I have a bit of a bad mannerism whenever I say or hear the sentence "Life is full of surprises." I usually add, "most of them nasty." Comic book geeks will recognize the line from Uncanny X-Men #165. It certainly isn't reflective of my personality, as I don't think I'm a pessismist or overly guarded, but I do recognize that even as we are positive about the future, many things will come along to disappoint, and it never hurts to be prepared. If things do go well, then that's even better. Imagine my surprise when our little blogging community pulled through and the CLICK organizers were able to raise more than the $12,000 they projected for Bri in more than a month before the deadline.
My entry for the CLICK competition - Yellow for Bri. Proper contest size is shown when the link is clicked- at 550 pixels wide, the whole image is not shown on this blog. Details: shot in natural light, using a Canon PowerShot G7 with no add-ons.
When life is beginning to be a drag, just remember that each new day has its own share of surprises-- and some of them are beautiful and awe-inspiring.
I actually took a different picture for the contest, but it was teh suck in a bad way, just ask Graeme. After cleaning the vomit off my computer screen, I checked my folder for any other possibilities. Thankfully I made this cheesecake the day before and while I didn't make it with CLICK! in mind, the finished product was so bright and sunny, I thought it fit the theme well. I realize there's plenty of incredibly talented photographers out there and I'm kind of a schmuck, but even if this doesn't make it past the first cut, I'm still glad to be able to participate and spread the message around.
I took the picture in a hurry before leaving for Pampanga (the countryside, an hour north of here) for my grandfather's first death anniversary. Just looking at his old cane, leaning against the corner, a few of the religious statues he collected, and pictures of his children and grandchildren he kept brought back a little sadness, but after a little bit of reflection, it made me realize that I'm glad that he was in my life even if just for a while. Each time we came to Pampanga (near-weekly when I was a kid), I used to be bored silly, but I suppose with age you come to appreciate the quietness and simplicity. That, and it gave me a chance to try working with my humble point-and-shoot camera and see if I can show you guys the beauty of my country home the same way Jen does. (Short answer is no, but I think it's a good effort.)
Washing area, for dishes and such. Hut-style gazebo with auxiliary kitchen in the background.
Back in 1992 or so, my father's childhood home was decimated by mudslides from Mount Pinatubo. Every material possession was buried completely (thankfully no one was hurt, especially my grandparents). It's amazing how much has grown since.
The two fishponds on the property. The aquatic growth is Ipomoea aquatica, or water spinach (kangkong in Tagalog). The sky is all burned out. I'm crap.
My grandmother's ducks, not wanting to be bugged by me
A papaya tree that's inexplicably bent.
Walking past the ponds, there's a reasonably densely wooded area. I don't know what the shed is for.
A quiet area in the shade.
Hidden Cherry Cream Cheese Torte
from Baking: From My Home To Yours, recipe I snatched from here with some revisions.
I don't like really tall, obscene cheesecakes, and it's only partially for health reasons (if it were for health reasons, I wouldn't be having cheesecake at all). Tall cheesecakes have a tendency to pall halfway through. This cheesecake, even though it's half-cottage cheese and lighter than usual, is still quite decadent and rich. It's pretty much foolproof, even without a water bath, so I'm quite thankful for that. I find that the amount of jam can still be increased a bit, maybe even twice as much.
I made this dough by hand. To make it using a food processor, follow the link to the recipe above. Spray with baking spray and flour (with excess, not from the recipe of course) a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, stir the flour and sugar together to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the surface and using a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until it resembles a fine meal. If it's sufficiently cold (and so are your hands), you may also rub the butter in with your fingers. In a small, separate bowl, beat together the egg yolks and the vanilla lightly just to break them up, then add it to the bowl of flour and use a fork to stir it in, making sure every bit of flour is moistened. The mixture will look like loose curds. Press it evenly into the prepared springform pan, making sure it comes up at least 1-1/2 inches up the sides. You might have a tendency to make it thicker on the corner-- avoid this as it will make the crust tough to eat at this point. Refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes or freeze it for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Fit a piece of buttered aluminum foil butter-side down on the surface of the crust and fill it with rice, dried beans, or pie weights. I used ineffective coins (as there's a rice shortage), but the crust came out fine anyway. Bake for 20 minutes, then take it out of the oven, remove the weights and foil (gently pushing down any part that has puffed up) and bake for another 5 minutes. Place on a rack to cool and lower the oven temperature to 175°C (350°F).
In a food processor or blender, process the cottage cheese until no large lumps remain (it's virtually impossible to liquefy every last curd). Add the cottage cheese and process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, and eggs and process for 30 seconds longer, scraping down the bowl at least once-- it will be quite liquid and should be lump-free by the end. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the cherry jam evenly over the bottom of the crust, then pour in the filling. Bake for 60 minutes (mine was probably done at about 55 or so minutes) or until the surface is uniformly puffed and does not jiggle. Don't shake the pan too violently as the surface will crack, but any tiny cracks I caused disappeared when the filling settled into a thin layer as it cooled. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. If any part of the crust appears to be stuck to the springform, run a blunt knife between them. Release the springform. Chill the torte until serving time.
To remove the edge of the crust extending above the cheesecake's surface, I find a good tool to use (as I was obsessive about not cracking the crust) is a very sharp pair of poultry shears. Use a small piece of parchment to protect the cheesecake's surface from crumbs as you go around the circumference.
Serves 8 very generously (I was able to serve many more than that)
Per serving (prepare yourself):
32.4g fat (50% calories from fat)
DO serve 16 people with this, not 8.