PFB Entry #1: An Introduction on My 26th Birthday

I can’t imagine a better way to introduce myself in this first entry for the Project Food Blog competition than to start with a story from the early months of my life.  It’s one that my parents always share with me whenever we talk about my love for food and cooking.  And given that today I am celebrating my 26th birthday, I want to share it with all of you.
The story begins in an apartment in Queens, New York, in 1984, just a few short months after I was born.  It had been a trying day for my parents.  Whatever they did, no matter how many bottles they fed me, I  howled for more.  As time went on, my mother knew that something was wrong.  So, she called my grandfather, a pediatrician in New Jersey. 

“I keep feeding him and all he wants is more.  I don’t know what to do.  I think he needs solids.”

“He’s only three months old, it’s too soon to give him solid foods,” He assured her.  “Just wait it out, I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

The following weekend, my parents went away on an overnight getaway and left my older sister and me with our grandparents.  When they returned the next morning to pick me up, they found my grandfather waiting at the end of the driveway, holding me up at them. 

“Give the kid food!”

I like to think that this was my way of saying that I was ready to start my culinary journey.  Formula wasn’t enough for me… give me the real stuff. 

Since my childhood, I have not only been a voracious eater, but I have always been curious about the process of cooking.  Some of my fondest memories, at least the ones that have stuck with me the most, take place in the kitchen; not only eating, but watching my parents prepare meals for us.  The food was rarely elaborate, though it was always diverse.  Observing them, absorbing their technique, is what ignited this passion in me.

There isn’t a very good way for me to segue into this recipe for cheesecake, only to say that cheesecake is my favorite food in the world.  Surprisingly, this is only my second time making it.  But there’s a reason for that.

Why, you may be wondering?  Well, because I’m terribly afraid that I’m going to eat every last bite of it… in one sitting.  There are some things I just can’t resist.  And this is one of them.

But because today is my birthday, I think it’s ok for me to indulge in something decadent.  And the fact that it is completely homemade (check out my post on homemade ricotta from earlier this week), I feel like I’ve done the work that deserves a slice… or two… or three.  Or I’ll just eat the whole thing.

In case you are wondering, the Project Food Blog competitionis the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on for one year.”

Close to 2,000 food bloggers will be taking part in this first round of entries and they will be voted on by other Foodbuzz Featured Publishers and a panel of judges: Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food and Wine Magazine, Nancy Silverton, Founder La Brea Bakery and co-owner of Mozza, and Pim Techamuanvivit, author of and The Foodie Handbook.  Voting will also be open to the public, but you must be registered with (though you don’t have to have a blog to do so).

I’m excited to see how far I go with Project Food Blog (click here to view my profile).  All I can tell you is this, I love the role that food has played in my life.  Sometimes, it’s a challenging process, but it is always educational.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me and happy cooking!

Ricotta Cheesecake 

Serves 6 to 8 
Active time:15 min
Start to finish:2 3/4 hr (includes cooling) 

3 tablespoons finely crushed amaretti (crisp Italian macaroons) or plain fine dry bread crumbs 
2 lb fresh ricotta at room temperature 30 minutes 
6 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest 
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

8-inch springform pan 

Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in lower third.

Lightly butter pan and coat with cookie crumbs, leaving any loose crumbs distributed over bottom of pan.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into crust.

Bake until puffed and golden but center is still slightly wobbly, about 1 1/2 hours.

Cool in pan on a rack (cake will sink a little).  Serve cheesecake warm or at room temperature.

  • September 15, 2010 - 10:24 am

    Jackie - Lovely entry Brian and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You may be a fellow competitor but you're a friend first and I'm definitely rooting for you 😉

    Also, I'm the same as you – I was weaned off breast milk and onto chicken soup. True story.

    Jax xReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 10:34 am

    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite - Happy Birthday! Lovely post :-) Good luck to you my friend!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 10:47 am

    Shea M. @ Blissfully Unrefined - That cake sounds so lovely – I love ricotta cheesecake! Eat an extra slice for me (I didn't end up having any cake on my birthday 2 weeks ago – went to a whiskey tasting though…). Good luck with PFB, I know you'll be stiff competition!

