It's the cheesecake that bites back! There is no mistaking what gives this cheesecake the extra kick. But the alcohol and cottage cheese made the cheesecake more moist, so I ended up baking it considerably longer than the recipe called for (a little over an hour.) Even so, it was extremely soft when I cut into it, and the crust isn't crunchy. And my bottle of amaretto ran out, so I didn't even use the full amount; I used maybe 1/3 of a cup instead of 1/2.
It's not a bad cheesecake, but I'm still a little disappointed. Right before I put it in the refrigerator to finish cooling, I loosened the edges with a knife and of course, licked the knife clean. It was really good warm, and I think this custard would actually lend itself better to being baked in small ramekins and served warm.
Please note the lightly browned, and pristine top of the cheesecake. Was it because I actually did a proper water bath this time? Or did the water bath contribute to the cheesecake being too moist? Who knows. Just make this. In ramekins. And pass me one.
Creamy Amaretto Cheesecake Source: Modified from The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary, p 49.
Crust: 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
Filling: 3 oz packages cream cheese, softened 1 cup small-curd cottage cheese (pureed in food processor) 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 tsp salt 4 eggs 1 tsp grated orange zest 1/2cup almond-flavored liqueur
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of cheesecake pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
In a mixer, beat cream cheese, cottage cheese, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in zest and liqueur.
Pour over crust, smoothing out to sides of pan. Bake in water bath until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 45 to 55 minutes. Crack oven and allow to cool for 1 hour. Cool for an additional hour before refrigerating for 6 hours.
Almost 10 years ago, I was living in New Orleans, participating in an AmeriCorps program in the Disaster Services department of the American Red Cross. I was poor, bored, and not into the drunken debauchery of the French Quarter. After a couple weeks of visiting different coffeeshops around town, I found Neutral Ground. It was a little bohemian hole-in-the-wall with mediocre coffee and snacks, but an incredible atmosphere. It was dark and sometime smokey, but full of funky college kids and artists. Books and board games were available if you were bored. But most people prefered to sit on one of the comfy couches to enjoy the music. I usually parked at the coffeebar and chatted with the manager and other customers. From the moment I walked in, I was treated like an old friend. That first night I went, I ended up staying until 2am talking with the manager and another volunteer* who worked there. Soon afterwards, I was assigned to help with disaster relief in Florida after a tropical storm. I was out of town for several weeks, but when I came back to town, I was greeted with "Hey! Where have you been?!" when I returned to Neutral Ground. Neutral Ground had live music nightly, but I found my niche with the Sunday evening "Open Mic Night" crowd. For the remainder of my year in New Orleans, I could be found at Neutral Ground almost every Sunday night.
I miss that place dearly. Since then, I've always wanted to own a funky little coffeeshop like Neutral Ground. A fun, comfortable place where people could just go and chill for hours. A place that showcased both local music and yummy desserts. However, most people who like yummy desserts also like yummy coffee. Wherein lies my problem. I don't drink coffee. I wouldn't know a cappucino from an espresso. Tim suggested being the anti-Starbucks and only serving black coffee, which would definitely make things easier for me, but I don't think people would go for it. There's a reason why Starbucks has been so successful. And since Coral and Duke have entered our lives, my dream coffeeshop has evolved over the years....I would love to have a dog-friendly establishment, but that opens a whole new can of worms with health code. So for now, my coffeeshop remains a distant dream. Unless you know coffee and are interested in a business partner. :)
*Neutral Ground was a "live music co-op." People volunteered their time rather than being paid.
Have you had red velvet cake? I haven't, but I'm strangely fascinated by it. The visual effect of the bright red cake in contrast to the white icing is absolutely gorgeous, yet strangely unnatural at the same time. On top of that, have you noticed that people who love red velvet cake are absolutely fanatical about it? People like cake. People like cheesecake. People like cookies. But people LOVE red velvet cake. So I'm curious what all the hype is about, especially since red velvet cake is typically described as a vanilla cake, or a lightly chocolate scented vanilla cake.
