Fancy Blueberry Cheesecake

When you really want to spoil someone, here is a recipe sure to please.  This cheesecake is light and fluffy, the no-bake variety.  It tastes sinfully rich, and it can be if made with full fat cream cheese, butter and whipped cream.  I substitute American neufchatel cheese (found with the cream cheese) or low-fat cream cheese and low-fat whipped topping to cut the calories, but save the flavor.  This is made with blueberries picked from our berry patch.  I think any berry or even cherries could be substituted for the topping and it would be successful with a bit of tinkering to get the sweetening and thickening just right.  I adapted this from an old Dream Whip recipe.

It is made in three steps.  The results of each step must be cooled prior to using and the entire cake should be chilled at least four hours before serving.  You will need a deep dish pie pan to contain all the deliciousness.

Fancy Blueberry Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 350F

Step 1 Crust

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg slightly beaten

In medium bowl cut butter into flour until well mixed.  Stir in other ingredients, mix well.  Spread evenly in the bottom of an oiled deep dish pie pan.  Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown around the edges.  Cool.

Step 2 Filling

16 oz cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipped cream

Soften cheese at room temperature in large bowl and cream until smooth.  Sift dry ingredients and add to cheese with vanilla and lemon juice.  Mix this well until very smooth.  Gently fold in whipped cream to create a light texture.  Spoon over the cooled crust in the pan, spreading evenly.  Refrigerate.

Step 3 Topping

1 quart fresh or frozen blueberries

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

5 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Save back one cup whole berries.  If using frozen, save them in the freezer, no not thaw.  In medium sauce pan combine the rest of the berries with water.  Cook over medium heat until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.  Combine sugar and corn starch in small bowl, mixing well.  Add all at once to the berry mixture.  Boil, stirring, until thick and clear.  Remove from heat, cool for 15 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice and reserved whole berries.  Cool in fridge.

When the topping has cooled to lukewarm, spread evenly over the cream cheese layer.  Refrigerate at least four hours prior to serving.  Store refrigerated.  Serve topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream.  Yum!





Foster Cats Update

Yesterday I cut holes in the nest box so the baby foster kittens can start their lives as free feline spirits.  They are about one month old and I’m fairly sure they are both girls.  Within the past few days they developed depth perception so I don’t have to be so worried about their walking off the 7″ step in the bathroom.  I have blocked the step with some boards to help reduce the fall distance and aid in climbing back up.  Mom hides behind the toilet when I’m present, so the babies need to be able to reach her.  Soon they will be navigating the step with ease.

Mother cat Moon remains a feral bundle of nerves.  The frequency of her hissing, spitting charges at me have diminished, and she tolerates being scratched and patted with a long dowel.  She even likes to play when I flip the string on the end of the dowel for her.  Any quick movements elicit growls and hiding.

I have read that kittens take socializing cues from their mother and that it is often necessary to separate the babies from the mother at 6 weeks if you want them to be friendly.  By this age kittens are developing social relationships and over-protective feral mothers can prevent babies from trusting humans.  I have been frequently handling these kittens since the day they arrived 2 weeks ago.  After the initial spitting fit, the babies found they enjoy being held, scratched and patted.When I enter the room and speak, the kittens immediately recognize my voice.  Their ears perk up and they look for me.  Now that they are out of the box, they both come running when I call them.  Mama doesn’t like that, but she doesn’t try to come out from behind the toilet to prevent contact with me.  The babies crawl all over my legs and arms.  They seem to delight in humans.  Last night one crept inside my shirt.  They lick and snuggle, roll over and purr when their bellies are tickled and rub their tiny noses on mine.  So far mama cat has not hindered the kitten socializing.  I’m hoping this continues so the babies can receive their full 8 weeks of milk.

The animal shelter said that once the kittens are weaned, mom can go in to be spayed and socialized.  I can keep the little ones for a few weeks longer without the mom to work on accustoming them to living in a home.  They will meet more humans including children, the other cats and the dogs.  They will learn to find the litterpan in a large area and use cat flaps.  It will be difficult to let these babies go.  That is the hardest part of being a parent.  Like any good parent, I hope to instill the tools young ones need to survive and thrive on their own in the world. 

