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Christmas is a hard time of year for me. I struggle with seasonal affective disorder, which brings out a very specific sort of sadness. The best way I can describe it is that it's like having your emotional range shifted a few notches downwards: the highs aren't as high as you know they could be, and the lows are worse than usual.
Then there's the fact that the holiday season is just straight up overwhelming for me. It plays into all of my anxieties with a perfect storm of too many expectations, too many commitments, and too much food. Instead of feeling a childlike sense of delight, I mostly want to crawl into bed and sleep until January 1.
Granted, I bring a lot this on myself. I say yes to every invitation. I make overly ambitious lists of Christmas markets to visit, recipes to make, presents to buy, and movies to watch. For years I thought that if I just crammed enough things into the holiday season it would somehow fill the gap between the joy that Christmas is supposed to bring and my sad, stressed reality.
The past year has taught me that madly checking experiences off a to-do list is not, in fact, what actually fulfills me. Winning at Christmas is not going to help my anxiety issues or seasonal affective disorder. Binge eating Christmas cookies isn't going to help either. No one expects me to procure the ultimate Christmas gift or make dozens of chocolate covered pretzels.
So this year, I dialed it back. Instead of scheduling multiple events each weekend, I limited my activities to a hosted trip to the Amana Colonies, a college friend's annual party, the free light show at the University of Minnesota, and a holiday concert at the Minnesota Orchestra. I turned over gift responsibilities to Mike for his side of the family instead of making homemade treats for everyone.
And when it came time for holiday baking? There are so many holiday recipes on this blog already—spritz cookies, baklava cake, lebkuchen, chocolate almond clusters, double chocolate cherry drops, coconut macaroons, salted chocolate cookies, my Grandma Ruth's no bake cookies. This year, I was in the mood for something simpler. In fact, I was in the mood for the mini cheesecake recipe that I clipped out of an ad for canned cherry pie filling.
Yes, this is a recipe designed to sell processed food. Yes, instead of making a homemade crust you use an Oreo. But you know what? They taste good. And no one but you is keeping score.
For the most part I followed the original recipe from Lucky Leaf, using chocolate sandwich cookies from Aldi and Duncan Hines brand cherry fruit filling. It would be interesting to experiment with different cookie and fruit filling combinations—I think vanilla sandwich cookies with strawberry filling would be tasty, or chocolate creme Oreos with raspberry filling.
I did have a little bit of filling left over and probably could have made an extra cheesecake, but instead I elected to eat the excess filling with a spoon. Note that the cheesecakes will settle as they cool. While you can bake these the day before, add the fruit filling just before serving to prevent the cheesecake from getting soggy.
Adapted from Lucky Leaf
Yield: 18 mini cheesecakes
- 18 chocolate sandwich cookies
- 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- (21-ounce) can cherry fruit filling & topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line muffin tins with 18 paper liners. Place one cookie in the bottom of each.
Combine cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, mix on medium speed until smooth. Fold in half of the cherry fruit filling by hand with a spatula.
Spoon cream cheese mixture into each muffin liner, almost to the top.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is set and dry to the touch. Cool completely and store tightly covered in the refrigerator.
Just before serving, top the mini cheesecakes with the remaining cherry fruit filling.
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