Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge #6

Cheesecake Pops
(Makes 30 – 40 Pops)
My comments are in blue.

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Yes, the tops cracked, but you couldn't tell after the cakes cooled and fell slightly.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Sorry I don't have any chocolate dipping pictures, but guests were watching and the chocolate began misbehaving (see below).

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

I loved this challenge, but I do have a few comments. First off, I made the batter and it turned out great, but as I began filling my 10" pan, I realized that we had too much batter for the pan, so I pulled out a few of my small springform pans and filled those up too. I'm glad I did~ the batter rose as much as I expected and the top of the cake came to the top of the 10" pan and the small springforms. If I had to do it again, I think I'd pull out my really big 12x3" round cake pan.

To scoop the balls, I used my #40 disher (it holds around 1.5 Tbsp). The #20 just looked too big and we were entertaining some friends and there were quite a few children present, so I took the liberty to downsize the balls slightly. After all, this is cheesecake, and since 2 oz = 1/4 cup, I thought that might be too much for everyone.
Using the #40, this recipe made ~60-70 pops.

The other issue was dipping the pops in the chocolate. Unfortunately, after I melted all the chocolate together and it looked glossy and delicious, my chocolate seized. Yikes. I've only had that happen once before and it was a long tome ago, but I remembered chocolate CPR and it revived and I finished the batch. My theory as to why it happened was that a small piece of cheesecake fell off into the chocolate bowl and combined with the chocolate and the cheesecake seized up the chocolate's moisture quickly. I wonder if any other DB'ers encountered this. For the second half of the recipe, I was very sure to keep that cheesecake frozen so it would be less likely to drop off into my chocolate. Over all, my guests were very happy with the outcome and I will use this excellent recipe for plain old cheesecake next time. My husband could barely walk away from it after he tried the first bite!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Coupon Binder

Ok, this may seem like a hassle, but believe me, it is worth it. I have 3 small children, so any organizing tip is worth gold for me. I figure if I'm going to the trouble to clip coupons, I might as well know where they are.

To organize and file my coupons, I bought a 3 ring binder and clear plastic baseball card holder pages. I made page dividers with those plastic page protectors and put cute scrapbook paper in the pockets to make it mine. In all, I have 25 categories so I can find my coupons fast. You might have more or less, depending on your own needs.

Also, in the front of the binder, I have a zippered pouch so I can store a small calculator, pen, special coupons, etc., and a small notebook I'll tell you about some other time.

I've learned to take my binder with me whenever I shop. For instance, yesterday I found band-aids clearanced down to $1.44. A good deal. But I was able to flip over to my "health" tab and find a $1 off coupon, making them practically free.

Did I mention how easy it is for me to plan my grocery list now, too? Pop open the binder and the weekly ads and match coupons to sales. Presto!

Just as an aside, I hesitated to post this last week when I was thinking about it because I thought it would be better to write about things with experience to back up my words. And so as a testimony, the kids and I went shopping yesterday and my binder method saved us a total of $42 in coupons, before sale prices. I hope you can benefit from this method too. I wish I had done it years ago.

Messianic Passover

As many of you know, I love to learn about food. You know about my Martha Stewart Living collection and how serious I am when Alton is on TV. I have cookbooks on my nightstand. Traditional food is also particularly exciting to me and Passover is the top of traditional feasts in my book. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by Passover, after all, the very first Passover began with Moses in Egypt. And we remember even more poignantly God’s judgment passing over us now as Christians. This feast has been celebrated for thousands of years. Thousands! But, I’m not Jewish by blood so I’ve never seen it up close or in person. The closest I’ve come is reading articles in food magazines.

So imagine my excitement when we were invited to attend a real Passover Seder celebration last Saturday night with a Messianic Jewish family in our church. We learned about the elements of the Seder and we ate Matzos and Kosher things (not lamb like I had thought) and we sang ancient Hebrew songs and drank the traditional wine. It was especially wonderful since the Messianic elements had been added to the old traditions and we saw even further how Christ has been the ultimate fulfillment and how His life dovetails beautifully with the prophecies and requirements of the Messiah. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the camera to show you pictures of our feast, but you can learn all about the Passover traditions and elements of the Seder here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I am the Heir to the Coupon Throne. Of course this means that my mother is the Coupon Queen. But I think now I am ready for my coronation as princess.

