December 15th, 2010
This happened last year, too. My delicious, simple, healthy recipes—many of which are veggie-centric—turn into delicious, simple, decadent recipes–many of which are sugar-centric—during the holidays. But ’tis the season, right? (I mean, who doesn’t want Caramel Sauce?!)
Here’s the thing: during this time of year, I really enjoy making (okay, and eating) sweets, and making them homemade is the way that I keep things “healthy.” Using whole ingredients that I control, from known sources that I’ve carefully considered is part of what I consider healthy moderation, especially in a time of, well, gluttony. Also, when you make treats homemade, it feels particularly good to give and share them. Homemade caramel sauce makes a great gift. And though food pantries and soup kitchens are rightfully focused on more substantive meals, what a special thing to offer homemade goodies.
Part of my homemade effort is thinking about the small touches, as well as the blockbuster dishes. Like this Caramel Sauce. Instead of making 2 pies and then offering store-bought caramel sauce, why not make just 1 pie and homemade caramel sauce? Sometimes the details of your cooking are what make a meal special.
This sauce comes together very easily and can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. You just need to reheat it before serving (adding a little more cream, if necessary, to get the right viscosity).
It’s great on ice cream, adds great flavor drizzled over pie (or under it; make a swirly design on your plate), and is even delicious stirred into steamed milk. Being that I’m a fun, warm drinks kick, I had to share this recipe for Caramel Steamed Milk. So. Good.
So, enjoy whatever foods make you happy during the holidays, even if they don’t fit your usual idea of healthy. Because, you know what, ’tis the season. And, if you make it from scratch, if you share the experience with your kiddos, if you spread the tasty goodness, then I say you’re eating in the spirit of good health. For sure.
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
makes about 1 cup
1/4 c water
1 c sugar
1/2 c heavy cream
dash of vanilla extract
1. Combine water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat. Cook until sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, do not stir! Allow the mixture to boil until the sugar turns a nutty brown, like the color of chestnuts (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer). This should take about 5 minutes, swirling the pan periodically to keep the mixture from burning, especially at the end of the 5 minutes.
2. Take the sugar mixture off of the heat. Carefully whisk in the cream and vanilla. The caramel will solidify—don’t worry, keep whisking.
3.Place the pot over low heat and continue whisking until the sauce returns to a smooth texture. Allow the caramel to cool at room temperature before refrigerating it.
*Note: While there’s nothing in this caramel sauce that can’t safely be shared with kids younger than 12 months, I suggest this age because of the high sugar content. This sauce is basically just, well, sugar. Even for kids 12-24 months, this should be shared in small, age appropriate amounts. Just a teaspoon stirred into some warm milk would be a plenty sweet treat for any toddler.