If you like cheesecake with fruit, this is an easy and quick dessert to make — and best with local, fresh fruit. I don’t recommend using frozen fruit for this. Feel free to use whatever fruit you have handy — all berries work well, as do fresh summer peaches.
You’ll need a nine-inch metal tart pan with a removable bottom. If you don’t have one, you can find inexpensive ones at Target or a restaurant supply store.
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 stick very cold butter, cut into small cubes.
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese (do not use lowfat or fat free)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 to 2 cups fresh blueberries (or sliced fruit of your choice), rinsed and drained, stray stems removed.
- In the food processor, mix flour, butter, and sugar until mixture resembles cornmeal — dough should come together when pinched between the fingers.
- Dump the contents of the food processor into the tart shell, and with floured hands (or the bottom of a floured measuring cup) press the dough firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Place tart shell into the freezer and let it firm up — this takes about 15 minutes or so.
- Once the shell has firmed, place it into the oven, middle rack, and bake until it’s just starting to turn a slight golden color. Do not let it brown! Approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven.
- While the tart shell is cooling (it needs to be completely cool before adding the filling) — mix the filling ingredients, minus the fruit, until completely combined.
- After the shell is completely cool, add cream cheese filling, top with a layer of fruit, pressing slightly on the fruit so it sticks to the filling.
- Refrigerate until firm — approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove ring from tart pan before slicing — serves 8 to 10, use a sharp knife.
If you don’t eat grains and would still like to make this dessert, you can! Make the filling and spoon the cream cheese mixture into ramekins, top with fruit, and refrigerate until firm.
This recipe is one that my grandmother used to make when I was little — it’s fast, it doesn’t require eggs or dairy, and was borne out of a time when eggs and dairy were difficult to get, or too expensive to “waste” on a dessert.
One unintended consequence of the no-egg, no-dairy aspect is the cake is vegan. Keep in mind, I butter the pan, and I use a quick buttercream frosting on this cake — but you don’t have to, if you want to keep this cake 100% vegan.
A couple of things about this cake: It literally takes five minutes to throw everything together, as you mix it right in the pan…so you don’t have to dirty up half your bowls and utensils. Also, it keeps really well in the fridge — it tastes even better the second day, if it lasts that long in your house.
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water, combined with 1/2 cup leftover strong brewed coffee*
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, grease/butter an 8-inch square pan (I use a glass Pyrex square baking dish, but you can use a square cake pan if you have one.)
- Dump all of the dry ingredients into the pan, and then dump all of the wet ingredients into the pan. (Hence the name of the cake)
- Combine all of the ingredients with a fork, spoon, whatever…until well combined. Don’t overmix, as this will result in a tough cake.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven. You’ll know it’s done when a knife or cake tester comes out clean, after being inserted in the middle of the cake.
- Let the cake cool completely before frosting. You can use a buttercream, or a ganache over the top.
I love muffins…as a snack, for breakfast, even for dessert. But most muffin recipes are either too sweet and cupcake-like, or too “breakfasty” for dessert. I think I’ve finally developed a recipe that makes a good all-around muffin with an interesting twist.
Strawberry Balsamic Filled Muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- 1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries, washed and hulled. (If using frozen, make sure they’re unsweetened and thawed before proceeding).
- 2 T sugar
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
Place the strawberries, vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, mashing the strawberries as they soften, with the back of a spoon. You want them to be chunky…like a good jam.
Let the strawberries cook on medium-low heat, bubbling but not boiling, until they become thick and syrupy. Don’t overcook or cook on high heat, as they’ll taste like burned sugar. Once thick and “jammy”, set aside to cool. Mixture can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge. Any leftovers can also be kept in the fridge, but they won’t last long…the filling is really good on toast or ice cream.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 T baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1 T lemon zest
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Mix milk, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and oil together, combine with dry ingredients until just mixed. Do not overmix, or you’ll have tough muffins.
With a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop, fill half of each cup with batter, then add 1 T of the strawberry filling to each cup. Continue adding batter to each muffin cup until they’re filled almost to the top.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. I usually bake these for 20 and then check them by poking a knife in the center to check for doneness.
One of my absolute favorite Republicans — Barry Goldwater. He had very little tolerance for religions intolerance, certainly as it applied to politics — especially as it applied to the Republican Party.
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom…. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are?… I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”
If Republicans in Maryland, particularly in Baltimore City, ever want to have a true seat at the table — it’s time to let go of religion, and embrace the true ideas of civil liberties. The idea of religious freedom includes the right to not subscribe to a particular doctrine at all. The idea of what a woman chooses, who marries whom — these are personal decisions that have no place in intelligent political discourse, except to guarantee that each and every one of us are free to choose the life we want.
