RUNNING, DIET BARS AND SOCIETAL STANDARDS

RUNNING, DIET BARS AND SOCIETAL STANDARDS

DSCN1620 Under these 40 extra pounds I’m wearing, there is an injured runner clawing to get out.  A runner on the mend.  The injury that sidelined me was almost three years ago to the day.  I gained over a third of my entire body weight within that first year of injury, like a speeding train without warning.  There isn’t any way to disguise all the extra weight.  Believe me when I say I’ve tried, and tried. Disgusted each time I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or heaven forbid a photograph. All of this bulking heft and extra chins.  I am unrecognizable to myself.
Women constantly remind me just how fat I’d become…strangers though, never friends.  It seems so innocent, so benign, a women pointing three ahead of her in a crowded line to me, saying loudly to her daughter “Look honey, that woman is pregnant” only I was NOT pregnant.   “I wish they had cute maternity clothes like that when I was having a baby” when I was NOT wearing maternity clothes.  Females assuming that anyone trying as hard as I was to mask the circumference of my waist, which is now the measurement my hips used to be, must be hiding a pregnancy.
So far it had been just women.  Except today it was a man.  A man from my business networking group who has seen me, heavier than he thinks I should be.  This man doesn’t know anything about me really, has only seen the fat me.  Never met the real me, the old me, the healthy runner me, the wanna be yogi me, the avid kick boxer me.  He only knows the pent up and angry me with no way to exercise her demons away.
He approached me while I was mid conversation with another person, “I wanted to give you this weight loss bar,” he said cheerfully.  My day ruined before 8:45 am.
“I wanted to give you this weight loss bar.” A completely, utterly unprovoked and insulting conversation starter about my weight problem.
“I wanted to give you this weight loss bar.” Can you imagine?  Someone having the balls to walk up to you, here fat ass I brought you a diet in a wrapper, you sure look like you could use it.
I wanted to punch him in his gleeful face.  Hard.  Physically assault him by splintering those fucking glasses against his forehead with the heel of my hand.  Always the heel of your hand ladies, always.  Your elbow, knee and heel of hand are the hardest parts of the body.  Please don’t believe that Hollywood bullshit that you can break a guy’s face with your delicate manicured fist. You won’t.  You will break your hand and limit yourself to one ineffectual punch.  So, smash face, rip out hair in clumps leaving bits of scalp still attached.  Tear at his face with my nails then finish the mauling with a kick to the groin.  Leave him there curled on the ground in the fetal position, teeny tiny weight loss bar forgotten off to the side.
After the beating I could use the remaining time we had together before the police arrive to have a calmer, more productive conversation on why I specifically DON’T need a diet bar.  Fat as I am.
For the first 27 years of my life I lived calorie restriction.  Lived it, breathed it, every fucking angle of it. I only knew food dysfunction.  There wasn’t a side of a diet that I hadn’t explored or existed on.  At some point in the day whether I was seven or seventeen I was starving and deprived.  My mother refused to cook and she was constantly on a diet therefore I was constantly on a diet.  Do you know how impossible it is to starve yourself Kate Moss heroine thin while only dining on pizza, Chinese takeout and McDonalds meals?! Often I only ate one meal a day because a McDonalds Happy Meal is an entire days worth of calories.  And we counted calories.
Add in all of the misery of adolescents with its self consciousness and female comparison. For inspiration I used to look to magazines with their supermodels, whose thighs never touched.  A horse could ride off in the sunset between those enviable spaces where thighs should be.  During all the years of my deprivation, even in my thinnest summer, which occurred when I was 19, subsisting on nothing but Slim fast shakes; I shed enough weight for the scale to read a number I hadn’t seen since twelve and even then it was a weight I passed quickly through, my thighs touched.
A bar isn’t going to help me lose weight.  Yes, technically calorie restriction works to a point but I gained 40 pounds.  For those of you who don’t like math, I will do it for you.  I would have to eliminate 140,000 calories from my diet to lose the weight.  One Hundred Forty Thousand less calories.  That ain’t happening.
“I wanted to give you this weight loss bar.”
While I did not punch him in the face, I did hiss menacingly.  “This bar isn’t going to help me lose weight.  See ALL of these ingredients?”  I attempted to recite the long list of chemicals that comprised this piece of … food?  See this uh mono gyro glicericydes? I failed to pronounce the first one so I gave up and prattled on, “I don’t need all of these ingredients to lose weight. In fact, all of these ingredients won’t help me lose weight.  I need real food like fruits and vegetables and lots of exercise. Exercise and a healthy diet will help me lose weight.”  I spoke unusually fast, no spaces, commas or pauses for him to interrupt.  I shoved the bar back into his still outstretched hand.   To this day the anger has not subsided.
While everyone else values the diet bar pushers and will buy any pill that promises to help them shed pounds.  I, don’t.  I am not lying to myself.  I found my answer and that answer is running.  Running forces me to eat better, forces me to sleep more and make better decisions to keep the running as pain free as running can be.  I won’t lie to you either.  It takes discipline, hard work and a bit of sacrifice.  It’s not quick, in fact is the farthest corner from quick.
I was forty pounds overweight because my injury had me on the sidelines unable to bear the pain of regular tasks let alone exercise.  The only way for me to remove 140,000 extra calories is to run them off.  It took most of my adult life but I eventually figured it out.  I do not want to starve myself thin. As much as exercise is hard even downright painful, it has more benefits than simply eliminating calories.  I never felt satisfied at the end of a day of dieting. Not once. I felt an overwhelming desire for a basic and most human act.  Eating.   No matter how much my brain is bitching while on my runs, afterward there is a satisfaction that is cloaked in endorphins and dopamine.  I never felt like I achieved anything on a diet.  Every run makes me feel like something has been accomplished.

