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A few months ago I received a few coupons for free Stonyfield’s ice cream or frozen yogurt.  I finally used the coupons just in time for their expiration date and was inspired to use my frozen yogurts to make a New Year’s Eve dessert.  I’ll leave a full review of the yogurt for a separate post, but I am very happy with the delicious dessert I came up with.

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You are looking at layers of crunchy gingersnap crust, pumpkin frozen yogurt, and chocolate frozen yogurt topped with a salted caramel cream sauce.  I came up with the dessert because chocolate and pumpkin are some of my favorite flavors, but as soon as I created it I realized that this mimics my favorite cheesecake bar.  Ok, so it wasn’t the first time using these flavors, but I promise that it was worth the lack of creativity for an excuse to make the topping.  This Frozen Pumpkin and Chocolate Yogurt Pie with Salted Caramel Cream Sauce was a very worthy end to 2010.

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I love that the filling to this pie is fat free frozen yogurt, because it makes you think you are being really healthy. Never mind that the crust has half a stick of butter in it and the sauce is based on sugar, butter and heavy whipping cream.  Details, details.  Moderation is key, or so they say.

The pie is really easy to make.  The sauce is a little more challenging.  I simplified it after my first attempt where I ended up with rock-hard chunks of sugar and butter.  It took a lot of soaking to clean that pot!

bad caramel

First thing to do is run your gingersnap crumbs through a food processor

gingersnaps 1

Grind until the cookies are mostly fine crumbs

gingersnaps 2

Melt the butter

butter 1

And mix it with the cookie crumbs

crumbs with butter

Next, add sugar

adding sugar

When the crust is fully mixed, press it down into a 9-inch spring-form pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray

crust in pan 2

Bake for about 8 minutes or until firm

crust baked

Allow the crust to cool and put the vanilla frozen yogurt in a medium bowlvanilla in bowl

The vanilla is the base for your pumpkin layer

pumpkin ingredients

Fold in the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice until well combined

vanilla with pumpkin

Spread pumpkin layer over crust and freeze for about 10 minutes

pumpkin layer frozen

Meanwhile, remove the chocolate frozen yogurt from the freezer so that it is softened

chocolate fro yo 2

Spread chocolate yogurt over the pumpkin and freeze covered with foil until ready to serve

chocolate layer

To make the caramel, begin by heating sugar over low to medium heat in a small sauce pan

sugar in pot

Add butter

add butter to pot

Stir butter and sugar until butter is melted and fully combined with sugar

melting butter and sugar

Reduce the heat to low and add cream

cream added

Stir continuously until mixture bubbles

sauce bubbling

Then remove pot from heat and stir in corn syrup

adding corn syrup

Add salt and stir

adding salt

The sauce will be a thick liquid that hardens as it cools; store it in the refrigerator and microwave on a low setting to re-heat

sauce done

When it is time to serve the dessert, carefully remove outside of springform pan

whole ice cream pie

Cut slices and drizzle with caramel cream sauce

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When no one is looking, steal some extra sauce for cookies, fruit, your finger…

Frozen Pumpkin and Chocolate Yogurt Pie with Salted Caramel Cream Sauce

Sauce adapted from the Serendipity Sundaes cookbook

Serves 8-12

Pie Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups of gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 25 cookies)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt (I used Stonyfield fat free vanilla)

1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning

2 cups chocolate frozen yogurt (I used Stonyfield fat free chocolate)

Pie Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray, set aside

To make the crust, grind up about 25 gingersnaps in a food processor until fine; set cookie crumbs aside

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and pour over cookie crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar and mix until well combined

Pour mixture into springform pan

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until firm

Remove from oven and allow to cool

Remove vanilla frozen yogurt from freezer a few minutes before use

Place the yogurt into a bowl and fold in the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice until well combined

Spread pumpkin layer over crust and freeze for about 10 minutes

Meanwhile, remove the chocolate frozen yogurt from the freezer so that it is softened

