Monday, May 10, 2021

Pecan Pie CHEESECAKE!

This most excellent dessert is worth the 4 hours of prep, baking and chilling time! I adapted a fabulous recipe in an effort to make it slightly healthier. I’ll let you know what’s what with the modifications so you can decide which ones you want to keep.

I used a 10.5 inch springform pan instead of the 9 inch pan called for in the recipe. This worked out well, though the entire cheesecake was a bit thinner. If you don’t have as many people to feed, or want a thicker cheesecake, use a 9 inch pan, or double the cheesecake layer ingredients for the larger pan (if desired).

 

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of the springform pan, place it inside the assembled pan, then spray with baking/cooking spray. From previous posts, you can see that I often make cheesecakes in pans other than “springform”, so it will still taste great even if you don’t have a fancy pan- it just looks nice when you remove the round sides before serving.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

 

Here is what I used for the crust layer:

1 and ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup each tapioca flour, coconut flour, quinoa flour*

6 TBSP melted butter

4 TBSP brown sugar (note, despite reducing the amount of sugar in the original recipe to 4 TBSP, the entire cheesecake was still very sweet to my taste. I would use LESS sugar in the crust next time, probably 3 TBSP, due in part to the large amounts of sugar in the other layers).                                                                                                                                                       


* if you don’t have alternate flours, just use 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs for the crust, and/or substitute any other alternate flours to your taste, such as almond flour, etc.

 

Melt the butter, add the crumbs and sugar, stir, press into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. The original recipe did not call for baking the crust, but I have been making cheesecakes for years and normally bake the crust, even for no-bake cheesecakes. Since I used additional ingredients besides graham cracker crumbs, I baked the crust for 10 minutes and was pleased with the results. If you use only graham cracker crumbs you do not have to bake the crust. If you bake it, let the crust cool for a few minutes out of the oven. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the next layer (my freezer never ever would have enough space for a springform pan!).

Here’s what I used for the first pecan layer:

1/3 cup butter

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 and ½ cups chopped pecans

1 cup brown rice syrup*

½ cup sugar (note, next time I would use 1/3 cup sugar, even though the original recipe called for even more than ½ a cup of sugar)                                                                                                          

 

In a pot on the stove, bring these ingredients to a boil, then lower the heat and stir until thickened. Pour over the chilled crust.                                                                                                                                                                               


*if you have ever made pecan pie before, you probably expected to see light corn syrup here, which is what the original recipe called for. I’m trying to use healthier/more natural ingredients, and since the health food store where I went didn’t have light corn syrup, I decided to give brown rice syrup a try. The label says it can be used as a substitute for corn syrup. This layer in the cheesecake tasted wonderful. The texture was a bit chewy, which may be due to how I heated it or it could be due to the substitution. Please feel free to use light corn syrup; I will stick with the brown rice syrup.

Here’s what I used for the cheesecake layer:

2 blocks of cream cheese, warmed to room temperature for ease of mixing

½ cup sugar (this is down from the original recipe; I would keep this amount next time)

1 and ½ TBSP flour (I used gluten free flour)

1 TBSP vanilla (I accidentally used only 1 tsp vanilla and it could benefit from a bit more flavor, though nobody complained!)

3 eggs

½ cup sour cream (I used Lactaid sour cream)

 

This photo is of the first pecan layer

Blend cream cheese and sugar, add remaining ingredients- mix between each egg. Bake for 1 hour over a water bath*, then turn off the oven and leave the cake inside the oven for 30 minutes. Then crack the oven door and let the oven and cake cool for another 30 minutes. 

