Thursday, May 26, 2016

Authentic German Cheesecake

One of my daughters lives near Frankfurt, Germany. She and her German husband live a a quaint town complete with castle ruins and post-war three story, steep roofed houses placed close together on narrow streets fronted by flower boxes and vegetable gardens. I love it!

My son-in-law's grandmother owns and lives in the house where they are (though they have separate apartments) and she is a wonderful Kuchen baker. She made eleven cakes for their wedding and whenever we are there she invites us in for Kaffee und Kuchen. Those are German words I definitely understand!

Every town has bakeries with a variety of home baked Kuchen like Apfelstrudel and Käsekuchen. We stop nearly every afternoon for a treat. 

I am not supposed to eat sugar, so never order my own piece of cake, but I liberally help myself to what others have ordered! It's just so good. Besides, just like calories, if it comes from someone else's plate it doesn't have any sugar, right?

I enjoyed the German Cheesecake (Käsekuchen) so much that I had to find a recipe. Since I can't communicate with Grandma Unger and she probably doesn't follow a recipe anyway, I resorted to Google and then I adapted the recipe to get the taste I rememebered.

This delicious cheesecake has so much protein and relatively little sugar, that I indulge in some when I bake it. It doesn't have a crust, but the flour and cornstarch in the batter seem to bake to the bottom and sides to form a bit of a crust.

This is an easy make ahead cake, so it's great for company, but hard to wait for! It needs to be baked for 70 minutes and left in the turned off oven for 2 more hours. Then it should be refrigerated for at least four hours, but overnight or several nights, is fine, too.

I find that this recipe has more batter than fits in my springform, so I make a small cheesecake in another dish. Of course, that gives me one to nibble while keeping the large one looking nice!

In German restaurants and bakeries they always offer whipped cream on it, but I like it best with fresh fruit like strawberries or peaches and a bit of jam melted and drizzled on it decoratively.

Authentic German Cake

1 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons white flour
16 oz. cottage cheese 
16 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 medium eggs
1 to 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I prefer 1)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom of 9 inch springform pan. Mix together dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat together cream cheese and cottage cheese with an electric mixer until smooth and somewhat fluffy. (I prefer using the "wire whisk" beater on my mixer.) Add the softened butter and beat well. Add sugar mixture 1/4 cup at a time, blending well and scraping down bowl after each addition. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.

Pour batter into springform pan and bake for 70 minutes. Turn off oven and let the cheesecake rest in the oven with the door closed for 2 hours. Remove and cool completely on wire rack. Chill tightly covered for at least 4 hours or overnight.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

I accidentally left my oven on a bit longer than indicated.
Your cheesecake will not be quite so dark. But this was still delicious! 

This cake will keep in the refrigerator at least a week, if you can keep it from being eaten that long! Enjoy it and say "Danke schön" to the Germans for coming up with the delicious recipe!

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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space on the right side of the blog, below the picture of the book. Each week you will receive one email that looks like this:

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For More Ideas and Inspiration:

Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book!

Linking with these great blogs. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

To Talk or To Serve?

There were at least three conversations going on at all times around my table. My husband, daughter, and I had invited a missionary couple to Japan over for dinner. Along with them were their two sons, four and two years old, her parents, who attend our local church, and a good friend and mentee of mine.

Apparently I had succeeded in putting together one of those groups that clicks, where the conversation just rolled along without any help. I contributed nothing, or at least very little. 

I'll admit that there were times when I wanted to say something or ask a question, because, you know, what I have to say is interesting and maybe even wise  (smile), but I just couldn't get it in.  As I got up to replenish one of the serving dishes and turn on the coffeemaker, I felt a little frustrated. But then I thought some more.

My goal for hospitality is to give comfort and refreshment, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I want people to leave my house feeling glad they came, to be a bit more relaxed, to have enjoyed themselves, and to want to know God better. To do that, I don't necessarily have to talk, but I do need to serve.

