You know those old-style community cook books? The ones that have all sorts of strange, but wonderful and notoriously bad for you recipes? I wonder why no one makes them anymore…do you think that websites like Allrecipes and food blogs in general have just replaced the good old fashioned community recipe book? I still consider myself a ‘spring chicken’, as my grandma used to say, but I am old enough to remember my mother submitting recipes for a couple of different community driven cookbooks. When I say ‘community’, it’s in the broadest sense of the term because two of these books were published by different branches of our family. My mother’s mother (or ma mére as we all call her even though she’s my grandma instead of my mother) had many brothers and sisters on the Ruel side of the family and after several huge reunions they decided to compile all the dishes they shared at each family function into one handy book. In it were several recipes for ‘never fail’ pastry, the Black Bottom Cupcakes that I make for every super bowl party, my mom’s Tomato Soup Cake, and MY Creamy Mushroom Linguine. I guess since it was published in 1997, I was already a mom (and a half!) and so entirely domesticated. Never in my dreams would I have imagined that mom and I would have recipes published in one book! Now that I am thinking about it, I think it was probably my very first original recipe.
I have several of these ‘community’ cookbooks that I drag out every year at about this time, one from the Herzog side of the family with my grandma’s buttertart recipe and another from the Shellbrook Elementary Playground Fund Raising Committee which holds one of our family’s longest lived Christmas traditions (which has been around since our buttertart munching days); the Petit Cheesecakes. There have been years when I never thought making these was going to be possible, like when we lived in Perth, Australia and I had no clue whether or not I would be able to find the special ‘Nilla wafers needed for the tiny bite sized bases. I must have checked every store until I found them and then I realized that year, more than ever, we appreciated this little bite of home after we had finished stuffing our gobs with Western Australian rock lobster instead of turkey and before snorkelling at the beach instead of sledding on the family hill. In a place of uncertainty and of new experiences, this little bite brought us closer to home and the loved ones we missed terribly.
I usually make these quite a bit ahead of time, because they freeze extremely well and the recipe makes a lot so that when you’ve noticed that half of them have disappeared from the freezer container, there are still enough left over to share with the family on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. I freeze them without the berries or pie filling and just take them out of the freezer and top them up just before we eat dinner. They have just enough time to thaw, though if you forget and do it after dinner, no one will care because they are just as good frozen.
Bite Size Berry Cheesecakes
- 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese; softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 boxes ‘Nilla wafers
- 1 can cherry or blueberry pie filling (or assorted fresh berries)
- Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla until fluffy.
- Separate small baking cups (like the ones used for homemade chocolates or mini muffins) and place on baking pan.
- Press a Nilla wafer into the bottom of each cup.
- Place cream cheese mixture into a piping bag and fill each cup 2/3 full.
- Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes. Freeze until needed or top with a tsp of filling (or fresh berries) and serve.