*wrap the bottom/sides of the spring form pan with aluminum foil. If you have a large enough pan to place the springform pan in, put the springform pan inside a large pan and put water in the large pan, being careful to avoid water over the top of the foil, so no water can get into the springform pan. My pan was too large to fit into another pan, so I put a large pan with water on the oven rack just underneath the springform pan. I hope the steam effect was still useful (the cake tasted great). As you can see in the first photo, using a larger pan but keeping the same baking time resulted in a slightly browned cake top (normally I would open the oven to check for doneness, but I thought the oven should not be opened with a timed water bath, so I couldn’t see that it was browning up). It didn’t taste burned at all, but if you will use a 10.5 inch springform pan, I would reduce the first baking time by 10 minutes. If you use a 9 inch pan as called for, keep the hour. I will report back if I double the cheesecake layer next time, because it should need a longer baking time.

 

Here’s what I used for the second pecan layer (topping):

¼ cup butter

1/3 cup brown sugar (note, this was beyond delicious. I might add less sugar next time)

½ tsp vanilla

¼ cup heavy cream

1 cup chopped pecans*

 

Heat the butter and sugar until the color deepens. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Pour over the cheesecake!

This photo is of the first pecan layer, not the topping

The original recipe recommended chilling the cheesecake for hours/overnight. This might result in a nice firm cheesecake, but we didn’t have time to do that, and it tasted great without the hours of chilling. 


* I have never tasted such delicious pecans as I did this year when I received some as a gift from a friend in Texas. Plain grocery store pecans will be avoided whenever possible from now on. Apparently, pecans from Texas are something special!

 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

I’ve previously shared two cheesecake recipes from my trusty cookbook and have since continued to explore recipes with additional flavors. The cheesecake brownie cupcake recipe is here, and the lemon one is here. This week, I had a request for peanut butter cheesecake, and I modified the recipe as follows:

 

Take 4 blocks of cream cheese out of the refrigerator 2 hours before preparing this recipe for ease of blending. Take your favorite jar of strawberry or grape (or any) jelly out of the fridge before baking to let it come to room temperature.

 


A 9x13 pan is good for a large family-style serving, so I nearly doubled the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt 6 TBSP butter, add 2 cups graham cracker crumbs and 5 TBSP sugar*. Stir. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.

 

Put 4 blocks of cream cheese into a large bowl. Add 6 TBSP flour (I used 3 TBSP regular flour and 3 gluten free), 1 ½ cups sugar* and 1 ½ cups chunky peanut butter. Mix until blended.

 


Add 8 eggs, mixing between each egg- I used 4 real eggs and 1 cup of liquid egg white substitute. After the eggs have been blended in, add 1 cup milk- I used ½ cup coconut milk and ½ cup fat free lactaid milk. 

 

Note: these amounts are just about doubled from the original recipe for a round pan, however, the batter is more than will fit into a 9x13 pan. You will have enough extra batter for 6 cheescake cupcakes and a mini loaf pan. The batter will rise as it bakes so you do not want to fill the pan to the top. You can use small wafer cookies as the crust in the cupcakes or pour the batter into the cupcake papers without a crust.

 

Pour the batter into the pan, leaving at least a ½ inch from the top edge of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250 degrees. Bake another 40 minutes. When you take the cake out of the oven, run a knife around the edge between the cake and the pan, and let the cake continue to cool. 

 


Now comes the fun part! Well, baking is fun for me in general, but this is extra fun: add 5 or 6 large spoonfuls of strawberry or grape jelly into a pastry bag (or any small plastic bag or icing tool). Cut a small hole into the tip of the pastry bag or the corner of a square bag and pipe the jelly across the top of the cheesecake in a lattice shape. Add more jelly to the bag if you use it all before the design is done. This is the first time I used a pastry bag to pipe anything, so the jelly was a bit squiggly, but that’s ok! It tasted great!

 

*note: this is already a reduction in the amount of sugar called for in the original recipe. I know some of you (like me) automatically cut the sugar in a recipe. The original recipe called for more than this, so the reduced amounts listed here are not “too sweet”.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Nantucket and chocolate trifle

I visited the island of Nantucket many years ago when I was a summer nanny, and remembered it as cute and quaint. Now that we have friends who live there and 7 COVID vaccinations between the 4 of us, we drove across NY and MA to take the ferry to Nantucket for the weekend. 

