Blueberry Cheesecake Bars + 5 Summer Cheesecake Desserts You Should Check Out!

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She started this years ago.  Cheesecake, any form, any flavor, equaled special occasion.  My mother’s go to cheesecake recipe featured a vanilla wafer crust, creamy, silky smooth cheesecake topped with canned cherry or blueberry pie filling.  She rarely needed to refer to the recipe.  She knew it by heart.  She also knew how quickly the little individual cheesecakes nestled in their silver cupcake liners would disappear.  A stern warning like “don’t touch them until Christmas Eve or you’ll get coal in your stocking” usually followed the last dollop of pie filling she place on the perfectly browned cheesecakes.  We waited, and not so patiently waited, until she declared, after her final sip of wine, “let’s have dessert!”

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When she pulled the little bites from the fridge, our mouths watered.  We always ate two immediately and maybe a third if her mood allowed it.  When we got older, the cheesecakes would make a late night appearance usually due to an insatiable case of the munchies.  The baffled look on her beautiful morning face when she discovered just how many we consumed still haunts me to this day.  I’m sure she thought “wtf”?  And then quickly figured out the culprit.  She was, after all, an ER nurse, she grew up during Woodstock, she knew, though pretended otherwise.

When we moved out of her nest, these sweet treats became her go to dessert for any family dinner.  No longer were they just for the holidays. Merely having us in her nest again warranted an appearance of her cheesecake.  We still eat them with the same passion as when we were children.  It’s amazing how food has way to transport you back to a time and place that you still long for, a place we attempt to create in our new families; a place called home, but really home was her.

bcc816I thought about asking her for the recipe, but I knew damn well she wouldn’t share it.  It is still her made from scratch delight.  I get it.  So I drew inspiration from her, but adapted a recipe from Pioneer Woman.  Like my mother’s, the cheesecake is smooth and tangy.  The crust is perfectly sweet, but features graham crackers instead of vanilla wafers.  The blueberry topping is made from fresh blueberries.  Honestly, I could go either way.  I love the canned stuff, but with blueberries abundant this time of year how can you not go fresh?

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I made and shared these bars at a fourth of July party with good friends.  They were a hit.  I saved a few for Bubba and the kids at home.  They asked for them the next day and the day after that.  Maybe this will be the dessert for my kids.  The dessert that reminds them of home, the dessert that reminds them of me.

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman

Makes 16 bars

Ingredients for Crust:

2 sleeves of graham crackers

1/2 unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Filling:

3 packages, 8 ounces each, cream cheese, softened

1 + 1/2 cup sugar

1 + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for Blueberry Topping:

4 cups blueberries, about 2 pints

3/4 cup of sugar

squeeze of lemon juice

1/4 cup water

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

4 tablespoons water

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Using a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into crumbs.  Add the melted butter and vanilla extract and pulse until the crumbs look like wet sand.  Dump the mixture into your prepared baking pan and the press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla until smooth.   Next, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and pinch of salt and mix until well combined.

Pour the filling into the crust and smooth out the top.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Then turn off the oven, leave the door closed and allow it to bake for another 10 minutes.  Lastly, open the oven door a bit and allow it sit in the oven for another 10 minutes.  (Yup, with the door open.)

Remove the cheesecake and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cheesecake cools, make your blueberry topping.  Add blueberries, sugar and 1/4 cup of water to a small pan.  Over medium high-heat, bring to a boil and cook until the juices slightly thicken, about 5 minutes.  ( I mashed some of the berries during this time for a less chunky topping, but it is not necessary.)  In a small bowl, make a slurry: 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 4 tablespoons of water, mix well.  Stir in slurry and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Let it boil for another couple of minutes and then remove from heat.  Allow to cool before adding to cheesecake.

Pour the blueberries over the cheesecake and smooth over the top.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.  I think overnight is best.  Once chilled, remove from 9×13 pan by lifting it out with the foil overhang.  Grab a serrated knife and cut into squares.  Enjoy!

(Can be made two days ahead. Keep refrigerated, covered and cut just before serving.)

5 Cheesecake Recipes You Need To Check Out!

Looking for a completely new and creative take on cheesecake?  Check out My Mother’s Apron Strings for The SoNo Cheesecake: pistachio graham cracker crust, cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries. Wow!

