Right now I'm baking a cheesecake for Thanksgiving, which made me think, why they hell am I spending 4 hours making a cheesecake? I could have made a no bake cream cheese pie in 15 minutes and spent the rest of the evening whipping my husband at phase 10. Don't make the same mistakes I did kids, below is a plan for the perfect holiday dessert.
When I was a kid my Grandma used to make these Strawberry cream cheese pies for most every holiday. For many years, I thought they were cheesecakes, and find that I still prefer them over cheesecake for a variety of reasons. First, they are super easy to make, and only require a few ingredients. Second, you don't have to bake them, which makes them the ideal pie for summer birthdays and winter holidays alike. Finally, you can mix and match crust and topping options to please whatever crowd you're serving.
You can always purchase a graham cracker crust, and I admittedly do this from time to time. If it's just plain graham cracker, you can't beat the simplicity. If you wanna get wild though, you can run just about any crunchy cookie through a food processor until it's in crumb form, then mix it with some butter and sugar to make a crust. My personal favorites for crusts are Gingersnaps and Famous chocolate wafer cookies (which are like Oreos without the cream).
To make a crust, mix together 1 3/4 cup cookie crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and 6-8 tbsp melted butter. Mix together then press into a pie pan. To set the crust, bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Let it cool for about 20 minutes before filling.
This is the one part you can't compromise on. It's essential that the measurements are exact, otherwise the filling won't set and you will have a sloppy pie.
You will need:
1- 8oz package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature.
14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
Beat the cream cheese until fluffy (about 2 minutes) then gradually add the sweetened condensed milk. Beat until smooth (another 2 minutes usually does it). Slowly add in lemon juice and vanilla, until combined. Pour into pie crust and smooth, then let it sit in the fridge for 4 hours to set.
Fruit is going to be the most popular option here. My grandmother always topped it with strawberries, which we would soak in sugar, then cook down and thicken with cornstarch to make a syrup. If you're in a hurry, this is a great time to use a can of pie cherries. Blueberries go great as well, as they blend nicely with the subtle lemon flavor in the filling. If you're doing a gingersnap crust, might I suggest some apple pie filling, or baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon. If you go for a chocolate crust, a crumble of chopped cookies and walnuts drizzled with caramel simulates a turtle cheesecake. The options are endless here.
Surely many of you will read this recipe and find that it sounds familiar. That is because for the better part of the century Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk has printed this recipe on the inside of it's can labels. I haven't seen it there in a long time, but a similar version appears on Eagle's website.