Spread chocolate yogurt over the pumpkin and freeze covered with foil until ready to serve

Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon sea salt

Sauce Directions:

Heat sugar over low to medium heat in a small sauce pan

Add butter; stir until butter is melted and fully combined with sugar

Reduce the heat to low and add cream; stir continuously until mixture bubbles

Remove pot from heat and stir in corn syrup

Add salt and stir

When it is time to serve the dessert, carefully remove outside of springform pan

Cut slices and drizzle with caramel cream sauce

Notes:

The sauce is best served immediately; if not, store it in the refrigerator and microwave on a low setting to re-heat at 15 second intervals stirring in-between

The sauce will firm up over the ice cream, don’t worry, that is supposed to happen!

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I hope that everyone enjoys a happy and healthy New Year!

What dessert did you have for New Year’s Eve?

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You already know that my pants don’t fit.  I don’t know about you, but I find it nearly impossible to diet around this time of year.  It is so cold out that the last thing I want to eat is salad.  What really appeals to me are dishes like chili, lasagna, fresh baked cookies… comfort food.  Add on holiday celebrations, office treats, and Christmas candy sales; I am hopeless.  Well, it is fair to say that I won’t lose any weight in the last week or so of December, but I will do anything I can not to gain more weight.  As a result, I am making an effort to lighten up some of the desserts I am making over the next few hours weeks.

cheesecake 2

Honestly, I don’t do well “giving up” anything. I don’t do well with portion control either.  The first step in trying to combat that is pre-portioning desserts.  The other thing I like to do is take out some of the fat and calories where it won’t be missed.  Previously I’ve made ice cream desserts that taste delicious but are made with lots of low-guilt ingredients.  Well, I decided to make Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes using lower fat cream cheese with a few more decadent ingredients to balance them out.

cheesecake 5

These cheesecakes are made with a crunchy pretzel crust, a creamy peanut butter filling and chocolate chips snuck in as a layer above the crust and throughout batter.  By the way, you’d be so proud of me.  I only ate two of them!  That may or may not be because I gave some to friends and left the rest in my parents fridge.  Sorry, Mom:-)

cheesecake 4

This recipe is actually very easy and revolves mostly around a food processor.  I figured if I needed to take out the appliance for making a crust, I might as well use it for the cheesecake batter too!

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels

pretzels2

Run them through until they are mostly fine crumbs

pretzels3

In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

adding butter

Add sugar

adding sugar

Stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Mixing crust

Press a couple tablespoons of crust ingredients into two muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for about 6 minutes

crust pre-baking

When crust comes out of oven, layer with several milk chocolate and caramel chips

chips on crust 1

Regular chocolate chips would also work, but I really like the combination of caramel, chocolate and peanut butter; set pan aside

chocolate caramel chips

Meanwhile, prepare cheesecake batter; you can shake out the crumbs from the food processor, no need to wash it

cream cheese 1

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

cream cheese 2

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt

adding sugar flour and vanilla

Combine well

sugar flour vanilla mixed

Add your eggs

add eggs

Measure 1 cup of peanut butter chips

peanut butter chips

Microwave about 45 seconds and stir; microwave in additional 20 second increments until chips are melted; note this will be very thick

melted pb chips

Add peanut butter to cheesecake batter

add peanut butter

Process until smooth and creamy

pb mixed in

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl and fold in chocolate chips

fold in chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter in muffin tins

badder in pan 1

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until mostly firm

baked 2

Serve drizzled with chocolate and caramel or sprinkled with pretzel crumbs

cheesecake 12

Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes, lightened up

Makes 24 mini-cheesecakes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups finely ground pretzel crumbs

4 tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, separated

1 8-ounce block fat free cream cheese, softened

1 8-ounce block reduced fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter chips*, melted

1/2 cup milk chocolate and caramel chips

1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

To begin, fill up your food processor with salted pretzels and run them through until finely ground

