In the interest of healthier eating, I’ve been trying out new recipes to incorporate vegetables into my baking repertoire. It’s surprisingly easy to do and some of the recipes have been quite tasty. You can find recipes online for chocolate avocado mousse, zucchini and spinach brownies and even parsnip muffins. But the important question remains: how do they taste? After all, there’s no point in having a treat if it doesn’t taste good!
In keeping with making my baked goods a little healthier, I’ve experimented with substituting organic coconut palm sugar for some of the regular white sugar. Coconut palm sugar has the same number of calories as traditional sugar but it has a lower glycemic index and retains some trace minerals, so it’s said to be a “healthier choice” than white sugar. It smells lovely and, while it is brown in color, it has a dry, sandy texture quite unlike regular brown sugar.
Of course, when you experiment with changing up recipes things don’t always turn out terrific. My son loves red velvet cupcakes and pancakes so I thought I’d try to make a healthy red velvet muffin. That should be simple, right? While I tend to like the flavor of red velvet baked goods, I don’t often make them at home because I dislike using that much red food coloring. In the past, I’ve made a rich chocolate cake that included puréed roasted beets, and it turned out quite nicely with good flavor so I thought perhaps I could apply the same technique to create a red velvet muffin.
For the first batch of muffins, I used a small amount of raw beet purée for the red color and a few tablespoons of rouge cocoa powder for additional color and flavor. These muffins were light brown, not at all red, and apparently I did not add enough sugar because they were just bland and tasteless. For the next batch, I tripled the amount of beet purée, upped the sugar and didn’t add any cocoa powder in the hopes of getting a nice, bright red color and a sweeter flavor. The color of the muffin batter was a bright, pinky red so I had high hopes for this batch.
When I pulled the muffins out of the oven my kitchen was engulfed with the smell of hot beets (good thing the kids weren’t around). After the smell had dissipated, I tasted one of the muffins and found it moist but with a faint beet scent that wasn’t appealing. My son came home from school and tried one of the muffins (one with sprinkles, naturally), and I waited with bated breath for his reaction, trying not to wince in anticipation of his cry of disgust. Nothing happened. He came back a moment later and grabbed two more. What I had thought was going to be a second “epic fail” was instead just mildly disappointing. My lessons learned from this experiment were to make smaller adjustments when adding vegetables to a recipe. And second, it’s much easier to hide healthy stuff under the cloak of dark chocolate.
After the red velvet fiasco I decided to focus on making my healthy treats with chocolate and cocoa powder. After all, dark chocolate is a super food, right? I searched through dozens of recipes for baked goods that include vegetables and landed on chocolate fudge cookies (with avocado) and brownies (with zucchini). Both recipes were a hit with my family and no one guessed the secret ingredients. We love chocolate around our house, and these two treats didn’t disappoint with their rich, fudgy flavor. Finally a win!
While these treats were a nice change of pace, they just can’t replace my homemade chocolate chip cookies as our family’s hands-down favorite. And honestly I think I’d rather just have my vegetables in a nice green salad, or even a green smoothie, than in my brownies. But, I will keep an open mind and continue to look for ways to sneak some additional nutrition into my family’s diet. Do you have a favorite healthy treat? If so, please share in the comments below.
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