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Eclecticisms: April 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lemon-Glazed Cheesecake

When I come across a recipe on the web that looks like something I want to make but don't plan on doing anything with it in the next few days, I e-mail the link to myself. This means that I have dozens of e-mails from myself, to myself, all with random links to fantastic sounding recipes. The problem is, I don't go through them enough and really need to remedy that, because there are some really, really good ones just waiting to be tried! This is a recipe I e-mailed to myself back in December (not bad, considering my track record) and I didn't run across it in my e-mail, but while I was looking for a new recipe to try for Easter dinner.

My inner dialogue last week went as follows:

"I need to try a new recipe... hm. Cookies? Yes! Orange Madelines. Eh, maybe. Ooooh, this recipe looks great! Lemon-gazed cheesecake? A lemon dessert would be perfect and cheesecake is my favorite! Ha- look at that. 1st comment on this blog is from BeadEclectic. I guess this one was meant to be."

You can find the original recipe here, but I did make one substitution and slightly adjusted the cooking time and temp. My favorite cheesecakes almost always use sweetened condensed milk and this didn't call for any. There's something about the flavor, almost a tanginess, that just makes the cake. Soooo, I took out the sugar and added a can of it. I was nervous, but it turned out fine. Great even. Man, do I love me some cheesecake!


2 1/4 cups honey graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted

3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
14 oz (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping Tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons grated lemon peel
6 Tablespoons butter

Pre-heat oven to 350.

While the butter is melting for your crust, crush the grahams into smithereens. I put them in a large plastic bag and punch the hell out of them. I'm sure there's a slightly less violent way, but what's better than taking out your aggressions on some unexpecting crackers? Once they're crushed up, add the sugar and butter and mix thoroughly with a fork. (The tines come in handy if you need to break up any pesky cracker pieces that survived the initial beating.) Press the crust along the bottom and partially up the sides of a 9" spring form pan. 

Now, bake the crust at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on your stove burners or a wire rack to cool a bit while you prepare the filling.


Using your mixer, beat the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk together until thoroughly blended and smooth. Under beating the filling will lead to a denser cake, so don't under do it!

Add eggs and beat on low until combined. Finally, add the lemon peel, lemon zest and vanilla. Beat on low until just combined.


Pour the filling into the graham crust and bake at 325 for about 50 minutes. The cake will be jiggly (like jello), which is normal. You don't want to over bake it.

After the cake is ready, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife along the edges of the cake, to make sure nothing is sticking. Cool for at least another hour and refrigerate overnight, covered.

The filling can be prepared the next day, but I made it while the cake was cooking. I wanted to glaze the cake before it sat overnight, though the original recipe called for glazing it right before serving. "My" way worked out just great!

To make the glaze, whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon rind together in a small sauce pan. Add butter and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the glazed has thickened a bit and will coat the back of a spoon (approx. 5 minutes).  The glaze will further thicken as it cools, so wait about an hour before glazing your cake.

The remaining glaze is to serve along side the cake. Use leftovers in any way you would use lemon curd! Toast and ice cream are two things I plan to use my leftovers on.

This cake is a wonderful springtime dessert, and a great way to end an Easter meal. Unfortunately, I was too full from dinner (that potato casserole was worth every bit of pain it brought on!) so I only tried a bite of this cake when we all ate together. I did have a piece for dinner last night through! (And tonight, too. I hope my pants fit next week...)

Do you have a favorite cheesecake recipe? What's your favorite flavor/topping?

Happy eating!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

Happy Tuesday (night)!

Growing up, I was a huge Muppet fan. As an adult, I've remained a Muppet fan and adore Jim Henson. I think what he did in his brief lifetime was nothing short of genius. From his original advertising techniques to his last movie and tv shows, Jim is someone who my imagination clings to. He inspires me.

While looking up a picture of Jim, I saw that there is a new Muppet movie coming out this year?! Where have I been!!! I haven't seen a bad one yet, not even anything posthomous. (Still, am I the only one who hates what's happened to Sesame Street? Am I longing for vintage or has Elmo just taken over and nearly ruined it?)

