It is a cruel and ironic twist when a person who's primary hobby is cooking and eating undertakes the dreaded "D" word... a diet. It's cruel, because a diet robs the food lover of not just vital calories and nutrients, leaving us with a physical hunger, but also robs the food lover of our primary passion, that which gives us emotional sustenance. Dieting, or the unfortunate act of willfully denying ourselves delicious things to eat for the sake of calorie control, robs us of the ability to cook, eat, and feed others with gleeful abandon. Instead, we must count our calories, record what we eat, and forgo goat butter on English muffins in the morning. Drats.
In case you can't tell from my woeful lament, I am on a diet. Only it is not in vogue to call it a diet, so rather I am working toward a lifestyle change. As part of this "lifestyle change" I am doing my best to reconcile the culinary void in my world with a new hobby, exercise. And while I am enjoying vigorous exercise and its healthful benefits, I cannot say it provides the same soulful pleasure as baking chocolate chip cookies with sea salt or visiting the newest restaurant in town for the five-course tasting menu. I will openly admit that I dislike restricted quantities of food (oh the hardship of no cheese or butter or two-percent milk lattes). I will also admit that I do like being healthy (and fitting into Anthropologie clothing), so this is how it must be done.
Yet last weekend I couldn't stay out of the kitchen. The weather was perfect for fall, the leaves were changing, my mood was bright, and the farmer at the farmer's market gave me my very first sugar pumpkin to roast. I had to make pie from scratch. But, how, you might ask, can a girl on a diet justify baking and eating pie? The answer is to forgo the crust. Others might have nixed the sugar, but the truth is that even while trying to cut calories, I refuse to cook with Splenda or other highly processed food substitutes. It goes against my personal standards of wholesome, home cooked, authentic eating. But, I did make a compromise to the best of my ability and last weekend's crustless pumpkin pie was a good step in the right direction.
Try it yourself, it's as good a way as any to enter into your new lifestyle change, and I can now say that canned pumpkin will never hold its own against home roasted again.
Sam's Pumpkin Pie (without crust):
We call this Sam's Pumpkin Pie because he came up with the idea to use sweetened condensed milk rather than evaporated non-fat milk. I think the swap happened one fateful Thanksgiving when all the stores were closed and the pantry only offered milk of the sweetened condensed variety, but we have never gone back to the original recipe since. It's good stuff, and the pie tastes even sweeter when my own sugar pie Sam does the baking!
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2-3 large eggs (depending on quantity of pumpkin)
- 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin, or better yet one small sugar pumpkin roasted and pureed
- 1 can (12-14 fl. oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Whipped cream (optional, and certainly not if you are on a diet)
MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in sweetened condensed milk.
POUR into four individual ramekin dishes. Place ramekins in 9x13 baking dish filled with an inch of water. Bake in water bath.
BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack. Serve room temperature or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving (but not if you are on a diet, ah-hem "life-style change"!).