A Lighter Touch

For all of you whose New Year's resolutions include living a healthier lifestyle by losing weight, help is on the way! There are so many options these days for diets that hold the promise of a brand-new and better body … low-fat, no-fat, low-carb, no-carb, high-protein, sugar-busters, to name just a few.

They all worked for me for a time, and then that creeping feeling of deprivation invaded and sabotaged my best intentions. Dessert — that's what I was missing, and I don't mean a piece of unembellished fruit. I longed for a slice of strudel, a piece of golden sponge cake or a wee wedge of New York cheesecake, especially after a Shabbat or holiday meal.

By cutting down on fats with reduced-fat dairy products and using low-cal sugar substitutes, you really can have your cake and eat it, too — or, sometimes, have your cake and eat nothing else. Portion control is the key.

Here are some of my favorite treats that make any diet sustainable.

Lite Cheesecake


Crust Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, room temperature
11/4 cups low-fat graham cracker crumbs, divided

Filling Ingredients:

8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
3/4 cup part skim-milk ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1 cup light sour cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest

Topping Ingredients:

1 cup light or low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°.

To Make Crust: Grease the inside of a 9-inch spring form pan, using soft butter. Press 1 cup of cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

To Make Filling: Place the cream cheese and Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking into a mixer (preferably with a paddle attachment). Run for a few minutes, scraping down the sides and beaters frequently.

Add ricotta; then add the eggs, one by one. Wait for each egg to be incorporated into the mix, then scrape down the bowl before adding another egg to ensure that everything is smoothly blended.

Finally, add the sour cream, lemon juice and zest, and mix to uniform consistency.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 325° for 50 to 55 minutes, or until almost fully set and the center jiggles slightly. Allow to cool completely.

To Make Topping: Mix the ingredients in a bowl, and use an offset spatula to cover the outside of the unmolded cheesecake. Cover the top of the cake with 1/8 of an inch layer of the sour-cream topping and lightly coat the sides, use the spatula to stick the remaining 1/4 cup cookie crumbs onto the sides.

Makes 16 diet-sized wedges


Apple Crisp


2 cups sliced apples
3 cups sliced pears
11/2 tsps. cinnamon
1 cup apple-juice concentrate

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsps. low-fat pareve margarine
11/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 °.

In a large bowl, combine apples, pears and cinnamon. Stir in apple-juice concentrate and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the topping ingredients and stir well to mix in margarine to resemble coarse meal.

Place the fruit mixture and a greased 10-inch baking pan. Sprinkle topping over the fruit.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until fruit is tender and topping is lightly browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 10 to 12.


Apple Strudel


Filling Ingredients:

1/3 cup (packed) dried Bing cherries
1/3 cup (packed) pitted prunes, halved
11/4 lbs. of golden delicious apples, peeled and cored
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 Tbsps. apple juice or water
11/2 Tbsps. cornstarch

Strudel Ingredients:

2/3 cup almonds
1/2 cup graham-cracker crumbs
3 Tbsps. sugar
9 sheets (17×12-inch) phyllo
can of canola-oil spray

For Filling: Coarsely chop all ingredients with apple juice and cornstarch.

For Strudel: Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a heavy, large baking sheet.

Blend the first three ingredients in a processor until nuts are finely ground.

Place a dry kitchen towel on work surface. Place one phyllo sheet on towel (cover remaining phyllo with plastic wrap). Spray phyllo lightly with oil. Top with second phyllo sheet; spray again.

Sprinkle with scant 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture.

Continue with six more phyllo sheets, spraying each with oil and sprinkling with scant 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture.

Top with remaining phyllo sheet. Spray again.

Spoon the filling atop phyllo stack in 12×3-inch log, starting 2 inches from one long side and 21/2 inches from each short side. Fold short edges over filling.

Using towel as aid and beginning at edge close to filling, roll up strudel jelly-roll style.

Place strudel, seam-side down, on prepared baking sheet. Spray strudel with oil.

Bake uncovered until golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes.

Cut warm or room-temperature strudel into slices.

Makes 8 servings.


Shabbat Sponge Cake


4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for baking
1/4 cup frozen orange-juice concentrate
11/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
4 egg whites, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until blended. Gradually beat in the sugar. Increase the speed to high, and beat until thick and pale in color. Beat in the orange juice.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add in three additions to the egg mixture.

In a clean large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Fold whites into batter in three additions.

Pour batter into ungreased tube pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and invert. Let cool upside down.

When cool, reinvert, and cut around the sides and around the inner tube of the cake. Turn upside down and gently tap the cake out of the pan.

Serve with fresh berries.

Serves 12.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher, as well as a food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.



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