What is a season of celebration without dessert? Here is a less-filling pumpkin cheesecake for those worried about weight and an ice cream strudel for those who are not. For the traditional minded, there's always an old-fashioned Irish Christmas pudding, while carrot-and-ginger squares are a nice snack to have anytime of the day.
LIGHT PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
This dessert favorite from Judith Benn Hurley has been slimmed considerably by replacing high-fat cheeses with low-fat ones and using nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream. As for cholesterol, egg whites fill in for whole eggs and canola oil substitutes for butter. Even so, the texture is silky, the taste rich.
FOR THE CRUST:
5 ounces oatmeal cookies (try for ones low in saturated fat)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
FOR THE CAKE:
1 pound low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3/4 cup pumpkin pure'e
1/4 cup unbleached flour
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
FOR THE "CREAM" TOPPING:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons honey or sugar (optional)
Wrap the outside of an 8-inch springform pan with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Very lightly oil the inside of the pan.
Combine the cookies and oil in a processor and whiz until mixed well and crumbly. Use your hands to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom to make a crust. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven until the edges are just brown, about 10 minutes, then chill while preparing the filling.
Rinse and dry the processor bowl and return it to its stand. Scoop in the cottage cheese, yogurt, pumpkin pure'e, flour, egg whites, vanilla, maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Whiz until smooth, then pour into the crust. Bake mid-oven, still at 325 degrees, until set, about 50 minutes. Let cool before serving.
For quick whipped "cream" topping without a drop of fat, pour water into a small stainless bowl and set in the freezer just until ice crystals begin to form, about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle in nonfat dry milk. Beat with a hand mixer until soft peaks form. At this point you can add a couple of teaspoons of honey or sugar, if you like. Then proceed to beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 more minutes. This makes 1 cup (2 tablespoons per serving.) Note: Because this lacks fat, the "cream" will lose its fluff in about 20 minutes, so prepare it just before serving. This is great on pumpkin cheesecake, fruit salads or atop cappuccino.
Per serving: 190 calories, 10 gm protein, 25 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 292 mg sodium.
ICE CREAM STRUDEL
In this recipe from Nina Simonds, the ice cream contributes to the flakiness of the crust and adds a unique flavor to the dough.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoon-size pieces
2 cups flour, or slightly more if dough is very soft
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint slightly softened vanilla ice cream
FOR THE FILLING:
1 1/2 cups raspberry jam
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
FOR THE GARNISH:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the butter and flour and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the vanilla extract and ice cream and process until the mixture is smooth. Divide into thirds. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Combine the filling ingredients and divide into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each section of the dough to a rectangle about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Work quickly so the dough doesn't become too soft. Spread the center of each rectangle with a third of the filling mixture. Fold the ends and sides in to enclose the filling so the rectangle is about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide. Carefully, using two spatulas, transfer the rectangles to a greased cookie sheet with the seam-side down.
Sprinkle the tops with the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake 35 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven until golden brown and transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool and cut into slices about 1 inch thick. Serve with tea.
Per serving: 991 calories, 11 gm protein, 119 gm carbohydrates, 55 gm fat, 28 gm saturated fat, 117 mg cholesterol, 52 mg sodium.
NELLIE HOPPER MULLIN'S CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS
(Makes 3 puddings, serving about 20 each)
For the traditionalists, Anne Mullin Burnham contributes a family recipe from her childhood in County Dublin. Suet is traditionally used in Christmas puddings but many people now use margarine. It makes a fine pudding and is actually better if you ever serve the pudding cold.
1 pound beef suet or margarine
5 or 6 eggs
1 pound bread crumbs (made from a good, homemade-style loaf)
8 ounces all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons allspice (or mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)
1 pound brown sugar
1 pound muscat raisins (regular will do also)
1 pound sultanas (white raisins)
1 pound currants
4 ounces chopped almonds
8 ounces mixed candied fruit peel
Juice and grated rind of one lemon
Juice and grated rind of one orange
1 apple, grated
6 ounces brandy or whiskey
1 cup Guinness stout or dark ale
Grate the beef suet or freeze and grate the margarine. Beat the eggs lightly and put in a bowl with the bread crumbs, flour, allspice and brown sugar. Mix together and add the raisins, currants, almonds, candied peel, juices, rinds and apple.
Add spirits and enough Guinness to make moist but not soggy mixture.
Grease a tinned pudding mold or a ceramic bowl that holds six cups. Fill 3/4-full and cover with sheet of greased wax paper. Cover tightly with lid or with top made of layers of wax or foil paper that is tied tightly around neck of bowl. Make a string handle if you're using a bowl.
Place bowl or mold on a rack in a large pot. Pour in boiling water until it is half way up the sides and simmer the pudding for 7 hours, checking level of water and adding more when needed. Cool, unmold onto tinfoil, wrap tightly and store in cool place. Repeat with remaining mixture.
Puddings will last indefinitely if kept in refrigerator and occasionally some spirits are poured over to keep them moist. To serve a whole pudding, replace in greased mold and boil for about an hour. Heat a jigger of brandy or rum in microwave or on stove. Pour over pudding, avert face and light with match. Slices of pudding re-heat beautifully in a microwave. Serve with Hard Sauce, Custard Sauce or slightly sweetened whipped cream.
Per serving: 226 calories, 3 gm protein, 33 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 23 mg cholesterol, 121 mg sodium.
HARD SAUCE FOR PLUM PUDDING
(Makes 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
Cream butter well and gradually add sugar, beating well until blended. Add brandy, mix well and chill.
Per tablespoon serving: 46 calories, 0 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, .4 mg sodium.
CUSTARD SAUCE FOR PLUM PUDDING
(Makes 1 cup)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat egg and stir in milk. Strain into top of a double boiler and cook very gently, stirring frequently until the sauce coats the back of a metal spoon. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add vanilla and stir well. Serve warm over pudding.
Per tablespoon serving: 20 calories, .9 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, .9 gm fat, .4 gm saturated fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 27 mg sodium.
GINGER CARROT SQUARES
This recipe from Judith Benn Hurley is one that the children can help prepare by measuring out ingredients and grating the carrots. Serve as a snack with hot mulled cider, or as a light dessert. The snap of the ginger makes a nice finish to a rich meal.
2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup coarsely grated fresh carrots
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt, at room temperature
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon very finely grated fresh ginger (any juice, too)
In a medium bowl, use a large rubber spatula to combine the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and carrots. In a second medium bowl, mix the egg whites, yogurt, oil, maple syrup and fresh ginger and use a hand mixer to combine well.
Using the rubber spatula, scoop the egg white mixture into the flour mixture. Use strong, large strokes to combine well, but don't overmix, about 15 strokes should do it. Scoop the batter into a very lightly oiled 8-by-8-inch cake pan and level off the top. Place in the middle of a preheated 375-degree oven and cook until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the top is mottled brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before slicing into squares.
Per serving: 228 calories, 7 gm protein, 41 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, .5 gm saturated fat, .4 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium.