Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Three Cities of Spain cheesecake, creamiest ever

Creamy cheesecake? Yes, please! This version of the classic is easy as can be, and the bomb to boot. There's really no other way to say it. When I first discovered this recipe, I knew I would return to it often, and I've made it many, many times in the years since. It's soft, creamy and very, very delicious. Which is not to say that it doesn't firm up properly--it does. It's just not the more "stiff" version so often associated with the New York, plain cheesecake style...

As I've said before, back in "the day," (2000, a lifetime ago in many ways) was THE go-to site for recipes. It still is, in many cases. How much better does it get than the combined recipe libraries of Bon Appetit and Gourmet?

Apparently I either have a very short memory, or I never properly understood the origins of the name of this recipe, but it's not about SPAIN per se, but a cafe in Santa Fe (now closed) where they made this dessert. So if, like me, you were wondering which three cities in Spain? Don't worry about it. Just make some cheesecake and enjoy!

Three Cities of Spain cheesecake
1 crumb-crust recipe made with finely ground graham crackers
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar

(I often make a larger springform with four packages of cream cheese and five eggs... I also very rarely make the following topping, but when I do, it is quite delicious as well...)

For topping 
16 oz sour cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Make crumb crust as directed.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make filling and bake cake: Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions. Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan. Pour filling into crust and bake in baking pan (to catch drips) in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken. Let stand in baking pan on a rack 5 minutes. Leave oven on.

Make topping: Stir together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Drop spoonfuls of topping around edge of cake and spread gently over center, smoothing evenly. Bake cake with topping 10 minutes. Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side from pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

My top tips for good cheesecake in general: 
* All ingredients at room temperature make for a much smoother (ie, no lumps) mixture.
* Bake low and slow. I bake at 250, rather than the listed 350 degrees. The cheesecake top will crack nine times out of ten at 350. Take the extra time (will probably add an hour to your overall baking time). If, however, the top does crack: make the topping. It is an excellent disguise to a less-pretty cheesecake surface.

Sweet niece Lucy gave the nicest compliment during the cheesecake eating: "This is the best dessert I have ever eaten!" Bless you, Lu! I agree.

Wordless Wednesday: Heavenly lilacs!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ten Word Tuesday

Scent of lilacs, knife-cutting thick in the stormy spring air.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Common Miracles, Week 50

 “Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.”
–Pema Chodron 


h Common Miracles, I have missed you.

Well, you've still been around, but I have been a wee bit slack these past few weeks at noting your presence... but then, I took a peek at my iPhone, and there you were, in all your visual beauty.

Thank you for being so constant. My life is infinitely better because of you.

Alfresco weekend lunches with husband.

Blue skies through spot-free rinse at the car wash.

Pea shoots on the rise!

Family walks in the sunshine.

Fabulous grape hyacinth droplets.

Planning the flower pots for the season...

Late with the eggs, but just as fun!

First firepit of the season!

Bunnies as table decoration? Of course!

Boy is taller than mom. Wow.

Soothing sunsets to end the day. Peace.

To see how the Common Miracle project began, check out Chel's blog.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday night grateful list

Squeaking in under the line with my gratefulness tonight! It's the things I'm most grateful for that have kept me from my computer...

Family. My immediate family is here, in da house. So grateful for all of them--parents and siblings and nieces--that they had safe travels, and that we have the weekend to enjoy each others' company.

Laughter. We have laughed already so much since they all arrived, side-splittingly so. I LOVE that.

Spring. It's here, it's really here. That fact alone makes me wildly giddy. There is green everywhere, and blooms upon blooms. Supposedly we're hitting 80 degrees on Sunday? That would feel like summer, even!

My guys. Whether we're all sitting and talking about our days before bed, spending quiet weekend time together, eating dinner, watching a little telly or having our daily devotions before rushing out into the day, I am daily reminded of how blessed I am, how fortunate we three are to have each other (and each other's backs). Seth's hugs are legendary! And someone told me this week that they thought my husband is sweet on me. Such dear words, I thought. Just the thought of him, and that idea, made me smile.

Cooking up a storm. I love the excuse to have a half dozen different things going on in my kitchen, all at one time! I got most of my prep done last night, so pulling together chicken pot pie, enchiladas, cheesecake, cherry pies and other weekend odds and ends was lovely and reasonably quick. We'll eat well and it won't be a bunch of work at each meal. That makes me happy, too!

The hounds. Shelby and Kim's dogs came along for the weekend, so we have three pups on the property again! Chief seemed especially excited at the prospect of playmates... even with the size disparity--Dante and Beatrice are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, about a third of Chief's border collie size--they sniffed and wagged tails and then frolicked together rather well.

Friends. I'm ever grateful for my mates, the people who round out my life so heartily with their presence, near and far. I am blessed.