    Anyway, hope you have a fabulous birthday – 26 doesn't seem like it will be as hard as I thought 😉ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:00 am

    Baker Street - Lovely post Bri! Happy Birthday! xxReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:16 am

    Foodiva - Happy 26th birthday! Love your wonderful 1st challenge post, and the images of that cheesecake. Best of luck to you in PFB!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:36 am

    Leinana - Happy birthday Brian! Cheesecake is my favorite too – you deserve to eat as much as you want today! And best of luck in the competition, I just know you're going to go far!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:44 am

    Lindsay - That looks wonderful! Happy Birthday! and Good LuckReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:51 am

    Eileen - Happy Birthday, and best of luck!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:55 am

    Heather - Happy birthday fellow Virgo. Loved your post! It is so true that what we are stems all the way from when we were merely hours old. Your first word wasn't ricotta was it?ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:57 am

    bunkycooks - Happy Birthday and the best of luck to you on the contest! BTW, I think you should have at least half of the cake…well deserved!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:58 am

    Anna Johnston - Happy Birthday & good luck for the competition. No better way to celebrate than to be a little decadent with ones favourite food.ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 12:02 pm

    Belinda @zomppa - Happy birthday!!! Adorable photo…I ate solids at three months too so I'm glad to have a companion!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 12:39 pm

    Daydreamer Desserts - Happy Birthday!! What a great first post, loved the intro… enjoy that cheesecake! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 12:49 pm

    Ken - Happy Birthday! You deserve every last bite of this simply elegant and no doubt delicious cake.ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 12:56 pm

    Becca Samuels Nelson - Happy birthday to my amazing brother….your cheesecake looks amazing. Good luck in the PFB!!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 1:09 pm

    Fun and Fearless in Beantown - Happy Birthday! I'm participating in PFB too and I think it will definitely be an interesting experience!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 1:16 pm

    Jenn - Happy Birthday Brian!! I love the post…good luck to you in Project Food Blog!!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 2:21 pm

    amanda_edits - love this, Brian–best of luck in the competition!!

    and happy birthday! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 2:56 pm

    Tristan @ Enjoy Life - Happy Birthday, Brian! I hope you have a wonderful day and best of luck with Food Buzz!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 2:57 pm

    Liren - Happy Birthday, Brian! You have a wisdom beyond your 26 years (that makes me sound like an old lady, but relative to you, I guess I kinda am, LOL). What a fabulous story!! I wish you the happiest of birthdays and the best of luck in PFB, though I know you'll do just fine without it!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 3:02 pm

    elz + pab - happy birthday!!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 3:33 pm

    Monet - Brian! What a wonderful day the day you were born! You have brought such blessings into my own life, and I know you have touched so many more lives than even you know. I loved hearing this story about your earliest days, and I wish you the best of luck in the competition. I know you'll do great!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 4:24 pm

    The Souper - Brian, Happy Birthday. I follow you on Twitter and Foodbuzz. Best of luck in the competition. Just got my Foodie Blogroll widget so doing a happy dance.
    The Souper/Soupiton/Prep2eatReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 5:08 pm

    Megan - Again, I wish this post came sooner because I made a ricotta cheese tart last week and really wanted to find a good ricotta cheesecake recipe.

    I say it's ok to eat the whole thing because I made myself a really decadent birthday dessert too, and I plan to eat the whole thing. All that work definitely deserves the reward.

    Happy Birthday, again, birthday twin!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 5:14 pm

    jacobskitchen - Happy Birthday to you!!! I hope you have a way-extra-super-fabulous day!

