Just as there’s no point running a race if there’s no finish line, there’s almost no point eating dinner without dessert. Usually a sweet reward, the word “dessert” originally comes from the French dessevir, meaning, “to clear the table.” The custom of a post-meal course is likely very old, dating back to the simple enjoyment of fruits and nuts. Our western tradition of dessert as a sweet, decadent treat, however, is much newer, a result of the 19th century rise of the middle class and the mechanization of the sugar industry. As wealth became distributed, and sugar for recipes became more easily available, the popularity of the dessert course skyrocketed.
Recipes for dessert run the gamut from the simple and elegant to the beautiful and elaborate. Certain meals are best followed by a cheese or fruit plate, while other occasions call for the most extravagant soufflés or pastry. A good dessert recipe will lay out the name of the dish, how much time the dish will take to prepare, the required ingredients along with quantities needed of each, any necessary equipment, and a clear, ordered list of preparatory steps.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “health” as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” For many of us, health is a relative term, one often thrown around and abused. It is no secret that contemporary American culture is rife with poor health, from disease to starvation to perhaps the most disturbing of American indulgences, over-eating. And while a recent study predicted that a mind-boggling 75% of Americans will be overweight by the year 2015, there is no reason we have to let this statistic come to be true. Whether it’s cutting back on dairy products, switching to lower fat, natural oils for cooking and baking, or simply cutting back on snacking in between meals, healthy dietary habits are within everyone’s reach.
And, of course if there’s one mealtime component that bears much of the brunt of health-conscious scorn, it’s dessert. With a long tradition of sweet and gluttonous dishes, the idea of healthy dessert is often looked on as an oxymoron. But we Americans are often too quick to simplify health by picking overly broad scapegoats (such as trans fats) or fingering convenient scapegoats (know anyone who drinks can after can of soda, and believes she’s healthy just because the label says “diet”?).
Fortunately, for the health conscious dessert lovers, it is not necessary to assume that “delicious” necessarily means “unhealthy.” And, as more and more Americans awaken to how important good food habits are to a healthy lifestyle, dessert recipes continue to evolve in healthier directions. Indeed, the vast world of dessert is plenty large to accommodate even the most discriminating sweet lover.
Even the smallest adjustments can transform a fat- and sugar-heavy recipe into a healthy dessert recipe. Try cutting down on salt content, or using applesauce in place of sugar. The vegan and vegetarian desserts featured elsewhere on the site will guide you on your way to delicious, dairy-free treats that won’t fill you with guilt. The vegetarian and vegan lifestyles have long been viewed as paths to both physical and emotional health, and the healthy dessert recipes featured on this site further that tradition. Following are a few of our absolute favorite healthy dessert recipes, which contain no refined sugar, no processed fats, and no artificial or processed ingredients. These desserts are so healthy you could make a meal out of them with absolutely no guilt, and you’ll find you feel healthier just by eating them!
- 1 cup oat groats, ground to flour
- 1/2 cup carob powder
- 1/3 cup agave nectar
- 1 1/2 tsp organic vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup dried goji berries
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until the mixture forms a ball.
- Take one tablespoon of dough at a time and roll to make balls.
- Lightly flour a cutting board and use your hand to flatten the dough in to a disk.
- Cookies can be left out to sit for several hours and then eaten, or placed in a dehydrator for 4-6 hours for a crispier consistency.
Peanut Chocolate Granola Snacks
- 2 tbsp honey or agave nectar
- 2 1/2 tsp creamy peanut butter
- 2 tbsp vegan chocolate chips, melted in the microwave or the top of a double boiler
- 2 cups granola
- 2-4 tbsp almond, soy or rice milk
- Combine honey, peanut butter and melted chocolate in a large bowl, stirring until just mixed.
- Gradually stir in the granola using a wooden spoon or a spatula.
- Add just enough milk so that the mixture sticks together in a big ball.
- Form in to small, bite sized balls and place on a baking sheet in the freezer for about two hours before serving.