In a small bowl, pour melted butter over the pretzel crumbs

Add 2 tablespoons sugar and stir until all of the crumbs are moist

Press mixture into two sets of muffin tins sprayed with non-stick cooking spray; bake for 6 minutes

When crust comes out of oven, sprinkle a few milk chocolate and caramel chips into each cup; set aside

Shake crumbs out of food processor and use it to prepare cheesecake batter

Cream 2 blocks of cream cheese in the food processor

Add sugar, flour, vanilla and salt; cream until well combined

Add eggs and mix well

Add melted peanut butter chips to cheesecake batter and process until smooth and creamy

Pour cheesecake batter into a separate bowl; fold in chocolate chips

Use a small ladle or large spoon to put about 1/3 of a cup of batter into each cup

Bake cheesecakes for about 15 minutes or until tops are mostly firm

Notes:

*You can replace these with regular peanut butter (not natural)

The peanut butter flavor isn’t really strong; some people may prefer this but I may try increasing the amount of peanut butter chips next time (using regular peanut butter could also help)

cheesecake 7

cheesecake 11

Are you worried about weight gain during the holidays?

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It seems that there are two types of people when it comes to a Sweet Potato Casserole: Those who cover theirs with toasty melty marshmallows, and those who don’t.  Do you think I am biased?

sweet potatoes 12

You already know I love to sneak dessert-like side dishes onto my table.  Why wouldn’t I top my Sweet Potato Casserole with candy? To be honest, this is the way I grew up eating sweet potatoes.  Each time I see a recipe for a casserole topped with something delicious like a pecan streusel or turned savory I’m tempted to try it, but why mess with something that is just right?

This recipe is actually a lot healthier than you might think.  It is filled with nutrient-dense sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin (yes, pumpkin!), spices and and a secret ingredient:

sweet potatoes 6

I got the idea of using pumpkin butter in a Food and Wine recipe a couple of years ago.  I haven’t turned back since.

The other secret to this recipe is the roasted sweet potatoes.  Yes, you can microwave them to cut down on time, but roasting them adds so much flavor.

To begin, line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with foil and non-stick spray.  Top with your sweet potatoes and poke holes in them to prevent any oven explosions

sweet potatoes 2

Roast them for an hour or so, or until they are nice and tender to the touch

The softer they are, the easier they will be to peel.  I usually roast the sweet potatoes the night before so that I can peel them easily when they are cool, no burnt fingers required

Place them in a mixer with a can of pumpkin and combine until most of the mixture is pureed but some chunks still exist (you can also mash by hand if you don’t have a mixer)

Add in your pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin butter, a dash of salt and a bit of vanilla

sweet potatoes 7

Once well-combined, place in a large greased baking dish

sweet potatoes 8

Cover with foil and bake until hot

sweet potatoes 9

Remove the baking dish from the oven and top with marshmallows

sweet potatoes 10

Broil for a minute or two, until your marshmallows are lightly browned.  I recommend putting foil or a sheet pan below the baking dish in case you have any drippings

sweet potatoes 11

Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 12

Ingredients:

8-10 medium sweet potatoes, about 5 pounds

1 15-ounce can of pumpkin, (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup pumpkin butter

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1-lb bag of mini marshmallows

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Line jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with foil and non-stick cooking spray

Poke sweet potatoes with a fork and spread out on baking sheet; roast in oven for about an hour or until they are tender

Once sweet potatoes are cool, peel them; cut a slit in the skin of each sweet potato and then peel with fingers

Place them in a mixer with pumpkin and combine until most of the mixture is pureed but some chunks still exist (you can also mash by hand if you don’t have a mixer)

Add pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin butter, salt and vanilla

Once well-combined, place in a large baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray

Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes or until hot

Remove the baking dish from the oven and top with marshmallows

Put oven on broil and bake casserole for 1-2 minutes, or until marshmallows are lightly browned

Which camp are you in? With marshmallows or without?

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