    Great post Brian. You really get a sense of who you are as a person. And the cheesecake looks heavenly! I can only imagine what the homemade ricotta does for the flavor. Thanks for sharing! And good luck with the challenge! =)ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 5:18 pm

    FOODalogue - Enjoying all the contestants' unique approaches to this challenge. Very nice post. Happy birthday and good luck!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 5:27 pm

    Cook in a Bar - Happy Birthday and good luck!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 5:33 pm

    Whitney - Love the story, so appropriate! Good luck in the comptetion, can't wait to see more from you!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 5:51 pm

    Torviewtoronto - lovely pictureReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 6:09 pm

    Rick - Ricotta cheesecake is so light and good. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 6:21 pm

    Kim (Liv Life) - Happy Birthday!! I so enjoyed reading this post. I completely understand your love of cheesecake and the fear of eating the entire thing, I suffer from the same "issue". My husband can only eat a small piece, always saying it's "too rich"… I, unfortunately never have that problem and could easily tip down 3 pieces or so…
    Happy Birthday! Enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 7:08 pm

    Lisa Faley - Happy Birthday! Loved your little blurb about the contest! Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 9:14 pm

    foodandstyle - Happy birthday Brian… You are SO young!!! And good luck with the contest. Last but not least, I hope you eat the whole cake.ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:20 pm

    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic - Happy birthday! Cheesecake is one of my favorites too but I haven't even tried baking one myself. You definitely deserve an extra slice or two (or three. Or the whole thing, yes!) Good luck with PFB!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2010 - 11:46 pm

    Evan @swEEts - Happy Birthday! Lovely first post :) I'm loving every one I'm reading!! Your cheesecake looks fab and the pictures are amazing as usual!! Enjoy your dayReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 3:53 am

    Joanne - Happy birthday Brian! You are a man after my own heart. Always hungry. Whether it be for food, learning, or sharing something new and exciting with all of us.

    You totally deserve to eat this whole cake. I can usually only have a few bites of cheesecake, as it's so rich, but ricotta is lighter, fresher than cream cheese. And so there really is the danger that I would eat the whole thing as well. Gorgeous photos. I hope you enjoyed every bite!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 5:00 am

    Cathy @ ShowFoodChef - I loved your post, and one of the best things about this idea is getting to know people and blogs I didn't know. My middle son just turned 26 a couple days ago, so your parents and me were having fun with a crazy hungry boy at the same time (he was a lot like you too.) I hope you ate the whole cheesecake – why not, homemade ricotta makes it healthy, right? Much success!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 5:59 am

    Casey Angelova - It comes full circle… now I know what the surprise that was mentioned in your ricotta post. Bravo the fresher the better. A very nice entry. Good luck in the competition!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 9:26 am

    Chef Dennis - Happy Birthday Brian!!!! Hope the birthday boy has a wonderful day! Thanks for sharing so much with us today, I know we foodies are a different lot, its just something were born with! And what a boring world it would be with out us!!
    Your cheesecake looks incredible, your homemade ricotta must have added so much flavor, I just wish I had been there to taste it!
    Have a great day my friend!!!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 12:24 pm

    penny aka jeroxie - Happy birthday and GOOD LUCK~ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 1:10 pm

    Elina (Healthy and Sane) - Happy belated birthday. Great entry. I need to write mine tonight. I chickened out yesterday when I sat down to write it. So much pressure :)ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 1:19 pm

    May Ling Wu - Happy Birthday! Good luck :)ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 2:42 pm

    Andrew Frishman - Mmnn!!!! – I LOVES me some cheesecake – even if that comment sounds trite and cheesy.

    ¡Cumpleaños Feliz!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 4:27 pm

    Lisa Orgler - Of course, happy birthday! Great post and lovely photographs. They have a nice vintage feel to them. I look forward to checking in on your progress!ReplyCancel

  • September 16, 2010 - 8:41 pm

    Duchess - EAT THE WHOLE THING! Happy B-Day. Good luck with the competition!ReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 2:07 am

    Torviewtoronto - happy birthday
    have funReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 3:01 am

    Velva - This was post is proof that you were destined to be a foodie. Happy Birthday to you!ReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 1:51 pm

    A Thought For Food - An update: I finished the cheesecake and have moved onto brownies. No Birthday Guilt!ReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 3:38 pm

    Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels - Happy Birthday! What a wonderful post and such fantastic pictures. Good luck! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 3:51 pm

    My Man's Belly - Happy Birthday old man! LOL – couldn't resist.

