Thursday, April 24, 2008

13 Reasons I Canceled Class on Friday
and gave myself a long weekend

1. No earthly ideas for lesson plans. I'm coming up blank at the moment. Only six more days of classes. I covered all the essentials for my students' final speeches and then I set up a day of "Speech Jeopardy" which is played for Extra Credit Points only. Yes, I really enjoy my work. Not sure the students appreciate such moments, but HEY! when it stops being fun, I'm good to retire and travel. Anyway, giving myself Friday off is like giving myself a week off. Next week my students are scheduled to give their final speeches, so no work for me (except listening) all week. Wow..... this professor gig rocks!

2. 80 degrees! Finally! Spring fever has struck my students and ME! I want to roll in the grass, stare at the bright green leaves, breathe the fresh air, open the windows (I've been breathing that same air inside since October!), and shout... "HELLLOOOO World... Spring is Here!" Actually, we seem to have skipped spring and gone directly, do-not-pass-Go-do-not-collect-200-dollars, to summer. I'm sure we will get our comeuppance, but I'm wallowing now. To cancel class is almost oxymoronic since only 6 students came to one class on Monday. I'm fighting a losing battle. If I can't beat 'em, I'm joining 'em!

3. Unpack Summer Clothes/Pack winter clothes. I'm so sick of black I could scream. Bring back my lime green, hot pink, and bright powder blue! Not that I actually recede in winter... but I think I do wrap myself in toned-down colors and wait for that Easter egg moment when I can jump back to vivid me. I'm ready; I hope the weather doesn't play a big ol' snow trick (ewwww).

4. Write! I have been "doing" The Artist's Way to unblock my creative self. I'm learning a lot. I like how I've committed to writing 3 pages, by hand, every morning. I actually get up one half hour earlier than usual on school days just to accomplish my task. I can say that I have written every single day for the past eight weeks. I'm halfway through the 9th. I am becoming unblocked! Now I need to work on scheduling and writing. I've almost been afraid to come to the screen and begin again. And I must. Writing is who I am. To deny myself would be a great loss to my heart. Today... .2000 words or bust!

5. Craft/Art Projects! I've been "into" Altered Art and now I'm moving along full steam. Okay, half steam, but still some steam is better than no steam. Collage, papier mache, beading, distressed ink... wow... I love my studio again! I find that art projects usually propel me headlong into writing. Cross your fingers!

6. Library Books Due. Speaking of writing.... I have to return four books about Robert Kennedy, since my current w-i-p takes place in December, 1967, on the eve of the announcement that he's running for President. Although I lived through that time, and even campaigned for him, I wanted to capture the flavor, not just my memories, of that 60's.

7. Read! While I'm on the treadmill, I listen to books. I'm so into To the Last Man, by Jeff Shaara, that I checked the book out of our library. But...earlier this year, I had placed it on my wish-list at Bookmooch (see sidebar for info). And someone gave it up last week, I snatched it, and it arrived -- a perfect, beautiful paperback. Well, now I have three ways to read. And finally the time. I love it. I also started the Anne Stuart "Ice" series. I guess it's romantic suspense, which is not necessarily my favorite, but the books came well-recommended. I am also reading through the Amanda Peabody Egyptologist series by Elizabeth Peters. I'm into the second book and I have the third in my basket. I used to have quite a love affair with all things Egypt, plus I giggle at the old fashioned first person, sometimes omniscient, POV in these novels (Amanda is a kick!). Also stacked in my "To Read" basket are the following: To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis; The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde; L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy; Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice, and Power, The Six Reigning Queens of England, by Maureen Waller. Aaaah, summer vacation is soon upon me... and I am fortified!

8. Catch up with Netflix . With recent house-guests and the end of the semester and the election vortex into which I get sucked just about every darn day, I haven't relaxed with a movie in quite some time. Sitting here in the little basket where I keep those red Netflix envelopes are the following movies: Atonement, There Will Be Blood, American Gangster, Lions for Lambs, and Starting Out in the Evening. I'm especially interested in that last one, Starting Out in the Evening because it's about a writer. Popcorn anyone?