 


The ferry ride was fine on the way over, but the water was a bit choppy on the way back, but nobody near us actually got sick due to the bobbing of the boat. It was nice dropping off our luggage in Hyannis before parking the car in a lot further away. The daffodils had only just poked their leaves out of the earth in upstate NY but were already blooming on the island. 


We enjoyed walking on the beach even though we had coats on. I miss the ocean, sea salt air, cawing seagulls and the sound of surf. We also walked around town, checking out TWO real bookstores (the closest one to where we live now is an hour away), a pharmacy with a counter offering ice cream among other things, a grocery store for ingredients (photo of trifle and recipe at the end of the post), and a couple of places to get a bagel and other pre-cooked foods.

 


Based on what we heard over dinner, we wouldn’t be able to afford a week on Nantucket at lodging prices during the summer, but it was a great spring weekend away.

 

Trifle:

 

Step one: Prepare cake or pound cake either from a box mix, from scratch, or use a store-bought pound cake. I made a lemon trifle from scratch during the great lemon escapade a few years ago, and the sky is the limit when it comes to flavors for trifle. This time, I used a box mix for chocolate cake and followed the package directions. You can substitute apple sauce for the oil, egg substitute, etc. Bake and let cool, then cut into small squares.

 


Step two: Make two boxes of pudding according to the package directions. You could make pudding from scratch… Allow pudding to set. I used chocolate pudding mix, and it’s your choice if you’d like to mix up flavors/colors, such as butterscotch, pistachio, etc.

 

Step three: Make whipped cream from scratch or buy a tub of frozen whipped product.

 

In as large of a glass dish/bowl you have, place a 2-inch layer of cake squares. No need to line them up, just toss them in. You don’t need to measure how deep the layer is- I prefer to have 2 layers of everything, so that’s why I keep them a bit smaller. If you have a deep trifle dish, you can make the layers as large or small as you wish.

 

Spoon in no more than half of the chocolate pudding. This dessert is fun to make because it doesn’t have to look perfect. It will look great and taste fabulous, so don’t worry about filling each hole between the squares of cake.

 

Spoon a layer of whipped cream over the chocolate pudding. Uneven is ok, and the layer doesn’t have to be the same depth all the way across. It is kind of (very) messy to distribute into individual serving dishes later, so nobody will see what the inside of the trifle layers look like.

 


Add another layer of cake, pudding, and whipped cream. Most containers will be full at this point. You can shave some chocolate on the top if you like. I would typically add fruit but didn’t this time. For kids, you could add cola-worms for a “dirt” dessert.

 

If you have enough tall glass dessert containers (for example, sundae dishes), you could make a bunch of individual trifles. However, most people like to see the giant trifle brought out, and don’t mind getting scoops of mixed-together dessert goodness in their own bowls.

 

Please note that this dessert is very sweet- especially the chocolate. I really like the lemon version and would like to try other flavors in the future, such as strawberry. I could also imagine making this with blueberry muffin mix made in a loaf pan, layering it with vanilla pudding.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Best of blog posts: travel, cooking, life lessons and moving

Please forgive the long absence from this blog! I get confused and concerned when my favorite bloggers don’t post for months at a time, and here I am doing the same. Hopefully you guessed that I was busy with the podcast, which is true!

 

Since starting the podcast in June 2020, 37 episodes have been published and 3 recordings are scheduled for upcoming episodes. Details are at www.40Minutesoffaith.com 

During the stay-at-home orders for the past 11 months, I didn’t feel like I had much new to report. I’ve been thinking about what to write in the absence of travel, lack of energy to try new recipes, or learning interesting life lessons. If you have any suggestions for topics, please share.

I never looked at blog analytics until I started considering podcast analytics. I was pleasantly surprised to see what the top 10 blog entries were since beginning with recipe posts in February 2012. The blog evolved from going through the spice rack to a few arts and crafts posts to lots of trave posts when we moved to Germany. In case you’d like to catch up on previous posts, here are the most read posts:

4 popular posts about food include:


Sesame aioli- by far the most read post - who knew?


