Gluten Free For Good


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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.

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43 Responses to “Cheesecake”

  1. Oh my goodness, Melissa … now I have tears running down my face. What an absolutely amazing and perfect tribute to your mom! I love that photo of her in her salad days, the fact that your mom was a quinoa pioneer, how she “really” liked her friend, your thoughts on nourishment being about more than food … and so much more. Just all of it really. So beautiful, just like your mom in that photo–wow! Now I am adding Margaret’s Cheesecake to my Thanksgiving menu–thanks so much to her and to you.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear! xoxo,

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks so much, Shirley. I appreciate your super-kind comments! It’s funny, normally I’m blabbing about whole foods, nutrition, no sugar, and lots of exercise and here I am touting the importance of full-fat, full-dairy, full-sugar cheesecake as “nourishment.” =) Well, what the heck do we know anyway, Margaret lived to be as sharp as a tack up until she stepped off at 96-1/2 years old. She didn’t exercise other than an occasional yoga or tai chi class and she ate cheesecake for breakfast (with her coffee) quite often. As for the little old guy, I just loved the fact that he actually said, “Your mom REALLY liked me.” And he tied it to her sharing her homemade brownies and cookies with him. He said it made his day when she brought him a treat. How wonderful is that?!

      Anyway, thank you for all you do and for your friendship. I am blessed. BTW, one of the cookbooks I found was “A Treasury of Great Recipes” by Vincent Price!! I did some research and there are 2 new versions available on Amazon for $548.72 each. WHAT??? A Vincent Price cookbook for hundreds of dollars?? Don’t throw those old cookbooks away! xo

  2. Peter Alcantar says:

    To a life well lived! To your mom! may you always smile knowing the legacy she left behind. I’ve not interacted and posted in a loooong time but always enjoy your posts. Thanks for sharing your story about your mom and this recipe…there really are few things like “real” baked cheesecake.


    ps…we have the same sign in our kitchen…a bumper sticker from a particularly good spice company…we placed it on our microwave to remind us we need to cook and not “nuke” our food. I admit there are times when the microwave is handy but it’s rarely used these days.

    • Melissa says:


      Wow, thank you SO much and it’s very nice to hear from you. Yes, to a life well-lived — she was one in a million, that’s for sure. I know, I make all the “alternative” stuff because I’m into really healthy food, but sometimes a full-on, sugar-filled treat is what we need. My mom ate so well just naturally, but she never shied away from a heavenly dessert. This cheesecake is easy and unbelievably good. I hope you make it sometime. Cheers!!

      PS I don’t even own a microwave. =)

  3. Tevis says:

    Best darn cheesecake on the planet – I’m making for thanksgiving here too Mom, and you can bet that the Friday after Thanksgiving, I’ll be sitting in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and one of the final slices of this cheescake thinking of you and Markie!

    • Melissa says:

      Well, Tevis we sure ate a LOT of cheesecake at Markie’s stepping off party! And for several breakfasts afterwards. It’s one of the best traditions we have in this family. I love it!! Although after eating cheesecake for 3 or 4 days, I must admit, I wasn’t feeling all that great. =) Call me on Thanksgiving morning and we can toast Markie with cheesecake and coffee! xoxo

  4. Deb Wheaton says:

    Thanks for another elegant post. Hope you’ll share more of Margaret’s memories – and her recipes too. Can’t wait to try the cheesecake. And, thanks. I really enjoyed the happy tears.
    xoxo Deb

    • Melissa says:


      I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately. When I come up for air, let’s meet on the GF Prairie and toast to the circle of life and “happy tears.” I’m thinking a nice mellow red wine would go awesome with Jeremy’s new GF oat pizza crust. I can’t wait to try it. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving with your wonderful family. xo

  5. IrishHeart says:

    This is about the loveliest blog post I have ever read. I am tearing up, but also smiling. Thank you for sharing your Mom with us and for sharing her recipe, too.

