Apples

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

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • FILLING:
  • 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

Directions:

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:

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk once pondered, “Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?”

Hmm . . .

[photo & quote credit]

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20 thoughts on “Apples

  1. From experience tho – for the best crust- use more graham crackers (2 or 3) and a bit more melted butter to make the mess stick together and up the sides of the pan!

  2. Great family, thanks for sharing. I’ll try the cheesecake once I get some moolah.

    Do you have an HP laptop by chance? I have been having similar problems with mine. I have to flash the BIOS every couple weeks to get the wireless started.

    I didn’t realize Palahniuk was a theologian….hahaha. I would say not justified, but maybe understandable if boredom were the case, but I doubt that. (besides, I don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve). His question lends it self to the dualistic view of evil as necessary, and I hardly think evil is necessary.

    Actually when I read that quote (which I’ve heard before), I sighed…we Americans love blaming all our faults and mistakes on other people situations. The utter lack of personal responsibility in out society is disgusting.

  3. Killer looking cheesecake! What’s not to love about a Johnny Appleseed festival? Sounds like my kind of doings.

    Oh that darn life that keeps getting in the way of writing – what’s up with that?

    I figured you were caught up in the real world – glad to hear the smoking ban is still in effect – them’s insidious little things!

  4. I adore the picture of your little carnivore. What a great, great day you had. And the way you’ve captured it is proof that you know how lucky you are. Thanks for letting the rest of us share it with you.

  5. Lovely post, Brian. Now I’m hungry for an apple! Fortunately I just picked up some of my favorites that have come back into season – Cortlands. I have copied down the award-winning recipe and may give it a go this holiday season, when I’m wanting to impress someone. Tell your daughter congratulations! And congrats to your son on not only navigating his Freshman year but also finding a pretty girl. Can’t wait for my son to bring one home.

    Peace – D

  6. MMMMMMM That cheesecake recipe looks fabulous! And lookee lookee the words “reduced fat” showed up in the same sentance as cheesecake! I’ve died and gone to heaven. I’m definitely making this.

    While it does sound like life is hectic, it also sounds decidedly fulfilling; full of intellectual stimulation, familial bliss, and apple goodness.

    Good luck (though luck has little to do with it) on the continued fight to quit smoking. It sounds like you have wrestled that bastard to the ground and now have it yowling “uncle”.

  7. Despite my recent trauma with an apple I feel an uncontrollable urge to recreate your daughter’s cheesecake. It looks deadly in the best way possible! Tell her congrats and I can’t wait to try it myself.

  8. Brian, Looks like you’re making good use of your jam-packed time. I need to take a lesson about making the most of my down-time with my family. I’m not so good at that and I’m waking up feeling swamped. All work, no play …

    Your last thought: Who says apples can’t just be another fruit in the garden? Empty of meaning except a sweet celebration of harvest.

    M

  9. What kind of enormous animal is your child eating? I’m skeered.

    And gosh darn it, I sure wish I liked cheesecake, because I bet that one is good. Congrats to your offspring!

    Does your son know his girlfriend kind of looks like his sister? Maybe you shouldn’t tell him ……

  10. Thank God you are back and it’s not a post on religion so I can leave a comment so you know I’m here. And, you are doing so great with the smoking or not smoking thing. I was thinking of a diet until I saw that cheese cake. Good God. Oh, I shouldn’t mention God, sorry, but really, that looks so good and I luv your daughter’s expression straight on into the camera with her hand under her chin!

  11. Off to Supermarket need to get some things …. I’m baking an apple cheesecake, indeed I am!!! – not just any cheesecake but an award winning cake, well done!!!

    BTW

    reduced fat – nothing!!! all the way, I’m going…

    I’m praying on the smoking issue being one myself … Next no more beer, then no more lotto tickets!!!

  12. Sheesh, I’m trying to lose weight and you post this on the web. It’s getting made this Fall if it kills me (but what a way to go).

    Here in Texas, the annual State Fair kicked off Friday and this type of thing would fit right in between the Fletcher’s Corney Dog and the deep fried bacon (I’m not kidding cuz; in the South ANYTHING is deep fryer material).

    Loved the post.

  13. I am definitely going to have to try that recipe, it sounds soooo good! Congrats to your daughter! And thanks for letting me know about this post. Things have been quite hectic for me too, not much time to blog…

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