Let Them Eat Cake
(...and Cookies, Pies, Cobblers, Mousses and Cheesecakes)
Healthy Homestyle Desserts


Healthy Homestyle Desserts


Practicing the age-old adage of "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" award-winning dietitian Evelyn Tribole convinces people that healthful eating doesn't have to be "blah" with her tantalizing low-fat desserts. "Tasting is believing, and it often motivates people," explains Tribole. "Usually I wait for satisfied grins to appear, and then announce the healthful ingredient change or secret surprise—such as using baby-food prunes in place of butter."

Although the reality is that while there is no nutritional need for chocolate or cheesecake, most health-conscious people still crave a satisfying dessert they can sink their teeth into. The good news is that dessert and health are not mutually exclusive. A very effective harbinger of that news is Healthy Homestyle Desserts: 150 Fabulous Treats with a Fraction of the Fat and Calories (Viking; October 22, 1996; $24.95/hardcover), Tribole's tastiest (and most healthful) contribution to everyone's sweet tooth. With the right mix, we can eat a wide variety of foods that meet our nutritional needs and satisfy our emotional wants.

Evelyn Tribole unabashedly admits that she loves desserts and that affection is readily evident as you look (longingly) through Healthy Homestyle Desserts. She displays her true colors as one enamored with decadent sweets with such creations as a show-stopping Mint Chocolate Marble Cheesecake, a heavenly rich Cappuccino Raspberry Cake and a knockout Fudgy Blackbottom Pie—nothing faint-of-heart about these sweet finales.

Yet, the overwhelming appeal of these recipes—aside from flavor, of course—is how uncomplicated they are for home cooks. She underscores the "home" in homestyle with headnotes that welcome you into Tribole's family and circle of friends. She shares the Lemon Meringue Pie recipe she and her sister both craved during pregnancy. The soft, spicy Molasses Chews she offers inspired her fifteen-month-old to learn the word "cookie." Her brothers-in-law had to give their stamp of approval to the made-over version of their favorite Three-Layer Fudge Brownies. To their surprise they liked this one better!

If easy and straight forward recipes seem too daunting at the end of a frantic day, remember that "stressed" spelled backwards is desserts! Then turn to the chapter in Healthy Homestyle Desserts on "No-Hassle, No-Fuss, In-a-Pinch Desserts." The kids (or unexpected guests) can help make Chocolate Crunch Ice Cream Balls or Apricot Coconut Chews. Or turn to pantry staples to quickly prepare fat-free Tropical Ambrosia. Dazzle everyone by a snazzy presentation for fruit dip using a hollowed-out cake in Cake Bowl Lime Dip with Fresh Fruit.

Tribole offers quick breads and muffins for a sweet start to the day or as a pick-me-up snack during the afternoon. Her Raspberry Dapple Muffins, described by one admirer as "muffins of the gods," are guaranteed crowd pleasers. (Proving that Tribole does not compromise on taste, her low-fat muffins placed second out of seventy in a Washington Post taste test.) Cranberry Citrus Bundt Bread adds a touch of zest to a holiday brunch or breakfast, while Nancy's Eclairs draw rave reviews from kids of all ages.

Her nutrition scorecard gives before-and-after information on calories, fat and cholesterol, and sidebars contain flavor and health tips. Practical information, tips on how to get the best results, substitution charts and troubleshooting guides are interspersed throughout Healthy Homestyle Desserts to aid those home bakers eager to indulge friends and family in flavorful, moist, rich (and healthful) desserts.

Familiar to many from her 1995 stint on ABC's "Good Morning America" and features in Good Housekeeping, Redbook and USA Today, Tribole has also written the "Recipe Makeover" column in Shape magazine for the past seven years. In 1995 she received one of the American Dietetic Association's top awards and currently has a nutrition counseling practice in Beverly Hills, California.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Serves 10

Oh, this is sooo good. It took me five attempts to get this right and it was worth it. The key, I discovered, is knowing how and when you add the fat-free cream cheese. The fat-free cream cheese forms little lumps resembling cottage cheese when ingredients other than sugar are added to it. But I found that softening the fat-free cream cheese at room temperature and then beating it with the lowfat cream cheese first, then mixing in the sugar after that took care of this problem. So do be careful when following these directions, otherwise you may end up with a lumpy (although still delicious) cheesecake.

How fat and calories were lowered:
Used jam instead of butter to bind the cookie crust Replaced regular cream cheese with a combination of fat-free cream cheese, light cream cheese, and puréed nonfat cottage cheese. Replaced whole eggs with egg whites Nutrition Scorecard
(per serving) Calories: before 516, after 257
Fat (grams): before 35, after 5
% calories from fat : before 60, after 18
Cholesterol (mg): before 184, after 13
Ginger Snap Crust
  • 15 ginger snaps
  • 2 tablespoons apricot or peach jam, melted
Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling
  • 8 ounces fat-free cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces tub-style light cream cheese (non fat-free), at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1-1/3 cups canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8- or 9-inch springform pan with nonstick vegetable-oil spray.

