Guilt-free Cheesecake

This is not some trick to make you run through your nearby mall’s Cheesecake Factory, blindfold yourself, and NOT watch yourself downing one of their 4-serving cheesecake slices. I think Heaven might be filled with guilt-free cheesecake and lots of fried tortilla chips and queso. Swimming pools of queso. But I digress.

I enjoy everything about cheesecake:

  1. Sweet
  2. Creamy happiness that lingers on the tongue
  3. Endless flavors…plain is delightful, and so is mocha-choco-lala, too.
  4. The word “cheesecake” spoken aloud ensues “oos and ahhs” from anyone nearby, even strangers. Especially strangers.
  5. Heavy and filling. It’s no fluffy macaroon in that way.
  6. Decadent, rich, everything that breaks all healthy rules. Until now.

 

Now I’m not going to pretend that this is the cheesecake you have on your birthday (and eat all of the leftovers over the 2 days after your bday…no judgment). But it’s guilt-free and satisfies the creamy, sweet, graham cracker-type craving you might have been missing. And it’s quick and easy and lowfat and light on sugar.

Who could ask for anything more?

Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 10.31.18 PM

Let’s get cheesecake-y!

1-2-3 Yummm

1-2-3 Yummm

Guilt-free Cheesecake

1 serving, all for you

  • 1 oz. neufchatel cheese or cream cheese or vegan cream cheese, softened for a few minutes
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sweetener (or 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar)
  • 1 TB jam or 1/4 cup fresh fruit
  • 2-3 graham cracker halves

Step 1: In a small bowl, combine cheese and sweetener until creamy. Top with fruit or jam. Add graham crackers to the side. Dip graham crackers into filling.

Step 2: Devour.

 

Happy Dessert, people!

 

Day 14: Holidays and Apple Cinnamon Cheeseballs

Mom, Dad, Matt, and Me on Thanksgiving
Too much turkey.

 Hello! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate?

While we have this rich U.S. history of coming together, sometimes the underlying history of Thanksgiving is hard to swallow (hierarchy, etc.). So I find more meaning in celebrating Thanksgiving by giving thanks for the amazing people, places and things that I’m able to come into contact with in my life. This year, I’m looking at the great ribbon that connects Thanksgiving themes to Valentine’s Day. Puzzled? On Valentine’s Day, we traditionally show love for others in a special way. At Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for all of those who have brought joy and love to us throughout the entire year. It’s about appreciating life, seeing the joy in little things and unlikely situations and giving thanks to those who bring that joy. I thank God for people and creatures who make life just worth it. And Thanksgiving is also a special reminder for me that food brings people together. Big groups or small gatherings, food is this sacred instrument that allows us to give and receive love in a spicy curry, juicy burger, in bright red salsa, freshly baked apple pie. Beautiful.

Drive-through lights at the Portland Raceway…8 Maids a Milking–for our awesome cheeseball

Now let’s talk about food. My parents visited, we have friends stopping by here and there both locals and out of towners (Pearl Jam NW leg of their tour), and we have more family coming in a few weeks. There has been more food in this house than I can devour. So let’s talk about it.

Cheeseballs. That word can either make someone really excited or really grossed out. I remember seeing those packaged hunks of dairy disguised by sliced almonds at holiday parties as a kid, and I never liked them. But the cheese cubes were always appreciated. My husband likes anything cheese-related (who doesn’t?), so I try to incorporate it here and there. I like cheese, but not TOO MUCH creamy, rich gloppy stuff. In saying that, I did sell gourmet cheeses at a deli in grad school. I learned a lot and ate a lot of cheese. My cholesterol went up. When I quit that job, my cholesterol was at a healthy level. Funny. So I like to eat little bits of cheese that pack a lot of flavor. One plus to that job:  I learned to make cheeseballs that were actually quite tasty.

Fresh ingredients. Great recipes. 10 minutes. That’s all it took. So I’ll share one of those secret recipes with you. Granted, I made 20-30 cheeseballs at a time, so I’ve scaled back the restaurant-size recipe, tested it, simplified it, and here it is for you.

Apple Cinnamon Cheeseball

This refreshing take on the cheeseball is simple, delicious and not-too-heavy. Serve with water crackers, butter crackers or even on bagels for a delicious, cheesy appetizer. Leftovers from your party? Spoon 1 tablespoon into your hot oatmeal for a creamy, warm cinnamony surprise.

8 oz lowfat cream cheese, softened (set on counter for 45 minutes)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Step one: Combine cheeses, apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until incorporated all together. Roll into a ball the size of a baseball.
Step two: Roll into the chopped pecans, coating all sizes. Store the cheeseball on a dish, covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

The cheeseball can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and, if you want to have an appetizer on hand at all times, actually freezes pretty well, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil (thaw in the fridge).




How to make dried apples-the quick way:
Step one: Slice 2 apples very thinly (use knife or mandoline). Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Step two: On a baking sheet or rack, lay apple slices as a single layer. Let bake for 2-3 hours, flipping once an hour. The more hot air touches the apple surfaces, the better (so I use a cooling rack).
Step three: When they’re ready, they’ll be dry yet soft and ‘bendy.’ Store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
 
A thought: If you slice your pecan halves across the middle, you get these awesome little pieces that look like “M”s or the Batman symbol.

Happy post-Thanksgiving. Don’t overshop but do enjoy the lights, food, festivities and people/animals around you. Happy, happy weekend. 🙂

-Laurel

~Laurel~

LOC Bites

Like I said yesterday, my sweet grandmother was Southern to the bone. One of her signature desserts was Chess Bars. It involved all of the staples for a Mississippi dish–butter, eggs, powdered sugar, and cream cheese. Not exactly for the faint of sweets. Sometimes she added lemon, but rarely. Usually the cake mix crust warrants the prominent flavor–BUTTER–but I thought it might be nice to jazz it up a little for my Waco friends.

I’m spending two weeks in Waco for Capstone class–let’s hope these are the last classes of my life. I’m good with life long learning, but I need a break! After these two weeks, I’ll present my research project for social work, wait a week, and then (hopefully) snatch up two diplomas. Glory, glory. But back to the sugar. Chess bars…with lime and orange…in mini muffin pans. Can these count as tarts? No, bites is much more technical and approachable.

The flop the first time around. Oops.

LOC Bites (Lemon Orange Chess)

gather 
yellow cake mix (the box)
3 eggs
1 stick butter, softened
1 box of cream cheese, softened (8 oz)
1 lb of powdered sugar
1 orange
1 lemon or lime

base Preheat oven to 350. Grease 24 mini muffin cups. In a bowl, combine a yellow cake mix, one egg, and one stick of margarine. Using a teaspoon, pat one teaspoonful of batter into each cup. Pat down with your fingers–this is the crust.

topper In a second bowl, combine cream cheese, 2 eggs, and 1 box (16 oz) powdered sugar together until smooth. A mixer smooths it out so well.

topper2 Split cream cheese mixture into two bowls. In one bowl, grate an orange and add the juice of less than 1/2 of the orange (2 TB). In the second bowl, add grate a lemon and the juice of 1/2 a lemon (2 TB). Whisk each of the bowls’ ingredients separately.

assembly Using a teaspoon, spoon 1-ish teaspoon of the cake mix base in the bottom of each muffin cup. Press down with fingers, like it is a crust. Then, top with either 1 TB of the lemon or the orange filling. Bake for 13 minutes, or until the mini muffins are set and not Jello jiggly. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for 1 hours.

Serve chilled. Share generously. Eat many.

Happy eating!
Laurel

~Laurel~

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