If you know me at all, you’ll know I love cheesecake. Sadly, for many years, I couldn’t eat it! Whenever I ate dairy, I’d end up with headaches, an upset tummy, a stuffy nose, hayfever, and (if I had dairy a few days in a row) horrible flu symptoms… But sometimes I’d give in and have a bit of cheesecake anyway and just deal with the aftermath because I LOVE CHEESECAKE!!! But yeah, not ideal.
I started reacting to dairy as a small child, and as I grew my intolerance to dairy also grew. For many years I thought that the only thing I could do about it was to avoid it… forever. I began to think that since dairy bothered so many people, it must not be a food suitable for humans to eat, and really everyone should avoid it. Sure, I knew it had been a staple in the diet of many ancient cultures and hadn’t caused health issues for them, but maybe the people back then were hardier and coped with it better or something?? I didn’t really understand it, but figured it wasn’t a great food and I would stay away from it.
Fast forward fifteen or twenty years, and enter my son Isaac’s sudden downturn in health, his struggles with severe OCD, my realisation that gut health is foundational for good overall health, and our subsequent massive gut-healing journey… (read the story here). We began by taking out all the foods that were difficult to digest or that caused us problems, and kept only very nourishing, easy to digest foods in the diet (mostly just slow cooked meats, stocks, veggies and animal fats at first). No dairy, not even butter or ghee. Then as we worked through gut-healing, we began to slowly add foods back in, taking care to use only traditional, whole foods that were unprocessed and preferably organic or pesticide free.
And here’s the interesting bit… the kids (who had always reacted to dairy as I did) were very quickly able to introduce 24 hour yoghurt and sour cream, ghee and butter into the diet, without any reactions. And after a year of deep healing, I was able to eat ghee! (Imagine my excitement!!!) Then yoghurt, sour cream, butter and eventually… cheese! First the hard cheeses, then the softer cheeses, and now I can pretty much eat any dairy (in moderation), as long as it’s not highly processed and preferably organic and non-homogenised. WOO HOOOOOO!!!
How is it that a food that caused me so many problems for years is now a healthy food for me? Well, quality plays a big part: there’s no comparison between your general supermarket milk and dairy products and their good old fashioned whole food counterparts – especially organic, unprocessed dairy and probiotic-rich fermented dairy products that are such a big part of many traditional diets. And secondly, a damaged gut is not properly able to digest dairy (and many other foods, even if they are traditional, organic whole foods), so you need to get to the root cause of the issue and heal the gut! Once I changed these two factors, I was able to reintroduce dairy.
However, cheesecake eluded me. Organic cream cheese is very difficult to find (have you ever seen it?? I haven’t!), and whenever I tried regular cream cheese the hayfever came back and I didn’t feel so good. So I decided to try an old fashioned organic cheese called quark.
In case you’ve never heard of it:
“Quark is a white, soft, fresh dairy spread often compared to cream or cottage cheese. It’s usually made by fermenting and warming milk with live cultures, then straining it. Unlike cheese, it generally contains little to no salt or rennet, and it’s not traditionally based on whey like ricotta, though the exact process varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.” via Good Food)
Our local organic dairy (Mungalli Creek) makes quark and we can get it in our tiny little supermarket in my country town. I found it worked beeeeautifully in my cheesecake instead of cream cheese, AND I didn’t react to it!! YAY!!!!
So I now have cheesecake back in my life, and I’m so happy that I just had to share this recipe with you all – a healthy revamp of the old Aussie favourite, Raspberry Jelly Cheesecake Slice. 🙂
For those of you who can’t find quark where you live: Start hassling your local organic dairies (hee hee), or make your own (recipe here), or use cream cheese if you like.
For those of you who can’t have dairy, or want a vegan variation: I remember the frustration and the longing for cheesecake, and I am sending you love and hugs and a dairy free, vegan version! 😀 (See? I wouldn’t forget you, don’t worry.) This variation is super yummy too, so scroll down to the second recipe card and get those cashews (or almonds) soaking!
For those of you who can’t have nuts: Try replacing the nuts in the base with pepitas and/coconut flakes. If you need a dairy free, nut free version, sunflower seeds should work instead of the nuts, but the colour won’t be as white. Disclaimer – I haven’t tried a nut free version, so you may have to play with it a little!!
Note: You can choose which recipe you want to make and print out the recipe card below by clicking on the Print button at the top of the recipe. 🙂
A word of warning: this recipe is very addictive. You may want to cut it up into squares and freeze it in small batches so that you don’t just eat it all within a couple of days. That may work… probably won’t, but just so you know, it does freeze well. And if you DO manage to ignore it calling you from the freezer, you will have some on hand for when friends pop by for a cuppa. Yay!!