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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: crumble

dessertcover

Just because you’re trying to eat healthy doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert. You just have to choose carefully. High fat ingredients contain saturated fat and they can cause higher cholesterol levels in the body. Desserts and sweets don’t have the nutritional value that other foods do, but if you stick with healthier recipes and less-frequent, reasonable portions, desserts can fit into your healthy eating plan. Make fruit a part of your dessert menu as much as possible, whether it is the dessert itself or is part of a recipe. Although fruit is high in carbohydrates, it’s also filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you crave something more, try adding fruit to sugar-free gelatin or mixing up a quick fruit salad. You will be amazed at how delicious these healthy dessert recipes taste.

dessert1

Almond Brown Rice Pudding

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped slivered almonds

Directions

Place dates in a bowl and pour 1/2 cup boiling water over them. Let soak 15 minutes, then transfer dates and water to a blender and puree until smooth to make a date syrup.

Bring rice and almond milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is cooked and has absorbed most of the almond milk, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir date syrup, raisins, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon and almonds into the cooked rice and serve warm or cold.

dessert2

Pumpkin-Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates (6 ounces whole dates)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine peanuts and oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 25 times to create a coarse meal. Add cocoa and salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

Put pumpkin purée and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the peanut butter and pumpkin are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla and dates and mix until combined, about 1 minute. On low-speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture. Mix until completely combined, forming a dense dough.

Scoop up tablespoons of dough and roll them into balls. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press down on the balls with the back of a fork first in one direction and then in the other to form a checkerboard design on each cookie.

Bake until the cookies are firm and dried, about 12 minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 1 week.

dessert3

Carrot-Almond Cake

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, divided, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups grated carrots, divided
  • 1 3/4 cups almond flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil an 8 x 8-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, make the crumb topping by combining 1 cup carrots, 1/4 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1 1/2 cups almond flour and the 1 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a second large bowl, whisk together sour cream, vanilla, eggs, remaining 3/4 cup sugar and remaining oil. Add flour mixture to the large bowl and whisk again until incorporated; fold in the remaining 2 cups carrots.

Transfer to the prepared pan and scatter crumb topping over the top. Bake until the cake springs back in the middle when pressed, and is deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes.

Set aside to let cool until warm, then remove from the pan and transfer to a plate, discarding the parchment paper. Cut into squares or wedges and serve.

dessert4

Sweet Potato Apple Pie

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 (9 to 9 1/2-inch) unbaked pie shell
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 1 hour or until very tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Line pastry shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the lower rack of the oven about 15 minutes or until just starting to set. Remove the weights and continue to bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes and transfer flesh to the bowl of a food processor. Discard skins. Process until potatoes are puréed. Transfer 1 1/4 cups purée to a large bowl. Add milk, sugar, flour, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt and whisk until combined and smooth.

Layer apple slices in concentric circles in the bottom of the cooled crust. Pour sweet potato filling into the crust over the apples. Bake about 50 minutes or until just set in the center of the pie.

Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Serve or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

dessert5

Pear Crumble

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup regular rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 medium pears, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Frozen vanilla yogurt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix with a fork until combined. Add the butter and work it in with your fingers, a fork or a pastry blender until the mixture begins to form clumps.

In a large bowl toss the pears with the water, lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Transfer pear mixture to a 9-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the pears.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the topping is golden and the pears are tender. If desired, serve warm with frozen yogurt.

Tip
To make individual servings, prepare as above, except divide the pear mixture among six 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins. Sprinkle with oat mixture and bake about 35 minutes or until the pears are tender. Serve as above.

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breakfast 1

Americans tend to eat the same thing when it comes to breakfast. The vast majority of us, surveys say, start our days with Starbucks or cold cereal — and those of us with children are more likely to buy the kinds of cereal with the most sugar. Children all over the world eat corn flakes and drink chocolate milk, of course, but in many places they also eat things that would strike the average American as strange.

In Australia –  a bowl of cold cereal

In Brazil –  ham, cheeses and bread, served with coffee and milk

In China – Dim Sum

In Cuba – cafe con leche (coffee with milk) with a tostada

In England –  eggs, sausage, bacon, beans and mushrooms.

In France – croissants and coffee

In Germany – cold meats, local cheeses and fresh-baked bread

In India – fermented black lentils and rice served with chutney and sambar

In Japan – miso soup, steamed white rice and pickles.