So I start looking for recipes for a red velvet cake, and am extremely troubled by the fact that most call for one to two ounces of red food coloring. That sounds like a recipe for a bright red kitchen to me. Maybe some of you don't do this, but when I bake or cook, the kitchen is a complete disaster area afterwards. A chocolate disaster I don't mind so much. A bright red disaster would be an issue. I managed to find ONE recipe without a boatload of food coloring. Supposedly, the acidic buttermilk/vinegar reacts with the basic cocoa powder to cause the red color, so theoretically, the cake would still be at least reddish without the food coloring. The other striking difference with this recipe is that it calls for a lot more cocoa than most. Most call for about two tablespoons, whereas this one calls for a scant half cup, which is about 6 to 7 tablespoons. Oh well. A cake that tastes like chocolate. That's hardly a crime.
When I went to the grocery store, I could only find lowfat buttermilk. Those of you who know me know that I subscribe to the Paula Deen school of butter, so I don't really do lowfat anything. I'm a little concerned that this might affect the color. But, worst case scenario, I have a chocolate cake that looks and tastes like a chocolate cake. I don't see a problem.
2 1/4 cups cake flour 1/2 cup (scant) unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature 2 cups superfine sugar (blended granulated sugar) 3 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 to 3 drops red food coloring 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar 1 cup buttermilk Frosting (recipe follows) 3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Red Velvet Cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease and flour two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, tap out the excess and line bottoms with parchment or greased and floured waxed paper circles.
Sift the flour with the cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt twice, and set aside. With electric mixer on low speed, beat shortening for 1 minute. Slowly add sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, and when all of it has been added, continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute, or until mixture has consistency of wet sand. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 10 seconds between additions. Then beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. Beat in vanilla and food coloring. Stir the vinegar into the buttermilk.
With large rubber spatula, fold sifted ingredients into the batter in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 additions. Beat with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute, or until mixture is smooth.
Transfer batter to prepared pans, smooth tops and bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in their pans on a wire rack until they reach room temperature. Unmold and peel off the paper circles just before frosting. Frost the cake.
ETA: Sadness. Not-red velvet cake fail. 1. Cake is brown. 2. Cake is a tasty light chocolately flavor, but has a rather unpleasant texture. It's almost more brownie-like than a cake. It's heavy and dry. I had thought about substituting the shortening with vegetable oil to keep it moist, but I thought there might be something magic about the creaming method. I should have tried the veggie oil. And used full-fat buttermilk. Fat is your friend.
In the CGC class we worked on a few things that we didn't cover last time.
Test 5: Walking through a crowd This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash. Two people stood in the middle of the room, and we just walked a figure 8 around them. No biggie, Duke's done this before. Need to practice a few more times though, he's a bit rusty and was a bit more excited (and thus was jogging around faster) than I like.
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler's commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog's leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler's commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side. First try, Duke got up to follow me. Second try, I walked too far away and pulled on the leash a little. So it wasn't quite fair to him. Third try, I got it right. Yay me.
Test 7: Coming when called This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to "stay" or "wait" or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog. Apparently there was a treat on the ground about 2 feet away from where I was standing when I called him. After making sure it didn't go to waste, he strolled on over to where I was. Naughty boy. Guess what we're working on tomorrow?
Test 8: Reaction to another dog This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler. This one wasn't too bad. The other dog belongs to one of the trainers, and is very well-behaved. The dogs walk on our left, and are on our outside when we greet and shake hands. As long as pups don't try to barge in front of us, this one isn't too hard.
Test 9: Reaction to distraction This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise. We had several distractions today. The trainer ran around the room with a dolly. Trainer walked around playing with a squeaky toy. Trainer kicked a few toys around the room. Duke did great, even when I asked the trainer to kick the toy closer to him. She kicked it right in front of him, so that it just barely brushed his paw. Then Tim, who was behind us, kicked it back, and it ended up hitting Duke on the rump. He jumped up in surprise. I don't blame him though.
Test 10: Supervised separation This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like me to watch your dog?" and then take hold of the dog's leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, "there, there, it's alright"). Tim and I both had to leave the room for 3 minutes. Duke did amazingly well, but again, Duke knows the trainers, so even when we're not in the room, he knows and trusts people in the room.
Immediately after the CGC class, I rushed back up north to go to a Delta Society practice meeting. The Delta Society registers therapy dogs, and they have a number of interested people in the area. We had a meeting today to cover the material, and so people know what they need to work on to pass the test. Fortunately for me, the Delta Society requirements are very similar to CGC requirements. We did some loose leash walking, practice "leave it" and basic sit/down/stays. It was nice to meet the people in charge of the program though, and they were all impressed with Duke, so he should do well.
