new traditions with Brian will be filled with joy and love :)

    • amandapaa

      Thank you Sarah. No family is perfect and I know that the pieces that put us together, and the experiences, teach us lessons far before we can even understand them sometimes. I’m thankful I have them, and that they love me. Hope you also have a wonderful holiday, xo.

  14. Holly

    There is always pain when families split apart. I hope it gets easier for you as time passes. Special occasions tend to bring up the most tender feelings as we think back to the past and happier times.
    Guess what I’m doing this weekend? I’m going to my husband’s ex-wife’s house to watch her & her family open early xmas presents! My step daughter lives out of town and can’t make it for xmas day and when she comes to town its not for long, so we all get together so that my hubby can have more time with her, and she is happy to see both sides of a family coming together. We call it the new Modern Family. It hasn’t always been easy for me to hang out with his ex, but I do it for the benefit of everyone else. I have my own daughter as well, who is also an adult. So with time, you never know what healing can bring. And starting new traditions of your own is a lovely beginning.

    • amandapaa

      Thank you for sharing this! And it is so amazing that you work together so everyone can be together. I commend you for pushing things aside and being with your husband’s ex-wife, even though that might not be ideal. Establishing your own modern family, awesome. Appreciate your understanding. xo

  15. Tori//

    These caramels are so lovely and they sound so delicious! And thank you for sharing some things about yourself. I pray that this season is a blessed one for you and your family.

    • amandapaa

      Thank you for reading Tori, always appreciate you taking the time to comment and support.