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Spring into fresh, healthy desserts
Strawberries can be whipped into any number of nutritious desserts. - photo by Stock photo

Strawberry, lemonade tiramisu
• 1 large organic lemon
• 3/4 cup water
• Sugar substitute equal to 1 cup sugar (I prefer Stevia)
• ½ cup fresh squeezed organic lemon juice
• 2 pounds strawberries, rinsed well
• 2 Tablespoons sugar substitute
• 2 tablespoons organic lime juice
• 8 ounces fat-free cream cheese
• 1 cup light whipping cream
• 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon all-natural vanilla extract
• 1 package low-fat or fat-free ladyfingers (sponge or cookie style)
• Fresh mint garnish (optional)

To make simple syrup:
Combine water and sugar substitute in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Grate the peel of lemon, add it to the saucepan and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Strain syrup into a small bowl, add lemon juice and stir. Set aside and let stand. Reserve a tablespoon of lemon peel for later in recipe.

For fresh strawberry mixture:
Reserve a couple strawberries for garnish. Remove stems and slice up the remaining berries, adding them to a large bowl with two tablespoons of sugar substitute and the lime juice. Toss to coat berries and set aside.

For filling:
Beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Slowly beat in the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Be careful not to overbeat because it may curdle. Fold in the reserved lemon peel.
Pour the lemon syrup into a shallow bowl. Quickly dip individual ladyfingers into the syrup, being careful not to soak up too much syrup or the cookies will get too mushy. Using individual serving-size bowls or glasses, put one or two ladyfingers in each container and then layer each dish with the berry mixture and cream filling. Repeat the process if using a tall glass. Spoon no more than a tablespoon of the remaining syrup over each prepared glass. Refrigerate one hour or until ready to serve. Top with strawberries and mint garnish. Enjoy.

Despite a few cold spells, clouds and the occasional gloomy skies and rainy days, spring has sprung here in the Coastal Empire. The birds are chirping, the flowers and trees are blooming and budding, and when the sun shines down, we have had some nice, warm days.
With Easter approaching, it’s time to start planning some fabulously healthy spring desserts. Since many people give up sweets and junk food for Lent, the Easter Sunday feast often features sinful, high-fat, sugary desserts and treats that folks have been craving for weeks.
In my youth, nothing could have been truer in our house. Since my mother was a baker and pastry chef, we always had plenty of cookies, chocolates, cakes and other decadent desserts. I remember one year, as a child, I skimped on dinner to gorge on chocolate-covered cherries and peanut-butter balls. Ah, memories.
These days, if I don’t want my backside to jiggle for weeks after Easter Sunday, I can’t indulge in sweets like I did as a kid. As I was thinking of ways to improve a classic Italian dessert — tiramisu — it dawned on me on how to make this delightful treat into a light, spring-time favorite.
Keeping the creamy texture, I lowered the fat content in this recipe by using fat-free cream cheese. Strawberry lemonade always has been a favorite of mine, and spring is when we start seeing fresh seasonal berries in stores and produce stands. Using a natural-sugar substitute will keep the dish’s calorie count low maintaining a sweet taste. Just remember to keep the servings at a reasonable size, and only use one or two ladyfingers per serving since each one added will increase fat, sugar and carbs.
To add an optional burst of flavor, add a shot or two of lemon liqueur or even fine rum to the syrup while cooking. The alcohol should cook off, but it will leave behind a strong flavor and give the recipe a fun kick.
To keep this dish light and fresh, use all-natural and organic ingredients whenever possible.

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