While enjoying a nice long walk yesterday, Coral and I were accosted by beagle. He seemed friendly enough, but I find it very annoying when people cannot be bothered to ensure their dogs don't get run over. Fortunately, Coral is very dog-friendly. However, it would have been a problem had I been walking Duke. Just as I do not appreciate being rushed by rude strangers trying to sniff my butt, neither does Duke. He's been extremely leery of other dogs since he got bitten by one a few years ago. Really people, leash your critters, and keep them inside when you're not outside with them. It's not hard.
A little later on our walk, when we see two very young children (under two feet tall, probably just learned to run) running around on the street, ignoring the threats of spankings by their grandmother. The little girl did eventually turn around and return upon the threats, but the little boy was not phased, and continued running. Honestly. If your critter has less than 100% recall, they really shouldn't be off-leash, regardless of whether they walk on 2 legs or 4. I hear they have effective backpack or harness type leashes for the 2-legged critters. They should look into them.
And today, the above-mentioned beagle was loose again. This time, instead of a friendly approach, he came rushing at us, barking and baying, with his hackles raised. Hackles that covered almost his entire back, making his appearance very similar to a crazed hyena. Kinda like this guy, but with beagle coloring.
Again, fortunately I was walking Coral, because Duke would not have appreciated that greeting. And fortunately, the beagle listened to my own warning to back off, and turned tail about 10 feet away and left us alone the remainder of the walk.
Is being a responsible pet owner that difficult? Why, oh why, can I not walk through my own neighborhood without having to deal with multiple dogs running the streets, or having to listen to a dozen dogs fence fighting? I just want to be able to walk my dog in peace, or be outside without having to listen to the screams and bays of dogs who are obviously just stuck outside for their owners convenience.
Really, who thought "Hmm. This grainy mixture with raw eggs looks good. Wonder what it tastes like?" Cookie dough, not exactly a gourmet food. It's made with raw egg (salmonella anyone?), and has uncooked flour in it, which results in a grainy texture. But apparently I'm the only person in the world who doesn't care for it. So when I found an egg-less recipe for cookie dough truffles, I thought Tim, the cookie-dough monster, would love it. And since salmonella isn't an ingredient, I wasn't grossed out by it.
While these aren't the best truffles in the whole wide world, they're strangely addictive. They're just the right size to mysteriously disappear. And if you have your own cookie-dough monster, they'll love you for this.
Cookie Dough Truffles 1/2 cup butter, softened 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 2 cups all-purpose flour 12 ounces sweetened condensed milk 1/3 cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips chocolate coating
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour, milk, powdered sugar and vanilla; mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Shape into 1 inch balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 or until firm.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt candy coating, stirring often until smooth. Dip balls in coating; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Chocolate coating 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I was out, and used milk chocolate instead) 3 tsp shortening (i.e. Crisco)
Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler. If you do not have one, melt them in your microwave on high heat for 1 minute, at 30 seconds intervals, stirring well between each interval. If the chocolate is not completely melted, continue heating it in your microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring well between each interval, and being careful not to burn the chocolate.
Dip each truffle completely in the chocolate, carefully shaking off the excess. (I find that using a fork or chopsticks works really well.) Place each chocolate covered truffle on a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Refrigerate until set.
The local FrisbeeDog club had a playdate today, and they had another throwing workshop. They pulled out an entire case of frisbees, and we just practiced throwing back and forth.
Before we started the workshop though, I practiced a few throws with Duke. Unfortunately, Duke and I haven't played with the frisbee in a month. To keep the energy high when we play, I cheer him on and praise constantly. With the plague wrecking havok on my lungs, yelling and cheering is out of the question. Being outside in the cold is also not an option. Fortunately, even with the lack of practice, Duke did really well today. He seems to do better at the club meetings than at home. I suspect it's because he sees the other frisbee-crazed dogs as competition, and he doesn't want them getting HIS frisbee. And even with the slight wind today, I was throwing better than I normally do. I still suck, mind you, I just suck less. Duke even agreed that I suck. One of the more experienced guys was standing a few feet behind me watching, and Duke would catch his frisbee, turn around, and run right past me to drop the frisbee at the guy's feet. Repeatedly. I was not feeling the love.
