Tag Archives: no sugar desert

A Year of No Sugar: Post 25

Once again, I’ve been attempting too much around here (baking all our bread, making every meal from scratch, leading after-school activities, learning to bungee-jump in my spare time, re-grouting the bathroom blindfolded) and it started to get to me again. The other night I went to bed at 9PM! Which to my mind means that pretty soon I’ll be showing up for the early-bird special at the all-you-can-gum buffet. Beyond feeling old, I’m feeling incompetent too, because it seems that nothing is getting done around here except the things that don’t stay done for more than a few minutes.

Let me give you a for-instance: on Sunday I mixed up a nice batch of no-knead bread, only to have to pitch it last night when I discovered it fermenting in a soup on top of the toaster-oven, a good 24 hours after I should have turned it out onto a lightly-floured surface and let it rise an additional two hours before baking for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Instead of a lovely loaf of crusty chewy bread, I got a slimy mess to scrape into the trash, before piling the gooey bowl on top of the desert island of dirty dishes we’ve been amassing in the sink.

Meanwhile, our family has been much anticipating our special Valentines Day dessert. Our family-agreed upon once-a-month confection being… (drumroll please): chocolate mousse! Now, I’ve never made chocolate mousse before, so this places more than a little bit of pressure on the chef… I mean, what if it turns out awful? Or deflates? Or does whatever it is that goes wrong with mousse? As one of only twelve official desserts of our family’s YEAR, that would be, to put it mildly, an enormous disappointment.

Nonetheless, I set out Monday night— after a long day schlepping to BJs warehouse to push around a shopping cart larger than a Volkswagen and read ingredients with a magnifying glass, then leading a two-hour after-school activity, and finally driving two additional kids to their corresponding homes, while picking my younger daughter up— to find the only chocolate mousse ingredient my pantry lacked: heavy cream.

Dutchie’s in West Pawlet? Closed Mondays. Sheldon’s in Pawlet? No heavy cream. Mach’s Market down the road? Yes! Heavy cream hiding on the top shelf behind the half and half… score! We hurried home so I could heat up the potato pizza leftovers from the night before and concentrate on making a beautiful Valentine’s Day dessert to show my family how much I loved them and make their tummies feel all happy and full. Despite the deprivation of the “Mommy’s idea” no-sugar project, this was one of only twelve nights this year I could indulge my affection for my family in the form of a sugar-containing treat.

That was when my older daughter Greta, in an effort to be helpful, read out loud the pivotal part of the recipe that I had somehow missed: “must chill for a minimum of two hours.” I stopped. I wilted. The dish mountain in the sink loomed at me like Kilimanjaro. The potato pizza had not been a hit the night before and was not likely to inspire more confidence on it’s second trip to the dinner table. There was no bread. No time to make dessert. And everyone was hungry.

I wanted to lie down on the couch and cry, but it was covered with a huge pile of unfolded laundry. So instead, I stood still in the middle of the kitchen and looked lost. Fortunately for me, Steve came home at precisely that moment, recognized the look on my face and took over: he took steaks down from the freezer for dinner, heated the potato pizza for a side dish, and handed me a pink bag with a pretty pink dress in it: Happy Valentine’s Day. He might as well have been wearing a cape and tights.

We all felt much better after eating dinner, despite the fact that the laundry and the dishes didn’t magically disappear. The kids were disappointed that our special dessert would have to wait, but I explained to them that- sugar project or no sugar project- there is only so much that Mommy can do.

Remind me to write that on my mirror, or my forehead, or something, would you?

A Year of No Sugar: Post 21

I’ve never been very good at improvising. Despite my established status as a crafty-arty person, I am, I’m afraid, heartbreakingly literal in some ways- especially when it comes to food.

Just ask Katrina. She’s the friend who made me realize it was, perhaps, just a teensy bit rigid of me to time the pasta cooking to the second, just to make a pot of Annie’s Mac and Cheese. Have I made this mom-staple three thousand times? Yes. No matter: it takes an extreme force of will to get me to dump the pasta out a few seconds early, and it would plainly never occur to me to dump the milk in unmeasured. Gasp!

I’ve been known not to make a recipe at all for lack of a single, tangential ingredient, such as ½ tsp of tarragon. After all, I reason, that might make the dish! And why go through all the effort to make something not as good as it is supposed to be?

Over time, I have learned to loosen up somewhat- but it is on the No Sugar Project that my improvising wings have been forced to take flight, for better or worse. It started with me bravely leaving out a teaspoon of sugar here, a tablespoon of honey there. And so far everything had been- fine! I baked baguettes without ¾ of a teaspoon of sugar, cheddar cheese soup without Worcestershire sauce (couldn’t find a no-sugar version), and sweet potato biscuits without 2 tablespoons sugar.

But I’ve been feeling… empty lately: hungry not just for food per-se but for richness and variety in our diet. My older daughter mentioned that she could not eat another hard-boiled egg for breakfast and I know just what she means. So, following a certain degree of success with the somewhat unconventional apple-raisin cookie recipe I found online, I’ve decided to branch out and experiment in the name of enlarging our no-sugar dessert possibilities. After all we’ve given up sugar, not sweet.

So last night I tried making an apricot bar recipe that we have loved in the past, but omitting the ¾ cup of brown sugar called for in the butter and flour crust. Now ¾ cup is a lot more than a tablespoon, and I realized some sort of replacement would be necessary to round out the crust, and provide it with the correct density and stick-together-i-ness.

I ended up deciding to try ¾ cup mushed banana. I felt very adventurous, and half-sure we’d end up with an inedible mess.

Good news! The apricot bars weren’t just edible, they were actually good! I mean, the kids ate them up, which is really the true test. Turns out the banana pulp provided just the right amount of stickiness to form a proper crust and emitted a delicious sweet smell while baking. Of course, the bars weren’t nearly as sweet as before, but they were sweet, primarily due to the cooked apricot filling; despite the smell, the banana taste wasn’t very detectible in the end product. I cooked them a little longer in an attempt to get them to brown on the top in an appetizing way, but in the end I thought maybe adding an egg to the crust next time would do more to help in this regard.

Isn’t that nice? I’m ridiculously proud of myself, and am happy to have sent that empty feeling packing for the moment. I’ll have to remember this moment for times in the future when I’m hacking failed experiments into the trash with an ice pick.

For those of you who’d like to play along at home, here’s the recipe as modified from the original “Lemon Date Bars” found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home:

Eve’s No Sugar Apricot Bars

  • 2 cups chopped dried apricots
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup mushed up ripe banana
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350

In a saucepan, combine the apricots, lemon juice and water. Cook, covered, on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, cream together butter and banana. Stir in flour, salt and baking soda. Add oats and mix well, using your hands. The dough should be crumbly, but hold together when squeezed. Press two-thirds of the dough into a buttered 8 or 9 inch square pan. Stir the apricot mixture and spread it over the dough. Crumble the remaining dough on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool in the pan. Cut into bars.