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Desserts

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Summers in Atlanta are hot. I used to dread those heatwaves in the Bay Area when I was growing up until I moved here. At least that was dry heat. In Atlanta, the humidity plus the heat sometimes really make it unbearable. I end up staying indoors for most of summer with the AC turned on and try to keep cool with “cooling” things to eat.

Chinese people know how to stay cool. Here is a Chinese dessert which one can often find in dim sum restaurants. I like this recipe a lot because it’s easy and fail-proof. I tend to prefer gelatin over agar-agar for the texture. Contrary to the name, there is no tofu in the dessert. It sort of looks like tofu, but it’s not tofu. The traditional way of making this is using canned fruit cocktail. Since the almond gelatin is already sweet, adding some fresh fruit is a nice substitute from canned fruit cocktail.

 

Almond Tofu Dessert

Serves 6

 

Ingredients:

2 cups milk of choice (cow, almond, coconut…etc.)

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin (1/4 ounce powdered gelatin per packet)

 

Directions:

1. In a large pot, add all of the above ingredients except for the gelatin. Bring to a small simmer under medium-low heat. Turn heat off once the mixture begins to simmer.

2. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over the mixture. Stir gently to dissolve while trying to not incorporate bubbles into mixture.

3. Carefully pour into a 9X13 baking dish. Once cool. Cover with plastic wrap and move to refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours or until set.

5. Serve with fresh fruit of choice.

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Did I say that I have a sweet tooth? If it was up to me, I’d be eating desserts all day long.

H and I are truly opposites in this regard, along with a list of many other things. He finds most desserts unappetizing, including chocolates. His idea of dessert is fruit. I know, it’s so healthy. Maybe that’s why he never really struggled with being overweight. It truly was a change to marry him. My mom used to keep our house stocked with sweets, especially since both my dad and my brother enjoy them as much as I did. Even now when I visit my parents, they would go out of their way to stock their house with my favorite desserts. All of my friends know how to woo me with chocolates. I am constantly pinning desserts that are like eye-candies on Pinterest that I know I can never keep around my house because I will just eat it all.

Unfortunately, the body can no longer handle it the way it used to work. I really think pregnancies really change your body. I can no longer eat the way I used to. The body really hangs onto those extra calories. It can be quite frustrating, especially when you feel like you’re trying your best to try to rid those extra pounds. I have since started looking for alternatives to satisfy those sweet cravings.

These cookies are irresistible and healthy, too. There are no added sugar, oil, or butter! They contain lots of good-for-you ingredients like carrots, almonds, and oats. It’s one of those sweets that I don’t feel so bad eating, or give them to my kids for breakfast. The plus side is this contains no eggs, so S can eat them! As for H, he will just continue to indulge in his stash of fruits.

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Healthy Carrot Almond Cookies

(adapted from Whole Foods Market)

Makes approximately 24 cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup almond meal or ground almonds

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup grated carrots

1 ripe banana, mashed

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup raisins

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper.

2. In a bowl, combine almond meal or ground almonds, rolled oats, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and ground cinnamon.

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3. In another large bowl, combine grated carrots, mashed banana, and applesauce. Slow add the dry ingredients from the other bowl into the wet ingredients. Mix well. Stir in raisins.

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4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto lined cookie sheets, at least one inch apart. Gently flattened top with spoon.

5. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or when cookies are slightly brown. Remove and cool on wire rack.

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H and I don’t really like to dine out on Valentine’s Day. In our past experiences, dining out on that evening have always felt rushed as they try to move diners through in order to accommodate all of the reservations for that evening. Food in a typically awesome restaurant can be mediocre. So we started to just dine in a few years back.

For this past Valentine’s Day, H surprised me with a little treat from Urban Pl8. You see, it was special because we had just dined there a few nights prior with our children. Because dinner was a little rushed as S got more and more restless after he quickly devoured his grilled cheese on pita bread (which was really awesome), we didn’t have much time for dessert. I eyed their dessert menu and marveled at the idea of a paleo chocolate pudding. We then rushed home without ordering any desserts.

So on Valentine’s Day this past year, I was touched that H took time during his lunch hour in traffic to pick the dessert up all the way on the other side of town so that he can surprise me later. I was nearly in tears. Sounds dramatic, but I really was. At that point, I had been really good about trying to curb my sweet tooth. So this was truly a treat!

I have been thinking about making a similar pudding at home since. Since S has his egg allergy, a pudding like this will be great for him to enjoy as a treat, too. Since I love the combination of coffee and chocolate, I decided to make my own version of this pudding. Don’t be turned off by the idea of avocado in a dessert. It has a nice texture and you really can’t taste its flavor after you mix it with honey, cocoa powder, and coffee.