My lawn edger. What a silly but practical thing to be grateful for, but I am. Very much. All the work of the brick edging last summer is showed off so nicely with the clean lines I can get with the edger. I had NO idea I would become such a yard implement dork.

Things that bloom. Trees of all kinds, shrubs, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths (big and little), strawberries... it's all in bloom, and some of it smells pretty lovely too. Knock on wood, so far the allergies haven't been horrific, and I've got a few naturopathic ideas to keep them at bay, too. If they work, I'll share--of course!

Sleep. It's coming, my eyelids are getting heavier as I type this... and I will welcome it with a great deal of joy. I am always grateful for a good night of sleep!

With that, I'm going to take this tired body to bed, knowing that our house is full of family and love and that tomorrow will be more time with these lovely folk. Yippee!

I hope your weekend plans make you go yippee too! What are you grateful for tonight? I hope your list is long, and maybe a bit more original than mine? What can I say... I'm grateful for what I'm grateful for!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Midweek inspiration: The opposite of Wordless Wednesday

This letter has been making the interweb rounds lately, and I can't help but share further. I often say here that I love words and all that can be conveyed with words... However, I think this guy may have an edge up on me, even though he claims to only "like" words!

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave "V" words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land's-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around. I have just returned and I still like words. May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ten Word Tuesday

Cooking, cleaning, prepping for houseguests makes for a happy me.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday night grateful list

How does Friday roll around again so quickly? Just amazing, the speed of a week lately (meaning, the past 15-20 years, I guess)...

This week my grateful list includes, but is not limited to:

My husband, who took the afternoon off to play with me (run errands, eat lunch out). Lovely.

My son, who made me so proud last night at his jazz band performance. He had his first trumpet solo in this band, which was a big deal, and when he looked up and smiled at me after he was done, I was a pretty happy momma smiling back.

My family, near and far. The photo above is of me (second from left) and my brother (beside me) and my cousins on my mother's side of the family, at Disneyland, 1976. Cute little ragamuffins, aren't we? I posted this picture three years ago on Facebook, and for some reason today (I think my mother started it, but I'm not sure), it started getting liked and commented on... brought back a lot of memories. Cousins are special relationships. Even though I'm not in regular touch with all the cousins in the picture above, I would do anything I could, for any of them, any time. Family is so dear.

Work. It's humming along, some days more productive/better than others. But I'm still enjoying the challenge and love the plotting/planning/scheming aspect most of all.

Green. The world is GREEN right now. The lawn, the fields, even the peas we've got planted on our 15 acres this year are popping up, finally. I love the lushness of spring!

Rain. We have had some real surprise rainstorms lately. Think it's finished? Wait another five minutes, it's bound to sprinkle again... Lovely, but its helpful to have a raincoat/umbrella handy!

Sunshine. In between those rainshowers, there have been lovely sunny moments. I've actually gotten too warm in the sun a few times this week. I'm not complaining, by any means... just noting.

Lists. I've been thinking about lists a lot lately, and how much they help my life. I am grateful for the energy that putting something down on paper can bring to things I need to accomplish. I think I'm especially happy when crossing things off the list!

Good health. I was noting today that I haven't had the flu in many years (if anything's bound to bring it around, it's gloating about that! I was NOT gloating. Just noting.), and also it's been quite a while since a cold has caught me. I credit the Vitamin D I've been taking on top of my usual Vitamin Cs... but who knows. I'm just glad about it, and grateful.

Faith, that I'm a part of a bigger plan, that my spot in the universe matters and that He's got my back. I'm also grateful, so so grateful for grace; living with the power of grace being extended to me, daily, and working hard to pay that grace forward, into the world.

Humor. I love to laugh, I really do, even if it does on occasion end in a decidedly unladylike snort. Sigh. I don't love the snort, and I'm pretty sure no one else is a big fan either, but it can definitely be a surprise and reason for MORE laughter. Snort!

The weekend! Oh boy I'm glad to be at the weekend. Ready for rest, ready for yard work, ready for naps and Saturday morning breakfasts. All the good stuff. Sunshine, too, that would be nice.

I hope your weekend is everything you want it to be, and that, too, your grateful list is full to overflowing.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thursday 13: Random, and late

1. I had jury duty today. I was pretty convinced I wouldn't be picked to actually serve. Ha.

2. Today the weather went from blue skies to clouds to rainbursts, multiple rainbursts; now we're finishing the day off with a beautiful sunset.

3. I'm currently listening to the song my cousin, Brent, sent me yesterday in response to my Wordless Wednesday. It's fun.

4. The cherry and plum trees are blooming. It's a gift, looking out my office window and seeing the blossoms, dreaming of the fruit...

