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A Berry Good Cheesecake for Mom

By Dennis Linden
Image of Berry Good Cheesecake
Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
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Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child some basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all your hearts forever. Enjoy your kids in the kitchen, they will be grown & gone before you know it! “No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

Mother’s Day is always a great opportunity for kids with some experience helping mom out with meals, to fly solo in the kitchen or at least not under mom’s supervision. So, to make it easy on mom’s replacement this day, here’s a no-bake, pink raspberry cheesecake that your young helpers can present with a rose bouquet of fresh strawberry petals!

A slice of fresh berries ‘n cheese would be the perfect cap off to a Mother’s Day Brunch; or hide the cake in the fridge for a surprise after-dinner dessert just when she thought her special day was coming to an end! This cheesecake can be made the day before or on Mother’s Day morning if it gets at least three-hours of freezer time. The freezer is also a good hiding place since the honoree is always barred from the kitchen that day anyway!

Except for slicing the strawberries thin, the rest of the tasks in this recipe can be accomplished by a child of almost any age with supervision. While a processor can be used for the crust, instead, even a very young helper might have more fun crushing the crackers with a rolling pin. The no-bake aspect of this recipe will quicken the time to finish the secreted prep that the occasion demands. The recipe can also be a good introduction to the fundamentals of “baking” without mom’s substitute also having to deal with a hot oven.

And it’s the perfect time of the year for this recipe! Right now, fresh raspberries and strawberries are peaking in volume and quality as harvests coincide with two holidays synonymous with fresh berries – Easter and Mother’s Day. A flyover of the southern growing regions of both Southern California and South Florida are a red patchwork of sweet lusciousness at this time of season. But why just look from afar, use this bounty to honor mom with a rose. The tasty kind! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

What the supervising adult can do:
Your most important task for this surprise Mother’s Day cake is arranging for the incognito preparation. This recipe is relatively quick to construct except for the recommended freezer time. It should not take even the most inexperienced helpers less than an hour to complete. Task #2 is to keep mom from snooping around freezer. As for the recipe, oversee the slicing of the strawberries or do it yourself if your sous chef is very young. Then he or she can still do the decorating with the slices.

Berry Good Cheesecake!
Serves 12
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1 box Graham crackers, crushed (about 2½ cups)
1 stick butter, melted
3-8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
4 baskets raspberries
½ cup water
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Fresh strawberries, sliced thin (for a rose petal topping!)

What the kids can do:
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Crush the graham crackers a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to turn them into fine, sandy crumbs. Or use a food processor but it’s not as fun! Then combine crumbs with melted butter in a bowl.
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Transfer crumbs to springform pan and hand-press them tightly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. The bottom of a small water glass sprayed with cooking oil works well for this task too. Place pan into freezer for 10 minutes.
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Puree the raspberries and water in a food processor. Set aside.
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Beat softened cream cheese with lemon juice. Add whipping cream and beat on medium/high until thickened. Then blend in the vanilla and berry puree. Pour this mixture over the graham cracker crust, it should spread evenly. Place back into freezer for at least a few hours/best overnight.
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Remove cheesecake from spring form pan, then decorate with overlapping sliced strawberries to resemble an open rose of edible petals. Don’t forget to thaw before surprising mom!
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