HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!

by grace on February 27, 2022

Mom turned 86 yesterday and we celebrated with a small but fun gathering.

So…I always make a meal when having people over. One time Kevin grilled some delicious chicken, and hopefully he’ll do that again when the weather is nice, but mostly it’s me, probably going to way too much trouble.

But for Mom’s birthday, I don’t know why I decided this, but I thought we could get carry-out from Tai Pan Chinese restaurant instead. The restaurant is right down the street, and the thought of not doing all that cooking both elated me and made me feel guilty.

For once the elation won out.

This should have meant that I didn’t rush around like a maniac all day yesterday, which is usually how things go. I’d done some cleaning on Friday and figured I just needed to wipe down the floors on Saturday. Amy was going to make lemon cupcakes so I didn’t even have to make dessert. Score!

But yesterday morning Amy was feeling very poorly so I said I’d make a lemon cheesecake. I had modified a lowfat cheesecake recipe from my very old Joy of Cooking cookbook, and have made it about four or more times since last year. I used fat free cottage cheese and fat free cream cheese and splenda, so it’s basically fat-free and sugar free, except for the decadent lemon curd that I make for the topping.

Amy gave me a lemon and off I went. I needed four cups of cottage cheese and had an overabundance of it in the fridge. I’m addicted to Schnuck’s brand fat free cottage cheese because it is way more delicious than any other kinds out there. They’d been out of it for a while so I kept going to Schnuck’s almost every day for a while and they finally had it in so I got six big cartons. Yeah, that’s a lot. But I love it and eat plenty of it.

But last year when they didn’t have it I’d bought two big containers of Great Value fat free cottage cheese, which is OK for recipes but not so delicious for eating out of the carton. One of the containers had a sell by date in November, the other one in December. I opened one and smelled and tasted it and it seemed perfectly fine, and I even had Kevin do the same because he’s much more discerning than me. We agreed that I’d use it.

In order to make a big cheesecake I have to double the recipe, and you mix the ingredients in a Cuisinart and a double recipe won’t fit in there so I have to do it in two batches. First the cottage cheese needs to be processed to make it creamy. I did this and poured it into a bowl so I could make the second recipe. I did notice that this first bowl of smooth cottage cheese was kind of thin and this should have been a big warning sign, but since I’d made it a few times before I didn’t think anything of it.

I processed the second batch of cottage cheese, added the other stuff, then poured it into a big bowl and put the first batch of pureed cottage back into the cuisinart to mix the next batch.

Everything looked fine, not runny or anything. I popped it in the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile…during this pandemic, I haven’t been in touch with people, I haven’t sorted stuff out in my house, I haven’t done many, many things. The only thing I’ve been consistent with is exercising, usually every day. This is great for my strength but not so good with every other single thing.

So after I got the cheesecake in the oven, it was time to do weight-training, which I do in my bedroom with free weights, mixing it up with some vigorous cardio in between. I did that and after 45 minutes ran into the kitchen to check on the cheesecake…and it was completely liquid. Hmm.

I ran back into the bedroom and worked out for another 15 minutes, back to the oven…still liquid, sloshing around in the pan, but now it was bubbling a bit.

This continued for quite a while and eventually it formed a brown crusty lump on top, but when I inserted a knife, still liquid.

At this point I should have given up and gone out and bought a cheesecake but of course I didn’t.

I think maybe it was in the oven for two hours in all. I didn’t exercise all that time but I did manage over an hour of weights.

At one point I decided to call Bev, who does lots and lots of baking and cooking, but she didn’t answer so I sent her a text, then I made a little video of the debacle that was the cheesecake.

Here’s the video I sent her.

Finally, I took it out of the oven and it did look like it was starting to set up, so I turned off the oven and left it in there to cool when Mom came over and I gave her a massage, because that’s what she wanted for her birthday.

When Mom finally left I took the cheesecake out of the oven and scraped at the top. It didn’t taste burnt but it wasn’t that great, but warm cheesecake never is. At this point, then, I should have gone to the store and bought a cheesecake. But I didn’t. I stuck it in the fridge.

The afternoon was suddenly starting to whoosh by at warp speed and I found myself literally running from one room to the next. I needed to put up some birthday bunting! I needed to find some gift bags for the blouses we’d bought mom! I needed to find the birthday card I’d picked up earlier in the week!

Not to mention the cleaning of the big mirrored pantry doors in the dining room, plus other random frantic stabs at cleaning.

After a couple of hours I took the cheesecake out of the fridge and pulled off the brown burned dome. I tasted it again and it didn’t seem terrible so I slathered it with lemon curd and decided it would be fine.

More rushing around, then ordering the food and going to the restaurant to pick it up but of course there was a stampede for carry-out at that moment and I had to wait for 45 minutes, which gave me a little window of opportunity to stand around in the restaurant, reading more news about Ukraine. A calming interlude…

Meanwhile, Jim’s sister Meg and her family arrived at the house and Kevin was obliged to be the sole host for about 45 minutes, which he did with aplomb.

They finally brought out my order and were going to make me make two trips, but then they decided that since the order was so huge that the nice young guy would carry the heavy box loaded down with food.


Finally, a good time was had by all. It was delightful to sit down to a meal that I hadn’t prepared.

And then, dessert and singing “happy birthday” and presents.

I felt a huge pang of remorse about subjecting everybody to the cheesecake but kept cutting slices anyway. And they ate it! They said they like it anyway, and I decided not to mention anything about it, but as Meg took a bite she said “Grace, I thought you said your cheesecake was a disaster. It’s delicious!”

Was she just being nice? Maybe. Doesn’t matter. Birthday party success! Except I realized I was just as exhausted as I’d have been if I’d made a bunch of food. Oh well…

Meg made some sensational lemon cookies and I wolfed down several of them. I never care about cheesecake anyway and I really didn’t care about this one. In retrospect, it was probably the fact that the cottage cheese, although not spoiled, was probably watery from sitting around so long? There’s always next time…

Ok then,

Mrs. Spring is Definitely Almost Here Hughes.

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