In Morocco – bread, jam and cheese

In Nigeria – moi moi, a ground bean paste that is wrapped in leaves and steamed

In Russia – sirniki or baked farmers cheese pancakes and hot oatmeal

In Turkey – bread, cheese, butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam or honey

In italy – a cappuccino and sweet roll or biscotti

While the benefits of eating breakfast are well-known —  it can prevent weight gain, boost short-term memory, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and even make us happier — most of those health rewards depend on choosing the right foods. You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein. Good choices include eggs, whole grains, fruit, peanut butter and yogurt.

Some Quick Fix Options

  • For a portable breakfast: Place in a ziplock bag: a cut up apple, 2 ounces of cheddar cheese cubes and ¼ cup of fiber and protein-rich walnuts.
  • Instead of dousing a whole-grain toaster waffle in syrup, cut the sugar and boost the protein and fiber by spreading it with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
  • Take a slice of crusty bread, spread it with 3 tablespoons of low-fat ricotta and add sliced plum tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon) and a little salt and pepper. Place under the broiler for a minute or two.
  • Slice a hard-boiled egg, then roll it in an 8-inch whole-wheat tortilla with a slice of lean ham and a slice of cheese. Add a tablespoon of salsa for a shot of flavor.

Feel like trying something different for breakfast, check out these recipes:

breakfast 2

Mini Spinach Frittatas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 24 – 1/8 inch thick slices of fully cooked Italian chicken sausages

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Place a sausage slice in each of 24 greased miniature muffin cups. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full with the spinach mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until completely set. Carefully run a knife around the sides of the muffin cups to loosen the frittatas. Serve warm. Yield: 2 dozen.

breakfast 5

Fruit Crumble

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fruit
  • 2 teaspoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon almond meal or almond flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toppings

  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar for garnish – optional
  • 1 teaspoon slivered almonds
  • Additional fresh fruit, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the fruit and the 2 tablespoons of almond flour. Toss until well coated.

Place in a 6” oven safe bowl leaving about 1 inch at the top for the crumble topping.

Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon of almond meal, butter, oats, vanilla and cinnamon. Spoon over the fruit.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Garnish with almonds, additional fresh fruit and confectioners’ sugar.

breakfast 4

Creamy Breakfast Polenta

If crème fraîche is unavailable, use lightly sweetened sour cream.

Makes about 6 cups; 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups low-fat (2%) milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons blackberry jam
  • Lightly sweetened  crème fraîche

Directions

In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pan over high heat, bring 3 cups water and the milk to a boil. Reduce heat so liquid is barely boiling. Stirring constantly, pour in polenta in a thin, steady stream, pausing occasionally to break up any lumps. Stir in sugar and salt.

Simmer, stirring often, until polenta is soft and creamy to the bite, about 20  minutes (if heat is too high, bubbles may “spit” hot polenta out of the pan).

Ladle polenta into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon blackberry jam and a dollop of crème fraîche.

breakfast3

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

Serve with a slice of baguette for dipping.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 cups crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (divided)
  • 8 medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

In a wide, deep skillet, heat oil on medium. Add bell pepper, onion, oregano, coriander and cayenne and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes, orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Crack 1 egg into a small bowl or cup. Gently slip the egg into the sauce without breaking the egg; repeat with the remaining eggs, leaving 1-inch between each egg. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle remaining  salt ove rthe top. Cover and simmer gently until egg whites are opaque and yolks are firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully ladle sauce and eggs into serving bowls and top with chopped parsley.

breakfast 6

Mini Pancakes with Greek Yogurt and Fruit

Makes 10-12 depending on the size of your muffin cups.

Ingredients

Batter

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond-milk or low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Toppings

  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries or fruit in season, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sliced frozen peaches, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite jam

Directions

Pre­heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place all of the batter ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.

Pour batter into greased or lined muffin cups, filling half­way.

Bake for 15 ­to 18 minutes or until puffy and brown. The pancakes will deflate when you remove them from the oven.

Place a few sliced peaches on top of the pancake. Spoon on a tablespoon of yogurt followed by a teaspoon of jam. Decorate with berry slices, if desired.

