Monday, April 7, 2008


I was supposed to go to my Monday morning Pleine Aire class today, but stayed home with a terrible sinus headache. This followed a "sick" day yesterday with my ears stopped up accompanied by nausea and no appetite. Is it a virus or is it pollen reaction? Who knows. I just know I feel rotten. I love the Pleine Aire class, though we haven't been able to paint outdoors yet because of the weather, so we've been meeting in the classroom. Our teacher took photos for us and we've been working on painting from those. An artist I'm not, but it is so much fun to slap paint on the canvas and watch it develop into a sort of picture, even if it's not great art.

Anyway, since I played hookey, I thought I would post this recipe which I actually made last week. Apples and cream are a winning combination, and this recipe is really, really good. It's like eating apple pie and cheesecake together, so what's not to like? I incorporated whole grains, used lower-fat cream cheese and reduced the sugar to make this dessert a little more user friendly.

Paula Deen's Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping, adapted

Apple filling:
 5 cups mixed apples, sliced about 1/2" thick
4 Tbsp. Smart Balance or butter
5 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Crust: 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup quick oats (not instant)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Cheesecake Filling:
 2 (8-oz) pkgs. cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchatel)
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch

Streusel Topping: 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/2 cup quick oats (not instant)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

Caramel Drizzle: Purchased Caramel Sundae Sauce

For apple filling, in large heavy fry pan, saute' apples in the butter and sugar till apples are partially cooked and the butter and sugar get syruppy. Remove apples and syrup to a cookie sheet; sprinkle lemon juice and cinnamon over apples and lightly combine. Cool thoroughly.

For crust: Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse till combined. Press evenly in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

For streusel topping: Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse till combined. Transfer to small bowl. Wipe work bowl clean with damp paper towel.

For cheesecake filling: Combine cream cheese and sugar in work bowl of food processor and pulse till well combined and smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing till combined. Add remaining ingredients and pulse quickly just till combined. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl as needed.

To assemble: Pour cheesecake filling over partially warm crust. Don't be shocked. This will barely cover the crust, but it will rise just enough to make a nice little cheesecake. Spoon the apples evenly over the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel topping. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Refrigerate several hours or overnight for best flavor. Drizzle with caramel topping before serving. Yield: 24 bars

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