Then came Mrs. Valdrow’s (my friends’ mother, aka my other mother) cheesecake. I asked her what it was and gave her the ‘not-too-sure-about-that’ look when she said it was a piece of cheesecake that she had made from scratch. It was smoother than any other custard style dish that I had eaten up until then. I was hooked. Seeing those tiny little flecks of vanilla bean. . .
. . .huh, oh, yeah, the post, now where was I? Oh yeah, vanilla bean cheesecake. Well, Mrs. V. let my mom know when she was going to make it next so I got to go and help her. I had already researched how to make a cheesecake (this was before the internet kids, I went to a library, had to walk uphill both ways. . .you know the routine). I had already gotten over my surprise about having to actually bake it (see JELL-O No-Bake Cheesecake comment above). I still couldn’t wrap my head around ‘water bath’. Nor could I find anything called a springform pan.
I learned a few things that day that I helped Mrs. V. make the cheesecake. 1. Found out what a water bath was and what it was for. 2. Found out what a springform pan was 3. Found out that springform pans leak (there are ways around this by the way). 4. Found out Mrs. V. knew how to swear better than my dad. Since then though, I have searched for and tried many cheesecakes but have always come back to the vanilla bean cheesecake to be my favorite.
The following is my variation of a cheesecake recipe that I found in a magazine.
Here are some tried and true variations to this recipe:
Variation 1: To make a lighter cheesecake, only add the egg yolks during the normal mixing cycle. After everything is mixed, take your egg whites and beat them to soft peaks. Carefully fold whites into the batter, and the follow the rest of the directions except reduce your initial cook time down to 40 to 50 minutes.
Variation 2: Forget the frikkin’, annoying as hell, water bath. Instead bake the cheesecake at 500° for 10 minutes. . .yes 500°. Do it! Now reduce the oven temp to 200° (keep the oven door open until the oven temp drops). No, I am not snorting the powdered sugar, this really works. Now continue to bake at 200° until the center jiggles as in main recipe, about 55 minutes or so. Turn off oven, and hold oven door for about an hour longer or until the middle firms up. Cool and chill as instructed earlier. (Variation 2 cheesecake will be denser and a bit firmer)
Variation 3: Replace 8oz of the cream cheese with 8oz of Mascarpone cheese. Will make the cheesecake even richer.
Variation 4: Forget the springform pan altogether. Go to most any grocery store and buy the pre-made Keebler crusts (I prefer the shortbread crusts). Use the original recipe, don’t do variations 1 or 2 with these crusts. One batch will fill at least 2 of the Keebler crusts. Set both in a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides). Add boiling water half way up the inside of the jelly roll pan. BE VERY CAREFUL, IT IS EASIER TO SPILL THE WATER THAN WITH THE TRADITIONAL WAY. Bake about 50 to 55 minutes until only a little bit of the center jiggles. Remove from water bath and put on wire rack to cool. DO NOT leave in oven like the traditional way. Chill for about 1 hour. I use this variation the most, because I am usually popping out 10 to 20 cheesecakes at a time during the holidays and this is much quicker.
Variation 5: Reduce the vanilla to 1 teaspoon. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon oil. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of powdered ginger.
Variation 6: Using variation 4 for the crusts, pipe your favorite chocolate fudge topping (I use Fran’s Dark Chocolate Sauce) on the bottom before adding the cheesecake batter. Carefully spread without lifting straight up or you will pull the crust apart. Add cheesecake batter. Bake, cool, and chill as described in variation 4.
I can go on and on with numerous variations. I do have to say that I am a purist though. I don’t do much to change the batter except for variations like #5. But I will add flavors above and below so that the flavors combine in your mouth instead of before.
Anyways, enjoy, and if you come up with variations of your own, please share.
With that said, I was disappointed to discover that Alton Brown had given up writing, directing, and starring in his ‘don’t you dare change that channel!’ food show, called Good Eats. He had been doing this for 13 years. I honestly can’t remember how many years, all I can say is that I would sit and watch the show, the reruns, the re-reruns, and then collect the videos of the show so that I could watch them over and over again. In fact, that is the main reason I had a flat screen tv and computer installed in my kitchen so that I could watch his shows while I was cooking in the kitchen (it’s where my wife keeps me chained up most of the time).
