Still working on your holiday menu? I've finished mine. Almost. All this week, we're bringing you our favorite mains, sides and desserts, made with ingredients in The Perfect Pantry.
Dessert intimidates me.
No matter what you put on the holiday table, no matter how perfect the appetizers, how bronzed the turkey, how luscious and over-the-top and just plain numerous the side dishes, what people remember is what they ate last.
Dessert. My nemesis.
If it were up to me, my guests would be dipping grapes into bowls of ice water, in the Italian fashion, or enjoying a cheese plate, in the French style. But I'm a realist. I know that, however counterintuitive it seems, people expect a rich dessert at the end of a rich meal.
I'm determined to make that happen, with help from ingredients in my pantry.
I always have a bowl of lemons sitting on the counter, and to me, nothing puts a meal in balance like lemon. This lemon tea cake can be baked and frozen well in advance. A variation on the lemon theme, Barefoot Contessa's lemon yogurt cake also is a make-ahead treat.
Equally easy to make, these miniature whole wheat lemon-lime cupcakes are a perfect tangy two bites each.
For some families, only pie will do. Rum raisin pear pie (in the top photo), which also can be made with apples, is one of our favorites. Classic pecan pie or pumpkin pie make appearances on many holiday tables, too. Use refrigerated pie crust to make any of these pies quick-and-easy.
And then, there are apples. I live in Apple Valley, a part of Rhode Island that used to be all planted in apple orchards, so it would be unthinkable not to have at least one apple dessert on the holiday menu.
Apple spice cake, baked in a loaf, tops the list. Bake it ahead (there's whole wheat flour in your pantry, isn't there?) and hide it deep in the freezer; this cake is so good that you'll want to nibble the whole thing away before it ever gets to the table!
Real estate agents tell you that if you want to sell your house, you should seduce prospective buyers with the aroma of baking cookies or apples, but even if you're not selling, you'll want to bake this apple-pear-cranberry crisp, with a rolled oats topping.
Another delicious apple dessert, granola-filled baked apples, drizzled with agave nectar, can be prepared in advance and baked right before serving. Add some dried cranberries to the granola filling for a real Thanksgiving flair.
Desserts can be sweet without being sugar-filled, so how about a few sugar-free options for your holiday menu?
Sugar-free apple crisp is so good that you'll have a hard time saving leftovers for breakfast the next morning, though you surely will want to set a bit aside. Chocolate is never out of fashion, nor are these sugar-free chocolate cupcakes, made with unsweetened cocoa and Splenda®.
If baking cakes and pies isn't your thing, how about presenting your guests with an assortment of cookies on a gigantic platter? Start with these sweet and salty peanut chocolate chunk cookies; in fact, make a double batch. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Then, add some espresso nut cookies, made with instant espresso from the pantry, and a few honey gingerbread cookies. A few chocolate spice cookies, some chewy amaretti cookies, maybe some lemon lavender cookies... well, you get the idea.
Enjoy your holiday dinner!
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