Friday, May 9, 2014

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar and Cherry-O Cheesecake

I see the Bluebirds are back and busy making their nests in all the birdhouses around the yard. My father-in-law made all of our's and they are beginning to show their age. Birds aren't too picky about the condition of the house, but it needs to be free of last years' nest and have a good roof that will keep the eggs and mama dry while she's setting. Think about location when you place a birdhouse, a secluded area at the edge of your yard is perfect. Depending on where you live, consider the sun and whether it will warm the birdhouse on chilly mornings or be too hot for the new family growing inside. We keep our feeders up year round, it's fun to watch the many beautiful birds throughout the year.

It's time to put the hummingbird feeders out again. I love watching the little hummers each morning as they crowd the feeder that hangs just outside our kitchen window! They arrive in the South as early as March. You can see where they are right now by looking at the map here.

Hummingbird Nectar:
1 part white cane sugar
4 parts water
Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This is the best recipe since it closely resembles the nectar of many wildflowers. Don't try to use honey or brown sugar and it's not necessary to use red food coloring to attact the birds. Keep the feeder clean, wash out with hot water- no soap- each time you refill.

                       In the kitchen this week, Grandson Gavin's favorite...

Cherry-O Cheesecake
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8 or 9-inch) prepared graham cracker or baked pie crust
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling, chilled
BEAT cream cheese until fluffy in large bowl. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
POUR into crust; chill 4 hours or until set. Top with desired amount of cherry pie filling before serving.

BLUEBERRY: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in medium bowl; mix well. Add 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice then 2 cup fresh or dry-pack frozen blueberries, thawed; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes or until thick and clear. Cool 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool 15 minutes. Spread over pie. Chill thoroughly.
CRANBERRY: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/3 cups sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water and 2 cups fresh or dry-pack frozen cranberries; mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Spread over pie. Chill thoroughly.
FRESH FRUIT: Omit cherry pie filling. Just before serving, arrange well-drained fresh strawberries, banana slices (dipped in lemon juice and well drained) and blueberries on top of chilled pie. Brush fruit with light corn syrup if desired.
AMBROSIA: Omit cherry pie filling. Combine 1/2 cup Smucker's® Peach or Apricot Preserves, 1/4 cup flaked coconut, 2 tablespoons orange juice and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in small saucepan; cook and stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Arrange fresh orange sections over top of pie; top with coconut mixture. Chill thoroughly.

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