9. Sourdough Day. I bake sourdough bread. I've used a starter for over a year, and I must make bread every week or so, lest the starter fizzle. Since we entertained guests the last two weekends, I haven't whipped out the flour and baked bread (although that would have caused the house to smell delightful). I'm ready for tomorrow!

10. Hoard Rice. Not that I eat much rice. But hoarding sounds like a day-off sort of activity. "What did you do on your day off?" "Oh, pulled some weeds, washed the car, hoarded some rice. You know. The usual." I guess the whole rice shortage will be a major topic soon enough, I shall make no more jokes... Oh, who am I kidding ? I will, too! (I could say "silly Americans," but I think we are not the only culprits) (or hoarders).

11. Could Grade Papers. Or not. That's the beauty of giving myself the day off. I can procrastinate all the way to Sunday afternoon. Ah......

12. Take a Walk. Outside for a change. I've been walking every day on my treadmill, at least 30 minutes a day. I haven't missed but a couple days in the last month. I'm becoming better about setting exercise goals. The idea of getting outside to walk is really a bonus. Not that I need a holiday to do it, but let's face it, prepping for an outside walk is a bit more of a process than stepping onto the treadmill right here in the house. Such a chore. I have to don mascara in order to venture into the world. But on Friday, I shall relish the chance!

13. Car Inspection. Steve poked his head in the office to remind me, just when I ran out of reasons.. Oh! I need to get that done by the end of the month. In Vermont -- an inspection sticker (not the least bit tied to car registration renewal sticker, go figure) every year. Here's a funny story that I can tell on my husband. He came home with a ticket. In our neighborhood we employ the constable with the most tickets written in the state -- every year. We warn all visitors to keep to the speed limit. He's a terror, even if you're going 2 miles over the limit. So, I had a gleam in my eye when Steve held the ticket and hung his head. BUT... the ticket wasn't for speeding. It was for an out-of-date inspection sticker. Steve was shocked, I tell you, shocked! He couldn't believe the trooper. So, he jumped out of his truck and checked. Lo and behold... the sticker was from.... wait for it...wait for it.... 2006. He had rolled through almost two years, inspection/sticker free. I have an appointment tomorrow. But I'm not rubbing his silly ticket in his face. No. Never. Muuuuaawww.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

13 Ways to Indulge in Dessert Delight!

I've been in a complete dither the last week or so. Having house guests for the weekend. I ABSOLUTELY love pampering guests. I enjoy cooking and making the house comfy and cozy. Flipping through cookbooks for the makings of a wonderful welcoming meal, I came up the Vermont Maple Cheesecake recipe and figured... "ah ha!" exactly what a Vermonter (c'est moi) would feed her guests. I woke up this morning with T13 on my mind and not-so-much time on my hands. I had two ideas: list the meals I would be serving for this weekend or list cheesecakes. Hey! Cheesecake beats parsnips every time, right? I mean, any question? This is my no means a definitive list. I randomly chose some recipes via Google. However... I did not stop to cite the sources. I apologize. Now it's Back to the Kitchen! Then I am off on a quest through every market in town, to find "Bone-In English Short Ribs"... OY!

1. Vermont Maple Cheesecake

For crust
twenty-four 5- by 2 1/2-inch graham crackers
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B; see note, above)

For filling
four 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream

Accompaniment: pure maple syrup if desired for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Make crust:
In a food processor finely grind graham crackers (you will have about 3 1/2 cups). Melt butter. In a large bowl stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and maple syrup and press evenly into bottom and up side of a 10-inch springform pan. Wrap bottom and side of pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil to avoid leakage.

Make filling:
In bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or in a food processor beat cream cheese on low speed, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, until smooth. Add syrup and eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and cream and beat until just combined.