I met ‘the man’ once about 6 or 7 years ago now (time starts to blur at my age). I had been at my local Sur La Table store in Kirkland, Washington, salivating over the kitchen knives, like I do so often. I heard a voice to the right of me that my brain was already jumping up and down saying ‘it’s him, it’s him’. There he stood; his royal geekiness. It turned out that he was going to be there later that evening to do a guest cooking demonstration.
At that time, I only had one of his books (I have all but his last one now). Trying to act cool (which I pull off most of the time), I said, ” Shoot, if I knew you were going to be here, I would have brought my book down to sign!” Now, here comes the really cool part; he asked how far away I lived. I told him that I could be home and back in 15 minutes. He said that he would wait.
So, I ran home, flung the door open rather violently, ran to the bedroom and grabbed my book. Running out, my wife stops me and asks me what is going on. All I could say was, ‘I can’t stop, he’s waiting for me, me.’ Of course, she had to ask who, and with the rolling of my eyes and and a loud exasperated sigh, ‘ALTON BROWN! He’s waiting for me down at Sur La Table!’ And out the door I went.
On my way back, doing 45 (maybe 50) in a 25 mile an hour zone, I got pulled over for speeding. The officer walks up and asks me if I knew why he pulled me over. ‘Speeding,” I replied, ‘but he’s waiting for me!’ Then pointed at the book in the passenger seat. ‘Hey isn’t he that guy who has the show on the cooking channel? Yeah, Good Eats.’ I replied, ‘YES! And he is waiting down at Sur La Table for ME to sign MY book!’ After a brief moment, while looking over his shoulder, he said ‘get going, but stop your speeding.’ And off I went.
After 23 minutes, I arrived at Sur La Table, and he was still there. He signed my book with ‘May The Food Be With You!’
Now how could I not be a fan after that. Admittedly, I may not be the biggest fan, I don’t want to have his baby or anything, but I’m sure I am in the top percentile. So when I read his Twitter post from March 12, 2012 that said, ‘The only way I’d bring back Good Eats is if there were overwhelming fan demand. And I don’t think that’s going to happen.’ I decided that I have to try to prove him wrong.
Mr. Brown, this post is for you. If you ever read this, know that I am one of your many fans. You are an inspiration to all of us. You make time in the kitchen fun. This is just one of the things that we do in our house every year, Jerkython! We your fans will give you that overwhelming demand! This is just the beginning.
I learned this new word when I visited the new kitchen at Le Petit Terroir, where my friend, Kevin Sarbora, is now the executive chef. Having known him since his days as head butcher at Bill the Butcher, I saw that his zeal for food encouraged his customers, helping them discover their own inspiration, challenging them to new horizons.
And I am not the only one that saw this passion. Dave and Karin Shoup saw it also. Le Petit Terroir is their brainchild. I was honored to meet the couple while visiting Mr. Sarbora, and I had to smile while I stood there and watched the interaction between these three. Mr. and Mrs. Shoup were bouncing around the kitchen with as much excitement as Mr. Sarbora was. I truly saw that this was a team, a partnership of appetite you could say, that I foresee will make a statement here in the wine world of Woodinville, WA.
But it wasn’t just their enthusiasm, it was the food that they were creating. I was allowed to taste a few of the flavors that they are soon to introduce to the public. I could tell that the true love of food had been put into these creations. What were they you ask? Well, let’s just say, if you really know me, you know that when I say that ‘someone was in the mood, because it showed in the food’, then you know it was good.
But don’t just take my word for it, check out their site. See what they are all about. If you enjoy the wine culture here on the Eastside, ask at your favorite wine tasting establishment if they are also serving food from Le Petit Terroir.
I, for one, will raise a glass to Mr. Sarbora and the Shoups. Here is to a wonderful future for you and your guests. I plan on being one of them. Sláinte mhaith!
I initially raised an eyebrow about this, but then thought ‘why not?!’. Bacon is one of those foods that dependent on how it is used will go with many ‘sweet’ foods.
