It’s fig season and if you and your clients are like me you consider figs to be rare and wonderful things that should be enjoyed as much as possible while they’re around.

Now I know personal chefs aren’t usually focused on desserts, but for those of you who have clients who want dessert from you or who cater dinner parties, I hope you’ll try these Orange Poached Figs with Vanilla Custard Sauce. This custard is cooked stovetop. It’s more labor intensive than simple baked custard and you’ll get a bit of a steam facial but the flavor and texture are so marvelous it’s worth it–and can be done in advance if you’re entertaining, then put together when you’re ready to serve it.

To make this delicate sauce you’ll be using a double boiler. To avoid it curdling cook the custard over, not in, the boiling water in the lower pot so it won’t get too hot. Stir the mixture constantly. Cook only until the custard leaves a thick coating on the back of a metal spoon, then remove it from the heat to keep it from cooking. If worst comes to worst and you see streaks of scrambled eggs, you can either pour it through a fine sieve into a bowl or pour it into a blender jar and process it until it’s smooth again, then return it to the heat.

For the figs, poaching is a dream. You can riff on the liquid flavorings–using red or white wine or a dessert wine or water and juice or even balsamic vinegar. Add sugar, perhaps herbs, vanilla, or citrus zest. I focused on orange, with a syrup made of cointreau and orange zest. The flavor perfectly complements the vanilla custard sauce. Combine the ingredients, bring to a simmer for five minutes, then add the figs and simmer for another five minutes. If necessary turn the figs as they’re cooking to be sure the figs poach evenly. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and let the figs cool in the syrup.

When serving, quarter the figs and place them on a plate with a lip and spoon the custard around them.

Orange Poached Figs with Vanilla Custard Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup orange liqueur
Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 vanilla bean, split
8 fresh figs (I used brown turkey figs)
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt,
Seeds scraped from 1-inch length of vanilla bean

Prepare figs first. To make poaching liquid combine liqueur, zest, water, thyme, and vanilla bean into a non-reactive medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for five minutes.

Add figs to the syrup and continue simmering for another five minutes, periodically turning the figs to ensure they cook evening. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the figs cool for about 10 minutes in the syrup. Then remove to a plate. You can save the syrup by straining it into a container.

Prepare the custard by bringing water in the bottom of a double boiler to the boil. In the top of the double boiler scald the milk. Then slowly stir in the egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Stir the mixture constantly over (not in) the boiling water. Once it has thickened enough to coat the back of a metal spoon remove the custard sauce from the heat and continue beating to release any steam. Stir in the vanilla seeds. Pour into a dish and chill in the refrigerator.

To plate the dish, quarter the figs to show off their interior. Place two each flower-like on a plate with lips or shallow bowl. Carefully pour the custard around the figs.

Do you have a favorite recipe for using figs? Please share!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

apple crisp1

When you have type 2 diabetes dessert can be a tricky thing. What everyone immediately fixates on is the sugar. But sugar is really a foil for something larger, which, of course, is carbohydrates. And all carbs are equal when it comes to diabetes management. The other component just as important in managing diabetes is fat. For most of us, our weight is what brought us head to head with the disease. Keeping weight in check through a healthy, low-fat diet along with exercise—and managing blood sugar through carb control—is what will help clients stay healthy in the long run.

So, as we head into the holiday season, where does dessert fall into a healthy diet as you start writing menus for clients? Dessert is an indulgence, a part of the pleasure of a day. But the person with diabetes has to plan for it. My experience has been that it’s all about moderation and portion control—and they’re not necessarily the same thing.

Moderation includes portion control but it also means being discriminating in what you eat. In the context of dessert, for me it means looking for sweets that are mostly made with real fruit or dark chocolate. It means seeking out desserts that are airy—made with lots of egg whites, like angel food cake and sponge cake—which cuts down on the density and carb count. Or simply desserts which call for less sugar than conventional recipes. This is when you need to consult with clients about what this means for them.

Portion control can be tricky. So, you might look for desserts that are by their nature single portion: chocolate mousse servings in a small ramekin, a single piece of dark chocolate, a small honey crisp apple, a bowl of fresh berries. If they want a whole pie or cake you can slice it into individual portions, wrap them, and put them in the freezer. Same with cookies or muffins.

