Last night I made a pan of oat squares from a recipe a friend gave me that uses mashed bananas and chopped dates as sweeteners. It turned out pretty well, kind of a cross between banana bread and granola bars. I’ll definitely make it again, since my husband and I are cutting down on sugar but both like desserts.
Going gluten free, as I did over a year ago, didn’t put an end to my sugar jones. True, I can’t eat Entenmanns anymore. But so many other temptations lie within reach.
For starters, there’s candy. I love dark chocolate, and feel entitled to consume it as compensation for giving up cookies and cake—and anyway, it’s said to be a heart-healthy choice. Meanwhile, a cornucopia of GF pastries, both packaged and bakery fresh, now exist to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. And I am that person.
Alas, I’ve always loved desserts. When I was very young—probably 4, since it was before my brother was born—my parents as a treat would take me to a convenience store called the Friendly Shop, a dark little place with a small soda fountain on the banks of an industrial river. (We lived in a New England mill town, and the water sometimes took on the color of that day’s dye lot.)
I always ordered a hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream.
My mother hated to cook but loved to bake. She made the flakiest pie crusts from scratch (the secret, I learned, was not over-handling the dough), and the best brownies and banana bread. She made an apricot ring at Easter with a dough that had to rise, and a similar sweet bread that had a chopped-date filling and a drizzle of white icing on top.
When we weren’t noshing on Mom’s homemade treats, we had junk food. We baby boomers were the first generation to test-drive convenience sweets like Twinkies, Yodels, Yankee Doodles and Oreos. In the summer came Popsicles, Fudgsicles and Eskimo pies.
There was a penny-candy store near my elementary school where you could buy wax lips, red hots and Mary Janes, and wash them down with a nice cold Coke. I hate to think of how much high-fructose corn syrup I consumed.
It’s not easy to come back from a sugar addiction, but my husband and I are trying, heeding the warnings that too much sugar will ruin your health while expanding your waistline. I’ve already experimented with some of the workarounds, like chia pudding and a chocolate mousse based on mashed avocado. No, really.
Applesauce can replace sugar in some recipes, but you have to be careful about which applesauce you use. Most supermarket brands are loaded with sugar.
I don’t know if the anti-sugar drumbeat will turn out to be another nutrition fad gone wrong, like the hysteria over saturated fats that once kept people from eating eggs. But in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, we are stockpiling fresh fruits—and testing oat bar recipes.