5 Holiday Desserts Made Lighter

Stay sweet this season

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Between snacking on treats and eating heavy meals, the holiday season is prime time for putting on a few extra pounds. Rather than being a slave to the scale, try incorporating reduced-calorie ingredients into your desserts. It’s easier to avoid undue calories than to try to lose extra pounds after January. No one will be any wiser with these five festive desserts.

Ricotta Cheesecake

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Here's how you can have your cheesecake and eat it too: Swap out high calorie ingredients for reduced calorie versions.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 2 hours plus refrigeration

Yield: 8-10 slices

Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 10 graham crackers, crushed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2/3 cup white sugar, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra
  • 10 ounces part skim milk ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces reduced calorie cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ounces honey, plus extra
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ounce toasted pine nuts, optional garnish

Cooking directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wrap outside of 9-inch springform cake pan with two layers of aluminum foil, crimping edges tightly.
  3. In medium mixing bowl combine graham crackers, 1/4 cup sugar and butter until moistened. Press firmly into bottom of pan, eliminating gaps. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool.
  4. While crust cools, blend ricotta in a food processor until smooth. Add cream cheese in small portions. Blend until smooth.
  5. Add 2/3 cup sugar, honey and lemon zest. Blend until smooth. To ensure consistency, scrape down sides of bowl occasionally.
  6. Add eggs individually and pulse until just blended.
  7. Lightly coat sides of pan with butter. Slowly pour contents of food processor into cake pan until evenly distributed. Bake until golden brown around the edges and the center is set but jiggles slightly, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool at room temperature 1 hour.
  8. Transfer to refrigerator, cool 2 hours before serving. Drizzle with honey and garnish with pine nuts.

Ginger Pumpkin Pie

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Add an element of surprise to traditional pumpkin pie with the addition of ginger spice. This recipe requires less sugar than most and is just as tasty.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes, plus cooling

Yield: 8-10 slices

Ginger Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 ready-made pie crust
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 shot pumpkin liquor, optional
  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger, chopped fine, optional garnish

Cooking directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Thaw ready-made pie crust according to package directions. Lightly coat pie tin with butter. Line with crust, crimping off the excess. Poke base with fork. Place on center rack of oven and heat for 10 minutes.
  3. In medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk pumpkin puree, eggs and brown sugar, about 1 minute. Whisk in ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper, about 1 minute.
  4. Add half and half (and pumpkin liquor if desired) to mixing bowl, whisk until smooth. Pour pumpkin pie filling into preheated crust. Place pie on center rack of oven. Bake about 50 minutes or just until set in the center. Filling will continue to firm up after being removed from oven.
  5. Allow pie to cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate two hours before serving. It's even better the next day.

Clementine Sorbet

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Clementine — often called Christmas orange — in the form of sorbet is the ideal palate cleanser after a heavy meal.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes, plus refrigeration

Yield: About 1 quart

Clementine Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 cups clementine juice (about 4 pounds of fruit)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, chilled

Cooking directions

  1. Bring water to boil. Slowly add sugar and zest. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool, about 30 minutes. Strain contents through a metal sieve into a mixing bowl.
  2. While contents cool, halve clementines and juice, yielding about 3 cups. Add juice to mixing bowl. To catch pulp and seeds, pour through metal sieve. Add coconut milk and stir until blended, about 1 minute.
  3. Pour contents into ice cream maker container. Stir periodically until almost frozen, about 3 hours. Serve immediately.

Tofu Blintzes

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Because your bubbie loves you, lessen the load by incorporating low-cal ingredients. Flax seed is packed with omega-3s and can be substituted for egg whites.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 4-6

Tofu Blintzes

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax
  • 8 ounces whole milk or 2% milk
  • 2 ounces water
  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces soft tofu, cubed
  • 4 ounces mascarpone
  • 2 ounces granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 orange, juiced
  • 2 ounces maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brandy

Cooking directions

  1. To make crepes: Combine eggs, flax, milk, water, flour and salt in food processor or blender; process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour batter into mixing bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. To make filling: Rinse processor. Combine tofu, mascarpone, sugar, extract and lemon zest in food processor; process until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  3. To make compote: Combine cranberries, water, orange zest and juice in saucepan. Bring to low boil. Simmer until water is reduced, about 10 minutes. Add maple syrup and brandy. Set aside.
  4. Add dab of oil to skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. When hot, pour batter onto skillet, using approximately 4 tablespoons at a time for each crepe. Tilt skillet in circular motion so batter is distributed evenly. Cook crepe about 1 minute, until bottom is light brown. Loosen with spatula, flip and cook other side, about 1 minute. Continue until batter is done.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place crepes on lined sheet, add dollop of filling to each crepe. Roll and fold sides of each crepe over filling, covering completely. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until cheese is hot. Remove from oven. Plate and serve with cranberry compote.

Brandied Fruit Cups

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Everything you might like about fruitcake without the actual cake.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 desserts

Brandied Fruit Cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried pineapples, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 ounces 40 proof brandy
  • Handful chopped cranberries, optional garnish
  • 6 gingersnap cookies

Cooking directions

  1. Combine cranberries, pineapples, apricots in a mixing bowl. Stir. Add water, juice, extract and 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir about 1 minute and let stand 15 minutes, or until cranberries are plump and pineapple is tender.
  2. Pour contents into heavy-bottomed skillet. Bring to low boil over medium heat and simmer, until liquids are reduced, about 15 minutes.
  3. Combine whipping cream and remaining sugar in food processor. Process cream until soft peaks form, about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour brandy into pan. Ignite brandy with long match. Cook until flames recede. Assemble dessert in small custard cups. Garnish with cranberries and nestle cookies in cream. Serve immediately.