Guilt Free Pumpkin Pie

Crustless – No Sugar Added – 63 calories a slice

Today I devoted time to the challenge of cutting as many empty calories as possible from a pumpkin pie. The crust was the first component I eliminated because I do not want to bother with a crust unless it is flaky and indulgent, which ran counter to the goal I had in mind for this dessert. I also substituted sugar with granulated no-calorie Splenda that measures just like sugar. I’ve made fruit cobblers and pie filling with this sweetener before without a loss in taste or texture, and it also performed well in this recipe. If you prefer your pumpkin pie very sweet, you may wish to add a tablespoon or two in addition to the cup listed in this recipe.

I worried that it would fail to set without a crust, flowing like orange lava onto our plates. I’m pleased to report that this diet pie is slice worthy (sliced into squares, at least). I did not use standard pumpkin pie spice in this recipe because I do not like nutmeg. Free feel to use your favorite combination of pumpkin pie spices in this recipe.

Guilt Free Pumpkin Pie

12 servings

  • 15 oz can solid pack pumpkin
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup Splenda granulated sweetener
  • 2 t cinnamon, plus additional for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9″x9″ pan with cooking spray. Put canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sweetener, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl. Mix at low speed or stir for one minute until well combined. Pour into pan and sprinkle additional cinnamon on top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.


Homemade Thin Crust Pizza

When the cool bluster of fall settles in, my homemade pizza season begins. A homemade pizza may not seem worth the trouble, especially when ready made pizzas are so widely available. I have found the effort worthwhile for two reasons. First, making pizza can be a fun activity for family and friends; it adapts easily to the help of children or adults. Second, it’s an easy way to make a home more cozy and festive. I love the anticipation of turning on my oven light to see if the pizza is done yet. I also relish how the scent of yeast-raised dough prevails for several hours.

This recipe is fairly simple and yields well to changes. I’ve made it with additional toppings, and I’ve also used whole wheat flour at times, too. I use a KitchenAid stand mix to knead dough, but the dough in this recipe can also be mixed with a spoon and kneaded by hand.

Homemade Thin Crust Pizza

Makes a 16″ pizza

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 t or one 7g envelope instant dry yeast
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/2 t honey (optional, but recommended if using whole wheat flour instead)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup very warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
  • 2 T olive oil, for greasing pan and dough
  • 1 T cornmeal, for sprinkling on pan
  • 1 cup pizza sauce, or one 8 oz can tomato sauce and 1 t dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 8 oz (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • additional toppings to taste, such as pepperoni or whichever pizza toppings you like

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 16″ pizza pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Add yeast, flour, and salt to bowl of stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Mix these dry ingredients on low while gradually streaming in honey and warm water. Continue adding water until mixture forms a ball that releases easily from sides of the bowl. If the bottom of the dough ball is sticking to the bowl, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it stops sticking. If dough looks shaggy and isn’t sticking together, add a little more water.

Turn mixer up one speed and let it knead the dough for fives minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. When dough is finished kneading, turn off mixer and place the dough ball on the pizza pan. Spread a bit of oil over the dough ball and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

After the dough rests, stretch the dough to fill the pizza pan. Pour the pizza sauce onto the center of the dough and use the back of a spoon to cover the dough, leaving a 1″ border plain at the edges. Next sprinkle the cheese on top and add any additional desired toppings.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is browned to your liking. Let rest for 10 minutes, slice, and enjoy.

Dough at rest
This crust can be stretched right on the pan. I haven’t tried stretching dough in the air like a pizzeria pro. I’m afraid that I’d be a tragic culinary gymnast.
Saucy delight . . . which reminds me that Spinal Tap mentioned that they hoped to make a rock opera based on the life of Jack the Ripper called Saucy Jack. My mind is tangential in nature.
I love cheese pizza most of all. The best cheese pizza I ever made was 50-50 full fat mozzarella and Tillamook sharp cheddar. I cooked it in one of those in the wall ovens like Alice on The Brady Bunch used, too.
My daughter loves to help me make pizza, and she opted for her favorite, half pepperoni and half cheese.
Next time I plan on letting the pizza cook a bit longer to carmelize the cheese better. Today I was impatient to taste my first homemade pizza of the season.