As a young child, I clipped coupons aside the Queen at the dining room table. She taught me how to use scissors and how to cut straight lines.. I remember her neat piles of perfectly cut coupons, organized by category, laid out read to be filed into her envelope. I remember shopping with my mother for groceries every week. On the East Coast, sales begin on Saturdays (as opposed to Wednesdays here) and so we’d venture out every Friday evening to Pathmark or Superfresh or Acme and emerge hours later with our bounty for the growing family. Once, I think we were at Pathmark., our order was being rung up and the cashier told up that we saved over $100 using our coupons.. The people in line behind us actually cheered.

Now more than ever I realize the value of clipping coupons and planning out your grocery list and your meal plan for the week. Now my family is the one growing these days and there are some great appetites here in the Gieddflock~ especially our men. And lately, the coupon royalty in my blood has risen. Last weekend, my own Dabney helped me clip coupons with her little safety scissors. I want her to know that saving money for her family is worth it and important. I’ve come back to the system I know to be most helpful to me so I can save the most money that I can. I think this might be the beginning of a small series on how my system works. I found some great websites lately that have helped a lot and I’ll be including them too.

Sprinkle Sad

They told me they were going to help Daddy water the lawn. A little while later, Daddy came back in and we heard peals of laughter from the backyard. David had picked up the sprinkler head and was showering his sister who was running around soaked and laughing like a maniac.

When dinner was ready we called them inside to eat but David was disappointed that he couldn't go back outside. "Mom, I'm sad. I'm sprinkle sad."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tim is my Hero

Last Saturday morning, Tim asked if we should rent a scaffold and change out our ugly foyer light for my new chandelier (that matches our home) and install our new ceiling fan as an early birthday present for me. Obviously I said yes. I was so excited that I would finally be able to finish the projects I've been partially assembling and dreaming about for months now! He headed out to rent the scaffold and I began praying. I prayed we'd get it right the first time and that the fixtures would work. I prayed we'd get it done quickly and that I wouldn't kill myself or get myself sent to the hospital. So Tim brings home the 14 foot scaffold, in pieces, of course, and we realize that the assembly directions are not for our scaffold model.

It took us 2 hours to put it together without directions. And I really would not recommend the process to anyone married less than 5 years. It was like some strange "Survivor" challenge. So we get this enormous scaffold erected and wheel it over to the ugly, dusty light above the door and I load my pockets with pliers and screwdrivers and electrical tape and instructions and the small mounting hardware and I put the assembled chandelier chain around my neck and secure the end of the chain to the chandelier base (boy, is that thing heavy!) and I take a deep breath and I climb 14 feet into the thin air above my foyer. It's really, really high. I climb onto my hands and knees at the top and my head almost touches the ceiling. I unload my pockets with as little movement as possible trying not to breathe too hard for fear of swaying the scaffold even 1/4 of an inch. I look down and feel sick. My hands start getting clammy and I start sweating.



"Honey, don't be scared. This scaffold is very solid~ it really won't collapse" says Tim.

"A sturdy scaffold is no use to a girl who could lose her balance!" says I.

I begin to remove Ugly Light's base that is attached to the ceiling. I successfully remove Ugly Light and slowly, slowly lower it by the chain down to Tim waiting below. Sweat is now rolling down my back and my leg muscles are beginning to cramp from fear. I feel the paralysis setting in. I can't strip the insulation from the clear chandelier wires because my fingers are so clammy and shaking. Dabney peeks out of her room and interjects, "Don't look down Mom! Just don't look down!" Ashamedly, I had to climb down and Tim cheerfully volunteered to put up the new fixture. To make a very long story short, he did it. And he did a great job.

(That's part of the scaffold as we were disassembling it. Imagine a platform at the top rung of the ladder side. )

We went to dinner after that and then we put the kids to bed and began on the ceiling fan installation. I had assembled what I could on the fan without being at the box before Tim climbed the scaffold. I helped as much as I could, but I could barely look at my husband 14 feet above the ground, his legs hanging over the edge of the platform. My wonderful Tim wired and installed the fan (and 6ft downrod) on the first try~ no mistakes, no smoke, no flames. The whole process took 2 hours and we had our beautiful fan (that matches the house) running beautifully with no need to even adjust the balance! Praise God! What a great birthday present!

