Saturday, March 28, 2009

It is Saturday,

it is snowing, and I have the second in the series of The Yada Yada Prayer Group, The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down to read. Not that I need Saturday, snow or a good read for this.... but let's....

pull together a few simple staple ingredients,

arrange them nicely into mini tarts,

pop them in the oven, bake then cool them,

and then......

it's Tea Time!

The Yada Yada Prayer Group

My favorite classical composer is, Ludwig von Beethoven. Two hundred thirty one years ago today, between the ages of 6 and 8*, he gave his first public performance in Cologne, Germany.** I visited there in 2001. Absolutely lovely! Jon and I will visit there again I imagine when we next go to Europe. Oh Lord, let that be soon! :-) Incidentally, it was one hundred eighty two years ago on March 26, 1827, that this musical wonder passed away. Funny, I really did not start this post with all of that in mind, but there you have it. Beethoven's musical compositions have such emotional energy and movement to them that they cause a soul to soar and plummet, and all within the confines of two scores. They can be as an entire work completely soothing, or inspiring and moving. Why this mention of music and classical composing on a post that clearly indicates written literature, and quite contemporary at that? Because in my opinion, Neta Jackson, author of The Yada Yada Prayer Group, book series is the Beethoven equivalent in the contemporary fiction literature world. Each page has movement and yet some of it is soothing, truly a balm to the soul. Neta Jackson's composition of words and the realness of the story can make you laugh out loud, weep deeply, and cause one to take a more objective look at oneself. Thoughts like Ouch... I did not realize how short I fall of where I need to be, and Oh... I've come farther than I realized, are roused within oneself regularly.

The way the women in this book stumble onto becoming a group, and naming themselves The Yada Yada prayer group is quite like something the average group of women might happen onto. The back door way the simplicity of the name Yada Yada comes about gives complete glory to, God. When one of the members discovers Yada Yada actually has meaning and represents their desire as individuals and as a group, it is very clear that only the Holy Spirit could have inspired that. Here is an excerpt from this book that is part of a conversation the Yada Yada sisters are having.

"Yada: to perceive, understand, acquire knowledge, know, discern." And a whole lot more. Here's one I like: "To be known, make oneself known, to be familiar." And another: "To distinguish (yada) between right and wrong." If we add an "h" it gets even better. "Yadah: to speak out, to confess; to praise; to sing; to give thanks." Later says Yadah "essentially means to acknowledge... the nature and work of God." (Jackson 125)

I am amazed at how this novel weaves scriptural precepts into the fiber of the story. I have had several revelations about the whole of Who God is, a higher place for me to live spiritually and socially, and gained some courage to step out and trust God for the things he has for my life. My eyes have been opened to how some of the cliches and labels I grew up with that churches give even simple things like "quiet time" and "devotions", can set us up for what I call "churchianity" rather than God focused "Christianity".

You can take look at who Neta Jackson is and what she has written here. By scrolling down and looking on the right hand side of that web site, you can see what the Yada Yada books are about. By clicking here, you can go straight to that web site where it displays and discusses her Yada Yada books only.

* It is historically believed and accepted that Ludwig's father falsified his birth certificate to being 6 rather than eight, giving him the appearance of being more of a prodigal. Jeez.... like that was going to be necessary.
** I began this post the Thursday evening the 26th, and am only posting it just now, Saturday the 28th of March. Beethoven's first public performance was March 26, 1778.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Skor Cheesecake

In my post about Chocolate Christmas Mice, I promised to tell you what it was that I did with the leftover Oreo chocolate cookie. The answer lies within this box.

A few weeks before Christmas, we drew names at work for exchanging Christmas gifts. I drew a gentleman named, Lonnie. Lonnie is the comedian at the office. For instance, last week he was going through our huge green recycle container. I came around the corner with a co~worker and there he was. He is a man of about 5'6" and full of ornery energy. He looked at us over what is essentially a huge plastic green trash can on wheels and without missing a beat simply said... looking us directly in the eyes and with a straight face, "Didn't get breakfast." Lonnie loves to eat. He loves to eat good food and sweets are at the top of his list. If there is one candy that could be deemed his favorite (and there are many) it could be the Skor bar as easily as any other decedent chocolate confection. So when I drew his name for the gift exchange, I knew just what to do. Go buy a dozen (or so) Skor bars!