Since I didn't have to carry the conversation that night, I was free to serve. I could get up and clear the table and serve the dessert and coffee without really being missed. 

I don't want to be invisible, but I don't want to be the focus either. When I invite people into my home I want to see what I can do for them, not what they can do for me. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this. Sometimes I need prodding to follow the example of my master and be the servant of all. 

In other words, I don't entertain guests, I practice hospitality.

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Recently I was "grilled" for another blog. I had fun being interviewed about being a grandma! You know, sometimes I still wonder how I got to this stage of life so quickly! Me?  A Grandma? Really?! It comes so much faster than we think. I'm so thankful for the time I spent with my children when they were younger and, yes, you know I'll say it...for the time we spent around the table daily.

grilled grandma
How many children do you have?
We have 4 children ranging from 22-31; boy, girl, boy, girl; my plan was to have my children 2-3 years apart but God had other plans. They are 3.5 years, 8 months (one is adopted!), and 4.5 years. I always say if you add them up and divide, you get my original timetable!

How many grandchildren? What are their ages?

We have 4 grandchildren and two on the way. This year we are doubling the number and my oldest son no longer has the corner on the market. Three (soon to be four) live three hours away, one lives in town, and one will be in Germany.

Any great grandchildren?
The oldest grand is 5, and we’re still filling the basket with grands…great grands will be here before we know it, though!

What do your grandchildren call you?

The two who can talk say “Grandma” (and “Grandpa”) but...

To continue reading this post click here!

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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space on the right side of the blog, below the picture of the book. Each week you will receive one email that looks like this:

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It's as easy as that. No searching for the blog, waiting for your browser, or missing a post. Sign up today!

For More Ideas and Inspiration:

Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book!

Linking with these great blogs. 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

When is Monday better than Friday?

When my children were young I used to put a little note in their lunch every day. How I had the time and energy, I do not know! But I do remember that coming up with something to say every day was a challenge. 

Photo Credit

I could tell them I was praying for their test on the days they had tests. I could praise their hard work when they had been diligent doing homework the night before (actually, that night as I made their lunches the night before). I could send them a joke about once a week. Sometimes I sent a reminder about a question for the teacher or a paper to be turned into the office. But on Mondays I always wrote:

I did that because I was always excited to start a new week, to see what would be in the week. To see what God would do. To learn, plan, or do something new! Weekends are fun--and necessary--but real life is mostly what happens Monday through Friday. I wanted them to learn to appreciate the daily life that isn't necessarily what we want to do, but it is life. And when we have an expectant attitude we can learn.

So, is that when Monday is better than Friday? No, that's not what I meant completely.

You see, Friday is only two days away from Sunday and there's not a lot of time to plan for this most important day of the week. 
  • If you want clean clothes for church on Sunday, don't wait till Saturday night. 
  • If you teach a Sunday School class, preparations can't begin on Friday.
  •  If you want a special Sunday "dinner" (the midday meal), Friday isn't the best day to plan it.
  • If you are looking for volunteers for the church nursery, you'd better start calling earlier in the week.
  • If you want to truly worship God from your whole heart, you need to be talking to Him all seven days.
Monday is better than Friday because you have time to plan ahead, for the whole week and for Sunday.

photo credit

In fact, I think working backwards is the best way to get ready for Sunday, or any day! 

How do you work backwards? You calculate how much time you need to be ready for anything and subtract it from the time you need to be there. Let's use church as an example:

