Veggie Sweet Treats 1


The splendid rainbow of produce this bountiful earth of ours provides is a pot of gold nutritionally, and full of surprises, too. It may be no big deal now, but we were all once surprised to discover that a tomato is in fact, scientifically speaking, a fruit, right? Of course, it's really a bit of an affront to the epicurean senses to perseverate on labels based on the presence or absence of seeds, and no amount of argument (not that there is any forthcoming, really, but bear with me) is worth grocery stores troubling themselves to re-sort their stock, identifying cucumbers, green beans and their seeded peers as fruits. At the same time, it's intriguing to note that Mother Nature allowed for lots of creative interpretation in her edible treasures, and so should we.

Although I can't say I'm one who actually likes to be surprised, taking delight in surprises is another story, particularly when the surprise is to an extent under my control. I have something of a fascination with sneaking vegetables unexpectedly into sweets, too, and I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in this preference. A multitude of vegetables (including those that are officially fruits) lend themselves to sweet as easily as savory, including sweet potato (you can't get more obvious than that name) and all sorts of squash varieties. And of course, the deservedly ever-popular carrot cake (yum)! So, I've set myself a sort of ongoing challenge, building the veggie cake/muffin/cookie: namely, how much vegetable (either singly or in combination) can I stuff into one sweet treat? Goal is to maximize the amount of vege, minimize the fat and sugar, and achieve fully satisfying taste.

Sweet potatoes are a delectably rich choice, in flavor and nutrition, for experiment. These meaty roots are potent sources of vitamin A (over 200% the daily value in one potato) and just loaded with antioxidants.  Baked or boiled and mashed, they make a great addition to baked goods and a nice stand-in for your russet. I used sweet potatoes in a coffee cake recipe for Natural Solutions attached to an article on immune boosting foods. There's lots of room to play with it, especially with adding or substituting nuts, dried and fresh fruits. The texture does come out quite dense, and it's very moist, so best refrigerated to prevent it from perishing too soon.

Sweet potato and Citrus Coffee Cake

12-15 servings

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cooked, mashed orange sweet potatoes

1 egg

1 egg white

½ cup nonfat sour cream

¾ cup orange juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup raisins

½ cup dried cranberries


1 ½ cups powdered sugar

¼ cup orange juice

1. In a bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix sugar, maple syrup, yams, vanilla, sour cream, and orange juice, olive oil, egg and egg white and blend well.

3. Combine flour and yam mixtures. Fold in raisins and cranberries and pour into a prepared baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350◦, 1 hour for an 11 X 7 pan, 45 minutes for a 9 X 13 pan.

4. While cake is baking, prepare glaze in a small bowl. Spoon over cake when cooled. nutrition info per serving (based on 15 servings): 240.2 calories; 2.5 g fat; .4 g saturated fat; 12.6 mg cholesterol; 3.5 g protein; 53 g carbohydrates; 1.9 g fiber; 65.4 mg sodium

Zucchini is another easy choice, adding meltingly rich moisture and texture to breads and spice cakes. But this month, an abundance of tender and lovely zucchini was too gorgeous to ignore, and too much to handle at once, so I've been experimenting with zucchini treats without any regret at not seeking out a bigger challenge. This first recipe I was really happy with, so much so I declared it would become birthday cupcakes for a child I have yet to have!

Lowfat zucchini chocolate muffins

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (or 1 wheat, 1 white)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½  tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½  tsp chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 egg whites (or 1 egg, 1 egg white)
  • ½ cup lowfat sour cream or plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • 2 cups (480 mL) grated zucchini
  • 2 ounces quality dark chocolate
  •   ¼ cup skim, soy or lowfat chocolate milk
  • ¼ cup dark cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • ¼ cup to ½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips or mini chips, optional

In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients except cocoa powder. Make a well in the center and add oil, egg whites, sour cream, and applesauce. In a saucepan, gently melt dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons water. Remove from heat and stir in milk and cocoa. Add to bowl and stir all ingredients until well combined. Spoon batter into large muffin pans. Bake  at 350 for about 25 or until centers are set.

*Next time I want to try subsituting agave nectar for the sugar, and will update this post with the results!