Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Weekend

I can't remember the last time I had a bad cold. I don't think I suffered through colds or the flu at all during my college years. I've struggled through various other ailments, but not those. Until now. A week ago, two of my housemates came down with fevers, chills, sore throats, and loud, rattling coughs. They warned me to keep my distance and take care of my body, neither of which I did very well because of exams and projects. I shrugged off the possibility of illness, thinking I was immune.

Two days later, I was sitting in a lecture hall for my cognitive science class when I was hit with a round of shivers and chills and the sensation of a hideous something or other trying to scratch its way out of my throat. After a feverish, sleepless night, I drove up to my hometown, and my mom forbid any baking whatsoever. I asked her if I could make just one batch of cookies, struggling to speak with my hoarse, cracking voice, and my request was interrupted by a badly timed cough attack. She looked at me. She shook her head. What a sad weekend it was.

Now that I've recovered (almost), I can reacquaint myself with the kitchen. A small pleasure, but a pleasure indeed.

Friday, November 6, 2009


November is a peculiar month. In San Diego at this time, the temperature plummets to the fifties, and yes, I do consider that plummeting because I'm one to don a fur-trimmed parka in 75 degree weather. And when the weather turns on me in such a manner, I am reminded that winter has arrived.

I like winter. Really, I do. I just don't enjoy those biting winds that burrow through my clothes and bathe my skin as though I'm wearing nothing. I also don't like those classrooms that remain air-conditioned no matter how cold it is outside. Oh, and I dislike the thick, shapeless outerwear that is none too flattering but is absolutely necessary to prevent freezing.

But I do like winter because it signals the onset of holidays. With the holidays come a bountiful supply of recipes that beg me to try them, crying, "Me, me, pick me!" (Not really, that would be rather scary).

...yes, the recipes. Those recipes chock full of tantalizing spices, permeating the body and warming it with their powerful flavors. I wanted to create such a recipe, so I pondered and tinkered and came up with

Spiced cheesecake squares with gingerbread crust

I made these with Joyce, a friend I met at the ripe old age of eleven. I never realized, but baking with a friend makes for a great bonding session, since each person has to cooperate to create a yummy result. (Thanks, Joyce, for your measuring and stirring and your wrestling with brown sugar. Enjoy your newfound relationship with molasses :D)

I was slightly worried that the recipe wouldn't turn out properly, but the squares came out of the oven in their spicy, melting, gooey glory, and my worrying ceased. The spices were a bit more subtle than I had expected (maybe the cheese mellowed their flavor), but not in a way that affected the squares negatively. The gingerbread crust was a little dry but the moistness of the cheese balanced it out, and the overall result was a soft, mildly spiced cheesecake with an appealing texture.

The recipe is a combination of adaptations, guesswork, and hope. :)

Spiced Cheesecake Squares with Gingerbread Crust

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 13x9 inch pan with foil and lightly grease.
Cream applesauce and brown sugar together until well combined.
Stir in molasses, then beat in eggs one at a time.
Add vanilla extract and stir until combined.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together.
Stir into molasses mixture.
Pour into prepared pan and set aside.

Two 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temp. (I used Neufchatel cheese, which is lower in fat)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat cheese and sugar together until smooth.
Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
Spread over gingerbread batter.
Marble the two batters with a knife.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until center is set.
Cool in pan, then lift out by foil and cut.
Can be stored in airtight container for a couple of days.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I, Jigsaw

Sometimes the breezes blow and I fly along with them, not knowing where I will land.

When I do land, I gather the crumbs of my heart and attempt to assemble myself, fitting uneven edges together, squinting an eye, tilting my head, declaring the ensemble a perfect fit, moving on.