Monday, June 20, 2011

What Neighbors are For: Low Carb Gluten-Free Cheesecake

When my husband and I first looked at this house, we wondered whether it was on the "right" side of the tracks.  It was early March, and things were dead in this hemisphere, and the road was completely torn up, in the process of being repaved.  Trees had been uprooted to make way for new sidewalks and curbs.  But at the time, we knew nothing of the planned improvements, and it just looked a little scary.  And no one was outside to tell us differently.

We wound up loving the house, though, or at least loving it more than we'd loved others we'd looked at, and seeing as we were essentially being evicted at the time, we decided to take the plunge.

It turned out to be one of the best possible moves we could have made.  There's something about this street that cultivates community in a way that I've never experienced it anywhere else: I know not only my immediate neighbors, but many of the people up and down the street.  I feel like I could walk over to any house and ask to borrow and egg, or a cup of flour, or a pair of jumper cables.  People bake casseroles when babies are born and when family members are sick.  The guy who owns a painting business has painted many of the houses (though whether he follows through on promised touch-ups is another story).  You can hear the neighbors playing their homework at the piano teacher's house.  We have babysitters three doors down.  I carpool to yoga with two of the women on the street.  It's really an awesome place to live.  And oddly enough, people who move here seem to fit right in, even if they don't stay long.  (How I can say this just after a post about my inability to connect with the SAHMs on the street is complicated ... let's just say it's a different kind of relationship.)

This week I'm watching one of the neighbors' children for a few days, because his mom is a teacher, and has a gap in care between the end of his daycare and the beginning of her summer break.  I'm not doing it because I'm a great human being; it's more that I know exactly what it feels like to be in a bind for child care ... those snowy mornings when we got an early phone call, and S. and I both had to go to work, are the worst.  He's a very active little boy, and I've kept my own son home from school/camp this week to play with him, but honestly, I feel a little drained after today ... especially since I'm also managing the (minimalist) napping and (insatiable) nursing schedule of my four month old.  I've been rummaging in the pantry for stamina, and finding dark chocolate and multigrain tortilla chips, instead.  No wonder I can't lose these last 10 pounds.

But the thing is, it really does take a village to raise a child ... or to do anything else, for that matter.  While I celebrate the blogging community and the rich landscape of social media (I am still trying to manage Twitter, and am drowning in Tweets), I also mourn the loss of real-life community that makes so many people turn elsewhere for support.

It's not like I expect the world to be like the Truman Show.  There are times I don't feel like talking to my neighbors, and times they don't feel like talking to me.  We piss each other off with regularity.  I just wish that community were more evident in more places more often than when the nor'easter hits, or when you need to activate the casserole brigade.

Last week, one of my neighbors asked me to bake her sister, who is on a very strict diet, a no-carb (or very low carb) birthday treat.  It was fun to brainstorm with her about what she could eat, and even more fun to cook something up that she really enjoyed. She wound up paying me, insisting that she was building my catering business, but I would have done it even if she hadn't.  I know that the karma will come back around, anyway.

I don't like to use artificial sweeteners, but I did so this time because of the circumstances.  You could use regular sugar and it would work just as well.  Go make them for a neighbor, or for a dozen neighbors.  What better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with the people you share your daily space with?

Low Carb Cheesecake

3 packages (1 and 1/2 lbs) cream cheese (room temperature)
4 eggs (preferably room temperature)
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. lemon juice
1 1/3 c. sugar equivalent of artificial sweetener
1/4 c. sour cream
Crust: (double if using muffin cups)
1 c. almond meal
2 T. melted butter
2 T. sugar or equivalent in artificial sweetener

Heat oven to 375 F.

Tip: If you have bricks or a pizza stone, put them on the lower rack of the oven. This will hold the heat in the oven. This is good for cheesecakes not baked in a water bath. (Well, actually, it's helpful for any kind of baking, as it keeps the heat in the oven more constant. I keep a pizza stone in the oven most of the time.)

Combine ingredients for crust, and press into the bottom of a springform pan or into 24 muffin cups. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown.

Raise oven heat to 400 F, or lower to 350 F if you're using a water bath (see below ... I used the non-water-bath method, and it worked quite well).

Put cream cheese in mixing bowl, and beat until fluffy. Add other ingredients, scraping the bowl and beaters each time (this is very important), fully incorporating each ingredient. When all ingredients are combined, scrape one more time, beat one more minute, and pour mixture into pan over crust.

Instructions for water bath: Wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan in foil, put it in a baking pan and pour boiling water around the sides. Bake at 350 F for 60 to 90 minutes, checking often. When the cake is firm to touch but slightly soft in the center, or the center reaches 155 F, remove from oven.

