As the pony and I were going to be spending Christmas day at our house with just the two of us this year, celebrations with my family took place a couple days earlier, and I volunteered to cook.
They are all meat eaters, and my step dad in particular feels quite strongly that a meal without meat is really nothing more than an appetiser, so I always relish having the chance to show them that vegetarian meals can be every bit as tasty and satisfying as a big slab of steak.
For the main course, I went with a veggie lasagne – a bit of a cliche, but with homemade pasta and a really good tomato sauce it tastes amazing – roasted cherry tomatoes and green beans and a garlic and mozzarella flatbread/pizza type thing.
For dessert, I thought we would need something light, especially with days of roasts, Christmas pudding and yule log just around the corner, and when I saw these cheesecake bars posted by Handle the Heat I knew they would do the trick.
A buttery biscuit base and creamy vanilla cheesecake is swirled with freshly made cranberry sauce, which cuts through the sweetness perfectly. They’re also light on calories – sliced into 12 bars they’re only about 160 calories each which is pretty good for cheesecake!
They went down very well with my family, as did the rest of the meal – although they’re still a long way from being sold on the virtues of vegetarianism…
Cranberry swirl cheesecake bars (recipe adapted from Handle the Heat)
- 175g biscuits – I used Fox’s butter crunch
- 40g butter, melted
- 400g low fat cream cheese
- 150g caster sugar (50g for the cranberries, 100g for the cheesecake)
- 100g fresh cranberries
- 3tbsp water
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tbsp plain flour
To make the base, blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they turn into fine crumbs, then pour the melted butter in while the mixer is running. Press into the base of an 8×8″ square greased and lined tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool.
For the cranberry sauce, heat the cranberries, 50g sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and created a syrupy liquid. Pour into a food processor and blent until smooth. You may need to add a little extra water to thin, or a little icing sugar to sweeten, depending on how tart the berries are.
While the cranberry sauce is cooling, beat the cream cheese with the remaining 100g sugar until smooth, then add in the eggs, vanilla and flour and beat again. Pour over the cooled biscuit base, then drop dollops of the cranberry sauce on top. Use a skewer to swirl the cranberries through the cheesecake, taking care not to over mix, then bake at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until pulling away from the edges of the tin but with a slight wobble in the centre.
Leave to cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 2-3 hours before slicing into bars and serving.