Posts Tagged 'dessert'

White Chocolate Panna Cotta

I have been wracking my brain for weeks trying to remember a lovely, light dessert that I made a few years ago for some friends. I remembered that it was like individual pudding molds, sitting in some sort of fruit puree. Then I remembered that it was lemony, and I did a search of lemon desserts. And there it was: panna cotta. Panna cotta, from the Italian “cooked cream” is an Italian dessert made by simmering together milk, cream and sugar, adding some gelatin, and letting it cool until set. It is often served with fruit, either cooked or raw. And it can be very low in fat and remarkably easy to make.

I was trying to think of a Valentine’s Day dessert, so instead of the lemon panna cotta, I made one with white chocolate. You can decorate these any way you want: with candy hearts
panna cotta with hearts
gel icing,
panna cotta with gel

or the way I liked it best, with sugared strawberries
panna cotta with strawberries
White Chocolate Panna Cotta

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 cups fat-free half-and-half, divided
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped (See NOTE)
1 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
panna cotta ingredients

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup fat free half-and-half in a small saucepan; let stand 1 to 2 minutes.
panna cotta gelatin
Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat 3 minutes or until gelatin dissolves. Watch so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat. Add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts. I found I had to stir quite vigorously to get it to melt…maybe chopped chocolate would have worked better.
panna cotta stirring
Gradually stir in remaining 1 cup half-and-half, condensed milk, and vanilla. Pour 1/2 cup custard into each of 6 stemmed glasses or 6-ounce custard cups.
panna cotta in bowls

Cover and chill 8 hours or until ready to serve.  Turn out on a plate, or eat it straight from the bowl or glass. Makes 6 servings at 4.3 grams of fat/serving

NOTE: I happened to have white chocolate chips on hand, so I used them.  They were hard to melt into the half and half. I think it would be better to use a high quality white chocolate bar, partly because the chopped chocolate might melt better, but also because the flavor of the white chocolate dominates this dessert, and probably high quality white chocolate would be better. If you use the chips, you might want to chop them up a bit.


Chocolate-flecked Rum Cheesecake

I mentioned that I brought both the crab cups and cheesecake to our office holiday potluck.  Here is the cheesecake. The original recipe was from Susan Purdy’s “Let Them Eat Cake”, which has enough wonderful dessert recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth without expanding your hips.

This cheesecake has lots of good things in it – rum chocolate, cream cheese – what’s not to like? It doesn’t taste like low fat. It is a little fussy because you have to put the springform pan in a water bath to bake it. But the majority of the mixing happens in the food processor. You’ll also notice that the crumb crust is barely there.  It’s just enough to be able to lift a slice off the pan. I always thought that the crust detracted from the creamy cheesecake anyway.

Chocolate-Flecked Rum Cheesecake

Crumb Crust
Butter-flavor cooking spray
3 Tablespoons chocolate wafer crumbs
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, divided
¼ cup unsifted cake flour
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups nonfat cottage cheese
1½ cups (12 ounces) light cream cheese (block style) at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3-4 Tablespoons dark rum
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 2 large egg whites.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325. Coat the inside of an 8 inch springform pan with the cooking spray. Cut a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil large enough to fit around the springform pan. Mold it loosely (for now) around the springform pan. Remove the pan from the foil and set the foil aside. Locate a large roasting pan capable of holding the springform pan and have it ready. (It’s best to do this before you are dealing with a cake pan full of batter.)

In a small bowl, blend together the chocolate wafer crumbs and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Dust the bottom of the prepared baking pan with this mixture, making sure that excess crumbs are spread out evenly. Set the pan aside.

Grate 1 ounce of the chocolate over wax paper on the medium holes of a box grater. Set aside.

Place a sifter over a medium-sized bowl, and sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Whisk in the grated chocolate.

Place the non-fat cottage cheese in a strainer set over a bowl. Cover the cheese with a piece of plastic wrap and press on it with your hand to force out any excess liquid.  Place the cottage cheese in a food processor and process for 2 to 3 full minutes until it is absolutely smooth. Scrape down the bowl and blade once or twice. Add the cream cheese (I added it in pieces) and process until smooth. Add the vanilla, rum, sugar, egg and egg whites and pulse to blend. Add the dry ingredients all at once and pulse only to combine. Do not overwork batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan into the molded foil and press the foil tightly to the pan so no water can penetrate. Place the foil-wrapped pan in the roasting pan. Add hot water to reach about 1/3 of the way up the springform pan sides. Bake for one hour until the top is dry and glossy and you can touch the surface lightly without leaving a mark. Turn off the oven and leave the cake inside with the door closed for an hour.

