Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cream Cheese and Chocolate Marble Brownies...

I've become a fan of combining cream cheese and chocolate brownies in one yummy dessert.  I became a fan when I found a recipe on the box of a brownie mix once upon a time.  Having in my possession a brownie mix that didn't have such a recipe, I went online to see if I could find a recipe for just the cream cheese filling.

Oh my!  Did I ever find recipes!  I thought it would be hard to choose, but after perusing several sites, I concluded that the basic recipe is so common that it probably falls into the category of common knowledge.   Who knew?!?   

Most that I came across were identical, or any differences I found were insignificant.   Except for this recipe.   This one looked interesting because it added butter, and seriously... isn't everything better with butter?  That said, I was in disbelief that only 3 oz. of cream cheese would make an adequate filling.  So I took the knowledge I'd gleaned from other recipes and came up with a slight variation of the above recipe.

First, if you're making brownies from scratch, I suggest using any number of the recipes you can find online.  I can't vouch for any in particular as I have my own simple, but fine, from-scratch brownie recipe that I sometimes use, but I wanted something that I could use with a box mix.  'Cause sometimes a mix is just fine. 😉

Okay...  so if you want to add cheesecake to pretty much any box-mix brownie, I think this should work for you:

First, make the cheesecake batter by combining the following and mix until fairly smooth:

  8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1 large egg
  1  tsp. vanilla extract
  2 Tbs. butter, softened  (do not use margarine)
  1 Tbs. flour

Then, in another bowl, make the box mix as directed.  For the brownie pictured, I happened to use a Better Crocker Milk Chocolate Brownie mix, but I actually prefer Aldi's Baker's Corner Fudge Brownie mix.  Cheap and yummy.

Okay...  whatever brownie mix you use, pour most of the brownie mixture into a buttered 9x13 glass baking dish.  I didn't measure, but I left maybe a cup, cup and a half of the brownie mixture in the bowl to use later.  

Spread the brownie mixture evenly in the baking dish.

Then, with a large spoon, dollop the cheesecake mixture on top of the brownie mixture.  Depending on how thick the brownie mixture is, you may be able to spread the cheesecake mixture a bit.  But don't be a perfectionist about this.

Then pour, or scrape out (with a spatula) the rest of the brownie mix over and around the cream cheese mixture.

With a knife, cut through the whole mixture, snaking back and forth through the cheesecake and brownie mixtures to sort of combine them into swirls.  I like to snake the knife horizontally and then vertically to really spread that cheesecake around, being careful to not over-mix the two mixtures.  Again, don't be a perfectionist.  Cream cheese marble brownies are like folk art.  Every piece looks a little different, and each taste is it's own kind of delicious.

Follow the baking instructions on the box.    When done baking, let cool completely before cutting (if you can).  Then enjoy! 

These don't last long enough at our house to go bad, but if you want to keep them longer than a couple of days, I suggest refrigerating or possibly even freezing. 


Monday, November 19, 2018

Recipes & memories...

There's a recipe for pulled pork.  Need I say more?  Mmmmm

Louise's Chocolate Chip pie - I was named after my Aunt Louise.  Everyone said I was her favorite.  I guess, truth be told, she was my favorite, too.  

Hershey's Cocoa Fudge - On my...  my memories abound about fudge.  Fudge that didn't set up and you had to eat it with a spoon.  Fudge so hard you had to cut it with a sharp knife, then eat the slivers that would fall off the pieces as you tried to pick up a piece to eat it.  And I'm sure there was plenty of perfect fudge, too.  We didn't necessarily have fudge often, but we evidently had it often enough that I remember it seemed a tricky thing to fix.  Regardless of how it "set up", though, it was always delicious.

Kentucky Pie (sugar cream pie) would be my mother's mother's recipe.  She was my last living grandparent and she died when I was four years old.  Even though she and my grandfather lived across the street from us, and my grandmother lived in our house during her last weeks, I really don't have any memory of her.  I only have the memory (or sense) of knowing she was being taken care of by my parents in her last days (or weeks?)  I really don't know how long she stayed with us at the end.

And Shirley's Special Pie (more or less the same as Kentucky Pie) -  Shirley would be my mother, I presume.  She didn't care to be called Shirley, though, and went by Deane (short for Veradeane).   When someone would say to her, "Surely.... anything", she would say, "Don't call me Shirley!" The joke never got old.  Not to me.

Wondering if she came up with that herself, or got that line somewhere, I googled it.  I found this (the expression is at about the 1:00 minute mark):

I love Leslie Nielson, but he must have stolen the expression from mom.  Ha!  Mom said this when I was a little girl so I know she didn't steal it from the line in the movie,  Airplane


Another thing mom would always say...  when she'd drop something noisy (like a pot or pan), she'd call out, "Never mind me, I just dropped the set out of my ring!"    For the longest time I didn't get the joke.   When I finally got it, I thought it was hilarious.  Made more funny to me, I'm sure, because she always said it with a straight face and never once explained it.