A remake of church cookbook recipes of carrot souffle, sweet potato and corn casseroles [Kleenex alert- if you are from the midwest or the south, I am not trying to make you cry by drastically reducing the amounts of sugar, cream, eggs, butter, etc.]


Mac’n’cheese


Spekulatius cookies (I considered this to be a relative fail & enjoyed locally store bought cookies in Germany for 5 years. Alas, no stores in upstate New York carry them)

1 very popular post about food and travel was about grocery stores in Germany

 

4 popular posts included life, moving, and travel:

Week 1 of Yesses and Nos when we got to Germany

Reverse culture shock when we returned to the US 5 years later

Yesses and Nos when we were moving back to the US

Missing Germany 

1 popular post about life after losing a job

 

Finally, here are the 10 most popular travel posts out of 262 blog posts in the last 19 years:

Off the beaten path (OBP) Sequoia, California

Treetop walk in Germany

Switzerland - mmmm, cheese followed by chocolate!

OBP Spain

OBP France

OBP Finland - one of my favorite trips!

Trash removal in Germany

Gozo Island/Malta

Stuttgart Botanical Gardens and Zoo

OBP Mainz, Germany 

I intend to resume regular blog posts and will strive to not think of everyday life as “boring” or not worth writing about. Maybe I have learned some interesting life lessons!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Starting a Podcast… it’s up and running!

For some people, figuring out the technology of podcasting may come easily, but not for me. Thankfully, I had a good teacher… yes, I took a class on how to start a podcast!

 

Our houseguest cats helped to supervise

Due to COVID, it took a long time for the microphone to arrive, and it was thrilling to connect it to the computer and figure out how to designate the microphone as the source for audio. I set up an online appointment calendar for guest speakers to sign up for recording spots, and so far, 15 episodes have been recorded and published!

 

Except on the hottest days, I had tea while recording, complete with rubber Duckie tea strainer!

I started off asking specific friends to consider talking with me about a particular Bible passage or theme, and gradually other people and topics emerged organically. The first five episodes were about fear, social justice, our relationship with God, waiting, and an introductory interview about “why start a Bible study podcast?”

 

Our farm share included LOTS of zucchini, shown here as mini pizzas

I’ve developed a basic website before, but had more technology to learn with this podcast site https://40minutesoffaith.com  Each episode has a blog which includes a partial transcript of the conversation along with resources mentioned during the episode, such as books, other websites, etc.

 


It wasn’t fun for me to learn how to connect to podcasting sites, but the episodes can be downloaded from https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/40-minutes-of-faith-podcast/id1518514761 and also https://open.spotify.com/show/0THkaDB3C371bPeAAtfT0B

 

In addition to those sites, some episodes are recorded with both audio and video, and they can be viewed on YouTube 40 Minutes of Faith Whew! I am not a fan of social media, but I post each new episode on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and the Facebook page for the podcast. As far as I am concerned, those locations are outreach opportunities for people to find out about the podcast so they might hear a word of welcome regarding faith. 

 

planting flower bulbs to bloom in the spring

I felt nervous before the first recording, and developed a checklist which included listening to a choir song, closing the window, etc.! I found out afterwards that many people are nervous about recording a podcast, even people who I ***thought*** were confident in other public faith settings. I appreciate people’s honesty and vulnerability in trying something new like this!

 


The prayers for each episode are recorded by Stephanie, even in the midst of her cross-country move! We started off with flute music at the beginning of episodes, and have recently added a newly composed and recorded version of "The Lord's Prayer" at the end of episodes.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

I am starting a podcast!