Anniversary pictures

I'll add more pictures a little later when I have more time...

We had a lovely time at the Broadmoor on our 5th anniversary. The kids loved looking at the ducks, geese and swans (until the geese got too close) and it was such a gorgeous day~ no need for even a sweater. Sorry that Josh wasn't in any of the pictures~ he was sleeping soundly in his stroller while we strolled along the lake.

Two of my very favorite things~ pansies and topiaries. Pansies of course are not nearly hardy enough to be trained upright as a real topiary, but these were packed inside heavy duty wire forms inside the planters. Just beautiful.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Happy April

April is almost like a holiday to me. Back east where I grew up, April is a beautiful green grassy dewy month filled with life springing forth at every turn~ New leaves and flower buds on trees, crocuses popping up, birds tweeting and lightning bugs coming out in the twilight. All of creation waking gently from it’s winter slumber. Tulips, daffodils and snapdragons. Our old egg hunts at Brandywine Creek State Park. A warm breeze gently blowing the curtains. And of course, this being me, I also think of asparagus with hollandaise, minted green pea soup and dutchess potatoes. And sangria. (Yum!) Making homemade ravioli while listening to Andrea Bocelli. Even though I live now in Colorado and April is one of the snowiest months here, I like to think that I can still bring the April I know from the beautiful Delaware valley to our inside cozy home on the front range.

Saturday was our 5th wedding anniversary and I think Tim and I are even happier together today than we were on that glorious snowy day half a decade ago. To celebrate the day, we had a wonderful lunch in the garden room and walk around the lake at the Broadmoor where we became engaged.

I've got to run for now but I hope you like the new layout for spring. Think of it as my blog's new spring dress. I'm still working out the kinks and I will hopefully post more pictures this afternoon.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Since the majority of you visit for kid pictures...

I thought I'd indulge you a bit.

Physical Stewardship

I don’t usually do this but it’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now. I fear I must hop onto my soapbox and look myself straight in the mirror. Exercise. There’s a pang of fear that shivers down my spine when I here the word. Managing my weight by eating right only has ceased to be of any help to me after bearing 3 children in 4 years. I’ve been either pregnant and/or nursing since 6 weeks into our marriage (and tomorrow will be 5 years!) So, recently I’ve rekindled my relationship with Denise Austin, whom I have not seen since 2 children ago. I hesitated to do this for many reasons, but my main reason for exercise procrastination was that I felt that it was literally impossible to squeeze one more thing into my day, Especially something physically straining. (Do you hear “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”?) However, when you ask God, He grants you good things. He’s provided the strength and the time to exercise and so far so good. There is about 1-2 hours everyday when all 3 of the kids are asleep (or quiet in bed) and this is when I exercise. I had to sacrifice a few things that used to get done in that time, but I’ve had to change my schedule because I really do want this to be part of my everyday routine. So I’ve decided to list some of the myriad reasons (in no particular order) that I should exercise everyday.

Believe it or not, I do feel rejuvenated after I exercise
I have a refreshed outlook after I exercise
I want my children to have a fit mom
I want to be healthy
Exercise improves circulation, and therefore will minimize varicose veins
It improves your posture
Weight bearing exercise strengthens your bones
Exercise fights heart disease
I need to be strong to keep up with and play with my kids
I want to start (and continue to be) healthy if we get pregnant again.
I have pre-marriage clothes in my closet
I want to be more attractive to my husband
I’d like to be more limber and graceful
Building muscle speeds up your metabolism (I do NOT mean bulky muscle)
Shorts season is coming
My husband is an exercise fanatic and he’s pretty excited that I’m doing this everyday
I want my children to know that I believe exercise is important
Exercise is physical stewardship and God only gave us one body
30~45 minutes once a day really isn't that much time

I really enjoy the weight bearing exercises that Denise Austin does and recently I’ve been trying to get through the 45 minute Pilates workout that she’s put together without having to slow down and not do as many repetitions. I would also recommend her “Wellness Zone” workout as a starter and this one and also this one As for me I’m much more into the strength and conditioning workouts (think weights and resistance bands, pilates and yoga) than bouncing around cardio workouts. Anyway, those are my two cents for myself. If you wanted, you could pray that I would have endurance and stamina.
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