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Dieting off forty pounds would leave folds of extra flesh soft and hanging.  Exercise builds muscle tone filling in that skin and giving it definition as well as a way to hold myself erect.  Dieting is a one for one.  On a diet, one less calorie in, is just that, one less calorie.  Your body becomes militant in how efficient it will be with fewer calories.  The human body is the best robotic machine out there and without your conscious effort it works to be more efficient.  It rewards fewer calories with requiring less calories. You can’t not eat, you can’t eliminate all the calories as your body makes due with the less and less you give it.

Exercising is one calorie burned with a healthy side effect of more calories burned at rest.  You need more fuel to burn as your body builds up, not tears down.  This body is supposed to last my lifetime.  I can’t be too starved and muscle deficient to lift myself out of a chair or walk up a flight of stairs.  A diet bar doesn’t improve my cardiovascular health and doesn’t help me sleep better at night.  Diet bars don’t sweat out the toxins and leave my skin pink and flushed with effort. Diet bars don’t give me strength, mental or physical. Dieting doesn’t leave me spent but satisfied. Diet bars don’t put me out in the fresh air where I can see a bit of nature. Running does.  I’m a runner.  I subscribe to the idea that miles of self punishment will bring me to the other side, saved.
We want it to be easy. It’s not. Despite the rhetoric, parking further away, doesn’t count as exercise.  Taking the stairs, no matter how many times we read it in the magazines with the ladies whose thighs don’t touch, doesn’t shed pounds.  Exerting ourselves until our heart threatens to pound right through our chests and maintaining that exertion while sweat pours off parts of our body that we didn’t know had sweat glands.  Over and over and over again until it feels good instead of bad.  That kind of exercise burns calories and gets us into shape so we are too addicted to stop.
Even relaying this story now, two years after its occurrence, I still envision myself choking the man with the diet bar; sometimes it’s the rear choke hold, sometimes straight on, looking in his eyes while I squeeze out the breath that gasps, “You need this diet bar”.  Sometimes the vision is MMA style, his head between my thunderous thighs that always touch giving him one last squeeze even after he tapped out with the hand that previously held the bar.
But, attacking this man, even as he insults me at the start of a workday would be deemed unacceptable by societal standards to which I shout “shenanigans”!  What should be unacceptable is walking up to a relative stranger at a business networking group and offering a woman who is dealing with an injury a weight loss bar.

