Food & Drink

A little protein makes pumpkin pie a lot healthier

The holiday season just isn’t the same if I don’t stuff my face with pumpkin pie.

There, I’ve said it. Judge if you must, but then read on to hear my secret for pumpkin dessert goodness with fewer calories and better nutrition.

First, I make a pumpkin crunch instead of a pumpkin pie. Why? Because while I love the buttery flavor and satisfying texture the crust gives a pie, I’ve found I can scratch that itch (almost) as well with a cinnamon-laced buttery pecan topping. I make just enough to add the texture and buttery goodness I’m looking for, but hold back just enough to make my waistline happy, too.

Second, let’s talk about that pumpkin pie filling — creamy and unctuous, warmed with classic holiday spices. Perfection.

Instead of relying on tons of cream and egg yolks for a smooth texture, I turn to a magical ingredient: silken tofu. Yes, tofu! But be sure to get the silken variety, which usually is sold on shelves, not in the refrigerated section with the Asian produce. Silken tofu brings the creamy with far less fat and fewer calories than cream, and it will thicken the custard beautifully in place of the eggs.

As a bonus, the tofu also boosts the protein. I find that adding a little protein to my sweets keeps the sugar lows at bay.

And the secret behind the secret: a few ounces of light cream cheese. The cream cheese not only adds to the creaminess of the filling, it also lends a slightly tangy flavor, which offsets the ever-so-slight soybean taste that might linger on overly perceptive tongues. (But truth is, my family never notices.)

The recipe says this “pie” feeds eight, but that’s just a guideline; I fully support grabbing a spoonful from the leftovers every time you pass through the kitchen.