Really I CAN bake, really

Since graduating from nursing school I’ve had some time on my hands. It’s been weird. I’ve slowly been going back to old hobbies….and watching an obscene amount of Netflix. (On a side note, I just love “The Flash.”)

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That being said, one afternoon I decided to make cookies. I went rummaging through my cupboard to see what I had on hand. I decided to make oatmeal butterscotch cookies from the bag of the butterscotch chip bag. It was a cookie fail. They were crumbly and either undercooked or overcooked. The flavor was good but the cookies just kinda fell apart.

The thing is, I really can bake! I swear! I have photographic and blog proof! There was this cheesecake, these balls, this other cheesecake, and I just made a beautiful fruit tart and scones. Here’s proof!

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I used a Paula Dean recipe for this. It was amazing! Like really amazing- with butter, sugar and fruit how could you go wrong?!

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These were also quite tasty. I just googled an English scone recipe. 

See, I can bake! And usually things turn out. I don’t even know what I messed up with the cookies but now I’m feeling the urge to redeem myself. I sent the lacking oatmeal butterscotch cookies to work with my boyfriend. A bunch of guys will eat almost anything! (and they did taste good, they were just a mess)

Holiday Baking (despite the craziness)

This weekend, my weekend with the kids and a holiday weekend, we’ve done yard work, had a family outing to an old school arcade, colored Easter eggs, baked (Well, I  baked, the kids not so much.), did the Easter basket tradition, and are about to attend Mass and head to a big family dinner. Yet it somehow feels like I haven’t accomplished enough. Final exams loom, I’m about to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry…but I’ve got one more lab write up, a homework assignment, and a final to get through first. That’s the cloud that hangs low and heavy over this weekend. (And my fairly legitimate excuse for the terribly infrequent postings around here.)

Balancing working enough to support my household of six, meeting ALL the needs, and giving time and attention to my classwork is a massive challenge, one that requires constant focus and re-calibration. Somehow I’ve gotten this far and done decently well at it. Most the time. Sometimes it makes me a less than enthusiastic parent. I’m not fostering the pre-holiday excitement or planning fancy coordinated outfits for my five  (not so) small ones like I once was. But there is one holiday tradition I’ve managed to maintain, one of my favorites, the holiday baking.

I know it seems like baking holiday treats is something I do for others…It’s not. Don’t be fooled. It’s a totally selfish thing I do. I bake what like for holidays and don’t do other things so I can get the baking I want to do done. Baking has always been a comfort thing for me. It’s a soothing ritual when I’m stressed or upset and a productive distraction when I’m bored or anxious. I think this (past) weekend I was all of the above. So I baked.

This year the emergent theme of my holiday baking was fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry though, it wasn’t healthy. I made pineapple upside down cake, carrot cake, and that blueberry cheesecake from last Easter.

Pineapple upside down cake is one of my mom’s classics. She makes it in a cast iron pan with this amazing gooey brown sugar goodness crystallized on top just under a layer of juicy baked pineapple rings. My mom usually makes this at Easter but decided we probably had enough desserts without it this year. I noticed fresh pineapples on sale on one of my many weekly grocery store runs and had seen a bundt cake pan version of the old cast iron classic that I wanted to try. And thus pineapple upside down cake was added to my baking list.  Like I said, this is selfish baking here!

Having never made my mom’s version of the cake I’m not sure how close this one was but I used a recipe found online. The melted butter and brown sugar went into the bundt pan first and then pineapple slices and cherries (which my mom never used). The cake batter gets poured over that, it’s all baked, and then flipped out. Easy peasy!

No really, this was quite easy to make. I’d recommend it. The only changes I made to the recipe were using fresh pineapple which I mashed up real good and, because I was concerned about the moisture level of the batter, an added splash of rum. I only had coconut oil on hand so rum seemed like a good balancing liquid. One of my sisters commented that the cake had a vague pina colada taste….maybe next year I’ll be sharing my magical upside down pina colada cake recipe with you all. We’ll see. 😉

Unlike pineapple upside down cake, carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts to make (and to eat too). I started making it back in my early twenties when I was married. And, actually, carrot cake is responsible for my cheesecake baking obsession too.

