Experiments in Baking:Impossibly Healthy Lemon Cheesecake Bars

impossibly-healthy-lemon-cheesecake-barsOne struggle of living a clean eating lifestyle is when I get this pesky little itch, the itch to bake. Measuring, mixing, and creating something so beautiful and tasty out of a few unappealing ingredients is a relaxing and rewarding endeavor in the journey, but not so much the result, when you are left with a pan of brownies to dispose of. The best receptacle? My belly.

The bug began to itch when I was in Germany. Every street corner has a bakery with fresh breads and cakes. Although I did well in refraining from indulging in one there, I really wanted to bake my own. When I start getting the desire to bake, I don’t just think “I should make a cake.” I begin to envision an entire masterpiece. I began obsessing over creating a cheesecake with light slices of lemon baked artfully into the top. A concoction pleasing to the tongue and eye.

Although I still had the desire to make the cake when I got home, I don’t let myself bake unless there is an occasion. Luckily my best friend decided to visit for the weekend, and that was the only incentive I needed. Besides waiting for an occasion, my other defense to excessive baking is not owning any baking equipment and ingredients.  It’s a good strategy until I reallyyy want to make something. Luckily, I recently stole a 8×8 square dish from my mom, so I had something to work with. Limited by my dish, I decided to bake bars instead of a cake. I scoured Pinterest for some ideas for a cleaned up cheesecake recipe. I found plenty of “healthy” recipes made with Greek yogurt and low fat cream cheese, but they all still contained white flour, sugar, and a buttery crust. Therefore, I decided to get real experimental. Bump the sugar, let’s get stevia. Who needs butter when there’s coconut oil?

Even with the pan, I still don’t own important tools like a mixer. I kept this in mind in my shopping, and purchased whipped cream cheese, since cream cheese would be the stiffest and hardest to mix of the ingredients. The whipped actually had less calories and fat than the reduced fat option. I’m not sure if it contains some unwanted additives to create the whipped texture, but let’s ignore that fact for now.

I headed to Aldi for my shopping, because their prices cannot be beaten for baking supplies. I purchased a small cup of Greek yogurt, whipped cream cheese, and stevia. I already had the coconut oil and a lemon at home. I picked up a bag of white flour a couple of times and contemplated buying it, since the recipe only needed two tablespoons. But I knew if I had that whole bag sitting in my pantry, it would be too much temptation to use it all up in baking recipes that were made predominantly out of this less than ideal ingredient. So instead, I decided to make oat flour. I always have oatmeal on hand at home. Oat flour is ridiculously simple to make, simply place the oats in the blender and grind. For this recipe, I was able to use it 1:1, replacing white flour. I’m not sure if this works in every recipe.

I mentioned my vision for beautiful lemon slices baked into the cake. I attempted this by slicing the lemon on my mandolin. Unfortunately, the slices were a bit big and did not bake in at all. While it created attractive bars, the slices had to be removed before eating, so I would not recommend this addition.

So with just some oats, greek yogurt, and light cream cheese, not only are these bars IMPOSSIBLY healthy, but also impossibly versatile! They make a great dessert or breakfast option, and the light citrus flavor compliments a warm winter day, or any spring and summer occasion.

My girls and I enjoyed the bars, and I was very proud to create such a low cost, low calorie dessert.

Impossibly Healthy Lemon Cheesecake Bars

  • Servings: 8 bars
  • Time: 45 mins to bake, 3 hours to cool
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Crust Ingredients

  • 3/4 c oats (ground and sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c coconut oil
  • 1/2 c oats
  • 4 tbsp water [/recipe-crust ingredients]

Cake Ingredients

  • 6 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
  • 1 small container plain Greek Yogurt (5.3 oz)
  • 1/3 cup stevia (8 packets)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp oat flour

Directions

Crust Directions

  • For the crust, preheat the oven to 400 degree and spray a 8×8 nonstick pan.
  • Place the 3/4 cups of at in the blender. Blend until a flour is formed. Sift the flour into a large bowl, adding the salt.
  • Add the coconut oil to the bowl. Ensure it is room temperature: solid, not liquid.
  • Combine the flour and oil until little crumbles form.
  • Add the rest of the whole oats, mixing well.
  • Slowly add water to create a rollable dough. Once the correct texture is achieved, roll the crust into a ball and place in dish. Flatten the crust until it covers the bottom of the dish.
  • Place the crust in the oven, and allow it to bake a bit while you begin working on the cake (no more than 15 mins).
  • Allow the crust to cool a few minutes before adding the cake batter.

Cake Directions

  • Reduce the oven temperate to 350 degrees.
  • (If you are lucky enough to have a mixer) Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer or use a large bowl and hand mixer to beat the cream cheese until smooth. (If you don’t have a mixer, whisk whipped cream cheese for about 3 minutes.)
  • Add in the Greek yogurt, stevia and pinch of salt. Whisk, beat or mix, until smooth.
  • Add the liquid ingredients one by one, starting with the egg, egg white, lemon juice, lemon zest, and finally vanilla. Combine the mixture until smooth.
  • Then, add the additional oat flour.
  • Once everything is combined to a smooth texture, pour the filling into the cooled oat crust. Place the dish on the middle rack of the oven.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. The mixture should be stiff, not jiggly.
  • Turn off the oven and crack the door, but allow the bars to cool. This reduces cracks in the cake.
  • Once the bars have cooled off, place them in the oven for a couple of hours before serving.

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