Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Cheesecake Secret

Want the secret to great cheesecake?

Doesn't this cheesecake look lovely?  It is made with local strawberries, picked last Saturday.

The crust is made with graham crackers and lemon Oreos.  The filling has hand squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest lovingly grated by my spouse.  And, there may be a secret ingredient in there, too.

Here's the story:

After making strawberry jam on Saturday, I decided I wanted to make a cheesecake.  I made that decision while picking up a couple of last minute groceries on Saturday.  I whipped out what spouse calls "the magic phone" (my iPhone 4S) to find a quick, low fat cheesecake recipe.

Now, please don't click away to another blog.  Please!  I fully realize that "cheesecake" and "low fat" should never appear in the same sentence.  Or, in the same cheesecake.  But, spouse and I both follow Weight Watchers, and we did need to make some concessions to maintaining our weight.

So, I found this recipe on Kraft's website.  It's called Philadelphia 3 Step Low Fat Berry Cheesecake.  Philadelphia? For my foreign readers, don't worry about it.

The key factors were
1.  Three steps, about as many as I can handle (those steps,  if my spouse isn't around, usually include "peel plastic back from frozen dinner. Then, microwave 5 minutes.  Let sit." )
2.  I had lots of strawberries - almost six pounds worth.
3.  I was so in the mood for cheesecake.

It was time to make all kinds of unknown substitutions creatively tweak the recipe to keep the calorie count this side of where we could still eat it.

Have you ever tried fat free cream cheese and eaten it again?  Me, neither.  I bought neufchatel cheese instead.  I decided, instead of three eggs, to use one egg and two egg whites.  And the crust?  2 graham crackers for a 9 inch pie pan?  Seriously?  Why bother with crust at all?  I decided to use a little less sugar.  I kept the vanilla extract - cheesecake must have vanilla.  There was also the lemon juice and the zest, which I will cover later.

I quickly turned to some lemon Oreos I had bought for the office to pad out the crust.  The person of honor, who loves lemon everything, had decided she didn't like lemon Oreos after all, sticking me with about half the contents.  They were getting soft, as Oreos will if they are open for more than 30 minutes.  (OK, fess up, who keeps Oreos around for more than 30 minutes?). Just perfect for a crust.  I also decided to add more graham crackers.  This was a crust, after all.

Cookies went into the blender.  Results (no butter or other fat) went into a metal pie pan, already prepared with organic canola oil.  And then, into a large bowl, I dropped three packages of softened neufchatel cheese. American neufchatel cheese, that is, which is like a lower fat (but still plenty of fat) cream cheese.

Well, if you are waiting for one of those food posts where the author lovingly takes a picture of each step, this isn't going to be that post.

Things had gotten just a wee major-league cluttered in the kitchen between the jam making, the cheesecake and my spouse's attempts to prepare dinner.  I had to move my baking efforts to the top of our chest freezer, where my spouse, preparing to BBQ some fish, had laid out the fish, and his grilling marinade, which he had poured into a small, glass bowl.  His marinade consisted of lime juice, chopped garlic, and some sesame oil.  Next to that bowl he placed the plate of fish, and some scallops.

Spouse squeezed the lemon juice and grated me some zest.  He combined them into a...yes, you've guessed it.  Another small, glass bowl.  And they were both on the freezer top.

So when I got to the next step of my cheesecake, in went the...

...garlic marinade.

I immediately (why is it always after you do something wrong?) realized my error and gave out a cry.  "My cheesecake is ruined!", I wailed.

At the risk of insuring no one will ever visit my house again for dinner (or anything else), my spouse came over, surveyed the damage, and shrugged.  "We can rescue it", he said. "And the lime won't hurt.  Neither will the oil" I hadn't beaten the cheese yet, so the blocks were still intact. Most of the liquid had gathered under the bottom block, which was supported by the bowl in the way that the marinade and the cheese weren't really touching.  Ok, a little, and there was some garlic on top of the neufchatel mound.

So spouse, oh so delicately, poured off the marinade, while I picked out the garlic, hoping that I was getting every little piece. "Don't worry", spouse said.  "Remember when we ate that garlic ice cream at a local garlic festival?  Wasn't it good?"  (Yes, we are still married.)  "And, the lime will just make it taste better."

So, prepared for the worst, I beat the cheese, added the lemon juice/zest, the sugar, the vanilla extract and then the eggs.  Baked, cooled, chilled, added the strawberries mixed in with some of the low sugar jam I made the same day.

I think I detected one piece of garlic so far. But we are eating small pieces of the cheesecake, so we may run across some more.

So, that's the secret to a good cheesecake.  Garlic marinade.  Only kidding - I think!And it was pretty good.  I think it's a bit dense - maybe next time I would add some no fat greek style yogurt.  Or, another egg white.

Have you ever had a kitchen mishap?


  1. It's really hard to ruin cheesecake! I do agree that the fat-free cheese is not worth eating. I've actually used the kraft recipe in the past, although not as creatively as you! Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome. It was fun, even the garlic part.

  2. When I was little, my sister used to eat cheesecake like humans breathe air, and I could not bring myself to eat it. It was sweet to me, then, but it had some bitterness that I just could not reconcile...

    ...and then I grew up and found myself with adult taste buds. I absolutely LOVE cheesecake. LOVE IT!

    I also love garlic, and I imagine that you could have created a pretty awesome dish if you'd just gone "all in" on it! HA!! I recently heard that there is such a thing as fried chicken flavored ice your garlic marinade should be in great company with dessert.

    Great article. I wish I could taste the cheesecake!

    1. Wish I could transmit some over the internet. And, did you hear about the fried chicken oreos? Too bad that turned out to be a hoax. I think it could have worked. I think fried chicken ice cream has possibilities, too, especially if it is sweetened with honey. I've had, believe it or not, lobster ice cream (in Maine).

  3. I giggled all the way through your post!!! I have finally found someone who cooks like I do - and is proud of it! 3 steps . . . yep that's me! Now - where did you find lemon oreos? I love lemon, I love oreos . . . I don't know that I ever thought of a lemon oreo and would love to try it!

    1. Various stores here in upstate New York sell lemon Oreos. I think it was a limited edition flavor that caught on at least semi-permanently here.

  4. #ROFL Alana - you had me in splits! hehehehehehehe

    "Well, if you are waiting for one of those food posts where the author lovingly takes a picture of each step, this isn't going to be that post." - hehahahahahahaha

    OMG! Kitchen mishaps are my best friends! :P So I completely empathize with ya. Your cheesecake does 'read' delicious - and this health nut LOVES the low-fat version hehe

    Keep penning, dear woman #HUGSSSS

    MUCH love

    1. It really was delicious. Haven't found any more garlic, but who knows what is lurking in the next slice!

  5. My mother always make cheesecakes for occasion, will introduce this to her. Thank you for the recipe!

    1. You are quite welcome. Good luck with it.

  6. That cheesecake looks amazing. My Mum makes an awesome white chocolate and raspberry one! Mmm!
    I didn't realise that you could get lemon Oreos! They sound good! :)

    1. Oreos seem to be very country specific. Not sure the lemon ones would be available in the UK, but you may well have flavors we don't have. If you still have strawberry, send me some? (only kidding).


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