So why the fail? After we started the workshop, we were all doing so well with the regular backhand throw that they decided we needed to learn new throws. First new one they taught was throwing it under our leg. Step forward on the left, then a big step forward and to the side on our right. As we step on our right leg, we basically do a lunge and reach our right hand behind our right knee and release the frisbee. If it sounds contorted and ugly, then you're picturing it exactly how I do it. I went through the motions a couple times to make sure I understood what he was saying before I attempted to throw. The frisbee landed 2 feet in front of me. After practicing a few more times, the frisbee still landed 2 feet in front of me. And my knee protested the abuse.
Second throw was behind the back. Step forward with the right foot, then the left foot. With the step on the left foot, we're moving our entire body so that our left shoulder is towards the direction we're throwing. As we're taking that step, we reach behind our back and release the frisbee. This time, the frisbee landed four feet in front of me. I also managed to kidneypunch myself in the process. Besides the obvious lack of control, I need to work on adjusting the angle of release so that it goes up, rather than straight down. I only got the frisbee to go up once on the new throws. That one time, one of the other handlers was retrieving frisbees in the middle of the field. I smacked her right in the back of the head. Oops. Good thing the frisbees are relatively soft, and I'm too much of a weenie to get much force behind them. Since I'm horrible with names, I don't even know the name of the lady I hit. I only know her as "treat lady" because she always has a treat bag, and Duke the begger keeps going through his repertoir of tricks for her to get a treat. Her husband is the guy I mentioned earlier, who Duke kept returning his frisbee to.
Duke is currently napping after his exciting afternoon, and I am vegging out in front of the TV. My tired body needs a rest after the torture I put it through today.
Today we went to the in-laws house. Since I haven't worked in over a year, my spoiled brats have gotten very used to me being around a lot, and have gotten even more attached to me. For those of you who know how clingy Great Danes are, it's gotten impressively bad. I walked Coral into the in-laws house while my husband walked Duke in. I was a few feet in front, and Duke was being difficult so my husband stopped walking briefly to get him to calm down. Duke screamed like a little girl because I continued walking and was about to go into the house. A horrible, high-pitched, blood-curling scream. Things were not looking good for CGC, since one of the tests he has to pass is "Supervised separation." The owner hands the leash to the evaluator, who is a stranger to the dog. And then the owner leaves the room for 3 minutes. The dog may not bark, whine, pace excessively, or show anything other than mild nervousness. While screaming is not specifically listed, I'm guessing it's frowned upon.
Later in the day, Duke and I attended the CGC class. We covered a number of the tests for CGC.
Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator. I haven't really done much training with Duke in the past year, so he was rusty. As the trainer approached to greet me, he did start to get up to greet her. A quick verbal correction, and he was back on his bottom behaving nicely though.
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler's side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment. Duke did well on this part of the test. But he does know the trainer, so it's not quite the same as if a stranger came up to him. He's a little cautious when strangers come up to him, but once they start petting him, he warms up very quickly.
Test 3: Appearance and grooming This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner's care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout. Note to self. Buy a brush. Since the beasts have short hair, I've actually never brushed them. The trainer had a brush though, and she used that on him. She held her hands out in a very similar way as Duke's hand signal to shake, so he kept offering her his paw while she was checking his ears and brushing him. Silly boy.
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead) This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired. Duke did well on loose leash walking. He always does at the training facility. Since I'm a bad, bad owner who doesn't walk her dogs regularly, he wasn't perfect, but it was respectable.
Test 5: Walking through a crowd This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash. We didn't get to this today. With the exception of the trainer, everyone had a dog, so it's hard to do this test. Walking through a crowd of humans and walking through a crowd of dogs can be a bit different, especially when we have two dogs in the class who are not dog-friendly, and one (Duke) who's not quite aggressive, but a bit nervous around new dogs. He typically does well when we're in a more controlled environment though, and there aren't crazy loose dogs around.
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler's commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog's leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler's commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side. After verifying if there was a time limit on how long a dog could take to sit and down, Duke did great at this. He knows his commands, but sometimes it takes a ridiculously long time for his bottom to hit the ground once it starts it's descent. And even longer for his body to hit the ground when he starts going into a down. Time to grab the treatbag and work on speeding up the response.
