Cherry Cheesecake Squares

It's that time of year again! Christmas baking has begun! These cherry cheesecake squares have become a family favourite and tradition from the moment I first made them. The recipe is pretty straight-forward: For the base: ~ 6 tbsp butter or margarine (I used butter) ~ 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs ~ 2 tbsp white sugar For the topping: ~ 12 ounces (375 grams) softened cream cheese ~ 1/2 cup  white sugar ~ 2 eggs ~ 1.5 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla sugar) ~  1 cup cherry pie filling

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 Mix together butter, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs.

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Press graham cracker crumb mixture into a 9 x 9 inch greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let stand until cool.

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Beat together softened cream cheese and sugar.

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Add eggs and continue to beat until smooth.

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Pour mixture over base.

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Create a marbling effect with the cherry pie filling.

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Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

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Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. For best results, use a knife dipped in hot water to cut into squares. Enjoy!

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Ode to a minivan

This is definitely my first and it may be my only car review. I can count on my fingers the number of vehicles I have had the opportunity of driving. Eight in total. One was a standard transmission for about 10 minutes, so I'm not entirely sure that it counts. Two have been test-drives, so they might not count either. That brings me to five. Five cars in my seven plus years on the open road. All Hondas, Dodges, and Chevrolets. Clearly I can't call myself a car expert, but according to my research, I whole-heartedly believe that the 2001 Dodge Caravan Sport still wins my all-out affection.

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So spacious, so comfy, so ancient, so lovely. 310 000km down and it's still kicking. It's a little worn, a little blemished, and a little testy on the brakes and acceleration, but it still has life to live and love to give. I will sell it to you for $300 if you're convinced!

It might be the nostalgia talking, but I love my Leonidas. My oldest brother appointed my van with this regal name upon its 300 000th kilometre. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps because it's old, perhaps because it's gold, but mostly because my van is a warrior. It was first a family van engaged in family plans. It then trekked on through the high school years and carried us through many parties and sporting events. It was then bestowed upon us as a time-share parting gift come university time. It is now mine for the keeping. My brother has moved on to bigger and newer trucks and here I am embracing the big gold shell that is my minivan. You can imagine I was both apprehensive and excited as I opened the door to a brand new 2013 Dodge Avenger. I was offered a smaller Ford Fiesta, but I chose the Avenger for its larger size. Larger = more space for Tundra puppy and Christmas presents.

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I chose to drive home for the holidays in a rental because however cherished Leonidas is, he is not in the best of health for long-distance travel anymore. He is resting at home and I am crossing my fingers that he is still alive come new year. It was a foreign and inviting experience to drive a vehicle other than my own. I'm so accustomed to having to push a little harder on the brakes and to feeling the steering wheel vibrate when I go over 100 km/hr that driving the 2013 felt almost effortless and I hate to say it - a little boring. My hands started to get numb after an hour of moving minuscule micrometers around the 10 and 2 position. My back and shoulders tensed up. I almost forgot my feet were underneath me. The nicest part of the drive was the satellite radio selection. I listened to 40s on 4 for most of the journey; this station plays plays the best of the best of Christmas classics. I complain about my body being sore, but I have to admit that the head rests were divine. I had a large rhinestone clip in my hair and no matter how hard I pressed my head against the cushion, I did not feel a hint of pain. I'm sad I only discovered this in the last 15 minute stretch of my voyage. All-in-all I am not knocking the Avenger. I really did like it. The front grill is a little aggressive-looking for my tastes, but the interior is quite attractive and the visibility is great. It drove like a new car should and I felt safe and secure within it. I am; however, impartial to my arguable treasure of a minivan. Apparently it has made a lasting impression on me and my behind has made an even bigger lasting impression on it. Any other seat just doesn't measure up. Yet.  
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Cake in a Cup

Have you ever finished dinner and wished you paired it with dessert? Or have you ever had an insatiable craving for cake, but found yourself without a proper baking pan or enough time to make it? I introduce to you "cake in a cup"! It's three minute confection brilliance without the oven, without the mess, and without the wait. All you need is a big mug, parchment paper, your favourite cake ingredients, and a microwave. Measuring spoons are optional. I stumbled across a similar recipe while looking for quick and easy desserts and I tweaked it a little to my tastes. Please experiment with different ingredients; I sure plan to. Hope you like! Ingredients: ~ 1 tbsp softened butter ~ 2 tbsp sugar ~ 1 egg ~ 1 tbsp sour cream ~ 1/2 tsp vanilla extract ~ 1 tsp baking powder ~ 1/4 cup regular flour (or gluten-free!) ~ A sprinkle of brown sugar ~ A sprinkle of cinnamon

Cream the butter and sugar.

Mix together butter, sugar, egg, sour cream & baking powder, vanilla & flour.

Line the cup with parchment paper. Don't forget to line the bottom as well!

Pour the mixture into the cup & sprinkle with the desired amount of brown sugar & cinnamon.

Microwave on high for 1 minute & voilà!

Try it - it's a piece of cake! 😉
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Trying to Tundra-stand the true meaning of Christmas

 Brrrrrrrr. I absolutely love making berry smoothies for breakfast, but they make me so chilly for what seems like hours afterwards. This morning was no exception. I walked into the kitchen feeling very warm (hence the tank top) and immediately following my first sip I had to put on a big cozy sweater and brew myself a hot cup of tea. Right now I have a heater pack on my lap and a puppy looking up at me like I'm the meanest dog-mum in the world. Tundra is having a hard time choosing who to hang out with this morning. Between me focusing my attention on my computer screen and Roger playing Call of Duty he's feeling a wee bit slighted. Please note his "why you is no play with me?" face. Yesterday he displayed a similar complex. It's his first Christmas and he's bursting with curiosity about all that is festive. Yesterday I turned the kitchen into a gift wrapping workshop and he went nuts. He wanted to help me tear the tape, he wanted to chew on the scissors and he even went so far as to eat a bit of the wrapping paper. I love his enthusiasm, but it was too much. We made a barricade of boxes and he peered at me above a make-shift cardboard wall until I was done. Roger got him a little doggie stocking to hang on the mantle; he thought that was food too. He's the most darlingest thing going, but he's freaking mess-making machine. I think I must scratch my idea of buying him a big dog bed for Christmas; he would tear it to shreds in seconds. I can't even imagine how excited he'll be when I start my holiday baking... good thing he's cute!  
 
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