By Emily McKenna, Recipe Developer & Tester for EatingWell Magazine
This Memorial Day I'm hosting a picnic and each of my friends is going to bring a dish. I am in charge of dessert. Lucky for me it is cherry time-the few wonderful weeks in between spring and summer when fresh cherries are available at my farmers' market. (Sweet and tart cherries are also available year-round canned or frozen.)
Recipes to Try: Delicious Cherry Recipes including Dark Cherry Bundt Cake
I've already chosen my dessert-No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake Bars from our article about cherry season in the May/June issue of EatingWell Magazine. This recipe is part bar, part cherry pie and part cheesecake fused into a super-easy, no-bake dessert that will become your go-to for warm-weather picnicking. The best part? You don't need the oven! Here's the recipe:
No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake
Makes: 12 servings
Active time: 40 minutes | Total: 3 hours 40 minutes (including 3 hours chilling time)
To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
4 cups halved pitted sour or sweet cherries, fresh or frozen (thawed, drained; see Tips)
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons water, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Half a 14-ounce box graham crackers, preferably whole-wheat
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see Tips)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 8-ounce packages reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
2 cups nonfat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine cherries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Combine cornstarch with 4 teaspoons water, then stir into the cherry mixture; return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid thickens and looks syrupy, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
2. Process graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl; stir in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Drizzle with oil and stir to combine. Press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
3. Beat cream cheese, yogurt, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Spread over the crust. Spoon the cherry mixture over the top. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
Per serving: 348 calories; 17 g fat (4 g sat, 7 g mono); 20 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 22 g added sugars; 9 g protein; 2 g fiber; 273 mg sodium; 228 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (19% daily value).
To pit fresh cherries, use a tool made for the job-a hand-held cherry pitter; it also works for olives! Or pry out the pit with the tip of a knife or vegetable peeler.
To toast chopped, small or sliced nuts, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
What is your favorite picnic dessert?
By Emily McKenna
Emily McKenna tests and develops recipes in the EatingWell Test Kitchen. Emily recently moved to Vermont from New York City, where she worked at Food & Wine, food52.com and Real Simple. She is a recent convert to the glories of kale and has a weakness for doughnuts, strawberry licorice and anything her Italian-American grandmother makes, especially pizza.
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