Time to weed out the wingnuts and restore sanity to the GOP. Maryland deserves better.
Two of the questions I hear the most from people regarding my writing and photography — they want to know two things:
- Why the vacant homes?
- Why crime scenes, fires, and other painful events?
For me, it’s about the challenge. To most people, you would see a row of dilapidated homes and think “How ugly.” You would see a fire, a crime scene, or a homeless person and think “How sad.” I, on the other hand, want to know the story behind it all. Who were/are these people? Why did this happen?
I also see a lot of beauty and peace in the things others find disturbing or unattractive — homes that are vacant were once occupied. People lived and celebrated their best moments in these homes. They also muddled through their worst. They lived and died, mourned and loved. These stories deserve to be heard.
With fires, I’m not very interested in splashy fire photos. There are people out there who take those photos, and they do it very well — I leave the “sexy fire photos” to them. I’m more interested in the people who show up to save lives and property. What goes through their heads? What are their fears, where are their triumphs? Body language and facial expressions tell more of the story than words sometimes. I try to capture that without lengthy explanation or dialogue.
I have great respect for the people who live in our marginal neighborhoods. I also have great respect for those who try mightily to save them. It is my greatest hope that my words and photos convey that respect and awe. It is also my greatest hope that their stories are remembered.
Yesterday’s events in Connecticut have me thinking a lot about my family, and society in general — and the way we look at the mentally ill. Even in 2012, people don’t like talking about mental illness, or the people in our families who are perhaps not well. As if somehow that reflects on us — it makes us uncomfortable and defensive. We bristle at the suggestion that perhaps having a “crazy” in the gene pool reflects badly on our own mental health. As if somehow it’s better to have cancer than be labelled with “schizophrenic” or “depressed”.
I have an uncle who, although part of my family — he is my mother’s youngest brother — was always somewhat of a mystery to me. Discussions about him were usually done in hushed tones, with a combination of relief (“thank God it’s not me”) and scorn (“What’s John* done now??”) Growing up, I didn’t understand any of it, not in the clinical sense, obviously, and not in a way that I was able to relate to. All I understood were two things:
- We do not air our dirty laundry in public, and therefore do not discuss my uncle outside of the home.
- If you don’t listen to us and obey our rules, you will be just like him when you grow up.
John was my favorite uncle — he was in his late teens, I believe, when I was born. Therefore, he was the youngest, and lots of fun. I can remember when my grandmother would take us shopping — if I got tired, he would pick me up and carry me. He listened to cool music, unlike my parents, who listened to “old people music”. He built motorcycles. He drove a concrete truck. (To this day, I still think he is the reason why I am obsessed with all things concrete and steel.) He had long dark hair and a mustache, and the big dark eyes my mother and her siblings share. He was smart and could fix anything.
He was also a paranoid schizophrenic, the term used throughout my life to describe people with his condition, and the term I will continue to use, as it makes the most sense to me. He had the same odd behaviors — fear of the government, which included the KGB, the CIA, the FBI, and probably all other acronyms. He had a propensity for violence, which was probably more related to his drug use than his illness — people with his condition tend to self-medicate, and rarely does that work out well for anyone.
He spent time in jails, prisons, secure mental health facilities (back then they were called “the State Hospital”, regardless of which state they were located). He was the butt of jokes, the person my family used as a benchmark of bad behavior, and a constant worry to my grandmother. My mother and her siblings washed their hands of him long ago, except for my aunt — my mother’s only sister — who seemed to be the designated tracker of his whereabouts. How she fell into this role, I don’t know — but if any of us wondered where he was over the years, after my grandmother died, — calling my aunt was the first step.
I can remember the first time I truly understood how unwell he was. I was around six or seven — my grandparents had a large pink dogwood tree in their front yard, and I was playing near the tree. John came running towards me, carrying a two by four, long nails driven through one end of it. I can remember they were old nails, not shiny new nails. I don’t know why I remember that part, but somehow that was important — I guess rusty old nails could kill you quicker than shiny new nails. Anyway — he came running towards me with that board with nails driven through the end, screaming something unintelligible. I also remember my grandfather running from the front door, grabbing the board, and at the same time, I remember wondering why this was happening and what was going on. It was like that a lot at my grandparents’ house — normal one minute, and the next, all hell would break loose. It’s the nature of John’s illness — not necessarily the violence, but the unevenness of it, the seemingly minute by minute, hour by hour change in the air. Like a sudden summer storm that can either disappear in a few minutes, or go on for hours, destroying everything in its path. Luckily, I was spared any physical harm that day — but the memory of it still brings me to tears, even as I write this.
