7 Ways To Create Healthy Desserts

An expert healthy baker shares her seven tips for transforming decadent vegan treats without the guilt.

Katie Higgins loves vegan desserts. The author of the hugely popular blog, Chocolate-Covered Katie, Higgins dreams up mind-blowing recipes, capturing the attention of vegan and omnivore readers alike with decadent, healthy treats. Picture Nutella Fudge Pops, One-Minute Coffee Cake in a Mug, and Brownie Batter Pancakes—without a ton of sugar or fat. We asked Higgins for seven tips to make delectable, sinful treats and she did us one better with a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Mini Muffins.

1. Stock your pantry with the basics for easy baking substitutions.
Higgins recommends keeping rolled oats, pure maple syrup, applesauce, ripened bananas, and cacao powder on hand as vegan baking basics. Her sweetener of choice is stevia, specifically the brand NuNaturals since she feels it doesn’t leave any aftertaste. Higgins opts for spelt flour instead of whole-wheat pastry flour, since spelt yields much lighter-tasting baked goods.

2. Bake with natural, quality ingredients.
Higgins always uses whole-grain flours in place of white flour. She sweetens with natural ingredients such as fruit, stevia, cinnamon, and other spices as much as possible. Instead of relying on hydrogenated fats, she incorporates healthy fats from nuts, nut butter, and oils.

3. Reduce the sugar in recipes.
In Higgins’ many experiments in the kitchen, which she calls her science lab, it’s all about trial and error to create your new favorite dessert. For a healthy flavor boost, add a bit of cinnamon or vanilla extract. Also, try cutting back on the sugar in a traditional recipe, or experiment with natural sweeteners such as stevia or xylitol.

4. Invest in the right kitchen gadgets.
One budget kitchen tool that Higgins highly recommends is her $40 Magic Bullet blender. She uses it often and finds that it’s great for small-serving recipes. For a do-it-all machine, she suggests a Cuisinart food processor, which can be a bit pricier, but is worth the investment. For some recipes (such as the Cookie Dough Dip), a food processor works much better than a blender.

5. Be a chocolate snob.
Says Higgins, “Don’t settle for any old chocolate desserts; eat something you really love and enjoy it! Pay attention to the distinct flavors and texture with each bite. Don’t mindlessly stuff your mouth while you watch TV. If you’re kissing Prince Charming, you’re not thinking about American Idol. Chocolate should be the same.”

6. Pair pumpkin with chocolate.
Pumpkin pureé, rich in vitamin-A, is a great low-fat addition to any chocolate recipe. Higgins swears by her Chocolate-Pumpkin Pie Brownies as a great “sneaky” dessert for hard-to-please people who may be resistant to trying vegan baked goods.

7. Find inspiration in unlikely places.
Higgins gets inspired by specific flavors such as pumpkin pie, then she’ll brainstorm different types of foods such as pancakes, doughnuts, oatmeal, and more where she can utilize that flavor profile. She even gets inspiration from standing in line at the grocery store, looking at candy bars and Taste of Home recipe booklets.

Now that you’re dying for some sweets, we offer you Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Mini-Muffins that promise to remind you of eating the batter straight out of the bowl. If you’d love to see your favorite dessert made-over on Chocolate-Covered Katie, post it in the comments section, and hopefully she’ll transform your suggestion on her blog.

Photo: Katie Higgins


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