BY REBECCA LINDAMOOD
---- — I walk about 5 miles every day.
Mostly I do this for fitness, but I also do it for the rare opportunity it offers to empty my mind for just a little while. It’s an hour or so of uninterrupted ability to zone out since I’m walking laps of my own property and there is no traffic to get in the way. When I begin my hikes, my brain does its level best not to give up but to be productive and think useful thoughts.
“Hmm. I wonder if those cherries would taste good with a little habanero in them. Ya know … a KICK!” or, “I really should make sure the boys get their chores done before they go to bed so we don’t have to move so quickly in the morning before our appointment.” Or, “I have to have that piece submitted to so-and-so by noon, the other recipe photographed, and get an invoice out to what's-his-face before I can start on my canning this afternoon.”
After a couple of miles and a few laps, I’ve usually beaten my brain into submission and it's devolved into thoughts like, “Stupid chickens!” when they walk in front of me, “Hi, Snakey!” when I spot a snake on the side of the path, “Pretty!” when a butterfly flits in front of me, or the super-class, “I’m really sweaty!” It’s like magic and I don’t mind saying it’s a great relief from the usual machinations of my mind.
A couple more miles into my walk and I’m making sure one foot is planted in front of the other steadily and that I don’t knock myself repeatedly in the thigh with my water bottle. It was at this moment the other day, at the point that is the longest distance from my house on my walk (and that I pass 10 to 12 times on each walk, depending on whether it’s a long-walk day or a short-walk day), that I heard a deep, creaky-voiced, insistent, “Mom.”
Fully expecting to see one of my two teen boys, I stopped my forward motion, turned around and found myself face-to-face with … Trees.
Nobody was there. I thought maybe I imagined it, but it had sounded so clear. Oh well, empty mind. Hi, snakey!
I did my next lap and at the exact same point I heard the same, “Mom.” I freaked out. WHO WAS IN MY WOODS?
I heard a thump, thump, thump and my heart echoed it. There he was. Right by that tree to the left. How hadn’t I seen him before?
A giant bullfrog.
I almost kissed it.
And at that moment I realized something that had been nagging my mind for some time. My teenagers sound like bullfrogs.
Black Forest No Bake Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake
1/2 package of Oreo-type cookies. I like to use the chocolate cream filled ones for a double dose of chocolate.
3 T. melted butter
1 8-oz. brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 c. (8 fluid oz.) heavy cream
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. chilled sweet cherry pie filling, preferably homemade
Crush the cookies in a zipper-top bag or pulse until finely crushed in a food processor. Mix the melted butter in with a fork and press into a pie plate or removable-bottom tart pan. Set aside.
Place heavy cream and chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one and a half minutes. Leave in the microwave with the door shut for five minutes afterward. Remove bowl and whisk until smooth and shiny. Give a quick stir with a whisk to be sure all of the chocolate is melted. If it isn’t, put back in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. When the chocolate is all melted, start whisking slowly in one direction. It will go through a very raggedy-looking stage where you will think I’ve steered you wrong. Keep whisking in a circle. I promise it’ll all work out. When it becomes shiny and smooth, put the bowl, along with the whisk, in the refrigerator. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator every fifteen minutes and give it a good stir with the whisk. After about 45 minutes to an hour, you’ll feel the ganache beginning to thicken up. It should be cool to the touch all the way through.
Scrape the softened cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer on high and go just until the cream cheese starts becoming smooth in texture. Add the chilled ganache and continue mixing on high until fluffy and thickened. If you go beyond this stage, you will have made what is effectively chocolate butter. Mind you, that’s not necessarily a problem, but it’s not what we’re shooting for here.
Use a rubber spatula to transfer the contents to your pie crust and smooth the top. Spread the pie filling over the top of the cheesecake and chill the pie until the chocolate filling is set up. This will take 30 minutes.
Slice into thin wedges and serve, if desired, with whipped cream. Normally I’m an all-whipped-cream-all-the-time gal, but this tart brings out my purist tendencies. My inner pastry chef is begging for a word with you. She says if you want to get the fullest flavor from your tart, you will leave the slices on the plates for at least 10 minutes prior to serving. I say she’s nuts. Eat it cold with teens or bullfrogs.