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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A cheesecake for the diet-conscious

 •  Staying true to her (kitchen) self

By Kathy Manweiler
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

The next time you're tempted to finish a restaurant meal with a slice of cheesecake, consider this:

It could contain more than 1,000 calories. For example, a serving of New York cheesecake with caramel fudge sauce from Romano's Macaroni Grill has 1,610 calories and 96 fat grams.

That's like topping off your dinner with four fried chicken breasts and a wing from KFC.

But with some alterations you can make at home, you can keep cheesecake on your dessert menu without spending hours on the treadmill burning those calories off.

When a friend asked me to come up with a healthier version of cherry cheesecake, I experimented with a bunch of recipes, but none of them gave me the results I was looking for. So I finally came up with a recipe of my own that is both slim and easy.

I wanted a rich-tasting graham cracker crust that contained less fat, and I found that using low-fat graham crackers with some brown sugar and light butter hit the spot. My version trims about 250 calories and 30 fat grams from a typical graham cracker crust.

Many cheesecakes call for sour cream and extra sugar, but I use Cool Whip Lite and pure vanilla extract instead, which saves at least 250 calories and 23 fat grams.

I also choose reduced-fat cream cheese, shaving off 240 calories and 32 fat grams.

Fruit sauces often include a generous amount of sugar, but I pick dark sweet cherries and a little Splenda for my topping to cut about 350 calories. And I thicken the sauce with cornstarch instead of butter, saving at least 200 more calories and 22 fat grams.

Even with these nutritional changes, cheesecake doesn't qualify as health food, so portion control was my next project.

When I whip up a full-size cheesecake, I tend to serve bigger slices than I should. Putting this recipe in muffin cups solves that problem.

Another advantage to making mini cheesecakes is that if a whole batch is more than you need, you can easily make just a fraction of this recipe so there's not a lot of temptation left over.

One of my mini cherry cheesecakes contains 155 calories and 7 grams of fat.


For crust:

  • 18 low-fat graham cracker squares

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup light butter, melted

    For cheesecake filling:

  • 1 (8 oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup Splenda

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip Lite

    For cherry topping:

  • 1 (1-pound) bag frozen cherries

  • 2 tablespoons Splenda

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup water

    To make crust, seal the graham crackers in a zip-top bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into fine crumbs.

    Put the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add melted light butter and brown sugar until mixed well. Divide the crumb mixture evenly among 16 muffin cups. Press the crumbs firmly into the bottom of each muffin cup, then place the muffin tins in the freezer for 20 minutes.

    While the crust is in the freezer, combine the cream cheese and Splenda in a large bowl, and beat them together until smooth. Add the vanilla and Cool Whip Lite and beat at low speed until well-blended. Don't overbeat. Spoon the cheesecake filling into the chilled crusts and refrigerate for at least four hours, or until well-chilled.

    To make cherry topping, combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring often, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Let the topping cool and spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cherry topping over each mini cheesecake just before serving.

    Makes 16 servings.

  • Per serving: 155 calories, 7 g fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 0.9 g fiber, 1.8 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 147 mg sodium