Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. The boy and I both had nine days off together. It was great to have free time to catch up with friends. I’m pretty much a creature of habit, who thrives on structure though, so getting back to a normal week today feels fabulous! Aside from my brief, mini melt-down on Thanksgiving, it was a much enjoyed week. Repeat after me… The holidays are stressful. Please tell me you are in total agreement. I’m highly suspect of people who pretend the holidays are complete bliss. Let’s be real; even if we think we don’t have expectations going into the holiday season, they’re there just hiding on the subconscious level.
This year the boy was scheduled to be with his dad for Thanksgiving dinner. Matt and I are not your typical divorced couple. We care about one another, parent our son as a team, and have mastered the art of flexibility. Okay, it’s not as picture perfect as it may sound. Divorce is never good, but I think we’ve made the best with the challenges we’ve been given.
So yes, I had a little moment during Thanksgiving (actually a few moments) of not holding it together very well, feeling stressed over what I couldn’t control, and sad for not having exactly the life I had envisioned for myself. It was not my best moment (mascara running down your face on a holiday is never attractive). Some baking therapy and a few hours of retail therapy this weekend helped me gain perspective again. After making three batches of sugar cookie dough and a couple of impulse buys, here’s what I arrived at… The picturesque vision I have of my life is not reality, and even if it was, it wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling as the incredibly functional, dysfunctional life that I’ve been blessed with.
These apple cheesecake bars, aren’t the apple pie you probably envision, but like my crazy life, they’re even better. They start with a layer of oatmeal cookie crust, topped with a creamy layer of cheesecake. A thin layer of apple pie filling is then hidden under a to-die-for streusel topping. These were amazing. What put them completely over the top was enjoying them with a bottle of Kendall Jackson and a best girlfriend, while planning our New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys reunion concert night, and catching up on our reality-trash TV shows. It doesn’t get much better than that!
These bars would be great to make for a holiday cookie exchange and different from the usual cookie recipes people bring. Just remind your friends to refrigerate the bars. Feel free to tweak this to make it more toward your taste preferences. If you love the apple pie filling, double it. If cheesecake is your thing, you can easily make one and a half times the cheesecake layer, just adjust the cooking time by several minutes. The cookie layer is simple thanks to Betty Crocker, but if you feel compelled you can make the crust from scratch.
Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars (adapted from Betty Crocker)
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker oatmeal cookie mix
1/2 cup firm butter or margarine, cold
2 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I ommitted these)
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.
Place cookie mix in large bowl. With pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and coarse. Reserve 1 1/2 cups crumb mixture (to use for streusel recipe below); press remaining crumbs in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over partially baked crust. In medium bowl, mix pie filling and cinnamon. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture.
1 1/2 cups reserved crumb mixture from crust
1 cup cold, salted butter
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
In large bowl with electric mixer combine, reserved crumbs from crust, butter, flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla until all crumbly. Break crumb topping into marble size pieces with fingers, sprinkling over top of apple filling.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes longer or until light golden brown. Cool about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to chill, about 2 hours. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
- Spreading the cream cheese layer can be tricky. First drop tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture all over the cookie crust and then spread.
- Chill for a few hours. Don’t rush this step.
- I prefer these taken out of the refrigerator for a few minutes before serving.
- Double the apple pie filling if desired.
- Make one and a half times the cream cheese mixture if desired.
Wishing you a week that’s even better than you envision!