Dessert Makeover! Turning Seasonal Treats Healthy

By Liz Krieger

There’s that old joke that asks where a 200-ton elephant sits. (Anywhere he wants, of course!) Well, in a similarly obvious manner comes this week’s cooking adventure. What do you do when you have 12 pounds of blueberries on the counter? Make blueberry muffins and crumble, of course!

The bountiful blue harvest came courtesy of a small blueberry farm in Rhode Island and about 30 minutes of picking by four adults, myself included. In just one half-hour, we’d each filled a large bucket and headed home to stuff the antioxidant-rich, perfectly plump, pesticide-free berries into our mouths. But it was clear that with so many, I needed to get creative and start baking. I gathered a range of Smart Balance® products—including Smart Balance™ Low Fat Milk and Omega-3s & Vitamin E, Smart Balance® Buttery Spread, and Smart Balance™ Omega-3 Grade A Natural Large Eggs—to give these simple, classic recipes a total makeover.

After all, the amounts of butter that the recipes I’d chosen called for was sort of terrifying—the crumble alone called for almost 7 tablespoons so knowing that the buttery spread had less saturated fat, as well as no hydrogenated oils or trans fat, was a comfort—I was sure I’d have family members willing to dig in.

First, the muffins: I used a classic recipe that called for about half the sugar of many other recipes. The biggest snafu occurred midway through mixing the wet ingredients, when I realized that I had no vanilla extract. Oh well, these muffins would be vanilla free! (I tossed in a pinch of cinnamon, though, since I like it and figured it couldn’t hurt.)

The resulting 20 muffins were good and had a unique taste—in fact, they tasted a bit more like scones than the sort of oversized, cakey muffins that you might find at coffee shops. And that was a good thing, said my taste-testers! They weren’t cloyingly sweet or so greasy that they left marks on a paper towel. I’d dusted them with a bit of granulated sugar though, so the effect of biting into a fresh one was divine! While I thought everyone (especially Mr. Muffin himself, my husband) wouldn’t appreciate the made-over result, I think it’s safe to say he was happy that they were healthier—he ate more with less guilt!

Next, the crumble: Armed with an enormous Pyrex dish, I set out to use the maximum amount of berries I could, since we were still drowning in fruit and I didn’t want any to
go to waste. I’ll skip ahead here to say that crumbles are among my most favorite things to eat, and now, to bake. Why? Well, making crumbles and crisps is really, really easy. Unlike most other baking, where one wrong move can leave you with a deflated cake or rock-hard cookie, you can’t really mess these up.

As with the muffins, I swapped out the butter for Smart Balance® Buttery Spread, which I put in the freezer for a little while so it would be easy to crumble on top. Again, I was missing an ingredient—this time cornstarch, to thicken up the blueberry layer, so I used a tablespoon of white flour and crossed my fingers that it would do the job. I upgraded the topping with high-fiber cereal (which contained oat clusters and bran bites) and a handful of chopped walnuts and almonds (high in ALA Omega-3 fatty acid).

The results were gone by the end of the night, a new record for my family. (We had six adults for dinner that night, so it wasn’t just me gorging on blueberries.) We all agreed that the best part was the crispy topping, which was much more hefty and interesting than plain-old rolled oats. Hooray for re-purposing cereal!

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