Test 7: Coming when called This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to "stay" or "wait" or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog. We didn't cover this today, but Duke will do well at this. Momma's boys always do.
Test 8: Reaction to another dog This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler. We didn't work on this one today, but this one could get interesting. Duke does want to say hi to other dogs. Immediately afterwards though, he gets nervous, especially if they seem very interested in him. He's silly like that. He's gotten a bit better since I started taking him to FrisbeeDog meetings, since there's tons of dogs around, and they're all far more interested in Frisbees than they are in him. I need to work with him on that, and be better about walking him, so he sees, but learns to ignore other dogs.
Test 9: Reaction to distraction This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise. The trainer stood in the middle of the room and dropped a big metal bowl. I jumped. Fortunately, Duke did better than I did. His head did pop up and look in the direction of the bowl, but he didn't get up.
Test 10: Supervised separation This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like me to watch your dog?" and then take hold of the dog's leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, "there, there, it's alright"). This is the test that I'm really worried about. Especially after his little performance at my in-laws house earlier in the day. We didn't go over this in class today, but after class I handed the leash to one of the trainers and walked out of the room briefly to start working on this with Duke. He did fine. BUT, he knows and likes the trainer. The person actually giving the the CGC test will be a stranger. But working with him on this with a trusted individual is at least a step in the right direction. Once he gets used to me disappearing, but then always reappearing, he should get comfortable enough to wait patiently with a stranger as well as a friend.
Overall, Duke did well, especially since I haven't worked with him in such a long time, but there's still room for improvement. I was watching him like a hawk, and in an ideal situation, I need to be able to relax and know that he behaves appropriately. There's certainly plenty of time between now and the test to work out the kinks though.
A trainer friend of mine recently blogged about dog training/goal resolutions, and I thought that would be a good idea. I talk about all the things I want to do with my dogs (agility, flyball, rally, freestyle, DockDogs, DiscDogs), but I never do them. If I start, I don't stick with them for long. So I posted my resolution on her blog, with directions for her to hold me accountable. Maybe if I post them, my two faithful readers will also help hold me accountable.
For years, I've been in love with the idea of training at least one of my dogs as a therapy dog. Last year I learned about a local library program that encourages children to read by reading to therapy dogs. I've decided 2009 is the year Duke does this. Tomorrow Duke starts a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class, and hopefully will pass the test after a month of classes. From there, I will be working on Delta Society registration. It requires a course (either a one day workshop or at home study), a vet check, and a team evaluation. After that, we just register for the library program.
I want Coral to get her CGC as well, but she is a bit more spastic than Duke when we're out in public, so I need to work on her manners a bit first. Eventually, I may work on her Delta Society registration too, but I don't know if I would get that done in 2009. We'll see though.
I love chocolate, I love caramel, I love pecans, and I love cheesecake. So it wasn't exactly a hard decision to make this cheesecake. I was very good this time, and took the cream cheese out of the fridge early enough so it softened properly. I took the sour cream and eggs out maybe half an hour before. It just seems gross to leave them out for 3 or 4 hours.
Since I was trying to cook a cheesecake properly, I made up all the parts, put it together, and double wrapped the springform pan in heavy duty foil. Then I went fishing in the cabinets for a big pan to use as a water bath. And came up empty. Of the five billion items I have in my kitchen, a big roasting pan is not one of them. You would think that after making the T-day turkey for the past two years, I would have a roasting pan. But alas, you would be wrong.
So no water bath. Depending on who you ask, the water bath serves one of two purposes. 1. It provides humidity so the top doesn't crack. 2. It heats up the cheesecake more gently so the top doesn't crack. And some people think it doesn't really do anything, because regardless of whether or not they use a water bath, it cracks anyway. So I decided to hedge my bets. I grabbed two small ramekins (of which I have about 20, but no roasting pan!), filled them with water and put them on the oven to provide humidity. I also set the oven temperature to 300 initially, and bumped it up to 325 after about 30 minutes. This, however, resulted in a longer cooking time. After 50 minutes, there was about 5 inches of jiggly middle, so I baked for another 5 minutes, then turned the oven off. When I turned the oven off, I folded up a towel and used it to keep the oven ajar to cool gradually. About an hour later, I had a slightly warm cheesecake that cooled on the counter for another hour before being shuffled off into the fridge.
