RECIPE: Cheesecake

As you know I have previously been a part of two dessert businesses.  There were over 60 flavors of cheesecake on my menu at one point in time.  The way that was possible is that I have a base recipe for cheesecake and then add lots of different ingredients to it.  So I’m going to share with you my base recipe and tell you how to add to it and make MANY flavors to impress your friends and family!

The one thing that is different and fabulous about this cheesecake is the crust.  It is a short bread cookie crust!  After much experimenting it was the best crust that would hold together and not crumble while eating it.  A graham cracker crust works well but is kind of messy!

Cheesecake – Base Recipe

Shortbread Crust:

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted

1 c flour

1/3 c brown sugar

Cheesecake Batter:

3 – 8 oz packages of cream cheese

1 c sugar

1 c sour cream

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1. Add flour and brown sugar to melted butter.  Mix well.

2. Pat into the bottom of a cheesecake pan.  I use a pan with a removable bottom and it works great but a springform pan is a traditional cheesecake pan and that will work fine too!

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown. I put a pan under it because butter sometimes drips and then makes my smoke alarm go off!

3.  While crust is baking add cream cheese and sugar to mixing bowl.  Mix for a few minutes until it is very creamy and smooth.

4.  Add sour cream and vanilla.  Mix well.

5.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are well incorporated between additions.

6.  This is where you can add other ingredients.  First example I will give you is for lemon cheesecake.  Add the juice and zest of one lemon.  Mix well.

7.  Pour batter into pan on top of crust.  Bake in oven at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  I always check it after about 25 because depending on the ingredients you add you will need to adjust the baking time.  What you are looking for is that when you jiggle the pan you can only see a small circle of the batter still jiggling in the center.  It will continue to bake a small amount in the pan but not much.  What you do not want is to overbake it and then it will crack.

This is the lemon cheesecake after baking.  I also take a knife and run it round the side when it is still hot so it doesn’t stick as much.  Place it in the freezer until it is set.  I store it in the freezer until we want to eat it.  It will keep for quite a while depending on what you store it in but it will get freezer burned after a bit.

ENJOY!  I’ll be back to share with you some ideas of what other kids of cheesecake you can create with this base recipe!


The Experience

As you probably read last week in this post we put our beloved Abbi to sleep just a month after saying goodbye to Hunter.  It has been a tough month here in our house but one that we will get through together.

When we realized it was time to put Hunter to sleep I was working and Mike was home.  We waited until the kids were home from school so that they would be able to say goodbye to him.  It was hard to contain my emotion as I watched Mike drive out of the driveway for the final time with Hunter.  It was not easy to know what was going to happen but tried to be strong for my boys who were devastated.  It helped to have a book that my dear friend, Naomi (thank you Naomi!), gave me to read them.  It is called Dog Heaven and is a wonderful explanation of what it will be like when your beloved dog gets to heaven.  It really helped me to explain to the kids that Hunter would be happy and running and jumping again when he got there.  There was a lot of comfort in thinking about things that way.

This time with Abbi we had planned to put her to sleep last Friday but then the news that one of Mike’s good softball friends had lost his battle with ALS came and he did not feel up to laying his dog and good friend to rest on the same day.  Although I didn’t want to wait another week I let it be his decision as he is the only one who knows how much he can handle.

Friday morning came and Mike took Abbi for a walk at their favorite hunting lake because she loved it so much.  When he returned he told me that today was the day.  She now seemed to be in pain and that was not what we wanted for her at all!  We tried to figure out logistics as the only appt available was at 2 pm…the same time as the funeral he needed to be at.  I decided that it was best if one of us took her to spend her final moments although I wasn’t sure how I would make it through so I found a sub to sit with the daycare kids and took her to the appt myself.

