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You really love cheesecake, right?  But the calories quickly pass the lips and forever stay on the hips.  Here's a totally satisfying substitute no-guilt cheesecake that's low in sugar and fat and absolutely brimming in calcium.   It's GOOD for you!  (You can drop the fat and sugar even further to nearly zero, at the expense of a little of the flavor.)  Note that preparations have to start at least 24 hours in advance, but remember the old adage:  Good things are worth waiting for!

Perfect Cheesecake Pie

32 ounce container of plain, fat-free yogurt
graham crackers
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar (Note #1)
pinch of salt
3 eggs (Note #2)
1 8-oz. package lite cream cheese or Neufchatel  (Note #3)
1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (Note #4)

Strawberry Topping:    (Note #5)

8 ounce container of fresh strawberries
1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon strawberry extract (optional) (Note #6)
4 drops red food coloring (optional) 

At least 24 hours ahead of time, and preferably 36 or so, stir the yogurt vigorously to break up the curd.  Line a strainer or colander with a coffee filter or strong paper towels.  Turn the open container upside down in the strainer.  Place over a bowl and refrigerate.  A couple times a day, discard the liquid that drains out (the dogs will love it!).  This makes a thick yogurt cheese.   (See Karen Danielson's instructions for making Yogurt Cheese.)

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line a heavy deep-dish pie plate (Note #7) with a single layer of graham crackers, breaking some to fit.  Set aside.

Combine the sugar, salt and cornstarch.  Blend in the cream cheese (your mixer works great, but don't use the food processor; it will break up the mixture and it may not set).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well.    Finely grate the peel from the lemon and add to the mixture, then juice the lemon and add the juice as well.  Add the vanilla extract.

On slow speed, blend in the strained, thickened yogurt.  Mix gently but well.  Spoon into the prepared deep-dish pie plate, being careful not to dislodge the graham crackers.

Bake for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes, or just until cheesecake mixture is set and doesn't jiggle when you move the pie plate.  (Results may vary greatly depending on exact oven temperature, ingredient temperature, thickness of pie and type of pie plate).

While the pie is cooling, prepare the topping.  Wash, hull and slice strawberries thickly.  Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and stir to coat.  Let them sit to draw out some of the juice.

Combine the rest of the sugar and the cornstarch.  Add the water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil and thickens.  Add the strawberries and stir gently just until it comes to a full boil again.  They shouldn't be cooked, just heated through.   Add coloring and flavor if desired and mix gently.   Set aside to cool slightly.

When the topping starts to set up, spread it over the top of the Cheesecake filling.   Refrigerate.   Served chilled with lite or fat-free whipped topping if desired.

Note #1:  You may use artificial sweeter, but don't use Nutri-Sweet in the pie as it doesn't respond well to cooking.   If using sweetener in  the topping, add to taste at the end, along with the coloring and flavor

Note #2:  The equivalent in egg substitute may be used, or use 6 egg whites, giving the yolks to the dogs.

Note #3:  Fat-free "cream" cheese or neufchatel may be used, but this will affect the flavor.  You may wish to add another 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.

Note #4:  Use vanilla to taste.  Removing the egg yolks, going fat-free all the way, or using an artificial sweetener will affect the flavor.   Adding extra vanilla may cover up the substitution to some degree.

Note #5:   Any fruit, frozen, fresh or canned, can be used.  If using canned fruit, or frozen in its juice, use juice instead of water.   Fruit canned in syrup will need less sugar in the topping.  Adjust the cornstarch as needed;  add a little more water or juice to thin, or dissolve a little cornstarch in liquid and add a few drops of the mixture at a time, stirring and boiling, until a thick topping base results.

Note #6:   Really fresh, ripe strawberries may not need extra flavor, but slightly under ripe ones will benefit from extra flavoring.   Likewise for other fruit;  taste!

Note #7:   A springform pan may be used to make a real cheesecake instead of a cheesecake pie.  Baking time could increase as the mixture may be deeper as a result.

The Sneaky Kitchen
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