Lemon Cheesecake Bars with a Sugar Free Wafer Cookie Crust

The following version is sugar free because that is the kind of cookie and jello we purchase but this recipe can be made perfectly by anyone NOT eating sugar free.  Just use the same recipe but regular versions of the ingredients.

I snapped a picture... right before I ate it. No fancy shmancy 'photo shoots' here!  Just REAL FOOD for real people!

A package of lemon 'sugar' wafer cookies by Voortman Bakery is one of various flavors I pick up every so often.  Vanilla, lemon, chocolate, cookies and cream, peanut butter...  and this week I spied this package in the pantry, inside a Ziploc bag but would soon be stale no matter, since it had been opened upon arriving home from the grocery store that day.  Three or four cookies were eaten and then it was back to the pantry.

So my brain-storming mind kicked in... WHAT CAN I MAKE WITH LEFTOVER SUGAR WAFER COOKIES?

And the answer was either a pie or dessert bars.

In particular - a cold lemon pie or lemon cheesecake style bars.  I wasn't sure which at first, but then decided on bars because they seem to get eaten better than pie in our house.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars
Approximate 8X8 ish pan

Approximately 9-12 vanilla or lemon sugar wafer cookies, more or less on how thick the crust or big the pan
4 T butter (add 1-2 T more if you use more cookies)
1 small package sugar free lemon jello
1/2 c boiling water
2 pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese, soft
2/3 c granulated sweetener of choice (I like to mix 2 natural sweeteners for best flavor)
1 c half and half (or heavy cream)

Process the cookies in a food processor with an S-blade until crumbs.  Take about 2 tablespoons out to save for a crumb topping. Now, you can add the butter cold to this and pulse a couple times to mix; or melt it and mix with the crumbs after.  Press firmly into a lightly sprayed/greased pan.  The smaller the pan, the thicker the crust.  8X8 or 8X10 oblong is good for about 11-12 cookies.  Use the whole pack (9 oz) for a 9X13 pan.

Take the boiling water and pour it over the lemon jello in a small bowl or dish.  Stir to dissolve. I add an ice cube to this to help it cool down a little bit faster.  Let it cool a little while you beat the cream cheese and the natural sweeteners (or sugar).  Turn your mixer to low and add the jello to the cream cheese slowly, by pouring a thin stream down into the bowl as it's beating.  It will splatter if you turn it up on medium and high too quickly.  When the jello is added, now do the same with the half and half.  Beat on low, slowly turning up to medium high.  Whip it until it's starting to get thicker.  If you are using heavy cream it may actually get thick right away.  Now do a taste test!  If you need it sweeter, add a tablespoon of sweetener of choice (sugar, Ideal, Truvia... whatever you use) keeping adding and tasting until it's as sweet as you are used to.  As soon as it's thickened a little bit, pour and spread over your crust.  Sprinkle the top with the reserved crumbs. Chill for at least 3-4 hours, preferably 8 or more.  It will thicken beautifully as it chills.

This recipe was made because I wanted to use up these sugar wafer cookies before they lost their crisp from being opened too long.

Use as many cookies as you wish.  More or less depending on how thick you like your crust and how big your pan is.

You can add the cold butter to the crumbs and pulse a couple times or melt the butter and mix it in after.  The butter is just to help the crust form and stay nice and firm.

Start on low so it doesn't splatter all over and then work up to a medium high speed until it starts to thicken.

Spread over your crust, sprinkle with the reserved crumbs, and chill.

This was cut and ate almost immediately after making it!  I couldn't wait.  The next day it was set up perfectly and the squares were firm and perfect.  The crust was still firm and crisp too!

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