Speaking of vintage Sesame Street, that's what got me to writing this post. I ran across this video awhile back and laughed my ass off when I saw it. I definitely don't remember Sesame Street being this dark, and would probably have some train-phobia, had I seen this as a child (of which I'm convinced I didn't).

So remember kids, "you might lose your purse or you might lose something worse, on the subway!".

Happy Tuesday!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Gardening Update: Seedlings!

I had planned to blog about a new recipe I tried tonight, but I JUST got home about half an hour ago and I'm beat. Instead, here are some pictures that I took at my Mom's this weekend of her seedlings. Remember how they started out? They've grown!

Fresh basil is probably my favorite edible plant in my garden.


How are your plants doing?

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Eating!

This weekend I'll be trying a new recipe, but in case you are stuck for an Easter dessert idea, try the carrot cake I made last year. It's delish! I'm also going to be making it again this year, since it was so damn good.

I also missed poetry Thursday. Fail on my part, but I have a couple of things that I'll be documenting this weekend, so (hopefully!) you'll be seeing some fun posts about them very soon. Yes, I am leaving you guessing as to what they might be about. Muwahaha.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tickled Tuesday


I haven't been posting (or baking) nearly as much as I'd like to lately, but I have a good excuse for the past weekend. I had a PTK eye surgery that ended up with a minor complication and I'm still just getting my vision back. (I literally wrote my last blog using one eye. Like a pirate. Arrrrgh.) Nothing serious, just a LOT of pain and inconvenience. I'm not dying, I'm not blind. Anyways, I've whined enough to my friends about it (and will continue to whine until I feel back to my old self!) so I won't go on and on here, but I don't want anyone to think I've forgotten about my blog! I have a good excuse this time.

So. A week or two ago I had a revelation at work that I would learn French and then go to France for my 30th birthday. This seemed like a fantastic idea, until I realized...

1) I will not travel to another country alone


2) I will not have that kind of money saved up in a year and a half. (Yes, it's THAT close. I can smell it, and it doesn't smell all that great.)

In the meantime while I make up my mind on how I can make this a short term reality, if not by 30, I've been listening to a lot of Edith Piaf. Actually, I think I was listening to her when I had my revelation, so maybe it wasn't all that random.

I've always loved her signature song. It definitely puts a smile on my face and maybe even a star in my eye. (Was that corny? Probably.)

For those of you who prefer the English version...

Happy Tuesday!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pasta Salad

Last weekend was a warm one here in Chicago, topping out in the low 80's. After the winter temps it felt even hotter, and also made me crave some cold pasta salad. Boiling noodles and eggs didn't exactly cool me off, but the pasta hit the spot. I threw together a few things I had, and although I didn't make anything ground breaking, I though I'd share the recipe, none the less. (Hey... not everyone knows how to make pasta salad, right?)


1/2-3/4 box macaroni noodles
4 hard boiled eggs
1/2 Yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 diced onion (I used yellow)
approx 1 Cup mayo (adjust to taste)
3 stalks celery
dried dill weed
salt/pepper to taste

Prepare your eggs and noodles. Once cooked, rinse both in cold water until cool.

Chop up all your veggies. I read somewhere that rinsing raw onion with cold water will help cut down on the fumes (which REALLY bother my eyes), and it seemed to work with no effect on the taste.

Summer food colors!
Mix all ingredients together and generously season with the dill. Add salt and pepper if desired (I salted it as it was served instead.) Chill and serve cold.


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poetry Thursday

I hope this feature
of weekly poems and verse
engages your mind

Really, I do! I love watching people come up with haikus. I am still inviting everyone to submit anything they've written, as I'd love to share it here.

Tomorrow I have eye surgery and I have to admit, I felt a little nervous last night. It's nothing major; a quick laser procedure to polish off a small callus on my eye that's been bothering me. It isn't really noticable but it's become cumbersome enough to just get the surgery over with. I've had LASIK, so I know what to expect. No needles of course, which explains why I haven't really been thinking about it.