  • 9:30 a.m. Church starts; it takes 15 minutes to get in the car, drive, park and get inside, plus you don't want to walk in as the service starts so allow 5 minutes to say hello to people, get your bulletin and sit down that means at...
  • 9:10 Leave for church; it takes 30 minutes to make and eat breakfast and clean up so...
  • 8:40 Begin making breakfast; you need 30 minutes to shower, dress, do hair and make up and 30 minutes to dress the children therefore..
  • 7:40 Someone has to start getting dressed; you take 20 minutes to drink your second cup of coffee and read a devotional to prepare your heart so don't miss...
  • 7:20 Devotions; you take 20 minutes to drink your first cup of coffee and read the paper, that means...
    Photo Credit
  • 7:10 Read paper; you take 10 minutes just to wake up and get the coffee and paper so be sure to have a...
  • 7:00 a.m. Alarm set; (or earlier if you want to leave some wiggle room for unplanned events!) you need 8 hours of sleep, so you need to...
  • 11:00 p.m. lights out.
But this only works if you have already worked backwards the night before or earlier in the week. What will you wear? What will your kids wear? Is it clean? Ironed? Are both shoes together? What is for breakfast? Do you have a menu planned? (Cereal and milk that you know you have on hand is a planned menu.)

I work a little further backwards as I always have four generations over for Sunday "dinner" so I either need to get up a little earlier or put everything in the slow-cooker the night before. Sometimes I even have the leaves in the table and once in a while I follow my mother's example of having the table set on Saturday night. (But she did have a dining room table and a kitchen table and I only have one.)

Working backwards works for everything you need to do. If you allow enough time, you are never rushing out the door at the last minute and driving too fast and recklessly to get somewhere out of breath and in a fluster having left your lunch and phone sitting on the counter!

I wish I could say that I always work backwards like clockwork, but I don't . However, whenever I do, things go so much more smoothly. So when I do laundry on Monday so that I will have clean clothes on Sunday, that's when Monday is better than Friday.

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New Look
Did you notice the new look of my blog? My son helped me set it up to look less cluttered and more modern. I'm excited about the look and the change! I feel like it has given me a fresh set of ideas so keep coming back to read and tell your friends about it. I want to inspire you to have more happy, connected family time. If you have ideas, or even want to write for this blog, please let me know!

In case you forgot what the original design looked like here's the only copy!

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How about "pinning" this post to your Pinterest page?

Linking with these great blogs. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Encouragement and a {Slightly} New Direction

In March, I was facing being gone for three weeks (that was not hard!) and needing to write posts ahead for my blog. I had very few ideas and little time to get it done. Suddenly it loomed ahead of me like a mountain to be scaled and I got discouraged.

Rather than half heartedly doing a few posts, I decided to just be honest. I can see how many are reading my blogs and there are about 100 per post. (A couple of posts have practically gone viral like this one with twenty questions for married couples that has had 29,000 views and been pinned on Pinterest over 7000 times!) But I was wondering if I was helping anyone, causing anyone to think through things, inspiring anyone to show love to their family through family meals, devotions, chores, manners, hospitality, and conversation? So I decided to ask.

A few people answered. Here's a sampling:

Definitely forgiven, Kim!
(And if you want to receive my blog posts by email, just sign up a little up and to the right of here. They come right to your inbox, no searching, waiting for the page to load, and you can cancel at any time.)

Thanks, Anna. Those are the areas I have been trying to integrate into the blog, although some posts focus on just one of those areas.

Mitti, it's so encouraging to know that you didn't just think about it, but actually tried my ideas.

I love writing. I've loved having a "platform" for my ideas and thoughts and I plan to keep it up. 

One of my "problems" with writing about family mealtimes is I no longer have kids at home. (Well, one is back from finishing college and I'm in no rush to see her move out, but she is looking at apartments.) So I no longer have two, three, or four children at home, around my table at mealtimes like I did for so many years. So I don't have the stories that come with that. And I can't remember more than the ones I've already written about. That's where I would love some help from you. If you have children at home, I'd love to publish your stories in my blog. Just tell what happened at dinner one night! Here are my guidelines for writing a post.