When I think of the things my mother said that have stuck with me, I can't help but wonder what my boys will remember that I said when they were growing up.  I inherited mom's dry humor, but I don't think I ever carried a joke for as long and as seriously as she did.  

Mom died at the age of 69.  I turn 60 next spring and my sisters are 66, and almost 65.  I didn't realize nearly twenty five years ago (when I was not yet 35), just how young 69 was, but I sure do now.  And I sure do miss her...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A new "little" project...

It's been a good weekend.  Visited with old friends last night - my husband and I, and another couple and their teen daughter, traveled from two different directions to get there.  It was a good evening of catching up, we enjoyed listening to the teen play her clarinet (she's playing in an honor's orchestra this weekend), and our hostess's young adult daughter and her beau showed up.  We did some calculating and realized we hadn't seen her since her brother's wedding - 8 years ago!  It was one of those moments that it's so easy to let time slip by and never make happen.  So glad our hostess did - make it happen.  

And this afternoon I set to making some laminated art bookmarks and magnets.  The hardest part of this job is choosing the pictures to use - and knowing when I've cut out enough.

I have a couple of old art books that are in pretty bad shape, one had some water damaged pages.  I'd long thought of cutting them up and doing something like this with some of the small pictures in them.   It's a fun project, but like I said...  it's hard to know when to say "enough".   

With several pictures laminated and a whole bunch more to go, I decided I'd been at it long enough for today.  I'm leaving my mess out and tomorrow, hopefully, I'll be able to think more clearly about how many to do and, hopefully, I'll finish the job.

My second Spicier Life is coming along and I'd love to get it finished this week - or maybe the next. Since I showed so many in-progress photos of my other one, I'll skip that tonight.  It's the same pattern, just different colors.

To see what other YOPers are up to,

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Things knitting teaches me...

On Friday, I wrote about making a dishcloth a week - to try to work down my cotton stash.  So I spent some time online over the weekend checking out some patterns, and I started making the first block in the series of this KAL.  I thought the pattern would make a nice dishcloth.

Well...  over an hour in, this is what my cloth looks like:

Not much for over an hour's worth of work.  Not to mention the frustration.   

Oh, let me go head and mention the frustration.

First, I didn't understand the pattern.  I started, ripped back, and started over a couple of times before feeling fairly confident I understood what the pattern was saying.  But inside I wasn't sure that the whole problem wasn't with the pattern... (like I'm some sort of knitting expert.  FWIW, I'm ashamed of that thought now.  The pattern works perfectly).

And the kicker is, that last row I did over three times, and in the end I don't think it actually needed to be done over.  At all.  I think I just wasn't seeing my stitches correctly.

You can't really tell from the photo, but my stitches are all over the place tension-wise.  Switching back and forth from knit to purl stitches is still something I evidently struggle with.  

And to top it all off, it's too big for the size dishcloths I like.  Frankly... I just want to quit and go back to one of my tried and true patterns.  I don't want to work this hard to make a dishcloth.

And I can't tell you how many times I wished I had my scissors handy so I could cut off that long tail that kept getting caught in my knitting.   But did I bother during all 11 of the rows above to get up and get a pair of scissors?   


Just as I was about to rip the whole thing out and give up on this stitch pattern, it dawned on me that everything I was saying to myself about this silly dishcloth I was struggling to knit, I could apply spiritually or practically to my life.

How many times do I struggle with understanding how something is to be done?  Do I ask for help, look for examples to guide me?  Or do I just slog through, cursing and blaming the thing that is frustrating me?  

How many times do I, in haste, unnecessarily undo what I've done only to find out that I wasn't doing a thing wrong at all?  I just didn't have the eyes (or experience) yet to recognize what I was (or maybe wasn't) seeing.   Or do I sometimes look for the wrong evidences to tell me I'm actually doing just fine.  Maybe not perfect.  But certainly okay.  And sometimes okay is perfect for where I am in the process.

How many times do I willy-nilly wander into a task or situation of a spiritual nature, not taking stock of my spiritual state of being?  Or do the same with practical jobs, and not consider if I have the stamina, correct tools, or even know-how to finish the thing?  Or how many times have I blustered into a conflict in a relationship, determined to set right what is wrong, but forget to first take stock of my own issues or consider the "logs in my own eyes"?

How many times do I look at the mess I've made when trying something new and chide myself for it?  I should be able to do better than that, I often think - not remembering or accepting that for every new thing learned, there is a learning curve.  

I look at my uneven knit stitches and I think it looks like a child is making this.  And then I think...   Did I look at my small child's drawings with dismay and tell him one dinosaur looks like a dog, and another looks like an inchworm with stilt-legs?