This is not a cheesecake for the impatient. First I made up the crust and pressed it into the pan before baking at 350 for 10 minutes. No, the recipe doesn't say to do that. But that's how I've always made cheesecake crusts (all two times I've made it previously), and it worked well. Then I toasted the pecans at 350 for 10 minutes. (Yes, a smart person probably would have baked the crust and toasted the pecans at the same time. I never claimed to be smart.) Then I melted the caramel. Let me just say, caramel takes a LONG time to melt over low heat. I think it took 20 minutes. After pouring the caramel onto the crust, I sprinkled on bittersweet chocolate chips until it covered the caramel in a single layer. I ended up using less than 6 ounces. So I munched on the rest of the chips while I worked.
As I made up the cheesecake filling, I was worried. Very, very worried. The filling looked like mud. Not your good old-fashioned run of the mill mud. No, this was greyish Texas clay. I was scared. But I was already looking forward to cheesecake, so I pressed on. After baking, it had darkened to a normal chocolate color, so I was happy. At that point, I also celebrated the fact that my cheesecake had minimal cracks. There were a few tiny cracks around the edges, but since the surface already wasn't perfectly smooth due to the pecans in the batter, it wasn't very noticeable.
After chilling in the fridge overnight, we broke out the cheesecake, and chaos ensued again. Be careful reheating the caramel in the microwave. Even straight from the fridge, 30 seconds = exploded mess. It still tasted good though. What? I wasn't wasting perfectly good caramel! I also melted a little chocolate to drizzle on top of the cheesecake. I then learned that refrigerated caramel is very, very hard. Even a thin layer of refrigerated caramel at the bottom of a cheesecake. Letting the cheesecake sit for a bit would have been the smart thing to do. But as stated previously, I'm not smart. Fortunately, I was rewarded for my troubles. This was one tasty cheesecake. Rich, chocolately, nutty, slightly crunchy goodness. Yummy. I think I need seconds.
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cheesecake Source: The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary, p 82.
Filling: 1 cup soft caramels 2 tbsp evaporated milk (or whipping cream) 6 oz bittersweet chocolate chunks 16 oz cream cheese (softened) 1 cup sour cream 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa 3 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Crust: Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into springform pan and freeze
Filling: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt caramel with evaporated milk, stirring often, until smooth. Reserve 3 tbsp for decorating, and cover and refrigerate. Pour remaining caramel over crust, spreading evenly and leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered. Sprinkle chocolate chunks over caramel. Set aside.
In a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and cocoa on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Fold in pecans by hand.
Pour cheesecake mixture over caramel and chocolates, smoothing out to sides of the pan. Bake in preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 40-50 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours before decorating and serving.
Decoration: Reheat reserved caramel mixture and drizzle over cheesecake.
If you like big soft cookies, I have a cookie for you. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of big soft cookies, and I would have preferred a richer, more chocolately flavor. They're fun and very pretty, but not something I have to have again. But, these are my new favorite style of cookie, the slice and bake. I currently have 3 different types of slice and bake cookies in my fridge and freezer, so I can have a variety of fresh baked cookies at a moments notice. Really, does life get better than that?
I omitted the food coloring, but I did find that the marachino cherry syrup stains fingers very nicely. I didn't dry them as well as I should have, so the cherry dough was stickier than the chocolate dough. Fortunately, that didn't seem to make a difference on the final product. And the extra cherry syrup colored the dough sufficiently. Chocolate-Cherry Pinwheels Source: Betty Crocker Ingredients 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened 1 cup sugar 2 eggs 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract 1/4 cup maraschino cherries, finely chopped and drained on paper towels 3 drops red food color 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 tablespoon milk 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
Directions 1. In large bowl, beat butter, sugar and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt until well blended. Place half of dough in another medium bowl.
2. Beat almond extract, cherries and food color into half of dough. Divide cherry dough in half. Wrap each half of cherry dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate about 45 minutes or until firm.
3. Beat vanilla, milk and cocoa into remaining plain dough. Divide chocolate dough in half. Wrap each half of chocolate dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate about 45 minutes or until firm.
