Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The End: A Book Review with Food Involved


I have a weakness.  Well, o.k., I have many weaknesses.  But the one I'm going to talk about in this post is this:  I have a weakness for children's and young adult books.  I'm pretty sure I could spend more money on books than I do on food any given month if I would let myself.  One of my favorite things about teaching junior high was the excuse to devour books from the school library (which was conveniently located right across the hall) and to buy and read new ones for my classroom.  So last week when I was having a craving for books, I payed a visit to my city library and found some winners.  Among them was this:


The End, by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Richard Egielski.  This backwards book begins with "the happily ever after" part and then traces the story back through a big bowl of lemonade, one hundred bunny rabbits, and a cheesecake-loving giant, until it ends with "once upon a time."  I liked it for the creativity of its structure and for the fun of seeing all the unlikely events that contributed to the happily ever after.  The illustrations are fun and brightly colored, and full of clever little details that you won't want to miss--like two lemons running away from the lemonade-making princess.  My three-year-old liked this one and requested it multiple times, though I think older children who can follow the story more easily would enjoy it even more.

Now in the title of this post I mentioned that food was involved, and there is.  I love books that make me crave a certain food.  This one made my mouth water for lemon cheesecake, so I put together a recipe and made one on Sunday night.  Not to toot my own horn about it, but it was pretty darn good.  My husband liked it so much he ate three slices that night.  In a row.  I will include the recipe below so you can have your own lemon cheesecake experience.  So go ahead and whip up a cheesecake, sit back, and dig in while you read this very enjoyable book.


Lemon Cheesecake

Ingredients:
crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

cheesecake:
3 sticks cream cheese, 3 oz. each, room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Begin to boil water for a water bath.  Mix crust ingredients together and press firmly into a 9- or 10- inch pan (I use a springform pan).  Set crust aside.
In a large mixer bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each and scraping the bowl before adding the next.  Add heavy cream, lemon juice, and vanilla, and blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour filling into crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring air bubbles to the surface.  If using a non-springform pan, place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into large pan until about halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.  If using a springform pan, move your bottom oven rack just below the top rack and place a pan on it (I use a regular Pyrex casserole type pan).  Pour boiling water into this pan and place cheesecake pan directly over it on the top rack.
Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done.  The middle should still be pretty jiggly when you gently shake the pan.  Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let it rest in the cooling oven for one hour.  After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and allow to cool completely on the counter.  Cool before removing sides of springform pan.  Once it is cool, cover and place in the fridge to chill.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Makes 10 to 12 servings.

*Slicing tip:  I lightly spray both sides of a knife with cooking spray before cutting the cheesecake.  As cheesecake gets stuck to it, I wipe it off with a paper towl and re-apply spray as needed.

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