Instructions for non-water bath: For this method, you start the cake at a high temperature, and it slowly drops. If you have stoneware, bricks, etc, this allows it to happen at a slower rate, and you'll get better results in less time. Put the cheesecake on a sheet pan in case of drippage. After putting the cheesecake in the oven at 400 F, turn the oven down to 200 F. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes, checking often after an hour. When the cake is firm to touch but slightly soft in the center, or the center reaches 155 F, remove from oven.  (Mini cakes will take less time; start checking after 30 minutes or so, but be careful not to open the oven too often, as it will drop the temperature more rapidly.)

Chill completely. Top with fruit, if desired
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  1. Waaaaait a minute! You're on Twitter?! What is your handle and why am I not following you?

    Also, your street sounds amazing and I am insanely jealous. Like green eyed monster all the way. The only person I know on my street is the resident homeless man who sometimes plays an accordion. Actually, I also know (and by "know" I mean "recognize") a man down the street who has a cute dog that Isa likes, but I don't know his name. But yeah, I live in a big city and no one seems to know any of their neighbors here. It makes me sad.

    The cheesecakes look delish. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Can I come and move in with you? Although my neighbourhood is pretty great too, I just need to make the effort to introduce myself. These cheesecakes look delicious. Thanks for this post!

  3. Hi from ICLW!
    Your neighbours sound awesome. We are getting ready to move and so thankful but nervous about how the neighbours will be. i hope I get lucky!
    The cheesecakes sound awesome ;)

  4. In the neighborhood that I lived in as a teenager (we moved a lot), there was (and still is) very little sense of community. People lived in huge houses set back from the street on huge lots in their gated community and basically didn't ever have to talk to or even see their neighbors. That was definitely not a model I wanted to follow when selecting our home and neighborhood. We have a neighborhood similar to yours, with a really cool active "babysitting coop" where people swap babysitting. In addition, our neighborhood has a on-line forum with daily messages, which I think helps to connect us with one and other. While virtual medium can help to forge bonds, there's nothing like daily face-to-face contact to build relationships. Cheesecakes sounds awesome. As do the dark chocolate and chips.

  5. Your neighborhood sounds amazing. We live in a similar community and it definitely makes living away from my family much more bearable. There is just something about running into people that you know at the grocery store that I miss and it's nice to feel like I'm building that again i my new city.

  6. i love that you posted this recipe!! my dad is diabetic, & it is nearly impossible to find low-sugar, low-carb desserts that are actually tasty. so thanks for this!! :)

  7. Your musings on the loss of community were interesting and thought-provoking (as always!). I know my neighbours pretty well, but I think that's because I have a dog. When you have a dog you spend a lot of time outside and you tend to stop and chat with neighbours a lot more often. If I didn't have a dog, I'm not sure how well I'd know anyone. That said, my neighbourhood is generally older, so while I'm friendly with people, I wouldn't say that I've "connected" with anyone as a friend.

  8. That neighborhood sounds wonderful.

  9. The way you describe it, it sure is a dream neighbourhood. I love how proactive and helpful they are, and how well you reciprocate it.

    The cheesecake looks delicious. I hope the birthday girl enjoyed it.

    iclw #36

  10. I can't tell you the last time I talked to my neighbors. LOL! I'm horrible. I like quiet neighbors that keep to themselves.

    The cheesecake looks delicious. My Uncle has to have gluten free food so that would be a great recipe to share!

    Hope you both enjoyed the special treat!

    ICLW #53

  11. Your neighborhood sounds fantastic! Such a sense of community, which is sorely lacking in most places today.

    That cheesecake looks wonderful!

    Visiting from ICLW

  12. I grew up in a real neighborhood that sounds a lot yours and I only truly learned to appreciate it now that I'm grown (and, more importantly, a parent).
    I feel like I can hardly say enough about how much I think community matters to people. I think it's important to remember, though, that community is like a big family. It relies on mutual sacrifice to function and it can not be realistically based on relationships between people who mutually adore each other all of the time. There will always be the annoying Aunt and the hard headed Uncle, etc.

    I honestly wish more places were still like that.

  13. Part of having good neighbors is being a good neighbor. You sound wonderful!

  14. Hi from ICLW! That recipe sounds absolutely decadent. I can't wait to try it for my sister who is diabetic and a total cheesecake lover. Your neighborhood sounds delectable. I wish the hubby and I could find that around here.

  15. hi from ICLW! That cheesecake sounds delicious and totally doable for my diet. I think I might need to make me some!!

  16. There needs to be more gluten free recipes. Thanks for your efforts.


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