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Sound Consumer | February 2002

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

Recipes below:

Someone once pointed out to me that desserts is actually "stressed" spelled backwards. And how we do stress over them!

This month's feature article presents perspectives on how restricting certain foods and pre-determining quantities, combinations and times for eating can create unhealthful lifelong food attitudes in kids ... and grown-up kids. Prime examples include "Eat your salad or you can't have dessert, " and "Finish your food because it's not right to waste food." Then there's the arguable dictum that "foods are neither good nor bad, but just foods with differing degrees of food value, and should be viewed 'in balance.'"

Yeah, right. Try balancing cookies and ice cream versus kale when you're a kid — or responding to the kid within.

My perspective? We all need to receive our "Just Desserts" in this life. The oft heard saying "Eat dessert first; life is short" makes perfect sense, because Just Desserts can also serve as delicious and nutritious breakfasts.

Plan Just Desserts into your family's daily meals as an integral and welcome means of incorporating nutrients from all the whole foods groups:

  • Protein and healthful fats — from nuts, seeds, dairy, soy and eggs
  • Whole grains — any cooked dinner grains or breakfast cereals
  • Vegetables — naturally sweet cooked and puréed winter squashes, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas and carrots can be tucked into quick breads, muffins, puddings and pie fillings
  • Fruits — naturally sweet fruits, either fresh, baked, poached, frozen, juiced or puréed

Following are a few easy-to-prepare examples of Just Desserts:

Baked Apples (or Pears)
Basic plan: Use baking apples (check with produce staff for advice). Remove apple cores, but do not peel. Place cored apples close together in a brownie or lasagna pan.

In a cup, mix frozen apple juice concentrate with a few shakes of cinnamon and touch of nutmeg. Spoon two teaspoons inside each apple, plus a few raisins or dates. Scatter more raisins and dates in the pan. Add about 1 cup apple juice or cider around apples, and bake in 350°F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve either hot, at room temperature or chilled. Yogurt or whipped tofu is great with this, as are chopped nuts, either raw or toasted. If using winter pears, don't peel or core them, just slice lengthwise in quarters, pour apple juice or cider to cover, grate a little (or a lot) of unpeeled gingerroot, sprinkle it over the dish and bake for about an hour.

Sweet Silky Tofu Whip
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups; Time: 15 minutes

  • 1 package Mori-Nu Organic Silken Firm tofu, or 3/4 pound of Island Spring or any brand of organic silken-style firm tofu
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons of any sweetener, such as frozen apple juice concentrate, maple syrup, honey, Sucanat or Rapadura
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

Blend ingredients thoroughly in blender or food processor. Taste and adjust. I frequently add a tiny pinch of powdered cardamom when I put this on fresh fruit salads or add it to coleslaw.

Instant Yam (or Sweet Potato, or Sweet Squash) Pudding
Basic plan: Use either baked or steamed yams. Scoop pulp from the skin and purée it with equal parts of silken-style firm tofu in blender or food processor (or use a hand-held manual potato masher). Add a few drops of vanilla, lemon or orange extract, fresh lemon or orange juice or frozen juice concentrate. If necessary, add a small amount of maple syrup or other sweetener. Add a few pinches of cinnamon or other sweet spices. Serve with plain or flavored yogurt or tofu whip.

Banana (or Yams, Sweet Potato or Sweet Squash) Quick Bread
Basic plan: Use any recipe for banana or pumpkin bread, but make the following substitutions. Instead of white flour, use whole-wheat pastry flour, barley, buckwheat or brown rice flours. Drop the recipe's added sweetener (such as sugar) for puréed fruit. Add eggs to bind the fruit (or whipped tofu, flaxseed or other egg substitute). Mix in nuts, seeds or spices.

Pan-Seared Apples or Winter Pears
Basic plan: Use cored but not peeled apples or pears, sliced thin. Lightly pan-sear in a touch of butter or oil, and then de-glaze with a bit of apple juice sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Serve hot with a dollop of yogurt or whipped tofu and a few chopped nuts or seeds.

Baked Whole Grain Fruity Custard
Yield: 6 to 8 generous servings

  • 2 to 3 cups cold cooked grains, such as brown rice, barley, quinoa or millet, or a combination of grains
  • 6 cups milk (dairy, soy, rice, etc.)*
  • 3 to 4 whole large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or half almond, orange or rum extract, or 2 to 3 tablespoons of flavored liquor
  • 1/2 to 1 cup dried fruits, such as raisins or chopped apricots or cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw or toasted nuts or seeds (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Use a deep casserole, shallow lasagna or brownie pan or individual ramekins or custard cups. Whatever you choose, place custard container, even if the container is a pan, in a larger pan in a 350°F oven, pre-heated, then pour hot water in the pan the custard container sets in, about half-way up.

Bake until set, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours for deep dishes, 1 hour for shallow, and 45 minutes or less for small. Serve warm, about 30 minutes after taken from the oven, or chilled. Serve with low-fat dairy or soy yogurt, or whipped silken tofu, or sprinkle chopped raw or toasted nuts or seeds on individual servings.

*Note: If a sweeter custard is deemed preferable, substitute 1 or 2 cups apple juice or cider for 1 or 2 cups of the milk in the recipe, or add up to 1/2 cup natural sweetener such as barley malt, rice syrup, sorghum, molasses or maple syrup.

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