Sunday, August 15, 2010

Healthier, but still yummy desserts



I've tried a few dessert recipes from a book I've just picked up from the library called, The Kind Diet. It's written by Alicia Silverstone, which I wasn't sure about considering her theatrical background, and many times it did feel like I was reading a book written by Cher from Clueless, but either way, she has some really, really good recipes in there. That may in part be because she's rich and famous and can some how get recipes from amazing chefs that the 'average Joe' could not. But I do think many of the recipes are ones that her and her husband have created. They(Alicia and her husband) are vegan so all the recipes follow that lifestyle. Since I'm not vegan, when recipes called for things like, 'earth balance butter', I substituted it with regular old butter.

I've been having fun experimenting with some new baking ingredients. Things like brown rice syrup, maple sugar, carob chips and kuzu(a thickening agent). The carob chips, which are a nondairy chocolate chip substitute with no sugar, aren't terribly awful, but my kids don't love them either. I think they'll come to get used to them over time. I also got to grind some rice in my wheat grinder which was fun. I ground both brown and white rice.

Below, I will list the three recipes we tried over the past couple of weeks. Our favorite one, hands down, were the peanut butter cups. So yummy! But they're also probably the ones that are the least healthy of the three, because of the butter, though still not a bad choice, since they use natural sweeteners rather than refined sugar, and much better than a normal American-diet treat. My notes/commentary for the recipes are written in bold text in parenthesis.

Oh, and before I jot down the recipes from this book, I thought I'd also share that I did experiment with my own agave sweetened butter shortbread recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't get the ratio of dry to wet ingredients right because they turned out super duper crumbly. I mean, you just barely touch part of the cookie and the thing would crumble down to a powder. But they were still yummy. So we just stuck the crumbs in a gallon ziploc bag and mixed it in with pudding, which was not a healthy choice.

1. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (our favorite)

Makes 12

½ c earth balance butter (I use regular butter)

¾ c crunchy peanut butter (unsweetened and unsalted)

¾ c graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares(use ones that are naturally sweetened or low in sugar, Health Valley makes a good one)

¼ c maple sugar or other granulated sweetener(I usually use Sucanat because it's cheaper)

3/4 c grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips (I used carob chips and white chocolate chips...see note in parenthesis below)

¼ c soy, rice or nut milk

¼ c chopped pecans, almonds or peanuts

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well. Remove the mixture form the heat. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 Tbsp per cup, among the muffin cups.

Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan(I used two pans and did half the recipe in each using white chocolate chips in one and carob chips in the other. Both turned out really yummy). Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted. Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture. Top with chopped nuts. Place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours before serving.


2. Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies(When Scott first tasted one of these he said, "they taste healthy". :) We made half dipped in carob chips and left the other half plain. The kids preferred them plain so next time I'll probably skip this step or quarter the coating recipe since I halved it when we ate them and it was still too much. They do taste healthier than your typical sugar cookies, but they're still really yummy and my kids begged for them every day until they were gone.)

*note added after posted: I've now made these many times. I use butter instead of oil which makes them taste much better. We also don't dip them in anything. We love them plain.

Makes about 2 dozen

Cookies:

1 c whole wheat flour

1 c white flour

1 c brown rice flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ c safflower oil (I use butter)

2/3 c maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp fine sea salt

Chocolate coating:(Optional)

2 c grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips

½ c maple syrup

2 Tbsp safflower oil(or butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flours and the baking powder in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup, vanilla and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to form a smooth dough. If the mixture is too crumbly, add a bit of water, 1 tsp at a time and up to 1 Tbsp more oil until dough just holds together.

Roll the dough out to ½'' thickness between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper. Use cookie cutters or knife to cut the dough into desired shapes. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking sheet(can cook them on the parchment paper on baking sheet), and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, combine the chocolate chips, syrup, and oil in the top of a double boiler and place over simmering water. If you don't have a double boiler, place a stainless steel bowl over boiling water and melt the ingredients in it. Turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 5-10 minutes or until the chocolate melts. Stir until smooth.

Dip each cookie halfway into the chocolate sauce, and place on a sheet of was or parchment paper. Chill in the refrigerator until hardened. (But once they're ready, take them out and let them sit at room temperature, otherwise, the chocolate is so hard you can barely bite into it)


3.Peach Crumble(This one I really liked, Scott thought there wasn't enough blueberries and peaches for the crumble topping, which is probably why I really liked it, and the kids wouldn't even touch it because of the way it looked with all the blueberry juice around the edges. Well Charlie tried a bite and thought it was okay but didn't want any more. We'll see if he'll want some tomorrow after he sees me eating it again.)

Serves 4-6

2 1/2-3 c sliced fresh or thawed frozen peaches

1 c blueberries

1 ¾ c apple juice

2 Tbsp kuzu

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla

pinch of fine sea salt

Topping:

3 c rolled oats

2 c barley, spelt, brown rice or sweet rice flour

¼ tsp fine sea salt

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¾ c safflower oil

¾ c brown rice syrup

¼ c maple syrup

1 c chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the peaches and blueberries in a 9'' baking pan.

Reserve ¼ c of the apple juice in a small bowl, and heat the remaining 1 ½ c in a small saucepan. Place the kuzu in a small bowl, and add in the reserved apple juice. Let the kuzu mixture sit for about 10 seconds so that the kuzu can dissolve into the liquid. Stir with a fork, and immediately whisk the kuzu mixture and the lemon juice into the hot apple juice, stirring continually to prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and add the vanilla extract and the salt. Pour over the peaches and blueberries in the pan.

To make the topping, dry-roast the oats, flour, salt and cinnamon in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Heat the oil and syrups together in a separate pan, then pour over the flour mixture and mix well. Stir in the nuts. Bake about 30 minutes, until bubbly.


Give a couple of these a try. Sugar is so yummy, but also addicting, so if you can get yourself off of it for a few days, I think you'll find that these recipes are actually pretty good.

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