Or tell him that pigs don't look like hippos?   
Or maybe that hippos aren't pink? Exactly?

Of course not.  I cherished those drawings.  I was pleased and proud of what he had drawn - not giving one thought that some day he would bring me drawings that were better.  I didn't want "better" from my young children.  I simply took pleasure in whatever creations they shared with me.  These drawings were perfect.

How many times do I want to just quit when something becomes too hard?  How many times do I mutter, "this isn't worth this kind of stress"?   Or think to myself, I can't believe I'm wasting my time on this?"

And lastly...  how many times do I stubbornly keep going on a task, tripping over something I've left in the way.  Maybe it's an actual thing I'm tripping over.  Maybe it's a small task that simply needs to be quickly done so I can stop thinking about it.  Or maybe it's something bigger - like I've hurt someone and I really need to make it right before I sit myself down to say...  work on a Sunday school lesson I'm teaching, or a Bible study lesson I'm to glean truths from.   I'll get to that other thing later, I tell myself, slowing my work down and frustrating myself in the process. Or worse... stifling God's working in my life.  Sometimes we simply need to get up and do what we need to do to get that niggling thing taken care of.  And then we can work with a happy, unencumbered  heart.

In case you haven't figure out by now...  I'm no longer talking about a knitted dishcloth, or knitting at all.


But I'm going to finish knitting this dishcloth - not because I think it's important to do so.  It's not.  I could cut the yarn, toss it away, and there's be no love lost.  No harm done.  A lot of time saved.

But no.  I'm going to finish knitting this dishcloth because it will give me the opportunity to mull over these kinds of thoughts for however long it takes me to finish it.  

And if it looks, in the end like a child knit it?  What does it matter?   I will appreciate that it's a first (of sorts) for me.  I will have learned some things about knitting in the process.  My tension will probably improve, and I may even memorize the pattern.

But more importantly, I will have meditated on what it means to be a child of God.  To be loved in spite of my unloveliness.  I also may learn some patience.  May have plenty of time to remind myself that even at my age, when doing things that are new to me, my first steps may be faltering ones.  I may even make some messes that need to be cleaned up.  And I may have to apply myself to the painful task of cutting out that which trips me up, that which encumbers me.   

Knitting this little dishcloth can challenge me to do some hard things I should do in my life, because it's in doing challenging things, we grow into maturity.  Physical, mental, spiritual maturity.

So when I next show the finished dishcloth, remember... it's not just an imperfectly knitted, no-account piece of cloth.  It's a whole bunch of life lessons.

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  ~ James 1:4

Friday, November 16, 2018

Sometimes what we keep isn't the most obvious choice...

Working on books again in the master bedroom today I thought surely there'd be a bunch more I could get rid of.  But all that was left in here were my art and some various craft-related books.  On this small bookshelf are mainly art books and art study books.   A year ago I culled through these and downsized the collection, but this is what's left, and what's staying:

Most of the books of art I own were purchased used - at library book sales.  Some are like new.  Many are battered and rough on the outside, but the pictures inside are still beautiful.  When my boys were younger I collected and used these books for art study.  It was nothing formal.  I would cut out a print from an old book, mat it and display it on a table top easel for a while and we'd read a bit about the artist and talk a bit about the picture.  I wish I'd done more, but I hope they gleaned a little bit from my meager art study attempts with them.

As I dusted and looked at these books, I wondered why I don't do that for myself.    Enjoy some personal art study. Huh.  Seriously... why not?   Once I get things culled through a bit more I think I will start doing that.  Just for me.

So anyway...  I couldn't part with my art books.  I can't even explain the attachment.  I studied art some in college, but I'm not an artist.  Not by a long shot.   But I love these books, and I'm keeping what I have for now.   Since I'm compelled to keep them, I'm really glad that my collection isn't any larger than it is.    

The hat boxes (in the first picture) hold kitchen cotton yarn.  I wish my kitchen cotton yarn collection was truly that small.  I have drawers-full in addition to those stuffed hat boxes.  I'm thinking maybe a good plan would be to knit a dishcloth every week.  Or at least always have one on the needles.  In a year's time that should whittle my cotton yarn down considerably.  You think?

I did decide to do something finally with this little (pocket-sized) book.  You can see it's falling apart.

I'm going to go through it, choose and cut out some interesting pictures of artwork,  laminate them, and attach a magnet to the backs.

I think that would make for some interesting refrigerator magnets.  Might even make some for my sons.  I'll be sure to post pictures after I've made some.   And bookmarks!  I haven't made any bookmarks from pictures in a while.  

Okay...  so I didn't get very far on books in my bedroom, but everything did get dusted and there are more bookshelves in other rooms in the house, so I'll have plenty of other opportunities! 😏

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