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why you should make your own cheesecake!

cheesecake is so yummy and delicious, and people have a preconception that cheesecake is very difficult to make. take those preconceptions and toss them straight out the window!

i make a cheesecake for easter every year, and every year i am always amazed at how easy it really it.

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seven ingredients. the hardest thing you have to do is crush up some graham crackers for the crust.

the post mixing can be a bit unorthodox if you’re just used to pouring something in a pan and shoving it in the oven. you need to give the cake a water bath. so i place my cheesecake pan in a large piece of foil, then place that in my roaster pan. boil some water and fill the roaster til the water’s halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

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why the sudden infatuation with cheesecake? well, easter’s coming up, but also i’m baking one for a competition at work, which is styled like iron chef. we got pretzels, choco chips, and bacon to incorporate into a baked good. 

i used the pretzels for the crust, melted the chocolate chips for a ganache topping, and the bacon will be used for a garnish. here’s hoping for the win!

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why you should make your own ice cream

i can list a multitude of reasons to make your own ice cream instead of buying it from the store, but it really boils down to two reasons:

1. it’s easy

2. it’s DELICIOUS.

(ok, really this can really be boiled down to ONE reason – #2).

since i try my best to stay away from corn syrups, i end up not being able to buy 98% of the ice in your average grocery store. breyer’s makes a few flavors of DS-free ice cream, and ben and jerry’s is, for the most part, free of devils syrup, but generally speaking, it’s hard to find a scround without corn syrup in its ingredients. (scround. hee hee.)

so, i requested an ice cream maker for christmas, and so far, i am not disappointed (and i’ve only made about six batches of ice cream).

i’m not gonna lie: the ingredients aren’t necessarily cheap. my go-to chocolate recipe calls for 3-1/2 cups of heavy cream. 2 cups is anywhere from $1.99-$3.75 in the store. add in the sugars, whole milk, and cocoa powder, and it can probably run you $7 for a couple quarts. but considering a pint of ben and jerry’s is $4? i’ll take my homemade! (you can also lean more heavily on the milk instead of cream, but it won’t be as creamy.)

some recipes are a little more complicated, especially those calling for eggs that need to be cooked, but you can find egg-free recipes (i love you, ATK, but the easier the better for ice cream). my chocolate recipe is milk, cream, cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. mix together, put in ice cream maker, chill, eat. total prep time is, at most, 10 minutes. the hardest part will be waiting for it to chill down enough. if you prefer soft serve, you can eat it right out of the maker.

at this point, after i’m done making some ice cream, i just rinse out the ice cream maker container and throw it back in the freezer so it’s ready to go for the next round. 

next on my list of ice cream flavors to try: peanut butter chocolate and cookie dough. when spring comes, i’ll pick some raspberries and strawberries and make fruity ice cream. 

weekend highlights!

1. my plants are growing! i was worried about my peppers since my tomatoes and brussels sprouts are up, but one’s poking though!

2. 10k finished! we paused a few times for water and so i could stretch out my hamstring (it’s having issues). i’ll be very interested to find out our time results. 

3. got tickets to nerdcon!!! omg! this is exciting. 

4. refilled my propane tank. ready for grilling season. let’s go weather.

you’re a real fashion plate

i’m reading a book set in the late 1800s, and i ran across “fashion plate” yesterday, but not in any way i’d ever heard it used. she wrote that the subject was as still as a fashion plate. which, when i thought about what a fashion plate probably was, then it made sense. so i had to etymologize it and see what the deal was.

Fashion plate (1851) originally was “full-page picture in a popular magazine showing the prevailing or latest style of dress,” in reference to the typographic plate from which it was printed. Transferred sense of “well-dressed person” had emerged by 1920s. 

which makes sense now!

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here’s a link to a fashion plate museum page with a history: http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/exhibits-fashionplates

it’s that time of year again!

eastertime! time to make our ancestral breakfast food, bohemakuchen! poppyseed filling time! once again, delicious. once again, thwarting the corn industry by refusing to buy devils-syrup laden product.

the recipe is extremely simple. milk, butter, sugar, eggs. add poppyseed. tada!

here’s the original post so you can see the measurements and better pics.

