Monday, February 11, 2013

No-Bake Lite Strawberry Cheese Pie

 I realize that some of you are still trying to stick to your New Year's resolutions. If you are one of those people still trying to stay satisfied while cutting calories, this recipe is for you. I originally made it for our PTO meeting. I wanted to make something sinful and dangerously loaded with calories (like my English Toffee - post coming soon), but I thought I would be nice and play to all crowds. This dessert satisfies my sweet-tooth without making me feel too guilty. Isn't that what we're all looking for?
   I did this as a "no-bake" dessert, but if you did bake the crust for 10-15 minutes @ 350F it will hold together better. My end result was kind-of crumbly, but still tasty.
I wanted to change things up from the usual graham cracker crust, so I used Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers instead.
You'll need 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers (about 54 crackers). You can crush them in the food processor of in a zip-top bag. Since I'm all about not doing the dishes, I opted for the bag.

Just put them in the bag. Close the bag most of the way (leave a small opening so air can escape, but no crumbs can get out), and pulverize those suckers. Had a bad day? Take it out on the crackers.

When the crackers are thoroughly crushed, add 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter, melted.

Squish the butter and crumbs together, to make sure that all the crumbs are coated.

Dump the crumbs into a 9x13 baking dish. And press them out into an even layer.

I really should have crushed up my crackers a little more, but it's fine. Press the crust firmly into the dish. (At this point you could bake it to make it set more, but I didn't.) Put it in the fridge to set.

While the crust is firming up, turn your attention to the cheese filling. 16 oz is what you'll need. And I used Neufchatel instead of cream cheese, because it is lower in fat and calories.

To the softened cheese, add 1/4 cup sugar.

Beat the cheese and sugar together until they are really smooth and creamy.

Then you're going to fold in 1 8oz container of Lite Cool Whip. (Again, you could use something with more calories, but I'm trying to make "lite" dessert.)

Fold them gently together until they are one homogeneous mixture. (Like my big words?)

Take the crust out of the fridge and spoon the cheese & cool whip mixture over the top - a little at a time. Making sure to get the whole crust covered.

Use a spatula to spread it out evenly.

Like this: Put it in the fridge while you do the next step.

It's time for the strawberries! Washed and dry please.

You'll need 1 cup of chopped berries. I decided to do this in my mini food processor, to save time. I just put a few berries in . . .

pulsed a few times and then added some more berries. I repeated this until my bowl was full of chopped berries (it's a 1 cup bowl).

When 1 had 1 cup, like this: (Mine are chopped pretty finely. It doesn't need to be this fine, but small is better than large.) I put them in a sauce pot.

I rinsed out my processor bowl with 1/2 cup of water and added that to the berries.

Then I added some sugar. (Isn't it pretty? I love it when I get shots like this.)

Stir it all together and cook it over medium heat until it boils.

In my food processor bowl again, I added a little more water and some cornstarch.

Mix them together until all the cornstarch is dissolved.

Let the strawberry mixture boil for 5 minutes.

Add the cornstarch slurry.

Stir it together and let it boil for another 5 minutes - until it's thick an clear (not white anymore).

Turn the heat off and strain the mixture.

Stir it around to help it go through the sieve.

You'll be left with the pulp in the strainer - but don't through this away! It's good for lots of things, and very tasty. Its' essentially strawberry preserves.

The clear strawberry glaze will be in receptacle below. (I used a 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup because it has a spout for easy pouring later.)

While the glaze is cooling, start halving strawberries. Just take the tops off and slice them from top to bottom, through the middle.

Lay the strawberry halves, cut side down, on top of the cheese pie. You can decorate yours any way you like. I think you get the most strawberries on by making rows, with alternating directions.

Like this: When you have all the strawberries laid out, and the glaze is cool it's time to finish!

Slowly drip the glaze over all the strawberries. Making sure they all get an even coat.

When they are all coated, the whole thing goes into the fridge for 24 hours.

Don't forget about the "strawberry preserves" in the strainer. This is how I enjoyed mine - atop a fresh piece of homemade No-Knead French Bread (coming soon). SO good! I had two pieces. :)

The next day you are ready to serve.

Isn't it pretty?

Can you see the layers?
This is the first piece. The crust is crumbly. Two things would have fixed it - baking it @ 350 for 10-15 minutes, or making the crumbs smaller, so the butter had a better chance if holding it all together. Either way, it still tastes amazing!

Here's the recipe:
Note: You can change out the "Lite" options for full fat versions (i.e. cream cheese for the Neufchatel and whipped cream for the lite cool whip, but it will no longer be a "lite" dessert.)

No-Bake Lite Strawberry Cheese Pie
*If you half the recipe it will make a 9 inch pie.

1 1/2 sleeves of Reduced Fat Ritz crackers (about 54 crackers), crushed into fine crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted

16 oz Neufchatel, softened 
8 oz tub of Lite Cool Whip, thawed 
1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 lb strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved

1 cup  diced strawberries (about 1/2 pound whole)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water, divided
5 tsp cornstarch (1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp)

Combine the cracker crumbs and butter, making sure that all the crumbs are coated. Press firmly into a 9x13 dish. Refrigerate. Beat together the filling ingredients until smooth. Spoon onto crust. Spread evenly with a spatula. Refrigerate the "pie".
Make the glaze by cooking the diced strawberries, sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of water with the cornstarch until all the cornstarch is dissolved. Add to the strawberry mixture and boil for another 5 minutes, until thick and clear. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve over a  bowl or large measuring cup. The pulp will stay in the strainer and the glaze will fall through. Set aside to cool.
Decorate the top of the "pie" with the halved strawberries. Slowly drizzle the glaze over the strawberries, making sure that all the berries get an even coat of glaze. Refrigerate the "pie" for a minimum of 4 hours before serving. (24 hours is best)

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