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 1 hour (cake will not be set in center but will set as it chills). Cool cake in pan on a rack. Chill cake, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 4 days.

Remove side of pan. Serve cheesecake in wedges, drizzled with maple syrup.

2. Banana Split Cheesecake

1 cup packaged chocolate cookie crumbs (such as Oreo)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter or stick margarine, melted
Cooking spray

3 (8-ounce) blocks fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) carton low-fat sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs

1/3 cup canned crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1/3 cup strawberry sundae syrup
1/3 cup chocolate syrup
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
16 maraschino cherries, drained
Preheat oven to 325°.

To prepare crust, combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl; toss with a fork until moist. Press into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray.

To prepare filling, beat cheeses and sour cream at high speed of a mixer until smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar, banana, flour, and vanilla; beat well. Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat well after each addition.

Pour cheese mixture into prepared pan; bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until almost set. Cheesecake is done when the center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove cheesecake from oven; run a knife around outside edge. Cool cheesecake to room temperature. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours. Top each serving with 1 teaspoon pineapple, 1 teaspoon strawberry syrup, 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup, 3/4 teaspoon pecans, and 1 cherry.

3. Black Forest Chocolate Cheesecake

This decadent Blackforest Chocolate Cheesecake by Vanessa Sherwood drew quite a knockout reaction when she posted it on the forum. I’m sure you can see why. It is bursting with sweet cherries layered between a chocolate crust and a creamy chocolate cheesecake filling. Vanessa advised the members of the forum they can purchase raw cacao butter and coconut oil for great prices at Organic Living Food. She also said it can be replaced with a dark Green and Black’s chocolate bar. I know what some of you will be making your loved ones this Valentines!

For the filling:
2 Cups Cashews, soaked 1 hour or more
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Cacao Butter, Melted
1/4 Cup Coconut butter, Melted
1 -2 Teaspoons Coffee Extract (optional)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract or Seeds From 1/2 Vanilla Bean
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Cocoa Powder
One 10oz Package Frozen Cherries, Thawed

Blend everything together except for the cocoa powder and cherries until completely smooth. At this point, if your blender can take it, blend in the cocoa powder. Otherwise scrape the mixture into a mixing bowl and whisk the cocoa powder in by hand. Hand mix in the thawed cherries. If you want to make a sauce out of the cherries, either set some aside or use an additional package.

About the coffee extract. Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate. I use Java Juice- Pure Organic Coffee Extract. The website is If you don’t want to use it, substitute more vanilla extract or just leave it out.

For the crust:
1/2 Cup Brazil Nuts
1/2 Cup Shredded Coconut
Pinch Salt
1 Heaping Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 - 2 Tablespoons Agave
1 - 2 Tablespoons Cacao Nibs
1/4 Vanilla Bean Seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean

Process the brazil nuts, shredded coconut, salt, cocoa powder and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor until fine crumbs. Add the agave and cacao nibs until the mixture just starts to stick together. Press into the bottom of a springform pan. If you are making a large cheesecake, feel free to double or even triple the recipe (crust and filling).

Pour the filling over the crust and chill or freeze until ready to serve.

4. Raspberry White Cheesecake

2 cups
6 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

10 oz. frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 cups white chocolate
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
24 oz of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
3 room temperature eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 shoot of Amaretto

1.) In a medium bowl, mix together cookie crumbs, 6 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 inch spring-form pan.

2.) In a saucepan, combine raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to boil and continue boiling 5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds

3.) preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt white chocolate chips with half-and-half, stirring occasionally until smooth.

4.) In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and melted white chocolate. Pour half of batter over crust. Spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over batter. Pour remaining cheesecake batter into pan, and again spoon 3 tablespoons raspberry sauce over the top. Swirl batter with the tip of a knife to create a marbled effect.