My ex-husband’s birthday is in December. The first year we were married I wanted to do something fun and special for his birthday. I got tickets to a Piston’s game and planned to make his favorite dessert…but I didn’t know what that was so in the weeks leading up to his birthday I asked what kind of cake was his favorite. I swear he said cheesecake. Swear it! I had never made one before but had seen my mom make a classic New York cheesecake every year at Christmas for as long as I could remember. It never looked that hard. So I pulled out a cookbook, scanned the recipe, bought ingredients, and started a cheesecake a half hour or so before we had to leave for the game. I thought I could just whip it up and bake it real quick before we left so it would be cooled and ready to eat when we got home. It was going to be great and he was going to love it!

Except it takes way longer than half an hour to bake a cheesecake. Apparently my reading ahead and planning skills were even worse when I was 20 than they are now.

The result was a soupy mess of a cheesecake AND then, come to find out, my then new husband didn’t even like cheesecake very mush. He says he told me carrot cake was his favorite. There is no way he said carrot cake. Maybe he meant carrot cake but he said cheesecake. After that fiasco I decided I was going to master the art of cheesecakes. I’ve made many successful cheesecakes over the past sixteen years. I think I’ve succeeded. At some point after that I got a great carrot cake recipe from a co-worker and got pretty good at that too.

 

I consider it a win-win…at least as far as desserts are concerned.

 

As for the aforementioned blueberry cheesecake, I used the same recipe as last year because, despite my poor judgement on ingredient substitution, it really was a good recipe. This time I still didn’t find friache but I did use a better quality substitute: plain Fage Greek yogurt. It’s rich and creamy with a slightly sour taste and none of that cheap vanilla Greek yogurt overpowering after taste. It was super yum!

 

Oh, and I did get all my kids to dress up even if they weren’t in coordinated outfits. With a group of mostly teenagers that’s as good as it gets.

Dessert on the Brain

Clearly around here we’ve had food on the brain, especially dessert. I guess that’s what happens when we have a little time on our hands. I’ve been enjoying Pinterest and ran across a recipe for Pecan Pie Cheesecake. I HAD to make it. I mean who can resist that!?! I hadn’t baked in quite some time and had plans to see a bunch of my family over the weekend. Perfect plan bake cheesecake and force-feed everyone around me so I don’t eat the whole thing myself.

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The crust is made of Nilla wafers. Then a sticky delightful pecan pie layer is added.

 

 

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A well baked cheesecake layer.

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Topped with pecans and a tasty cinnamon, sugar, butter and pecan mix. It was a sicky tasty cheesecake. I think it may be one of my favorites. It was an involved process but not exceptionally difficult. I recommend giving it a shot.

On a side note progress is actually being made onthe guest room!! Walls are painted. The closet and trim still needs to be completed. Less than a week until school starts again so wish me luck!

Blueberry Biatch Cheesecake

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Once again it was my year not to have the kids for their school spring break. Apparently this divorced parenting stuff goes in two year cycles. We’re three years out now; I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. Sort of…as much as anyone can. At any rate, I handled this past ten day spring void better than the one two years ago. There was no Easter hangover this year, mostly because Easter fell on my work weekend and was at the beginning of the ten days. Typically I’m a little more stable the first weekend than the last. That’ll likely always be the case. Ten days really is just too long!

As has been my emerging holiday-without-the-kids pattern, I was hesitant to commit to my family’s usual get-together even though Easter is smaller than some of the others  especially this year since my parents and youngest brother headed south to see other siblings. Around Thursday or Friday I finally gave in and told my sister I’d show up for Easter dinner….Well, maybe I wouldn’t be there for dinner because I worked the night before, I wasn’t sure yet ,but if they waited until five to start dessert I’d most definitely be there by dessert. Which, naturally, made the answer to my “What can I bring?” question dessert.

