Sunday, March 20, 2016

Strawberry Cheesecakes

Featured Ingredient: Strawberries

Despite the warmer than normal winter, it’s still nippy in these parts of Canada and I’m definitely not hearty enough to brave the chill and ride outdoors. So I’m still toiling away on my indoor bike trainer and catching up on some movies – it’s the only thing that makes it bearable. I just finished In The Heart of the Sea, a tale of a giant whale that took out its frustration on a whale ship. A spear to body will do that. It’s the inspiration for Moby Dick. After the beast of the sea destroys the whale ship (spoiler alert), the crew are left to anguish on a desolate island. Which got me to thinking. Let’s say that I was also a castaway and could only bring with me one muffin tin dessert, what would that be?

I believe it would cheesecakes. So good I would definitely have to fend off my fellow castaways. I’ve been experimenting with different no-bake individual cheesecakes, using everything from avocado to pumpkin to coffee as the main ingredient. This strawberry version is not too shabby either. I like using a mixture of cream cheese and yogurt to make them less of a calorie bomb but still indulgent tasting. And featuring an almond-oat crust only ups the nutritional ante.

If you want a dessert that looks like it’s much more of a high-flying kitchen feat than it is and is sure to impress, try these portion controlled cheesecakes and let me know if you would also make it your deserted island nourishment.

Strawberry Cheesecakes

1 cup pitted dried dates
3 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) strawberries
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup unsalted almonds
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or a neutral tasting vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Dark chocolate, grated

Place dates in a bowl, cover with hot water and let soak 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towel.

Combine strawberries and a couple of tablespoons water in a blender container; blend until pureed. If using thawed frozen strawberries, you can just blend them and the juice they released without the water. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing with a wooden spoon or spatula, to remove seeds.

Place oats and almonds in a food processor container and process until nuts are pulverized. Add dates, oil, coconut, and honey; process until the mixture sticks together when squeezed between your fingers.

Divide oat mixture among 12 standard sized silicon on paper line metal muffin cups and press down firmly to form flat crusts. Place in refrigerator while you prepare the topping.

Stir together gelatin and 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl; let sit 5 minutes. Puree together yogurt and cream cheese in the food processor container. Bring milk, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add gelatin and stir until gelatin has dissolved.

Add strawberry puree and hot milk mixture to the cream cheese mixture and blend until combined. Pour yogurt mixture over crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. If using silicon muffin cups without paper liners, unmold them by running a butter knife around the edges.

Serve topped with grated chocolate.

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