Simple Raspberry Smoothie


Here’s an easy treat that is diet friendly. There are some foods I avoid because they seem like a drug to me. Among them are chocolate-iced sandwich cookies, sweet white dinner rolls, and ice cream. I am better off not buying those items because I will just eat them until they’re gone. I have found a way to enjoy the smooth frozen sweetness of ice cream while avoiding my tendency to overindulge in such a treat.

I can’t overdo it with this concoction because I must make this each time I want it. While it is a cold treat, it does not freeze well.

When pulverized with a blender, the ice crystals in frozen fruit rival the smoothness of soft serve ice cream. The tartness of the fruit provides such vivid flavor that I don’t miss the chocolate or other stir-in ingredients I might find in ice cream, too.

To whip up this smoothie, blend the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 5-6 oz low fat yogurt such as Dannon Light and Fit, raspberry or vanilla flavor
  • 1/4 milk (may be omitted if you’d like to mimic the ice cream experience more fully)

I usually add a teaspoon of Splenda to sweeten this treat. It’s good with no added sweetener, but it is very tart.

This mixture works well with many different frozen fruits. A banana can also be added.

Experiment: Simple Ham Slow Cooker Dinner


My quest for new simple dinners continues. Today I tried to push the limit of how basic I could make a complete ham dinner with a slow cooker. This experiment was of limited success. The long hours of stewing produced a rich amber broth that lent a robust flavor to this dinner, but I made some mistakes in cooking time and volume of ingredients that toughened the ham and potatoes.

My 5 qt. slow cooker has a liner that can be removed, so I decided to assemble the dinner the night before and store it in the fridge until morning. As I was filling the crock, I noticed that I had erred in a scaling the recipe: the crock would be full to the brim if I continued. I’ve had three slow cookers over the years, and all of them came with instructions that the cooker should be 1/2 to 3/4 full for best results. Today I learned that I should not have ignored this advice.

I also learned that a ham can’t quite withstand an entire work day of slow cooking. It starts to fall apart and dry out a bit, even if it is submerged in liquid.

I present this recipe with the corrections I’d make if I were to cook this again. The taste was great, but I think these alterations would greatly improve the results.

  • 3 lb boneless hickory ham
  • 8 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/2 lb baby carrots
  • 1 lb baby red or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup water

Place ham cut side down in slow cooker. Add sliced mushrooms around the ham. Top mushrooms with cut onion, separating wedges if needed to make a full ring around ham. Next layer the potatoes and carrots over the onions and pour the cup of water over all.

Cook on low 6-7 hours.

Layered Polenta Casserole

Here’s a simple recipe for an Italian casserole with robust spaghetti night flavor. Polenta is an easy, tasty side dish that’s strong enough to support a casserole.


I created this recipe as a way to offer the ease and robust flavor of spaghetti dinner in a fresh form. It relies on a couple ready-made grocery store items, but those items can be replaced with an equal amount of the homemade version if you have time available to make those components yourself.

Serves 4

  • 1 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth (either is good in this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 8 oz sliced white or mini portabella mushrooms
  • 1 T butter
  • 14 oz jar or 15 oz can pasta sauce, traditional or mushroom flavor
  • 14 oz bag frozen meatballs
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried parsley and oregano (or 1 T fresh chopped herbs)

You will need a 2 qt saucepan, a 10″ skillet and a 2 qt covered round glass baking dish. This recipe can be finished in a microwave or in the oven. Using the oven option requires preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in the skillet over medium high heat and cook the sliced mushrooms for 10 minutes or until mushroom are browned.

Make the polenta: heat the water and broth in a saucepan over medium high heat and slowly whisk the cornmeal into the pan, stirring constantly. In a few minutes, the mixture will reach a boil, and the polenta will thicken quickly. Remove from heat and spread the polenta in the bottom of the glass baking dish.


Next place the frozen meatballs on top of the polenta.


Now pour the spaghetti sauce over the polenta and meatballs and layer the mushrooms on top. For the top layer, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese, parsley and oregano.


The final step is baking. The baking time is short because the hot polenta helps thaw the meatballs while the casserole is assembled. The casserole may be finished by cooking covered in the microwave for 10-12 minutes or baking in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy.


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