Mr. Second Helpings and I began our weight loss journey late summer four years ago. We built a collective momentum during the early months. When the calendar flipped over to November I threw myself into how we would continue that momentum through the holidays. Two things were clear in my mind. Number 1: There was absolutely no way either of us was going to lose sight of our long term weight loss goals. Number 2: We were NOT going to forego all festivities and hide under a rock until New Year resolution season.
To keep our celebrating on track, we needed a menu of festive foods made with ingredients we could keep track of. I spent the first half of that November scouring magazines, web sites, and newspapers, flagging potential lightened dishes for the food-centric days ahead. It was important to me that we be able to fill our plates rather than staring down at a meager but "on track" meal. I remember making a few batches of a "stuffing" with quinoa, celery, crimini mushrooms, and dried cherries. It was not at all like bread traditional stuffing. Despite the difference we liked it because we could eat a satisfying volume while enjoying its savory holiday flavors. We didn't feel cheated by the lack of bread or giblet bits because we had a tasty alternative that got us closer to our goals.
Each holiday, I plan for the foods I love then carve out a moment to savor and enjoy each bite. That first year of holiday eating for weight loss, we were most successful because we planned for dessert. Coming up with a light and indulgent dessert required additional creative planning. Four years ago I followed recipes full of sneaky cheats to help you feel like you weren't missing out on the real thing. Today I have come up with a pie that tastes real because it simply is real. If I had a time machine I would mail this Best Ever Crustless Pumpkin Pie recipe to my newly resolved self with this note: "Dear Rose, step away from the Sucralose and questionable whipped topping. Make this pie. Yours in good health. - A Friend."
Broadly speaking, pie crust isn't terribly important to me. As a nod to tradition, I implied a crust with a dusting of finely minced pecans. I strayed further from tradition with a "filling" far closer to a cake than a custard. A tricky removal of liquid from both of the main ingredients emboldens the pumpkin and yogurt flavors. A combination of brown sugar and maple syrup takes this pie just over the threshold from savory to sweet. A reserved sprinkling of traditional spices work their magic further boosting the sweetness.
I hope by now your mouth has begun to water and you are starting to add these ingredients to your shopping list. For anyone in need of a bit more convincing you should know the entire pie is studded with tiny bits of crystalized ginger. That's right, fragrant bursts of candied spice spring out of each and every bite. This pie is so darn good I may go snag the last piece right now and eat it standing in front of the refrigerator.
Well maybe I'll boil the kettle first. But, when I do sit down with a steamy cup of tea and the final piece of pie it will be 140 calories of thoughtfully planned and supremely relished festive dessert. I hope you will join me.
My BEST EVER Crust-less Pumpkin Pie
To make my Best Ever Crustless Pumpkin Pie I drew inspiration from the Dark Chocolate Flour-less Cake I crafted earlier in the year. If possible prepare this pie in advance. Chill it one if not two days before serving, over time the flavors increase in complexity. Oh and yes, this is a gluten free dessert. Makes 1 9 in. pie with 6 - 10 servings. Prep time: 15 mins, plus straining; Cook time: 25 mins.
30 grams (1/4 cup) pecan halves, finely ground in a food processor
1 - 2 teaspoons of butter to coat the inside of the pan.
1 cup 2% low fat plain greek yogurt (the thicker the better), liquid mostly removed - see note below
1 cup pumpkin puree, liquid mostly removed - see note below
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
14 oz (3-4 large pieces) crystalized candied ginger, finely minced
3 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
Note: There are two options for draining the liquid from the yogurt and pumpkin pureé. The quick way (I used this method) is to measure into cheese cloth or paper towels. Bring the sides together to make a little pouch and gently squeeze to force the liquid out. Hold the pouches over a bowl to catch the liquid - it can be used in smoothies or hot cereal. The slow way is to measure into two layers of cheese cloth or paper towels in a strainer. Let rest overnight in the refrigerator suspended over a bowl to catch the liquid.
1. Strain the liquid from both the yogurt and the pumpkin pureé using either method described above.
2. Prep a 9 inch springform (or pie dish) by lightly coating the inside with butter. For a springform the butter only needs to cover the lower half of the pan. Place a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan. Pour in the ground pecan halves and tilt the pan to 45 degrees to the pecans stick to the buttered inside wall of the pan. Gently rotate the pan until pecan bits coat the entire inside. Return the pan to level and scatter the remaining nuts to cover the bottom of the pan as evenly as possible.
3. Prepare the filling: In a medium bowl - Combine brown sugar, maple syrup, egg yolk, vanilla, and spices. Mix in strained yogurt and pumpkin and coconut flour stir until fully incorporated. Fold in lemon zest and minced ginger. In a second bowl beat egg whites with a pinch of salt to into stiff peaks. Once the whites pass the upside-down-over-your-head test, fold the egg whites into the batter 1/3 at a time. Be careful to use the under over technique to keep the air in the egg whites.
4. Pour the completed batter into the prepared pan. Place into the preheated oven to bake for 25 minutes. The finished pie will be firm through the center when the pan is jiggled.
5. Let the pie cool to room temperature before covering loosely and refrigerating. Allow the pie to warm to room temperature before serving. Garnish as desired.
• For a dainty 1/10 serving: 112 calories, 4 g. fat, 18 g. carbohydrates, 1.4 g. fiber, 4.7 g. protein, PP = 3
• For a modest 1/8 serving: 140 calories, 5 g. fat, 22.5 g. carbohydrates, 1.7 g. fiber, 5.8 g. protein, PP = 4
• For a festive 1/6 serving: 187 calories, 6.5 f. fat, 30 g. carbohydrates, 2.3 g. fiber, 7.8 g. protein, PP = 5
For more ideas to prepare for the entire year end holiday season check out healthy holiday tips with light versions of a few traditional favorite recipes.
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