The words "low fat" and "cheesecake" seem like an incongruous pairing. How could a dessert as creamy and dreamy as cheesecake be low in fat, too?

Cheesecake gets its wonderful texture from rich cream cheese, which, in itself, is far from low in fat. And sour cream? I've always been under the assumption that baking with low-fat anything doesn't work — the end result of whatever you're baking would be a soupy mess.

So when a recipe from the Food Network appeared in my inbox, it caught my attention. Each slice has 229 calories and 11 grams of fat, compared to most traditional cheesecakes that bring to the table at least 329 calories and 23 grams of fat.

So I gave it a try. It was a simple cheesecake to make. The hardest part was waiting the eight hours for it to fully cool. Usually I think of cheesecake as a wintertime dessert, but with the lemony flavor brought on by a full teaspoon of lemon zest, it has the beautiful, fresh taste of spring. It's a lovely dessert that's lower in calories and has half the fat of its traditional counterpart without sacrificing taste.


Low-Fat Cheesecake

9 whole low-fat cinnamon graham crackers, broken in half

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cooking spray

2 (8 -ounce) packages Neufchatel cream cheese, softened

2 (8 -ounce) packages fat-free cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 large eggs plus 3 egg whites

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Assorted toppings

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until crumbled. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water and the butter; pulse until moistened. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan with foil to prevent leaks. Coat the inside of the pan with cooking spray, and press the crumbs onto the bottom. Bake until browned, about 8 minutes. Let cool, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat both cream cheeses and the sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, 5 minutes, then beat in the sour cream on low. Lightly whisk the 3 egg whites in a bowl, then add to the cheese mixture along with the 2 whole eggs, flour, vanilla and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Pour over the crust.

Place the cheesecake in a roasting pan, and add enough warm water to come one-quarter of the way up the sides of the springform. Bake until the cake is set but the center still jiggles, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Turn off the oven; keep the cheesecake inside with the door closed for 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the water bath, and transfer to a rack. Run a knife around the edge, then cool completely. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours. Top as desired.

Note: Your favorite fruit sauce made of berries or cherries is a sweet topping for this cheesecake. To keep the sauce lower in calories, substitute stevia or another sweetener for the sugar.


No Smoking

Not everyone wants to go to the trouble of setting up a charcoal grill. Or perhaps it's that you don't have a place outside to do so. Whatever the case, George Foreman has come up with an alternative method of grilling indoors.

The company's new smokeless grill gives you those delicious-looking grill marks and enticing sizzling sounds right on your countertop. A removable drip pan underneath catches all the grease, keeping it away from the meat, thereby, rendering a more healthful end result. And another feature that's great for kitchens with limited room: The grill folds up neatly without taking up much of that valuable cabinet/counter space.

The grills were recently launched at Walmart for $69.88 — just in time for your summer grilling.

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Anne Braly