Goodbye, chocolate-covered bacon; hello, chocolate-dipped cauliflower! While you may normally think of veggies as something to choke down before moving onto dessert, a new trend of veggie-inspired desserts may change that, according to a report in the latest issue of Food Technology magazine. Classic sweet treats such as carrot cake and sweet potato pie have long been fan favorites, but now pastry chefs are going above and beyond to include flavorful picks such as cucumbers, eggplants, beets, squash, carrots, mushrooms, and tomatoes in baked goods.
I was excited to read about this trend, because I’ve been experimenting with veggie-based treats for some time. I recently shared my recipe for secret spinach brownies with FitSugar viewers, and lately, I’ve been baking up a storm, folding pureed lentils or bean flours into cookies and cupcakes. In addition to being downright fun, adding veggies to the dessert mix can considerably kick up the nutritional value of goodies that traditionally lack vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.
From indie vegan bakeries to fine dining establishments, bakers and chefs are using a wide range of chopped, puréed, and shredded veggies in exciting new culinary creations. In some cases, veggies with similar textures can be used in place of fruits, such as replacing apples or pears with eggplant. Other ideas come from cultural influences (check out my previous post about why we should be serving up desserts like Vietnamese bean pudding and Japanese adzuki bean ice cream), and others from long-held traditions. For example, food historians say that for decades home cooks have relied on naturally sweet readily available veggies, like beets, when sugar was scarce.
With the explosion of interest in nutrition, local and in-season food, and plant-based diets, I predict that this red-hot veg trend will keep on growing (no pun intended).
What's your take? Do you enjoy veggie mainstays like zucchini bread and pumpkin pie? Are you excited about trying new options like mushroom meringue? Or do you believe that veggies only belong in savory dishes like pastas, stir-frys, and salads? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine!
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.