MONET, COOKBOOKS AND WHORES WITH APOSTROPHES

For over 20 years Monet painted water lilies.  He compulsively painted them, over and over, repetitive as all hell.  As he went blind, the panic of not painting the water lilies correctly, of not accurately capturing the ever changing light on their beauty, caused him to declare his life a failure.  He planned on having his work destroyed upon his death. Artists can be a melodramatic bunch.  I know because I am one of them.
Another commonality amongst us is our good is never good enough. Monet painted over 250 canvases of water lilies and each one fell short of his approval.  Sure, it can be a positive trait propelling you to produce quality work but more likely it is a soul crushing comparison to some theoretical ideal that doesn’t exist.
The internet doesn’t suffer from this affliction. That is its beauty. It was Yahoo that provided me this much needed epiphany, not some obscure blog.  Yahoo.  A money making organization held to higher standards for its revenue receiving shareholders.  I cannot thank them enough. They have shown me the light.  I am successfully liberated from the shackles of my self-imposed limitations.  No matter how much I may suck, at least I’m not putting apostrophes into whores.
One morning not long ago, I clicked open the internet. Yahoo popped up and on the right hand side, in large bold font the headline to the article read, “Americans Who’re out of work”.  I never read on.  I lost my mind because you don’t contract who and are.  You can’t.  Don’t and can’t are two perfectly legitimate contractions.  You do not contract who are, you cannot and you should not.  Who are makes sense grammatically and phonetically. Who’re is not a proper contraction, it’s just whore with an apostrophe.  I fumed at the injustice.  These people called themselves writers; they were being paid for their art.  I am not an artist of Monet’s caliber, but I strive like he did.  I am unsatisfied like he was but maybe, just maybe, I was being too hard on myself, after all I can’t remember the last time I improperly punctuated whores.

Previously I discounted the idea for my cookbook XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX because I filtered it through the understanding that I would “pitch” it to a publisher. The college grad, always prepared, well researched writer in me knew XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX didn’t fit into the tidy genre that cookbooks fall into.  The real voice, the one that wants to be heard, the overly opinionated food enthusiast who actually has something to say, that voice doesn’t give two shits about demographics, marketability, branding or projected earnings.

The cookbook that has been scribbled into a dozen notebooks for the better part of almost 20 years is going to see the light of day.  The actual book will come up short of the masterpiece I imagine but that is the curse of an idea versus the reality.

Stay tuned but in the meantime eat, drink and be merry.

Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce

Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce

Happy spring.  What a wonderful time of year and not just because the weather improves, the flowers bloom and the birds sing.  As a cooking enthusiast I am thrilled those ridiculous diets that so many agree to in a fit of New Year Resolution mania, fall away.  The New Year’s resolution that swears off carbohydrates forever.  The plan to lose 56 pounds a month by converting three meals to three shakes, no, make that three cookie bars a day.  It even looks silly on paper, Cookie bars for dieting?!?  Stop the nonsense and come to the dark side. We eat lasagna so we’re so much more pleasant to be around.

Don’t get me wrong, many diets have been born from solid theory.  Somewhere along the line however, they are molested into a ludicrous plan that lacks sustainability. The American diet is filled with an almost unlimited supply of over processed carbs.  On the surface, it is a super smart move to eliminate some carbs from our diets but they take it too far.  Recently I picked up a low carb cookbook and was floored at the nonsense it touted.  They measured the diced tomato and onion at ¼ cup each with a side note mentioning NOT to use a ½ cup each.  The side note stated that there are carbohydrates in tomatoes and onions.  A separate entry specifically identifying that tomatoes and onions are problematic in the carbohydrate category.  Really?  Is that a joke?  We look at someone grossly overweight, a mountain of misshapen flesh, lumbering slowly down the street and say to ourselves, “Well, it’s those onions, man.  And he needs to lay off those tomatoes too.  They’re going to kill him”.
This isn’t an AA program where you need twelve steps to eliminate this enemy from your life.  Carbohydrates naturally occur.   They aren’t the enemy.  Inactivity, laziness, lack of daily exercise, those are the enemy.

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The other diet that could make me slap seemingly intelligent people is the bar diet.  They eat a cookie bar for breakfast and a cookie bar for lunch then a sensible dinner.  First off, the cookie bar is a 2 inch by 4 inch by 1 inch rectangle.  Your cell phone is significantly larger than this “meal”.   It’s called calorie restriction through lack of food.  Add to that these so called health bars have an ingredient list so long it barely fits on the wrapper and I challenge you to pronounce more than 50 percent of the ingredients.  Good rule.  Can’t pronounce it?  Don’t eat it.