But this isn’t a post about bacon, it’s about Bacon Rice Krispies Treats. Yes, that is exactly what I just said. . .B-A-C-O-N R-I-C-E K-R-I-S-P-I-E-S T-R-E-A-T-S!
Do you like bacon? Do you like Rice Krispie Treats? If you answered Yes! to both of these questions, then there is a 99.99% chance that you will like Bacon Rice Krispies Treats. For the other .01% of you I have a ‘Water Flavored Water’ recipe that I can post for you later.
There have been many skeptics to this phenomenon. Like Shannon K Butcher, author and wife of author Jim Butcher. Who, after I gave her some, tweeted on April 22, 2011 “also, we’ve been given snicker doodles, beef jerky, and rice crispy treats with bacon, which have changed my life. Nom!” and in reply to a comment to her tweet “. . .I was skeptical, but am now a true believer. They were beyond good, and I’m not one who enjoys interesting foods.”
So why don’t you make some up and become a True Believer also!
Each year, I would call up my mom for the recipe. I would write it down, make the cheese balls, then commence to somehow lose the recipe until the following year, when I would call her again. Nowadays, I keep better track of my recipes, but I still call my mom and ask her for the recipe. I never tell her that I have the recipe saved in four different areas. It’s just something I do to make my mom smile and roll her eyes.
So here you go:
My husband and I recently watched a documentary called Food, Inc. This really opened my eyes to how commercial food is grown, its effect on the environment, and what it can do to one’s health. While I know that I won’t be able to change years of poor eating all at once, it did prompt me to be more responsible in where I buy my food. I feel very lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest, where there are so many local organic options.
I am determined to eat less prepackaged food. I find that I’m not missing all the chips and cookies that I used to crave. I even managed to give up drinking soda, which was a huge addiction of mine. I feel so much better it felt like a “duh” moment when I realized that all of the chemicals I was putting in my body were making me feel bad.
I believe in cooking at home at least several times a week, and not just because it’s healthier and less expensive. It’s a great way to spend time with my husband who loves to cook. I also love having friends over for a homemade meal, or being able to give gifts of tasty goodies that aren’t packed with chemical preservatives.
I hope my own food journey helps spark inspiration in others to become more informed about food, and share my joy in cooking at home.
January 2003 Beth and I start looking for that special cake for our wedding. It wasn’t until June so we figured we had plenty of time. We were having a medieval/renaissance themed wedding, and with all of the fancy cake shops around we thought that it would be easy peasy (yes, that’s a word, because Guy Murphy says so) to find a place that was 1. decently priced, 2. decorated to our theme, and 3. most importantly, taste good.
April 2003, yeah, the wedding was getting closer, only two months away. That was plenty of time right? We had been to a couple of shops, none of them were decently priced, and only one of them tasted a little better than ok. We still had a few shops to go, we were going to find something.
June 6, 2003, 15 days before the wedding and we still haven’t found a wedding cake. My mother had a friend that did wedding cakes, or use to, but she was willing to do ours for minimal cost. We met with her on June 11th, unfortunately, she only did traditional white wedding cakes, and although ‘pretty’ it wasn’t what we wanted. By this time wedding stress was starting to get both of us, so I said *beep* it. I bought two Costco sheet cakes, the medieval lego castle set, a $1.99 beginner’s cake decorating set from Safeway, and some extra little decorations. With the supervision and some help from my mother’s friend I decorated our own wedding cake. And you know what? It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.
. . .and the people ate the cake, for the cake was good.
I first saw the Woodinville, WA shop when skipping work for my birthday one day. I had been trying to figure out what I wanted for my birthday dinner, so decided to go in and check out this new butcher.
Now, what I remember of the neighborhood butcher when I was very very young, which was of course probably expounded upon by Hollywood, was the non-smiling, cleaver-wielding, finger-missing figure that would always show up in black and white even though you were watching a movie in color. I was pleasantly surprised to find a very helpful, very knowledgeable, and very cheerful group who had all of their fingers (although a little dissapointed because I really wanted to meet the previously described individual in person). The shop was clean, the work area tidy, and the atmosphere inviting.
