Five years ago I was asked to write the column that now fills this space. Knowing there are 52 weeks in a year and allowing for a few odd weeks off for vacations and the like, I figure I have written about 250 columns. A nice round number. That seems like enough to me. This will be my last piece written for the Free Press.

Over the past month or so, I have been debating with myself over the idea of quitting and have finally come to the conclusion that I can’t seem to justify the time and energy it takes to make this column work.

I thought and I prayed and I talked it over with Keith and I waited patiently for that justification to appear. But it never showed up.

So, I’m led to believe that ending the column is what I should be doing. Now, instead of spending my Sunday evenings hidden away in the den typing away on the computer, I’ll be able to spend more time with my family. Or perhaps I’ll be able to catch up on some of the reading that is piled up on my bedroom nightstand.

I might even pluck my eyebrows, a task that seems to get away from me more often than not. Though I have found that if one wears her bangs long enough, it’s not so noticeable if the plucking doesn’t happen on a weekly basis.

At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

But even though I think I’m doing what is right for my family and me, I do have a few regrets. I’ll miss the Free Press staff and I’ll miss schmoozing with Paul Penner at the annual Christmas party.

Schmoozing, that’s only chatting, you know. Although, come to think of it, Paul did give me a rather titillating Christmas gift one year.

And even as I write this, I’m looking at a collection of Post-it Notes stuck to the side of my computer monitor. They’re reminders of what I call “column material”; topics that I thought might turn into an interesting essay.

There’s a reference to a send-ip on how Martha Stewart would decorate a jail cell should the need arise, and there’s a sticky note with the words “the dark side of living in a small town.”

“Coaching: The good, the bad and the ugly” is scribbled across one piece of paper and “lame fly-in-my-soup jokes” is written across another

And I always wanted to write a column about the nauseating new trend in Protestant churches, which lends itself to neon lighting, coffee bars and stadium seating.

“Vogt’s IGA.” Even as I toss that note into the trash, I look forward to the time when the Vogt family will open its new grocery store. I was just commiserating with Todd Vogt over some delays they are experiencing, but soon things will be back on track and I wish them well in their newest endeavor.

And here, lying by my keyboard is a delightful letter from Steve in Riverside, Calif. He’s considering a move to Hillsboro. I had considered answering his letter via this column. Now I’ll write him a letter instead.

I’ll have time to do that now.

So, this is it. Farewell. I won’t say good-bye because I hope to see you out and about in our community. Thank you. I’ve enjoyed bantering with you and hearing your comments in return. God bless.

* * *

This is the recipe that got me into catering so long ago. I had made this cheesecake for a Christmas party we had in our home, and requests for the dessert started flooding in. I started making the cakes for others and then before I knew it, I was preparing dinners for 300 guests.

I’ve kept this recipe pretty much to myself, sharing only it with a few special people. Now, as a parting gift, I share it with you. I hope it serves you-and your guests-well.

* * *

Cheryl’s cheesecake

— Crust:

11/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup ground walnuts

3 Tbs. butter, melted

Mix together and press into the bottom of a buttered 9-inch springform pan.

— Filling:

4 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

4 eggs

11/4 cup sugar

3 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)

With a mixer or in a food processor, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until the mixture is silky and glossy. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Top will crack. Cool for 10 minutes.

— Topping

11/4 cup dairy sour cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix topping together and allow to sit for five minutes. Carefully spoon over top of hot cheesecake and return to the oven for seven to 10 minutes.

Refrigerate cheesecake and allow at least 24 hours to pass before cutting. This cheesecake is at its best three days after preparation. Top with fruit if desired.

— Variations:

Chocolate crust: omit the walnuts and substitute 11/2 cups of crushed Oreo cookies.

Omit the lemon juice, zest and sour cream topping and make these variations

Praline: stir in some Heath bits into the filling, swirl caramel ice cream topping through filling. and then top with pecan halves

Cookies and Cream: add broken Oreo cookies to the filling and top with crush cookie crumbs

Chocolate: add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of melted chocolate (any good chocolate will do, either dark or milk) to the filling while still in the mixing stage. Be sure to add the chocolate a little at a time. Add about 1/4 cup of cream to the mixture as well

EDITOR’S NOTE: Words can’t describe the appreciation we have for Cheryl’s contributions to the Free Press since we started this newspaper in 1998. Her column has attracted a loyal following over the years, and it will be sorely missed by those who turn to her essays week after week. Beyond her column, Cheryl has been our unoffficial “foods editor,” helping us find some of the great cooks in Marion County for our annual Holiday Cookbook each fall. And she’s always been one of our greatest cheerleaders.

Thanks for a job well done.

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