So take my advice.  Go for a walk.  Go for a run.  Lift weights until your muscles buckle.  Then come home, make yourself this delicious dinner of Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce over a bed of rice with your favorite greens.  Eat it and enjoy.
Eat, Drink, EXERCISE and be Merry,
Lisa

Coconut Encrusted Haddock in a Malibu Rum Caper Sauce

Small bag of shredded sweetened coconut (7 ounces)
2 fillets of haddock or other firm white fish trimmed to uniform pieces for even cooking
1 egg and 1 tbsp water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon (zest and juice)
2 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (Coconut milk will work here but it is significantly better with the cream)
½ cup plus a splash of Malibu Rum
2 Tbsp non peril capers drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cornstarch
White pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Zest your lemon into a bowl and juice your lemon over the zest.  This softens the zest so you don’t feel it in the final product.  Set aside.  Sprinkle the entire bag of coconut on a clean, dry, unlined cookie sheet so it is in a thin layer.  Place in the oven and babysit.  Don’t walk away.  Do not open email or check face book.  You don’t have the luxury of forgetfulness here.  Open the oven every 3 to 4 minutes to check and make sure the coconut is toasting perfectly and not scorching.  You will have to take the sheet out of the oven once or twice to shake and maneuver the darker coconut out of the corners and lay back into a thin layer again until it is perfect shades of tan and brown with only flecks of white coconut remaining.
Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees.  When the coconut cools, 10 minutes or so, take out two shallow dishes or pie plates.  Place the egg in one dish, whisk egg and water together.  Place the toasted coconut in the second dish.  Dredge the fish into the egg wash and press into the coconut.  Coat both sides thoroughly.  Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium high.  Add the olive oil.  Once the oil is shimmering put each fillet in the pan.  It will only take 3 or 4 minutes per side depending on how thick your fillets are but fish cooks quickly.  Once cooked remove to a plate and place in your oven while you cook the sauce which only takes about 7 minutes more.  Wipe out the inside of the skillet with a paper towel removing the remaining oil and bits of coconut that fell off.  Still at medium high heat add the butter.  Once melted add the Malibu Rum, the lemon, the lemon zest and the cream.  Simmer for a few minutes.  Place the cornstarch in a small cup and add some of the liquid from the pan to warm and make slurry.  Once the cornstarch is incorporated in the liquid pour into the pan with the rest of the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes.  This will thicken the sauce.  Add the capers and a sprinkle of white pepper.  The sauce is done when it coats the back of a spoon.  Place the fish over a bed of rice and drizzle the sauce on top.
This is an extremely quick dish once you have the toasted coconut. I make toasted coconut for this dish plus some other desserts so I actually toast large batches and store it in Ziploc baggies.  DSCN0082[1]

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

The premise of most food blogs is simple.  Daily posts singing the praises of delicious food.  The constant barrage that everything food related is whimsical, fun and easy.  The overall tone brims with positivity punctuated with a plethora of exclamation points demanding you try it; concludes with very pretty pictures.Warm Fall day

I plan on having pretty pictures. Not now but someday.  Today my photography fetish is on hold due to a learning curve of my new camera.  However, the rest of the time I have no intention of following the trends.  First off, I certainly cannot maintain a genuinely upbeat demeanor over everything food related.  After all, there is food shopping which happens to be the bane of my existence.  I love to cook. I HATE to shop.  Actually hate is not a strong enough word. It is my nemesis.

Mostly, I shop at the supermarket that is the cheapest, as does everyone else.  These trips don’t resemble anything they show you on TV.  No one is coming from a fashion shoot, smiling, recyclable bag in tow.  This is general population shopping represented by a diverse and often disgusting group.  Maybe you are lucky enough to have a similar bunch; the ‘still in my pj’s at four thirty in the afternoon’ shopper.  The ‘malodorous pervert whose rank aroma perfumes the air for two or more aisles’ shopper.  The ‘cough phlegm all over hands and touch every piece of fruit’ shopper.  The list goes on and on.   Someday, I will have the financial resources to have someone shop for me but in the meantime I am cursed.  Unhappily I traipse aisle to aisle, begging those shoppers who won’t release their terror grip from their half-filled carriages to please excuse me.