4. Place one part of chocolate dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper; roll into 10x7-inch rectangle. Repeat with one part of cherry dough. Refrigerate both about 30 minutes or until firm. Peel top sheets of waxed paper from both doughs. Turn cherry dough upside down onto chocolate dough; roll up doughs together, starting at long side, into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 2 hours. Repeat with remaining parts of dough.
5. Heat oven to 350°F. Cut rolls of dough into 1/4-inch slices with sharp knife. On ungreased cookie sheet, place slices 1 inch apart.
6. Bake 8 to 11 minutes or surface appears dull. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.
Time Saving Tips: Cookie dough rolls can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking.
To freeze cookie dough rolls, wrap in foil or freezer proof wrap. To thaw, let dough stand 15 to 30 minutes until easy to cut into slices.
If you are making more than one batch of these cookies save yourself the hassle of dividing the batter and make your first complete batch cherry flavored and the second chocolate flavored.
I'm convinced there is a butter gnome that steals all of my butter. A little before Thanksgiving, Kroger had a sale on Land o'Lakes butter. I bought 7 pounds. 7 pounds of butter is a lot. It should last a normal person a very long time. I'm down to 3 pounds. So the butter gnomes have eaten 4 pounds of butter in just over two months. Fat little gnomes. Since I have the plague, I haven't baked as much this holiday as I would have liked. But that's probably a good thing. If I had baked more, I may be out of butter by now, and that would be wrong.
Edit: Make that 2.5 pounds of butter. Chocolate Cherry Pinwheel cookies post coming soon.
Life is never dull here. These are examples of what happens in a typical game of fetch at our house:
I pretend to throw the ball, Duke bolts off. Then stands and waits. And waits. Eventually he looks back at me all confused, wondering where his ball is.
After a few rounds of fetch, the ball bounces off the wall and rolls between his feet, coming to rest right between his back paws. So he drops his head between his front paws, staring, trying to figure out how to get to it.
I usually have 2, sometimes 3 balls in play because Coral will steal Duke's ball, and return with 2. So 3 balls are bouncing around, and Coral's trying to get all 3 balls in her mouth. Pick up two, chase after the third. Drop the two, and try again with the balls in a different order. Repeat 3 times. Give up, run back to me for her treat. (Coral only plays fetch when bribed with treats. No treat, no fetch for me.)
Coral comes back with a ball, I throw a ball for Duke, and she drops her ball to steal his. Then does the backwards shuffle while looking between her legs, trying to find the original ball, which is nowhere near her, because when she dropped it, it bounced and rolled forward, while she jumped backwards to steal Duke's ball.
What did I do for entertainment before I had dogs?
The plague is no fun. Not only am I miserable and coughing up a lung, I can't bake. Well, I can, but I typically bake to taste stuff, and then send the rest to work with Tim. And I personally wouldn't want to eat goodies from a plague-infested home, so I'm not into feeding others right now.
Solution: slice and bake cookies. I can make up the dough, bake a little for me, and throw the rest of the dough in the freezer for a later time.
Cinnamon Roll cookies Recipe from Paula Dean's Christmas magazine through www.bakeorbreak.com Dough: 1 & 1/4 cups sugar 3/4 cup butter, softened 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt
Beat together sugar and butter until creamy. Add egg and vanilla.In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to sugar/butter mixture. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle, 18″ x 10″.
Combine all filling ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle over cookie dough and press down gently. Beginning with the long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion. Place seam side down and cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap and/or parchment paper. Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough into 1/2-inch slices. On a sprayed/greased/lined baking sheet, place dough slices about 3 to 4 inches apart. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then place on wire racks to cool completely.
***A smart person would cut the log into two, because a clumsy person almost drops the entire log while transporting to the refrigerator. I may also try baking just 8 minutes. After baking 9 minutes, the cookies were warm and slightly crisp and yummy. However, by the time I ate the 6th cookie, they had cooled off, and were crunchier than I like. So either I need to eat faster, or shorten the baking time a smidge. Probably eat faster, I prefer these fresh from the oven.
***1/2/09: Reading comprehension fail! Yesterday I cut the slices about 1/4 inch, so they were rather crispy after baking for 9 minutes. Today I cut them 1/2 inch as the recipe stated, baked about 10 minutes and they were perfect. They spread more than yesterday, but they disappeared just as fast. I also made a quick icing with a little heavy cream, a couple drops of vanilla extract, and enough powdered sugar to thicken.