 


summer fruit

You think fruit, then dessert: fruit pies, fruit crumbles, fruit crisps, fruit compote on spongecake, fruit in ice cream or fruit on its own. When it’s hot and you need something refreshing, summer fruit fills the need– from tart blackberries to sweet strawberries to juicy peaches. However, there’s a savory side to summer fruit, that definitely deserves your attention.
Fresh fruit, summer fruit in particular, can really add something special to your recipes. When combined with the right ingredients, summer fruit can take on a savory flavor that’s far from a dessert — and just as good. I have included both desserts and savory dishes in the recipes in this post.
These summer fruits celebrate the freshest flavors of the season:

  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Passion Fruit
  • Melons
  • Lemons
  • Limes

summer fruit 1

Vegetable Salad With Blackberry-Shallot Vinaigrette

Chopped salads add a splash of color to a meal. If you’re making this salad in advance, keep the salad and dressing separate and hold off adding the tomatoes and avocado until just before serving. You can substitute vegetables that are in season for some of the ones listed in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped green beans or asparagus, steamed just until tender
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/2 head radicchio, chopped
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 10 blackberries, halved

Dressing

  • 10 whole blackberries
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In large bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, green beans, bell pepper, radishes and radicchio. In a separate small bowl, toss avocados with lemon juice to coat and then fold into the salad.

For the dressing:

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl and place whole berries for the dressing in the strainer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash berries through the strainer to separate the juice from the pulp and seeds. Discard pulp and seeds. Whisk together the blackberry juice, shallot, olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle desired amount over the salad. You may not need to use the entire amount of dressing. Top with pine nuts, the halved blackberries and serve. Serves 4.

summer fruit 3

Summer Fruit Soup

Makes about 4 cups; (serving size: 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ripe cantaloupe chunks (about 1 inch)
  • 3-4 ripe peaches (1 lb), peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup white Zinfandel wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Honey (optional)
  • 1 cup raspberries, rinsed and drained
  • Mint sprigs, rinsed

Directions

In a blender or food processor, puree cantaloupe, peaches, white Zinfandel and lemon juice until smooth. Taste and add honey if desired.
Pour soup into a container, cover, and chill until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. To chill faster, nest container in a bowl of ice water and stir soup often until cold, about 30 minutes.
Pour the soup into shallow bowls. Scatter raspberries on top. Garnish with mint sprigs.

summer fruit 4

Mozzarella, Basil and Nectarines with Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients

  • 4 large nectarines
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 thick round slices
  • 1 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions

Combine vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is slightly syrupy. Remove fromthe  heat and pour the vinegar into a glass measuring cup. Set aside to cool and thicken.

Cut the nectarines into ¼ inch thick circles, going around the pit and keeping the slices whole.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sear both sides of the nectarines for 1 minute or until warmed, but still firm. Alternately, you can grill the nectarines directly on the grill. Keep the nectarines warm while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the panko crumbs, flour, parmesan, salt, pepper and cayenne, mixing thoroughly to combine.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Take each slice of fresh mozzarella and coat it in the beaten egg, then dredge it through the bread crumb mix, pressing on both sides to adhere. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and when hot, saute the coated mozzarella slices, turning carefully once, until golden and the cheese starts to melt but still retains its shape, about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble: place one nectarine slice on a plate, top with 1 slice of mozzarella and then a basil leaf. Repeat the layer one more time and finish with a nectarine slice. Garnish with basil and freshly grated pepper. Drizzle on the balsamic glaze.

Food 52

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

Plum Sauce

  • 1 pound pitted, chopped plums 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 minced hot pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • Salt & Pepper

Pork

  • 2 boneless pork tenderloins
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

To make the sauce:

Bring all ingredients except the plums to a boil. Stir in the chopped plums. Reduce the heat and simmer very slowly until thick and syrupy, about 45 minutes. Depending on your preference for consistency, either puree in small batches in the blender, blend with an immersion blender or mash with a potato masher. The sauce may be made two days in advance.

To prepare the pork:

Heat an outdoor grill. Bank the coals on one side, so that one half is very hot and one half can be used for indirect cooking. If you have a gas grill, turn off one burner after the grill heats. Brush the hottest part of the grill with a little oil so the pork won’t stick.

Pat pork tenderloins dry with paper towels. Lightly salt and pepper them on all sides. Sear the pork on all sides over the hot side of the grill. Move the pork to the indirect heat, brush liberally with some plum sauce and cover the grill for about 8-10 minutes. Total cooking time, including searing is 15-18 minutes. If you have a thermometer, cook to 155 degrees F.

