Gramma’s Blueberry Cheesecake Squares

blueberry-cheesecake-squares

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup plus 2 Tbls flour, divided
  • 1/3 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 Cup Unsalted butter, cut into small pieces & softened
  • 8 Ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 Tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tsp vanilla extract (pure…never imitation)
  • 3/4 Cup blueberry preserves
  • 3/4 Cup fresh picked blueberries

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 13×9″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray
  • Combine 1 cup flour with the brown sugar using a fork or pastry blender
  • Add the butter and blend until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  • Pat evenly in pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and place on rack
  • In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar with a blender until smooth.  Add the remaining 2 Tbls flour, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla.  Beat well together
  • Spread over the baked crust
  • Gently combine the fresh blueberries with the preserves. Drop spoon fulls over the top and with the back of the spoon…lightly swirl
  • Bake 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the door a few inches and let the cake cool for 10 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and place on rack

Cut with a wet knife and enjoy!

Skål

Memories…

For years, we drove to Upstate New York to spend Christmas with family. When she was in junior high, my daughter expressed the desire to stay home stating she wanted to wake up in her own bed Christmas morning. 

Sadly, later that same year her Grandmother passed.

Mom had bravely survived lymphoma cancer and two strokes, but she just couldn’t fight the fatal staphylococal sepsis she contracted during a recent hospital stay while recovering from a stroke.  The staph infection had invaded her blood and was quickly spreading.

It’s not how much time you spend…it’s how you spend the time.

I called her every day and we had great conversations on the phone…at least twice, sometimes three if she was up to it; and I always called at 7:30 to say “Goodnight, Mummy”.

Mom loved the fact that her granddaughter took after her and played the game of golf.  That summer as my daughter played on the NH Junior Open Tour, Mom couldn’t wait to get daily updates on tournament results and always had bits of wisdom and advice I was to pass along.

We’d talk about everything and anything…especially the past, for that is what she remembered most clearly and it made her happy.  Mom talked about past events in great detail…right down to the smells, the outfits people wore, the weather on that particular day. We’d laugh and reminisce.  Me… as the child remembering a long forgotten day.  Me… getting even closer to my mother on a different level and Mom, speaking as though, for that brief moment…it was yesterday.

I listened to her memories…and how she met my dad.

It was the year 1942.  My dad was enlisted in the US Navy and proudly served with the Seabees.  Severely injured during the battle of the Aleutian Islands, he was flown to a Boston hospital to recover and be near his parents. The young and pretty registered nurse assigned to him…my future mother.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Over the years Dad loved to joke about how he met his wife in bed. haha

Many times, she spoke and I just listened…doing my best to embed the sound of her voice in my memory so deep as to never forget.  She talked about her favorite things and places…the family’s summer home on Cape Cod, the grass tennis court in the backyard where she played most every day and the lake house in Upstate New York that she built with my dad when I was a child. 

Emily Post…tap dance lessons, swim lessons, ballroom dance lessons, sewing classes, more swim lessons, boating/sailing lessons, early morning ski trips and lessons, Brownies, Girl Scouts, Clarinet and piano lessons, band, marching band, ice skating, Triangle, Youth Fellowship at the church…and that was just me.  Mom urged all 6 of us kids to be the best at whatever we did and she did her best to carve each of us into well rounded, successful adults.

She taught me great values, high standards, strong morals and the belief in principles and standing up for those principles; all which I carry with me today. She taught me the importance of possessing a strong ethical compass.

During the last year when she was ill, we drove to NY as often as we could.  When she was admitted to the hospital, we made day trips driving 4 hours up and 4 hours back. During the month before she passed, I “talked” to my dad every day.  I fell asleep at night quietly talking to him, asking him to watch over her so she would not be alone or afraid.

During one of our last visits at the hospital, Mom was quietly napping and suddenly opened her eyes as if awakened by something.  I watched as she turned her head toward the door at the opposite side of the room.  Her eyes brightened and a faint smile crossed her tired face.  She smiled that smile you give when seeing that old familiar face of someone you love; as though she saw Dad standing in the doorway.  Of course I saw nothing, but as I think back…he was there.

It was December 13th and it had become increasingly difficult for Mom to answer the phone by herself.  My calls were directed to the nurses’ station on her floor and as I waited on hold while someone walked to her room, picked up the phone and held it to her ear, I listened to taped Christmas music.  This always took several minutes and I patiently waited listening to one Christmas song after another.  That is, until one morning “Stars and Stripes Forever” suddenly came on and took me by complete surprise.

You see, when in high school, I played 2nd clarinet in the Senior band. Dad proudly taped and narrated each concert and later that evening we’d gather around to listen. One of his favorite pieces the band performed was “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philips Sousa. Dad loved that piece, especially the piccolo solo, played beautifully by the son of one of his patients.  So…when I heard it in the midst of all the Christmas music…I knew.

I knew it was my dad getting my attention…it was him with a message.  So, I listened and thought of him watching over Mom.  The very next song I heard was “I’ll be Home for Christmas”.

And she was…at home with him…for Christmas.  It was December 20th.

The night before her funeral, I tossed and turned and just couldn’t sleep.  I quietly crept downstairs, poured myself a glass of chilled Chardonnay and started to write.

I wrote my mother’s eulogy sharing special memories of mine.  I told the story of how my sister and I made pasta necklaces for her when we were small.  During the winter months when we didn’t go skiing or drive up to the lake house for a weekend of ice skating, Mom and Dad got dressed up and dined and danced at the Country Club where they were members.  Dad would be in his usual charcoal colored suit, starched dress shirt and bow tie and Mom always looked beautiful in a poufy dress, high heels, hair perfectly done, red lipstick, manicured nails and of course, her signature Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Reminding us to behave for the sitter, Mom gave us telltale “lipstick” kisses on our cheeks. Around her neck was the pasta necklace we made earlier that day.  As soon as she was in the car she would carefully remove it, replacing it with one of her own…but we never saw that…and assumed she wore our pasta necklace all evening.

So, as I recanted this sweet memory and other memories of growing up with Mom, I did my best to hold back the tears. Glancing around the room making eye contact with those present, I observed the tear stained faces of the family left behind.

The bond that had kept us all connected was now broken.  So, this was a farewell in many respects for a few of us unless we could find a different kind of glue to hold that bond together.

In closing, I did not say goodbye…for she will always be with me.  She appeared to be in a peaceful, pain-free sleep.  I placed a small present beside her containing one last pasta necklace that I made in the wee hours of that morning; a red lipstick, as she never left the house without one; a deck of playing cards because I knew there was an empty chair waiting for her at a bridge table…and, of course, the blanket I brought to a cold hospital room so many months earlier to keep her warm.  I tucked it around her so she would always be surrounded by warmth.

The waves of sorrow had just begun.

Ahh yes, memories…

Skål

Please click here to read “What are the Best Foods to Eat? Part 6″ where I discuss the many health benefits of blueberries and offer other suggestions and ideas.  Please leave your comments and feedback below.  Does a special recipe of yours bring back sweet childhood memories? 


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