Looking for a healthy dessert recipe? Think outside the box

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Cooking instructor Pamela Salzman takes a "use it or lose it" approach in the kitchen. She buys quality ingredients and doesn't like to waste anything.

"Look to see what you already have before you start your menu planning because we all have enough," said Salzman.

And that may mean thinking outside the box when it comes to dessert.

"Not that many people would think to put a tahini in a dessert or a sweet potato in a dessert, but they totally work," she said.

She adds roasted sweet potato into her pudding along with tahini which is made from ground sesame seeds. Salzman also likes to add cooked white beans into her blondies.

In her new book "Kitchen Matters," she offers unique ways to slip in those ingredients that provide more nutritional bang for your buck.

One of the best things about these desserts is that kids of all ages won't know what's in them. With these foods you're getting extra protein, extra fiber and loads of vitamins and minerals.

"I'm here to tell you that sweet potatoes are the new cauliflower. They can really go savory and sweet. That puree could end up being a smoothie or a smoothie bowl or, what we're doing today, a pudding.

Those sweet spuds have an added bonus. "Vitamin A and all those carotenoids are really helpful for protecting the skin against sun damage and skin cancer," said Salzman.

Mixed with maple syrup, raw cacao, almond butter and almond milk, it is a dreamy, creamy concoction. For the blondies, tahini is swapped out for regular butter, and it is calcium-packed.

"We're actually using no flour but there's actually a surprise ingredient in there which is white beans," said Salzman.

Along with sugar, eggs and the like, the smooth bean batter ups the protein content.

Both desserts offer the opportunity to feel good about serving dessert.

"Food matters and what you do in the kitchen matters," said Salzman.

(Makes one 8x8 pan)

1 cup unsalted butter or unrefined virgin coconut oil, melted + extra for greasing the pan

1 cups cooked white beans, or 1 15-oz can drained and rinsed
1 cup tahini (raw or roasted)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup Muscovado sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
teaspoon sea salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
6 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
6 Tablespoons chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease an 8 x 8 -inch pan with butter or coconut oil and line with unbleached parchment paper.

3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the melted butter, white beans, tahini, eggs, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and sea salt. Process until smooth. Stir in cup chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.

5. In a medium bowl, mix together remaining cup chocolate chips, shredded coconut and chopped pecans. Spread evenly on top of batter and press lightly into batter.

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed in the center. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers. Even more delicious cold.

(Serves 4 or works great as a tart filling)

1 pound sweet potatoes, preferably pale fleshed, but any variety will work
1 cup raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
6 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, Grade A or Grade B (or more to taste)
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, preferably homemade, according to how thick/thin you want this to be
2 Tablespoons unsalted, unsweetened almond butter*
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
+ 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Optional toppings: toasted, shredded unsweetened coconut, flaky salt, chopped almonds, coconut whipped cream, fresh berries, and/or raw cacao nibs.

1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees and roast sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet until very tender. Timing depends on the size of the sweet potatoes, anywhere from 30-60 minutes. If there are multiple sweet potatoes, space them out on the sheet pan. Alternatively, peel the sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and steam until tender. (This will be faster but they're not as sweet.)

2. Remove the skin and place the cooked sweet potatoes in a food processor or high-speed blender with all the remaining ingredients and process until perfectly smooth. A Vitamix will achieve the most pudding-like consistency. Taste and adjust sweetness or spiciness. Serve at room temperature or chill until cold. Top with desired toppings. Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

*To make this nut-free, use unsweetened and unsalted sunflower butter and any milk. Amount of almond milk will depend on starchiness of sweet potatoes and desired consistency.
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