Kitchen Hacks

Just Desserts

Fruit, the whole fruit... and a few sweet extras.


Poached pears
If a couple weeks ago you earnestly pledged yourself to some New Year’s resolution, I’m a little annoyed at you. This is for several reasons.

One, chances are, your resolution involves getting in shape. Not to discourage in-shape-itude here, but the thing is, when all of you, the Resolved, suddenly descend on the gym on January 2nd in your new white sneakers, you take up all the good treadmills before I get there. Then, I get stuck on the old one that squeaks, behind the guy whose butt is exposed, plumber-like, atop his ill-fitting basketball shorts. Yes, this only lasts about a month before you let your memberships languish, but still. Not cool, guys.

Two, resolutions as we know them set us up for disappointment. If your resolution is to abstain from dessert, then the instant you cave and eat an Oreo sometime in February, you feel like a loser and go back to your old ways, inhaling whole sleeves wood-chipper style. And so I’m annoyed at you for depriving yourself of the chance to genuinely improve your relationship with dessert.

So, instead of convincing ourselves we can swear off sweets for good, let’s spend 2013 enjoying a better kind of sweet. The kind the planet invented all by itself.

Behold, fruit. It is made of sugar. You don’t even have to do anything to it. Next time you find your paws drawn to the bag of Skittles in your pantry, pause. Why not have some actual cherries instead? Some oranges? They’re better anyway.

Here are a few easy ways to turn plain old fruit into a dish that you can totally call dessert. Taste the rainbow.

SmoothieTry baked apples sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon and drizzled with honey or maple syrup. Or bake any mix of your favorite fruits, sliced and tossed with orange juice in a casserole dish, and call it a medley. Knife skills not up to par? No worries, it’s “rustic.”

Whip up a smoothie with any frozen fruit you like. My favorite is banana, strawberry, and a little bit of peanut butter. Throw in some pineapple and you won’t need any added sugar at all

Easy and sophisticated. Try it in your rice cooker, with your leftovers, and/or in red wine with fresh peaches or pears.

As the wise Donkey in the Shrek films says, and I do paraphrase, “Ain’t nobody don’t like no parfait.” Preferably in a fancy glass, craft a layer of whipped cream, a layer of fruit, a layer of whipped cream, and so forth until said glass runneth over. As weird and gross as whipped cream in a can might be, it’s mostly air, and therefore barely counts as far as our health-conscious resolution is concerned.   

Dunk fruit in a thin layer of melted chocolate (calm down, just a teeeny bit of chocolate won’t turn you into the Pillsbury doughboy) and let cool before enjoying. Strawberries are the go-to choice, but consider orange wedges or banana slices, too. For the latter, sprinkle finely chopped nuts or coconut shavings on top.

Squeeze fresh fruit juice into popsicle molds and freeze. You can also thin out a smoothie with a little skim milk, then freeze that concoction for a more sorbet-like popsicle.

In other words, imbue with booze.  Try cherries in Kahlua, strawberries in Amaretto, or apricots in bourbon. Soak covered in the fridge overnight. But before sharing, give your friends fair warning–I once tossed back about twelve orange-liqueur soaked mandarin orange wedges at a party, breezily thinking those were just the best darn oranges I’d ever tried, before things caught up with me.

Illustrations by Claire Jelly.

Mara Miller is a writer and editor who lives in Fairmount. She studied Classics at Haverford College. Cursed with a parent with mad cooking skills, Mara spent the first 18 years of her life being fed delicious cuisine and the next several subsisting on dining hall mystery meat and granola bars. Then she got a kitchen. Her Kitchen Hacks column is for the aspiring mediocre chef in all of us. Follow her on Twitter: @maralmiller.


  1. Sandy Smith says:

    It’s funny that we haven’t met but you know that was me at the gym! You’ll be happy to know that by January 7th, I was in so much pain that I had to cut back on gym time. I’ll be back when I can move again. Maybe. Probably not. Maybe I’ll go for a couple of days in May so I will be ready for my bathing suit debut. Maybe I should have started going to the gym last January!
    I love the infusion. I will not warn my friends. At my house you get what you get so be careful what you ask for! Hmmm, the Super Bowl party….I’m supposed to bring something. Last night, my friend Tracy, who is hosting said Super Bowl party, said she was not eating any of the birthday cake we were having. She is watching her sugar intake but she will still eat fruit. This is gonna be fun. The girl likes her some alcohol so what’s the harm? I haven’t thought about infusion since the infused watermelons at family picnics. Orange-liquer soaked mandarins, perfect. Infusion, it’s what’s for dessert!

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