Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A different kind of hunger!

Sometimes, I will admit, that by making this a food blog I cannot always share the things that I think would be cool to share.  My wife gets to tell everyone the goings on in our family and share cool stories that everyone is interested in, and I just blog about food.  Well what if you hate food?  Or what if you don't hate food, but you just have really bad taste?  Then you probably don't read this blog.  So for this one post (and maybe some in the future as well) I am going to talk about something else.

I just finished reading Donald Millers book "Through Painted Deserts."  He is the same writer who wrote "Blue Like Jazz", and "Searching for God Knows What."  Anyways, I could not put the book down.  For one, I just love the way that he writes.  I feel like I am listening to him in a room as he is telling the story.  Second, he has a way of getting deep about his thoughts on God and spirituality that really seem to connect with me.  

It seems like that as Spring approaches, and the world outside starts coming alive again, I cannot help but look at myself, and wonder where my growth has been.  I think it is Spring time in me as well.  It has been Winter for me long enough.  Staying dormant has been to easy.  Lynsey and I have started going to a new church, and I really think that it is good for us.  (For those of you whoever had a Dave Wheeler class, it is his old church)....(to those of you who have no idea of who I am talking about...that's ok).  My job at the camp gives me all the room to grow spiritually that I could need.  In fact, we are required to spend an hour a day, a day a month, and a week a year in sabbatical, and study.  I think I will start taking advantage of that time.  I need to, not just for me, but for my family.  

For me I think it comes down to relationship.  I haven't really figured out how to have a meaningful relationship with a God that wants nothing but a relationship with me.  What I need to figure out is how I can hang out with Jesus in my garage.  He was a carpenter, and when I am in my garage I am doing carpentry.  How cool would that be?  And when we were done building whatever Lynsey wants me to build for Annabel, we would sit in lawn chairs overlooking the driveway, and maybe sip a beer together.  But not any beer, and good micro-brew in a warm glass.  And who is to say that we couldn't smoke a pipe, and blow smoke rings into the air and talk about whatever is on our mind at the time.  That is the kind of relationship that I want.  

While reading, I wished several times that I could go on a road trip and experience the same things that were talked about in this book.  That maybe if I was on a trip like that I would have the same thoughts that would lead me to a greater understanding of God, and the relationship that He wants with us.  That wouldn't be the case, I would think about stupid things like what type of food I want to make, and can I grow a few different varieties of potatoes in a garden this summer.  I always seem to find a way to push the important things out. 

All this to say that I am thankful for writers that have a way of helping me to get started heading in the right direction.  That direction is towards a real relationship.  Now if I could just figure out how to get the same message from the Bible.  I know its there.

Note:  Don Miller has some really cool things to say about our relationship with God in "Searching for God Knows What."  I think that I will read that again, also.  

Friday, February 13, 2009

Time for some Cheesecake

Well, I sort of mentioned it in my last blog, and as I eat the very last piece of the (hopefully) last cheesecake that I will make until next December (unless someone wants to buy one), I thought I would tell you how to make one.  The recipe that I use is pretty basic, but it is so so good.  I don't top mine because there is no use messing with it.  The only thing that I will put on top of it is something like a strawberry puree, or caramel.  But no pie filling or turtle topping.  Though don't get me wrong, I LOVE turtle cheesecake.

The recipe is as follows:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup +3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
2.5 pounds cream cheese.  (that is five packages that you would get in the store)
3 Tablespoons flour
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 cup Sour Cream

Now I always use a 9 inch spring form pan, because that is what I have.  There are other methods that some people use but I will tell you about mine.

First, soften your cream cheese.  SERIOUSLY MAKE SURE IT IS COMPLETELY SOFT!!!!!!  This is best done on your kitchen counter.  I don't recommend the microwave, because it tends to cook it.

Second, take your pan and spray it with non-stick spray.  In a separate bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar, and mix well.  Press the crust into the pan.  (As a note, I like to double my crust for a thicker crust).   Bake the crust in a 350 oven for 8-10 minutes, just until starting to brown.

While your crust is baking, start mixing all of the other ingredients.  Best done with a stand mixer, mix your cream cheese with the sugar and flour.  Next crack three eggs and put them in a bowl with the vanilla.  Add your eggs, one at a time, to your cream cheese while mixing.  Finally add your sour cream.  If you don't believe me about the sour cream, I need you to just trust me on this one.  I have a friend that thinks he hates sour cream and hates anything that has it in it.  However he loves the cheesecake and usually buys 2 or 3 from me each Christmas.

