No-nut butter cups make a 'cleaner' dessert

09/02/2014 8:00 PM

09/03/2014 4:35 AM

Two years ago, I cut refined sugars, processed foods and gluten from my diet. My goal was to feel better. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between food and the body. Mostly, that led to eating more vegetables, buying meat from local farmers and putting grass-fed butter instead of milk and sugar in my coffee.

It also made me rethink dessert.

No longer could I grab half of a cookie from the free-food table next to my desk at work, or a handful of M&Ms on the way to the next meeting. Yet I still craved the sugar-filled packaged foods, so I went Googling for recipe ideas. I tried searching on “clean desserts” and “paleo treats,” as well as “something that tastes delicious but won’t make me feel terrible.”

I found way too many blogs with way too many so-called healthful treats. Finding ways to incorporate sweets was starting to feel like cheating. Wasn’t I trying to eat well?

I was faced with a choice: Make treats like those, or stop eating anything sweet at all. Ever.

The latter seemed sad and a little extreme.

Instead, I chose to experiment. I went through endless amounts of honey and coconut oil. I tried xylitol as a sweetener; it didn’t agree with my stomach. I tested batches of sad, flat brownies. I fell in love with frozen bananas, cashew butter and dates.

At last I found a delicious recipe on an aptly named blog: It was for nut butter cups. They seemed easy, but they looked like candy bars. Candy bars are filled with the foods I was avoiding.

This recipe, though, called for Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips, which are dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free, with no refined sugars. I was in.

They are simple to construct. I melt the chocolate on the stove, drizzle it into silicone baking cups and put them in the freezer to set. Meanwhile, I get out the sunflower seed butter, honey, coconut oil and vanilla to create the filling; often, there’s some left over, and this mixture, kept in the refrigerator, makes a good snack on its own. The filling goes on top of the first layer of firm chocolate. Then it’s back to the freezer to set while I soften the remaining chocolate on the stove for the top layer.

After 15 minutes or so of freezer time, I peel away the liners to reveal the perfect treat for me. They are like those famous peanut butter cups – but better, because they do not contain several sugars and alphabet-soup ingredients such as TBHQ (a preservative) and PGPR (an emulsifer). Once I saw that I could create something that good, it made me feel a little better about my pursuit to keep some sweets in my life. I think the no-nut butter cups are helping me think about food in a new way. If I’m going to have a dessert, it’s going to be something I make myself.

And I do, every month or so. I like to keep them on hand, in the freezer, for those times when chocolate is necessary – which are at the end of a long work week or, at most, after evening meals.

I definitely consider these cups a caloric splurge. But I’d rather take high fat content than ingredients I can’t pronounce.

When you make these, be prepared to share, because everyone loves them.

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