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in which i sleep in the library at st. ben’s

my second year of college, i lived in waite park with my college friend melissa and high school friend angie. since waite park is about six miles from CSB, i needed a way to get to and from college. fall semester, melissa said she would be able to drive me to and from, which worked about 80% of the time (there were a couple evenings where she said she didn’t want to come pick me up, so stay on the couch of a friend of ours).

after the semester was up, melissa decided enough was enough and college was not for her. she was moving back to fargo.

great.

i presented my problem to my parents, who had the “you got yourself into this mess now get yourself out we told you not to live in waite park” attitude. (well, my mom’s attitude.) (and these were the same parents who bought my brother two cars in high school.) (nice.)

i went so far as to test drive a little dodge i found in the classifieds. i figured i could get a cash advance from my credit card and slip on by the insurance requirement. i would’ve had to do it on the sly since my parents for some reason were very anti-me-having-a-car. (also, the summer AFTER my second year of college, when i got a job working overnights at kmart, my dad bought me a $400 car. WAT. i still can’t wrap my head around this scenario.)

well, i was able to get around the whole transportation issue by sending an email to all the off-campus bennies and johnnies begging for a daily ride to school. eureka! someone responded. the only problem was that she was a biology major, and her days started at 8 a.m. and lasted 8 hours.

i was just happy to have a ride. (sort of.) 

i had two classes day that semester, and they were both of the easy hour variety – probably an 11:20 a.m. and 2:40 p.m., or 9:40 a.m. and 1 p.m. either way, i got there way early and stayed way late. 

on the one hand, this was handy for studying – i did great in my econ and theology classes that semester and managed to squeak by in my theory of math class (which was HORRIBLE). on the other hand, i was a very tired person. i worked evenings at kmart, so there were days i didn’t get to sleep until midnight at least and had to be up a 6 a.m. since my carpool buddy wanted to get in early to go over notes. (she was very ambitious.)

so i took to sleeping in the library. 

the st. ben’s library had a loft which was little used, and i would spend my mornings up there before classes. beanbags littered the floor among the desks, and i could turn off the light. one time someone came up the stairs while i was asleep, turned on the light, woke me up, then stared at me as i gathered my things and left.

it was also kind of nervewracking because i didn’t have an alarm, so i was always worried i’d sleep too long and miss my classes, but i never did. (i should have gotten a digital watch or something that could’ve woken me up. cell phones were not the norm yet at this time, unfortunately.)

but i made my classes, and i managed to get a B or BC or C in my math theory class, and i still haven’t learned my lesson about going to bed early. maybe someday.

weekend roundup

so my aspirations of starting my seeds this weekend flew out the window. ah well. 

i started off the weekend right with 4.25 miles run. i was shooting for six, but it got dark out before i could finish up. i don’t want to stick around in the dark where weirdos might come snag me.

saturday i went up to the cities to eat some awesome cheese fries with megan and then off to the moa for more awesomeness! megan currently has strep, so i’m hoping the saliva from the straw we shared for one sip won’t get me into strep throat land.

i was supposed to watch hannah that night, but got a last-minute text from liz saying she wouldn’t be over after all, so i got to go see jane for a little bit! we went for a tour around her neighborhood, and she found a cute little street of shops that she didn’t know was there. i’m always glad to be of service for helping learn about their neighborhoods.

came home for a night of no pants because charlie was in lacrosse. watched a couple episodes of the unbreakable kimmy schmidt. that’s an…interesting…show. and by interesting, i’m not sure if i mean MN interesting or not…

sunday i was able to finally get 6.2 miles run. i went to the track later in the afternoon and stuck to it til i was done. charlie also helped out by just coming and sitting there so if some stalker came and dragged me away, he’d at least be able to scream for help. 

i DID get my dirt and most seeds ready for planting. i cleaned out some old catboxes so i can have a couple flats for starting seeds. also kind of got the setup figured out. so i guess the next step for that is to just do it.

i also did the “it works” wrap this afternoon. i don’t see much of a difference; do you? 

beware: flabby stomach pictures ahead.

