November 28th, 2014

Curiouser And Curiouser: How Can Paleo Be So Sweet?

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland

My grandmother and I on a pilgrimage to ice cream mecca in Waterbury, Vt.

My grandmother and I on a pilgrimage to ice cream mecca Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury, Vermont.

I’ve always loved dessert. My first crush was ice cream. That romance blossomed at my grandmother’s house when I was a little  kid, with bowls of Neapolitan drowning in Hershey’s chocolate syrup. I loved to mix it all up into a thick, chilly soup, spooning each creamy mouthful into my ice cream hole. As my taste buds grew up, my love affair with Ben & Jerry’s led me down a dangerous path – straight into the arms of New York Super Fudge Chunk.

At some point, “chunk” became the operative word. My ice cream hole became my pie hole … my cake hole … my brownie, cookie and crème brulee hole. Desserts and I have been friends a long time, and sadly, it shows.

As some of you know, my husband, Adam, and I took the Whole30 Challenge in October. We shed our wayward fast-food frenzies, along with alcohol and sugar … and at the end of the month, discovered we’d shed a few pounds as well. We both had more energy and genuinely felt better than we had in a long time. So we decided to stick to a Paleo diet as much as possible.

That doesn’t make desserts easy – at least not in the traditional sense — and I still crave a treat every now and then. But when you cut peanut butter (the hubs is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fanatic), dairy (oh, crème brulee … how I love thee – let me count the, um, calories) and sugar (I guess that eliminates pretty much the rest of my former flames) from your diet, there’s not much left to whip up delicious concoctions with.


The final resting place defunct ice cream concoction “Holy Cannoli” in the Flavor Graveyard at Ben & Jerry’s.

Or is there? One look at a recipe for Chocolate Chunk Salted Caramel No Bake Cookies should be enough to convince you!

This post offered me the perfect chance to find out for myself, plus it fit right in with my personal theory on desserts — one that took 40 years to figure out! The first bite is always the most delicious. The second and the third also taste good, but a sort of law of diminishing returns comes into play. Those subsequent bites just don’t taste as good as that first mouthful. When it comes to desserts, more isn’t always better.

Test this out for yourself: Next time you have something sweet, savor every moment of that first bite rolling around on your tongue. Now, rate how delicious it is on a scale of one to 10. Be really honest! Take a few moments, then try another bite. Rate it. And a third. If your rating hasn’t dropped by that third bite, you are probably eating it too fast. I really believe that strongly in this theory.

That’s why tiny desserts are so perfect: They are designed to be one bite, maybe two.

This week, I decided to Paleo-fy one of Adam’s favorites: peanut butter cups. He said this almond-butter version satisfied his craving, and was way better than the commercial varieties. I tweaked the recipe to compensate for some candy behavioral issues: a too-runny “peanut” butter that tasted really almondy-y and was so thin that a gob of chocolate sank to the bottom (which could be considered awesome). As you’ll see from the recipe below, I also added a sprinkle of his second (or third, if you count me and peanut butter cups!) love  — salt — for a little flavor contrast. Try them for yourself and let us know what you find that works better. I’d love to crowd-source an even better version!

The sad part? Just because a “dessert” like this doesn’t pack the same unhealthy punch isn’t a permission slip to go nuts (and seeds, as the case may be). I’m a different person today than I was yesterday. I’ve learned that moderation is key. But with just one bite (or three), you can even enjoy moderation … in moderation.


Paleo “Peanut” Butter Cups  

This recipe was inspired by several other found on the internet, and lots of tinkering. These are gluten free, paleo, raw, vegan … and loaded with healthy fats. When selecting nut butters   fouse in this recipe, pick one that has a firmer consistency. If it is too creamy, it will result in a runnier filling (see picture at left). For the best consistency, make your own! I’d also suggest a few special tools, including condiment bottles. I use these in my kitchen all the time for sauces and such, so I have them on hand. They make cleanup trickier if you don’t just recycle the bottle when you are done, but they will make assembling these easier. Really. That said, you can also use an ungreased mini muffin tin, silicone candy molds or disposable candy cups. I used the later and found that the paper cups I used didn’t hold up well. Try foil or glassine.

1/2 cup raw smooth almond butter
1/2 cup raw sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, with more for sprinkling tops, if desired (we crave salt on Paleo!)
1 package Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (Whole Foods or other organic, healthy food markets)

Place almond and sunflower seed butter, coconut, liquid coconut oil (simply warm up the solid form), honey and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth and well combined. You can warm the entire mixture slightly to get into the condiment bottle, or if you plan to use a spoon, set aside.

There are two ways to make these. You can just add the peanut butter to the cups and top with chocolate, or go old school (preferred) and make a real “peanut” butter cup. I think making the cup helps if the filling is a little runny, or if you just like chocolate, so that’s how we roll in our kitchen. Add half chocolate chips to separate condiment bottle, or a glass bowl and heat in the microwave in short 10 to 20 second bursts until melted. DO NOT BURN. You can also heat using a double boiler on the stove — but water is chocolate’s enemy, so make it easy and nuke it.

Add a squirt or spoon of chocolate to the cup, using the nozzle or spoon to press or coax chocolate up the sides. Place in freezer to set for ten minutes or until set. The chocolate will look more matte when it is ready. I condone eating one (or three) to make sure they are ready.

Remove cups and squeeze pb cup overallor spoon a dollop of the filling into the center. Add more chocolate to the bowl or bottle and melt as per above. Cover peanut butter with chocolate forming the top of the candy. Freeze for 30 minutes. If you’ve used a muffin tin, pop these out carefully with a knife. Transferring to the refrigerator to store. Other recipes suggest storing in the freezer and then allowing to rest five minutes before eating. I’ve found keeping them in the ‘fridge means I can eat them immediately.

Just a few suggestions for those who want to experiment here: If you prefer a smoother consistency, or are serving these to someone who doesn’t like coconut, swap out the dried coconut flakes for 1/4 cup or more of coconut flour. I’d also suggest playing with the nut butters a bit. I plan to try a mixture of sunflower and sesame in my next batch. Try to avoid nuts or seeds with a really strong flavor, or those that are really oily. I love one blogger’s idea of using smoked salt to top them with.  Nom nom nom.

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  1. […] you prefer, because all you really need is a bite (my theory on one-bite desserts is explained in this post on Paleo “peanut butter” cups.) For the icing … Heather had a malfunctioning pastry bag, so she had to spread it on with a […]