5.) Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refigereate for 8 hours before removing from pan. Serve with remaining raspberry sauce.

5. Pistachio & Lime Cheesecake

1 1/4 cup of cream cheese
1 lime, juice and zest
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup of softened butter
One package of chocolate wafer cookies
1/2 cup of crushed pistachios

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees celsius.

To assemble the cake mold, take a 7-inch springform cake mold. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the base and assemble the ring over top of it. Place the assembled unit on another sheet of aluminum and fold it up over the sides to make it as waterproof as possible. Lightly butter the sides of the mold.

Put the wafer cookies in a sealed ziploc bag and crush them using a heavy pan. Combine in a bowl with the butter and spread mixture in the bottom of the cake mould, and compact it using the bottom of a glass to make a tight bottom crust. Put in the fridge to set.

In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese (it’s a good idea to take it out half an hour before you start to soften at room temperature). Add the sugar, lime juice and zest, eggs and egg yolk. Beat ingredients together until combined and smooth. Add on top of the crushed wafers making sure the layer is even.

Place the cake mold into a large roasting pan and fill the pan around it with water until it comes to about half the height of the cake mould. This helps soften the cooking process and prevents the cake from cracking. Depending on the oven, the cake should bake between 45-50 minutes. The cake is ready when it seems firm but still a little wobbly. Allow to cool in the fridge for at least two hours before carefully removing the mold. Serve topped with crushed pistachios.

6. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

* 1 1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1/4 cup melted butter
* 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, diced
* 2 cups sour cream
* 3 eggs
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 2 tablespoons water
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 2 teaspoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Mix the chocolate wafer cookie crumbs with 2 tablespoons of the white sugar, and the melted butter. Press firmly into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of one 9 inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 8 minutes.
3. To Make Cookie Dough: In a bowl beat 1/4 cup butter or margarine with the brown sugar and 1/4 cup of the white sugar. Stir in the water and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat in the flour and the semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until combined.
4. To Make Cheesecake: In a food processor or with a mixer beat 1 cup of the white sugar, and all the cream cheese. Add 1 cup of the sour cream, the eggs, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Mix well and pour into prepared crust.
5. Drop cookie dough in 2 tablespoon portions evenly over the top of the cake, pushing dough beneath the surface. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Cake will jiggle slightly in center. Spread topping over hot cake. Let cake cool than chill in a refrigerator until cold, at least 4 hours.
6. To Make Topping: Mix the remaining 1 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the 2 teaspoons white sugar until smooth. Spread over hot cake.

7. Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake

* 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 1/3 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup butter, melted
* 30 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
* 3 tablespoons milk
* 3/4 cup chopped pecans
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 3 eggs

1. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Mix well and press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Pour on melted caramel/pecan mixture and chill for 30 minutes.
2. To make the Caramel Filling: In a small saucepan, combine caramels and milk. Cook over low heat, stirring, until smooth. Stir in chopped pecans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
3. In the top of a double boiler, heat chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold 1/3 of the filling into the melted chocolate, then pour the chocolate mixture back into the filling and mix until no streaks remain. Pour into crust.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until center is almost set. Place a pan of water on rack underneath cheesecake as it bakes to help keep it from cracking. Cool in oven with door cracked open. Refrigerate at least 5 hours before serving.

8. Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake

* 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 cup butter, melted
* 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
* 1 1/4 cups white sugar
* 3 eggs, room temperature
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup pecan liqueur
* 1 cup sour cream
* 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 teaspoon pecan liqueur
* 1 cup ground pecans
* 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
* 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 3/4 cup pecan halves

1. Combine 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and melted butter or margarine. Press firmly into the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan.
2. In a large bowl, blend the cream cheese and 1 1/4 cup white sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well. Add vanilla extract. Add 1/2 cup liqueur, and blend for 5 minutes. Pour the filling on top of the crust
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for approximately 1 hour. The cake should be golden brown, and will have risen to the top of the pan. Turn off the heat, and let cool in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. When cool, remove the rim of the springform pan.
4. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, confectioners' sugar, and 1 teaspoon liqueur together. Spoon onto the top of the cooled cheesecake.
5. In a small bowl, combine the finely ground pecans, finely ground graham cracker crumbs, 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkle the pecan topping on the cheesecake. Carefully press the pecan topping into the sides of the cheesecake. Garnish the top and sides with pecan halves.

