Looking for a dessert for this holiday weekend, I wanted something light, relatively quick, with little oven time, and using some of the many fresh fruits on special this week.
A recipe I've made for years fit all these requirements (although I did pre-bake the Cheerios crust to be sure it held together a little better when baked.) I have put "cheesecake" in quotes, as this isn't quite so rich and thick as the "real" thing...but then, it is quite a bit lower in calories than the original style.
While a processor makes the whole thing come together quickly, it isn't an absolute requirement. Putting the cereal in a heavy plastic bag and crushing it with a rolling pin (or just your hands) will work, but Cheerios are harder to crunch than other cereals.
I had planned to arrange the blueberries in one corner, with stripes of strawberries across the rest, making a flag facsimile. However, those who would be eating this dessert are all blueberry fans, so I had visions of people bargaining for the corner where all the blueberries would have been. The final arrangement still carries out the Fourth of July color scheme. And, as you can see from my usual non-professional photos, even slightly askew stripes and randomly sized berries still makes this an attractive addition to any cook-out dessert array.
No Bake Cheesecake for the Fourth of July
3 c Cheerios crushed to 1 1/2 cups
1/3 c ground pecans or almonds (optional)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c melted butter
1/2 t cinnamon
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
1/4 c cream cheese, softened
2 c nonfat yogurt
1 c milk
1. Put the Cheerios in the processor and process until very crumbly. Add the other crust ingredients and pulse until evenly mixed. Press the mixture into the bottom of an oiled 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly before adding filling.
2. Meanwhile, beat all the filling ingredients together, using the plastic processor blade. Blend just until smooth and the pudding mix is completely dissolved.
3. Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Arrange the berries and strawberries over the top. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
Pan size: If you prefer a greater proportion of filling to crust, you may make this in a 7 X 11 pan. Use the following amounts for the crust: 2 cups Cheerios, 1/4 c ground nuts, 3 T brown sugar, 1/4 c melted butter, and 1/4 t cinnamon.
Crust: Replace the Cheerios with Rice Krispies or corn flakes. OR just use a pre-made graham cracker crust. Any of these substitutions could be made without any baking, though the crust may not hold together as well when cut. The Cheerios really need to have the pre-baking step included for best results.
Filling: Use any flavor of instant pudding. Lemon pudding goes well with fruit toppings.
For pumpkin pie spice flavor--something I found marked down after last Thanksgiving season--or butterscotch pudding, top with candied nuts or a mixture of nuts and dried fruits. The crust could have ginger snaps substituted for the Cheerios.
Use other fresh fruits such as peaches, bananas, etc.
Canned (or prepared at home) pie filling makes a good topping as well. Just spread evenly over the top.
Use chocolate pie flavor and top with bananas, nuts, chocolate chips or shaved chocolate, and/or whipped cream, etc. The crust could be made from chocolate cookie or cake crumbs instead of Cheerios and brown sugar.