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Holiday desserts and special treats

Baking the heart healthy way

  • Let's start with a basic truth: fat carries flavor, keeps baked goods moist and tender, and it makes foods taste good. So when you are taking fat out, it's important to know how to put the flavor back in with other lower-fat ingredients.
  • Certain recipes are better candidates for fat reduction than others. Soft, moist, or chewy baked goods such as brownies, muffins, quick breads, chewy cookies and cakes adapt well to fat reduction techniques. Baked goods that are meant to have a very flaky texture (such as a pie crust) or a crispy texture are more difficult to modify.
  • When you modify your recipes, try eliminating only half the fat first. Replace the fat with fruit purees, such as applesauce, pureed prunes thinned with a little water, canned pumpkin, or mashed ripe bananas. You might want to try a commercially prepared fruit puree for baking, such as Sunsweet Lighter Bake. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter - cut back to 1/2 cup of butter and replace the remaining 1/2 cup with a fruit puree. The next time you make the recipe try replacing even more of the fat. Continue reducing the fat until you find the lowest amount that will give you the taste and texture you want.
  • Avoid overbaking. Low fat baked goods can become too dry very quickly if they are left in the oven too long. Check the baked good for doneness at the minimum recommended baking time.
  • Minimize mixing. Fat tenderizes baked goods by interfering with the formation of gluten, a protein in wheat. Gluten gives breads their "chewiness" and develops when flour is mixed with liquid ingredients. To keep low fat baked goods tender, minimize gluten development by stirring only enough to combine the ingredients. Another option to help enhance the tenderness of low fat baked goods is to substitute a low-gluten flour such as cake flour or whole wheat pastry flour for part or all of the all-purpose flour in recipes.
  • Use liquid unsaturated vegetable oils as a substitute for hydrogenated vegetable shortening and margarines whenever possible. Replace 1 cup solid shortening with 3/4 cup of vegetable oil, such as Canola, safflower, corn or olive.
  • The addition of certain spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla give the impression of sweetness without the calories.
  • Two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute can replace one whole egg.
  • Reduce by one-half the amount of high-fat nuts added to baked goods. Toast nuts first in the oven before adding to your recipe. This will intensify their flavor and you will be able to "do more with less." Alternatives to nuts include raisins, dates, and other chopped dried fruit.
  • Sweets made from baking chocolate are high in unhealthy saturated fats. Substitute with cocoa powder by combining 3 tablespoons cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of liquid unsaturated oil (Canola, safflower, corn, etc.) for each square (1 ounce) of baking chocolate.
  • Substitute whole grains for at least part of the white flour in recipes - try using whole wheat flour or oat bran for up to one-half the total flour required for the recipe. This works best for muffins, quick breads, brownies, chewy cookies, etc.
  • Use lower-fat dairy products when possible. Fat free cream cheese, fat free sour cream, and nonfat plain yogurt all substitute well for their full fat counter-parts. Evaporated skim milk works well in place of light cream and makes a wonderful pumpkin pie.


Black Forest Cherry Cake    

1 (14 ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup applesauce
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg white
1 3/4 cups unsifted flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup chocolate chips
1 (15 ounce) can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12 cup bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

In mixing bowl, combine applesauce or fat substitute, sugar, eggs. Mix well.

Combine dry ingredients. Stir into milk mixture just until moistened.

Gradually add water, stirring to blend. Stir in chips.

Pour into baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool, remove from pan. Spoon pie filling over cake evenly.


  Carrot Pineapple Bread  

1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple
3/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup cereal
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup carrots
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 9 x 5-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Drain pineapple, reserving juice; add water to make 1/2 cup liquid.

In a large bowl, mix pineapple juice, egg substitute and oil until well blended. Stir in bran cereal; let stand 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into bran mixture. Stir in carrots, raisins, and pineapple.

Spread into prepared baking pan. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.


    Chocolate Caramel Bars

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Sunsweet Lighter Bake
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup fat-free caramel-flavored sundae syrup
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.

Add Lighter Bake and oil; stir with fork or fingertips until evenly moist and crumbly. Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture for topping.

Press remaining crumb mixture evenly onto bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with chocolate pieces.

Stir remaining flour into caramel topping. Drizzle over chocolate to within 1/4-inch of edges. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs.

Bake 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool; cut into bars.


  Chocolate Charlotte  

1 (8 ounce) package fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup cocoa
1 (8 ounce) container whipped topping
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 package ladyfinger cookies
1/4 cup Kahlua

Line a 9-inch baking dish with ladyfingers. Brush with about 2 tablespoons of Kahlua (if desired).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese, cocoa, sugar and vanilla until smooth using low-medium speed of electric mixer.

Fold in whipped topping and remaining Kahlua (if desired).

Spoon into ladyfinger crust. Chill and serve.


Chocolate Pecan Biscotti    

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup egg substitute
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons margarine
2 teaspoons orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons skim milk

Mix flour, sugar, brown sugar and baking powder in large bowl with electric mixer.

Blend egg substitute, chocolate, orange juice, margarine, orange peel and vanilla; stir into flour mixture. Stir in nuts.