9. Caramel Apple Cheesecake

* 1 (21 ounce) can apple pie filling
* 1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
* 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
* 12 pecan halves
* 2/3 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Reserve 3/4 cup of apple pie filling and set aside.
2. Spoon remaining pie filling into crust. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth then add eggs and mix well. Pour over apple filling in crust.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes, or until center is set. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
4. Mix reserved apple filling and caramel topping in a small saucepan. Heat for about 1 minute. Arrange apple slices around outside edge of cheesecake. Spread caramel sauce evenly over. Decorate with pecan halves around edge. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Chill until ready to serve.

10. Brandied Peach Cheesecake

8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups Milk
1/4 cup Cognac, or brandy
1 package Instant vanilla pudding and pie filling
1 Graham cracker, 8 inch
1 1/4 cups Peaches
1/4 cup Currant jelly
2 teaspoons Cognac

Stir cream cheese until soft; blend in 1/2 cup milk. Add remaining milk, cognac, and pudding mix. Beat slowly just until well mixed. Pour into crust. Chill 1 hour. Arrange peach slices attractively on cheese filling. Heat jelly and additional cognac together. Pour over peach slices. Chill.

11. Candy Cane Cheesecake
(it's never too early to get ready for you-know-what-holiday)

1 1/3 cups Cookie crumbs, chocolate
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cup Butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups Sour cream
1/2 cup Sugar
3 Eggs
1 tablespoon Flour
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Peppermint extract
24 ounces Cream cheese
2 tablespoons Butter
2/3 cup Peppermint mints, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Combine first 3 ingredients and press into a 9-inch springform pan. Blend sour cream, sugar, eggs, flour and both extracts until smooth. Add cream cheese and 2 T butter. Stir in crushed candy.

2. Pour into crust and bake on lowest rack of oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool (top may crack) and refrigerate overnight. Remove from pan and serve.

3. Top with sweetened whip cream and garnish with candy cane if desired.

12. Key Lime Cheesecake
(sounds summery...I am soooo ready for warm weather!)


1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons Sugar
1/4 cup Unsalted butter, melted and cooled

20 ounces Cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Sour cream
3 tablespoons Flour
3 Large eggs
3/4 cup Fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 drop Green food coloring
Whipped cream, for garnish
Lime slices, for garnish
Mint sprigs, for garnish

1. For the crust: In a bowl, stir together the crumbs and sugar and stir the butter in well. Pat the mixture evenly onto the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a buttered 10-inch springform pan. Bake the crust in the centre of a preheated 375F oven for 8 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and set aside to cool.

2. For the cake: In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together the cream cheese and the sugar until the mixture is smooth; beat in the sour cream and flour, then add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Add the lime juice, vanilla, and food colouring and beat until mixture is smooth. Pour the filling over the crust. Bake the cheesecake at 375F for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 250F and bake for 50 to 55 minutes more, or until the centre is barely set. (it will continue to set as it cools) Let the cake cool on a rack, and chill it, covered, overnight.

4. Remove the cheesecake from the pan and transfer it to a cake stand. With a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip, pipe the whipped cream into rosettes on the cake. Garnish with the mint sprigs and lime slices.

13. Peter Paul Mounds Cheesecake

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away (known as Escondido, CA), I made up a recipe for this cheesecake. People actually BEG me to make this cheesecake. It's not too difficult but it does take time and I play with the recipe almost every time, so even though I've got it written down somewhere, it's never exactly right. You know what I mean.

