I love making (and eating!) desserts. As a girl my first forays in the kitchen were to help my older sisters frost birthday cakes, mix cookie dough and bake brownies. I have happy memories of the whir of the electric mixer, of sneaked tastes of cookie dough and of waiting to lick spatulas and beaters.I still love to head to the kitchen and make sweet treats for my family and I welcome any excuse to do so. Which is why I’m always happy when Valentine’s Day rolls around, giving me the perfect opportunity to express my love for my family (and to get some time in the kitchen doing what I love: making sweets.)
But things have changed since my childhood days of boxed cake mix and margarine-tub baking. I’ve not only learned a lot about baking and dessert-making since then, but I know more about taking care of my health and the health of my family, too.
When I give them sweets, I also want to give them things that support their health. So when I make desserts, I use unprocessed whole foods, no refined sugars and healthy fat sources.Some of our favorite homemade treats are No-Bake Thumbprint Cookies, which use dates to sweeten rolled oats, coconut and almond butter for richness, and cinnamon, orange zest and fruit preserves for flavor. These pretty little gems are so easy to make that even your kids (or your culinarily-challenged spouse) can help. For Valentine’s Day I like to make them a little larger, and make 2 thumbprints in a heart shape to spoon the jam into. Adorable (if I do say so myself!).
Lemon Treats are another easy, kid-friendly recipe. We like to put our own twist on them by using almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews or pecans, and adding other dried fruits such as apricots, cherries and cranberries. For flavoring, we use various combinations of cinnamon, orange zest, a touch a ginger, a splash of vanilla. Or try using cocoa or carob powder, like in these Cocoa-Oat Truffles.
Looking for a healthier chocolate cake for your special valentine? Try the Banana Cocoa Snack Cake topped with Chocolate Mousse and raspberries and see if your loved ones can guess the mousse’s secret ingredient. For chocolate purists, this simple Chocolate Pudding is sweet, creamy and full of cocoa flavor. Or try your hand at making Raw Fudge!
For a sophisticated dessert, try Cinnamon Roasted Pineapple with Macadamia Nut Cream. Roasting fruit brings out its natural sweetness and adds a little intrigue. Looking for something warm and comforting? This Almond Brown Rice Pudding is perfect – particularly after spicy dinners.If we’re in the mood for something cold, we make our own version of Banana Nice Cream, using whatever we have on hand. My favorite is bananas, coconut milk, dates soaked in warm water, peanut butter and vanilla with a pinch of sea salt. Sometimes we add a touch more liquid and drink them as milk shakes. The Cherry Almond Smoothie also makes a great shake; or add more cherries and refreeze for ice cream. The kids like this even better with some cocoa added!
What’s your favorite way to give sweets to the sweeties in your life?