Now that spring has arrived, it is time to start thinking of some refreshing desserts to tempt the palate. I have my first picnic coming up in a few weeks, so I was planning ahead and contemplating what I could make for the event.
Cheesecake seems to be an all-time favorite, so I pulled out my mother's recipe for Cherry Cream Cheese Pie. This recipe is a classic, and it has been a big hit with my family over the years. It has a cheesecake flavor, but it is creamier then your average cheesecake. This recipe has more of a pudding consistency. Starting with a store-bought graham cracker crust and ending with canned cherry pie filling, this pie is easy and delicious.
As I was surfing Pinterest, I found quite a variety of desserts that were prepared in coffee mugs, glasses and even small mason jars. There were layered cakes, puddings and parfaits. I even found a variation of my dessert from the Pioneer Woman called Cheesecake Shooters, which were prepared in wine goblets for a more elegant presentation. There are endless possibilities for the type of glasses you can use for this dessert. This was just what I needed to put a twist on my everyday pie - cheesecake is not for the plate anymore. Although the goblets made a nice presentation to guests, I decided to use the clear plastic wine glasses for my picnic.
Tribune Chronicle / Debbie Wilson
Cheesecake parfaits can be customized for different holidays. Use cherry and blueberry pie filling for a fun, patriotic dessert.
I made a slight change from the original recipe when I made my parfaits. I simply folded in whipped cream, which made a good recipe even better.
To start the individual Cheesecake Parfaits, mix 1 cups graham cracker crumbs with 1/4 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Spoon crumbs into the bottom of each glass. Gently press down crumbs. (I used a rounded tablespoon to tap it down.) Mix cream cheese pie mixture as directed. Spoon the filling over crumbs in each glass.
The easiest way to fill small glasses is to put the filling into a large plastic zippered bag and seal. Snip off the corner and squeeze a helping over the crumbs in each glass.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip whipped topping
1 can cherry pie filling
Whip softened cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk while continuing to beat, until well blended. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract; blend well. Fold in whipped topping, until well blended. Spoon over graham cracker crust, prepared in individual glasses. (For a pie instead of parfaits, pour mixture over a 9-inch graham cracker crust.) Chill for about two hours before topping with cherry pie filling.
I prefer to let them set in the refrigerator for about two hours, then top with a spoonful of cherry pie filling. This would be perfect to use for a Fourth of July party, by topping some with cherry pie filling and others with blueberry pie filling.
What I love about this recipe is that it is very versatile. A friend of mine inspired me to be creative and take my recipe a step further. Try making a layer of crust from Vanilla Wafers, Oreo cookies, Nutter Butter peanut butter cookies, or even Lorna Doone cookies. To make a cookie crust, simply crush about 25 cookies into crumbs then stir in 3 tablespoons of melted butter. (Shortbread cookies may take less butter.) Because the cookies are sweet enough, sugar is not really needed in cookie crust. Next, be creative and choose your favorite topping. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Strawberry topping: Wash and slice fresh strawberries then add to strawberry glaze. (You can find strawberry glaze at your local grocery store.)
Raspberry topping: Stir raspberry jam until smooth then add spoonfuls to dessert.
Peanut Butter Cup: Top with a spoonful of chocolate syrup then add chopped peanut butter cups. (Peanut butter cups are easier to chop if they are stored in the refrigerator.)
Oreo topping: Top with a spoonful of chocolate syrup then add Oreo cookie pieces.
Caramel Turtle: Top with caramel ice cream sauce then garnish with chopped pecans.
Brownie topping: Top with a spoonful of chocolate syrup then add brownie pieces.
As I got into making this selection of cheesecakes, I gathered up the peanut butter and the hot fudge topping and started to experiment. I found a whole new world of cheesecake flavors. I added a little bit of peanut butter to part of my cream cheese mixture. Then I added a little bit of hot fudge to another part of my filling. Wow! This was amazing! It made me realize that I can create just about any cheesecake flavor I want with this one simple recipe.
If you want to keep it simple but still make it look enticing, simply top the Cheesecake Parfaits with fresh fruit or your favorite cookie or pirouline wafer, just before serving.
For my picnic, I decided to be adventurous and let everyone garnish their own dessert cups. I am going to set up a cheesecake bar. It will be similar to a sundae bar only with cheesecake cups. Simply put out an array of toppings into individual dishes and let the fun begin. Happy cheesecaking!