The basics are a smooth inner cream cheese filling, with lots of eggs and heavy cream added to the Philly Cream Cheese. Into that goes shredded coconut, some coconut extract and some almost extract.

Follow a usual recipe for amounts of cream cheese, eggs, cream; add enough shredded coconut to your taste. Add enough extract to your taste.

For the crust I've alternated between chocolate graham cracker, regular graham cracker, and oreo crumbs (just the dark chocolate cookie part, which I think you can now find as a package of crumbs, although I used to food process my own). I've even processed almonds into a crust, but you'll have to look up that recipe. I"ve also added finely processed almonds to all the above crusts.

Follow any basic cheesecake recipe for assembly and baking time.

After the cake has cooled add the topping. Melt a large thick Hershey bar (I like the basic milk chocolate). Spread that over the top. Take some whole almonds (I just use regular, raw almonds). While the chocolate is still melty, arrange the almonds in a delightful pattern.

Et voila! (or for those of you with the silliness: Vi-Ola!) This one tastes like a candy bar. I love it!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


A new blog toy for me. Dunno how long this will last. As if I need something to bring me Back to the Blog. The idea is to create a few fill-in-the-blanks, and fill in the blanks. These should pertain in some way to Friday, I suppose. Although, this first one I stole (oops... sorry ... I forgot who donated it) smatters the weekend blanks with regular blanks. You'll see. I used ITALICS where the blanks used to exist and BOLD for the other pieces. Not scintillating. But hey! I'm leaving room for improvement. You needed to read the vibrant 50th Anniversary of the Peace Sign if you wanted scintillating. Onward!

My very first Friday Fill In...
(even though I'm posting on Saturday) (because I didn't want to mess up the Peace Sign Celebration -- see below).

Friday, April 4, 2008
Friday Fill In

1. Tonight I saw the last two episodes in "Band of Brothers" on my very own HDTV, low fat popcorn optional.

2. Stevie Ray Vaughn's "The House Is A-Rockin'" always makes me wanna dance!

3. Splitting a few appetizers between friends only leads to spats about splitting the bill -- but I love nibbling and sharing, so who cares?

4. Shelby Reed is someone I'd like to get to know better.

5. The smell of freshly mowed lawns reminds me so much of springtime!

6. I turned on the hot water tap, added sweet vanilla bath salts, hopped in my big ol' whirlpool tub and that made it all better.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a good dinner and some time with my sweetheart, tomorrow my plans include plowing through my endless To Do list and Sunday, I want to work on Geoff's quilt and then do lesson plans for Monday's class.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Peace Sign Turns 50

Where were you 50 years ago -- April 1958?

I turned 56 on December 30, 2007. Soooo... I was only 6 years old at the birth of the peace sign. Not like I was paying much attention. First grade, hopscotch, skate key, Cowboy Sam, Shirley Temple-- that was my universe and symbol system in the spring of 1958.

The first time I did pay attention , I was a staff member at YMCA Camp Marston, Julian, CA, in the summer of '67. I'll give the credit to fellow counselor Milan Lilac (wonder where he is?), wearing the peace symbol on a campaign pin/button. I asked what is it? He told me it began as a symbol of a plane. Imagine turning that sign one quarter to the left or right. See the plane? He further explained that this became the symbol for "ban the bomb" rallies, then evolved into a universal peace symbol. I dunno. Sounded historical to me. Of course, most of us might visualize Winston Churchill flashing the "V" for victory, which equates to peace after war, non?

For me the Peace Sign encompasses a universe of feeling about my generation -- the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. We've seen a range, haven't we? That same summer gave me many places to turn, turn, turn -- especially when Milan also introduced me to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper album. He had been down to the city (San Diego) for his day off from camp and returned with this fabulous album. We played and played the odd music, and we stared at the cover, wondering.... "who are they?" If I close my eyes, I can smell summer breezes in the pines, red clay dust, flannel sleeping bags, leather saddles, and insect repellent. I can hear songs around the campfire -- from Joan Baez to The Kingston Trio to Kumbaya. I can feel the curve of the guitar wood on my knees, a horse's mane in my fist, soap suds in the cafeteria, plastic lanyard strands between my fingers.

