Category Archives: Sweet & Skinny

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie

"Deconstructed" Key Lime Pie

Saving a step from the traditional key lime pie, I bake the custard in ramekins or cups and serve them with a graham cracker and toasted marshmallow topping. Key limes are smaller and have a more intense flavor than the common (Persian) lime. I like the balance of the two combined. A bit of coconut milk in the custard adds flavor without much fat.

Serves 8

Per serving: 250 calories, 1.5 grams fat

Lime Custard


1 1/2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated lime zest (about 1 1/2 limes)

2/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)

1/3 cup Key lime juice, bottled or fresh (about 10 limes)

One 14-ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon lite coconut milk

4 egg whites, from large eggs

2 large eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt



1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 egg whites, from large eggs

8 reduced-fat honey graham crackers (about 2 1/2-inch squares)


Preheat the oven to 325oF. with a rack in the center position.

In a medium bowl, combine the lime zest and the Key lime and Persian lime juices. Whisk in the condensed milk, coconut milk, egg whites, whole eggs, and salt.

Divide the custard evenly among eight 3- to 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Set the ramekins into a deep baking dish large enough to hold them all. Fill a kettle with hot water. Put the baking dish onto the oven rack and pour in the hot water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Lay a single sheet of aluminum foil over the entire dish, wrapping the edges tightly around the pan to hold in the steam. Bake until the filling jiggles slightly when you shake a single ramekin, 20 to 30 minutes. (Take care when removing the foil to avoid a blast of scalding steam.)

Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil (again with care). Let the dish cool until you can safely remove the ramekins from the water bath to a wire rack, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate the ramekins, uncovered, until they are completely cold, about 2 hours, then cover with plastic film and refrigerate until serving.

To make the topping: Put 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Set aside for several minutes to soften.

Stir the sugar with one-quarter cup water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the dissolved gelatin and water, scraping the bowl to make sure you have added it all. Stir for a full minute to fully dissolve the gelatin. Stir in the vanilla. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer and the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until they are foamy. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric mixer.) With the mixer running, add the syrup in a slow, steady stream, pouring it between the edge of the bowl and the whisk to avoid splattering. After all of the syrup is in, continue beating the whites until the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch, about 10 minutes. The mixture will look thick and shiny, like marshmallow creme.

Set out the ramekins and mound the topping over them, leaving some of the curd exposed around the edges. Use the back of a spoon to make decorative swirls. Refrigerate, uncovered, for up to 4 hours before serving.

To serve: Wave a kitchen torch slowly over the topping until it has the appearance of toasted marshmallow. Alternatively, pre-heat the broiler with a rack set on the uppermost rung. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and broil until the topping is evenly browned, about 1 minute.

For each ramekin, break a graham cracker in half at the marking line. Crumble part of one piece to one side of the meringue, and plunge the second piece into the topping. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead! The baked custards can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, up to 3 days in advance, or frozen up to 1 week in advance; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

Posted in Recipes, Sweet & Skinny | 3 Comments

“Almond Joy” Macaroons

“Almond Joy” Macaroons

"Almond Joy" Macaroons

Makes about 30 macaroons

Per macaroon: 90 calories, 4.5 grams fat

As a child, I loved coconut desserts: macaroons, coconut cake, and especially the chocolate and coconut Almond Joy candy bar. I haven’t eaten one of those in many years, but I do eat these cookies, designed to be reminiscent of the candy, but not so cloyingly sweet. In this version, pineapple replaces some of the coconut for natural sweetness with fewer calories.


1/3 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, well drained

1 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup liquid or fresh egg whites (about 5 large whites)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Nonstick pan spray

30 whole almonds

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Put the pineapple, coconut, sugar, egg whites, flour, and salt into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 5 to 6 minutes, until all of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is sticky. (Do not be concerned if the mixture browns along the bottom of the pan.) Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F. with a rack in the center position. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray or line with a silicone baking mat.

