Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cheesecake-filled Strawberries

Currently available in my local supermarket are extra large strawberries from California. As big and beautiful as they appear, their taste lacks the sweetness that you get from the smaller berries. The reason is because the outside of the large berries turn red and ripen long before the inside is fit to eat. Still, I couldn't resist because I love strawberries and crave them at this time of year. For me, the strawberry season is too short to overlook any of them! Although these larger strawberries are not the best choice for shortcake where the berry needs to shine forth, they are excellent for this quick and easy recipe. I hollowed out their white, tasteless insides to create a strawberry "cone" that is filled with a delicious, creamy cheesecake-like filling. Great for snacking, dessert or as an appetizer, these fruit cones are fun to eat and kids will love them, too! For a frozen treat on a hot day, place them upright in the freezer for about an hour before serving.

The recipe suggests using light cream cheese because it is readily available in any grocery store, but an alternative is White Stilton with Apricots, which is a wonderful snacking cheese that can sometimes be found in the speciality cheese section or Trader Joe's. If you choose the Stilton, only use 3 ounces and eliminate the dried apricots because they are already mixed into the cheese. The nutritional information per berry is only slightly higher but, in my opinion, worth the extra calorie or two.

Cheesecake-filled Strawberries
(Makes between 18- 24 strawberries, depending on size)

3½ ounces low-fat cream cheese, room temperature (see Variation below*)
8 ounces low-fat plain Greek yogurt
3 dried apricots (finely chopped)
1½ teaspoons crystallized ginger (finely chopped)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 or 3 packets Splenda (or to your taste)
18 to 24 large strawberries

1. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese and yogurt until well blended. (If necessary, use a fork to break up the cheese and aid in blending.) Add the chopped apricots, ginger, vanilla and Splenda; stir to combine. (This mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated until time to serve.)

2. Wash and dry the strawberries. Cut the tops off the strawberries and, with a small paring knife, hollow out and discard the white, fleshy center to create a cone; set strawberries aside.

3. Fill each strawberry cone with approximately 1 to 1¼ teaspoons of the cream cheese mixture and serve.

Nutritional Information per filled strawberry: 27.6 calories, 3.6 g carbohydrate, 0.7 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 22.4 mg sodium, 0.4 g fiber, 1.2 g protein.

*Variation: If using 3 ounces of White Stilton with Apricots in place of the cream cheese and dried apricots, add an additional 1.3 calories, 0.04 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g total fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, 5.7 mg sodium, 0.02 g fiber and 0.3 g protein per filled strawberry.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

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