Along with that, since I don't have new stories to tell, I thought that I would make some slight changes in the blog. 
  • Look for a new look! Coming soon we'll update the look and make it easier to read.
  • Around the Table! I will be sharing with you as though you were sitting with me at my table
    • devotional thoughts
    • ideas for meals
    • new recipes
    • questions I'm thinking through
    • what God is teaching me
I don't want it to be all about me, though. I want to keep that focus of integrating faith, family, friends, and food (and conversation!) We can say "fellowship" to keep it with "f's"! :-) So I want you to help. If you write to me with...
  • your ideas, 
  • your thoughts, 
  • your suggestions, 
  • your questions
...we'll have more to talk about! You can always leave a comment below or you can write directly to me through this link. I'd love to hear from you!

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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space on the right side of the blog, below the picture of the book. Each week you will receive one email that looks like this:

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It's as easy as that. No searching for the blog, waiting for your browser, or missing a post. Sign up today!

For More Ideas and Inspiration:

Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book!

**Please like the Around the Table Facebook page and tell a friend about this blog!**

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Middle Eastern Hospitality

When we arrived we were weary. A three day conference held in Arabic with a translator sitting behind us...most of the day in a an old Hyundai with five adults...sightseeing around ruins that involved a couple hours of walking...a huge and delicious lunch of mansaf (a typical Jordanian meal of lamb, yogurt, and rice) at 4pm...watching a sandstorm move across the Jordan River valley at sunset...and the fact that it was after 10 pm all contributed. Now we were delivered to the home of a German woman we had only met for a few minutes the day before. At her house our group--a Dutch couple, our Jordanian friend cum tourist guide, and my husband and I -- found a Jordanian man, an Algerian man, and a German man as well as our hostess.

Our friend left to retrieve our luggage which had been delivered elsewhere and we were offered some ginger-lemon tea. Discussions were going on in four languages, but we were the only ones who always were speaking in our first language, because we don’t speak Arabic, German, or French!


Our friend arrived with our suitcases and plastic bags full of lamb filled pita bread, hummus, eggplant hummus, pickled cucumbers, carrots and turnips, yogurt, and more pita bread. We didn’t need to eat anything, but we did because it was all so good.


Our hostess showed us to our room where we found two large twin beds pushed next to each other. There was a pile of towels in the bathroom to choose from and a hot shower to get the ancient dust from the the fascinating, column lined Roman city of Jerash off our bodies.

The next morning our hostess had to be at a meeting at 7:30 am so we wandered out and found our own breakfast amid the clutter of pita breads, apples and oranges, hummus from the night before in the fridge, spicy olives, tasty cherry tomatoes, and large slices of cucumber and pepper. Not your average Kellog's breakfast, but one I enjoyed greatly.

We had friends from South America, who now lived here, arriving to pick us up for most of the day so we left after putting a load of laundry in the machine and hanging it on the rack on the balcony to dry in the dry Jordanian air.

That night we came back and attended meeting at the local church with new and old friends. It is amazing how other believers are instant friends, even when you can't hold a conversation with them. Once again we were invited out for a delicious supper of Middle Eastern food. 

During the day our hostess had called the bus company for us and organized our trip to Petra, the city carved into red stone cliff faces 2000+ years ago. We had to be at the bus station at 6 and our Dutch friends had to be at the airport at 5 a.m. “No problem!” sang out our hostess, even though we got to bed just after midnight.

The next morning she was cheerful as she drove us to the bus station and made sure we had everything we needed including her extra cellphone so we could call her when we were on our way home.

Four hours in the bus through the desert made us grateful for air-conditioning and a bathroom break. We would not have made good Israelites wandering in the wilderness. We had 7 hours to wander through Petra, absolutely fascinating to see the city carved into the cliff faces. One of the places people should visit! Then four hours home. Our phone didn't have any minutes left on it and the bus was going to be 2 hours later than she thought. But when she called to find out she sang out, "No problem. I will call again when you are closer to make sure of the time."

She picked us up after 9 pm and took us home for a delicious fruit salad and tea. Our other friends called and asked if they could come to say goodbye, she made sure they understood we did not want to be up too late. They came and we had our last hugs, received Arabic sweets, and were told that a man from the local church would be taking us to the airport the next day because all of them had to be at work.. He didn't speak English, but knew what to do and they had already paid him.