    I have an 86- year- old Mom who goes to the gym 3X a week with her “girlfriends”–all in their 60’s– and she does cardio kickboxing and walks about 2 miles before even looking like she may be getting a bit tired, so I can relate to a mom like yours. My Mom went GF after my celiac diagnosis 2 years ago, BTW, realizing she had lifelong gut issues for a reason, though she never complained about it. Like anything else in her life, she just made up her mind and did it. She feels great. Here’s to our Moms!

    I make cheesecake for the family every Christmas. Last year, I used GF grahams and no one seemed to notice or care. But this recipe is superior in many ways, I can tell. For starters, it’s been road tested by your family 🙂 and I am thinking, who needs the buttery fattening crumbs?

    Creating food and watching people enjoy it gives me great joy. It is “spreading the love” indeed.

    Your Mom sounds like a real cool cookie and I just LOVE that picture of her. My sympathy on your loss. But she lived a long and successful life, from the sounds of it–and that is all any of us can ever hope for.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family.


    • Melissa says:

      Irish Heart,
      Oh my gosh, thank you for such heartfelt sentiments. I love the story of your mom hanging out at the gym with her much-younger “girlfriends.” And good for your mom for just going gluten-free and sticking with it. Some people can switch on a dime and not make a big deal about it. Sounds like your mom has a great deal of determination and grit. Great qualities — and yes, “here’s to our moms!”

      I must say, other than the fact that this cheesecake recipe is a dairy-bomb of high proportions, it’s REALLY good and so easy. Let me know if you try it.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, as well. I really appreciate your thoughtful and entertaining comments! =)

      Peace and love!

      • IrishHeart says:

        ok, even crazier? I clicked on your link to the fluted edged Pyrex pan. Yes, that’s the same as my grandmother’s pan! (well, it was my Mom’s and now, it’s mine. I have it right here. When I make this at Christmas, I’m taking a pic and sending it to you.
        Thanks again.

      • Melissa says:

        Irish Heart,

        We were meant to be friends. =) No doubt about it.

        Happy pie baking!


  6. Cathy says:

    Melissa, sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. I remember meeting her years ago; she was a geniunely happy-to-meet-you kind of person. I also remember an adventure you had as a kid with her homemade cookie dough and milk that elicited a less than warm response. Anyway, I can’t wait to try her cheesecake recipe – I have lots of cheescake junkies in my family to share it with!

    • Melissa says:


      Thank you for your comments — and yes, I do remember that story. As I said, my mom was feisty! I hope all is well with you. We need to get together! I’d love to see you. Let’s make that happen after the holidays. BTW, I saw Mary Lou recently. =) It’s so fun to connect with old (not that we’re “old”) friends. Have a wonderful holiday!

  7. what a lovely post! I am so sorry for your loss but feel very lucky you have shared pictures and memories of your BEAUTIFUL mother with us. And the cheesecake….looks delish!

    love to you sweet friend!

    • Melissa says:

      Oh, Christine — I miss you, but I’m rereading Paddlefish right now and feel like I’m right there with you (minus the nasty portages, etc.). You are such a joy! And YES, this cheesecake is delish. Here’s to good food, fine wine, holiday traditions, and friendships. I’ll be seeing you in TX next year. I just know it! xo

  8. Alta says:

    A lovely tribute, and a lovely-looking cheesecake! 🙂

    • Melissa says:


      Thanks! I agree, although this recipe isn’t typical of the ones we normally promote! =) Sometimes we need to stray a little for the sake of tradition. I do that on occasion with dairy, but never gluten (obviously, since I have celiac). This pie is tradition, so we’ve got to stick with it for sentimental reasons. Plus, it’s SO good! Happy Thanksgiving. xo

  9. Johnna says:

    I so enjoyed this post! Growing up, our neighbors kept a coffee can of bacon grease on the back of the stove. It was used to make pie crust, kid you not. All summer they would garden until dark, then have pie on the porch. They both lived well into their 90s. The last line of your post is poignant.

