Happy November!! Today I’m bringing you these Apple Crisp Cheesecake Bars as part of a BGB Virtual Friendsgiving Celebration. Bloggers Gonna Blog (BGB) is a community made up of healthy lifestyle and food bloggers from all across the globe. I’ve “met” some incredibly talented, passionate and inspirational bloggers through this community and today many of us are coming together to celebrate the beginning of November and the start of the holiday season. And the best part? You’re invited! So pull up a seat at the table because this is one Friendsgiving feast you’re not going to want to miss! **Be sure to check out all of the links to other bloggers’ mouth-watering dishes at the bottom of this post.**
If you know me at all, then you know that I have a major sweet tooth. I’m the girl that will leave part of her dinner untouched, and yet jump at the first mention of dessert. I like to think that I have a second stomach and it’s reserved exclusively for dessert.
That being said, It should come as no surprise that I was a fan of baking long before I was a fan of cooking. In fact, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally began to experiment with dishes that DIDN’T revolve around sugar. These days, I tend to spend more time cooking than baking (probably a good thing considering cupcakes are probably not the most nutritious dinner option), but you’d better believe I still take advantage of any opportunity to bake up some sweet treats.
So when I first heard about the BGB Friendsgiving, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to go back to my baking roots. The only problem was, I couldn’t decide what on earth I wanted to make (after all, when you’re in the presence of so many incredible food bloggers, you’ve got to bring your A game). Soo I did the only logical thing and I made two desserts – but combined them into one dish and called it a day. Boom. Problem solved.
Maybe being indecisive isn’t such a bad thing after all…
Now, if you came here looking for a “healthy” dessert, this is probably not it. This recipe is not low calorie, low fat, or low sugar – labels that our society today has come to view as “healthy”. Sure, you’ll find Greek yogurt, whole grains, fruit and nuts (all quite nutritious ingredients); but you’ll also find butter, sugar, and *gasp* gluten (although it can be made gluten-free if it really needs to be). This is a dessert, after all.
And today I’m here to tell you to eat the dessert.
No, that is not a typo. This dietitian is telling you to eat dessert.
By now, you know that I’m all about proving that wholesome and nutritious plant-based foods can, in fact be delicious. But you know what else can be delicious? A nice, rich, decadent dessert. And that’s okay.
To me, “healthy eating” should never be about restrictions. It should be about feeding our bodies foods that make us feel good, both physically and mentally. And some days, that might mean a big kale and quinoa salad. Other days, it might mean Apple Crisp Cheesecake Bars. And that’s okay.
What’s not okay is depriving yourself entirely of those foods that bring you joy and ultimately add to your overall mental health. Over the years, I’ve witnessed too many people struggle with unhealthy relationships with food. Usually, it starts all too innocently, either as a way to shed a few extra pounds or simply improve one’s health status. But these efforts can quickly spiral into unhealthy lifestyle patterns fueled by restrictive diets and “fear foods”. And if there’s one thing that food should never be, it is feared.
Our society has become obsessed with utilizing restrictive diets as a means to achievable weight loss or health goals. But these diets do not work and here is why… Depriving yourself of foods that you love typically ends in one of two ways: tossing in the towel and binging on previously “off-limit” foods (which often leads to feelings of guilt and thus fuels an unhealthy cycle of “yo-yo” dieting) or disordered eating. And let me be clear.. neither of these are “healthy” by any means.
So as the holidays approach, I want to take a moment to remind you that it’s okay to eat a slice of grandma’s famous pumpkin pie. Or to go back for a second serving of stuffing. After all, the holidays are a time to enjoy good food in the presence of good company.
So although these Apple Crisp Cheesecake Bars may not meet society’s definition of “healthy”, they are certainly “healthy” in their right. These bars serve as a reminder that all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle with balance and moderation.
Because sometimes the only thing that’s worse for your health than eating dessert (or whatever your “guilty pleasure” may be) is NOT eating dessert.
- 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/4 cup crushed walnuts, reserved
- 8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese (aka neufchâtel), room temperature
- 1 cup caramel apple Greek yogurt (both Chobani and Trader Joe's carry this seasonal flavor)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 2 large apples, chopped (I used a Golden Delicious and Jonagold)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8x8" baking dish with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, allowing the paper to go up the sides of the dish. Set aside.
- Combine first 5 ingredients (flour through salt) together in a large mixing bowl and stir. Add melted butter and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Divide the mixture in half. Press one half of the mixture into the prepared baking dish to create a crust.
- Bake the crust for 11-13 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes while you prepare your cheesecake filling.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and yogurt with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and continue to mix on low speed until combined.
- In a small bowl, gently toss apples with cinnamon and nutmeg until evenly coated.
- Spread cheesecake in an even layer over par-baked crust and top evenly with chopped apples.
- Mix chopped walnuts into remaining "crust" mixture and crumble over apples.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top is golden and cheesecake is set.
- Refrigerate cheesecake for at least 4 hours prior to slicing.
- Substitute plain full fat Greek yogurt and add 3 tbsp of packed brown sugar to cheesecake mixture. Increase cinnamon from 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp.
- Substitute oat flour for whole wheat pastry flour and use certified gluten free oats.
- Makes 16 (1") bars.