Tattoos don't bother me for some reason, but anything medical with needles leaves me absolutely petrified. It's an actual phobia I've struggled with my entire life and it SUCKS. Hypnosis therapy helped, but it's gotten worse again. I had an IV ealier this year and cried when the nurse came to put it in. Did I mention I'm almost 30? Haha... I'm so not a tough cookie in those situations.

OK- so I posted a haiku but then I rambled. I guess this is a ramblin' Thursday post? Oh, and I'm posting from my phone on the train! Me and my Grandma have similar "You can do that!?" reactions to technological features. She can handle needles though.

Happy Thursday! Watch for a new recipe tonight or tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

Hello all!

This Tuesday I'm sharing a picture I got in my LolzCat digest. Can you find the hidden cat? It took me awhile, but I did it!

Funny Pictures - Camouflage Cat

Happy Tuesday!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Veggie Feature: Cauliflower!

Cauliflower is an underappreciated and often poorly prepared veggie. Most people only indulge in this white delicious treat when it's on a raw veggie plate and served with a massive amount of ranch dressing. I have to admit, though I've always like cauliflower, it's never been a big part of my diet. My Aunt Mary made some very similar to the recipe here this past Christmas, and it was so good that I plan to make it pretty regularly now.

Cauliflower is in the species Brassica oleracea, which also includes broccoli and kale. It comes in many different varieties (in orange, green or purple), all under four major groups which are Italian, Northwest European biennial, Northern European annuals and Asian.  

If you plan to try and grow cauliflower in your garden, keep in mind that it prefers cooler weather and 1" of water every 5-7 days. You can find a lot of information about growing this delicious veggie on this NS State University website.

Cauliflower keeps (in the fridge) raw for about 5 days and cooked about 3. How long something keeps is something that very rarely worries me, which I'm sure my brother can attest to. He just threw out my mustard which expired in 2009. Oops... (What can I say? I don't use a lot of mustard.) Still, it's worth mentioning.

Now to the parts most of you are probably wanting to hear about... what vitamins it has and how to cook it to make it taste amazing! Low in calories, this veggie has high fiber (8% DV), vitamin C (46%!) and potassium (9%) contents ( DVs based on a 1 Cup serving).

Cauliflower and Yellow Squash

3 Tbs butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
medium head cauliflower
1 small/medium yellow squash
4 cloves garlic
dill weed to taste

Mince garlic and add to a large pan with 1 Tbs butter and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan about 3/4 (roughly 1/4 cup).

Cook uncovered until the water is almost completely evaporated.

Add cauliflower, squash and lemon juice. Add the remaining 2 Tbs butter (cut into pieces) and enough water to cover the veggies about 1/2 way. Sprinkle generously with dill (or to taste). Cook covered on medium-high to high heat for about 15 minutes, or until tender and the veggies have started to brown a bit. The water should be mostly gone by now, but you can drain what's left out if necessary.

Serve hot and enjoy!

What's your favorite way to eat cauliflower?

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Mobile Post

Testing out the mobile post feature on Blogger! Though I HIGHLY doubt I'd write much from here, I wanted to see how it worked. I can take and add pictures it looks like!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Haiku" Thursday?

This week I wanted to feature some haikus written by published poets, but can you believe that other than audio clips, most of what is on the net is just... bad? I'm not generally one to judge another's poetry, but I am not going to post a haiku that I found about Coldplay. Wow.

So. Here's what I've been thinking. I don't mind writing a haiku each week but I want to expand "Haiku Thursday" to "Poetry Thursday", or something similar. that really opens up what I can do here! I'll always be taking submisions, if anyone would like to have their work posted on my blog. For now, here is a poem by one of my favorites, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Constantly Risking Absurdity

Constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of the day
performing entrachats
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
any thing
for what it may not be
For he's the super realist
who must perforce perceive
taut truth
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
with gravity
to start her death-defying leap
And he
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
of existence

(Lawernce Ferlinghetti was born in NewYork in 1919. He still lives there, in Yonkers, at the age of 92.)


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Giveaway!