    And I love the motorcycle photo. 🙂

    • Melissa says:


      Thanks for your comments. I love the story about your neighbors. My mom had a can of bacon grease under the counter. I don’t recall eating bacon that often, but she made sure the grease went a long way!! She didn’t use it in pie crusts, but she sautéed Brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc. in it. Plus, fried eggs. Eggs were always fried in bacon grease. Actually, now that I think about it, the asparagus (which grew in the yard as I recall) tasted awesome sautéed in bacon grease. I’m guessing the bacon she used is quite different from most of the bacon available now. At that time, you got meat from neighbors who had a cow or pig, not from factory farms. Sadly, things have changed.

      Yes, I love the motorcycle picture as well!

      • IrishHeart says:

        Now I am really laughing. My Mom and your mom were the same: eggs were always fried in the bacon grease and pie crusts were made with lard. (I still make my pie crust with lard. It’s only once a year, I figure. Oh, so flaky!) 🙂

      • Melissa says:

        Irish Heart,

        When you mentioned the can of bacon grease, it brought back memories of my childhood. I guess it was that generation! My mom even kept the old cast-iron frying pan full of bacon grease under the stove. That way she could just turn on the burner and sauté away. Well, she would have used the word FRY. I’m using the word “sauté” as a euphemism for fry. I think our moms could have been friends!

        Happy Thanksgiving and here’s to fat-filled pies. We just need to make sure we don’t make a habit of it. =)

  10. What a beautiful post and tribute to your mother. It’s clear you’re keeping her legacy alive by nourishing people with food and yoga. And that photo is a keeper!

    • Melissa says:


      Thanks so much for your comments. It’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions and it’s interesting how food plays into all that. As I mentioned in the post, “nourishing” doesn’t always mean healthy. =) This recipe is easy and delicious, but not something I could make a habit of eating. It’s more about the tradition of it that makes it so important to our family. And yes, that photo is famous in our family. That one, and a host of others!

      Happy holidays!!

  11. Monika says:

    Beautiful story. That was a famous recipe, I have the exact same one from about 40 years ago, my mom made it often.

    • Melissa says:

      Thank you Monika. Yes, I’ve seen versions (and exact copies) of that recipe as well. It’s been around for a long time. Probably because it’s a good one! And easy. And tasty. And lucky for us, gluten-free! =)

  12. Donna.ddv says:

    Lovely post. Great picture. I’m thinking warm thoughts for you AND I shall try the cheesecake recipe. Hugs.

    • Melissa says:

      Thank you, Donna. Although this isn’t the healthiest recipe around, sometimes a holiday tradition trumps a healthy dessert recipe. =) Plus, this is naturally GF and so easy to make. Now, if I can just control how big my slice is! Food like this (high fat, high sugar) is hard for me to resist and that much dairy really “gets” me if I overdo it. BTW, I loved seeing photos of your trip! Wow, I was living vicariously through you. Thank you! The photos were stunning and it looked like you had a great time.

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  13. Alisa says:

    You are too funny. It is about more than food! Growing up I used to make the no bake cheesecake on the graham pie crust package. Obviously I wasn’t too into the cheesiness myself, but everyone else loved it and it was so simple!

    • Melissa says:


      I thought of you as I wrote this blog post and figured you’d be cringing if you read it. Gosh, as much as I love this cheesecake, I do know that over-indulging in dairy isn’t good for me. I know exactly what’s going on when my face starts breaking out. I could actually feel my face breaking out as I ate my 3rd piece of cheesecake (in a row) the day after my mom’s service. Stress eating at its best! I do love this recipe though and am going to serve it during the holidays and then retire it for the rest of the year so I can clear up my skin. =) Thanks for stopping by to comment. I especially appreciate it coming from you. xo

  14. Cid says:


    I’ve just read your post and wanted to say what a wonderful woman your mother was. That photograph of Margaret looks like a magazine cover, just beautiful. You always said what an inspiration both your parents have been and that is wonderful too.