Heat some plum sauce in a small saucepan on the stove or the grill. Remove the pork from the grill and tent with foil, allowing the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Slice the tenderloins. Pool the plum sauce on the plate and serve with the sliced tenderloin fanned out on top. This dish goes well with garlicky, sautéed greens.

summer fruit 2

Creamy Rice Pudding with Peaches

Ingredients

  • 5 cups whole milk (or any combination of whole and 2 percent reduced-fat milk), divided
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled and mashed

Directions

Combine 4 cups milk, rice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Whisk egg yolks and about 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture together in a small bowl. Whisk back into the pan and add the remaining 1 cup milk. Place over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool and chill at least 2 hours before serving. Top with mashed peaches.

100_0723

Blackberry or Blueberry Crumble

Blackberries were plentiful this year where I live. I had more than enough to use in fruit salads and decided to make this dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 cups mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur clear gel for fruit pies or cornstarch

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar,the  1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt and oats. Using a pastry blender, a fork or your hands cut in the butter. Keep mixture cold until ready to use.

In a large bowl combine berries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and clear gel or cornstarch; toss to coat. Pour the blackberry mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Top with the crumble topping. Bake until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.


spring fruit

Now that spring has finally arrived, the focus on food shifts to lighter recipes, with fresh flavors and colors. We crave lighter main dishes and fresh salads. So there are also dessert recipes that are appropriate for spring.

Whether you’re searching for a dessert for Mother’s Day or a shower or birthday, seasonal fruits can often provide spring dessert inspiration, as these ingredients are likely to be of the highest quality because conditions are optimal for their growth. Berries, stone and tropical fruit, as well as some citrus, such as limes or Meyer lemons, can be found in the produce section or farmer’s markets. Choose one or two main ingredients to feature for a dessert that highlights the fruit’s natural flavors. For instance, a berry medley does well with little more than a dash of rum, sugar and chopped mint garnished with a little whipped cream.

Simple ingredient additions or substitutions can make spring desserts stand out. Lime gives sweet dishes more complexity, adding a tart note. Substituting refined sugar with honey or maple syrup also changes a dish’s texture and sweetness. If you have a recipe in mind but want to give it a spring touch, replacing the main ingredient with a seasonal fruit can be effective.

Presentation can substantially affect the appearance of spring desserts. Garnishing with fresh, seasonal flowers or displaying desserts on mismatched antique dishes add color, fragrance and character to your dessert presentation. Simple and sleek dishes can give a gourmet touch and pieces with elaborate designs or patterns can bring to mind homemade and comfort food. Spring colors and motifs also add seasonal flare to the presentation.

Here are some recipes for healthier springtime desserts.

Berry Ginger Shortcakes

shortcakes

Makes: 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh berries (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup refrigerated egg product or 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream

Directions

In a small bowl combine the berries and the crystallized ginger. Set aside.
Heat oven 425 degrees F.

For the shortcakes:

In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture all at once, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. On a lightly floured surface pat the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough with a floured 2-1/2-inch star-shaped or heart-shaped cookie cutter or a round biscuit cutter, rerolling scraps as necessary.

Place shortcakes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden. Cool the shortcakes slightly on a wire rack.

To serve:

In a small bowl combine the whipped cream and sour cream. Split the shortcakes in half. Place the bottoms on dessert plates. Divide the berry mixture among the bottoms. Top each with some of the topping mixture. Replace the shortcake tops.

Almond Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce

panna cotta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups reduced-fat milk 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur or several drops almond extract
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For the panna cotta:

In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 3 minutes to soften. Cook and stir over medium heat until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Cook and stir just until milk is heated through and sugar is dissolved. Stir in Amaretto or almond extract. Pour into four 6-ounce custard cups. Cover and chill about 8 hours or until firm.

For sauce:

In another small saucepan, combine blueberries, orange juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and the cornstarch. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
To serve:

Run a thin knife around the edge of each panna cotta; unmold onto individual plates; top with sauce.

Raspberry-Mint Swirl Cheesecake

Raspberry cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 5 cups plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 cup fresh red raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves for garnish

Raspberry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions
.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle 2 1/2 teaspoons of the gelatin over the milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Bruise mint sprigs by pressing with the back of a spoon; add to the saucepan. Heat and stir milk mixture over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes. Remove and discard mint sprigs; set aside.