Remove the cake from its water bath, remove the foil, and cool completely on a rack. Refrigerate, covered completely in foil of plastic wrap, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Grate one ounce of semisweet chocolate and sprinkle over cake before serving (or if you are ambitious, make chocolate curls to top the cake).

Makes 12 servings at 6 grams of fat/serving.

In all its gooey delicious splendor!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Baked Figs

I went to Costco for coffee, and I came out with – figs!  I hardly ever see fresh figs, but Costco had them by the dozen, so I bought 2 dozen and went home to practice fig creativity.  I had a potluck to go to – and of course, there was the Wow factor to consider.  Figs, by their comparative rarity and exotic beauty, have a built in Wow factor.

I bought a stick of goat cheese, too, since it seems to me that goat cheese and figs are a natural combination.

I wanted something that would be easy for people to pick up, since this potluck party, on the roof of a photographer’s office building, has hundreds of people bringing scores of dishes. Everyone puts a bit of this and that on their plate, in between dancing, listening to live music, and engaging in great conversation.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Baked Figs

12 fresh figs, sliced in half lengthwise
2/3 cup honey, divided
4 ounces goat cheese
2 ounces walnuts, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Place figs cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush with 1/3 cup honey.
Bake for about ½ hour or until figs are soft.  Allow to cool.

Beat the remaining 1/3 cup honey with the goat cheese. Stuff the figs with about a teaspoon of goat cheese each. Sprinkle with the nuts.
The foil-wrapped pizza pan “platter” isn’t very elegant, but at this crowded affair, when your dish is empty, someone tosses it under the table. When you want to leave, you dig under the table to find whatever you brought your food on.  This is not the place for Grandma’s best china!

Makes 24 half-fig servings, at about 2.4 grams of fat/serving

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Bites

This is heaven in a brownie bite.

Have I mentioned that I love Nutella, that creamy chocolate and hazelnut spread. I had always avoided it, because it seemed that by its very nature it would have too many fat grams for regular use – but then I read the label and discovered that it had less fat per serving than peanut butter, and my love affair began.  I love Nutella on bananas:

I love it on banana bread (or regular bread, for that matter):

I love it on French Toast:

So when the potluck announcement said H-Q (that’s me) bring desserts, I knew what I had to do.  The original recipe came from Sunset magazine, and made 8 humongous brownies.  I honestly don’t know how you could eat one of those big brownies, since my brownie bites were very rich even for one piece – and the only thing I did to them was swap out the eggs for egg substitute.

I expect they would freeze well if you had leftovers, but don’t expect any.  The ones I brought were almost all gone before the main course came off the grill (life is short, eat dessert first), and I took an empty plate home.

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Bites

Cooking spray
½ cup butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup flour
½ cup chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 2 mini muffin pans (24 total muffins) thoroughly with cooking spray.

Microwave the 1/2 cup butter in a heatproof bowl until melted. Add chocolate, stirring until melted.  Use the best quality chocolate that you can for richer flavor, and make sure that the chocolate is finely chopped:

Add sugar and cocoa to the chocolate mixture and stir to blend. I mixed this by hand and stirred thoroughly after each ingredient was added. Stir in egg substitute, vanilla, and salt. Add flour ¼ cup at a time and stir until smooth. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.

Use a half teaspoon measure to spoon a heaping half teaspoon of Nutella on the top of each brownie bite.  Press gently into the brownie bite so it is still on top, but sinks in a little.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the brownie part comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack about 10 minutes. Loosen brownies from pans, move to rack, and cool completely.  This make 24 brownie bites at about 7 grams of fat/brownie.  Yes, I know that these are not the lowest fat dessert ever, but they are very good, and won’t break the “fat bank” as an occasional treat or a party dessert.

Universal Jelled Dessert

First let me state up front that I am not a big Jello fan. My mother used to make a Jello mold with lime Jello for family gatherings. It was called “the green mold” and you can imagine what fun our pre-adolescent (what the heck, even our adult) minds had with that. But I bought a bottle of apple-grape juice (I’m also not a big fan of grape juice) and discovered I didn’t like it.  I usually mix my juice with sparkling water to make a spritzer, and the grape flavor didn’t mix well with the sparkling water.  On the other hand, I couldn’t bear to pour a whole bottle of juice down the drain. Today was a use-up-leftovers-so-I-can-clean-the-fridge day, so I figured I needed to dream up a way to use the juice.

