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This festive, make-ahead treat is (almost) effortless. Renee Comet /USA WEEKEND. Food Styling /Debbie Wahl.
This festive, make-ahead treat is (almost) effortless. Renee Comet /USA WEEKEND. Food Styling /Debbie Wahl.

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A star-spangled holiday calls for a celebratory dessert, and this stunning red, white and blue cheesecake fits the bill perfectly. Luxuriously creamy and satisfying but with a fraction of the calories and saturated fat of a typical cheesecake, it is the kind of dessert that lets you have it all.

The trick is in the mix of part-skim ricotta cheese and Neufchâtel, an all-natural reduced-fat cream cheese, which makes for a texture that is both light and creamy. The cake forms its own golden crust as it bakes, and the fresh berries add all-American color and a burst of sweet juicy flavor without the sugar and calories of the typical syrupy fruit topping.

It is pretty effortless to make — all you do is put the ingredients in a food processor or mixer, then pour into a pan and bake. You wind up with an impressive, indulgent, better-for-you dessert that can be made ahead, leaving you plenty of time and energy to relax and watch the fireworks.

Creamy Ricotta Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

• Cooking spray
• One 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
• ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
• 4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese), softened
• 3 large eggs
• ¾ cup sugar
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
• ¼ tsp. salt
• ¼ cup all-fruit seedless raspberry jam
• 1 Tb. orange liqueur or water
• 1 6-ounce container fresh raspberries
• 1 6-ounce container fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl or food processor, and beat with an electric mixer, or process, until smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream, Neufchâtel, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, orange zest and salt and continue to process or mix until well blended. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center is just set, 50 to 55 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before removing it from the pan. The cheesecake will be about 2 inches high.

In a small saucepan, bring the jam and liqueur to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Brush the cheesecake with the jam mixture and top with the berries, alternating one row of raspberries (flat side down), with two rows of blueberries. The cake should be stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for 2 to 3 days.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving: 300 calories, 39g carbohydrates, 12g protein, 12g fat (6g saturated), 2g fiber, 110mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium

Recipe reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Taunton Press Inc., from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, by Ellie Krieger. Copyright by Ellie Krieger.

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.