For the raspberry layer:

Place the 1 cup raspberries in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until smooth. Transfer raspberry puree to another small saucepan. Stir in the 3 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle remaining 1-1/4 teaspoons gelatin over raspberry mixture; let stand for 5 minutes. Heat and stir raspberry mixture over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat; cover and chill for 15 minutes.

For the cheese layer:

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in Greek yogurt, the 1/3 cup sugar and the vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in the milk/gelatin mixture.

Add 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture to the raspberry mixture; stir until well mixed. Set aside.

Spoon half of the white cream cheese mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Spoon half of the raspberry mixture into mounds over the white cream cheese mixture in the pan. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl raspberry mixture into white mixture. Repeat layering remaining white cream cheese mixture and raspberry mixture. Cover and chill for 24 hours.

For the raspberry sauce:

Place 2 cups fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Press mixture through a fine mesh sieve; discard seeds. Add honey and mix well. Heat the sauce in the microwave, if you would like to serve it warm.

To serve:

Using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from the side of the springform pan; remove pan side. Cut cheesecake into wedges.
Drizzle some of the Raspberry Sauce on dessert plates. Place cheesecake wedges atop sauce on plates. Garnish with fresh raspberries and fresh mint leaves.

Lemon-Thyme Cookies

lemon cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • Coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in thyme, lemon peel, lemon juice and cardamom. Add in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Knead until smooth; form mixture into a ball.

Divide dough into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6×4 inch rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface.

Cut dough into 1 1/2-inch squares with a scalloped-edge pastry wheel and sprinkle cutouts with coarse sugar. You can make the cookies into any size you would prefer.

Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are just lightly brown. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Place cookies in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 36 cookies.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

crumble

Ingredients

For The Fruit:

  • 8 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered if large)
  • 8 ounces rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For The Topping:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter or healthy butter alternative (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

For The Garnish:

Fresh basil leaves and frozen vanilla yogurt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Transfer to a greased 8-inch baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, melted butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir until combined and slightly crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake until juices are bubbling in the center and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Garnish with basil and serve with a scoop of frozen yogurt.

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Thyme once was associated with courage, bravery and strength. Roman soldiers exchanged sprigs of thyme as a sign of respect. Greeks and Romans burned bundles of thyme to purify their temples and homes and to evoke a spirit of courage in those who inhaled it. Greeks and Romans are also believed to have added this herb directly to their baths and oil extracts from the plant were used to make bath and massage oils.

Thyme was associated with health and vigor and believed to strengthen and purify the body. Today, its essential oil, thymol, still has many therapeutic applications – it is widely used as an antiseptic and disinfectant and infusions of thyme are believed to be an excellent remedy for respiratory and throat ailments – and even hangovers! Thyme is also said to help in the digestion of fatty foods.

Thyme is widely used in Italian cooking – where it is know as “timo, pronounced “tee-mo”. Though there are more than 300 varieties of this herb, the most common types used in cooking are Thymus vulgaris (common thyme), Thymus citriodorus (citrus thyme, Thymus herba-barona (caraway thyme) and Thymus serpyllum (wild thyme).

Wild Thyme

Common thyme, the variety most often found in Italy, is a perennial plant, six to twelve inches tall, with tiny oval leaves and a pungent aroma.

Fresh thyme holds up well with refrigeration and can often be purchased by the bunch or a group of sprigs in a plastic clamshell container. Fresh thyme can be used whole with the stem or just the leaves with the stem removed.

If a recipe calls for a “sprig” of thyme, the leaves and stem should be used together, intact. When adding a whole sprig of thyme to soups, stews or other recipes, the leaves usually fall off during cooking and the woody stem can be removed prior to serving.

To remove the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, simply hold the sprig of thyme at the top with one hand, pinch the sprig with the other, and pull backwards down the stem. The leaves will detach easily. Fresh thyme leaves are so small that they usually require no chopping.

Fresh thyme should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic or in the original plastic clamshell container. When stored properly, fresh thyme will retain freshness and flavor for about two weeks.

