My sister-in-law is one of those misguided weight watchers who dumps a packet of sugar substitute into a mug of cream-infused coffee and calls it a diet drink. Sacrificing real sugar is merely symbolic, given her heavy cream habit; she has less to fear from sugar's 16 fast-burning carbohydrate calories than from the calories that come from her favorite fat-laden dairy product.
Many of her so-called diet cookbooks reflect the same "sugar wise, fat foolish" approach to weight control. Rather than modify the amount of fat in recipes, they convert conventional dishes into vehicles for sugar substitutes. "A Year of Diet Desserts" published by Rodale is an exception, featuring low- or no-fat desserts made with natural sweeteners, such as these, adapted from the book.
FRESH BERRY PUDDING
2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg yolk
2 cups skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 teaspoons whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In medium saucepan, mix together tapioca, honey, egg yolk and milk. Set aside 5 minutes for tapioca to soften.
Bring mixture to boil, cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool 20 to 30 minutes.
Divide 1/2 of pudding among 4 dessert dishes. Sprinkle 1/4 cup blueberries over each serving. Add remaining half of pudding. Combine bread crumbs and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon bread crumb mixture over each portion. Top each serving with 1 or 2 berries. Chill 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.
PEACH LAYER CAKE
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup skim milk
4 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup Skim Whip
Sift together whole-wheat flour, white flour and baking powder. In large bowl, beat eggs until thick and light in color. Drizzle in 1/3 cup honey and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Beat 1 minute.
In small saucepan, scald skim milk. Gradually fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Mix in hot milk and turn into 2 8-inch non-stick layer cake pans. Bake on middle shelf of oven at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake springs back when pressed.
Remove from oven and let cool in pans. Turn out onto separate plates.
In small bowl, combine sliced peaches with remaining lemon juice and honey. Put 1/2 peach mixture on 1 cake layer. Top with other layer. Spread Skim Whip on top and cover with remaining peaches. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
Skim Milk Whip
1 20 ounce-can evaporated skim milk, well chilled
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Chill medium size metal bowl and beaters of hand mixture in freezer 1 hour.
Combine evaporated skim milk, honey and vanilla in chilled bowl and whip with chilled beaters until mixture reaches consistency of whipped cream. Makes 4 cups.