Foster Cat Moon and Kittens

This pretty kitty is Moon, she is a feral cat I am fostering for the Humane Society shelter.  Moon is a very young animal and this is likely her first litter.  She has two adorable babies just 2 weeks old. Because I work socializing the feral and barn cats at the shelter, I met Moon right after she gave birth.  She was living in a small cage to separate her from the other cats.

Moon was certainly hard to approach and having kittens made her even more defensive.  I worked with her for awhile, scratching and stroking her with the long wood dowel I use to touch feral cats.  She stopped her growling and hissing and actually started to rub back and purr.  Under her prickly exterior I could tell there was a gentle, loving cat.

The shelter is pretty much filled to capacity with cats.  Mother cats with litters are usually fostered out to volunteer homes where the babies are raised in a friendly environment.  Poor Moon was too wild to go to a foster home.  The shelter can’t let people take feral cats due to the risk of injury.  Luckily, I am an expert at handling feral cats.  With over 2.5 years of volunteer work at the shelter socializing barn cats, the personnel realized I was up for the job.  I volunteered to give Moon a comfortable room at my house for the duration of raising her babies.

She came home with me today.  At first she was very shy and hid behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom where she will be living.  Finally I coaxed her into the box with her kittens.  The box is about the size of her cage at the shelter.  I think Moon will be pleased to have so much more room to stretch out.  I plan to socialize her and her kittens so they have chances to find good, indoor homes.  They will be staying with us until the babies are 8 weeks old and ready to leave their mom.  Then Moon will be spayed and made ready for adoption.

I’ve already begun handling the kittens.  Their eyes are just barely open.  They have had minimal human contact.  While mom was distracted I held and patted each of them.  One is black with a bit of white and the other is a yellow tiger.  They both initially hissed and spit at me.  So funny to see such brave ferocity coming from tiny balls of fluff!  By the time the first socializing lesson was finished, both kittens were relaxed, cuddled in my hands asleep.

I love cats and especially adore kittens.  I cherish the opportunity to make a difference for these sweet animals.

Rodent Adventure

I was mending some clothes and the cat was driving me crazing digging under the couch cushions.  Then I heard a squeak.  That could only mean one thing:  Kai had brought in a rodent and decided to play catch and release in the livingroom.  I lifted the couch cushion expecting to find a hapless mouse and discovered a chipmunk instead!

The critter took one look at the cat and me and shot out of the couch, across the room with Kai in hot pursuit, and under the buffet.  Now Kai and his brother Cary were both interested in capturing the escaped trophy.  I pulled out the bottom drawer of the buffet.  The chipmunk was hiding beneath a cupboard section that apparently had a space big enough to allow the rodent to evade the groping paws of two cats.  There was another squeak and a flurry of scrabbling as the rodent eluded capture again.

At this point I opened the cat flap wide, opened the door to the woodshed and braced the front door open a couple inches, hoping that if the little creature got loose again, it might make a break for daylight.

After a few minutes the cats began sniffing around the large, heavy desk for our computer.  There is about 4″ clearance from the wall.  I got a flashlight and spotted the poor chipmunk, cowering in the very dusty corner.  I put on welding gloves and got my largest fish tank net.  With help from the cats to keep the rodent cornered, I worked it into the net and pulled it out from behind the desk.

Just when I thought the ordeal of the rodent was over, it wriggled free and dashed for the light of the open woodshed door.  By the time I got out to the shed, the chipmunk had climbed the screen and was trying to figure out how to go outside.  I spoke quietly to it and inched to the door handle.  When I swung the door open, the chipmunk flung itself from a six foot height to bounce off the side of the house and slide down into the grass.  That was the last I saw of it.

I’m really hoping the cat didn’t puncture it too badly with his teeth when he caught it.  Cats have mouths full of bacteria that are lethal to rodents when injected into bite wounds.  If the little chipmunk were not so silly as to walk into the cats’ outdoor cage, it would never have been caught in the first place.  Phew, that was enough excitement for one day!