    Here’s to Margaret and cheesecake, and here’s to you my friend and all those close to you.

    Much love,


    • Melissa says:


      You absolutely know you are welcome here for any holiday you can get Ian to ship you over for (pun intended). I would love nothing better than to have you and your clan here for our Thanksgiving! Cheesecake, macaroons, red wine, and dark chocolate. Oh, and I suppose we can have a turkey, or maybe an English quail.

      Thank you for your kind comments, my friend. One of these days we’ll be toasting off-beat women of all kinds. Some wearing Japanese silks and faux leopard non-skid house slippers, some wearing flannel ski jammies and hiking boots, one riding a motor cycle in her salad days (or, at least posing on one), and so on. And so on.

      Would love, love, love to see you. It will happen.
      Sending good energy and lots of love your way. A newsy email to follow when I come up for air. =)

  15. Melissa, I so love that photo of your mom. It is exactly how I would have pictured her. What an awesome legacy, both her attitude and that incredible cheesecake.

    Celebrate life. Dairy, fat, and pursuit of adventure!


    • Melissa says:


      Thanks so much. Who knows, you might be related to her in some way. We’ve always felt we were genetically linked in some way, haven’t we?! Yes, celebrate life and those who know how to do it right!

      My daughter spoke at the service and gave a Mae West quote that described her grandmother, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Perfect!

      Happy Thanksgiving! xo

  16. Shannon J. says:

    Thanks for the recipe (and lovely story of your mom). A couple of questions re: the cheesecake.
    1)Mine was a little “chunky” and I’m guessing it was because my cream cheese was not softened enough.
    2)do you let it cool completely before adding the sour cream top and throwing it back in the oven?

    Despite the weird texture thing, it was the best cheesecake I’ve had since going GF, and I even made it my supper.

    Happy Thanksgiing to you and yours!

  17. Melissa says:


    I’m guessing the cream cheese wasn’t soft enough. It has to be room temperature or it will be chunky. Yes, you should let it cool to where it’s no longer warm. I don’t let it cool all the way, but it should be fairly close. Just touch it lightly and if it feels luke warm-ish, that’s fine. But definitely make sure the cream cheese is room temp before you start mixing. It is next to impossible to make it “creamy” otherwise. It still tastes okay, but it’s better when it’s really creamy. SO glad you liked it. It’s one of the best (and easiest) cheesecake recipes around!

    Happy holidays.

  18. […] Click this link for Melissa’s Cheesecake recipe over at Gluten Free For Good. […]

  19. Jo says:

    Somehow I missed this post of yours until now, and am so sorry that I did, as I would’ve responded much sooner. Your post dedicated to your Mom is “funny, brilliant, beautiful and feisty” (just like you, too!) and I’m sure she is touched by it. Thank you for sharing her story. Here’s a toast to all of the loving, yet still assertive, women we have in our lives, and to those who have ‘”stepped-off” yet still live with us in spirit!


  20. Laurie says:

    Just read this blog about Margaret and saw the great picture of her recipe box. I still salivate when I think of her fruit cake, which was more like a date bread, and a wonderful beef burgundy she once made for us. Wow, could that woman cook!!! I really want to try her cheesecake, possibly this week for our dinner club. Thanks for sharing. I think of Margaret often and feel her smiling.

  21. Bre Harris says:

    Thank You so much for sharing your mother’s love with us all. The Photo of her Salad Days is monumental worthy. The Cheesecake will be added to my family’s Thanksgiving in Honor of Margaret!

    • Melissa says:

      Wow, Bre — you just made my day! Thank you for your sweet comment. I promise you that cheesecake will be a hit. Have a wonderful holiday!

  22. Emily Raffield says:

    this is a great recipe, made it for a gluten free family christmas dinner. Italian dishes were served and fabulous dessert followed! Thanks for sharing such a great, easy recipe.

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