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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost Pie

I've been experimenting in the kitchen this week with recipes for summer desserts.

We've got some birthday parties / celebrations on the calendar over the next month or so. It's always difficult to know what to bring to a 'pot luck', but summer, I think, poses special problems. 

There's always a summery Jell-O mold or a bowl of fruit, but I've been looking for something more creative and .... um.... 'substantial'. You know what I mean?

Have you noticed how many people have dietary restrictions? Either it's 'low calorie' or 'low fat' or allergies or food intolerance. 

I've been looking for recipes I can adapt to be low-fat, low calorie and gluten-free and still yields something that tastes as good as the regular.

I've found two recipes that I'm particularly fond of and thought I'd share them with you. You know. Because it's Pentecost and everyone can eat the same thing in their own way and everyone will understand.

The first is a cheesecake. The other is a ricotta pie.

Both of these can be made with or without crusts.  If you need gluten-free, use the crust recipe with ground nuts - it works really well and I actually prefer this version even though I'm not gluten-intolerant. You will need a food processor to finely grind the nuts. If you're allergic to nuts or are not gluten-intolerant, use graham cracker crumbs, in equivalent amounts called for in the recipe.

If you can't have either nuts or graham cracker crumbs - or prefer not to - the cheesecake will still bake up well in the spring form pan without a crust. Just make sure to spray PAM or smear margarine or butter all over the pan in generous amounts. The ricotta pie can be spooned into individual serving cups and garnished.

If you have no restrictions to your diet, use cream, regular cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese. If not, you can use equivalent amounts called for in the recipe of fat-free half-and-half, reduced fat or fat free cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese.

Don't worry if the cheesecake splits after baking. You can make them "disappear" with the topping.

If you are concerned with calorie reduction or need to be sugar-free, use granulated sugar substitute like Splenda or Truvia/Stevia in equivalent amounts.

I've tried all the variations of the above and all are delicious. Even the 'diet' versions are sure to please those who have no dietary restrictions. So, depending on where you're going and who's going to be there, everyone can relax and enjoy.

It sure beats a Jell-O mold or just a bowl of fruit! And, you'll be the star of the party - and a real hero to those watching their calories and fat content and/or those who need a gluten-free diet.


1 cup pine nuts or pecans (I prefer pecans)
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts
1½ tablespoons granular sugar substitute
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

16 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granular sugar substitute
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
¼ teaspoon salt.

Topping: 1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon granular sugar substitute.

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350°F.

To make the crust: In a food processor, pulse nuts and sugar substitute until finely ground. Add butter and pulse to combine. Using your fingers, gently press nut mixture into the bottom a 9 spring form pan. Bake 10 minutes and remove from oven to cool.

To make filling: In a food processor, pulse cream cheese and sugar substitute in until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing well and scraping down bowl as necessary. Add sour cream, vanilla, zest and salt, pulsing just to combine. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake 40 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake cool for one hour without opening door. Chill 12 to 24 hours. Mix all topping ingredients and spread on top of cooled cheesecake. Serve with garnish of blueberries of strawberries, if desired.


two cups of pecans
two cups macadamia nuts
three T granular Splenda or sugar substitute (or, just use regular sugar)
6 Tsp. melted margarine (or butter).
Pulse nuts in food processor until finely ground.
Add Splenda/sugar and melted margarine/butter, stirring well.
Press into a pie plate and bake in 350 oven for 10 minutes.

two cups Ricotta Cheese ( I used low fat)
one cup Cool-Whip Free (or one cup of whipped cream)
1-2 packages Jello (I use sugar free) of your favorite flavor (I used Raspberry).
NOTE: Just use the granulated jello. DO NOT actually make the jello.
Three Tsp. lemon zest.
OPTIONAL: 3/4 cup sliced fruit of your choice

two cups sour cream
one tsp vanilla extract
one tsp grated lemon zest
one tablespoon granular sugar substitute.

Mix all ingredients together - using the amount of Jello to the color/taste you prefer (I used the entire 2 packages) OPTIONAL: 3/4 cup raspberries (or whatever fruit you like). Pour into pie plate. Mix in 3 Tsp. lemon zest into two cups of Cool-Whip free (or, whipped cream) and cover the pie with the topping.  Chill for a few hours before serving.
OPTIONAL Garnish with fresh fruit and a few sprigs of fresh mint.

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