A photo of a woman standing in a kitchen with a mixing bowl and dish towl sitting on the counter in front of her.
Quinn Taylor, dietitian for VCU Dine, prepares her black-and-gold brownie bite recipe in one of the Gladding Residence Center kitchens. (Tom Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Here’s a versatile black-and-gold brownie recipe for all Rams to enjoy this holiday season – plus the scoop on the source

VCU Dine dietitian Quinn Taylor shares how to make this sweet and simple treat, along with insight into how she serves students throughout the year.

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With family, friends, fun – and of course, food – on the brain as the holidays near, VCU News asked VCU Dine dietitian Quinn Taylor to create a simple but tasty recipe that the Virginia Commonwealth University community would whip up for the season.

So she crafted some amazing Black and Gold Flourless Pumpkin Brownie Bites that can be varied to suit many tastes and dietary needs. But before you tie on your apron and explore Taylor’s recipe below, get to know her a bit more – and how she helps VCU students make the most of their college culinary experience.

Tell us a little bit about what you do as VCU Dine’s dietitian.

I wear a lot of different hats. The main role I have for students is I offer one-on-one consultations for dining plan holders. I primarily work closely with students who have special dietary needs or food allergies. So if you’re vegan or you follow a special religious diet or you have a peanut allergy, I can work really closely with those students to direct them to the right place to find options.

I offer counseling for students, even if it’s just healthy eating advice. And then I do health and wellness tabling events 3-4 times a month. I normally set up outside of Shafer Court Dining Center, and I do anything from recipe tastings to a build-your-own trail mix bar, build-your-own overnight oats bar. I also manage and run an Instagram — @VCUdietitian — and I post healthy eating tips and tricks; I highlight a lot of on-campus options, post what I eat in a day, things like that.

On the back end, I’m responsible for updating nutrition and allergen information throughout our locations, and menu planning with the chefs to ensure that we have options that are going to meet a lot of people's different needs on campus.

A photo of a plate of baked goods next to a dish towel.
The ingredients in these black-and-gold brownie bites, which are already gluten- and dairy-free, can be customized to meet a variety of dietary needs. (Tom Kojcsich, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

What do you like best about your job?

Probably the health and wellness event side of it. It’s really nice that I get to engage with students in person and on social media. Any way that I get to answer those questions even if it’s right on the spot — just that engagement with students to learn more about health and wellness and healthy eating is really fun for me.

What do you want students to know about in terms of what you offer?

I am here to support them through their time on campus. Dining is such an integral part of your college experience. Obviously we want students to be well-fed, but it also has such a social component to it. I want students to know that they can reach out to me whenever — if it’s a DM on Instagram or emailing me at dietitian@vcu.edu, they can ask me even the simplest of questions, like, “What’s a good gluten-free option at this location?” I am here to answer those simple questions to really complex questions.

Do you have a favorite holiday recipe or meal memory?

My favorite holiday in general is Thanksgiving because I love food. My mom puts me to work, and I am always in charge of the mashed potatoes — and for the past few years I’ve been doing a roasted garlic rosemary mashed potato that I think is the best. Another one of my favorite things that my family does is like a cornbread casserole, so it’s more cakey and cheesy rather than just cornbread. And then my mom’s stuffing — she does a really great sausage cranberry stuffing that has always been my favorite.

Why did you choose this brownie bite recipe to share?

I love that most people like to use pumpkin around this time, but also I love that on its own it’s a gluten-free and dairy-free dessert already. And then it’s super easy to make vegan by just substituting that egg. It’s also really easy to make nut-free if you have a nut allergy. You can substitute the peanut butter for sunflower butter; instead of peanut butter chips, you can do butterscotch chips or white chocolate chips. I just love how easy it is to tweak to meet your own dietary needs while also being delicious. So it’s not a super crazy unhealthy recipe, and it’s really easy to make and tweak to meet your needs. And you just need a bowl and a whisk.

Looking for a sweet treat that's quick to make and easy to adapt to a variety of dietary needs? VCU Dine dietitian Quinn Taylor has crafted a healthier spin on brownies that is gluten- and dairy-free.

Black-and-Gold Flourless Pumpkin Brownie Bites

These are made without gluten and dairy, and they can be made vegan and nut-free!

Yield: about 10 full-size muffins or 24 mini muffins

  • ½ cup peanut butter (or almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower butter)
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 egg (make it vegan by using a “flax egg” – combine 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 2½ tablespoons of cold or room-temp water, mix with a fork and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes until it becomes gelatinous)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup peanut butter chips (or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips)
  • Chopped nuts (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together the nut butter, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, egg (or “flax egg”) and vanilla extract.

2) In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice (if using), baking soda and salt. Then stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

3) Fold in optional add-ins like baking chips or nuts until combined.

4) Pour batter into greased standard muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Let cool for 15 minutes. These can also be made in an 8x8-inch baking dish.

Notes: This is a fudgy, flourless brownie, so the center will deflate a bit as the brownies cool. And if using a mini muffin pan, adjust for less time in the oven – and keep an eye on them!