Divide dough in half; shape into 2 (10-inch) rolls. Place 5 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Flatten each roll to a 3-inch width.

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm to touch; cool 10 minutes.

Cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices; place cut side down on baking sheet.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes more per side or until lightly toasted. Cool completely.

Blend powdered sugar and milk; drizzle over cookies.

Yield: 3 dozen


  Chocolate Sugar Cookies  

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, butter, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until well combined. Add egg whites and mix until combined.

In a small bowl, blend together cocoa, flour, and salt. Add to sugar mixture and blend on medium. Place this mixture onto a piece of wax paper and roll into a log approximately 1 3/4-by-8 1/2 inch long. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Remove paper, and slice log crosswise into a 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar in a small bowl, and dip each piece of dough in sugar, coating all sides.

Place on baking sheet lightly sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about 14 minutes for chewy cookies, bake 2-3 minutes longer for crispy cookies.

Yield: 32 cookies


    Country Apple Cake

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 package quick bread cake mix
3 cups apple pie filling
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped nuts

In large bowl, combine oil and egg, beat well. Add bread mix, apple pie filling, and spices. Stir 50-75 strokes or until moistened. Stir in nuts.

Spoon into 9 x 13 inch baking pan, coated with non-stick cooking spray.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

If desired, top with fat free caramel apple topping.


  Cranberry-Glogg Mix  

3/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup almonds, blanched
2 (2 long strips) fresh orange peel
10 whole cloves
2 each cinnamon sticks

Stud 5 whole cloves into each orange peel strip.

Toss raisins and cardamon in a small bowl to coat. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to mix.

Put into a 1 1/2 to 2 cup jar with tight-fitting lid or sandwich-size plastic food-storage bag.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups


Light Chocolate Cake    

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons margarine, soft
1 cup sugar
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat one 9-inch cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, stir flour, cocoa and baking soda, until blended.

In a saucepan, melt margarine; stir in sugar. Remove from heat. Add milk, vinegar and vanilla to mixture in saucepan; stir.

Add dry ingredients; whisk until well blended. Pour evenly into pans.

Bake 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center of cake comes out clean. Frost with Light Cocoa Frosting. *


  Light Cocoa Frosting  

1 envelope whip topping mix
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring until blended.

Beat on high speed of mixer, about 4 minutes, or until soft peaks form.


    Low-Calorie Viennese Hot-Cocoa Mix

8 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
30 packets sugar substitute
1/2 cup instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk or stir all ingredients until very well blended.

Pack in clean, dry jars with tight-fitting lids.

To Make Hot Cocoa: Dissolve 1/3 cup mix in 8 ounces hot water or skim milk.

Yield: 8 cups


  Pear-Apple Butter  

3 pounds pears
2 tablespoons water
2 cups applesauce
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Put pears and water in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat about 20 minutes, until pears are tender.

Puree in batches if necessary, in a food processor or blender. (Yields about 4 cups pureed.)

Pour back in same saucepan. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low.

Cover pot, leaving lid slightly ajar and simmer about 1 hour, until mixture is shiny and very thick, stirring often.

Spoon into clean hot jars. Cover tightly, cool and refrigerate.

Yield: 4 1/2 cups


Pumpkin Cake    

1 box cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12 cup bundt or tube pan with vegetable oil spray.

Combine all ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Mix according to package directions.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.


  Pumpkin Caramel Custard  

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 3/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups pumpkin

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan, and place over medium heat. Caramelize by stirring often until sugar melts and is golden (about 10 minutes). Pour immediately into 6 (6-ounce) custard cups, tipping cups quickly until sugar coats bottom of cups; set aside.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, eggs, egg whites, and next 3 ingredients in a bowl; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until sugar is dissolved. Add pumpkin; beat at low speed until smooth.

Pour into prepared cups; place cups in a large, shallow pan. Add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Remove cups from water; let cool. Cover and chill 2 hours.

To serve, loosen edges of custard with a rubber spatula. Place a dessert plate upside down on top of cup; invert custard onto plate. Drizzle any remaining syrup over custard.


    Raspberry Ribbon Brownies

3/4 cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons light margarine
1 cup fruit preserves
1 package lowfat brownie mix

In a small bowl, using fingers or fork, mix together oatmeal, brown sugar and margarine, until crumbly. Press into bottom of 9 X 13 inch cake pan.

Spread raspberry preserves over mixture.

Prepare brownies according to package direction. Spoon over raspberry preserves.

Bake as directed on brownie package. Cool and cut into squares.


  Suit Yourself Muffins  

4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup lowfat yogurt
1/4 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon peel
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In medium-size mixing bowl, blend together honey or brown sugar and oil until creamy.

Add yogurt, egg substitute or whites and juice. Stir until well blended.

Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Stir until blended.

Spoon into muffin tins which have been sprayed with vegetable spray or use non-stick pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes.



16 ounces vodka
1 whole vanilla bean

Pour vodka into a glass bottle with a tight fitting lid. Make a cut along the entire length of the bean so that the bean can be opened. Scrape out the insides of the bean into the vodka. Drop the entire bean into the vodka. Seal tightly and let age for two weeks before using.