I easily succumb to the temptation of sweet treats particularly baked goods. My daughters share this weakness, though they naturally gravitate to candy. My husband is the exception, and despite his relentless admonishments, we eat a sweet treat nearly every night after dinner—not a lot but something. The meal just doesn’t feel complete without it.
Though I love bakery treats, I have limited talent for the art of baking, and that is purposeful. As a limited resource, I have only so much time to dedicate to cooking. If I’m doing my best to create whole-food, plant-based meals every day that are not only healthy but enjoyable to eat, well then sweet treats have to take a backseat. Moreover, let’s say that I did regularly bake. Who would eat it? Not my children. I am a responsible parent, and would limit their intake. Not my sweet-toothless husband. That leaves me, standing alone in my pantry, quietly cramming cookies in my mouth while my children call out, “What are you doing in there, Mama?” I’ve been down that road to Weight Watchers more than once.
When I do find the time to make desserts, I incorporate the foods we need for good health too—fruits, legumes and whole grains. I don’t delude myself. Even though they they are made with whole foods, they remain desserts—hard-to-resist, calorie-dense, goodies made with butter and sugar. Eating a lot of them will make you fat.
Some of you may poo-poo my sweet treat philosophy. You’re thinking, “Just let cake be cake, and healthy foods be damned at dessert-time.” But cake is too easy to come by, and I eat enough of it without going out of my way. My own cooking efforts have to go toward the goal of including at least 8 – 12 serving of fruits and vegetables in our diet every day. This adds a challenging new dimension to the art of creating sweet treats. While I want them to be healthy, taste is essential. Nothing leaves me feeling more cheated than eating a grainy, tasteless food masquerading as a sweet treat.
Fruit is a natural solution. It’s nature’s candy. I make apple crisp a lot and have for years. The prep work takes only a few minutes with the right tools, it’s chock full of apples, and no-one feels cheated when served a warm, fresh from-the-oven helping of apple crisp topped with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.
- 3 ½ pounds apples, cored and peeled
- 1 T lemon juice (optional)
- ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
- 6 T unsalted butter, cold
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ cup quick oats
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Lightly butter an 11” x 7” (8 cup) baking dish and preheat oven to 375◦ F.
- Core and peel the apples; toss with lemon juice and dried fruit; and place in the baking dish.
- Cut the butter into small chunks.
- Using a food processor or fork or hands, cut the butter into the rest of the dry ingredients until it is just combined. (It should look lumpy and crumbly).
- Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the apples and bake until the apples are tender and the crisp is crisp—about 50 minutes.
Cooking with Kids:
This may be one of the easiest, no-fuss, no-danger recipes to make with your kids. Invest in an apple peeler if you don’t have one. Kids never tire of using that gadget.
Officially, to make the crumble, you should not use your hands to cut the butter into the dry ingredients as the heat from your hands will melt the butter. I ignore this rule as the kids love to use their hands. Just don’t let them do it for too long and start with ice cold butter. I haven’t noticed any difference in crisp mixed with a fork or hands.
The girls made this recipe with me just supervising and setting up.
The crisp before placing it in the oven.