What? Starting a podcast? Why? Well, a few reasons. They are apparently very popular (I wouldn’t know because I don’t listen to them very much!), and many people find them informative. I am astounded at the great variety of podcasts out there, as the only two I have listened to are Rick Steve’s travel podcasts, and Martha Beck’s. I believe that in the past when I have listened to recorded sermons from church services, they have not technically been podcasts at the time. Although I guess anything recorded and broadcast is a podcast? Enough of my technical ineptitudes!
our beautiful new-dish neck of the woods

I have been facilitating Bible studies for more than 20 years and learning from them for even longer. I have realized that there are seasons for giving more as well as seasons of life when we need more support, encouragement and learning. Sometimes I can give and learn at the same time. On occasion, what I think I need turns out to not be entirely true, and it takes other people and prayer to figure it out. 
trying to figure out where I am & where to next (look in the shadows of the tree branches)

In snowville, where the weather after mid-May is actually lovely, there are not many opportunities to learn from local Bible studies. I’m fortunate to be able to participate in the study on our nearby military installation. As a student, I always learn from Bible studies. Facilitators learn, too, but there are other administrative things to be aware of, so it’s not the same as being a student. 
learning about wildlife around here!

During seminary courses, we are in the Bible every day. Most faculty start and end the class with prayer, and most textbooks are about the Bible or theologians. Now that summer break is here, and church services remain online, I have a shortage of learning from and with other people. I can sit with a devotional, printed Bible study, or be a student via zoom or a website Bible study, but it’s not the same and I’m ready to give more.
someone hunkered down for a few days on our front steps!

It was actually Mr. Spice’s idea (what I used to call him when I was focusing on food & cooking earlier in the blog). He listens to podcasts all the time and suggested that a podcast Bible study would be a good way to get The Word out there. I considered the pros and cons of varying ways of leading a summer Bible study, and after some local options were no-gos, a podcast might be nice for people who can listen to it any time they want. The only thing missing will be live group participation.

Here’s the plan: I’m taking a class right now about how to start a podcast. I have 3 ring binders because I like to organize stuff! The smallest is about general podcast information including potential topics, guest speakers, and technical things like microphones and editing software. The next one is Bible studies that I wrote for a seminary class last semester. The biggest binder is for “social statements” that my church body has written with guidance about best practices for care of our neighbors and creation. 

I’d love to hear your comments, questions, and suggesions! 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

It’s only hard to say good-bye when there are blessings!

I haven’t posted much recently, due in part to completing my second semester of grad school (again*). All my final papers have been “e-stapled” and submitted. Stay tuned for new adventures, as I am enrolled in a course on how to start a podcast!!! Here are some memories of our move, which I can’t believe was 7 months ago.
young people, you have no idea how this makes some people REALLY HAPPY! 

I tried really hard to not cry when I sold my car in Germany before moving to snowville, USA. I had prayed that someone would buy the car at a fair price, and I got my wish! I’m so grateful for that wonderful car, and for having it these years. I know that the car is not my happiness, but it brought happy memories. Maybe I will feel the same affection for a future car? I hope the cars we sold will bring the new families happy memories, too. 
By request- Easter Sunday during the pandemic
Saying good-bye to friends in Germany… they are all invited to visit our new home in snowville, but it’s still sad when that final hug comes. I’ve said good-bye over cake, a garden show, and arts’n’crafts projects, and have been blessed by these friendships. Would it have been better to not gain friendships so that the farewells wouldn’t happen? No! I now have choir and Bible study friends all over the world.
MAY (!!!) - now you don't need to ask why I keep calling it snowville


Some things are easier to say good-bye to, which helps. Teeny, tiny parking spaces are a thing of the past- for now. I had hoped to never see a P.O. Box again, but alas, our new village of snowville does not deliver mail at home, so P.O. Box, here we come. According to Wiki: The words "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" have long been associated with the American postman. However, they are by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service. Well, rats! But our post office ladies are really nice. It’s sad to see all of us wearing masks, but we are keeping each other safe.

HALF of my phone's weather app- it's like a souvenir!
What blessings have you experienced when saying good-bye to a person or a place?

* in the olden days, grad school the first time around (1996), we had to use real staples on real paper to turn in assignments!