Life is full of lessons. Some lessons are easy. Like don’t touch the stove when it is on or you will burn your hand. Done. Ouch, don’t do that again. Other lessons are hard. They make you see things about yourself you don’t necessarily want to see and they make you admit things you may not always want to admit. Regardless, as long as we learn something, I think we are all doing alright.
Some lessons are engrained in you from an early age, before you can even grasp the concept of learning a lesson. When my mom was pregnant with my youngest brother and her water broke, I rushed around getting towels and then I kept watch over my middle brother while my mom figured out how to get us all to the hospital. When my youngest brother fell off the top of our swing set and cracked his head open, I ran and got my mom and then again kept watch over my middle brother while we were in the waiting room. I took good care of my one brother while my youngest brother got all stitched up. My brothers made fun of me for not being the subject of any crazy stories from when we were growing up, but I knew it was because I was always watching out for their dumb asses. From an early age, it was my job as the oldest to always watch out for my two younger brothers.
Some lessons are really hard to learn. They may take a few years of retrospective thinking and introspection before you are able to admit the lesson you learned. After some time, I learned that my mom wasn’t out to ruin my life when she said she didn’t like my high school boyfriend with the combat boots and blue Mohawk. She was just a better judge of character than I was at the age of sixteen. I also learned that even though these “punks” didn’t like being judged by the way they dressed, they had no problem judging other people on the way they dressed. In other words, my mom was right; they really weren’t good people for me to associate myself with at that time. Lesson learned. I still love all the great music I gleaned from that time in my life and luckily I am able to look back and laugh at what a naive girl I was. Seriously, 16 year-old Stef…He had a blue Mohawk. What were you thinking?
Some lessons you will never learn. For example, no matter how many times I tell myself, Do not eat the entire platter of nachos in one sitting,” I still go ahead and eat them and then pay for it the next day. You think that through all the stomach aches and TUMS chomped, I would have learned my lesson, but alas, I am only human and have yet to fully learn from my past mistakes.
My mom used to chide me for eating all of the big, ripe, sweet blueberries out of the colander immediately after she washed them. She would say that it wasn’t nice to hoard all of the good blueberries for myself before anybody else had a chance to eat them. I never really learned my lesson; I just learned not to get caught! To this day, I still pick out all the big, plump blueberries right after I wash them in the colander. Luckily, I married the guy who loves all the small, tart blueberries!
Sorry if I’m going all Oprah on you guys, but what I want you all to gather from this edition of Sarcastic Cooking’s life class is that even if your smallest life lesson is about a pint of blueberries, you should still be thankful for that lesson and for the beautiful blueberry green tea cheesecake bars that got you thinking back upon all the great and small lessons you have learned in your life.
Ingredients (Makes about 12 Squares) For the Crust:
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
¼ Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Fresh Grated Ginger
¼ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Egg Yolk
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, softened
For the Cheesecake Layer:
1 lb. Cream Cheese, softened
1 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
½ Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
½ Cup + 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
For the Blueberry-Green Tea Layer:
1 Green Tea Teabag
1 ½ Cups Boiling Water
½ Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Packages of Unflavored Gelatin
12 oz. Blueberries (Fresh or Frozen)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, ginger, and vanilla extract. Mix on low for a minute. Add the butter and egg yolk. Mix on medium until the dough comes together. The dough may seem very sticky—that is ok. Turn out the bowl on to a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour.
After an hour, roll the dough out into a small rectangle shape between two pieces of parchment paper. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Flip the dough over into the lined pan. Press the dough into the corners of the pan. Work quickly because the dough will start to get stickier and stickier as it warms.
Bake the ginger cookie crust in the oven for twenty minutes until light golden. Let the crust cool while you prepare the cheesecake layer. Turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment mix the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and mix on medium for another two minutes until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute on medium between each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Add the heavy cream and mix at medium speed until glossy and creamy, about three minutes. Add the fresh lemon zest and mix for another minute.
Pour the cheesecake mixture over the cookie layer. Smooth out the cheesecake layer using a rubber spatula. Place a baking sheet filled about ¾ of the way up with hot water on the lowest rack in the oven. This will ensure the cheesecake layer bakes evenly. Place the cheesecake pan in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for fifty minutes. After fifty minutes, turn the oven off and prop open the oven door. Let the cookie and cheesecake layers cool in the oven with the door slightly open for forty five minutes.
While the cheesecake layer cools, prepare the blueberry green tea layer. Boil the 1 ½ cups of water in a small sauce pan. When the water comes to a simmer, turn the burner off, and add the green tea teabag and steep for five minutes.
After the tea bag has steeped for five minutes, add the sugar and blueberries. When the sugar has completely disintegrated, add the gelatin packets to the pot. Mix to combine.
Pour the blueberry mixture into a medium mixing bowl and let it sit at room temperature until the cheesecake has completely cooled. (Once the cheesecake comes out of the oven you might want to place it in the refrigerator for an hour before you pour the blueberry layer on top just to make sure it is completely cooled.)
When the cheesecake layer is cool, pour the blueberry green tea layer on top. Refrigerate for at least four hours, but overnight is best.