April 24, 2019 10:45:34 AM
"It's OK, honey. We can make one at home that's safe." If that sentiment has come out of my mouth once, it has come out 20 times.
That's the cost of living with a kid who has food allergies: We have to make a lot of foods at home that we might otherwise enjoy at a restaurant or bakery. This is especially true when it comes to desserts because even those treats that do not contain nuts are often manufactured in factories with peanuts or created in kitchens full of nuts.
And so we have made cheesecakes and toffee, caramel sauce and fudge.
Thankfully for this mama, who is already a little overwhelmed by the day-to-day needs of a job and household, our eldest daughter has begun expressing an interest in learning how to make some of these things at home.
She started with basic snacks and meals, such as instant macaroni and cheese, cheese quesadillas, and grilled cheese sandwiches (are you detecting a theme yet?). She has recently moved on to other things, though, such as mug cakes, brownies from a box, and layered desserts.
This layered dessert is one of my favorites. Traditionally, it has a crust made of pecans, flour and butter, but we have substituted pretzels for the pecans. It sounds strange, I know, but it really tastes the same. Even if you're not avoiding nuts because of allergies, making the dessert this way significantly cuts down on the cost of it.
Another reason I love this recipe is that it is easy to make a low-sugar version of it. Baked desserts typically cannot be made lower in sugar simply by using sugar substitute. Sugar does not just add sweetness; it also holds moisture and improves texture.
I once tried to make a sugar-free version of cherry pie for my mother's birthday (and by "once," please know that I mean "last December"). It was closer to cherry soup than pie. She had a piece out of kindness. My father had a piece out of kindness as well. My children would not touch it, and I couldn't blame them, as I wouldn't either.
However, creamy, unbaked desserts can usually be made with lowered sugar or no sugar at all fairly easily. This one is no exception. Sugar-free pudding mixes taste very similar to their high-sugar counterparts, as do sugar-free or low-sugar whipped toppings. Feel free to substitute any of those, and feel free to use a sugar substitute in the cream cheese layer as well.
Amelia Plair is mom and high school teacher in Starkville. Email reaches her at [email protected]
For crust layer:
2 cups crushed pretzels (I use a food processor if I'm doing this alone. If I have helpers, I use a ziplock bag and a rolling pin to crush the pretzels.)
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons white sugar
For cream cheese layer:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar or powdered sugar substitute
1 cup whipped topping (from an 8-ounce container of frozen whipped topping, thawed)
For pudding layer:
2 boxes (4-serving) instant pudding mix, regular or sugar free. We prefer chocolate.
Milk according to pudding package directions (probably 3 cups)
Remainder of 8-ounce container of whipped topping