Janet's Notebook
Lighten Things Up With Healthier Springtime Sweets

Good For You Zucchini Apple Bread!

Spring is here! We were all pastels and florals at the recent Just A Pinch Blue Ribbon Showcase event. (More on that Decadent Dessert celebration in an upcoming Notebook!) There were so many great discussions that sprung up during the event, but the single most asked question was how to make springtime appropriate desserts that are also healthy. Well, I took that on as a fantastic challenge! That very same evening I began to go through Just A Pinch and pulled some of the Test Kitchen's favorite springtime eats.

To my great joy, I found that some - dare I say, many - of our favorite desserts are healthier than I knew! I mean, how can you pass over a recipe entitled Best Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies?! Yum. Anna Messina wasn't playing around when she posted her scrumtastic recipe to Just A Pinch... They really are some of the absolute best!

"Moist and chewy with only 85 calories per cookie, you can indulge in a few with an ice cold glass of milk and feel guiltless!" smiles Anna.

The combination of oatmeal and chocolate in her recipe is SO delicious. Made with whole wheat flour and applesauce in place of the majority of oil, these little sweeties are so high on flavor that you'd never know they're low on guilt.

For another healthier than average treat, nix the cake and bake up a delectable loaf of Karen Alcala's Good For You Zucchini and Apple Bread! She deftly combines flavors that meld into a wholly unique dessert.

"I love zucchini bread but I hate all the oil and sugar you have to put in," says Karina. "I developed this recipe so it is good for you and it is still sweet and moist. My kids love [it] - I make one loaf and mini muffins for them."

We love slicing it up -It's great warm! - and dolloping on just a bit of fat free whipped topping. Karina prefers slathering on pineapple or orange jam. Either way, this is such a wholesome, homey recipe for satisfying your sweet tooth. The apple and zucchini truly are a flavor match made in heaven.

Need a little chocolate in that healthy diet of yours? Can I ever relate! One of our favorite guilt free-ish chocolate treats also happens to be super cute and kid-friendly: M&M Balls! That doesn't sound guilt free, you say? Ho ho, au contraire! Made of only egg whites, cream of tartar and a bit of sugar, these melt-in-your-mouth meringues are then laced with a rainbow of colorful M&Ms.

"My aunt has been making these for all the kids in the family for as far back as I can remember," says Jessica Grigowsky, the home cook behind the addictive sweets. "They're super quick, easy & CHEAP to make! And I haven't heard anyone ever say they didn't like them!"

Well, that streak is holding strong as far as we're concerned, Jessica. Her M&M Balls recipe has been saved by more than 4,000 people and we hear rave reviews on a regular basis. The people have spoken... These are simply stellar.

So who says you can't have your dessert and be healthy, too? These crafty gals are clearly using their noggins to beat the battle of the bulge, and turning out interesting recipe reinventions to boot! How about you? Got a tip for cooking lighter? We'd love to hear it! Leave a comment and let us know.

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Dee Stillwell - Apr 20, 2013
That's exactly my feelings on artificial sweeteners..I used to use the toxic sweeteners..but now only use Stevia in the Raw, Organic agave necter and occasionally honey. When making cakes and cookies, I like a blend of very ripe banana, Agave and Stevia..the flavor is much better than using only one kind..IMO
I haven't converted to using all coconut oil in baked goods..but I use 1/2 Coconut oil and 1/2 real butter..or 1/2 of each or those and 1/3 applesauce or ripe banana. To me that works best in nut breads and cakes..unless u like cakey cookies..I do, but prefer crispy chewy cookies.. yummmm
When baking I use white whole wheat flour.by itself or mixed with unbleached white flour..it all depends on the recipe..if you want a lighter texture, use the mix.
I have been exchanging healthier ingredients for several yrs now. That along with exercise has helped me lose 185 lbs so far.
Kathy Van Houten - Apr 19, 2013
Thanks Stephen for the information.
Karen Phillips - Apr 19, 2013
Stephen, what about Agave? I read where this will not spike glucose levels but I have also read that it is a lot like fructose syrup. So confusing.
Stephen Jackson - Apr 18, 2013
Kathy, replacing sugar with honey in baked goods is a treacherous process, but these guidelines will USUALLY keep you safe. Use 2/3 to 3/4 cup (usually 3/4 unless the trial batch comes out too sweet!) of honey for each cup of sugar in the original recipe, add approximately 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of sugar you are replacing, otherwise, the rising will be off, you will usually bake the altered recipe at a slightly lower temperature to ensure that it cooks evenly without burning. Baking times almost always need to be adjusted, but don't use the original temperature, or the item usually burns on the outside before cooking in the middle. Finally, remember to reduce total liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of sugar you are replacing. If the recipe is low on liquid to begin with, you may not be able to replace the sugar with honey.

Jennifer, we all have our preferences, but for me personally, I don't trust an organo-chlorine sweetener (Splenda) as a viable "healthy" options for anyone that I care about. Humans were never meant to digest those compounds, and a healthy dose of moderation usually goes a long way in allowing even diabetics to enjoy the occasional "treat" the bigger blood sugar spike will actually come from the processed flour rather than the sugar, though large amounts of either are poor choices for diabetics who have uncontrolled blood sugar. Consider maltitol / xylitol / or even tagitose (if it ever makes it to market) as better sugar substitute alternatives. Yes, they are more expensive, but ultimately, not foreign toxins to the bodies of you and your loved ones.
Jennifer Smith - Apr 18, 2013
Or use the spenda blend for the sugar.
Kathy Van Houten - Apr 16, 2013
what about replacing some or(depending on recipe)all of the sugar with honey?