There are days when I’ve managed to make it relatively unscathed through the aisles but hardly ever through checkout with my mood intact. No matter my efforts at ordering the bagger around I leave lugging improperly filled grocery bags home only to be disappointed that those unblemished tomatoes I worried myself in picking out have been completely molested.  Those flawless bananas that traveled from El Salvador unblemished somehow can’t make the last 10 yards from my car to the kitchen without bumps and bruises.

At this point you may wonder why you should read on if I plan on telling long winded opinionated digressions that may have nothing to do with the recipe below it.  You are your own person and can certainly just scroll down the page to the recipe.  However, there will be a time, and probably soon, when you find yourself behind an inconsiderate shopper, that person who has no idea that anyone else exists, the person blocking the entire ice cream section hanging onto their unpaid groceries like a cart of gold.  You will be annoyed; you will think of me.  We will share a knowing glance.  Maybe it won’t happen at the store itself but when you go home to find your delicate items crushed beneath several large can of diced tomatoes; again you will think of me. I will call the inept bagger disgusting names on your behalf, expressions that will make a sailor blush.  Then there will be the day you come out to the parking lot to find three carts terrorizing your car like an unruly gang.  Right after you finish muttering your expletives you will think of me, ranting my own stream of obscenities in a far off supermarket and we will bond.  You will remember this rant and know that you are not alone.

I cannot promise a site oozing with nothing but positivity but I can promise a bit of honesty, the occasional voice of dissent and delicious recipes.  Make sure you have these ingredients on your next shopping list and try this ice cream.  It is heaven on earth.                                                             Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Lisa

I experimented with the number of cinnamon sticks and found less is more

I experimented with the number of cinnamon sticks and found less is more

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Quick Note – Use both cinnamon sticks as well as ground cinnamon.  The sticks add a spicy heat and a layer of depth that you wouldn’t get with just the ground spice.
Making ice cream doesn’t require special skills as much as it requires patience. No matter how fantastic it smells resign yourself to the fact that you may make it today but will enjoy tomorrow.
1 ½ cup whole milk
1 ½ cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
4 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon vanilla

3 egg yolks

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the milk, cream, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan.  Slowly bring to a simmer while continually stirring the mixture with a heat proof spatula.  Plan on a little patience in this process, you don’t want to scald the milk. Continue to cook the cream mixture for about 10-15 minutes.   In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks completely.  Take a measuring cup and scoop out some of the hot cream mixture and stream it ever so slowly into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time.  It is important to do this slowly so you don’t curdle the eggs.  This warms the eggs so you can now take that eggy cream and stream it back into the saucepan.  Add the vanilla.  Stir in the cinnamon.  Lower the heat on the stove.  The mixture should barely bubble.  Continue to stir and cook this mixture until it coats the back of a spoon. This is your custard base.
Take off the heat and plunge the entire saucepan into a larger bowl filled with ice.  Keep the saucepan in the ice bath and occasionally stir for 15 minutes or so.  Remove the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and discard them.  Chill this mixture in the refrigerator.  (I personally have worked myself into a frenzy by this point and want to hurry up and put it in the ice cream maker already but it will really make your life so much easier to chill the cream thoroughly.  Trust me.)
Take the mixture out of the fridge once chilled and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Pina Colada Recipe For Your Summer Vacation

Pina Colada Recipe For Your Summer Vacation

Pina Colada- The ideal summer refreshment

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Nothing says summer vacation like a frozen Pina Colada. To me, this drink is intrinsically linked with Disney World and my Dad. During my teenage years, our family Disney trip occurred for two weeks in July. For those of you who have never visited Florida in July it is the equivalent of walking on the sun. Heat takes on an entirely different definition.

Our routine was pretty simple. Day:Pool. Night:Park. My mother and I would roll out of bed and flop onto beach chairs by the pool. We proceeded to roast our skin until the afternoon thundershowers or 4pm, whichever came first. My father worked nights so he slept through the morning into the early afternoon. My Dad, the man who never wore shorts in my lifetime, would get dressed in his daily attire of black dress shoes, black socks, black belt, tan dress pants and a button down shirt. Short sleeve of course, it was summer after all.