Scoop out tablespoon-size balls of the mixture, or pinch off pieces and roll into balls between your palms. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheet about 1/2-inch apart (they will not spread). Press an almond into the top of each cookie. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pan from front to back. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack until they are completely cool, about 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until you can stir it smooth. (Alternatively, use a microwave oven.) Spoon the melted chocolate over the cookies in a zigzag pattern. Allow the chocolate to harden before storing the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

The cookie dough can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered, until forming the macaroons and baking.

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PB & J Cookies


PB & J Cookies

You know that lone child in the cafeteria who would not touch a PB&J sandwich? That was me! After years of protest, however, I saw the light and joined the millions who delight in this all-American combination. In every restaurant where I have worked as a pastry chef, I have created some sort of peanut butter and jelly dessert. The PB&J cookie has always been the biggest hit, and thankfully, it’s not difficult to fit all that great flavor into a cookie with fewer calories. The construction of the cookies may seem a bit fussy, but it’s not difficult and the finished cookies are adorable!

Makes 16 cookies

Per cookie: 130 calories, 6 grams of fat

Per cookie (sugar-free): 90 calories, 6 grams of fat


Nonstick pan spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup reduced-fat peanut butter, smooth, preferably natural style (made from peanuts and salt, only)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar or 5 Tablespoons Truvia
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons liquid egg substitute
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 1/4 cup strawberry jam or grape jelly


To make the PB&J Cookies sugar-free, replace both the brown and white sugar with 5 tablespoons of Truvia, and use sugar free jam or jelly.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. with a rack in the center position. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray (even it is nonstick) or line it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer and the paddle attachment, if you have one, beat the peanut butter, cream cheese, butter, and granulated and brown sugars on medium for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is well blended.
Add the egg substitute and vanilla and mix for 2 minutes longer.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the flour on low for 1 minute, just until it is incorporated.
Set aside 2/3 of a cup of dough for the cookie tops.
Scoop the remaining dough into 16 equal portions and roll it between your hands into balls.
Use your thumb or index finger to press a hole about 1/4 inch deep into the center of each ball, gently pinching the dough to create a well about the size of a quarter. Fill the holes with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of jam.
Roll out the remaining dough on a flat surface between two large pieces of plastic film until it is 1/8-inch thick.
Peel off the top film and use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut 16 circles, re-rolling the scraps as needed.
Use the tines of a fork to press cross hatch marks onto the flat cookie tops, dipping the fork into flour as needed to prevent sticking.
If the dough becomes too soft to work with, freeze it for 5 minutes and try again.
Lay one cookie top over each of the filled cookies and press the tops and bottoms together all around the edges to seal in the jam.
The filled cookies can be baked immediately, or frozen on the baking sheet, tightly wrapped with plastic film, for up to 1 week. Transfer to the refrigerator overnight before baking.
Space the cookies evenly on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until the dough no longer appears wet or shiny but has not begun to brown. Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pan from front to back.
Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then transfer the cookies directly to the rack until they are completely cool. Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berries

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berries-Serves 4

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berries

Per serving (sugar-free): 80 calories, 1.5 grams fat

Panna cotta is Italian for “cooked cream.” The simple dessert is cooked on the stovetop and thickened with just a small amount of gelatin. Topped with vanilla scented berries, it is a sure-fire hit!


Panna Cotta

3/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
5 packets Truvia
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature


Berry Medley

3 packets Truvia
1/4 of a vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, large berries quartered


Pour the milk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top
Whisk to combine, then set aside for 3 minutes to soften the gelatin
Whisk in the Truvia
Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk frequently until the milk begins to steam and the gelatin dissolves completely
Do not allow the mixture to fully boil
Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes
Whisk in the buttermilk
Pour the mixture into four 4-ounce ramekins
Cover with plastic film and refrigerate about 3 hours, or overnight, until it is set


Just before serving, put the sugar into a bowl large enough to hold the berries
Use a paring knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the Truvia
Rub the seeds into the sugar with your fingertips
Add the berries and gently mix with a spoon or your hands for about 1 minute, until the berries are well coated and begin to release their juices
Distribute the berries and their juices evenly over the tops of the panna cottas and serve

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