Oxtail Soup

When we buy half or one-quarter of a grass-fed beef animal, the butcher shop always asks if I want any of the extras.  They mean do I want liver, heart, tongue, oxtail, soup bones or suet.  I always ask for 15 pounds of suet to feed the hungry winter birds.  Otherwise, no to the extras.  Yet, every time I collect my blast frozen beef, there is a free bag full of extras.  I must have 15 pounds of liver in the freezer, and only the dogs eat it.  Plus there is a heart, that I will have to thaw out and saw through (heart is a tough muscle) to feed to the dogs.  This last beef order came with a lovely package of oxtail, oh joy.

I thawed out the oxtail to feed to the dogs, then decided to make soup with it since it was a nice, meaty cut.  Tail meat can be stringy, it is long, well-used muscle.  It needs extended, moist cooking to be edible and makes very hearty soup.  Some cooks roast the tail before making it into soup, but that’s not really necessary.  It will be tasty and tender with this recipe.  People will not even realize the beef they are eating is from the tail, unless you tell them!

Oxtail Soup

3-4 lbs meaty oxtail, thawed or fresh, cut in half or thirds to fit a 6 qt stock pot

3 quarts water

1 quart chopped tomatoes with the juice

1 tablespoon powdered onion

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon each celery salt, black pepper, oregano, marjoram, basil

Place all in the stock pot, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat, simmer for 1.5 hours.  The meat should be starting to fall from the bone.  Remove the oxtail from the pot and set aside to cool.  While the meat cools until it can be handled, add to the pot:

4 large carrots, peeled and diced

4 sticks celery, diced

1 cup chopped spinach

1 cup pearled barley or farro

Remove the meat from the bones and cut into bite sized pieces.  Return the meat to the pot.  Cover and simmer for 45 mins to 1 hour until the veggies are tender.

Makes about 3-4 quarts.

Oxtail can be a fatty cut.  If it is desired to remove the fat, cool the soup in the fridge overnight and remove the hardened fat from the top.  Serve hot seasoned to taste with salt.


Fawns Achieve Maximum Cuteness

The baby angora rabbits are four weeks old today and they have achieved maximum cuteness.  All six are healthy and rambunctious.  Last night they came out of the pen and ran all over the barn for the first time.  Bunny paradise!  These friendly fawns enjoy cuddling.  It’s my onerous task to snuggle the little ones, accustoming them to being handled.  Sometimes raising rabbits is a tough job!

There are three white albinos with red eyes, and one each of chocolate, sable and color point.  I have not checked them yet for sex, but am hoping at least a couple of the colored ones are female so I can keep them.  I might even keep a white one since I’m down to just one adult rabbit with the loss of my buck.  He sure gave me some pretty babies.

The color point is such a lovely shade. It’s creamy with brownish-gray point. Even the little tail and feet are pointed, so adorable. The chocolate and sable are beautiful, deep shades.  And who can resist a red-eyed white fawn that loves to sit in your hand?

The babies eat like little piggies, taking in the nutrition they need for rapid growth.  Fresh dandelions, clover, wild carrot and grass are a daily treat they rush over to nibble.  Mama Moonstone is doing an excellent job raising her babies.  A really great mother bunny.

Since I have so few rabbits, it will be hard to let any of them go.  At least there is another month to enjoy their antics.  The ones going to new homes will be ready to leave at eight weeks of age.  I hope to also locate a young, unrelated buck for my rabbitry so there will be baby bunnies next year.


Passing of a Rabbit

My beautiful angora buck Marble passed away quietly this morning.  He was eight years old, a venerable age for a rabbit.  I will miss his silly brand of bunny humor, his friendly ways and his thick, lustrous coat of fiber.  I held him in my hand the day he was born, a tiny, warm, pink bundle.

He had been slowing down for the past few weeks and I suspected the end was nearing.  Over a year ago I felt some tumorous nodules on him and it is likely cancer got him in the end, as it does many rabbits.  Nature designed rabbits as prey animals who survive in the wild for just one to three years.  They were not intended to last long enough for cancer to grow.  As they age they are prone to tumors.

Marble spent yesterday outside enjoying a fine May day, eating grass and dozing in the sun.  That is the sort of day he deserved.  He was a wonderful rabbit and an excellent buck, producing several superb litters of fawns.  His last litter is just a month old now, the nicest little bunnies anyone could want.  I plan to keep several of his babies.  His legacy will live on.