His route would be routine as well. Strolling from the hotel room, down the elevator, across the hippopotamus ballerina shaped hedges to the pool bar. He would order one frozen Pina Colada. The vision of a grown man, fully dressed passing partially naked sun worshiper sipping an umbrella topped drink still accompanies my first sip. He bought that drink for me, his under aged daughter. He would always steal a sip or two then pass that frozen glass of coconut heaven to me. I would spend the next 10 minutes cooling down, one brain freeze at a time. If this transpired today my father would be arrested for child abuse but thankfully it was long ago, in a galaxy far far away.

I’m still one to enjoy a frozen Pina Colada by the pool. During that last heat wave I wanted to wash down my morning multivitamin with one but refrained. Honestly, I worried more about the calorie content than the alcohol content.
In the spirit of summer vacations I plan on celebrating with the perfect Pina Colada. You should too.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

The Perfect Pina Colada

Fill the blender with ice just up to the top, Add 1/2 can of Cream of Coconut, 3 oz pineapple juice and 4 oz of coconut rum ( or light rum).  It will look like there isn’t enough liquid but there is.  Blend until all the ice is incorporated.  Add straw and sip away.

 

 

 

Blackberry Brandy Sauce

Blackberry Brandy Sauce

10 oz frozen blackberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons blackberry brandy
1 tablespoon sugar if needed

Place all the ingredients minus the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the frozen berries are thawed and broken up.  Put the mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Be careful because the heat of the liquid can cause the top of the blender to pop off spraying blackberry sauce all over the kitchen.  Please keep a hand on

the blender while whirring.  Taste. The liquor adds sweetness but the sauce shouldn’t be unusually sweet. Sometime different berries are more tart than others so if you need the sugar add it now and pulse into the mixture.  Pour through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Press all the liquid out with a spatula. This step is necessary otherwise the seeds will ruin the texture of the final product.  Discard the seeds and refrigerate until needed.  Spoon over individual slices of cheesecake.

This sauce is also phenomenal over good vanilla ice cream.

New York Style Cheesecake

New York Style Cheesecake

1 lb ricotta cheese                    ½ tsp lemon juice
2 pkg (8oz ea) cream cheese                ½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup white granulated sugar                3 tblsp corn starch
4 whole large eggs                    3 tblsp flour
1 pint sour cream                    ¼ cup melted butter
10” Spring form pan – buttered

This recipe is far from having any difficulties; it just requires time and patience.  If you can manage those two things you will be heavily rewarded.
Do NOT preheat the oven.
All ingredients should be at room temperature with the exception of the sour cream, leave that in the fridge until folding into the cake.  With a hand mixer, blend the ricotta cheese and cream cheese well.  Blend in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.  Add vanilla, lemon juice, cornstarch, flour and butter.  Mix well, and when I say mix well this mixture should be so blended it could be poured in a glass to drink.  It takes a bit of patience and probably a full 7 -10 minutes of beating with a mixer.  Fold in sour cream until there is no distinct white trail of the sour cream.
I have a love/hate relationship with the spring form pan.  Love it because you just lift it off your cake.  Ta Da!  Hate it because it wants to leak unless it is put together properly and even then it still wants to seep out liquid into the oven.  I always put it together, take it apart, put it back together and repeat until I am positive it is on correctly and then I place it on a large piece of aluminum foil and crunch the foil around the underneath just in case a bit of liquid seeps out.
Pour the perfectly blended batter into a 10” buttered spring form pan.  Just like the Chinese restaurants warn. No substitutions!  Do not substitute Pam or other spray, the pan needs to be buttered, no way around that fact.  Also, butter each piece of the pan individually.
Place in cold oven.  Turn heat to 325 degrees.  Bake for one hour.  Timer.  One hour.  Exactly.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!!!!  ALL CAPS!  YES, I AM YELLING AT YOU!  DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR!  Your cheesecake wants to crack, desperately.  Do not open the oven door while cooking under any circumstances. No peeking while it’s cooling, remember that curiosity killed the cat and cracks cheesecakes.  Leave it alone.   Turn off the heat but leave the cheesecake in the oven until all the heat has dissipated, probably a MINIMUM (yes more shouting) of two hours.  Chill cake for another 4 hours before serving.
Now you may be wondering, where is the crust?  This cheesecake is crustless by design and lacks nothing because of it.  I have, at the request of my hubby, made the same recipe with the traditional graham cracker crust.  If you decide at some point to try it with a crust make sure it is thin along the bottom and up the sides.  This batter fills the pan.  If you have the benefit of a see through oven door you will see this cake rises and then kind of settles back down.  A really thick crust will cause spillage.  Cooking and baking brings enormous amounts of pleasure.  Cleaning cheesecake batter off the bottom of your oven does not.
Now for decades I served this cheesecake with the very traditional strawberry topping.  Over the years I have experimented with dozens of cheesecake recipes and found a recipe for a blackberry sauce that I think is to die for.  So now I offer both strawberries for the traditionalists and this for me.  The original recipe was out of a Nick Stelino cookbook and was paired with an orange flower walnut encrusted cheesecake. I have altered the blackberry sauce a bit and infused it with blackberry brandy.