I'm super excited to announce that I'm sponsoring my 2nd giveaway! Go check it out at Mommy Wants to Read and enter to win a cute pair of earrings!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gardening Part 1: Starting Seedlings

Me, helping start the tomato plants.
My parents have always been big on gardening, even before I was born. I grew up eating homegrown vegetables and a couple of my favorite childhood activities in the summer were to find the plumpest sugar snap peas on the vine and gobble them down, and eat bright red cherry tomatoes, fresh off the plant. One year, I ate so many cucumbers over a couple of months that I started to get some weird reaction where my mouth would get really itchy. It took me years to get over it, but it's gone now (thankfully!).

Over the past couple of years, my black thumb has slowly begun to turn green. (An army green, really. I'm not quite there yet.) To try and learn more about the subject, I asked my Mom if I could help her start her seedlings this year. I knew gardening wasn't easy, but man. Every spring I feel SO overwhelmed by all I don't know (and talk incessantly about what I DO know, when showing off my garden to a friend or neighbor), and planting the seedlings was an early reminder of that.

What did I learn? I'm glad you asked!


Let me preface this by saying that I barely did anything you will see here. My Mom has a ton of seeds started from the weekend before (I missed out because I was sick!) and when I went over there she had me plant some aster, bachelor buttons and amaranthus in pots she'd already prepared. Part of what I often find so confusing in gardening is that most plants have more than one name, with several pronounciations. (Who's to say what the right ones are sometimes...)

Barney is her best helper.

Some tips I learned about starting seeds:

1) Use moist soil in the pots, not dry. If you use dry soil, it won't absorb the water well when it comes time to water your newly planted seeds.

2) Mix perlite in with your soil. Perlite is a soil additive that you often see in potted plants. It looks like small white balls, almost similar to styrofoam, and I used to think it was a type of fertilizer. Not the case. Perlite, an amorphous volcanic glass, helps to aerate the soil by keeping it loose, while leaving a great area for the plants to root. Compact soil isn't easy for many plants to root in.

3) Don't be disappointed when seeds don't grow. Different seeds have different likelihoods of growing, and there are tons of factors that will lessen the chances you'll end up with a plant. These variables include lighting, temperature, soil quality and seed quality. Patience is an absolute must, and after growing up/living around gardeners, I know there is never a point where you've learned the best way to do it all.

4) Use a fan on your seedlings. A soft breeze from a fan will help to toughen up your plants, namely their stems. After being indoors without a breeze, they'll otherwise be quite delicate and often won't adapt well to outdoor conditions. I looked it up and apparently there's a term for this, Thigmomorphogenesis. (Just don't ask me how to pronounce it!)

5) Light is key! I've read that having the lights on a timer is important, as your plants will experience day and night once outdoors. You don't want the lights to turn off too early though, since artifical light is weaker than sunlight. There are tons of different grow bulbs, and lots of great sites with info on them you can check out. I am most definitely not the person to educate you on this. Unless you want your plants to die, of course. In that case, I have lots of tips!

These seeds were pretty big, but some were absolutely tiny!

6) Read the packets carefully. I assumed all seeds were pretty much the same. Put them in some soil, water them, get them light, and voila! Plants. If only it were that easy. Everything we planted called for very, very little soil covering the seed. Still, you don't want the seed exposed either. Too many seeds will crowd a pot but not enough seeds in a pot and you're wasting some time, since they won't all germinate.

7) When you water, sprinkle, and be very gentle. You don't want to wash your seeds up out of the the soil you just planted them in. My Mom mixes "Living Soil" into her water, which is earthworm castings in tea bags that will fertilize the seeds and help them to grow.

8) Label the plants you grow, so  you know what everything is when it's ready to be transferred outside. Be mindful of how much sunlight (and what kind of sunlight) each plant needs, so you put them in places where they will flourish.

Barney is the boss.

There's SO much more to learn! I'm really looking forward to the summer and tracking the progress of my garden. We'll have lots of vegetables, herbs and flowers, along with my favorite, sunflowers!

A sunflower from next to my house, 2009.

Do you have any good gardening tips? Please, share!
Happy gardening!

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