Here is what I did with those Skor bars.

Butter Toffee Cheesecake with Ganache

Preheat oven to 350°

1/2 cup real butter melted (one stick)
2-1/4 cup Oreo cookie crumbs
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

12 Skor Candy Bars (and one more for nibbling)
4 8 oz. blocks cream cheese softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (you can substitute dark chocolate for one quarter of chocolate chips)

  • Set Cream Cheese out in large mixer bowl and allow to achieve room temperature and become soft.
  • Butter a 9” spring form pan with real butter.
  • Chop 12 Skor bars in two batches of six bars each and keep them separate.
  • Twist and separate Oreo cookies. Scrape white middle off. Make crumbs out of cookies. I roll them with a rolling pin in a sturdy Ziploc bag. You can see how having one side of an Oreo cookie left over from the Christmas Mice would be useful here, so make them a day or two before the cheesecake if you are making them.
  • Melt butter.
  • Stir in Oreo crumbs and sugar.
  • Press into bottom and sides of buttered 9” spring form pan.
  • Evenly scatter one batch of the six chopped Skor bars onto crust
  • Mix softened cream cheese in mixer until very smooth.
  • Mix in sugar first and until smooth, then mix eggs one at a time beating thoroughly.
  • Pour filling into crust.
  • Bake at 350° degrees for 40 minutes.
  • Turn oven down to 300° degrees and bake 30 minutes longer. This is a good time to rotate your cake around in the oven if your oven seems to bake hotter at one side or the other. Do not rotate at any other time.
  • Let sit and set in oven for one hour.
  • When cake is cool refrigerate over night, or at least 8 hours.
Finishing up:
Pop ring of spring form pan off. Leaving cake on the bottom of spring form pan, set cake on a piece of foil or your choice of waterproof device. In this next step you will be pouring your ganache topping over and you will be letting it run down the sides. It just doesn't get much better. :-)

  • Heat heavy cream in an heavy sauce pan.
  • Stir in chocolate on low heat until smooth, beating with a spoon to keep from scorching and to aid in chocolate melting.
  • Pour over cheesecake (should drip off sides) spreading out to get the coverage and look you want.
  • Top with 6 more chopped Skor Bars.... YAY!!!! Yumm.
  • Chill for one hour.
  • Now slide your cake onto whatever you will be serving it from.
  • Leave at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Lonnie is a giving man and shares everything. He has co~workers over during the summer for barbeque's... that sort of man. He had been awarded the Employee of the Year award at our Christmas lunch just two weeks prior to the day I gave him his cheesecake. So, I attached a note to his box saying that he had been such a good lad all year that he did not have to share with the other children. I think he did have a piece while at work, and I heard he gave a few sample bites (not slices), but the cake basically went home that evening, never to be seen again. I also heard he asked someone if they knew what bakery Teresa bought the cheesecake at. Lonnie likes good food. That felt nice.

Here is a little art work of the fun I had putting this Christmas gift together.


the rest of the chopping.

Some assembly required.


Getting there.

The beauty of disposable foil.

The finished cheesecake. Box and wrap it quick to avoid further temptation. By this time I had already eaten a Skor bar and licked ganache like I did not know better.

Done! Put the box in the car for morning since it is too big for the refrigerator and it is plenty cold enough outside.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

I apologize for taking a while to get this announcement on here, I just did not want to post this until the winner and I successfully connected. I am happy to announce that Elizabeth at My Maine Cottage was the winner of Redeeming Love, written by Francine Rivers, that was offered in my Valentines Day Giveaway. Here is the what Elizabeth says about herself on her blog profile.