3 kinds of strawberries

I know there are a lot of people who look for sugar-free choices. But what you have to remember about sugar-free options is that they aren’t necessarily lower in fat or carbs. And they usually include chemicals you clients may not want to consume. Yes, there are healthier sugar-free options; honey and maple syrup are favorites and many people love stevia. For a long time, agave nectar was considered a good alternative to sugar but doctors like Andrew Weil are now concerned about the impact of high fructose and are discouraging its use.

You can also figure out workarounds for some sweet treats. For instance, if I want to make a mocha, instead of carb-laden chocolate syrup, I use a couple of teaspoons of honey mixed with a teaspoon or so cocoa powder and some 1 percent milk in a large mug of coffee. It suits me fine and the carb count is much lower.

Your clients may also enjoy desserts that substitute conventional high fat or high sugar ingredients to create a flavorful but healthier result. Here are some suggestions from Fitness Magazine.

But sometimes your clients just want what they want and you have to figure out how to make it work. I love apple pie. If I make one, yes, I’ll have a small slice. But I also discovered that I could make a crisp and by reducing the amount of butter, sugar, and flour—and eating small portions—I could have something healthier since it’s just topping cooked fruit, not encasing it. I keep the bag of crisp mixture in the freezer, pulling out a handful at a time to top a sliced apple or cup of berries. You can do the same for clients.

In the bigger picture, dessert doesn’t and can’t stand alone. In the course of a day, the person working to manage diabetes has to count carbs. If your type 2 diabetic clients allow themselves three servings of carbs in a meal at 15 grams of carbs per serving, you have 45 grams to work with. That needs to include dessert. So, let’s say you want to have a portion of the Cannoli Cream Napoleon in the recipe below. Each serving of that is 11 carbs. That gives you 34 grams of carbs for the rest of the meal. That could be a couple of servings of whole grains with a protein like chicken or fish and low-carb vegetables, like greens. In other words you have to create balance to make it all work so that your weight and blood sugar stay down.

In fact, it’s all about balance. Balancing carb portions, balancing fat and calories, balancing exercise with relaxation, balancing indulgence with healthy choices. Dessert isn’t something your clients have to cut out so much as balance with everything else they’re doing to stay healthy.

Cannoli Cream Napoleon
Prevention Diabetes Diet Cookbook
By the Editors of America’s Leading Healthy Lifestyle Magazine with Ann Fittante, MS, RD
Makes 8 servings

11 grams carbohydrate

Ingredients
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, divided + 1 teaspoon for garnish
3 sheets frozen whole wheat or regular phyllo dough, thawed
Vegetable oil in a spray bottle
1 ½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup natural pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the sugar to a small fine sieve, sifter, or dredger. On a work surface, lay out 1 sheet of dough so the shorter sides of the rectangle are left and right. Cut from top to bottom into 4 equal rectangles. Coat the top of 1 rectangle very lightly with vegetable oil. Dust very lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Stack a second small rectangle on top of the first. Coat the top of the second rectangle very lightly with vegetable oil. Dust very lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Repeat the procedure with the remaining 2 small rectangles. Spray and dust the top layer. Carefully transfer the pastry to a large nonstick baking sheet. Repeat cutting and layering with the remaining 2 whole sheets of phyllo dough to make 2 other layered pastries. Bake for about 7 minutes or until crisp and browned. Let stand to cool.
  2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 tablespoons sugar, orange peel, and extract. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Place one of the reserved pastry on a rectangular serving plate or tray. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle on half of the pistachios. Cover with the second pastry, the remainder of the ricotta mixture, and the remaining nuts. Top with the remaining pastry. In a small fine sieve, sifter, or dredger, combine the remaining teaspoon sugar with the cocoa powder, if using. Sift over the top of the Napoleon. Cut with a serrated knife.

Note: This dessert is at its finest when served immediately after assembly, but it can be refrigerated, uncovered, for about 1 ½ hours without becoming soggy. Alternatively, you can bake the pastry and store it in a cool, dry spot for up to 24 hours. Prepare the ricotta mixture; cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Assemble just before serving.

What kinds of modifications have you made for clients with type 2 diabetes? How do you manage dessert?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

Last updated by at .