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The bane of my spring existence

last spring i put in gardening boxes at the back of my property, which happened to be under some black walnut trees. my entire crop was pretty much a bust. so, to explain, i’m reposting, with permission, a post on black walnuts and why they don’t play well with other plants. 

Black walnut is a common and useful tree that is native to much of North America. The natural beauty and hardness of its wood makes black walnut an excellent choice for furniture and woodworking projects. Unfortunately, black walnut is also the bane of gardeners because of its toxicity to other plants and the amount of tree care it requires. 

The roots of black walnut trees produce a toxic substance called juglone which adversely affects plants that are sensitive to it. Plants which cannot tolerate juglone will show symptoms such as yellowing and wilting foliage and they will ultimately die from its toxic effects. It is believed that juglone acts as a respiration inhibitor, leaving plants unable to breathe and sapping their energy.  

Juglone is produced in the trees’ roots but is present in all parts of black walnut trees, and is strongest in the buds and nut hulls. The leaves and twigs contain smaller amounts of juglone, but black walnut trees have a habit of continually dropping leaves and nuts from late summer through autumn and this debris only adds to the toxicity problem. Because of the accumulation of leaves and nuts beneath the tree, and also because of rain running off the leaves, the entire drip zone beneath a black walnut tree can be a hazardous environment for juglone-sensitive plants. Some plants that are extremely sensitive to juglone won’t grow within fifty feet of the dripzone of a black walnut tree.  

Cutting down the offending black walnut tree won’t solve the juglone problem either.  The roots will continue to release juglone into the soil and the area can remain toxic for several years after the tree is gone.  A gardener I know removed several scruffy black walnut trees from her backyard to make room for a garden, but even six years later she wasn’t able to grow tomatoes in that area.  

The good news is that not all plants are sensitive to juglone. Many trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables will grow in close proximity to a black walnut tree, although even some of the juglone-resistant plants will struggle if they are directly beneath the tree.   

Here’s a short list of some of the more popular plants known to tolerate juglone:  

Trees & Shrubs – Eastern redbud, hickories, oaks, most maples, Southern catalpa, red cedar,   peach, cherry, nectarine, some plums and pears, Thuja arborvitae, Euonymous species, and most Viburnums.  

Vegetables – Squash, melons, beets, corn, carrots, onions, parsnips.  

Annual Flowers – Calendula, morning glory, zinnias, fibrous begonias.  

Perennials – Hollyhocks, iris, ferns, most daffodils and narcissus, astilbe, crocus, snowdrops, Jack-in-the-pulpit, cranesbill, coral bells, monarda, spiderwort, some hostas.  

And wouldn’t it just figure:  poison ivy doesn’t mind juglone and will thrive under a black walnut tree.  

Plants which are extremely sensitive to juglone and won’t thrive within fifty feet of the drip line of a black walnut tree include hydrangeas, peonies, rhubarb, silver maple, white birches, apple trees, Norway spruce and Mugo pine, mountain laurels, most azaleas, lilacs, blueberries, cabbage and broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes.  

Juglone-sensitve plants may be grown in containers that are kept near a black walnut tree, so long as they are not directly beneath the tree where leaves and nuts could fall into the pots or rain could drip from the leaves onto the plants.  

If you like to garden, black walnut trees would not be a good choice for your landscape. But if the trees already exist on your property, you can still garden if you take a bit of extra care.  

Kathy Anderson has been an avid gardener for many years and has grown tomatoes by the acre, along with many other vegetables, flowers and landscape plants. Kathy recommends http://www.freeplants.com as a great place to learn more about gardening. Article provided by http://gardening-articles.com.  If you use this article the above links must be active.