Taking the 'guilty' out of guilty pleasures

Cheesecake? Yes please. And with 8.9 grams of fat per serving, there's no need to feel guilty....

Cheesecake? Yes please. And with 8.9 grams of fat per serving, there's no need to feel guilty. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

Rita DeMontis, National Food Editor, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Janet and Greta sure know how to take the guilt out of guilty pleasures. The Podleski sisters turned this into an art form years ago through cookbooks that brought smiles to faces with corny puns, funny sayings and astonishingly delicious recipes that turned serious, healthy eating into a thing of joy.

Penning cookbooks with names like Looneyspoons, Crazy Plates and Eat, Shrink and Be Merry, (with cartoons by Ted Martin) the attractive sisters have taken healthy eating and turned it into one of the most successful business ventures ever. Hosts of a cooking show on Food Network Canada, they've also developed a line of healthy prepared foods, produced monthly columns for various magazines and created a series of grEATing cards for Hallmark.

Their stories are inspiring - and fun. To meet the two and listen to their tales is as good as digging into one of their favourite dishes.

Just recently they've relaunched The Looneyspoons Collection (Granet), in celebration of this iconic cookbook's 15th anniversary.

"The cooking world has changed so much in the last few years," notes Greta, a registered holistic nutritionist. "When Looneyspoons first came out, the nutrition messaging was totally different than what it is today - we had been told, for example, that low fat, no fat was the way to go, when today it's obvious that good fat should be part of your diet.

"That items once considered taboo - like butter - are good for you, in moderation of course."

"With the changing nutritional messaging, we had no choice but to retire Looneyspoons as it was obviously outdated," added Janet. "The response was pretty dramatic. We had so many readers going crazy looking for the book!"

It was only logical to redo Looneyspoons from start to finish, remaking the recipes to reflect the changing landscape, yet stay true to its original messaging: That you can eat well, eat healthy and lose weight.

The Looneyspoons Collection - Janet and Greta's Greatest Recipe Hits and a Whole Lot More! is a fabulous read, a great book to turn to for the holiday entertaining season - and to give as the gift that keeps on giving.

It's now available at your local book store, Indigo, Chapters and wherever cookbooks are sold.

But better hurry - word is the girls are preparing for a second run as the books are literally flying off the shelves.

For additional info, check out Janetandgreta.com. Enjoy the following from The Looneyspoons Collection.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK FUDGE

Creamy, foolproof chocolate and peanut butter fudge

Ingredients:

2 cups (500ml) dark chocolate chips (such as Hershey’s Special Dark)

1 cup (250ml) milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup (125ml) light peanut butter

1/2 cup (4 oz/120 g) light cream cheese (in a brick, not in tub)

2 Tbsp. (30ml) butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup (50ml) 1% milk

1 tsp. (5ml) vanilla

2 cups (500ml) icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

1 cup (250ml) finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

Melt chocolate chips (on defrost setting of microwave or over double boiler). In a medium bowl, beat together peanut butter, cream cheese and butter on medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Add melted chocolate and beat again. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Gradually add icing sugar and beat after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Stir in walnuts using a wooden spoon.

Line an 8 x 8-in. (2L) baking pan with parchment paper and spoon fudge into pan. Spread to edges. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about three hours. Remove fudge from pan and cut into 36 squares. Store fudge covered in refrigerator. It will soften if left at room temperature.

Makes 36 pieces fudge

Per piece: 132 calories, 7.5 g total fat.

MERRY CHERRY CHEESECAKE

Simple and scrumptious cherry cheesecake squares with a hint of lemon. Your dinner guests will be very merry when they taste this light-and-lemony cherry cheesecake.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (375ml) graham crumbs

1/2 tsp. (2ml) ground cinnamon

3 Tbsp. (45ml) butter, melted

1/4 cup (50ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 pkg (1/4 oz/7 g) unflavored gelatine

2 pkgs (8 oz/250 g each) light cream cheese

2 cups (500ml) light (5%) sour cream

1 can (10 oz/300 ml) low-fat sweetened condensed milk (such as Eagle Brand)

2 tsp. (10ml) grated lemon zest

2 cans (19 oz/540 mL each) reduced-sugar cherry pie filling

Directions:

Crust: Combine graham crumbs and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir using a fork until crumbs are moistened. Spray a 9 x 13-inch (3.5L) baking dish with cooking spray. Press crumb mixture firmly and evenly over bottom of dish. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Measure lemon juice in measure cup. Sprinkle gelatine over lemon juice and let stand for one minute. Add 1/4 cup (50ml) boiling water. Mix well, until gelatine is dissolved. Set aside.

To make filling, beat together cream cheese and lemon juice mixture on high speed of electric mixer until smooth. Add sour cream, sweetened condensed milk and lemon zest. Beat again until well blended. Pour filling over prepared crust and spread to edges of pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours until set. Spread cherry pie filling over cream-cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 18 cheesecake squares

RECIPE TIPS: Take cream cheese out of fridge about 30 minutes before you make cake. It’s easier to beat cream cheese if it isn’t cold. Don’t omit lemon juice from this recipe - it, along with gelatine, helps filling set. (If you leave it out, the filling will be runny.)

Per square: 248 calories, 8.9 g total fat.

MIXED-UP MEATBALLS

Appetizer-size turkey meatballs with cranberry-orange barbecue sauce

Ingredients:

Meatballs

1-1/2 lbs (680 g) ground turkey or chicken

1/2 cup (125ml) unseasoned dry bread crumbs

1/3 cup (75ml) finely minced or grated onions

1/4 cup (50ml) chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1/2 tsp (2ml) EACH garlic powder and dried marjoram

1/4 tsp (1ml) EACH salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauce

1 can (19 oz/540 ml) jellied cranberry sauce

1/4 cup (50ml) hickory or chipotle barbecue sauce (smoky)

2 Tbsp. (30ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp. (5ml) reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tsp. (5ml) grated orange zest

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together ground turkey, bread crumbs, onions, parsley, egg, garlic powder, marjoram, salt and pepper (using your hands works best). Form mixture into bite-sized meatballs, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You should end up with about 45 meatballs.

Place meatballs on a baking sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400F (200C) for 12 to 15 minutes or until cooked through. Stir meatballs once, halfway through cooking time, to brown sides. Remove from oven and transfer to a large pot.

In a small saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, barbecue sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce and orange zest. Cook over medium heat until cranberry sauce is melted and mixture is bubbly, about five minutes. Pour sauce over meatballs and stir gently until all meatballs are coated with sauce. Cover and simmer over low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

Makes 45 meatballs

Per meatball: 44 calories, 1 g total fat.

 

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