Jelled dishes made with unflavored gelatin are not nearly as obnoxious as those made with flavored Jello mix. In fact, there are a number of admirable gelatin-based aspics and vegetable salads that would be lovely on any buffet table.  I decided to make something jelled that I could take for dessert or a snack with lunch.

The basics of working with gelatin are that one tablespoon of gelatin will jell 2 cups of liquid and, if you want, 1-2 cups of fruit/vegetables. Sour cream or yogurt count as liquids. You have to soften powdered gelatin (the kind that comes in little packets) in cold water for about 5 minutes, then heat or add to hot liquid to dissolve it.  Don’t let it boil – that kind of takes the jelling power out if it. Fresh pineapple can also keep it from jelling.

Jelled Apple-Grape-Pear Dessert

2 packets or 2 Tablespoons unsweetened, powdered gelatin
3 cups of apple-grape juice (you actually can use any juice you’d like)
1 cup non-fat sour cream
1 can sliced pears (or slice up halves like I did), drained

Pour ½ cup of cold juice into a glass measuring cup or container. Sprinkle gelatin on top of juice and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups juice to gelatin mixture and microwave 2 minutes (do not boil). Pour into a medium bowl. Add additional cup of juice and sour cream. Whisk together until sour cream is well incorporated. Add pears. (At this point, if you want to be fancy about it, pour into a mold.)

Put in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or until it jells. If you want to unmold the jelled dessert, you can dip the bowl briefly in hot water and overturn it onto a plate. Since I am just using this as a take along for lunch, I opted to just scoop servings from the bowl.  This makes about 6 serving with 0 grams of fat/serving.

Variation: I expect you can put any kind of canned or cooked fruit in this, such as fruit cocktail or mandarin oranges.  This was not the most attractive jelled dessert, but it did use up a lot of odds and ends – and it tasted good.

Plum Strudel Redux

I am making the plum strudel again, for no particular reason other than 1) I need to do it again so I can post it after my disastrous initial attempt, 2) a friend of mine and I are running errands and we plan to come back to the house for tea, and 3) still too many plums left.  I decided to use the same plum mixture as I did before, since it tasted good.  I used 3 cups of plums rather than 4, because it seemed to me that 4 cups was too much to fit in the dough, and I added flour to the mix, like the apples, to absorb some of the copious plum juice.  But the biggest change was that I handled the phyllo dough like the apple strudel recipe, rather than the elaborate procedure for layering that I tried before.

Plum Strudel

3 cups thinly sliced plums
¼ – ½  cup packed brown sugar (depending upon how sweet your plums are and how sweet you want your filling – mine was a bit tart)
¼ cup diced pitted prunes (I only had the orange essence prunes, but they worked fine)
½ teaspoon grated orange or lemon rind
8  sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
Butter-flavored cooking spray
½ teaspoon cinnamon-sugar or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan by spraying with butter-flavored cooking spray.

Toss the plums, brown sugar, prunes, and rind in a large bowl.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly coat phyllo sheet with cooking spray. Place one phyllo sheet at a time atop the others, coating each with cooking spray as you stack the layers. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over stacked phyllo, pressing gently to seal sheets together; discard plastic wrap.

Spoon plum mixture along 1 long edge of phyllo, leaving a 2-inch border (it will actually cover most of the phyllo). Fold over the short edges of phyllo to cover 2 inches of plum mixture on each end.

Starting at long edge with 2-inch border, roll up jelly-roll fashion. (Do not roll tightly, or strudel may split.) Place strudel, seam side down, on the prepared pan. Score diagonal slits into top of strudel using a sharp knife. Lightly spray strudel with cooking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. This makes 8 servings at about 1 gram of fat/serving.

plum strudel whole

Doesn’t this look better than the last one

plum strudel slice

And it tasted good, too.

Confession. This plum strudel was just determined to give me trouble. I forgot to defrost the phyllo dough last night, so I put it in a warm place on top of the stove while I ate breakfast and then made the filling. Unfortunately, the spot was too warm, and part of the dough baked while thawing.  I cut the sheets in half and only used the unbaked halves, but it was kind of a patch together job. Fortunately, phyllo is flaky, and it is hard to tell if the flakes are natural or part of the patch job.

