You know how bloggers have those long titles that indicate everything that’s missing from a recipe?
“Gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, nut-free, nightshade-free, pesticide-free, GMO-free gingersnaps.”
I’m not criticizing, as I’ve been guilty of my own version of this, I’m just pointing out how “free-from” obsessed we’ve become.
Or, maybe I’m just preparing you for — cue scary music — sugar-full, egg-full, dairy-megeddon cheesecake.
But first, this is my mom, back in her “salad days.” She had unusual and clever terms for everything from being young and beautiful (salad days) to dying (stepping off). She was funny, brilliant, beautiful, and feisty—right up to the moment she stepped off, which she did in typical fashion (full of grace and humor) last month. Margaret was 96-plus years old when she died. Hers was definitely a life well-lived.
I grew up eating whole foods. My mom was an amazing cook. She never relied on processed food, TV dinners, or store-bought cookies. Ever. She made everything from scratch and didn’t shy away from butter, bacon fat, eggs, cream, or sugar. We also ate fresh beets, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, beans, quinoa (where she found quinoa all those years ago, I have no idea), wild and brown rice, and a host of other fresh vegetables and whole grains. We didn’t eat much meat because she was frugal, but the meat she did buy was the good stuff and she made it last by using a small amount to make a big meal. Ham and lima bean soup that lasted for days. Beef stew with a ton of vegetables. Brown rice, vegetable, and chicken soup. She made bread and biscuits from scratch and delighted in serving over-the-top desserts when we had guests. Margaret was famous for her creme brulée, cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter cake, brownies, and lemon meringue pie, but she refused to share recipes. Absolutely refused.
When my mom stepped off, the first thing I put “dibs” on was her recipe box, which I found tucked away in the back corner of a rarely-used cabinet. Along with her recipes were several vintage cookbooks and old kitchen utensils. I sat on her kitchen floor for at least an hour, thumbing through recipes, flipping through cookbooks, playing with utensils. Tears running down my face.
I have a sign in my kitchen: Love people. Cook them good food.
I’m blessed to have been taught that. Thank you, mom.
And now (drum roll, please) I’m sharing Margaret’s cheesecake recipe, of which, we served at her “stepping off party.” Please bake it with joy and share it with love. This cheesecake is a Thanksgiving tradition at our house, but this year I’ll be making it instead of my mom. Sniff, sniff. But life goes on, so let’s be thankful for family, friends, and cheesecake.
Margaret’s Cheesecake (gluten-free, but full of dairy, fat, and sugar)
What you need
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup, plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 extra large eggs
1 & 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 carton (8 ounces) sour cream
What you do
Beat together until smooth — cream cheese, 2/3 cup of the sugar, eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla. pour the mixture into a buttered 9 & 1/2 inch glass pie plate. (This Pyrex pie plate works the best. It’s a touch bigger than traditional pie plates.) Bake in preheated, 350° oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until puffy and lightly brown around the edges. When done, it should spring back when lightly touched in the center. Cool cheesecake at room temperature (will sink slightly). Whisk together sour cream, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Spread over cheesecake 1/2 inch from edges. Continue to bake at 350° for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate. Top with fresh fruit or fruit compote if desired (optional, it’s just as good plain).
Several people from the assisted living home where my mom lived came to her “celebration” service. An elderly man came up to me after the service, took both my hands in his, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Your mother really liked me. She brought me the best homemade cookies and brownies.”
I love the fact that this elderly, hunched over, little gentleman said, “Your mother really liked me.” What a gift to give someone. Good food and a warm heart.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I’m grateful for all of you.
Now, go, cook good food for those you love and be thankful for the fact that you can.
Peace, love, and cheesecake.
PS If you’re worried about the fat and sugar content in this cheesecake, keep in mind that my mom lived to be 96-plus years old and she often ate cheesecake for breakfast. Nourishment is about more than just food.