By the way, be careful with the caffeine and children. S was up until 1am after he had just a few spoonfuls (4 to be exact) of this pudding. I didn’t think he would be that affected by just a few spoonfuls. After that incident, I always omit the coffee in his chocolate pudding. Lesson learned.

Chocolate Coffee Avocado Pudding

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 avocados

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons coconut milk (or milk of your choice)

4 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

blueberries for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Measure all ingredients into a large bowl. Carefully mix with a hand blender or hand mixer until smooth in consistency (You can also use a blender or food processor).

2. Chill for at least one hour.

3. Garnish with a few blueberries before serving.

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Some mornings can be overwhelming with two little ones, especially when we have to get out of the door by a certain time for something like preschool. One little tantrum or a missing sock can turn into a dragged-out fiasco. It’s difficult to be on time these days, but I try my best.

I have to keep breakfast simple because mornings are just hectic. I confess, if we are in a hurry, I will sometimes give my kids Larabars. It makes me feel better knowing that they are healthy and made with minimal ingredients. S loves them. I am honestly amazed at how a two year-old can eat two of these bars at one sitting and ask for more (I usually don’t give him more than two). But at $1.50 a bar, it can really add up at the rate S eats them.

With a great recipe I found from Oh She Glows, I can now make my own Larabars. The simplicity of the ingredients couldn’t have made it any easier to make a big batch of these energy bars. There are also endless possibilities of different variations (ie. walnuts, cashews, peanuts, raisins, dried cherries…etc.). I have found that Costco has the best price for dates. To make it even easier, I usually buy Trader Joe’s “Just Almond Meal” instead of grounding up my own nuts. It results in a finer texture than my food processor can allow.

E thinks these bars are chocolate bars. I am loving the fact that my kids actually love something that’s somewhat healthy and natural. H, on the other hand, has no sweet tooth, and won’t touch anything remotely “healthy.” It’s too bad because these bars are too good to be shared!

Cranberry Chocolate Chip “Larabar”

(adapted from Oh She Glows)

Makes 10 bars

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 cups almond meal or raw almonds

3/4 cup tightly packed dates

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons chocolate chips

Directions:

*Note: If using raw almonds, process that first instead of dates.

1. Soak dates in a bowl of water for 30 minutes. Drain and dry well.

2. Add dates and cranberries in a food processor and process until the dates are broken down into tiny pieces.

3. Add almond meal into the mixture in the food processor and process until the mixture are well-combined.

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4. Add vanilla and chocolate chips. Process until they are well-incorporated.

5. Line a loaf pan with a piece of plastic wrap large enough so that removing the content will be easier later. Pack the mixture from the food processor into the lined-loaf pan. Using the back of a silicone spatula, wooden spoon, or your hand, pack the mixture really well. The harder you pack it down, the better the bars will stay together and not fall apart.

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6. Freeze for 15 minutes. Remove and cut into 10 bars with a sharp knife. Wrap in individual plastic wraps and store in refrigerator.

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This week, I have been challenging my son, S, with baked goods with eggs in them. He has been allergic to eggs. Granted his reactions have not been life-threatening, it has been challenging avoiding food with eggs. The great thing is that he has been ok with baked goods this week! It has opened his eyes to all the delicious sweet treats like cookies since he’s never really had them before. The allergist did tell us that baked goods are generally not as allergenic because you only use a few eggs for a big batch and the high temperature in baking alters the molecular structure of eggs even more so than just cooking.

So this week, I whipped out my mom’s recipe for oatmeal cookies. It’s relatively healthy, not too sweet and packed with a lot of oats, making it easier for me to allow the kids to have them as treats. These cookies kept me fed during my college days. My thoughtful mom would bake a bunch of them for me and send them with me so that I could have something fast and ready for breakfast before my early morning lectures, especially since I had a hard time waking up in time for breakfasts at the dining hall. Then again, it was probably a good thing I didn’t make it to so many of those meals they served in the dining hall. They served a lot of unhealthy options back-in-the-day.

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The original recipe called for 1 cup of oil (!). It tasted really good with that much oil. It really did. But to make it a little healthier, I lessened the oil and substitute it with applesauce. You can use rolled oats or quick oats. Use rolled oats if you prefer more of a nutty texture.

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Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Dairy-Free)

Makes approximately 28-30 cookies

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 and 1/2 cups flour

3 cups oats (rolled or quick-cook)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease cookie sheets or line with silicone baking mat like this.

2.    Mix eggs, brown sugar, oil, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt together in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Lastly, add oatmeal to the mixture, followed by raisins, walnuts (if using), chocolate chips (if using).

3.    Drop rounded spoonfuls (about 1.5 inch in diameter) onto the greased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or when cookies are slightly browned. Remove and cool on wire rack.

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