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!

Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Blondies + 5 Peanut-Free Treats Every Kid Will Love!

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Memories, good and bad, often flash inside my mind when I bake.  They come on strong, and leave me laughing or tear me apart; throwing off my baking zen either way.

“Mama my eye hurts.” G. “What happened? Lets have a look.” Me.

I didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t know this was just the beginning of a very long day.

I give my Dad and his wife a hug good-bye, and buckle G into his car seat. Bubba starts the car.  N sleeps peacefully in his car seat and C happily sucks on a lollipop. “I can’t believe the Easter bunny is coming tomorrow!”

We head home.

He starts to cry. I turn around. Hives cover his arms, legs and chest.  His eye lid is now the size of a golf ball.

“He is reacting.” (To what? I checked all the candy.  I always check.)

Bubba pulls over; I give G a teaspoon of Benadryl.  He won’t calm down.  This should work, I tell myself.  We get back on the highway.

He is hysterical.  “My throat!” G.

“Mama, Daddy!” C.

Breathe. This is happening.  He is having an anaphylactic reaction.  The doctors mentioned this could happen. Remember?  You know what to do.  You played this scenario over and over, in your head, while your body ran; ran miles and miles in the rain, the sun, the bitter cold. Ran.

For a moment, amid the chaos I realize I’ve made the decision. I pull the dreaded epi-pen from my bag, unbuckle my seat belt and jam the auto-injector into my son’s thigh. He screams. C cries. “Mommy, no!” N is still somehow asleep.  Bubba drives fast and remains calm.  We are many miles from an emergency room.

Within minutes G is calm. The hives are still visible, bloodied from his constant scratching.  His eye remains swollen.  “I feel better now.” The epi-pen worked. 

We arrive at the ER and a nurse evaluates him immediately.  She detects wheezing.  G is so sleepy. Poor boy. We are escorted to a room where we spend the next 6 hours watching our son sleep peacefully on a hospital bed, the ER physician checking in every hour to see how we are doing.  Bubba kisses G on the forehead, he looks tired, and worried; tears ready to pour down his cheeks, if only he would let them.  He takes C and N home, where my sister-in-law waits for them. I wait and watch our boy.

He wakes up and asks for something to eat, as if nothing happened.  We just aged 10 years in 6 hours.  He won’t understand that kind of worry until he has kids someday. He happily eats a turkey sandwich.

It is 10 pm and we are home again. G climbs up to his sleeping sister’s bunk and says “C____ I’m back.” She hugs him.  He wants to play.  “Time to go to bed G. The Easter bunny is coming tonight!”

Bubba and I spend the next two hours hiding Easter eggs and putting together their baskets.  We climb into bed, exhausted.  We snuggle up to each other, holding on tight, tighter than usual.

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Slightly sweet with a hint of salt, Sunbutter is a tasty peanut-free alternative. The original recipe called for peanut butter and peanut butter cups, which I replaced with Sunbutter and chocolate chips.  The result is a perfectly sweet and moist brownie with just enough chocolate chips.  I love blondies because the possibilities are endless. Get creative!

Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Blondies

makes 12 bars

recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup Sunbutter (I used natural.)

1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 tbsp. milk ( I used 1 percent.)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Cooking spray

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9 inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine Sunbutter, melted butter, milk and eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl until the wet ingredients are well incorporated.  Add the Sunbutter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into prepared pan. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until a cake pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pan on a wire rack for about an hour. Cut into squares and serve. The bars will last at room temperature, in an air-tight container for about 2 days. Enjoy!

5 Peanut-Free Treats Every Kid Will Love!

If  you love Butterfingers, head over to Jelly Toast for Emily’s peanut-free butterfingers recipe!

Looking for a nut-free Nutella? Momables has a recipe for sunflower Nutella and it sounds delicious. Check it out!

Last year I made chocolate and sunbutter pretzel bars. Bubba and the kids went nuts for them. Head over to my blog for the recipe.

Instead of making peanut butter granola bars for the kids, how about trying sunflower seed granola bars with chocolate drizzle? Averie Cooks has the recipe for you.

Divvies allergen friendly chocolate cupcake recipe is a staple in our house for birthday parties.