And lurking in the background, a peace sign pinned on a friend's shirt...

A peace sign that became gradually more and more important as boys I knew marched off to a meaningless war in a faraway land. Boys who came back haunted and dead men. Decades later, their names carved in ebony on a monument and still nobody can tell me why they died. Just as nobody can tell me why 4014 plus 200,000 civilians have died, again in a meaningless war in a faraway land.

The Peace Sign turns 50, but we haven't grown up. We haven't learned the lesson of the symbol, have we? Ban the Bomb. Peace in our time. War to end all war. Imagine.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thirteen #1 Writing Tips
from 13 Different Sites
I Googled While Drinking Coffee

Stumped again. Am I losing my creativity? I hope not. Here's what I finally decided . I googled "great writing tips" and looked for sites that focused on a list or hierarchy. I copied the first rule... Rule #1... from each of thirteen different websites. I didn't link. Didn't want to spend that much time on this silly project. But, you get the plan, Stan? Not much here we didn't know. But I'm always game for a new T13 Idea. You should see the ones I discarded. Oy!

1. Make your opinion known. (from Ten Tips for Writing a Blog Post) [duh?]

2. Branch to the right. (from 50 Writing Tips) [huh?]

3. Speak what you write. (actually Rule #0 from Writing Tips for Non-Writers Who Don't Want to Work at Writing) [brother!]

4. Choose a subject that interests you. (from Homework Center - Writing Skills) [duh #2 on my growing list of Duhs] [do we need a tip if the idea is that obvious?]

5. Get organized by listing your reader's questions. (from Business Writing Tips) [very businesslike]

6. Use short sentences. (from Copyblogger - Ernest Hemingway's Top 5 Tips for Writing Well) [maybe I'll come back to this one, huh?] [I suppose that's a decent tip, but what about Dickens and Faulkner, and the tres long sentence?]

7. Know your audience. (from "A Dozen Online Writing Tips," [probably good idea, even beyond online writing]

8. Write. Don't think. Write. (from "Dana's Quick Writing Course," on Moore's Lore, Corante) [very first draft. I agree.]

9. Cut the boring parts. or...I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard (from "10 Writing Tips from the Masters" a Pick the Brain)

10. Use writing bursts to generate ideas and enthusiasm. (from Daily Writing Tips) [sure thing] [that must be all these enthusiastic scraps of paper scattered on my desk?]

11. Get to the point. (from "Stephen King's Top 7 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer) [now I am sitting at attention -- I think I have this on a handout somewhere]

12. Bloodless. [had to add the rest] Remember to avoid fuzzy and warm words--insubstantial words like "happy," "sad," "good," "bad." These words offer your reader little more than a limp handshake. (from Great Writing Tips at Cerritos College)

13. "Writing may be magical," Murray told us, "but it's not magic. It's a process, a rational series of decisions and steps that every writer makes and takes, no matter what the length, the deadline, even the genre."

Don lived by a simple rule, a Latin phrase he had regularly laminated, shared with me and other fortunate disciples, and kept close by his writing desk. "Nulla dies sine linea." Never a day without a line. ("Don Murray - the Things He Gave," from Poynter Online Resources)

I'm partial to #13. That #1 tip really was the last of the first 13 sites I checked for the #1 tip listed. That's a mouthful, eh?

Can't say working on this T13 wasn't interesting. If I did say "it wasn't interesting," I'd have to cut the sentence. Even thought it's short... Because, it's....
I would describe my morning foray into writing tips as a bit like ice skating -- quite daunting on approach, personally damaging to the pride, delightful when finished.