You see, I not only lost my favorite uncle that day (surely this was not him — my six- or seven-year-old mind couldn’t accept that!) but I lost that sense of having both feet firmly planted on the ground — my world suddenly tilted in a way that I still don’t understand. What was familiar and comforting became dangerous and frightening. Such was the life of living with Uncle John.
My point of writing all of this isn’t to humiliate anyone, or make any judgements. I was too young to understand things like treatment options, what my grandparents did or didn’t do, or to place blame on them — or anyone else. My point is to fling off the cloak of secrecy and shame my family has carried around for decades (whether some of them realize it or not, it’s there.) and discuss mental illness not as “an excuse for bad behavior” (as my mother would refer to it every so often) but as something that touches all of us, whether we accept and acknowledge it or not.
Until we’re able to have frank and honest discussions about it, we’re going to have more people suffering, more people dying, more bias and discrimination against the mentally ill. People don’t like talking about it — I get that. It’s a difficult subject. It requires one to reflect, look inward, and perhaps acknowledge one’s own issues. Until, however, we can discuss this issue in a way that people can relate to, and perhaps personalize — we will continue to regard these folks like they’re invisible, all the while secretly saying “Thank God it’s not me.”
*Names have been changed.
A peek at my weekend, which was fabulous, despite a few disappointing moments:
Saturday I shot an event — the American Heart Association walk at Rash Field. Since the pictures don’t technically belong to me, I won’t post them yet…but I did manage to take a snap of my friend Mark, and the inner harbor:
And then today I walked around downtown, and stopped by Articulate:Baltimore to see some of the work — lots of interesting stuff going on in Baltimore, if you know where to find it. More pics from that — will post later. But here’s a picture I took at Howard and Saratoga Streets:
Hope your weekend was a wonderful one!
Love this idea — the Cap Gorilla. Read more here, and donate here. If you’ve ever had the joy of going out at the last minute to replace a lens cap (and the joy of paying anywhere from $10 to $30+ for a ten-cent piece of plastic) — you’ll appreciate this idea. I can’t wait to get one.
No, I did not get paid to write this, nor was I asked to. I just think it’s a cool idea, and I’m also kind of jealous I didn’t think of it first.
…when you’re having fun. Or when you’re really busy. Or both.
I’ve been working on the blog project that I can finally talk about here — it’s been a four-year labor of love, and I can’t wait to see what the next few years bring. The blog and I have gotten some really nice press lately:
Baltimore Magazine article (also in the October print issue!)
Time to create the next phase of the project — more advocacy, more writing, more everything…except on a much larger scale. I’m also looking at potential funding sources, which is always fun.
Hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to write more often than just short updates and snippets.
Oh — I did manage to create an interesting crime map for my neighborhood, I’ve updated it a couple of times — over 80 burglaries in 2012 alone, and nobody seems to find that odd? No outcry from the neighbors? No rallies? Frankly, that’s the part I find odd — the complacency. Odd and extremely disturbing. Hopefully someday folks in the neighborhood will start to get it…
I’m also working on a photo series of Baltimore…I think that’s about it for now…
Until next time!
I don’t know why that song popped into my head today, but it did.
I was downtown today, shooting photos of the Firehouse Expo — a big trade show, of sorts, for firefighters and fire department administrators. This year it’s being held at the Baltimore Convention Center, kind of ironic, given the cuts our mayor and fire chief have made to the fire department.
The IAFF Local 734 was protesting the cuts outside the convention center — Chief Clack was the keynote speaker. As he was rushed into his SUV by a handler, I stood in front and snapped away — at one point, we made eye contact, and he waved. At that moment, he just looked sad, tired, and…human. In no way did he resemble the man who stood before our City Council and justified his closing of three critical fire companies, or the man who, after making said cuts, crowed about receiving a contract extension and a raise.
I almost felt sorry for him, because I’ve seen that look before. The look that makes you wonder how much longer he’s going to be able to endure the hell he’s created for himself.
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and I was really proud of our firefighters today. I love to see people taking a stand when it counts — and this was quite a show of strength.
You can see some of the photos here.
The Reading List
- Baltimore Brew
- Baltimore Crime
- Baltimore Heritage
- Baltimore Slumlord Watch
- Baltimore Sun Crime Blog
- Blonde Justice
- Boring Pittsburgh
- City That Breeds
- Ephemeral New York
- Gaia Street Art
- Generation JD
- Inside Charm City
- Jim Romenesko
- On The Record
- Pigtown Design
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Pop City
- The Atlantic Cities
- The Quinton Report
- The Real Estate Wonk
- WSJ Law Blog
- WSJ Real Estate Blog