At this point if you are seeing little balls of cream cheese in your mixture it is because it was not quite softened enough.  It will not ruin the taste, but i think it may affect the way that it sets up.  I only had one cheesecake crack on me this year, and it was when I did not soften the cream cheese enough.  If I am wrong about why the little clumps of cheesecake are still there, I am sorry, and if you know the other reason that it would leave these clumps, I would like to know.  But that is my best guess.  

Anyways, once you have it all mixed, pour it into your pan with the crust.  Did, I mention that you will want something like a 3-4 inch tall pan.  This is a thick cheesecake.  

Now for the moment of truth.  Cheesecakes crack.  It seems like you can do everything right and they still crack.  Some people think they are supposed to crack, but they are not.  I make it my goal to not have any cracks in a season.  After nearly 10 cheesecakes in December and January, I only cracked one.  So here is how I keep them from cracking, as best I can.  

Fill a pan with hot water and place it in the bottom of your oven.  Since you are using a spring form pan, you cannot put the cake in the water but you can put it above, and there will still be plenty of moisture in the oven to help with the cake.

Bake the cake in a 300 degree oven for about an hour, or until the middle has set up.  The edges are usually slightly brown, I haven't figured out how to stop that.  Once the middle is set up, (and don't shake the cake too much) open the door for about a minute, to let out some heat.  Also turn your oven off.  Then shut the door again and allow the cake to cool very slowly for another hour or more.  You have to cool them very slowly.  Once they are cool enough to take out without oven mits, take it out and set it on the counter.  Let it cool some more, and then stick it in the fridge.  The counter part may be a little much, but I hate the cracks. 

Let it chill in the fridge and then cut it and eat it.  You will love it.  

If you don't want to make one, let me know, I can make one for you.  Only 15 bucks.  You will thank me for it, but it will be a great reward to make it yourself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Websites, Shopping, and Cheesecake

Man, it has been awhile since posting anything here, and for that I am sorry. I have actually started two seperate posts but have quit them half way through and never finished. I think that I am just a little uninspired at the moment. Maybe it is the weather. So maybe I will give you a few random thoughts about a cool website that I found, and some other things.

First, I happened on a website called Chowhound. The address is www.chow.com. For a very long time I have looked at sites like allrecipes.com and epicurious.com, and they have come in handy a whole bunch of times. But when looking at those sites I never really get isnpired to do anything other than the recipe that I am looking for anyways. That and I can't help but sometimes think that the site is just geared towards all of the stay-at-home moms and the women of the home cooking world that it doesn't always pertain to me in the way that I would like.

That is why I think www.chow.com is such a cool site. It has forums that are written by people that actually cook and enjoy good food. Not people that are looking for different ingredients to add to their stovetop macaroni, and think that they are at the top of culinary masterhood. Though as a side, I too love stove top macaroni, and still make it. But the site gives some inspiration and a longing to go and try some new things. So anyways that is a new website that I found that I thought I would share about.

The only other thing that I can think of that I really want to tell you about is my struggle for a decent place to buy groceries. First, let me tell you how much I HATE Walmart. Long lines in the check out aisles aside, they have the worst produce, (if they have the produce you want), the largest people taking up the most amount of aisle space as they can while they talk to their other large friend (that is a rant for another time). And forget it if you are looking for something that you may not find on every grocery store in America. For instance, Panko bread crumbs. Panko bread crumbs are a little different then the traditional ones that you see everywhere (I won't get into how), but a lot of recipes call for them. And frankly, they are just better than the other breadcrumbs. But do you think Walmart carries them. Not my Walmart. I HATE Walmart. That is just one example of many. Plus their micro brew selection is nearly if not all non-existent. I HATE Walmart.

Unfortunately where I live it is an hour and a half to the nearest "gourmet" grocery store, like Whole foods or something like that so I have to make do with what I have. But luckily, within 45 minutes, and even closer from work is a Meijer. Now I know that these are not in many places besides Indiana, and I know that they closely resemble the style of a Walmart. But let me tell you that the selections of produce and meats and seafoods and standard grocery items is so far above and beyond that of stupid Walmart. They have tons of stuff and I love going in there just to get ideas of things to make. So thank you Meijer for being a good grocery store, even if you have all of that other crap in your store as well.

But even as much as I am glad to have a Meijer, i still long for a Trader Joe's, or a Whole Foods that I could do my shopping. You people that live close to them should consider yourselves lucky and take advantage of the food that they have to offer.

Well that is all for this post. I got interupted twice while typing by the phone, and I am not proof reading, so if my thoughts just seem to trail off, or there are huge errors in typing sorry. Now I have to go make a cheesecake.