    We'll have to celebrate all proper like if/when I get myself out to Boston.ReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 4:45 pm

    Kathy Diaz (found baking) - Happy Birthday!!! You were a such a cute baby. You remind me of one of my nephews. He's a big eater and was already downing full-sized quesadillas at age 1. Beautiful cheesecake. I have actually never tried baking ricotta cheesecake. I think this post just made me want to bake one soon.ReplyCancel

  • September 17, 2010 - 10:38 pm

    Sippity Sup - Sorry I missed your Birthday! But you are 26 (26???) so you'll have lots and lots more. I'll try and do better next year. You are going to rock this contest. You are one of the real talents I have come across out here in blog land. GREGReplyCancel

  • September 18, 2010 - 6:10 am

    The Cilantropist - Loved reading this… all could think of was cookie monster saying "FEED ME!!!" LOL… 😀 So glad to be doing PFB with you, and happy birthday!ReplyCancel

  • September 18, 2010 - 8:26 am

    Za - What a lovely way to start 26! Happy B'day…what an adorable baby you were. All the best with PFB!ReplyCancel

  • September 19, 2010 - 12:12 pm

    Cooking Gallery - I am new here, but I wish you all the best…!!ReplyCancel

  • September 19, 2010 - 7:05 pm

    Savory Sweet Living - Great entry, love your childhood story and the baby picture, so cute! Happy Birthday and best of luck with the competition!ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2010 - 1:37 am

    Lawyer Loves Lunch - What a fabulous story! I love that you've been a foodie since you were born! You've got my vote when voting for PFB opens tomorrow :)ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2010 - 5:19 am

    Andra@FrenchPressMemos - I wish my kid had your appetite! Love the story- it is only fitting that your want for food, more and more food, started that early. Good luck- fingers crossed and mouses clicking for votes!ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2010 - 6:49 pm

    jacobskitchen - I voted for you! Good luck, friend. =)ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2010 - 6:51 pm

    Cori - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRIAN!!!! Love this article!!!!!!!!!

    When are we celebrating your birthday together!? I'll bring the wine, you bring the ricotta cheesecake ;-).ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2010 - 10:40 pm

    Annalise - Found your blog through PFB, love your photography and writing style. Good luck! And happy birthday too! :)ReplyCancel

  • September 20, 2010 - 11:41 pm

    Needlemom - Good luck, Brian. I love your blog!ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2010 - 2:49 am

    Daydreamer Desserts - Brian, best of luck to you in the challenge… just sent one vote your way. :)ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2010 - 4:18 am

    Speakeasy Kitchen - Happy birthday and good luck! Voting for you and hope to see you in the next round.ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2010 - 12:31 pm

    Lauren Zabaneh - Brian!!! I love it. I love your profile pic, I love the story about becoming a foodie at 3 months of age, I love it all! you so have my vote, friend! Just wonderful and happy belated birthday.ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2010 - 4:00 pm

    Pure Mama - Happy Birthday! And I love your post… great job!ReplyCancel

  • September 21, 2010 - 9:25 pm

    Amelia PS - how lovelyReplyCancel

  • September 22, 2010 - 11:47 am

    Roseann K. - How adorable! Happy Birthday!ReplyCancel

  • September 22, 2010 - 7:57 pm

    Magic of Spice - Happy Birthday…Great post, and looking forward to seeing your future challenge posts :)ReplyCancel

  • September 23, 2010 - 11:53 am

    A scientist in the kitchen - Happy birthday!!! Voted for you :)ReplyCancel

  • September 23, 2010 - 3:16 pm

    Jamie - OMG! Same story! My mom said I was only a few months old and ran to the doctor worried because I ate ALL THE TIME! And I still do! Funny! I knew we were friends for a reason. And MMmm your birthday cheesecake looks perfect! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my boy! And many many more! xoReplyCancel

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