Tuesday, February 24, 2009


My partner, the love of my life is a college math professor. After graduating from MIT in three years she worked for a GLBT non profit for two years before starting a graduate PhD program in Mathematics at the University of MN. She had a temporary teaching position at Carleton College in MN for four years. Three years ago, she took a tenure position at St. Olaf, which by the way, has one of the best undergraduate programs in math in the country. St. Olaf is mostly recognized for it's world renowned music program, but they boast one of the best and largest math programs in the US. She works with the most amazing colleagues ever! This past academic year has been challenging in a number of ways, including her quick track tenure review. Today, the Dean of the College announced her promotion and tenure appointment, as well as the promotion of her colleague Jill, the first female to be promoted to Full Professor of Mathematics! We are celebrating! I made these mini cheesecakes  to send to her department today. While they took the better part of the day, they are worth all the effort. Slightly larger than a bite, people love them. They are festive and easily made gluten free. I used Trader Joe's gluten free ginger snaps for the crust, simply putting one whole snap on the bottom of a paper lined muffin tin (regular size muffin tin, although you could use the very tiny tins as well). For variety I  made both chocolate and vanilla batter. After baking I topped the vanilla cheese cakes with fresh berries mixed with jam. I topped the chocolate cheesecake with a sour cream topping and baked them a little longer before grating chocolate on top and garnishing with mini chocolate chips. Here are the recipes for both:

Mini Vanilla Cheesecake

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Ginger Snaps (Vanilla wafers, or Chocolate wafers also work for non GF)
16 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh berries of your choice with matching jam, jelly or pie filling. I used fresh blueberries mixed with blueberry pie filling, fresh strawberries with strawberry jam and fresh raspberry with raspberry jam and some apricot jam without any fresh fruit. 

Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tins with paper liners. Place a ginger snap or wafer of your choice on the bottom of the lined tin. This recipe will yield about 12-16 depending on the size tin you use.

Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until light and fluffy, several minutes. Fill muffin tins almost to the top. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until set. Cool.

Gently mix fresh fruit with jam and top with a generous tablespoon or so of each.

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes

Trader Joe's gluten free ginger snaps, or wafer of your choice. I used the GF ginger snaps for myself and a chocolate wafer for the one's I sent to St. Olaf
16 ounces cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla


1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
grated chocolate (I used a bar of simisweet)
mini chocolate chips

Line muffin tins with paper liners, place a wafer in the bottom of each. This will make about 16 - 18. Blend all the ingredients in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Spoon filling into the tins, almost to the top, but not quite! Bake for 20 minutes or until set in a preheated oven to 325. While baking mix the sour cream, sugar and vanilla together. Once the cheese cakes are set, remove from oven and top each with a generous tablespoon of topping, return to the oven and bake for another 10 -15 minutes, until the topping is set. Cool completely! Grate chocolate on top of each mini cheesecake using a microplane grater with a very fine grate. Top each with a teaspoon or so of mini chocolate chips, gently pushing the chips into the topping.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Highlights from Budapest

St. István's Bascilica

More market photos

My favorite Budapest site, the Great Synagogue!

My favorite gluten free desert, chestnut puree, although it usually had more whipped cream than chestnut.

Pastry at the famous Gerbeaud  pátisserie at Mihály Vörösmarty Square. I came here twice a day for coffee.

Cliff and Tina at another great dinner spot

The famous Budapest Opera House

Inside a typical Hungarian restaurant. This was spot we went to on our last evening with Cliff and enjoyed Gypsy music.

The castle by night

One of my favorite lunch haunts where I enjoyed great Gulyás stew two days in a row.

Tina and her colleague Cliff, who was the most wonderful and gracious host admire the statue "Anonymous", an unknown man. Students flock to the statue to rub the pencil prior to an exam for good luck.

Gluten Free in Budapest

We loved Budapest! And eating Gluten free was very easy. I carried around a card explaining Celiac Disease and the need for a strict gluten free diet in Hungarian. It was obvious that Europeans have a much better understanding of both the Celiac Disease and the diet. Every time I presented the card the restaurant staff nodded and said, "Yes, no problem".  And I enjoyed a number of ethnic dishes including gulyás, gulyás stew, chestnut puree and lots of pork. Pork must be the national meat in Budapest and unlike the lean white meat we get here, Hungarian pork is red and very fatty, which was delicious! We took a tour of several markets including the Central Market Hall with Carolyn Bánfalvi, a food and wine expert who wrote The Terroir Guide, Good Wine Budapest, my primary guide book to Budapest! Carolyn is an American, living in Hungary with her husband and two children. She arranged dinner reservations for us and took us on a day tour of the markets.