Desserts First

Desserts First

Desserts First, The Cheesecake Obsession

When I say that my mother was obsessively clean I am speaking about the OCD type compulsion where it was a sin to walk on the carpets of the house. “I just vacuumed and your putting FOOTPRINTS ON THE VACUUM LINES!” compulsive.

As you can imagine, a woman who slaved to maintain carpet crop circles did not appreciate crumbs on the counter.  She incessantly screamed about not wanting anything on the countertops, items such as bowls, knives or measuring cups.  I rebelled by persistently trying to bake.  Beginning around the tender age of ten I craved to measure and mix. At my neighbor’s house I was drawn to the sounds of the kitchen by clinking pans and the whir of the classic hand mixer. I was enchanted by the notion that you could cream together butter, sugar and eggs until the house was filled with the scent of cookies or cake. My mother was distraught by my never ending request to create confectionaries. I was prohibited from this calorie infused, mess inducing activity unless there was a family birthday looming.

New York Cheesecake

New York Cheesecake

By the time I discovered the power of the recipe our kitchen dichotomy was cemented in place. Since I loved to read, those instructions were the magic wand I discovered so distinctly in the seventh grade. What happened in the seventh grade?  A local cheesecake shop shut their doors.  Maybe more accurately they decided to take their boatful of cheesecake scented cash and head to the Bahamas for much deserved R&R but never-the-less….the heavily guarded recipe made its way from a woman who previously worked at the shop to our neighbor.  This neighbor was my friend’s mom who loved to bake.  She promptly made the cheesecake and all of the adults I knew ate it slowly, moaning and rolling their eyes back with every bite. Someone would mutter, ‘it’s so rich” and then someone else would counter “yes but so light.”

This recipe was given to my mother, who wasn’t going to take the time let alone wreak havoc on the counter with containers required to make said cheesecake.  Therefore, the next birthday was my opportunity to recreate the recipe.  I followed the recipe as if it were instructions to undetonate a bomb, which means I followed it down to the letter.  The result was a dessert so smooth and delicious that everyone who ate it argued there was no way I had made it…. it was too good.  For decades, this was my go to recipe when I was required to bring a dish to a party or work event.  When I needed to impress my soon to be in-laws, I confidently placed this cheesecake on the Thanksgiving table and awaited the accolades.

I freely admit I am obsessed with the little high that comes from providing so much pleasure in a forkful of food.  That swell of pride is where my lifelong addiction with baking began.  As with any true compulsion the more I was prohibited from doing it the more desirable it became, so as an adult I bake ferociously as I am free to do so.  Additionally, I spill silky flour and drop bits of sugar recklessly onto my counters as I do it.
I have never calmed the urge to bake so I tend to do it often.  I bake to relax, to share and to enjoy. Eventually as I began cooking as an adult the baking obsession morphed into a full blown cooking habit.

When I decided to write about incorporating liquors into food, liquor laced desserts were easy to come by.  People have been infusing liquor with desserts for hundreds of years.  The realm of baking with liquor and spirits is so established that you can open any of your existing cookbooks and find rum, Grand Marnier and amaretto lurking in existing recipes. While getting organized I found I had to specifically stop writing down fantastic ideas for liquored up desserts because I was beginning to amass an encyclopedia.  I continue to bring my focus to provide a well rounded guide to adding spirits to all areas of the menu, from appetizer through dessert.  However, since baking was my first love in the kitchen and the above mentioned cheesecake was my first success, I feel compelled to begin my website with the dessert that started it all for me.

