Fig and Goat Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

My momma-in-law hooked me on the FREE (with $50 purchase) Schnucks Cooks Magazine years ago always bringing the latest copy over whenever she visits.  Religiously I tear out the coupons and mark the recipes I would like to try, but rarely do.  Yesterday was different;  I checked a bucket list item from my list by making my first cheesecake ever.  Mmmmmmmm!

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I had always assumed making cheesecakes were time-consuming and difficult because people I know did not make them often.  Coming across the Fig and Goat Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust recipe in the Schnucks Cooks Magazine Fall 2014 issue, I knew I had to give this one a try.  Of course I was the only one excited about this venture as the hub has sworn off cream cheese for life (because he thinks it tastes like arse), and my oldest squirt is convinced she does not like any cheese except Parmesan, never mind all of the pizzas she eats now and the multitude of  jars of macaroni and cheese she ate as a baby (you should see how many snow globes we created from those jars).

Anywho, during an exploration of the new grocery store, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, I gathered my ingredients.  Not realizing Boar’s Head made goat cheese, I threw this log into my cart and am so glad I did.  While opening the package, a huge chunk just so happened to fall into my mouth.  What ensued was creamy, salty goodness on my taste buds, a flavor nearly mimicking (to me) the briny liquid in a green olive jar.  Yummers!

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In addition, since the recipe calls for fig jam, my anti-cheese squirt selected the Zergut variety from the shelf, and it was definitely the right choice.

IMG_1653As I write this post, the cheesecake has been devoured in less than a twenty-four hour time frame.  Hey, I did share with the neighbor.  However, if I knew just how delicious this cheesecake was prior to sharing, I may have thought twice about it.

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The Cake Mix Bible

If you are like me, a passion of mine is baking.  Now, I can make a mean chocolate chip cookie when I focus and fail to rush the process, taking time to chill the dough and soften the butter organically [not via Chef Mic(rowave)].  If I don’t take the proper steps, I end up with flat-as-pancake cookies burnt on the edges and stuck to the pan.

I am also a wanna-be extreme couponer.  So, I purchase cake mixes at Schnucks when they have the 10/10 sale with the 11th being FREE.  I like FREE.  Thus, I have a fairly decent stockpile of cake mixes in my pantry.

So, when I came across The Cake Mix Bible, I knew I needed to add this to my cookbook collection.

Last night I attempted the Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cake with much success.  I substituted mini Oreos for whole chocolate sandwich cookies cut into quarters because that is what I had on hand.  Also, I did reduce the baking time by about 10 minutes because I like my cakes nice and moist.  Yet, my final product nearly mirrors the picture in the book if wearing in-need-of-cleaning glasses as I was last night.  The recipe was easy, the batter was yummy, and the family chowed the cake in one sitting.

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Besides the ease of the recipes, I like the beautiful pictures throughout so that I can keep an end goal in “sight.”

My next attempt will be the Easy Lemon Cookies (hello?  who doesn’t like easy?) so that I can gift them to my BFF.

Use Your Words for the Better Good

The other day I was discussing with my longtime loyal friend the lack of filters people seem to have when they speak to others with no thought to feelings or lasting repercussions of their words.  Words, I believe, should be utilized to build people up, encourage them, and make a difference in a positive manner.  Thus, a FREE means of making a difference in the world in which all people are capable of participating. . . amazing.  So, why such a lack of membership in such a tangible fraternity?

In discussions with my class over the social media Yik Yak, they were explaining how the posts were anonymous and typically negative in nature.  My response was, “Sounds as if people have too much time on their hands,” and “This could be a phenomenal medium used to encourage and praise,” without any need for author recognition.  So, why do people, regardless of age, use their words to bully others?

Believe me, I have been a victim of verbal bullying on more than one occasion as simply a human being, but also as a volunteer leader, volunteer coach, and volunteer teacher.  While informally researching this post, I talked with my salt-of-the-earth friends who never hesitate when it comes to donating their time and talents for others.  One friend told of how she and her husband were accused by a parent of bullying their child during a summer softball season.  This is the same woman who drove 3 1/2 hours with two young girls and a newborn to surprise me on my birthday and then turn around and drive 3 1/2 hours back that same evening.  Another mentioned a complaint by a parent when she cancelled a preschool soccer practice due to rain, and she responded with a reminder, “These kids are not training for the Olympics.”  A further woman blessing whom mentored me my first year of coaching over fifteen years ago advised of closed practices as a means of eliminating parental harassment from the sidelines, and she was oh so right.  It is no wonder people look away when asked to volunteer.  Yet, one rarely sees those who complain or critique stepping forward to answer the need for volunteers.  Brian Gotta wrote a Letter from a Coach which eloquently explains this phenomena.

I have had parents suggest I plan field trips and then fail to show with their child.  I have had parents complain about their child’s playing time, but then arrive for the games with player in tow late, time and time again.

This longtime loyal friend of mine who sat for hours in the waiting room with my husband while doctors removed my breasts, who allowed me to trim her hair after school in her classroom, who demanded I participate despite a carbuncle growing on my eyelid, who has been my voice of reason for over fifteen years, who uses her words for the better good ended our conversation with, “Sometimes I see all the mean and negative ways people act and wonder how much society disappoints God.”

