In my years as a living, breathing, human being on this planet, I have reached one very serious and not to be mocked conclusion, life is simply meant to be sweet. There’s nothing like the taste of an ooey, gooey, creamy and chewy piece of sweet decadence filling your mouth and tummy. I know that after sharing my recipes for apple pie, pecan pie, a creamy lemon tart, decadent brownies and more, I’ve debunked the myth that you need to say goodbye to dessert as a vegan. Nothing could be further from the truth, and those lucky ones that get to live next to emerging vegan bakeries, donut shops, and ice cream parlors can attest to that fact. Now more than ever, vegan baking has become easy, decadent, and a true temptation to us cooks and vegan diners. In fact, for those of us trying to fill up our vegan plates with whole plant-based foods as much as possible, having baking supplies at hand and a certain craving for something sweet can be a challenging battle between our healthy and naughty selves. The truth is that no matter what you’re making, vegan desserts are so much healthier when compared to their non-vegan counterparts due to the fact that you’re cutting out all the cholesterol and saturated fat, but of course, I don’t have to tell you that eating an apple is better for your body than endless vegan cream filled or jelly donuts! In our house, we’re particularly vulnerable to temptation because I’m constantly creating recipes for the blog and I’m recipe testing almost every single weekend. During the week though, we try to keep our sweets to the most natural and whole plant-based varieties, so that we can indulge on the weekends. Enter nature’s candies…
Nature actually intended us to eat some natural sweet yumminess, even by giving us the biological sense to prefer the ripest of fruits over greener varieties. When we want to satisfy our sweet cravings and don’t want to over indulge, we need not look any further than the produce isle. All fruits are sweet and delicious, not to mention choc full of nutrients. Our body actually requires the wonderful antioxidants, protein, fiber and carbohydrates found in fruit. When I hear people being advised to limit fruit intake because of weight loss efforts I literally cringe! It’s true that fruit has more natural sugars than other plant foods, but there’s no reason at all to fear the miracle that is ripe and fragrant fruit. Fruits, when eaten in their whole form, carry all sorts of benefits for our bodies, including the wonderful fiber that actually prevents the rapid spike in blood glucose levels that are caused by simple sugars. Fruits are not only delicious, but well planned vegan diets need to include them, and vegan nutritionists like the wonderful Virginia Messina who we’ll be talking about soon, recommends a minimum of 3 servings per day.
What’s not to love about strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, pineapples, kiwis, apples, pears, coconuts, figs, oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates, papayas, plums, cherries, melons, watermelons, guavas, mandarines, grapes… I could go on and on! All of these are wonderful sweet treats, but today, we’re going to focus on my top 5 for satisfying that ‘can’t think of anything else until I have my sweet fix’ craving. Meet my favorite all natural candies:
Persimmons are truly a decadent treat. They are also called kakis (or caquis), and are an early autumn fruit. The key to loving these babies and discovering their delicious secret, is that you have to wait until they are extremely ripe. And by that I mean ‘I think this needs to go in the compost bin’ kind of ripe. It shouldn’t smell bad or look awful, but it will feel completely mushy to the touch. When it does, it’s ready, and you won’t believe your eyes or tastebuds when you pop a piece into your mouth. My favorite way to have them is by cutting them in half and using a melon baller to scoop out the flesh. The little balls are like a party in your mouth! Keep them out of the fridge until they’re very soft, and don’t be tempted to open them before then, or it will give you the worst and weirdest case of cotton mouth! I love how these are temperamental bad boys. They are rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium and manganese and all sorts of other essential nutrients.
These weird-looking fellas should also be eaten when they are soft to the touch. When you open them, you’ll find that this is the sweetest and creamiest fruit ever, with super tender white flesh and the prettiest seeds. The seeds should not be eaten, and some people take their time taking them out. I simply open one in half, grab a spoon and eat it directly from the ‘shell’ spitting out the seeds as I go. Again, do not refrigerate them or eat them until truly soft to the touch. They are rich in many antioxidants, vitamin C, complex B vitamins, potassium and have a ton of health promoting benefits.
Enough said right? There’s nothing like a perfectly ripe mango to satisfy a sweet craving. They’re super meaty too, making them very filling. Choosing the right mango can be a bit challenging at first, but with some practice you’ll be able to find the perfect mango every single time. Look for mangoes that give in slightly when you touch them but that are still firm and fragrant. Mangoes are great sources of vitamin A, betacarotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E and have been shown to be protective against many diseases including cancer. Can you say powerhouse?
Bananas and I have a serious love fest going on. I have them almost daily for breakfast with my cereal. They are chewy, sweet and filled with nutrients. Don’t fear the banana! And don’t feel like you have to finish it off either. I cut my banana in half (with the peel) for my morning cereal and use the other half the next day by just slicing off the end and peeling the rest of it. They are also a super portable fruit to take on car rides, trips, to work, and almost every airport on the planet has some for sale, in a pinch. My favorite thing to do with bananas however, is to make my mamma’s bananas foster, which has so few ingredients you’ll almost always be able to make it at home when you really want to take a fruit to the next level, but still keep it healthier than hitting the bakery. We’ll have the detailed recipe for you soon, but basically all you need is some very ripe bananas (great for bananas you’re thinking of tossing), a tiny bit of vegan butter, some cinnamon, maple syrup or brown sugar and let it all caramelize in a pan. Add some chopped walnuts to top it all off and you’ve got a mouth-watering twist on a banana. Recipe with step by step instructions coming soon! Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, biotin and many other essential nutrients.
Nature is funny sometimes. It created the most decadent sweet on the planet, and disguised it in the shape of a wrinkled brown cockroach. Who on earth would try to eat something like that? That’s what I said again and again when my mother in-law tried to make me eat her famous date and walnut tart. I honestly believe nature intended some sort of covert ploy with this one. Almost like it was reserved for a secret club, and only they would know the truth about this ugly-looking thing. Here’s the funniest thing of all, once you taste them, and give them a chance, they even start looking cuter and cuter by the day! Dates are amazing, not only in flavor but they are little nutritional powerhouses. You can buy these pitted or whole, and in my experience, buying them whole and pitting them yourself makes for an even better experience, since they are completely moist, and the pitted ones dry out with time. Try them as a little sweet treat at the end of the meal, or transform them into a magical feast for the tongue by making these beautiful walnut and vegan cream cheese stuffed dates. This is not my invention, it comes to you from the vegan Goddess herself, Colleen Patrick Goudreau. I once heard her describing these in her wonderful podcast and actually took a little detour in my car to get what I needed to make them.
Simply pit your dates, and fill them with some vegan cream cheese (Tofutti brand preferred), and a walnut. Pop them in your mouth and fall on your bum out of sheer deliciousness. They’re also great party treats!
Dates are little nutrient bombs too! They’re rich in potassium, beta carotene, lutein, iron, vitamin A and many other antioxidants and essential nutrients. This goes without saying, that all of the fruits mentioned today are jam packed with fiber. Gotta love ’em!
I hope you’ve enjoyed our homage to nature’s candies! There’s no need for a sweet craving to become a battle of willpower. Keep some all natural goodies at home, and indulge in the real decadent stuff when it can be really special and guilt-free. Your body deserves some sweetness, and if you give it some nutrition to boot, it will only thank you for it.