And then someone posted this recipe on Facebook…Blueberry Creme Friache Cheesecake.

It looked amazing. It spoke to me. I had to make it ! And also what the hell is friache?!?

The recipe kindly explained that it’s basically a super fancy (and way way better!!!) version of sour cream. If you couldn’t find it you could make it…or you could use plain old, boring basic sour cream in its place. But then your potentially awesome cheesecake would probably be sub par. I’m no stranger to cheesecake and the rest of the recipe looked pretty normal so I figured I’d take my chances.

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Five cheesecakes I made for a baby shower not too long ago…proof that cheesecake and I are well acquainted. 

My plan was to run into Meijer (the store) before work Saturday night and grab whatever ingredients I needed to make the cheesecake that night.  I forgot that almost every person in my small town can be found at Meijer the evening before a major family holiday. The place was packed and I had not left myself quite as much time as I should have. It’s okay, I would just have to do the grocery store sprint. If you haven’t tried it your life might be way too organized. It’s best done with a frantic look plastered on your face, adds to the fun.  When I dashed up to the dairy case, ready to grab and run, I found a gaping hole where the sour cream should be.No! There were only non and low fat versions available. That is not acceptable. You really can’t use low fat sour cream in, well, anything that you want to taste good! There wasn’t time to call up the recipe and figure out what I’d need to make this friache bullshit so, with a dramatic sigh, I grabbed a low fat sour cream and turned to run to the checkout lanes. Just then something caught my eye…Greek yogurt.

General promoters of healthy living are always touting the benefits of Greek yogurt. It’s close to the same consistency as sour cream (and maybe friache too. Who really knows?) I threw down the grossness that is low fat sour cream, relieved that I wouldn’t be forced to use that, grabbed the tub of vanilla Greek yogurt and rushed out.

Other than the recommended biatch  friache and the lemon I completely forgot to get, I mostly followed the recipe. i really liked the method of roasting the blueberries in the oven and mixing them in a blender before adding them to the cheesecake. Everyone said it was very good…all I could taste was the Greek yogurt.

easter cheesecakesThat was a little strange in the chocolate cheesecake  made from the same batter. I’m pretty sure it still got eaten though.

Weird cheesecake is better than no cheesecake at all.

Summer stuff & cheesecake

I am fully enjoying my time not in school. It’s awesome. 1 still have Project ADD but it’s gotten better. Mainly because I’ve been reading and not projecting. Here’s what I’ve done.

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l killed those ants… I’m still killing ants. It’s a battle.

l also baked. Cheesecake!

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Also a pie → strawberry rubarb.

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Yum. l gotta get running frequently if I keep this up.

There’ll be a post about all the reading I’ve been up to soon.

What I Did When I Was Gone

I went on a mini vaca 2 weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it. My boyfriend and I went to Niagara Falls – the Canadian side. It was so so cold but also really pretty and pretty fun.

The boy

The boy

Leaving Michigan

Leaving Michigan

Really cold selfie

Really cold selfie

The frozen falls

The frozen falls

Did I mention it was cold? It’s fun there but very tourist trappy. Lots of wax museums and haunted houses. I ate at the Hard Rock for the first time – and the last time. We also went in the giant enclosed sky wheel during a very windy evening. I thought it was awesome and the views were to die for – the rocking of the seat when we were super high up was a bit much for the boyfriend though. 🙂

I also baked a bit. A raspberry white chocolate cheesecake. It was tasty.

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My make due double boiler!

My make due double boiler!

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I’ve made a couple cheesecakes now and I think I’m ready to move on to the next baking challenge. Maybe pies for summer?

A bit of crocheting has been done but no completed projects.

I’m also gearing up for spring. It’s been so nice outside the past couple of days. Pretty soon I’ll be asking for lots gardening advice!!