For the Crust:
* 1 cup butter, softened but not to room temperature
* 2 cups flour
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup pecans, chopped in small pieces
For the Cream Cheese Layer:
* 2 (8oz) packages Philadelphia cream cheese
* 1 cup powdered sugar
For the Pudding Layer and Topping:
* 2 small packages Jell-O instant lemon pudding mix
* 3 cups cold milk
* 3 – 4 drops lemon extract or 1 tbsp lemon juice – optional
* 1 (16oz) container Cool Whip, almost totally thawed
* Lemon zest, to garnish (optional)
1. Stir together butter, flour, sugar, and chopped pecans in a mixing bowl. A fork works really well to get everything mixed together.
2. Press into a 9×13 baking dish and bake 15-20 minutes at 350°, or until a light golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
3. Beat together cream cheese and sugar until creamy and smooth. Spread over cooled crust.
4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together pudding mix and milk.
5. Then whisk in the lemon extract or lemon juice if using. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to thicken up a little. Spread on top of the cream cheese layer. Cover and place in the fridge for 4 – 6 hours. May be refrigerated overnight.
6. When ready to serve, spread whipped topping over the pudding layer. Cut into 18-24 pieces (depending on how large or small you want them) and garnish with fresh lemon zest