Sunday, June 18, 2017

Orange You Glad it's Summer?

It's the time of year when I frequently have Wicked Witch of the West moments because I literally feel like I'm melting every time I set foot outside. When it's 6 a.m. and the real feel is 90, you know it's gonna be a long day. I try to combat the heat by complaining about it as much as humanly possible while simultaneously thanking the inventor of air conditioning and counting down the days until our Alaskan cruise. Let's face it--while I may be from Texas, I'm about as well equipped to handle heat as a pint of Blue Bell. The only thing that summer is good for as far as I'm concerned is delicious, fruity desserts to help deal with the misery that is sweating while standing perfectly still. When I looked at the forecast for the week (and stopped crying), I decided it was time for a creamy, light-as-air dessert. I wanted something that would give me a respite from the heat, so immediately, I thought citrus fruits. And when you live in a state that's kind of known for one in particular, it seemed only natural to base my dessert around the tasty and ever-so-hard-to-peel orange. Although, my  childhood soccer games would've been woefully incomplete without orange slices at halftime, so I'll give them a pass on having an exterior more difficult to crack than most safe vaults. Say hello to the Orange Creamsicle Bar...
Orange you glad to see me?
I'm going to have a hard time resisting play on words with the word "orange" in this blog, and I'd like to apologize, but I'm not in the least bit sorry for these terrible puns. Besides, I am sharing a ridiculously amazing and simple dessert recipe with you, so I feel like I've earned the right. Soccer games aside, these squares also remind me of my childhood because they taste like a cross between a Flinstone's Push Up and a nice glass of Sunny D (purple stuff is still for chumps). With a crumbly graham cracker crust, mouth-watering orange Jello layer, and creamy pudding and Cool Whip topping, there's nothing to hate here unless you're allergic to oranges. Which I'm sure probably is a thing, so there's that. They're also guilt-free! An 8x8 pan can either yield you 12 bars at 118 calories a piece or 8 squares (in which case, I'm going to need you to call these Orange Creamsicle Squares for posterity) at 157 calories a pop. I obviously went for bar servings because these are literally the only kind of bars I'm interested in at my old age of 72. Or 30. Close enough.
I feel like 72 is more accurate, because at 30, I should be able to drink a glass of OJ without getting acid reflux. Sigh.
This recipe is actually a Kraft recipe that I completely tweaked to lower the calorie count from 310 calories a serving. To make the lightened-up version, you'll need:
  • 6 1/2 sheets of reduced fat Honey Maid Graham Crackers (save the half a sheet for later on in the recipe)
  • 2 tbs of melted butter (I used one tbs of butter and 1 tbs of butter spread to reduce calories. You could opt totally for the spread, melted to save even more, but I like the real butter flavor in a crust)
  • 1/2 a cup of Trop50 no pulp OJ
  • 1 box of Sugar Free Orange Jello
  • 8 ounces of fat free cream cheese spread, divided (leave out for an hour prior to making so it is soft but not runny)
  • 8 ounces of Cool Whip Free
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (plus a splash or two to get to the right consistency) 
  • 1 box of Jello Sugar Free Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 1/2 tsp of dried orange zest (or 1 tsp of fresh orange zest)
Tiny food processor, you are so useful.
 I have a 4-cup food processor that has saved my recipes from becoming a giant messy disaster time and time again. Either crush or process 6 sheets of graham crackers into a fine crumb.
Like so. Seriously, just buy a food processor.
Melt your butter in small bowl for about 25 seconds. While this is nuking, cut a sheet of Parchment paper to fit an 8x8 pan. Mist the paper and the edges of the pan with cooking spray.
There are few things more annoying than crumbling dessert because it is stuck to the pan. 100% humidity in June is one of them.
 Once the butter is melted, dump in with the graham cracker crumbs and blend well. The crumbs should be wet. Turn this mixture into the prepared pan and press to distribute the crust evenly:
Bonus, have your dog handy for the mess you're making.
 Set your crust in the freezer so it can firm up while you prepare the first layer of the bars.
A piping hot cup of...juice?
 Find a microwaveable liquid measuring cup and measure out the 1/2 cup of OJ. You're going to heat this in the microwave for 1 minute. While it is getting warmed up, dump the orange Jello mix into a bowl. Pour in the hot OJ (weird) and whisk for 2 minutes. There should be no clumps.
And it should be a shade of orange best described as "Cheeto-nian."
 In the bowl of your stand mixer, take HALF the fat free cream cheese spread and give a quick stir. Then add in half of the orange Jello mixture. I found it easier to whisk by hand otherwise things got sloppy. Like, accidentally soaked my phone in orange Jello juice sloppy (and yet, to my chagrin, my crappy phone is still just fine). Once sorta blended, add in the remaining orange Jello mixture. Take one cup of Cool Whip Free and plop into the bowl with the cream cheese/Jello mix. Now it's safe to use the actual mixer to blend together.
Pour this mix onto your crust and smooth out.

Lick the spatula when you're done to immediately be taken back to the last time you had an orange push up ice cream.
Place this into the freezer to set for about 15-20 minutes. When the time is almost up, prepare the topping layer by first cleaning your stand mixer bowl to simply turn around and get it dirty again (ah, the joys of baking). Whisk the rest of the cream cheese and the milk together by hand until smoothed out. Then add in the vanilla pudding mix and beat with the stand mixer until well incorporated. Add in the remaining Cool Whip Free and the orange zest. My mixture was quite thick, and since I knew I wanted to be able to spread my topping on with ease, I added in a splash of milk (about 1 tsp) to give it a looser consistency.
And it spread like buttah.
Take the topping and evenly frost the top of your bars/squares with it. Smooth out as best as you can, and then find that half a sheet of graham cracker I told you to save awhile ago. Did you eat it? Yeah, accidents happen. Just grab another half sheet then and crush it into a fine mixture. Sprinkle this on the top of your bars to complete the recipe and make it look pretty. Everything looks better with a fine coating on top (this is precisely why I wear makeup).
Crushed graham crackers--like Bare Minerals foundation for desserts.
Now, these do need to set in the freezer for about 2-3 hours. I'd err on the side closer to 3 because my hungry, ravenous, dessert-crazy stomach wanted these at the 2 hour mark, and they were very tricky to get out of the pan. Set a timer and walk away. Do something constructive like try to drink a glass of orange juice at the age of 30 without dying of reflux. Whatever you need to do, just give these bars time to set up. Like anything good in life, they are totally worth waiting for. They're dripping with so much orange deliciousness that they can probably prevent scurvy, making them safe for both pirates and your waistline! Derek and I each had a bar yesterday, and it has literally been the only thing I've wanted to eat all day even though we had steak kebabs for dinner (and you never get in the way of a Texan and her cow). For one brief moment in time, bite after bite, I forgot that it's hot enough to bake cookies on the dash of my car outside and more humid than an Amazonian rainforest in the midst of monsoon season. I would live in a pan of these Orange Creamsicle Bars if it were feasible. It might still be a little sticky, but at least it would be tasty. While I complain to my steak kabobs about this oppressive heat, I'm going to be counting the minutes until I get to sink my teeth into these amazingly light and flavorful bars. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Because the only way to get me to stop complaining about the heat is to shove you in my mouth, Orange Creamsicle Bar.

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