Apple Strudel

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Naturally, after services last night there was an oneg, food for the congregation to eat. In my small congregation, this is always a potluck, and for Rosh Hashanah, it tends to be fruit and sweets, along with the traditional challah, and apples and honey so that the new year is sweet.  It is traditional to make desserts with apple, or honey cake, in keeping with the holiday. I decided on an apple strudel. Of course, since I still have mountains of plums, I also made a plum strudel – but more about that later.

This strudel uses on of my favorite techniques, phyllo dough instead of fatty pastry dough. Phyllo (or filo) is paper-thin sheets of raw, unleavened flour dough used for making pastries or savory dishes with a flaky crust. When layers of phillo are baked, they become flaky, but have little fat.  The technique used is to stack the very thin sheets of phyllo, spraying each with cooking spray before adding the next sheet.  This strudel recipe came from Cooking Light.

Apple Strudel

1/3 cup golden raisins
3  Tablespoons  amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur) I lacked amaretto, so I used Fra Angelico, or hazelnut liqueur
3 cups coarsely chopped peeled Granny Smith apples
1/3 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
Butter-flavored cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan by spraying with butter-flavored cooking spray.

Combine raisins and amaretto in a bowl. Microwave at high 1½ minutes; drain well. Combine raisins, apples, sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss well, and set aside.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large work surface (cover remaining dough to keep from drying); lightly coat phyllo sheet with cooking spray. Place one phyllo sheet at a time atop the others, coating each with cooking spray as you stack the layers. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over stacked phyllo, pressing gently to seal sheets together; discard plastic wrap.

Spoon apple mixture along 1 long edge of phyllo, leaving a 2-inch border (it will actually cover most of the phyllo). Fold over the short edges of phyllo to cover 2 inches of apple mixture on each end.

Starting at long edge with 2-inch border, roll up jelly-roll fashion. (Do not roll tightly, or strudel may split.) Place strudel, seam side down, on the prepared pan. Score diagonal slits into top of strudel using a sharp knife. Lightly spray strudel with cooking spray.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. This makes 8 servings at about 1 gram of fat/serving. This tastes heavenly on its own, but whipped cream or low fat ice cream would make a nice addition. Be sure to add the extra fat grams.

apple strudel

You will note another, misshapen, strudel in the foreground beside the apple strudel. This is the ill-fated plum strudel.  I used a different recipe, and, although it tasted terrific, it fell apart. I think that the plums I used were much juicier than the plums the recipe anticipated – and unlike the apple strudel the recipe did not call for flour to thicken the filling. Mind you, both strudels disappeared from the table in minutes.  But I’m going to make the plum strudel again to perfect it – after all, it’s not like I don’t have plums.

L’ShanaTova. May you be written down for a good year.

Plum Clafouti

We picked the rest of the plums, the ones that were too high in the tree to reach from the ground. Unfortunately, the little sugar bees had discovered the split plums and the tree was full of them.  In order to avoid getting stung, we whacked the tree with a stick and picked up the plums as they fell to the ground.  There are a lot of plums. Two buckets full.

plum bucket

While we were whacking the tree and causing plums to rain down, a mother deer and her still spotted fawn stood in the field about 200 feet away and watched us.  She knew exactly what we were doing. I expect she is the orphan fawn that lived in the brush beside the fruit trees last year.  She knows all about plums, since I always throw the bird pecked fruit on the ground..  When we walked away from the tree and stood a few feet away talking, mother and fawn crept up and began eating the leftover plums. My friend went back to get the stick he had used, and she ran off about 50 feet away and stood and screamed at him until we went inside.

