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August 31, 2011

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake

The dessert that you would request for every birthday and every special event: in my family, Chocolate Marble Cheesecake is it. My mom clipped this from a newspaper, now so brittle and brown it could crumble, so it's time to reprint it here. The date is clipped off of my mom's copy, but I imagine it's from the early 1960s, when she first married.

It's normally made in a springform pan and comes out at least three inches high. But I was considering submitting it to the Good Food Pie Contest, so I practiced and photographed it in a standard pie pan. It came out wonderfully that way as well.

In the end I brought a fruit pie to the contest, but this is still up my sleeve for next year....Meanwhile, it'll be on my holiday table!

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake

1 Cup Fine Graham Cracker Crumbs
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/3 Cup Melted Butter or Margarine

3 (8 oz) packages Cream Cheese, softened
1 Cup Dairy Sour Cream
2 tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp all-purpose Flour
3 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup unsweetened Cocoa
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla

Combine first three ingredients and push into springform pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool.

In a large mixer bowl, beat together cream cheese, sour cream, and 2 tsp of vanilla until smooth. Add flour, a tablespoon at a time, blending well. Beat eggs and egg yolks in a small mixer bowl on high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about five minutes. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and beat thoroughly.

Add egg-sugar mixture to cheese mixture and blend on low speed just until combined. Reserve 2 cups batter; pour remaining batter into prepared pan. Thoroughly combine cocoa and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend into 2 cups reserved batter. Stir in 1 tsp and spoon dollops of chocolate batter on top of vanilla batter in pan. With spatula or knife, swirl gently to produce a marble effect.

Bake in a preheated 300-degree oven, 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cake in oven 1 hour without opening door. Remove from oven and cool; cover & chill. Yield: about 12 servings.

August 24, 2011

Garden Update: Hibiscus Hedge

My garden project of late has been establishing a hibiscus hedge in a particular bed directly ahead of the path leading in from the gate. I've planted seven hibiscus over time, all generic or from the "half-dead" pile. I've now seen each of them bloom, and found I've lucked out with some beautiful varieties! This sunset version is high on the list:

There's a pink with a dark center that looks apricot when backlit by the sunset:

My favorite is this last, a salmon colored bloom that seems to be doubled with almost twisted petals:

When it all grows in the hedge should be easy to maintain with lots of color in all its blooms.

What's your favorite bush or hedge plant that still provides color? Thanks for your comments to this post.

Day Trip to Catalina

Did you know you can get a free round-trip pass to Catalina on your birthday, courtesy of the Catalina Express? They've even compiled a list of birthday deals and freebies available on the island.

I had a lovely day trip this week, just hanging out in the tiny town of Avalon, shopping, eating and sightseeing. My friend Annie happens to share my birthday, so she was able to join me on the same deal!

The icing on the cake for the day was seeing a seal feeding on flying fish in the water right around the boat as we pulled away.

bronze statue in town--the camera display glared so that I couldn't see the composition till I got home!

(a friendly guy joined me for lunch with a book at a cafe while Annie was off parasailing)

"the Casino" now houses a movie theater and a museum

The wall along the walkway leading to the Casino had several tile frescos depicting local history, including the Cubs Spring Training camp that was originally held on the island.

end-of-day view of Avalon

What are your favorite local daytrips? How do you like to spend your birthday? Please leave a comment on the post.

Pistachio Birthday Cake

My friend Heather has taken to baking for our friends in lieu of birthday gifts. It's an ideal solution since we all live in tiny apartments with too much "stuff," yet it makes the day special and leaves each feeling celebrated.

For my day, she made this beautiful Pistachio Cake, and enclosed the recipe as a bonus! It comes from her mother, so Heather has fond memories of this cake growing up. But it's sublimely easy to make, as the two main ingredients are a boxed yellow cake mix and a box of pistachio pudding mix.

Pistachio Cake

1 boxed yellow cake mix
1 box pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup club soda

Mix all ingredients together. Flour/grease a bundt pan and pour in batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done. Ice with a thick royal icing mix of powdered sugar and water.

August 21, 2011

Hillside Produce Cooperative

The Hillside Produce Cooperative has made a barterer of me. The group is a community organization that meets monthly to trade produce, flowers, and baked goods from your own backyard. The idea is to avoid waste and spread variety of local produce.

To this weekends coop, I contributed large bunches of garlic chives from my own garden, as well as a couple of squash and a few tomatoes from a friends garden, and a small colander of figs picked (with permission) from a tree around the corner from my house. The above photo shows the bounty that I got in return!

The organizer even makes a checklist, so you know exactly what's in your package when it comes back to you. My score included lemons, oranges, grapefruit, calamondin, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, chile peppers, kumquat, green chard, chives, grapes, bay, sage, pineapple sage, tarragon, rosemary, oregano, parcel, mint, chocolate mint, lavender, a cut bella donna flower, an iris bulb, a baggie containing an almond dessert and puff guava pastry, and a slice of zucchini bread. The baked goods didn't make it into my photos, because they were eaten before I even made it to my car!

The Hillside Cooperative is just a great group of generous folks. Their website even lays out how to organize a group in your area. They've been the inspiration for groups all over the city, so there's likely to be one in your neighborhood!

(the pack of herbs in my bag)

(the cut flowers: lavender, bella donna, and an iris bulb)

(the checklist of goodness)

August 1, 2011

MorningStar Farms Meatless Loaf

I have one friend that I consider a true budget cook. She feeds both meat-eaters (her husband) and vegetarians (herself). A family tendency towards diabetes has encouraged her to educate herself about nutrition. She stretches her grocery budget as far as it can go by relying on staples and keeping a well-stocked pantry, often cooking from scratch. She's great at feeding crowds or families and handles unexpected guests (often myself) with ease.

Today she showed me how to make a vegetarian version of meatloaf, from a recipe off the MorningStar Farms website. Having grown up teaching myself to dislike the smell and taste of meat, long before "meat-like" vegetarian products were available, I'm still trying to stretch my palate to include meat subsitutes like seitan or TVP, textured vegetable protein.

I used an 8x8 dish instead of a loaf pan because it was what I had handy. I like smaller portions anyway so the shallow dish is fine with me. The beauty of this recipe is how easy it is to customize; since Heather's breadcrumbs contained Italian seasonings we left the separate spices out of our dish. And since neither of us care much for celery, we omitted that too. When I make this in my kitchen, I will add sauteed mushrooms and bell pepper.

Meatless Loaf

12 ounces MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters™ Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™
1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute*
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup ketchup

1. In mixing bowl, combine MORNINGSTAR FARMS MEAL STARTERS GRILLERS RECIPE CRUMBLES, egg substitute, parsley, Italian seasoning and bread crumbs.

2. In small saucepan cook onions and celery in oil until tender. Add to Crumbles mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined. Press into 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pan generously coated with cooking spray.

3. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes. Spread ketchup over loaf. Bake at 350°F about 15 minutes more or until set.

*Note: If desired, replace egg substitute with 2 lightly beaten eggs.

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