With spring in the air and summer not far behind, it won't be long before we are in the height of berry season.
Strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries are just a few of the tasty fruits that are available beginning early June and through the height of the summer season. Not only is it a good idea to start thinking of ways to use this bounty that is available to us, but berries are on the top-ten list of super healthy foods.
This recipe, low-fat raspberry cheesecake bars, from the Cleveland Clinic, are filled with flavor, and each serving has only 165 calories. According to the clinic's nutrition information, there also are three grams of protein, six grams of fat (of which only three is saturated fat), and 25 mg cholesterol. The sugar content is 16 grams per serving, most of which are the natural sugars in the fruit. This recipe also has 169 mg sodium and 59 mg. potassium.
Tribune Chronicle / Kathleen Evanoff
Low-fat raspberry cheesecake bars are filled with raspberry flavor and are wonderful as a take-along treat for get-togethers. At only 165 calories per bar, this recipe from the Cleveland Clinic only makes you feel like you’re cheating on your diet.
Everyone knows that fresh berries are better than sugar-laden syrups and sauces, especially if they are processed and canned. Although this recipe does call for jarred preserves, I wouldn't hesitate to substitute a product that is made up of all fruit with no added sugars. In most cases of reduced fat recipes, the flavor and texture is enhanced with added sugar.
Growing these fruits in our own backyards is particularly easy. If there isn't enough space for rows of raspberry canes or cherry trees, growing alpine strawberries in containers is a possible option. Many people are surprised to learn that they can grow fruit as well as vegetables, and not just an occasional apple tree or grapevine either.
Several years ago, the husband and I planted a few short rows of raspberry plants. Other than learning to share with the birds, those plants produced enough berries each season to enjoy a few of our favorite recipes. Although we no longer grow our own raspberries, I begin to scan the newspaper's classified ads in early June each year for farms and farmers markets offering fresh, locally grown fruit that we can purchase in bulk and store in our freezer. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruit that hasn't traveled 2,000 miles to get our front doors.
I used raspberries, as the recipe suggested, but I don't see why strawberries, cherries or any of the berries that are in season couldn't be used as well.
The recipe was quite simple to put together. It took about 20 minutes to grind the graham crackers into crumbs using a small food chopper, and I liked the consistency that the applesauce gave to the crust. I've made graham cracker crusts before using only melted butter, but the addition of unsweetened applesauce made it easier to press the mixture into the baking dish.
After the crust is prepared, it is simply a matter of whipping the cheesecake ingredients and then layering the preserves and fruit onto the crust before pouring the cheesecake batter over the top.
I would have to say the hardest part of making this dessert is waiting for the cheesecake to cool completely before cutting it into bars and enjoying the fruity flavors.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 2 egg whites)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (10 -ounce) jar seedless raspberry jam or preserves
1 cup fresh raspberries
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Mix butter, applesauce and graham cracker crumbs and press onto the bottom of a 13 -by -9 inch pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until creamy. Add sugar, egg, egg substitute (or egg whites), and vanilla. Beat until well blended.
Stir the jam in the jar until softened and then spread it evenly onto the crust. Top the jam with the berries, then pour on the cream cheese mixture, spreading evenly.
Bake 30 minutes or until slightly puffed
Cool completely before cutting into bars. Keep refrigerated.
Makes 24 servings.