My four daughters all have a sweet tooth, and I blame genetics. I can sidestep French fries, chips and salty stuff pretty easily, but chocolate makes me drool. So if you love sweets, at least know you are in good company.
But, healthy-eating friends, let’s have some straight talk about dessert: it’s full of sugar, which means we can’t have dessert every single time we want it.
In our house, we eat (real) dessert only on weekends. During the week, I serve plain fruit or unsweetened yogurt after dinner, saving the sweeter treats for family meals where we linger around the table, connecting.
Even weekend desserts, though, are not a free-for-all sugar-fest. I follow one simple guideline to keep my family’s sugar consumption in check: I make all our own desserts.
There are three major advantages to this rule. First, while sugar can wreak havoc on our health, weird chemicals — fake flavors, colors, preservatives — scare me even more. If I make the food myself, I can skip the strange ingredients I can’t pronounce, and that’s a win for our health.
Second, having to cook my own treats (usually) stops me from mindlessly eating something I brought home from the store. Permission to eat anything that is homemade is simultaneously enough freedom to indulge our cravings sometimes and enough brakes to keep us from scarfing down a random box of cookies. Lastly, if I make the desserts myself, then I have control over the recipe. Usually, I reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates and add protein and fiber, which all slow down the sugar rush.
For instance, this week’s pear and dark chocolate crumble turns almond flour and oats in a tasty topping that isn’t loaded with empty calories, and a tiny splash of almond extract brilliantly tricks the palate into thinking this dessert is sweeter than it is. Splurge on some high-quality dark chocolate chips (or just chop up a bar) — you’ll be amazed how satisfying a small bit of dark chocolate can be.
Pear and Dark Chocolate Crumble
Start to finish: 1 hour
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 pears, peeled and diced
- 1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced (see note)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
For the crumble topping:
- 1/3 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (recommended: 63 percent cacao)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice and almond extract. Add the fruit and toss to coat. Sprinkle the sugar and corn starch on the pears, and stir until mixed in.
Spoon the fruit into a 1.5 or 2-quart baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. In a small food processor, place the almond flour, oats, chocolate chips, sugar, and salt. Pulse once or twice to mix.
Top with the butter and pulse 8 or 9 times until mixture looks like wet sand. (Chocolate chips may still be quite large and that’s perfect.)
Spread the oat and almond mixture over the fruit and gently press down into the fruit. Spray the top of the crumble with a little nonstick spray. Bake until fruit is tender and bubbling, and topping is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Note: One granny smith apple is used to add depth of flavor and texture, but another pear can be used instead.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 254 calories; 113 calories from fat; 13 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 13 mg cholesterol; 107 mg sodium; 37 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 23 g sugar; 4 g protein.
The Healthy Plate is an Associated Press column by Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian that helps home cooks discover the healthier side of everyday ingredients. d’Arabian, an expert on healthy eating on a budget, is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net