Simple Sides: No Bake Mango Cheesecake – No Cheese!
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 can adult attention might be especially needed.
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 basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
As November weather drives the kids indoors, how about planning a rainy-day baking lesson that will bring a bit of tropical sunshine to an otherwise blustery day? Here is an easy, delicious and very healthy no-bake “cheesecake” that is a great introduction to the three parts of any pie or cheesecake; crust, filling and topping (only without the need for a hot oven, high-calorie cheese or even bakery-perfect looks for that matter!) This recipe is a very forgiving starter dish with a slightly nutty base crust and creamy mango filling, all topped off with more mango as a purée and fresh-cut fruit. It's a cake on mango overload, yet with no sugar added and only 160 calories per slice!
The first culinary lesson in this recipe introduces your helpers to the springform cake pan. The pan is a piece of bakeware with sides that can easily be removed from the base. The removable sides allow the baked good to release from the pan without inverting it or lifting it out; a spring latch tightens around the bottom, forming a seal - when loosened, the ring mold can be lifted off. Simple instructions for this procedure are provided in the recipe below. Note: while the springform pan is a support mold, a perfectly shaped cheesecake is not the priority here and should not be emphasized or expected from your novice crew. Great if it comes out bakery shop display worthy, but these early days in the kitchen should be all about perking an interest in the process and not producing a Michelin star dish. Allow the kids to have fun with this – perfecting the appearance will come with experience. For this reason, the photos of the finished cake here are purposely a little “rustic” in style so your crew will not have a display case model to compare/compete with.
Of course, the star of this recipe is the mango. Quality and ripeness are assured – just look for Melissa’s Sapūrana mangos, offered at many retail outlets. We source mangos from each of the major growing regions around the world and then pre-condition (ripen) them in a controlled storage environment. The result is perfectly ripe, ready-to-eat fruit that takes the guesswork out at retail of trying to pick ripe mangos based on color.
Not only does the mango have a pleasantly sweet flavor that kids enjoy, but it also has many nutritional benefits that contribute to their overall health. The interior yellow color of most mango varieties is a sign of high content of both beta carotene and lutein, both extremely important to the development of healthy eyes and eyesight. Mangos also contain high fiber and various digestive enzymes that protect against stomach acidity and other common digestive disorders in kids. The fruit is also packed with vitamins C, B, B6 and A, which are vital for developing bodies. Understandably, puréed mango is a very popular baby food item.
As mentioned, this recipe requires an organized process to make each of the three parts of the cheesecake. The bottom crust is an easy mix of oats, almond flour, oil and agave. Even the youngest sous chefs can get involved by being tasked to pat down this mixture evenly with a serving spatula. Once the mangos have been prepped and puréed, it’s just a matter of dividing and combining each with the few other ingredients to make both filling and topping. So this is a very basic recipe, perfect for the beginning cook on the face of it. The challenge for your assistants is the other key ingredient in each part; patience. That is, the kids must literally chill out between stages – the crust is popped into the freezer for 30 minutes, the filling must hunker down in the ‘frig for at least 4 hours (I did an overnight stay) and the topping needs another hour or so of chilling to set before the garnishes can be applied. So the supervising adult should be prepared for this start-stop procedure which will take about 6 hours total. Best to start the prep in the late morning, plan for the intervals of wait time, and then, a rainy day will end in a rainbow of tasty mango-ness! Enjoy!
No Cheese Mango Cheesecake
For the crust:
¾ cup instant oats
¾ cup almond flour
3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons Melissa’s Blue Agave
Mango purée (3 cups, divided):
4 large ripe Sapūrana mangos, peeled and pitted (3 chopped and pureed, and 1 cubed for topping)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the filling:
20 ounces natural Greek yogurt
2 cups mango purée
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon gelatin powder
3 tablespoons water
For the topping:
1 cup mango purée
2 teaspoons gelatin powder
3 tablespoons water
fresh mint leaves for garnish
What the supervising adult should do:
How to Remove Cheesecake from a Springform Pan
- Run a knife around the cheesecake to help loosen it up.
- Release the spring and remove the ring.
- Run a knife under the cheesecake base to loosen it.
- Insert two big flat spatulas underneath, on opposite directions.
- Swiftly yet confidently lift the cake with the spatulas and place it on a serving plate.
Crust: Blend oats and almond flour in a food processor for a few seconds to create a semi-coarse mixture. Add in the coconut oil and agave, continue blending until thoroughly mixed. Pour into an eight-inch spring form pan, then press the mixture out evenly using the back of a spoon. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes while preparing the filling.
Mango purée: place chopped mango pieces and lemon juice in a food processor and blend into a smooth puree. Separate into two small bowls: 2 cups for filling and 1 cup for topping. Set aside.
Filling: Transfer the 2 cups of purée to a large mixing bowl. Combine the gelatin and water in a micro-safe container, set for 5 minutes so the gelatin can bloom, then heat slowly in the microwave at 10-second intervals until gelatin dissolves. Blend two tablespoons of the mango purée with the gelatin water before adding it back into the bowl of purée. Slowly whisk in the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Pour this mixture over the chilled bottom crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Topping: Once the filling has completely set, combine water and gelatin in a bowl for 5 minutes to bloom. Heat gently in the microwave to dissolve, then add to the remaining ½-cup of mango puree, and mix well. Pour this mix over the chilled and set filling and immediately swirl the pan so that the second puree covers the whole top surface with a thin layer. Place back in the fridge for another hour.
Cube the remaining half mango and arrange artfully on top with a sprinkle of mint leaves to add a subtle layer of flavor and a needed splash of color. Slice, serve and enjoy!