Because I wasn’t sure what I wanted, I told them why I was there, and after answering a few of their questions, I walked out with a couple of dry aged prime rib steaks. I was not dissappointed. Since then, I have purchased:
Special note; recently the shops have started to carrying Fentiman’s Botanically Brew Beverages. I strongly suggest trying Curiosity Cola, Victorian Lemonade, Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger, and the Ginger Beer, in that order. Although Fentiman’s Beverages have been very difficult to find, Bill the Butcher has made finding these bottles of liquid gold much easier.
If you have time go check out any of the Bill the Butcher shops, but especially visit the Woodinville shop, meet Kevin Sarbora and Brege Tivnan the two fresh butchers and Bree Croteau, who like the others will welcome you with a smile. They will charm you with their humor and dazzle you with their knowledge. If you don’t have time to visit, make some, you will thank me later.
July 4th, 1976, the Bicentennial celebration; I was reintroduced to the Jello Cake. This time, red, white and blue. It consisted of white cake, vanilla pudding (dyed blue), and raspberry jello. Now, this was much tastier, but the vanilla pudding topping was still thin and had no body/structure; and the cake was soggy.
August 21st, 1976, my mom had asked me what type of cake I wanted for my birthday a couple of days earlier. I had decided that I wanted Jello Cake, but I wanted to make it.
First, had to fix the problem of the soggy cake but still have good raspberry jello flavor. I decided to use about fourth to a third of the water needed. Half hot water to get the jello dissolved, somewhat, then the other half cold to get the jello to start congealing faster. I poke holes in the cake with a fork and poured the jello over the top. Even then I didn’t even use all of the jello (but I did drink the rest). I immediately put the cake in the refrigerator so that the jello would cool.
After about an hour I started to make the topping. As most any kid, I wanted a thick ‘frosting’. I can’t remember how I thought of this, it just came to me, one of those epiphany things. I took two small boxes vanilla pudding and mixed it up using half of the milk required for the pudding. I then took out chilled but thawed Cool Whip and slowly folded in enough with the pudding until it created the consistency I was looking for; about 12 ounces of Cool Whip. I took the now chilled cake out and poured the pudding over the top, all of it. The topping was now almost as thick as the cake
Had my friends over (and their mothers, *sigh*) for my birthday party. The cake had been chilling for about 3 hours after the topping was put on (turns out that it only needs to chill for about an hour for the last stage, but my mom wasn’t going to let me eat any until my party so I didn’t find that out until a few months later). It was a hit! Everyone liked it. Although, hearing your mom say that it was almost ‘orgasmic’ was not usually a word you wanted to hear your mom say (yes, at 11 I knew what orgasmic meant, I had read it in a copy of Cosmopolitan that my friend stole from his mom’s nightstand).
Anyway, here you go folks. Hope you have as much fun eating it as I do!
While once again despairing over the fact that I couldn’t find the previously mentioned soda, I noticed this little bottle sitting at eye level on the shelf. It said ‘Curiosity Cola’. . .
Now since curiosity is one of the eight driving forces of my life, naturally this piqued my interest.
At a somewhat pricey $7.99 for 4-9.3 oz bottles I didn’t even hesitate to buy my first four pack. I went home and stuck them in our beverage refrigerator (yes, we have a beverage refrigerator, I am a gamer after all). Luckily, I promised my wife that I would go out an mow the lawn and do some other yard work, thus allowing the soda to chill.
Before I opened the bottle, I noticed that there was some sediment at the bottom. Discovering that this was to be expected, I carefully stirred it up and opened the bottle with a twist.
The first sip. . .I thought I died and went to heaven. After the second sip. . . St. Peter asked for some. Well, let’s just say, I won’t be getting into heaven any time soon, because I wasn’t sharing.
I remember my first sip of another cola when I was but 4 years old. It was grandma’s and my secret. Drinking Curiosity Cola brought me back to that moment. Fentimans not only added a touch of ginger to it, or cane sugar, but they added a bit of themselves to it. The Fentimans family obviously love doing what they do. They were definitely ‘in the mood’. Curiosity Cola, Seville Orange Jigger, and Victorian Lemonade are now my beverages of choice when I am ‘in the mood’ to cook or bake.
Cheers to Fentimans!