Dried thyme retains much of the flavor of fresh thyme and is a suitable substitution for fresh in many cases. When substituting dried thyme for fresh, use roughly one third of the volume of fresh thyme called for in the recipe. Dried thyme can be found in most major supermarkets year round. Store dried thyme in an airtight container, away from heat and light. When stored properly, dried thyme should retain flavor and potency for up to one year.

When cooking with thyme, unlike many other herbs, be sure to add it early in the process, so the oils and flavor have time to be released. Thyme is used in many typical southern Italian pasta sauces, featuring peppers and eggplant and is also a great complement for many vegetables, including tomatoes and roasted potatoes. In Italy recipes, grilled and oven roasted fish, such as spigola (sea bass) triglie al forno (mullets), call for thyme. Additionally, thyme combines well with sage and rosemary and, when you grill, you can get great results if you marinate the meat for a few hours before grilling with those three herbs (thyme, sage and rosemary), along with good quality Italian olive oil.

Eggplant Rolls with Fresh Ricotta and Thyme

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplants, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 12 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Slice 1½ eggplants into ¼ inch slices lengthwise. Reserve the 1/2 eggplant for a sauce.

Sprinkle with salt and drain in colander for 30 minutes. Set aside.

For the eggplant sauce:

Peel remaining ½ eggplant and cut into small cubes, season with salt and place in another colander for 30 minutes to drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan, add garlic and sauté until garlic is translucent.

Add the cubed eggplant, salt and pepper and water. Cook until eggplant is very soft.

Process the sauce mixture in a blender or with a hand immersion blender until smooth.

Add chopped tomato and 1 tablespoon thyme. Makes approx 1-½ cups.

For the cheese filling:

Mix ricotta cheese, parmigiano, remaining thyme and salt & pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Coat eggplant slices lightly with flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high and sauté eggplant slices until light brown. Remove the eggplant and spread flat on level surface.

Divide ricotta mixture evenly among eggplant slices. Begin at one end and roll the eggplant into a cylinder. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Place rolls in 8×8 glass baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano cheese. Serve the eggplant rolls with warm eggplant sauce.

Farfalle with Peppers and Thyme

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Farfalle pasta
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups white onions, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh italian parsley chopped

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and 1 sprig of fresh thyme. Sauté 5 minutes.

Add peppers and water to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Sauté an additional 10 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Drain pasta, add to the skillet with the pepper mixture and toss. Sprinkle with remaining thyme and chopped parsley.

Chicken Thighs Baked with Lemon and Thyme

In addition to the lemon and thyme, the chicken thighs are flavored with an emulsified mash of garlic, salt and olive oil.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • Coarse salt or sea salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 2 large lemons, each cut into six 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1-2 bunches fresh thyme, snipped into twenty-four 2-inch pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup black olives (kalamata), cut in half

Directions:

Mash the garlic with a large pinch of salt to create a coarse paste ( with a mortar and pestle or a small mixing bowl and the back of a spoon). Add the oil very slowly in drops while pounding and grinding the paste, continuing until thick, creamy and emulsified. Put the chicken in a bowl. Rub the garlic paste all over and under the skin. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Arrange the lemon slices in one layer in a large shallow roasting pan or baking dish (9x13x2 inches). Top each slice with two pieces of thyme. Set the chicken thighs, skin side up, on top; sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. Bake until the skin is golden and the juices are clear, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Sometimes the lemons and chicken produce a lot of juices, in which case you can make a pan sauce. Transfer the chicken (keeping the thyme and lemon slices underneath) to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Set the pan over medium heat (if the pan isn’t flameproof, pour the juices into a small skillet) and scrape up any stuck-on juices. Let the juices boil and reduce so they thicken to a saucy consistency. Drizzle the sauce around, not on, the chicken to maintain the crisp skin and garnish with olives.

Nectarine-Thyme Crumble

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Directions:

In a bowl, toss the nectarines with the granulated sugar, juice, thyme and a pinch of salt; let stand for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In another bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and wheat germ with a pinch of salt. Using your fingers, work in the butter until the mixture is sandy. Press the streusel into small clumps and scatter on a rimmed baking sheet.

Spoon the nectarines, thyme and any juices into 6 individual baking dishes. Bake the nectarines for about 20 minutes, until the fruit is softened. Meanwhile, bake the streusel mixture stirring once, for about 10 minutes, until browned.

Sprinkle the streusel over the fruit, bake for 5 minutes longer and serve.



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