I live with my husband Jason and two Scottish Terriers Abby & Murdoch in a small commercial fishing village in Maine. I'm a real estate agent serving the greater Portland Maine area and in my free time I love spending time by the water boating, swimming & exploring. I'm interested in Cottage style decorating & craft projects as well.

My Maine Cottage is a blog full of beautiful Maine coast photos, lots of creative ideas and two beautiful Scotties. Be sure to take a look. You can visit by clicking the link above, clicking My Maine Cottage on my side bar.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Of Mice and Chocolate.

One day, a while back at my office, we had an interesting event. The woman across the hall from me is going to be married in a few weeks. She is young and beautiful and always has a sachet about her unhurried walk, and an overall reserved gentleness about herself. She is quiet, friendly and always composed. Lovely young lady. And then the interesting event of that particular day happened. We had hit our late morning lull of quiet, bar the tapping of computer keys. Amazing that. Just prior to the mass lunch time exodus, we have the most delightful forty~five minutes of peace and quiet. It seems for about forty-five minutes before the lunch time exodus, everyone becomes focused and quite productive. I personally love it because the coffee clutching and cackling subsides for a precious three quarters of an hour. Peaceful. Peaceful and thought inspiring.

And then the interesting event of that day happened. Quiet... tap,tap,tapp tapp. Quiet ... tap rapid tap, tap, tap, tap. SCREAM!!! AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GO...okay she did not say gosh but anyway... OH MY GOSH!!!!!!! SOMETHING JUST RAN OVER MY FOOT!!!!!!!! EEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!! And may I just say the all caps here in no way truly capture the shrill and decibel level those words hit. Our demure young lady was beside herself! I personally would have been beside myself AND up on the desk.

All productivity comes to an anxious halt and people came bolting out of their office doors to see what could possibly be the matter. This reserved and quiet woman looked as if she might go into cardiac arrest with her red face and gasping mouth. She was shaky and it goes without saying beyond upset. A mouse had run across her foot! I had to agree with her.... what horror!

So the event gets even curiouser. As the rest of us began to assess where might be the best spot to place a mouse trap, we discovered the most interesting thing. Behind a somewhat large planter in the corner there were gold bits of foil crumbled in a semi neat pile of about an inch high and perhaps four inches in diameter. We immediately recognized these to be the gold foil wrapping of holiday Hershey kisses. We looked at the bowl on the far corner (diagonally on the other far side of her office) of her desk only to find three Hershey Kisses partially eaten, leaving suspiciously small teeth marks. Other than that the bowl was empty. This woman had been accusing her friend (and supervisor) that is down the hall and on a diet, of eating the missing Kisses. This woman had denied it all along. It was mice. Were they dropping them from the desk and scurrying over with them in tow to enjoy behind the planter? I had visions of Ratatouille going through my head. You remember? When they were foraging for food at Gusteau's restaurant. At any rate I was certain we were dealing with more than one mouse. I rather figured it was more like a little army of them.

Like this maybe.

I had been meaning to put these pictures on my blog at Christmas but never got around to it. Upon returning to my office, though wary of where I stepped, I had to chuckle to myself as I remembered these cute little treats I made at Christmas for my grand daughter's school Christmas party. Perhaps you noticed these precious little mice are made out of....... Hershey Kisses! :-) I saw these on Kim's blog a couple of years ago, just never had a reason to make them. They were a big hit at the school party. It is so easy to seem like such a great Nana. I love that. Anyway, the woman that had been accused of eating the Hershey's Kisses thought I might want to make these adorable little mice for our co~workers wedding reception, only alter the colors used. I thought it might be fun. The fussy bride to be however said I "should never make them again." Geez........

Here is how you can (and I) can make them using Hershey Kisses, sliced almonds Maraschino cherries, Oreo cookies, some icing gel and chocolate chips.

When I made them I ended up having only one mouse pad per cookie. In my next post I will show you where the extra chocolate Oreo cookie from each Oreo went.