After our last set of finals in high school each year, my close friends and I would walk a couple of miles from campus to the shopping mall up the road, where we picked a place from the plethora of restaurants to eat, flip through yearbooks, and talk about summer vacation plans while sitting in the warm June sunshine. Those afternoons full of reminiscing and bellyaching laughs were always the perfect finish to the school year.
For our senior year, we chose one of the fanciest restaurants at the mall and arrived right as they opened to avoid the hour-long line normally associated with that chain. Tired of being cooped up in classrooms, we elected to sit at a table outside under the umbrellas.
At the end of the meal, nearly everyone else ordered a dessert from the extensive menu, but I politely declined, knowing that my parents probably planned on celebrating with an ice cream cake after dinner that evening. (It’s my mom’s favorite way to celebrate any graduation—elementary, middle, and high schools, and yes, college too!)
Since the restaurant was famous for it, one guy requested a slice of their traditional cheesecake with a side of fresh berries and whipped cream. When the plate arrived, I nearly gasped at the size of the piece—and sat in amazement as my friend polished it all off. I would’ve needed to run a half marathon to compensate for all of those decadent calories!
With my younger brother’s very special graduation quickly approaching, that cheesecake memory resurfaced. I thought that making a healthier version of it to serve alongside my mom’s favorite dessert would be the perfect way to celebrate, which resulted in these Skinny Raspberry Cheesecake Bars!
Let’s start with the graham cracker crust. Normally, all of those crumbs are held together by a stick or two of melted butter. No thank you! Instead, we’ll use just a tablespoon plus an egg white and a touch of milk for our lighter version. They bind together the crumbs without tasting greasy or heavy, and that simple swap shaves off quite a few calories too!
Now for everyone’s favorite part: the filling! It’s sweet, creamy, and packed with protein—basically a dessert lover’s dream come true. For the best texture, make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before beginning. I know it’s hard to remember to set those bricks of cream cheese on the counter ahead of time, but I promise it’s worth it!
Unlike that slice that served as today’s inspiration, I decided to mix fresh Driscoll’s raspberries into the filling instead of simply serving them on top. I’ve been on a big fruit kick lately, so the more I can add to my treats, the better! Because the berries release juice while baking, we’ll add a little extra cornstarch to the filling to help the bars set.
The hardest part of baking cheesecake is always the waiting game at the end. The cheesecake bars need to chill for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator before slicing and serving to ensure that they set with the creamiest texture possible. It’s pure torture to spend an afternoon gazing at them on the shelves whenever I pull open the door, so I usually bake my cheesecakes at night so they can set overnight while I sleep!
But this creamy, fruity, protein-packed reward is always worth the wait!
Prep time: 25 minutes • Bake time: 35-38 minutes • Cool and chill time: 4 hours
- for the crust
- 7 sheets (109g) honey graham crackers
- 1 tbsp (14g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 large egg white, room temperature
- 2 tbsp (30mL) nonfat milk
- for the filling
- 2 (8oz) blocks fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup (96g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg white, room temperature
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (140g) fresh Driscoll’s raspberries, chopped (a little less than one 6oz package)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F, and lightly coat an 8”-square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- To prepare the crust, add the graham crackers to a food processor or blender, and pulse until they’re fine crumbs. Add the crumbs to a bowl, and mix in the butter, egg white, and milk. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 300°F for 8 minutes. Cool completely.
- To prepare the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the egg white until just incorporated. Beat in the cornstarch and vanilla. Gently fold in the diced raspberries.
- Spread the filling on top of the cooled crust. Bake at 300°F for 27-30 minutes, or until the center only jiggles slightly. Cool completely to room temperature; then cover the top with plastic wrap, ensuring that the plastic completely touches the filling. Chill for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.
This is a paid endorsement from Driscoll’s — visit www.driscolls.com for more berry recipes. As always, all text, opinions, photos, and recipe are my own.