Ah! The forbidden fruit . . .
But before we dig in to some scrumptious apple-y goodness, some updates are in order.
It’s been awhile, I know. I did manage to squeeze in a guest post over at my buddy Captain Steve’s blog, but the crickets have taken up residence here at The Cheek.
I’ve been working my way through some computer woes. After a reformat and much updating, I now believe all my issues are hardware related. Perhaps a failing motherboard. Or maybe a hard drive, though I’m doubtful. My problems are very specific, and the workaround is consistent and dependable. So I tolerate my issues for the time being, until I can manage to decide I can live without my laptop for a few weeks. Yeah . . .
I’ve also been tackling the smoking and making Usain Bolt-like strides. (See how far behind I am?! I’m just now getting around to making Olympic references . . . sheesh . . . ) Quitting completely has been the hardest thing I’ve ever tried. I still have a few triggers to wrestle into submission, but I’ve gone from nearly two packs a day to maybe five smokes a day. And those aren’t even fun anymore. I see myself light up and watch as the ashes accumulate but get nothing from it. Maybe three or four half-hearted drags. The end is near. And I’m so grateful to have the Tweakers pulling for me. You guys and gals really don’t know how inspiring your words of encouragement have been to me.
School and work are conspiring to steal my free time. Time to blog. To write. To read your posts carefully and leave comments that lie beyond the trivial. To just pause and sit and think about life. Oh, I have time to think; I’m on the road more than ever this semester, generally over an hour each day. School is fun. Work is not. And the distance between the two is surmounted only by sheer determination. Well, determination, and the overwhelming need for a paycheck. So I slog along . . .
And when I do get some spare ticks of the clock, I try and spend them with the family. Two things we’ve enjoyed together recently: 1) Season one of Pushing Daisies (Kick, Pooh!), and 2) The Johnny Appleseed Festival. John Chapman is buried right here in NE Indiana, and every year we residents gather at the park that bears his name, and his gravesite, to celebrate an era of black powder, brown leather attire, clog dancing and the best apple pie ever baked. We eat foods baked in Dutch ovens and roasted over open fires . . .
. . . and enter apple dessert baking contests.
That cheesecake in the middle there? With the green number three? My ten-year-old daughter Aryn made that. And, yes, it’s delicious. And rich! And it won!
She nearly bounced off her hay bale when they called her name. She landed a big basket full of apple-y things . . .
. . . and her winning recipe will be printed in the local paper. Not a subscriber? Fear not, dear Tweakers . . . I like to share:
Caramel Apple Cheesecake
- 1-1/4 cups reduced-fat graham cracker crumbs (about 6 whole crackers)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) reduced-fat cream cheese
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) fat-free cream cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 1-1/4 cups egg substitute
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 3/4 cup fat-free caramel ice cream topping
In a bowl, combine the crumbs, nuts, brown sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-in. springform pan coated with cooking spray. Place on a baking sheet. Bake 350° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
In a small nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook apples over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until tender. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg substitute and sour cream just until blended. Stir in apple mixture and walnuts. Pour into crust. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes or until center is almost set. Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven with door ajar for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Before serving, drizzle with caramel topping.
The final product weighs in at about ten pounds. I know. I carried it all the way across the park, ducking and weaving and winding my way through the crowd like a waiter bearing some flaming entrée. Like I’m a proud father or something. And my wife, ever ready with the digital camera, even managed to snap a picture of my oldest son’s photogenic new girlfriend . . .
Cute as hell, it was, watching them lag behind the entourage so they could hold hands and share a paper bag full of sticky, freshly-popped caramel corn. In spite of his grueling academic schedule and all the pressure that comes with being a freshman, I do believe he managed a smile or two.
I know I did.
And since I feel it a duty to leave you with something to think about as you rush about your day, I leave you with this:
Hmm . . .