Colorful Cooking: Fruits and vegetables can be dessert stars | SummitDaily.com

Colorful Cooking: Fruits and vegetables can be dessert stars

Dessert is a personal part of a dining experience. Some like it hot, some not. Some crave creamy, chocolate, sticky desserts. Any way you cut it, dessert is packed with fat and calories. Many missteps have happened in my kitchen trying to make dessert "healthy." The decadence is paramount in this final course and, from what I have learned, you can't skimp entirely.

Many cultures enjoy a piece of ripe fruit as dessert, which is a sweet, juicy complement to a nice meal. Others deep fry ice cream and serve it with fried dough. Any way you cut it, dessert is meant to be decadent and devilish. When incorporating fruits and vegetables into any meal, using what is in season is going to give you maximum flavor so you won't need to add too much sugar and butter.

Since fruits and vegetables are the focus of Colorful Cooking (we add fruits and veggies to every meal), my mission was to make a gratifying, sweet dessert with fruits and vegetables. The fruit part is pretty easy, as stated above, but a vegetable dessert? That is a little tricky. Squashes are in season as well as pears and apples.

This butternut squash dessert was designed as a creative complement to a jammy red wine. The first time I served it was at a girls' night party and it resembles a pizza, so hence the name butternut dessert pizza. It was met by popular demand and I have since served it at cooking classes where it is received with surprising delight. One cup of cooked squash is 80 calories and full of vitamins (A, C, E, B6) and minerals. An easy way to peel a butternut squash is to place it in the microwave for 2-4 minutes (depending on its size), steaming the skin makes it easy to peel with a peeler or a sharp knife. Mix in Nutella and coconut flakes and your whimsical dessert looks festive. This is a kid pleaser, too.

PERFECT PEAR PAIRING

Pear season has begun. The fruit is crisp and pops in your mouth with each bite. Fresh is always better, but you can make these frozen pears using drained, canned pears if you had time restraints. One cup of pear has about 85 calories and a good amount of fiber. For a totally low-calorie dessert, just enjoy the frozen pear with a spoon and slowly scrape off each refreshing bite. Adding the sugary cranberries blends warm with cool, creating a unique palate cleanser.

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With the following recipes, you can enjoy dessert responsibly.

Frozen pears

1 pound fresh pears (Bosc, Anjou, Bartlett), peeled and sliced

3 star anise

2 tablespoons white wine (or lemon juice)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Peel and slice the pears.

Place pears, star anise and wine in a medium pot, cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, drain and remove star anise.

Allow the pear to cool slightly, then puree in a blender or food processor. Place the mixture into four ramekins, freeze.

Remove frozen pears 1 hour before serving.

Heat a small skillet over medium-low and melt butter. Add dried cranberries and 2 tablespoons water and cook 5 minutes. Mix in butter and brown sugar until melted.

Remove from heat and serve on top of the pears.

Makes four 1/4 cup servings.

Pears can be made one day ahead and stored, covered, in the freezer.

Butternut dessert pizza

1 large butternut squash

1⁄3 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Peanut butter or chocolate cashew butter

1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

1/4 cup chopped cashews or hazelnuts

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat the oven to 350.

Wash the squash and place it in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. This will soften the skin and make it easier to peel. Cut the bottom bulb of the squash off, leaving the long neck. Reserve the fat bottom for another use. Cut the stem off the top of the squash and place it upright on cutting board. Peel with a sharp knife. Beware, it will be hot and it gets slippery.

Slice squash into 1/4-inch rounds and toss with sugar, olive oil and cinnamon.

Bake for 15 minutes.

When slightly cooled, spread a small spoonful of butter (whatever flavor you are using) onto the squash and sprinkle generously with coconut (to look like pizza cheese).

Place nuts and cranberries on top of coconut to resemble pizza toppings.

Serve immediately.

Makes about 10 rounds.

Tracy Miller is TV8's in-house chef and teaches culinary classes throughout the valley. Join her at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards on Sept. 19 for Flavors of Japan and Sept. 26 for Appetizers cooking classes. For more details, log onto ColorfulCooking.com.