I had a movie party in my house last week. It was part of a sponsored event, and so of course I had to provide food. Because this is me. And I cook and entertain all the time – and I love doing it. Since I had purchased cereal as part of my food donation (you’ll have to read about what we did – I thought it was pretty cool and we’re going to do it again later this summer), I wanted to make a dessert with a cereal I had purchased to sort of tie the whole thing together.
Have I ever mentioned that I love recipe searches? While I rarely am able to actually follow a recipe verbatim, it often gives me all sorts of great ideas – or drives me batty when I have a concept in my head and no one has ever done anything like it so I have to do it on the fly and hold my breath. As I searched through recipes on the Post site, I found a few that looked good… but the vanilla orange bars were the ones that finally pulled me in. Of course I had to alter the recipe… because that’s who I am, but oh did it turn out yummy!
Vanilla Orange Bars
2 c Honey Bunches of Oats with Vanilla Clusters, divided
1/4 c butter
1/4 t nutmeg
1 package neufchatel (or use regular cream cheese, but the neufchatel is lower fat naturally so doesn’t taste plastic-y), at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla (I used my new vanilla bean paste – SO yum)
2 T flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 c orange juice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 glass baking dish.
In your food processor, grind 1 3/4 cups of the cereal until it is just crumbs, along with the nutmeg. If you don’t have a food processor, put it in a bag and whack on it until it’s just crumbs – great for getting our your frustrations! Melt the butter, and mix the two together until the cereal is completely coated with the melted butter; it will get there, although at first it looks as though there isn’t enough butter. Pour the cereal mixture into the 8×8 pan and press it firmly together to make an even layer. This will be your crust, so you want it packed in pretty well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and the soft neufchatel until creamy. If you don’t have the cream cheese at least a little soft and do this step, you’ll end up with lumps later. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly between the additions. Add the orange juice and mix until blended. Pour in the salt and baking powder and mix thoroughly before adding the flour. Once it’s all incorporated, pour the mixture atop the crust you made (you still have 1/4 cup of the cereal in reserve – we didn’t forget about it).
Bake the “cheesecake” for 30-35 minutes, until the center is set – basically until it doesn’t jiggle like liquid anymore. The edges of the dessert may be turning golden by this time, but that’s ok. As soon as you take the bars from the oven, gently press the reserved 1/4 cup cereal into the top of the bars. Let it come to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours before cutting and serving. Another reason this is a great party dessert? It’s a must make ahead item!
Cut into small squares, as these are fairly rich, and serve. Keep this in the fridge. They are best in the first 1-2 days, as the cereal topping will get soft, but that’s only if you’re able to have them stick around that long!