I love reading food blogs and the personal stories that come from them. And one thing that never fails to make an impression on me is to read how a food blogger’s love of cooking or baking was influenced by growing up and cooking or baking alongside a loved one.
I dreamed of being able to bake with my mom. But like many immigrant parents of her generation, my mom worked long hours outside the home. Being a nurse on the swing shift which meant I rarely got to see her aside from her dropping us off at school or driving us to the baby sitter’s before she sped off to work after school. During her precious time off, cooking was the not high on her priority list. Instead, she spent her time making sure we were enriched with the few extracurricular activities our family could afford.
I know that my mom wanted to be home to make memories with us; she mentioned it often. But the reality of life as a working class immigrant: often means puting aside what you really want in life to make sure that your kids have a better opportunity than you did.
Being the spoiled child that I was, I never fully understood this feeling until I became a mother myself. When I became a stay at home mom to The Little Empress (TLE), my mother was beside herself with happiness. It wasn’t until I sat down and thought about it that I realized what it meant to her for me to be a SAHM. I got to fulfill the dream that she had, to stay home with her daughters and be there for everything.
When my daughter was born, one of the things that I swore to myself that I would do is to give her good memories of being in the kitchen with Mommy. I looked forward to her growing up so that we could cook together and hopefully, through those memories, help show her how food can be a language of love.
This is one of the many reasons I try not to take my being a stay at home mom for granted, to know that I am living the dream not just for my daughter, not just for myself, but for my mother as well. Every day is the opportunity I have to make memories with my daughter in a way that my mother wanted.
Baking is one of those activities that I always dreamed of doing with my mother but never got the oppportunity. So I have baked with TLE ever since she was old enough to stand at the counter. We’ve used a Learning Tower when she was about 14 months old. It’s rated for 18 months and older but she had taken to it so well early on that we just let her use it. (Always with supervision!) More than three years later, it’s still one of the best kids items we’ve ever purchased and I highly recommend it to anyone with small children.
When she was really little, we would make a lot of stuff out of mixes. I know that mixes get a bad rap bya lot of folks, particularly by foodie parents who may scoff at the idea of starting their little ones out on processed foods. (OH NOES! TEH HORROR! Y U NO EAT BETTR?)
Don’t get me wrong: I adore cooking from scratch and feeding my kid things that I can pronounce. But when TLE was a toddler, it was more important for me to make memories than make food. And if that meant using the convenience of a mix to simplify the baking process so that it was enjoyable to a fickle toddler with an atrociously short attention span, I was glad to do it.
Now that she is older and more easily engaged, we’re slowly moving to more complicated recipes like this pumpkin Biscoff cheesecake. As she grows and learns more, she gets more involved in all aspects as baking. At first she was just dumping and stirring. Then we moved on to things like preparing pans — toddler fingers greasing a pan is always a hit! — or counting out cupcake liners.
These days, I have her help with the mise en place. We get to talk about the ingredients, what the individual parts taste like, and what she thinks they will taste like when you put it all together. Plus there’s a bunch of great real life math lessons involved: counting, measuring, etc.
I can only hope that our baking sessions will be seared into her memory. I know that they are forever in my own.
Here is my little helper in an outtake photobombing the Biscoff product shots!
Here is TLE carefully pressing the Biscoff crumbs in nice and evenly to make the crumb crust. (You can see part of the Learning Tower behind her.)
Pumpkin Biscoff Cheesecake
Combining seasonal favorite pumpkin with the caramelized, slightly spicy goodness of Biscoff cookies, this is a great fall cheesecake for any occasion.
- 1 package Biscoff cookies (8.8 oz)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 packages cream cheese (8oz each)
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Biscoff Spread
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
Crush Biscoff cookies into fine crumbs and mix together with melted butter.
Press crumb and butter mixture into a 9" pie pan
Bake crust in a preheated 350F for 5 minutes. Remove from oven while you work on the filling.
Combine cream cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and spices and mix together until well blended.
Divide cream cheese batter evenly between two bowls.
Add pumpkin puree into one of the bowl of cream cheese batter, mixing well until the pumpkin is evenly distributed.
Add 1/2 cup of Biscoff spread into other bowl of cream cheese batter, mixing well to distribute evenly distributed.
Pour most of the pumpkin batter into the prepared cookie crust, reserving about 1/4 cup before pouring the Biscoff batter on top of the pumpkin batter.
Dollop the reserved pumpkin batter and Biscoff spread onto the top and then swirl with a tooth pick or the tip of a knife.
Bake the cheesecake in a preheated 350F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the center is set.
Remove from oven and cool on counter top for one hour before placing in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.