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Light Desserts

“The livin’ is easy” when summertime desserts don’t call for a lot of fuss and prep time. Make dessert simple by grilling your favorite fruit or serving light meringues as part of a satisfying summer meal. A new favorite of mine is grilled pineapple slices, which takes me out of the kitchen and onto the deck with my family.

MERINGUES
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar with cornstarch and set aside. In medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Reduce mixer to medium speed and gradually add sugar and cornstarch mixture until well-incorporated. Add vanilla and almond extracts, increase speed to high, and beat until stiff and glossy peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Fill pastry bag with mixture and pipe meringues onto large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space meringues about an inch apart or drop by teaspoonful if you aren’t using a pastry bag. Bake in preheated 225° oven until firm to the touch and crisp, approximately 1-1/2 hours. Cool meringues thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Makes 4 dozen.

RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE PARFAITS
12 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 oz. coarsely chopped white chocolate
3 cups raspberries
20 coarsely crushed gingersnaps
Mint sprigs

On medium speed, beat together cream cheese and heavy whipping cream until smooth, about 15 seconds. Melt half of the white chocolate pieces in the top of a double boiler. Reserve the rest. Add melted white chocolate to cream cheese mixture and stir until blended. In six tall glass serving dishes, layer 2 Tablespoons of raspberries on the bottom followed by 2 Tablespoons of cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle white chocolate pieces over the cream and top with a Tablespoon of crushed cookies. Repeat layering; the third layer will end with cream cheese mixture. There will be 3 layers of berries, 3 layers of cream cheese mixture, 3 layers of white chocolate pieces, and 3 layers of crushed gingersnaps. Garnish with a few raspberries and mint sprigs. Chill 2 hours and serve. Serves 6.

SUGAR-FREE STRAWBERRY MERINGUES
1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup Splenda
1-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1-1/2 teaspoons strawberry extract
Few drops of red food coloring

Repeat directions for meringues recipe above, adding strawberry extract and food coloring in place of vanilla and almond extracts. (You may use the basic meringue recipe for many flavors, including cappuccino meringues, by simply adding 1-1/2 teaspoons instant coffee in place of vanilla and almond extracts.) Makes 4 dozen.
Note: Splenda measures just like sugar. You may also bake and cook with it with great results.

GRILLED PINEAPPLE SLICES
1 whole pineapple or 8 slices canned pineapple
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup honey
8 oz. cream cheese, whipped

If using a whole pineapple, remove skin and core. Cut into slices. Heat brown sugar, lime juice, and honey over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Place pineapple slices over hot coals and grill 2 to 4 minutes on each side, basting several times with honey-lime mixture. Remove from heat onto platter. Drizzle remaining honey-lime mixture over pineapple and top each with a spoonful of whipped cream cheese. Serves 4-8.

SUSAN SPICER LOWERY’S PEANUT CRUNCH “SPIDERS”
Susan is a popular cooking columnist, great cook, and author of Susan’s Kitchen.

1 (6-oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
1 (6-oz.) pkg. peanut butter chips
1 (3-oz.) can chow mein noodles
1 cup salted peanuts

Melt chocolate and peanut butter chips in double boiler or microwave. Remove from heat and stir in noodles and peanuts. Quickly drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper. Let stand 20 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.

Coming Next Month: Backyard burgers

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