5. If people would tell the truth, about 75% of the world's problems would go away. Well, a lot of them, anyway.

6. If people stopped doing things they felt the need to then lie about, the other 25% or so of the world's problems would be solved. Solid statistics, that's me.

7. Did I mention I was on a jury today? Thank goodness it was a brief enough process. Interesting, but not sure I could give it days and days of attention.

8. If I had to do a Ten Word Tuesday on the court case: Domestic dispute, harm to property, two guys, accident or malicious?

9. After a very short and non-productive time at work after jury duty, I went to hear Seth play with the Wa-Hi jazz band at a local ale house. The band did awesome, it was very loud in a too-small space, and I'm glad to be home in my comfy George Castanza pants.

10. It's really a shame that there's a bag of SweetTart jelly bean Easter eggs on my desk. Just a crying shame.

11. Are you aware that some people don't like to make lists, or more probably, it just doesn't come naturally to them? I know, I've been shocked to discover that as well. I believe my mother was probably making a list as she gave birth to me, all that she needed to get done later. It's in my DNA, baby. I will always remember my mom and the "town lists" from my childhood. She taught me that you ALWAYS go to the furthest end of your errands and work your way back. Of course. (We lived a ways from town, so you had to make a trip worth your effort and be efficient. Of course.)

12. At Seth's concert tonight, there was a boy who was making eyes at his girlfriend in the audience pretty much the whole show, all the while playing the trumpet. It was sweet on one hand, kind of annoying on the other. Totally unabashed.

13. I need to go find something other than jelly beans to eat. Which reminds me, this is the longest span I've gone without posting a recipe on SweetTea&Sunshine. Sad face. Must remedy that very soon. Time to go stand in front of the refrigerator and mull over cravings and options and see if they line up. Wish me luck.

Happy Thursday. For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Haiku spring break

Haiku is a form I haven't written since college (and not very much, then, either). I remembered how challenging it is, but had forgotten (or maybe never knew?) how much fun can be had in the challenge.

While at the coast this past week, I wrote one for each day we relaxed...

Road trips go quickly
these days, electronics help
miles zoom; who needs talk?

Extra zzzzzs, we snore.
Rain drizzles, wind shifts to north;
dog yawns, vacation.

Sunshine hits the hills,
Rain sprinkles 'cross sandy dunes;
I'm inside, content.

Quiet, peaceful me,
listening to the second hand.
Willing time. to. slow.

Relaxed, close to bored.
He's fifteen, so we savor
every minute, sweet.

Bliss through filtered green.
I walk, quick, for images
to capture, hold fast.

Chief pulls at his leash,
eager to sniff, lick, paw, pee.
He's wild for fresh air.

Miles drag their feet, slow.
Trip back, we snack, talk, daydream
we're home already.

Such great memories of our time away, and now that a new week is upon us, it's like it was a month ago already!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

For my grateful list this week, I went mostly photographic...

That panorama app I bought last week? Well, it turned out to be a bit of fun.

I think the thing I am most grateful for this week is stillness.

A walk on the beach, look out at the ocean, just be. Odd to say stillness when there's a prancing dog at the end of the leash, but it does seem stillness can be achieved with prancing, darting... frolicking, even.

There is something about staring out over water--whether it's reflecting so much light you have to squint at the brilliance, or dark and churning with rain and wind--that is such a cure-all. Many people have contributed their thoughts and words on the healing powers of the ocean, being at water's edge... seems a universal reconnection place.

It was a lovely time, to be away with family, to see and catch up with friends, to enjoy laughter and talking, and quiet time by the fire, too.

The many moods of Haystack Rock, eh? Different days, times, weather patterns, tides. Always beautiful to behold!

Also, very happy to be home! How has your week been? I hope your grateful list is long and filled with things close to your heart.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday 13: Easter is coming!

Easter is such a joyful holiday, for what it symbolizes for Christians, and also for what it symbolizes in the natural world with birth, renewal, fertility! I've posted a few times around this holiday before, with a Thursday 13 in 2010, as well as some recipes (eggs!) (apple cake & rhubarb cake!) that are favorites with family and friends. (Also, for even more Easter ideas, check out my blogroll for a couple of posts on Easter treats and a more natural approach to Easter. Ideas abound!)

This year there are many pretty and yummy-sounding recipes calling to me (I am hungry as I write this, which always sends me to the recipes!). Here are 13 recipes that sing "Spring celebration!" and "Easter brunch!" quite nicely:

I am in the mood to make ALL of them. I know, a little indulgent--but for sure #s 1, 3, 4, 8, 11 and 13.

And the bonus thing is, we're celebrating Easter again when my whole family gets together later in April. So we'll do something small-ish this weekend, and I'll pull out all the Easter stops when the nieces arrive, later!

Which ones appeal to you? Do you have any Easter food traditions to share? Would love to hear about them!

For more Thursday 13s, go here.
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