I had heard about Middle Eastern hospitality, but now I had experienced it. I no longer wonder why Abraham insisted the angels wait while he killed a calf and roasted it. Time, generosity, and their own convenience are not what is important to them.

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Watch here next week as we see some changes to this space. I hope that I will be able to continue to encourage you in following Christ, in your home, around your table, among your family, and with your life.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Taking a Break

Jim and I will be traveling for four weeks and I have lost some of my motivation for writing this blog. I love having a place to express myself, but, except for a few posts, I wonder if it is making any difference and if this is how I should be spending my time and limited energy. I always wanted to have a "column" and this has sort of been it, but with the lack of response and my energy/motivation down...well. I won't be writing at least until May. 

If you have enjoyed these posts and want to hear more from me, please write to me and let me know. You can tell me what you'd like to hear more about as well. Your letter can make a difference to me.


Friday, March 18, 2016

The Real Meaning of Easter Ideas

When I was in first grade our teacher assigned us to write about Christmas. I wrote that Christmas was when Jesus was born. That was probably the whole "essay"--it was first grade, remember? 

The comments my public school teacher made on that paper led us to find out that she was a Christian. 

Spring came and she asked us to write about Easter. I wrote that it was about dyeing eggs, bunnies, flowers, and candy. Oops!

My teacher and my mom were friends by then and Miss Cleaveland mentioned it to my mother who set about finding ways to help me understand the true meaning of Easter.

As a result, when my oldest son was 3 I decided to create an 8 day Easter devotional to do together. Twenty-seven years later, we still use it with our kids and, when they are around, our grandchildren.

My Easter devotion is pretty easy to copy and I have instructions in my book, "Around the Table".

Here are some other ideas to allow Easter to draw you and your family closer to the Lord.

  • Start a family Easter week tradition. How about having any member of the family say something and the rest respond. Some possibilities:
    • Caller: "Attitude check!" Response: "Praise the Lord!"
    • Caller: "Resurrection Practice!" Response: Everyone jumps in the air. (Warning, do not try this at the table or in a car!)
    • Caller: "He is Risen!" Response: "He is Risen Indeed!"
  • Pick a person, any person involved in the first Easter and learn all you can about them. One year I took a deeper look at Mary Magdalene and then I spoke in character and costume at our ladies' meeting telling her testimony from from former life through conversion to the empty tomb. I found it incredibly moving. Wouldn't your kids love getting into the act?

  • Memorize a hymn (or several hymns) that have to do with Christ's resurrection. Sing them with your family, even if you don't have the best voices. We certainly don't, but our kids really belted them out when they were small! Some of our favorites:
    • He Lives
    • Christ Arose
    • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
    • Because He Lives
    • I Know that My Redeemer Lives

  • Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-20 together. Ask some discussion questions like:
    • Of what three things did Paul want the Corinthians to be convinced?
    • What proof did he give of the resurrection?
    • How many people would have to tell you they saw something amazing before you would believe it was true?
    • How many eyewitnesses does Paul say there were to Jesus' resurrection?
    • In what ways do you depend on Jesus' resurrection being true?
    • How would your life be different if it weren't true?
  • Make "Empty Tomb Cookies" with your children on the Saturday night before Easter.
    • Visit The Garden Tomb website and read some of the articles under the link "About". Look at the photos in the "Galleries" link. Whether this is the true site of Jesus' tomb or not, the thing that is true is the tomb is empty!

    That's what our tour guide told us when we had the opportunity to visit on a ministry trip to Israel. "Now you will discover that you have come all this way to see...nothing. Because the tomb is empty!" The Tongans whose group we had joined erupted in a chorus of "Amen! Amen! Praise the Lord! Amen!" 

    And that's the reason for Easter. Talk about it around your table the next couple of weeks.

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    Remember to like the Around the Table Facebook page to get a conversation starter for your dinner tonight!

    Linking with these great blogs. 


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