Love Abides

It’s my tradition on Valentine’s Day to write about love. Tonight though, I’m distracted by worrying about tomorrow afternoon, when we’ll drive over the mountains to Denver on the heels of a snowstorm that’s blasted the high country for the past two days. It’s not the roads I’m worried about though. It’s what comes after.

Snowcap

Tuesday morning is Richard’s next brain MRI, which we hope will be completely normal after the combined course of radiation and chemo he “graduated” from in mid-January. We’ll learn the results two days later, on Thursday morning, when we see his oncologist, Dr. Klein. She’ll also explain the “maintenance” regime of chemotherapy he’s about to start. We know it’ll involve five days of taking oral doses of the chemo drug Temozolinide, a cytotoxin specifically used for brain tumors, and 23 days off, followed by five days of the chemo drugs and so on, for many months. What we don’t know is the dose, or how well he’ll tolerate the drugs. We’re not making any long-term plans until we see how this chemo routine goes, but that’s not really new. We’ve been living day to day since last August 28th, when the birds appeared. It’s good practice, but not easy.

I wish I could say Richard’s completely back to normal, but I can’t. He seems like it, and he’s amazingly coordinated. This afternoon when a friend was visiting,
he picked up the juggling balls from our kitchen counter (thank you, Laura and Sarah!), stood on
one leg and juggled. There he is, intent on the balls in the photo below. (Okay, maybe that’s not exactly “normal,”
but it’s evidence of complex brain functioning.) The change is subtle, but it seems like his ability to process certain kinds of information has suffered. Things take him longer, and he gets frustrated more easily. He likes to say, “I’m not as smart as I used to be.” 

Rjuggling

Which brings me around to love. Because no matter what happens, whether his brain is slightly impaired or not, whether the tumor returns or the swelling goes down or doesn’t, I love this crazy, inspired juggler. 

So yesterday I revived a tradition I haven’t practiced for a long time: I baked a cheesecake. Every Valentine’s Day for years, I invented a new kind of cheesecake for Richard and Molly. I can’t remember why I quit. I got too busy, or Richard’s consulting had him on the road too much, or we were trying to get back into shape, or something. These days, most of what we eat is healthy, local, organic, and all around good for us and the planet, as well as being delicious. Now and then though, I cook something just for love. Hence the chocolate-raspberry cheesecake in the photo below. Just looking at the photo can probably clog your arteries. But damn, is it good! It’s love made edible.

Chococheesecake

Here’s the recipe, in case you want to start your own tradition.

Susan’s Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake

1 – 1/4 c graham cracker crumbs
3 T almond slices (toasted)
6 T butter
6 oz lowfat ricotta
6 oz neuchatel cheese
1 – 1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1/3 lb best-quality semi-sweet baking chocolate or chocolate chips
2 T Dutch dark cocoa powder
4 T whipping cream
1 c sour cream/yogurt
1/6 c framboise dessert wine (or 2 T raspberry liquor)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 T yogurt cheese (mixed with remaining 2 T whipping cream) or 1/2 c sour cream
1/2 pt raspberries
powdered sugar

Whirl graham crackers and toasted almond slices and butter (softened is best) in food processor until a crumby consistency like coarse cornmeal. Press into the bottom and lower sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the chocolate along with the cocoa and 2 T of the whipping cream on low heat in the microwave and let cool. Beat the ricotta and neuchatel cheese in food processor or electric mixer until creamy and a bit fluffy, and then beat in sugar and eggs until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to the food processor or mixer, along with the sour cream, and beat until smooth. Then add the wine or liquor, cinnamon and vanilla extract and beat. Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake on the middle rack for an hour to an hour and a half, until the top is dark brown and the edges rise and crack. (The middle will still be jiggly.) A cookie sheet or shallow pan on the rack below will catch any drips.

Remove from the oven, cool and carefully remove the sides of the pan. (Loosen first by running a butter knife around the edge.) When cool, spread with yogurt cheese/whipping cream mix or sour cream, and then dot top with raspberries. Finish by sifting powdered sugar over the top. Chilling the cheesecake for a few hours will make it easier to slice–if you can wait that long.

Share with those you love, and enjoy!

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