Friday, May 23, 2014

Food on Friday: Not-so-sweet treats

Remember when I gave up sweets for Lent? It went so well that I decided that for the most part I should just cut out sweets altogether. For the most part, I have. I haven't been a saint about it--I had chocolate covered strawberries at a party last week, and there may have been some ice cream once or twice. But really, I'm finding that I don't need sweets.

Except sometimes. Sometimes you just need to indulge. So I've been scouting around looking for recipes that are relatively healthy sweet things for those moments. Not necessarily low-calorie, but sweets that have some nutritional value so I'm not just downing empty calories. I have several, but I'm just giving you two today. They're based on recipes in Alicia Silverstone's cookbook The Kind Diet, which actually has a lot of cool ideas in it. She's vegetarian all the time, vegan most of the time, and some sort of raw-macrobiotic combination sometimes, too. Since we are none of those things, I didn't think I'd find much in her cookbook that was useful, but it's good. She's a pretty creative cook, and although she clearly has strong opinions about food, she's not preachy. Just enthusiastic.

Aside: have I ever told you about my love of cookbooks? Maybe not. I love to read cookbooks. I have an astonishing number of cookbooks for someone who doesn't really cook all that much. And also I check them out of the library--our tiny library has hundreds of cookbooks. But I'm not a recipe follower. I modify recipes to fit what we have on hand, and also to fit what I know we like. The cookbooks just give me ideas for different things to do other than my standard six recipes that I make all the time.

DATE BALLS
(This is based on a recipe from The Kind Diet, but practically every vegetarian cookbook has a version of these, sometimes called power balls or protein balls. Feel free to experiment and use what you have on hand.)

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
3-4 tablespoons cocoa powder (dutch process or regular, doesn't matter)
3/8 cup maple syrup (3/4 of a 1/2-cup measure)
1/2 cup almond or peanut butter
1/2 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
optional: unsweetened coconut or chopped nuts

Pulse the walnuts in the food processor 5 or 6 times for 2 seconds. Add the dates and continue to pulse another 5-6 times. Add the remaining ingredients (except optional coconut and chopped nuts) and process until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be really sticky, so spray your hands with Pam and then form it into balls about an inch in diameter. Roll in coconut or chopped nuts if you like. Freeze until firm. Alicia says you can eat them straight from the freezer, but I keep them in the fridge. These are pretty astonishingly fudgy, and sometimes that is exactly what I need.

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS
(This is also based on a recipe from The Kind Diet, but when I made them following her instructions, they came out a sloppy mess-- you had to eat them with a spoon. Which isn't exactly a tragedy, I know--dang, gooey chocolate and peanut butter-- but sometimes you want to be able to transport them without having them fall apart. So I changed it up a bit, and I actually like this version better. These are not nearly as sweet as their orange-and-yellow packaged counterparts, but they are more satisfying.)

Base:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or Earth Balance
      (Earth Balance is vegan "butter" and it's actually pretty useful stuff)
3/4 cup peanut or almond butter, crunchy or smooth
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup brown rice crisps or Rice Krispies
     (brown rice crisps are the whole grain version of rice krispies)
1/4 cup maple sugar or brown sugar

Optional Topping:
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 milk (any kind)
extra chopped nuts (peanuts or almonds)

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or use silicon muffin cups. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, maple or brown sugar, and rice crisps. Spoon about two tablespoons into each muffin cup. If you want the chocolate topping, melt the chocolate chips with the milk and spoon a tablespoon or two of the melted chocolate over the peanut butter mixture in the muffin cups. Top with chopped nuts if desired. Refrigerate or freeze until firm.

Ingredient of the Week: The brown rice crisps are pretty cool. They're the whole grain version of Rice Krispies, so they have more fiber and more nutrients. The brand I can get at my grocery store is Barbara's (nice name, yes?), and you can swap them out anywhere you would use Rice Krispies. I've never been a fan of the marshmallow Rice Krispie treats (marshmallow = blecch), but at least this would make them slightly healthier.  But you could also go with the theory that marshmallow Rice Krispie treats are a hallowed tradition of childhood and you just can't mess with them. They're not supposed to be healthy.

I have a few more like these, but this has gone on long enough. Maybe I'll do more another time.

1 comment:

  1. I never liked Rick Krispie treates either, but then, I had them made with Lucky Charms, and later Froot Loops. I have since put together several batches on my own. In fact........ hmmm, I might have all the ingredients up there right now.....

    (Yes, good name.)

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