Cheesecake with Strawberries

Cheesecake with Strawberries

New York Style Cheesecake

1 lb ricotta cheese                                      ½ tsp lemon juice
2 pkg (8oz ea) cream cheese                   ½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup white granulated sugar             3 tblsp corn starch
4 whole large eggs                                     3 tblsp flour
1 pint sour cream                                       ¼ cup melted butter

10” Spring form pan – buttered

This recipe is far from having any difficulties; it just requires time and patience.  If you can manage those two things you will be heavily rewarded.Do NOT preheat the oven.All ingredients should be at room temperature with the exception of the sour cream, leave that in the fridge until folding into the cake.

With a hand mixer, blend the ricotta cheese and cream cheese well.  Blend in sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated.  Add vanilla, lemon juice, cornstarch, flour and butter.  Mix well, and when I say mix well this mixture should be so blended it could be poured in a glass to drink.  It takes a bit of patience and probably a full 7 -10 minutes of beating with a mixer.  Fold in sour cream until there is no distinct white trail of the sour cream.

I have a love/hate relationship with the spring form pan.  Love it because you just lift it off your cake.  Viola!  Hate it because it wants to leak unless it is put together properly and even then it still wants to seep out liquid into the oven.  I always put it together, take it apart, put it back together and repeat until I am positive it is on correctly and then I place it on a large piece of aluminum foil and crunch the foil around the underneath just in case a bit of liquid seeps out.

Pour the perfectly blended batter into a 10” buttered spring form pan.  Just like the Chinese restaurants warn. No substitutions!  Do not substitute Pam or other spray, the pan needs to be buttered, no way around that fact.  Also, butter each piece of the pan individually.
Place in cold oven.  Turn heat to 325 degrees.  Bake for one hour.  Timer.  One hour.  Exactly.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!!!!  ALL CAPS!  YES, I AM YELLING AT YOU!  DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR!  Your cheesecake wants to crack, desperately.  Do not open the oven door while cooking under any circumstances. No peeking while it’s cooling, remember that curiosity killed the cat and cracks cheesecakes.  Leave it alone.   Turn off the heat but leave the cheesecake in the oven until all the heat has dissipated, probably a MINIMUM (yes more shouting) of two hours.  Chill cake for another 4 hours before serving.

Now you may be wondering, where is the crust?  This cheesecake is crustless by design and lacks nothing because of it.  I have, at the request of my hubby, made the same recipe with the traditional graham cracker crust.  If you decide at some point to try it with a crust make sure it is thin along the bottom and up the sides.  This batter fills the pan.  If you have the benefit of a see through oven door you will see this cake rises and then kind of settles back down.  A really thick crust will cause spillage.  Cooking and baking brings enormous amounts of pleasure.  Cleaning cheesecake batter off the bottom of your oven does not.

Now for decades I served this cheesecake with the very traditional strawberry topping.  Over the years I have experimented with dozens of cheesecake recipes and found a recipe for a blackberry sauce that I think is to die for.  So now I offer both strawberries for the traditionalists and this for me.  The original recipe was out of a Nick Stelino cookbook and was paired with an orange flower walnut encrusted cheesecake. I have altered the blackberry sauce a bit and infused it with blackberry brandy.

Blackberry Brandy Sauce

10 oz frozen blackberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons blackberry brandy
1 tablespoon sugar if needed

Place all the ingredients minus the sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until the frozen berries are thawed and broken up.  Put the mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Be careful because the heat of the liquid can cause the top of the blender to pop off spraying blackberry sauce all over the kitchen.  Please keep a hand on the blender while whirring.  Taste. The liquor adds sweetness but the sauce shouldn’t be unusually sweet. Sometime different berries are more tart than others so if you need the sugar add it now and pulse into the mixture.  Pour through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Press all the liquid out with a spatula. This step is necessary otherwise the seeds will ruin the texture of the final product.  Discard the seeds and refrigerate until needed.  Spoon over individual slices of cheesecake.

This sauce is also phenomenal over good vanilla ice cream.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry,
Lisa