To make the crust: In a food processor or blender, grind the ginger snaps until crumbly. In a large bowl, combine the ginger snap crumbs and melted jam with a fork. Mix until blended and press into the bottom of the prepared pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat together the fat-free cream cheese and light cream cheese with an electric mixer on the lowest speed until blended. Beat in the sugar.

In a food processor or blender, purée the cottage cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, flour, allspice, and cloves. Blend until smooth. Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix just until blended. Add the egg whites and mix just until blended. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake 80 minutes, or until the cheesecake puffs and the center is almost set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. To serve, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake. Release the pan sides. Cut into wedges.

Cranberry Citrus Bundt Bread

(Fat-Free, Too)

Serves 12

This recipe started off as a muffin, but it grew into this delighful bread—one of my favorites. I am usually the first to defend keeping nuts in a recipe, because they impart a unique flavor and texture that would otherwise be missed. This bread is an exception. I substituted dried cranberries for the nuts and they worked beautifully.
How fat and calories were lowered:
  • Used nonfat yogurt instead of butter and sour cream
  • Eliminated nuts as described above
  • Replaced whole egg with egg whites

Nutrition Scorecard
(per serving)

Calories: before 380, after 189
Fat (grams): before 19, after 0
% calories from fat: before 44, after 1
Cholesterol (mg): before 30, after 0

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 medium orange, washed
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and sorted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
Citrus Glaze
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 5 teaspoons fresh orange juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a fluted tube pan with nonstick vegetable-oil spray.

In a small bowl, combine the dried cranberries and orange juice.

Cut the orange in 8 small pieces. Place the orange pieces and fresh cranberries in a food processor or blender. Pulse until coarsely chopped.

In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, whole-wheat flour, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, stir the yogurt and baking soda. (The volume will nearly double.) Using an electric mixer, beat in the egg whites one at a time. Beat in the chopped orange mixture. Add the dried cranberry mixture and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Invert and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack (bread will still be clinging to pan). Gently run a knife around the outer edges and remove the bread. Let it cool completely on the rack and glaze when cool.

To make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and orange juice until smooth. Drizzle evenly over the cooled bread.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Serves 12

When my neighbor tasted this, she proclaimed that she had found her new Christmas morning coffee cake. This cake uses streusel in the center and as a topping. It's my favorite coffee cake, too, with only half the calories and a fraction of the fat.

How fat and calories were lowered:


  • Used egg whites instead of whole eggs
  • Reduced the amount of sugar
  • Substituted applesauce for the butter
  • Used fat-free sour cream


  • Reduced the amount of sugar
  • Reduced the amount of nuts and added a little bit of oats in the topping
  • Used light butter and significantly less of it

Nutrition Scorecard
(per serving)

Calories: before 629, after 306
Fat (grams): before 39, after 6
% calories from fat: before 55, after 17
Cholesterol (mg): before 159, after 1

Cinnamon Streusel
1 cup packed light brown sugar 1 tablespoon cinnamon 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans 1 tablespoon light butter, melted 2 tablespoons quick oats
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream (containing no gelatin)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cinnamon streusel: In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Add the nuts and stir. (The melted light butter and oats will be used later.)

To make the coffee cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch round springform pan with nonstick vegetable-oil spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high setting until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar until soft peaks form. Beat in the applesauce. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Add half the flour mixture and beat until blended. Add remaining flour and beat until blended. Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan. Add half the streusel mixture (about 1 cup). Drop the remaining batter by spoonfuls over the streusel and carefully spread the batter evenly, using the back of a spoon. Add the melted light butter to the remaining streusel mixture and stir with a fork until blended. Sprinkle over the batter. Sprinkle the oats over the top. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool, in pan, on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chocolate Turtle Pecan Cookies

Makes 24 cookies

These fancy caramel-topped cookies are absolutely delicious.

How fat and calories were lowered:
  • Replaced butter with a combination of light butter and fat-free cream cheese
  • Reduced amount of pecans
  • Eliminated chocolate chips
  • Used fewer caramels
  • Replaced heavy cream with evaporated skim milk

Nutrition Scorecard
(per cookie)

Calories: before 160, after 86
Fat (grams): before 10, after 4
% calories from fat: before 55, after 36
Cholesterol (mg): before 22, after 3

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter
  • 2 ounces fat-free cream cheese
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
Caramel Topping
  • 5 caramels, unwrapped
  • 5 teaspoons evaporated skim milk

To make the cookies: In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, light butter, fat-free cream cheese, 1 egg white, nonfat milk, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and blend well. Chill dough at least 30 minutes, or until firm enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat two baking sheets with nonstick vegetable-oil spray. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball into the remaining egg white and roll in pecans to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet and gently flatten.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then carefully remove to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the caramel topping: In a small saucepan, combine caramels and evaporated skim milk. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramels are melted and mixture is smooth. Drizzle caramel topping over cooled cookies.


Recipes from:

Healthy Homestyle Desserts
150 Fabulous Treats with a Fraction of the Fat and Calories
Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D.
Photographs by Sally Ann Ullman
October 22, 1996
ISBN: 0-670-86626-1

This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified September 2007

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