Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fruit Ice Pops

There's nothing new about this idea, but if it's been a while since you were a kid, you might need to be reminded how much fun popsicles are to eat! I recently purchased a Zoku Ice Pop Maker and have been creating elaborate fruit-based pops ever since. Juicy, sweet summer fruits pureed in a blender with a bit of water (sometimes mixed with milk or fat-free half & half for a creamy pop) is all you need to do. If you desire more sweetness, add a small amount of sugar, agave nectar, honey or Splenda and you're ready to freeze! You don't need a fancy pop maker, just use paper cups and crafts sticks and in a few hours you'll have delicious, low-cal frozen treats to cool you off.

Here are some of my favorite pops:

Pineapple Coconut: Puree fresh pineapple, water, a few tablespoons of pineapple or orange juice, 1 tablespoon of shredded coconut and a few drops of coconut extract in a blender. Freeze until firm.*

Caramel Apple: Mix together apple cider and a small amount of caramel syrup. Freeze until firm.*

Strawberries & Cream: In a blender puree fresh strawberries, water, and 1 teaspoon of sugar or Splenda. Set aside 3/4 of the mixture. Add milk or fat-free half & half to the remaining puree. Fill pop mold part of the way with the strawberry puree and partially freeze (about 1 hour). Fill the mold with the strawberry cream mixture and continue freezing until firm.*

*If using a Quick Pop Maker, some sugar needs to be added to the mixture for optimum release, although only a small amount needs to be added. I've had excellent results using a combination of sugar and Splenda in my puree mixtures.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cherry Cheesecake Tapioca Pudding

It's that time of year again when fresh cherries are widely available and at the lowest prices of the season. My family loves them and I can't have too many recipes that highlight their juicy goodness. This is an old-fashioned one that reminds me of my childhood. Our housekeeper, Melvina, didn't make many desserts when cooking for my seven brothers and sisters, although on a rare occasion she'd make creamy tapioca to our great delight. Normally, tapioca pudding is made with milk, but this recipe is water-based which reduces the calories and fat. The fresh, light flavor is drawn directly from the cherries as they simmer and infuse the pudding. The addition of low-fat cream cheese and sprinkling of graham cracker gives it that distinct "cheesecake" taste. This is an easy dessert or snack that just screams "Summer!"

Cherry Cheesecake Tapioca Pudding
Makes 4 servings

3 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1¼ cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup Splenda granular
3 tablespoons quick tapioca
Dash salt
2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons crushed graham crackers, divided for garnish

1. Mix the cherries, water, lemon juice, Splenda, tapioca and salt in a medium saucepan and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Heat mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes until cherries soften and tapioca becomes translucent.

2. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and well blended. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide into 4 serving dishes and refrigerate until chilled.

3. Just before serving, sprinkle each with ½ tablespoon crushed graham crackers.

Nutritional Information per serving: 159.5 calories, 29 g carbohydrate, 3 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 96 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 1.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor gave me a list of good and bad foods. I remember that unsweetened rhubarb was a "free food" and, in my despair at the time, I recall sarcastically joking that I could eat all the unsweetened rhubarb I wanted - lucky me! Rhubarb is one of the earliest harvests of the spring garden and is abundant in stores and farmer's markets right now. It's full of antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium and fiber, so it is an excellent and healthy choice, but usually requires a lot of sugar to counterbalance the extreme tartness. This simple dessert is a good mixture of sweet and tart. It's easy and quick to prepare and I highly recommend that it be eaten fresh and warm out of the oven.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Makes 6 servings

¼ cup light brown sugar, unpacked
2 tablespoons zero trans fat buttery spread (I use Smart Balance)
Zest of ½ of an orange
7 ounces rhubarb (about 5-6 stalks)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup zero trans fat buttery spread
1/3 cup Splenda, granular
1 egg + 1 egg white
2 tablespoons fat-free buttermilk (or skim milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In an 8-inch cast iron skillet (or 8" cake pan), melt 2 tablespoons buttery spread and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add orange zest and stir. Slice the rhubarb on the diagonal into 1-2" pieces and add to the brown sugar mixture and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan; set aside.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, almond flour, salt, baking powder; set aside. With a handheld mixer, cream the 1/3 cup buttery spread and Splenda. Add the egg and egg white and beat until well combined. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat well.

3. Add the dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. Pour over the rhubarb and spread to cover. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Turn out onto a serving plate and cool for another 15 minutes. Serve immediately. This cake is best served warm.

Nutritional Information per serving: 215 calories, 17.5 g carbohydrate, 14.3 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 238 mg sodium, 1.3 g fiber, 4.2 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2011