Last spring, as part of my healthy cooking series, I presented a workshop on “Healthy Desserts.” It was almost upon a dare. I was asked, “Do you think there is a place for desserts or sweets in a healthy diet?” Of course there is. I don’t believe in complete restriction or deprivation, so I always say that you can have a treat once in a while. This might mean once a week or once a month depending on your personal health issues, but it shouldn’t mean never, because deprivation leads to bingeing and is also simply no fun. As for what that dessert might be, in general, I think a small portion (a quarter to a half of a usual dessert serving size) of a “regular” dessert is most satisfying. “Light” desserts don’t usually taste as good to me, and I am not a fan of artificial sweeteners. But once in a while, a healthy makeover of a standard dessert recipe outshines the original. In this case, this variation on lemon bars showcases the best of summer produce with sweet strawberries and its partner in crime, tart rhubarb. The remade crust is lighter and crisper than the usual fruit square/bar crust with the substitution of white whole wheat flour and cornstarch for regular flour. This is the perfect dessert for your summer picnic. Enjoy! And if this puts you in the mood for more picnic food, please join me at my next cooking class at Draeger’s Cooking School on July 23rd from 6:30 to 9 PM, when I’ll be teaching you how to prepare a simple and tasty Mediterranean Picnic. Cheers!
Strawberry Rhubarb Squares
Recipe adapted from Eating Well magazine, April 2013
Makes: 9 squares, 2 1/2 inches each.
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 2 1/4 hours
May be made ahead, covered at room temperature for 1 day.
For the crust:
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
For the filling:
2 cups chopped strawberries (1 pint)
2 cups chopped rhubarb (1 long stalk)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with foil and coat it with cooking spray.
2. Make the crust: combine flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and butter. Using your fingertips blend fats into the flour mixture until evenly combined and crumbly. Firmly press the tough into the prepared pan. Bake until light brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Make the filling: Combine chopped strawberries and rhubarb in a medium saucepan.
Cook over high heat, stirring, until the fruit has broken down, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and press on the solids to extract juice.
Discard solids (or better yet, reserve and combine with a few tablespoons of sugar for jam or a fruit sauce). You should have 1 cup of juiced. If there is too much, pour off the extra so the filling is not too wet. If not enough, add some water to total 1 cup.
4. Whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk in eggs. Stir in the juice and then pour the filling over the pre-baked crust.
5. Bake until set, about 15 to 20 minutes. It will still be a little jiggly in the center, but not all loose. (It will continue to firm up as it cools.) Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack, about 1.5 hours. When cool, gently remove from the pan in one piece using the edges of the foil to lift it out of the pan. Place on a platter or cutting board, and cut into 9 squares, more smaller pieces if desired. Garnish with fresh fruit and dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Nutrition Info: (per square if cutting into 9 squares)
204 calories, fat 8g, carbs 30g, fiber 2g, sodium 115 mg
For my healthy cooking class schedule, please visit (and “Like”) the The Doctor’s Spicebox events page.
Thanks for coming by and have a sweet day!