Cookbook Review: Dairy Made Easy & “180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake” Ramekins


Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.

Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek have released another book in their “made easy” series in time for Shavuoth. Like the earlier books in this series, Dairy Made Easy is a slim book, very attractively designed. The target audience for this book seems to be cooks who already have plenty of comprehensive, basic cookbooks and are looking to freshen up their dairy menus with recipes that are creative but not too much of a patchke.

The recipes in Dairy Made Easy are clearly explained and reasonably do-able for most cooks.  While most of them look fairly easy to make, not all of them are dead simple. Recipes that sound delicious but a little involved: Arancini (deep-fried cheese-stuffed rice balls), chocolate croissants, and cheese buns/babka.

This being a dairy cookbook, the recipes feature lots of butter, cream and cheese. Most don’t have over-the-top amounts, but some do. The Three Cheese Quiche has a pint of sour cream and almost two sticks of butter in the crust and over 2 1/2 lbs. of cheese in the filling. The Cajun Creamy Pasta, the Penne a la Vodka, the Pesto Cream Sauce and the Alfredo sauce all use about a pint of heavy cream.

The authors do include a “Make it Light” page that lists the lighter recipes in the book and provides tips for lightening up some of the richer recipes. A sidebar explains how to use Greek yogurt as a substitute for higher fat ingredients like cream cheese or sour cream. (Throughout the book, the authors suggest using a particular brand of Greek yogurt and another brand of hard cheese.) There is also a “Make it Pareve” page.

Another thing to bear in mind: the book emphasizes pasta and bread, not whole grains and legumes. The main dishes in this book are primarily divided between the chapters “Pizza,” “Pasta,” and “Soups, Salads & Sandwiches.”  There are ten pasta dishes, five pizza/calzone recipes and four sandwich recipes. Besides these bread or pasta main dishes, there is one fish recipe, one quiche recipe and one frittata recipe.

All that being said, the bottom line with any cookbook is whether or not the recipes are appealing and actually work. On this count, the authors definitely deliver. I have liked everything that I have made from this book and there are a number of other recipes I want to try. Here is what I have already made from this book:

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee—Excellent. After making this a few times, I modified the recipe, adding more coffee grounds to make it stronger and enclosing the grounds in a coffee filter to avoid having to filter the coffee after brewing.

30 Minute Thin Crust Pizza Dough—Good for garlic knots and for the Herbed Pull Apart Bread.

Bistro Pizza Dough–I liked this a bit more than the 30 Minute Thin Crust Pizza Dough. It is supposed to rise for 3-4 hours, but I found that 2 hours was enough rising time.

Honey Pomodoro Pizza—An interesting cross between tomato salad and pizza. The second time I made this, I oven roasted the tomatoes with the honey mustard dressing instead of sauteing them.

Caramelized Onion Calzones–Tastes like French onion soup stuffed inside bread.

Herbed Pull Apart Bread—Easy and good. I used oregano instead of basil. Instead of making this in muffin tins, I baked these free form on a baking sheet.

Avocado and Basil Pasta Salad–This was easy, delicious and a little different from the usual pesto pasta. I cheated a little in making this, using homemade pesto sauce that I already had on hand instead of the chopped basil and garlic.

Sweet Potato Pasta–Very good and very surprising. I was expecting something that tasted very vegetal, but the sauce mostly tasted of creamy cheese, like mac ‘n cheese sauce. The vegetable puree makes the sauce taste much richer than it really is while adding only subtle flavor. I substituted canned pumpkin (1 medium can, about 1 3/4 cups) for the mashed sweet potato, left out the cream and used Monterey Jack cheese instead of Mozzarella.

The 180 Calorie or Less Cheesecake—I made this in ramekins, sans the graham cracker crust, and it was excellent.

While I liked all the recipes I tried from Dairy Made Easy, I want to share the low-calorie cheesecake with you. To be more precise, I am going to tell you how I turned their cheesecake pie into cheesecake ramekins.

The original recipe calls for baking the cheesecake batter in a graham cracker crust for 30 minutes, or until beginning to turn golden on top. The authors mention the possibility of baking the batter in ramekins, but don’t elaborate. I assumed that, since the cheesecake serves 8, I should divide the batter into 8 ramekins. The total amount of batter made by the recipe is about 20 ounces, so each ramekin had only 2.5 ounces of batter in it.

I think 2.5 ounces of batter in a 4 ounce ramekin looks a bit mingy unless you are generous in adding toppings. Another solution is dividing the batter between 5 or 6 ramekins instead of 8.

I wasn’t sure what the right baking time should be, but I found that the cheesecake ramekins set up after 10-15 minutes, and I let them cool in the oven (with the door open partly) for another 15 minutes to be on the safe side.

Low Calorie Cheesecake Ramekins (The Ramekin Version of The 180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake from Dairy Made Easy)
Adapted from the recipe “The 180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake” from Dairy Made Easy. I think the calorie count for these ramekins, without any added garnishes, is about 105 calories if the batter is divided between 8 ramekins and 168 calories divided between 5 ramekins.

12 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt (original recipe calls for plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbl. cornstarch

In a bowl, stir together  the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and cornstarch.

(Note: The original recipe calls for pureeing everything in a blender, but I had no problem just stirring everything together in a bowl.)

Spray 5-8 ramekins with cooking spray. Divide the batter between the ramekins.

(Note: There should be about 20 ounces of cheesecake batter. If you use 5 ramekins, each one will hold 4 ounces of batter. If you use 6 or 7 ramekins, each will hold a little over 3 ounces. If you use 8 ramekins, each one will hold 2.5 ounces.)

Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges of the cheesecake are set and the center is slightly jiggly. Let the cheesecake sit in the turned off oven with the door ajar for another 15 minutes. When you pull the cheesecake ramekins from the oven, the cheesecake will look set and the edges of the cheesecake may be pulling away from the sides of the ramekin.

Cool completely and refrigerate overnight.

If desired, garnish before serving with fruit, fruit sauce, or more vanilla yogurt topped with chopped chocolate.

Tip: I used a container of Choibani Flip Raspberry Choco Fix yogurt to garnish the ramekins. This yogurt has a section of raspberry puree and a section of vanilla chocolate chip yogurt. I diluted the raspberry puree with a little orange juice to use as a glaze and then used the yogurt as a whipped topping substitute. I sprinkled over chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Another tip: If you want to bake this the original way, pour the batter into a graham cracker crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

One more tip: You can also bake this in muffins tins (lined with foil cupcake liners, sprayed with baking spray).

Serves 5-8.

Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.


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