Since we had made the decision I had been teary on and off.  When the time finally came I felt strong and ready to face the task head on.  I made it to the vets office without tearing up and even got into the office to check in without a tear.  It was when the vet tech came to the truck to help me get Abbi out that I could no longer hold back the tears.  I opened the tailgate and prompted her to get up and she tried but I think she was too weak to do it with one back leg that was not functional.  The tech told me she could carry me for her and I lost it.  Sad that my poor girl couldn’t get up on her own and was no longer what she once had been and also sad about the fate that she was about to meet.

I walked into the clinic behind the tech carrying my dog in tears and quite possibly sobbing.  I tried to hold it together as others were in the waiting room with their pets but it was impossible.  She took me to a room just down the short hallway where there was a blanket spread out on the floor for Abbi to lay on.  Not that it was all that comfortable for her but a very nice sentiment.  Then the tech told me she needed some paperwork signed and asked for my credit card to pay for the services.  If I had one suggestion I would tell them that they need to take care of that stuff before I bring my dog into the office.  Although I realize they need to be paid for the services it was wrong timing.

Anyway, she explained that the vet would come in and talk with me and give her a sedative.  Then that the shot would be administered.  All the while I am crying and sniffing the snot back into my nose.  Then she pet Abbi, said some kind words and was gone.  Soon after the vet came in, Dr Bethke, and started talking to me.  I hadn’t thought much of the name of the vet and had never met her before in the vet’s office as Mike handles that stuff but I recognized her immediately as a girl who had attended Kindergarten with me.  It is no surprise to me that she is a vet as she grew up on a farm and had lots of animals in 4-H and such.  I found myself wondering if she remembered me although my last name is no longer the same.

Once the vet came in she talked to me and explained the process, in more detail that I needed really.  She pet Abbi and talked to her as if she was her own dog.  I couldn’t help but notice the comment she made to Abbi about how thing she had gotten and wonder if she was judging me for letting her get to this point.  She then gave her the shot and me a box of Kleenex, said she would return in a bit when the medicine had worked its magic.  She returned a few minutes later and noticed that Abbi was not as calm as she had hoped (although I thought she was quite calm).  She gave us another few minutes which appeared to not have done any better.  She said she was going to give her another shot.  As she was petting Abbi, the dog licked her hand.  She asked if Abbi was hungry and left to get some treats.  She gave Abbi some treats which she seemed to enjoy.  After that the vet stayed with us.  She stroked Abbi and talked to her trying to calm her.  Apparently the meds have some kind of effects like a street drug because she made a comment about her having a good ‘dream’ while I watched my dog trip out and lick everything in sight.  Poor dog could not keep her tongue in her mouth and it was not the last memory I cared to have but it did make me chuckle among my tears.

After she was finally calm enough to shave her leg for the IV she gave her the medicine.  I bawled like a baby as I knew what was coming.  I noticed that she stopped breathing almost immediately and nearly lost it but saved that for the moment after the vet listened to her heart with her stethoscope and told me ‘she’s gone’.  I went into full ugly cry mode and couldn’t catch my breath.  I did a couple of those horrible snotty slurps that you get with the ugly cry.  I felt bad for the vet as I’m sure she’s seen it before but much like me had no idea what to say.  She just told me that I could have as long as I liked and if I cared to I could go out the back door so I didn’t have to face the lobby full of people again and then she left.

I gave Abbi one last hug and a good long look at her.  I couldn’t contain myself at all.  I later asked my husband how he made it through that without crying and he said he didn’t cry til he was out of the office.  There was NO way that was happening with me.  I coulndn’t even pull it together enough to walk out.  I cried all the way home and then lost it again when I got in the door.  I am so glad my mother-in-law was there to give me a hug because I sure needed it at that moment.

Although i know we did the absolute right thing by letting her go it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and don’t ever want to experience that again!   I say that with the knowledge that we will have a new puppy in 4 weeks and that the time will come to do this again but I don’t think I’ll be the one taking her in.  I think I’ll take the offer that was made by Mike’s cousin to take her for us.  I think it is better that way for me at least.  I would prefer that my last image of the dog be a happier one.