Sunday, October 23, 2016

Unwrapping Our Gifts & Easy-As-Pie Caramel Apple Cheesecake

   I usually tend to write a post when I hear God speaking into my life, and then I share it for His glory, or so it can be edifying for someone else, too. This month I've had a hard time listening as I was so busy doing. Finishing fall cleaning, tearing out the garden, and planning our son's fifth birthday. It turns out that even a small pizza party at Pop Pop's farm with only immediate family takes time and planning.

During a time of lament when I was feeling overloaded, I recalled a conversation I had with a friend who was getting ready to visit her sister-in-law's family out in the mid-west. 

"She's the kind of person who is very well organized and has everything under control."

We briefly contemplated this extremely together woman who mothers ten children and yet was unflappable in the face of domestic storms. We nodded solemnly in agreement that we were not, nor could ever have that gift. I think we are part of the club that most women would identify with in membership. 

But later on, I thought, could that really be that one person would be gifted with so much? I'm sure if we asked that lady about her shortcomings, she would be able to name one or two, or ten. 

As we approach the season of gift giving, I think of the gifts we already have and how we use them. I can think of many sisters who are experts at hospitality, which is one of my own particular struggles. While I don't mind making large quantities of food for events, enjoy baking for others, and am helpful with mundane tasks, other necessary activities like childcare and committee meetings drain me to the core. We all have enough deficiencies, to go around.

I can look back to a youthful time when my current gift inventory would have seemed too big, too scary, even to draining to contemplate. Then it hits me, that our gifts aren't instantaneous blessing bestowed on us at birth, but are cultivated by time, experience, and the journey of learning to love. Even the mandate to love another is not an expression that resides effortlessly in our hearts, but a goal that will stay with us our entire lives as we learn to know one another, serve one another. 

Have you noticed that empathy-producing experiences are great vehicles to channel our love? You can form an immediate kinship with someone who has walked in your shoes, and intuitively know the best way to support them. Believe me, if I ever encounter a mother of small children who is laid up with a broken ankle, I would be able to name ten needs off the top of my head and how to fill them. Also, if your dog every got sprayed in the head by a skunk at six in the morning while you were trying to pull him out from under a pallet where the skunk was hiding, come talk to me. Tough times not only soften our hearts but show us how to serve. 

A true gift will express appreciation, lighten a load, or add value to another person. What a relief that I don't have to shop for it. What a joy to know that we are here to be needed and purposeful, a shining light on the journey. 

I almost didn't put up this recipe, mainly because it was almost all gone before I could get a really decent picture of it. It was SO good! I relented because it is also very easy to make and you know I'm all about busy mom cooking. For one thing, it's a cheesecake you make in a pie plate, which for me is always less daunting than dragging out the springform pan. So get a graham cracker crust going:

1 and 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
4 T melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they are well blended, and then press into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes, and then allow crust to cool to room temperature. 

21 ounces of apple pie filling or 1 pint of home-canned. 
2 8-ounce packages of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup caramel topping
chopped pecans

Spread 3/4 of the pie filling on top of the pie crust. Reserve the other quarter of filing for topping. 

In your mixer, whip the cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla and eggs and continue to beat until smooth. Spread this mix over the pie filling. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, and then cool to room temperature. 

While the cheesecake is cooling, heat 1/4 cup caramel and the reserved pie filling in a small saucepan. When the cheesecake has cooled, pour this mixture on top and then sprinkle with chopped pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

When you are all ready to take the picture and this happens.


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