Holiday Happenings: Cranberry Cheesecake

“If you have a good allergy…”

My oldest went to a restaurant where the menu said, “If you have a good allergy, let your server know.” She texted the picture of this typo to me, and when I responded, she said that it got worse. The rest of the blurb: “We have a glue tin free menu.”

Now, I am willing to believe the owners/managers of the restaurant didn’t catch the mistakes when they were ready to print the menus and afterwards decided that the costs of reprinting were prohibitive, but this serves as a good illustration of why folks with food allergies sometimes feel like people don’t care about their feelings.

After all, what is a good allergy? If we have the bad ones, we can’t let our server know? And it’s great that their food is free of glue and tin but what about those of us who can’t eat gluten? It’s easy for the restaurant owners/managers to wave off the typos, but for folks who live with the reality of life-threatening allergies, their dismissal can feel marginalizing.

Having had four too many anaphylactic episodes in the past several years (for most, it was how I learned I had these new food allergies!), I tend to be rather careful about food other people prepare. It meant a lot to me when my brother called to ask what he’d need to do to make the mashed potatoes dairy free for me to eat. It showed that he was taking my allergy seriously and that he wanted me to be able to partake of all the offerings and not be limited.

For most of us with food allergies, we’re not asking that people always accommodate us. We know it’s not easy and convenient to do at all times. We do ask, though, that folks at least be sensitive to the fact that we have allergies and that it’s not always easy for us either.

I always make sure to make and bring food which I can eat so that it’s not a hardship on the folks hosting, and this Thanksgiving was no exception. I ended up making those mashed potatoes for my brother, simply because I had all the ingredients and he didn’t, but I was glad he asked. And I contributed a green bean dish and homemade cranberry sauce, made without sugar, since I don’t encourage anyone to eat sugar.

There was enough of the cranberry sauce left for me to ponder a use for it, and this past week I made a gluten, dairy free cranberry cheesecake for a brunch I hosted. It came out so creamy, and the tang of the cranberries was a wonderful complement to the cheesecake. I used only one half a cup of agave to sweeten the entire cake. It was so good! I’m going to include the recipe below. For folks who need tips on making cheesecake, see Cheesecake Tips

Cranberry Cheesecake

Ingredients:

3 8 oz containers of tofu cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup agave

1 tsp vanilla

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup tofu sour cream, at room temperature

1 cup leftover cranberry sauce (I made a homemade version which was just fresh cranberries with water and two tablespoons of agave)

1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cover the bottom of a cheesecake springform pan with aluminum foil so it’s completely covered. You may need two or three layers to make it waterproof. I used an 8 inch pan for this cake to make it thicker but you can use a 9 inch pan for a thinner cheesecake. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking time. Grease the pan with your favorite method.  I just used vegan butter.
  2. In a mixer, blend the tofu cream cheese until smooth.
  3. Slowly pour in the agave, mixing the entire time on low. Scrape down as needed.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  6. Pour the cream cheese mixture into your prepare pan.
  7. If you want the chunkiness of the cranberries, then just dollop the leftover cranberries on top of the cheesecake and swirl through. If you want it smooth like I made it (because my autistic children have a thing about chunks!), put the leftover cranberry sauce in a blender or food processor with the orange juice and puree. Then dollop onto the cheesecake and swirl.
  8. Put the cheesecake pan into a larger pan and fill the larger pan with hot water, halfway up the cheesecake pan.
  9. Bake in the preheated over until the cheesecake is firm around the edges (a knife inserted will come out clean) but still a bit jiggly in the center. If you used the 8 inch pan, it may take 75 to 80 minutes or so. If you used the 9 inch pan, it may be slightly less. Don’t stress if you “overcook” by a little bit of time. It’ll just give you a firmer cheesecake, which some people actually prefer.
  10. When the cheesecake is done, turn off the oven and leave the door open and let the cheesecake cool in the oven before putting it into the fridge to chill.
  11. When you’re ready to serve it, you can drip some melted allergy-friendly chocolate as I did to make it festive or just serve as is or serve with an allergy friendly whipped cream.
  12. Enjoy!

 

Holiday Happenings: Cranberry Sauce

bags-of-cranberries

“Apparently cranberry sauce is underappreciated….”

My husband came home the other day and told me about a news story on the radio. The topic was cranberry sauce and how it was not as appreciated as other foods eaten during the Thanksgiving meal. This, of course, spurred discussion among our family about our own cranberry preferences. My son will only eat jellied cranberry sauce with no chunks. My oldest, my husband and I love cranberry sauce in any form. My other daughter won’t eat it, no matter the texture.

Cranberries, however, are very good for your health, containing antioxidants, fiber, and many nutrients needed by the body. What I find, though, is that because they have such a tart flavor, folks use way too much sugar when cooking with them. So, I like to make my own cranberry sauce instead of purchasing it from the store.

When I tell folks that I make cranberry sauce, they always seemed to be surprised, which I find surprising since cranberry sauce is the easiest food to make. You simply put cranberries into a pot with water and sweetener and let it cook down. The entire process takes about 10-15 minutes, at the most.

Where the creativity comes in is deciding what type of cranberry sauce you’d like for Thanksgiving. You can add other fruits to the cranberries like pears or apples or tangerines or oranges or apricots or cherries to add a contrasting fruity flavor to the cranberries. You can add red wine or port or bourban if you’d like a more complex flavor. You can add ginger or maple or anise or jalapeno if you’re looking to try something a little different this year. You can use water, orange juice, apple cider or any other liquid you can imagine to change the flavor. You can add nuts or dried fruits to add crunch and texture. You can even change up the texture of the sauce, making it chunky, relish-style or jellied.

And after Thanksgiving the cranberry sauce can be “recycled” in many ways. Swirl it into your favorite cheesecake recipe. Add the sauce as a fixing for your favorite sandwich. Mix it into a muffin recipe. Top pancakes or waffles with it. Combine it with another fruit to make the filling for a pie. Stir it into your breakfast oatmeal. Use it as a spread for a slice of quick bread like banana or zucchini. Combine it with cream cheese for a dip. Top vanilla ice cream with it. The ideas are endless.

A food as versatile as cranberry sauce is truly just begging for you to experiment this year. And what’s great is that unless you’re allergic to cranberries, people with food allergies can eat it!

Some tips:

  1. The cranberries: It doesn’t matter whether you use fresh or frozen cranberries. The general rule of thumb is that about 12 ounces of cranberries requires about 1 cup of liquid.
  2. The sweetener: For most recipes, for 12 ounces of cranberries, they’ll call for 1 cup of sugar. I’d suggest you cut that in half and save your health or use 1/4 cup Agave or 1/2 cup of coconut sugar or 1/3 cup truvia.
  3. The add-ins: Decide what type of cranberry sauce you’d like to make and add the ingredients in with the cranberries so that they all cook together and the flavors meld.
  4. Traditional Style: To make traditional cranberry sauce, simply put all your ingredients into a pot, bring the liquid to a boil, let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the cranberries pop and are the texture you’d like, remove from the heat, let it cool, and then refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
  5. Relish Style: Simply use your food processor to chop up the cranberries, sweetener and additions and refrigerate. You should decrease the liquid, though, and only add just enough to moisten the relish.
  6. Jellied Style: Prepare the sauce as you would for the traditional but then push everything through a strainer, mashing the ingredients as much as you can to get as much as you can into the sauce and then refrigerate what you’ve pushed through the strainer.