If you need a quick and easy cheesecake, head to Food &Wine for their icebox chocolate cheesecake.

Smitten Kitchen’s raspberry swirl cheesecake and strawberry cheesecake ice cream pie are on my must make list!

Check out my lemon ricotta cheesecake. It was a huge hit!

Fresh Cherry Tart + 5 Tart Recipes You Need to Check Out!

 

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The cherries were on sale.  Fresh from Washington state, Bing cherries, $4.99 a pound! the sign read.  I stared at the individually wrapped 2 lb bags of cherries.  That’s still $9 for cherries.  No keep walking I told myself, but they were taunting me. I could almost taste their sweet, slightly tart juice and meaty flesh.  My mind started racing with recipe ideas: cherry salsa? hand-pies? trifle? I could eat them raw while watching Chopped.  The possibilities were endless.  After much back and forth, I found myself standing at the checkout counter paying for a $9 bag of beautiful cherries.

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I don’t regret it.  We snacked on the raw cherries, the kids taking turns with the cherry pitter, cherry juice staining their mouths and hands.  I managed to save half of the cherries and tuck them safely behind a gallon of unopened milk in the refrigerator.  The next day I made a fresh cherry tart, a Martha Stewart recipe I had my eyes on for weeks.

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I made a couple of changes.  Her recipe called for a graham cracker crust and I opted for a crunchy, sweet and delectable Cracklin’ Oat Bran crust.  My sister-in-law introduced me to this crust when she made Dorothy’s Fresh Blueberry Pie, again swapping out a traditional crust for this bit of crunchy food heaven.

fct588The Cracklin’ Oat Bran crust came together as easily as any graham cracker crust.  Once the crust cooled, I spread a silky honey and cream cheese mixture to the edges of the crackling crust.  I topped the tart with fresh cherries and a bit of raspberry glaze; I placed the tart in the refrigerator to chill and occupied myself with the kids outside.

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Patience is a virtue, but not my virtue…or Bubba’s…or the kids.  I sliced into this tart as soon as 30 minutes of chilling time passed.  Patience and willpower be damned!

Fresh Cherry Tart

Serves 8

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Cracklin’ Oat Bran Crust from Food 52

Ingredients for Filling:

6 ounces from bar of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup of honey (mild)

zest of 1 lime

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 lb Bing cherries, pitted and halved

1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

Ingredients for Cracklin’ Oat Bran Crust:

1 1/2 cups finely ground Cracklin’ Oat Bran Cereal

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 375F.  Using a food processor with a blade attachment, pulse the cereal until fine.  Be sure to measure the cereal after you grind it.  You want 1 1/2 cups of ground cereal.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground cereal with the melted butter until evenly combined.  The cereal should look like wet sand.

Dump the cereal/butter mixture into a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Using the bottom of a measuring cup, press mixture evenly along the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides.

Bake the crust for about 9 minutes, but start checking it at 7 minutes.  The crust is ready when it is dry and a deeper shade of brown.  Cool on a wire rack before filling.

Directions for Cherry Filling:

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the cream and continue to beat until soft peaks form.  (I switched from the paddle attachment to the beater attachment at this point.)  Gently fold in lime zest.

Spread mixture in cooled crust and top with cherries.

Using a small sauce pan, combine raspberry jam and 1 teaspoon of water.  Heat over low heat until liquefied, a couple of minutes.  Grab your pastry brush and dab the cherries with the glaze.  Cover the tart and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.  Enjoy!

5 Can’t Miss Tart Recipes!

If you love key lime pie check out Whisk Kid’s lime curd tart recipe.  This tart looks so refreshing!

I love when stone fruits start popping up at farmer’s markets and the grocery store.  When you see these beauties again why not make a tart?  Head to Apt. 2B Baking Co for a simple stone fruit tartlet recipe.

Pretty soon gardens will burst with beautiful tomatoes and being a tomato lover I can’t wait.  Brooklyn Supper’s tomato chevre tart is on my must make list.

Looking for a healthy spin on a butter tart? Head to My New Roots and check out a better butter tart recipe.  I am fascinated!

When apples are in season again, Flourishing Foodie’s salted caramel apple tart will make an appearance on my table.  I don’t want to wish the summer away, but I can’t wait!