I made this recipe not just to use up plums, but because I love the word clafouti.  A clafouti is a baked French dessert that is typically made by baking fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a batter in a baking dish.  Clafoutis are typically desserts, but I think you would need a sauce over them to make an interesting dessert. They are quite eggy, and I ate it as a breakfast dish  (egg batter and fruit, what could be nicer for breakfast.)  I actually think it would make a rather nice brunch dish.  This recipe was modified from a Cooking Light fig clafouti – after all I have plums to use up, not figs

Plum Clafouti

½ pound Italian plums, pitted and thinly sliced
Cooking spray
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups fat free milk
½ cup fat free half and half
½ teaspoon grated orange rind
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup egg substitute

Preheat oven to 375°. Coat a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate or a 7 ½ x 11 baking dish with cooking spray. Place plums in bottom of dish.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon, in a bowl. Gradually add half of milk, stirring with a whisk. Stir in remaining milk, fat free half and half, rind, egg and egg substitute. Pour batter over plums. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until set; cool. This is one of those dishes that puffs up to the top of the dish, and then caves in as it cools.  This make 6 servings at one gram of fat/serving.

plum clafouti

Ported Plums

My plum tree is covered in plums!  Stanley (that’s the tree’s name. It’s a Stanly plum tree) has dark dusky plums hanging in clusters everywhere.

plum tree

Now Stanley was not always a prolific tree. In fact, for the first five years, he bore no fruit, despite the fact that he grew full and leafy and made delightful shade. Stanleys are self-pollinating, so I was rather disappointed in his lack of productivity. Then I bought a tall, elegant self-pollinating cherry tree that I planted next to Stanly. The very first summer, that tree produced a handful of sweet, succulent cherries. So I took the handful of cherries and held them out in front of Stanley. “This” I told him firmly, “is what you are supposed to do. If I don’t see plums next year, I’m going to chop you down and put in another cherry tree.”  Next summer, Stanley produced over 40 pounds of plums. Don’t tell me it’s because of the presence of a pollinating tree next to him. I don’t want to hear science. I want to think that my stern lecture worked. In subsequent years, he’s varied in production from 5 pounds to 30-40 pounds. Last year he sulked because I had him pruned. This is a 40 pound year, I’m sure.

I’ve been out in the cool of the morning picking plums. I picked about 5 pounds when they were really not at peak ripeness, but if I wait to pick them when they are all perfectly ripe, I’ll have 40 pounds of ripe plums to deal with.  Besides, I rather like the tart sweet flavor of the young plums. (Warning – these are sometimes called prune plums.  If you eat them by the handful – well, you know the result!) The plums are also great to cook with at this stage.  Then I picked all of the plums I could reach standing on the ground and bending down the branches. There are still a lot of plums up higher in the tree, which require a ladder to pick.

plum counter

One of my favorite things to do with Stanley plums is to poach them in port and top them with sour cream or whipped cream. (I think this would also be good with other sweet wines, such as sherry). This is really not a precise recipe.  Put plums (as many as you want to eat or serve) in a heavy pot. You can pit them if you want or cook them with the pits in.  Pour port wine into the pot about half way up the plums. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer, turning them over occasionally, until the plums are soft but still hold their shape. This is very sweet; you do’t need to add sugar. Serve warm, topped with non-fat sour cream.  This has essentially 0 grams of fat.

plum ported

For guests, you can also top them with a dollop of whipped cream.  Or cook them down so they are mushy and a spoon them over low fat ice cream – but be sure to count the fat grams in the whipped cream or ice cream.

Now excuse me while I dine on ported plums and a cup of hot tea and drift off for a nap.

Creamy Blueberry Torte

I still have at least a pound of blueberries to use – and I noticed they’re on sale again this week. You know I’m going to get more.  I can’t help myself. I need a berry intervention. This dessert tastes better than it looks. Mine came out kind of lumpy looking. It is sort of like a cheesecake with whole blueberries, but creamier.  It’s nice because it can be served warm or chilled, which means that you can make it ahead if you’re busy.  I think that the original recipe was from Cooking Light. I didn’t dust it with confectioner’s sugar to serve it, because I really don’t like things dusted with confectioner’s sugar.  It’s so messy and usually makes things too sweet.

Creamy Blueberry Torte

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup canola oil
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
¼ cup egg substitute
2/3 cup non-fat sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1½ cups nonfat plain yogurt
grated zest of one lemon
3 cups blueberries
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add oil, egg whites, butter, and one teaspoon vanilla. Mix with a fork or your fingers until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg substitute, condensed milk, and cornstarch until smooth. Add yogurt and whisk until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest and remaining teaspoon of vanilla. Pour the mixture over the crust. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over the top. Bake the torte for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until the top is just set. Let cool in the pan on a rack. Loosen edges by sliding a knife around the torte, and remove the pan’s outer ring. Serve warm or chilled.  Makes 12 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

creamy blueberry torte3


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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