Pumpkin Pie recipes are right on time this month. However, let me be honest, this wasn’t the article I had planned to write for this month of Thanks.
I had planned to write about my own father and my journey from shock, anger, and finally gratitude for the time he was in my life. Maybe I thought I was ready to, this month marks 5 years since his death. However, I started to write it a few times, and realized there is still more pain and anger there than I could delve into and share right now. So, that will come later.
In the meantime…
Ode to my Uncle John
Unfortunately, our family lost another father recently. Therefore, in honor of my cousin’s father – I am going to share with you a recipe from one of the best chefs I have ever known. Uncle John always made THE BEST holiday dishes – from beer basted turkey and oyster stuffing to the delectable desserts.
Each Thanksgiving we had the choice of desserts since he made several – but I always went for the pumpkin pie variety!
Early on, it was the traditional pumpkin pie loaded with homemade vanilla whipped topping. I remember the cans of condensed milk and loads of sugar that went into the preparing of the wonderful pumpkin dessert. Realizing at a young age that most our foods are far from healthy. Pumpkin Pie seemed to have very little actual pumpkin in it. But, I still loved it and figured we just had to concede to lots of extra calories and guilt for the foods we love.
Life changes, and we Adapt
Then Uncle John developed Type II diabetes. He had to drastically change his diet and lifestyle. Dinners at their house became less appealing for a while, but then he learned new meals that were quite flavorful and we learned to adapt. This was the 1990s though, and sugar alternatives were far from what they are today. So, dessert became boring – options were pretty much limited to sugar-free jello or fruit. Not the fruit as in fresh baked Apple Pie ala mode like we used to have. Instead it was the actual apple, simply cut into slices and sprinkled with some cinnamon.
No sugar, less fats, and more veggies overall. It was healthy, and I enjoyed those foods, but I still had a sweet tooth. I have to admit, I was a bit worried how the holidays would be. For me, the highlight of Thanksgiving was always Uncle John’s food. I cared little for the football game and I was the odd one out – too old to play with my brother and cousin, and not quite old enough to talk with the adults. I was apprehensive going into the holidays that year.
The Thanksgiving that Almost Wasn’t
I was pleasantly surprised when we got to their house and discovered he still made all the amazing foods we had grown to love and expect for Thanksgiving. The turkey, stuffing, pumpkin biscuits, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and all the rest. However, he was unable to enjoy most of it himself. He made them all because WE could still have them, and he loved having everyone over for the holidays. It didn’t take him long to figure out how to make diabetic friendly versions for the holidays going forward though.
Thankfully, one year he found this recipe for a diabetic pumpkin pie which he modified into an even more amazing layered pumpkin cheesecake! It was something we all could enjoy. We could continue to celebrate the season of Thanks, being eternally grateful for life’s simple pleasures – like pumpkin pie and precious time with those we love.
Continuing the Traditions, and Continuing to Adapt
I’ve modified his original recipe slightly – thanks to having better sugar substitutes today which taste so much better and are not as harmful as the past alternatives. You can use whichever sweetener you prefer, just make sure it’s the equivalent to about 2 T regular sugar. I have even made this with NO sugar and it is still wonderful.
This recipe is super simple and quick to throw together. There’s no baking, so once the pudding sets you can be ready to serve immediately in a pinch. However, I suggest letting it sit in the fridge at least 2-3 hours for best results.
Since Uncle John didn’t live close to us the past decade, I have enlisted my niece and nephew in helping make this healthy(ish) dessert a tradition. Introducing them to the hustle and bustle of the holiday cooking chaos – which, at least to me, is part of the fun of the season!
What You’ll Need:
- 8 oz. package reduced fat cream cheese, softened
- 2 T 1% milk
- 2 T Splenda
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 8 oz. tub Lite Cool Whip
- 1 9 oz. prepared shortbread or graham cracker crust (or try this low-carb low-sugar coconut flour recipe from SugarFreeMom)
- 2 small boxes instant sugar free vanilla pudding
- 1 c. 1% milk
- 1 – 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 t ginger
- 1/4 t clove
- ½ T crushed pecans
- In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, sugar, 2 T milk and vanilla and beat until smooth
- Carefully fold in ¾ of the tub of cool whip and mix well (save the rest of the cool whip for later)
- Spread this mixture into the pie crust creating an even layer and put into the fridge to keep cool
- Mix together 1 c. milk, can of pumpkin, and vanilla pudding and spices until smooth
- Carefully spread the pumpkin mixture over top of the cream cheese layer and again place in fridge to set and cool for 2-3 hours
- Before serving, dollop cool whip on top and sprinkle with crushed pecans
Have A Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and adapt it to your own family’s tastes and needs. Although sharing meals may seem simple and common, those are the moments we remember and cherish. There are few things I remember more about my grandparents and aunts and uncles than the time around the table together. Like many families today, we see our relatives less and less – sometimes the only time we get is during this busy holiday season. Therefore, embrace the holiday hustle and bustle, dance in the chaos of the season, and hug your loved ones tight!