cheesecake bars

I have an emotional attachment to certain dishes. Not in a creepy way, but in a sense that a flood of memories come back each time I eat these foods.

Like tortilla chips and ketchup, the latter in lieu of salsa. Weird? Perhaps. But it's something I've grown up with -- it evokes memories of sitting on the back porch in the hot Texas heat, the country music on the radio and the splash of water a backdrop to the make believe world my brother and I were shrouded it. It was different all the time -- sometimes it was store, other times it was house, and occasionally it was even Spider Man; he was Spidey, I was MJ.

cheesecake bars

Cheesecake is another one of those foods. On the Mother's Day when I was five, my mother made cheesecake. Before eating it, we went for a family bike ride in a nearby neighborhood. While pedaling along on the road, I was suddenly knocked off my bicycle by a pitbull. The dog worked its way from my upper arm to my neck, while my mother clung to my nearly two year old brother and my father tried to loosen the dog's grasp on me. I remember every detail of that day, down to my shirt, my favorite. It was white, with five multi-colored chicks (that is, baby chickens) across the front. (Thankfully, except for some bites and bruises, I was fine for the most part.) Now, each time I eat cheesecake, it's a juxtaposition of sweet and slightly bitter, remembering that day.

So far, this summer has been a myriad of lovely things -- vacations, lots of good books, stripes and coral toes, and some not-so-lovely heat. I don't mean to complain, but I don't think I've ever experienced anything this brutal. The heat index has been hovering around 110 degrees Fahrenheit for the past three weeks and it doesn't look like there will be a reprieve anytime soon. Iced beverages are always close at hand -- my choice of late has been, of course, lime infused ice water -- and the thought of eating warm dessert isn't exactly appealing.

cheesecake bars3

I had a craving for cheesecake the other day; partly nostalgia induced, partly because it sounded delicious. While riffling through the binder that is home to miscellaneous recipes my mother has collected over the years, each piece of paper splattered with food stains, a sign of a well loved dish, I stumbled across a newspaper clipping. A recipe for cheesecake bars, it was the very same one my mother used to make all those years ago.

The butter and cream cheese went from the refrigerator to a plate outside in the sun to soften (who needs a microwave anyway?). The Kitchen Aid churned the ingredients together -- I tested the filling a bit more than necessary...ahem -- and everything went in the oven. As the aroma wafted throughout the house, I was reminded again of my childhood.

These cheesecake bars are incredible. My favorite way to eat them is with fresh sliced strawberries, but they would be delicious with anything. They're delicious for breakfast, too -- not that I would know anything about that.

Any favorite nostalgia-inducing recipes? Do tell!

cheesecake bars2

cheesecake bars
(recipe for 8x8 pan; can be doubled and baked in a 9x13 pan)

-- 5 tablespoons butter, softened
-- 1/3 cup brown sugar
-- 1 cup flour
-- 1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped
-- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
-- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
-- 1 egg
-- 2 tablespoons milk
-- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
-- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and brown sugar; add flour and nuts and mix. Set aside one cup of mixture for topping. Press remainder in bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan and bake 12 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, blend granulated sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add egg, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat well. Spread over bottom crust and sprinkle with the reserved topping. Return to oven and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool, then chill and serve. 

cheesecake bars4