Monday, November 3, 2008

Diet = Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Ummm, if you are on a diet, don't even think about eating one of these beautiful French pastries!

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"!).

NOTE: I think next time I will omit the 1/4 sugar, as the sweetened condensed milk is very sweet and I think it will carry the sugar torch on its own. I am also going to scour the shelves for NON-fat sweetened condensed milk, because I hear such thing exists. I have never seen it, but I am going to hunt it down and stockpile my pantry. My final word of advice is to go heavy on the spices, a pumpkin pie should almost burn in your mouth with fall seasoning. Its what makes it so good.


Jen said...

You can find non-fat sweetened condensed milk at Kroger and Wal-mart, for sure. I do not know about HEB, as I don't have one close to me up here in DFW. I have used both the generic non-fat and branded non-fat varieties with gleeful abandon, and have not seen a difference in quality.

Kate said...

I love that phrase "gleeful abandon" that you used. That is exactly how I would like to use sweetened condensed milk.

As a quick side note, I just found the word I was looking to use in this post, but couldn't put my finger on...
Word of the Day for Tuesday, November 4, 2008:
epicure \EP-ih-kyur\, noun:
1. a person who enjoys eating and drinking and who is very particular in choosing fine foods and beverages; gourmet
2. a person who is fond of luxury and pleasure.

In the post I originally tried "food hobbiest" but it turns out I made the word "hobbiest" up, so I resorted to "food lover" when really all along I was trying to say epicure. It's good to know the right word at the right time.

Birdie said...

Diet is just die with a 't' on the end. That said, this sounds delicious and I will be adding it to this week's menu. Yes, in March.