Guess what folks, Valentine’s Day just so happens to be this weekend. I love a good reason for a bit of indulgence—all the more appreciated when reserved for special occasions. These skinny strawberry cheesecake bars are as rich and indulgent as traditional cheesecake, but much healthier for you. Share them with your partner or best friend, or hey, the cheesecake can act as your valentine too.
The ingredients include Greek yogurt, light cream cheese and egg whites. This recipe cuts down on the fat and sugar content of traditional cheesecake, which features a lot more cream cheese and sour cream. This crust is also nut-based instead of graham cracker-based.
My husband and I like to cook a meal at home or order fancy delivery for Valentine’s Day. I used to work at a restaurant, which kinda ruined my image of romance in restaurants on that particular day. More tables than usual were crammed in, and the servers (the ones who didn’t get the day off) were unhappy with their tables of two and smaller tips. Usually the restaurant tried to get people in and out as fast as possible. This is not to say that all restaurants are the same; I just can’t enjoy the experience as much. So instead, we now usually cook something at home that we’ve never tried before. A bottle of wine and a great homemade meal, with a decadent dessert.
So, this recipe. The first layer, the crust, is mixed in the food processor: walnuts, pitted dates to make it sticky, and a bit of cinnamon and salt. If the mixture doesn’t stick together in the food processor, add a couple drops of water. Then press the crust into an 8×8-inch baking dish. As another option, you could fill a muffin tin with liners and make small cheesecake cups. In that case, you would press some of the crust into the bottom of each cup.
The next layer is diced strawberries. Strawberries are one of my favorite foods of all time, so of course I included them in my valentine’s recipe. The recipe that I adapted this one from used raspberries, so that’s also an option. Something to add a pop of fruity flavor.
The final layer is the cream. Side note: this is where it became difficult to name the recipe. Calling something healthy versus skinny versus low-fat versus lightened-up? Ideally, I would call these lightened-up strawberry swirl cheesecake bars, but that’s a bit of a long title. Naming cheesecake ‘healthy’ also didn’t seem quite right (unless you are counting mental health). But the recipe is low-fat, healthier than regular cheesecake, and still as delicious.
The filling ingredients are mixed together gradually and then poured over the crust. The last step is to add more strawberry jam for the swirl. I actually put my jam in the microwave for 15 seconds to make it more runny, then poured it over the top and used a toothpick to form the swirls.
Probably the most difficult part of this recipe is waiting. The bars bake for 25 minutes, then cool at room temperature for another half an hour, and then chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving. Therefore this is actually a great recipe to make ahead of time, even a couple of days in advance. One less part of dinner to make on the day-of. When you finally get to take a bite of these bars, the waiting will all be worth it.
- 2 cups walnuts
- 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates (about 10)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, diced
- 8 oz. light cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup strawberry jam
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil. Place all of the crust ingredients into the food processor and blend until finely ground. If the mixture isn't sticking together, add a few drops of water and blend again.
- Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and press into an even layer to form the crust. Top with chopped strawberries.
- Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Use a stand mixer or hand mixer to whisk the cream cheese on medium-high until smooth, about one minute. Add the yogurt and mix until completely combined. Next add the egg whites and mix. Lastly, add the sugar, flour, lemon juice, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined and no lumps remain.
- Pour the filling over the crust and strawberries. Smooth into an even layer. Drizzle with strawberry jam. If desired, use a toothpick to swirl the jam.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then cover with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours. Once chilled, lift out of the pan, cut into bars and serve cold.