Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)Image via Wikipedia

I admit it, I love sweet things. Over the years this has presented a challenge for a health oriented and weight controlling person. The American Diabetes Association gave me a lift many years ago when their research concluded that sugar could be included in a Diabetics diet. Then came the low carb diet guru’s and the idea of sweets in a healthy weight controlling diet went down the tubes. I must admit, I found that disappointing!

I am not an extremist when it comes to cooking and eating. For the most part I am a pescetarian, but I usually eat a piece of meat once a year to make sure I am not a purist. I have an aversion to rigidity and extremism when it comes to food, exercise or life in general. I am happy there are people out there with passionate beliefs, but personally I think life is too short to live in a box.

I have two sweet indulgences to share with you. One is on the healthy end of the spectrum, Frozen Yogurt with Honey Rum Glazed Bananas and Grape Nuts. The other is a true indulgence with a surprising ingredient, Ancho Chile Fudge Pie.

At one low point in my life, I gained a lot of weight for a girl that was normally slim. My normal weight was in the 110-112 range but my weight shot up (ok it didn’t shoot up, I ate my way up to it!) to 123 lbs (I am 5'4"). That may not seem like a lot to many of you, but I come from a very slim family. In my world I was a fatty!!

I made up my mind to take care of myself, hired a personal trainer (my inspiration to later become a trainer!), put myself on a low fat (not low carb) diet and limited my portion sizes to almost an extreme. In hindsight, it wasn’t really that healthy to lose weight the way I did. Part of it was triggered by a major stressor in my life (divorce). Within one year I went from a chubby 123 without much muscle to 103 with muscle.

As life stabilized and I realized I couldn’t maintain such a rigid lifestyle, my weight came up to a more realistic number but this time with more muscle not fat, 112. I have maintained my weight in the 112-115 range for 18 years now.

You are probably asking what that has to do with frozen yogurt and pie! Well I created the frozen yogurt idea during my rigid low fat diet period. It is cold, sweet, crunchy and satisfying, a great dessert for those of us in the South that seem to live in perpetual summer.

The Ancho Pie, I hate to tell you came from the” eating my way to 123” period. Still it is excellent . I suggest you limit the Ancho Pie to a special occasion. Halloween or Thanksgiving may be good excuses to make it.

The chef's name that created the Ancho recipe was Nancy Beckham. She had opened a Southwestern restaurant named Brazos, on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas. It is no longer in business. I met her at a Les Dames D’Escoffier benefit. The pie is rich, deep and fudgy with a hint of spice from the chile. It is definitely worth the effort to make.

Frozen Yogurt with Honey Rum Glazed Bananas and Grape Nuts

This is quick and very easy to prepare

4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons dark rum
1 teaspoon butter or a lighter butter substitute that melts well
4 bananas, not overly ripe
2 tablespoons each Grape Nuts and Toasted coconut for garnish.
1 cup coconut or vanilla nonfat yogurt frozen or put into the freezer until icy cold or a store bought low fat frozen yogurt

Warm butter, honey and rum over medium low heat in a 10 inch skillet. Add the bananas and cinnamon sauté until caramelized and coated with the honey mixture.

Serve over yogurt topped with the Grape Nuts and Toasted Coconut
4 servings

Note: I used to just freeze the yogurt but the texture is a bit grainy and the yogurt may be too sweet for the carb conscious. Another option is to make your own vanilla yogurt mixing plain yogurt and honey to taste. Take a vanilla bean and split it. Scrape the seeds into the yogurt. If you are very carb conscious, look at the plain yogurt ingredient list. I have found that most of them contain added sugar. The cheaper store brands often don’t add sugar, but keep in mind, they are more sharp in flavor. Rather than freeze the yogurt until hard, I would just freeze it until it is really cold but still soft and serve the bananas over it that way.

Ancho Chile Pie

2 eggs
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Ancho Chile Puree (see recipe below)
1 cup butter melted and cooled
½ cup chopped walnuts (roasted in a 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes)
½ cup chopped pecans (roasted in a 400 degree oven for 3-5 minutes)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (use a good quality brand like Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 (9inch) unbaked pastry shell
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for garnish (remember this is an indulgence!!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy; add sugar and brown sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in flour and Ancho Chile Paste. Then blend in melted butter and mix until thick and smooth. Fold in roasted nuts, chocolate chips and vanilla.

Pour into pie shell; bake 1 hour or until firm and set. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream. Makes 6-8 servings

Ancho Chile Paste:

Roast 4 to 5 large ancho chilies in a large iron skillet or on a griddle, turning frequently until the dry chilies puff slightly. Drop into a saucepan filled with boiling water, cover and remove from heat. Let steep 20 minutes. Remove chilies from water and discard stems and seeds. Blend in a food processor until smooth and thick. Use some of the soaking liquid to thin puree, if needed. Paste will keep 1 month in the refrigerator in a tightly covered jar.


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