Book Club Babes: Flat Stanley

Book Club Babes met today at the St. Louis Art Museum in order to discuss Miss Ava’s selection of Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures 2: The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery.  The St. Louis Art Museum has a vast collection entitled the Art of Ancient Egypt which directly relates to our reading, and the admission is FREE.

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The evening before our visit to the museum, I tried to convince my Book Club Babe daughter to sleep underneath our bulletin board much like Flat Stanley, but she refused for fear of being flattened.  My youngest daughter did give it a try, though, with no flattening success.

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Arriving at the museum, the girls had a mission to find the mummies minus any assistance from an accompanying adult since Flat Stanley had a similar mission to discover the location of hidden treasures deep within a pyramid.  The girls were up for the challenge.  Maps were gathered from the information booth, and memories of previous visits were accessed.  Thus, the girls led the way.  Eventually, they sought out the assistance of a docent (on their own) when collection 130 could not be found.  They were so close.

After investigation of the mummies, Miss Grace, a fellow Book Club Babe, explained the purposes of the canopic jars as well as the meaning behind the hieroglyphics. Woowee!  She had read about Egypt on her own in preparation for discussion.

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Looking at the various statues, the girls mimicked their poses and then flattened against the wall much like Flat Stanley did in the book in order to deceive the robbers.  From there, a lively discussion ensued with reader-generated questions from the girls.

Much was yet to be explored at the St. Louis Art Museum.  Pictures were taken, alarms were triggered (only twice), and an artist was found replicating a painting.  She was kind enough to explain the brushstrokes to us and entertain our guesses as to how long she had been painting said piece.  The Book Club Babes guessed two years;  she had been working a mere twelve hours.

So looking forward to our next discussion of Miss Corinna’s selection of Junie B. Jones and that Meanie Jim’s Birthday.

Sweat and the Sweat Lodge

FREE.  As the end of summer fast approaches, we like to try and squeeze in summer activities we figured we would have already participated in by now.  Today was our day to explore Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, IL.

20140806_100327We (my six and eight-year-old squirts) began with the concrete stairs which lead to the top of Monks Mound, the largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in American north of Mexico.  With burning calves, I reached the top after my two boundless bundles of energy.   While they continued to explore the platform of the mound, I, with beads of sweat rolling down my back, rested on the bench strategically placed near the top of the stairs.  Although I had visions of multiple ups and downs, we all agreed one round on the stairs was enough for today, so we headed to the Interpretive Center across the street.

Since we visit this historic site at least once a year, the girls’ excitement increased as we walked closer to the heavy, ornate doors.  This time, though, the girls chose to investigate the exhibits before viewing the informative and award-winning fifteen-minute film, Cahokia:  City of the Sun.

Dioramas with plenty of buttons to push in order to light certain areas entertained and educated simultaneously.  In addition, an interactive table covered with Native American toys challenged their hand-eye coordination.  Not to forget, the drawers with pulls (a favorite of the girls) filled with artifacts allowed visitors to further expand their learning.  Finally, I believe we walked through the life-size village a minimum of five times (I sat out the sixth, seventh, and eighth times) which concludes with a replica of a Sweat Lodge.

20140806_102840 20140806_102952 20140806_103326 20140806_104750A further opportunity of a self-guided tour outside amongst the other mounds was available, but we opted out since Momma’s legs had turned to jelly due to our initial climb.  We will add this to the list for next time as well as a future exhibit coming April 2015.

20140806_104952P.S. For the fictional book lover who enjoys the setting of Cahokia Mounds, read the Merry Gentry series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Ooh la la!

A Pretzel before Playing at City Garden

FREE.  If you are like me, I am always on the hunt for activities free of charge for me and my squirts.  City Garden located in downtown St. Louis is just the ticket.  We had not been in about two years, so we were long overdue.  This park comprises art sculptures on which to climb, a large splash pad on which to skip, two wading ponds in which to swim (swimsuits optional), and the head of justice in which to hide.

First stop . . . buying lunch consisting of Gus’ Pretzel hot dogs at The Fire and Ice Cream Truck.  Sitting in the shade we chowed while creating our plan of attack for the garden. 

Time to release the inner good time kracken, and let the fun begin.

 

Boobs, Bobby, Books, Burgers, and Brownie Bites

Looking for a St. Louis outing with the kiddos?  Well, how about one free of charge?

After a yearly check with the breast cancer surgeon at Siteman Cancer Center, the girls and I decided to partake in what has become our annual visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End.  Did I mention FREE?

The current exhibitions are Cage and Kaino:  Music and Performance, Strategy by Design: Games by Michael Graves, and A Memorable Life:  A Glimpse into the Complex Mind of Bobby Fischer. We explored the three levels of exhibits and composed music by moving chess pieces as well as challenged each other to various board games set out to sample.

Our final stop at the World Chess Hall of Fame was none other than Q Boutique where we discovered a new book for our collection, Goodnight St. Louis.

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After an outdoor game of giant chess, we decided to give Lester’s a try, and we were glad we did.  Ordering from the kiddo’s menu, each of my squirts ordered the Twin Mini Burgers (one order with cheese and one without) while I decided to go Meatless Friday with the Pesto, Feta, Mushroom, Eggplant, Artichoke Flatbread.  Yummers!

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To maintain tradition, a short walk to froYo where the girls piled on the toppings (including brownie bites) concluded our latest exploration of the Central West End.