Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Kitchen: Glazed Lemon Cheesecake

If I could eat only one dessert for the rest of my life, anything involving peanut butter and chocolate would win hands down, but this cheesecake would be a close second. There's just something about lemon that I find irresistible no matter what the form.

This creamy, lemon-flavored cheesecake is topped with a homemade lemon curd glaze that is truly just too delicious for me to express, especially considering it requires only seven basic ingredients and is quick and easy to make.

2 1/4 cups honey graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted

3 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice*
1 heaping Tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons grated lemon peel
6 Tablespoons butter

*You will need a total of 3-4 medium to large lemons. Zest all the lemons before squeezing.

Combine the crust ingredients in a medium bowl and press onto the bottom and 2" up the sides of a 9" springform pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Let sit on a wire rack while you prepare the filling. Keep the oven at 350°.

For the filling, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and beat on low until combined. Stir in the lemon juice, lemon peel and vanilla until just blended.

Pour slowly into crust, return pan to baking sheet and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until edges are set and center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the crust, cool for another hour then refrigerate overnight before serving.

For the glaze, in a small heavy saucepan, whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and peel until blended. Add butter and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a small bowl and cool for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Spread glaze on cheesecake before serving or serve it on the side with slices - yum! You will have about twice as much curd as you need to glaze the cheesecake but if you don't just eat it with a spoon (trust me, you will want to), it's delicious on toast, biscuits, scones, ice cream and sugar cookies!

This dessert is rich and decadent but still feels and tastes light and refreshing because of the lemon making it the perfect ending to a heavy holiday meal or a backyard BBQ on a hot summer day.

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Recap: The Holiday Goodwill Benefit

In looking back on the benefit, I hardly know where to begin. I guess the best place to start is by saying WOW! The event was a huge success. When I first heard about what was being planned, my worst fear was that no one would care and no one would come. Not that I didn't have faith in the amazing friends who were planning it, but it was all just so hard for me to process.

Despite the fact that we were hit with a notorious Cleveland blizzard that afternoon (which actually made national news), the turn out was still amazing with over 100 people attending. More than were at my wedding, funny enough! It was great seeing so many friends and family, of course, but it was the sea of unknown faces that touched me even more.

Being surrounded by so many people all at once who just wanted to help with no benefit to themselves was what really hit me the most. It's far too easy, regardless of your situation, to only notice the negative in life and in people. It's very easy to lose faith in humanity with all the horrible stories on the news, angry drivers, ornery holiday shoppers, etc. It was emotionally overwhelming to see all the faces who were there to support my family and also to see all the amazing donations that were made to the raffle and auction. Holy moly!

I received over 50 items from my online friends alone and several local businesses and individuals donated everything from gift baskets and signed sports paraphernalia to gift certificates, artwork and even a bicycle! My father works for the local grocery chain, Dave's Supermarkets, and they were extremely generous in their donations. All of the alcohol distributors they work with were also very kind so there was all sorts of fun items like coolers, vintage beer company wall decor, sweatshirts, a corn hole game and plenty of wine! A friend of my mom's from high school also donated two sailboat cruises that he and his wife charter in the Chesapeake Bay! It was just plain awesome, and people had a blast bidding on everything.

I was so busy running around, trying to talk to everyone and be the face of the family that I only had about five minutes to snap some photos. I think some other folks had cameras but I haven't had a chance to round them up yet, so I've included the few I was able to capture and may have more to share later. One of the local Embassy Suites donated use of the room and gave us the food at cost, which was delicious by the way! They even had a DJ who did an amazing job. The music was subtle at times and as the evening progressed he had people doing line dances, the YMCA and trains around the room! Considering I spend all my time caring for my dad or in the hospital these days, I can't even tell you how good it felt to be around so much happiness and fun.

I'm sure you are all asking the question right now, how much money was raised? The grand total nearly knocked me on my ass and of course, made my mother cry — over $11,000. Can you believe it? I still can't.

This will be a life saver for my family. My father has not been able to work in several months and while he still technically has his job, and insurance for now, he won't for long. My mother has been working as much as possible thanks to me being able to care for my Dad but she has not been able to work in a few weeks because my Dad has been in the hospital. While thankfully I can work from home, it's still hard for me to accomplish much any given day because of all the duties I have. Going on two years of doing this now, money has been getting pretty tight for all of us. Even with insurance, my Dad's medical bills are just plain ridiculous and his prescription medications are several hundred dollars a month.

This brings me to an update on my Dad. Up until three days before the benefit, we thought he may be able to attend, if even for a short time, but his pain became increasingly worse and some bad stomach issues forced us to admit him to the hospital where he still is now. Between me and my mom, we make sure someone is with him 24 hours a day. He is not in the ICU but needs so much assistance that the nurses don't really cover so we are always there to help him eat, go to the bathroom and decipher what the doctors are telling him. He is on so much medication that he is barely lucid most of the time.

Since him and my mom would not be able to attend the benefit, we organized a video chat between the benefit and the hospital. I brought my iMac to the event and sent the neighbors new Mac laptop to the hospital. My dad was tired and weak but we managed a virtual 'receiving line' in which guests were able to say hello to my parents and my parents were able to experience the event, sort of. I was thrilled to pieces that it actually worked out.

The biggest problem my Dad is facing right now is how quickly the cancer is spreading through his bones. He has a very bad tumor on his spine which has broken his rib and is starting to press on the cord. He also has a bad tumor on his pelvis near the where the spine connects and one in his right shoulder which is on the verge on causing a fracture. The spine tumors are of the most concern because of the pain they are causing, as well as preventing him from being able to move. They are having trouble finding the best way to control his pain right now which is why he has not left the hospital. Due to his immobility, he may need to go to a rehab facility or nursing home for some time while they try to get things under control — if they can. He is schedule for cyber knife radiation the first week in January which will hopefully shrink the tumors a bit and allow for some relief. We just continue to take it one day at a time, it's all we can do.

But enough about that, I think I need to wrap this up! I have no idea how I could ever adequately thank everyone who donated to the event and everyone who has supported me through this all, so for now I shall just continue to say THANK YOU! I can't get too sappy because when I start crying these days, I just can't stop. You will all be hearing from me personally as soon as I have a free moment and I do apologize that I've received some emails I have not answered yet. I'll be letting you all know how much your donation item raised, because that's just fun - right?

I'd love to end with a list of all the friends who donated, but I realized I should check with everyone to see if they want that to be public knowledge or not (and I hope the few pictured don't mind!), so I'll post a second follow up once I get that all together.

In closing, all I can say again, though it sounds so weak anymore, is thank you…