Valentine’s Day has arrived!. Local stores are well stocked with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and a ton of other sugary confections. For those of us who want to share in the love without a major dietary setback, here are some health-friendly sweet treats guaranteed to please.
Marzipan: This modified version of marzipan requires very little prep time and adds up to a fantastic dessert. Start with one cup of ground almonds. You can make this yourself with a food processor or buy almond meal at specialty stores such as Fairway. Add half a cup of powdered sugar and mix thoroughly.
Once mixed, add one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, one tablespoon of maple syrup or agave nectar, one tablespoon of cold water and one teaspoon of extract. You can use coconut, vanilla, hazelnut, or almond extract depending on your taste. Once all ingredients are mixed, refrigerate for 10 minutes to set. Marzipan is very easy to mold into shapes with your hands or cookie cutters.
For a nice touch, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to create hearts of all shapes and sizes and dust with cocoa powder.
Meringue Cookies: OK, they’re not really cookies. They don’t have the sweet flexibility of gluten-filled baked products, but egg whites and sugar blended together in a variety of flavors is a pretty sweet deal. Break vanilla meringue cookies into small pieces and add to baked pears or peaches for an impromptu cobbler.
For pears and peaches, slice them thin and coat with a dab of butter and four tablespoons of apricot jam or jelly. Bake until soft. The fruit creates a nice juicy blend with the apricot jam. You can season with ginger, cinnamon or star anise, depending on your taste. Top with crushed meringue cookies and eat before they melt for a sweet little crunch.
Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin: Take your favorite chocolate cake recipe and ditch the eggs and oil. Mix together all the dry ingredients and add a 16-ounce can of pureed pumpkin.
Pumpkin without added spice is best, but seasoned pumpkin works too. Follow the baking directions on your recipe and enjoy!
The texture is a bit denser than cake made with eggs and oil, but the flavor is convincing. Try making cupcakes to keep portion size in check. Instead of sugar-rich icing, try vanilla yogurt mixed with cocoa powder.
Here’s a secret: I’ve served this cake to some pretty picky eaters, the kind who say they can tell right away if anything unusual is in it, and have fooled them all with this one. Let’s just keep that last bit between us.
Kristin Allocco was raised in Bayside and works for the Queens Farm Museum. She also teaches fitness and dance classes.