Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Butter Crunch Lemon-Cheese Bars

New life for old cottage cheese

I hate throwing food away. For that matter, I hate wasting anything. But it really bothers me to see food go to waste, so I try hard to gauge our grocery needs and purchase accordingly. I also try to minimize leftovers (for fear they'll get lost in the back of the fridge) and find ways to use up fresh foods that are past their prime.

This anti-waste philosophy of mine is what led to the discovery of Butter Crunch Lemon-Cheese Bars.

A buttery, crunchy crust topped with a tangy, lemon filling.

When we got home from our trip to Hawaii last January, I found an outdated container of cottage cheese in the back of the fridge. Oops. Even though it was outdated, it still looked and smelled like normal cottage cheese, so I decided it was still edible. I was not, however, willing to eat it without cooking it. So, I turned to the Internet for ideas on how to use it up.

After scanning several potential recipes, I settled on this recipe from Not only did the recipe use ingredients I already had on hand, it was originally published in Cooking Light, a magazine known for its more health-conscious recipes.

There was only one problem with the recipe: it was designed to fill an 8 x 8 baking pan. In my opinion, there's no point in making a pan of bars that small. If I'm going to put in the effort to make a pan of bars from scratch, there might as well be enough of the finished product to last at least a day. Plus, I needed to use up more than one cup of cottage cheese, which is what the original recipe called for. So, I did some tweaking and ended up making the bars this way.

Butter Crunch Lemon-Cheese Bars


2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
2 cups whole wheat flour


2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon ground ginger**
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice***
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. (I use the nifty non-stick Pan Lining Paper from Reynolds Wrap.) If you use a glass pan without parchment paper, you might need to reduce the cooking time for the crust.

To prepare crust, combine butter, brown sugar, salt and ginger in a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth. Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife and add to butter mixture. Beat at low speed until mixture looks like large crumbs. Firmly press crumbs into baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

To prepare filling, place cottage cheese in large food processor. Process on high for two minutes, scraping sides of bowl half-way through. Add granulated sugar and remaining ingredients; process until well blended. Pour filling over crust. Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes. I start checking at 35 minutes and bake until filling in center of pan is firm and edges are lightly browned. Cool bars and chill for several hours before serving. Once cool, I lift the whole bar out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and set the bar back in the pan to cut. Cut the bars small; they're very rich.

*The original recipe calls for ground mace or nutmeg. I think you could also use cardamom, allspice or no spice at all.

**Original recipe uses grated lemon rind. I've also used raspberry extract.

***Original recipe calls for fresh lemon juice. I think they turn out fine with bottled juice.

After taking his first bite, Glen, who serves as my main recipe critic, said, "You can make these again!" He also wouldn't let me give any of them away.

I agree that these bars are super delicious. I also like that the recipe is very flexible. I've made these a couple times now and, each time, I've tried something new. For the last batch, I used three cups of cottage cheese and increased the other ingredients accordingly. I also keep reducing the amount of sugar, to try to obtain a less-sweet bar.

If you give these a try, let me know how they turn out for you. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

P.S. You'll need a large glass of milk to wash these down!