The Firehouse Foodie: Greatness! (and Cheesecake)

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By Frank E. Vaerewijck
FF/EMT, Engineer & Fire House Chef


There is greatness in us all. This was the underlying message last Sunday as the preacher at church spoke positive greatness into us all during his sermon. While his message was more about how there was a king in all of us, I have never considered myself a king. I’m not that much into monarchies. I’m an American, and in a democratic society we need not worry about kings and queens, princes and princesses, but I get his point. I took away from the message the potential in all of us, for there is Greatness.

It is awesome being there to witness that light bulb moment in someone’s life. That moment when they get it, especially if they have adamantly denied their own ability. It truly is a different look in the rookies’
eyes when it clicks. When they put the how together with the why. As an instructor, I have had the privilege of seeing this phenomenon on more than one occasion, and a couple of times on the floor, not only in rookie school – even with a seasoned firefighter or two.

I get this look in my eyes too on occasion when I tackle a huge undertaking in the kitchen like cheesecake or some other complex recipe. I enter the undertaking feeling determined, but a bit overwhelmed. Then after reading over the directions, and assuring I have all the ingredients, I start the process of following the directions, or at least somewhat following the directions, and attempting to not burn water. Sometimes I don’t fully understand the “what” the first time I read the directions, but once I do a little research, and discover the “why,” I then get it, and my greatness shines through. In some people’s eyes, this example is simple and may not carry much greatness, but in my eyes, when I get it right and my family, whether at home or the Firehouse, loves what I made, I may have just won a gold medal at the Olympics. The vision in my head is that of me standing on the podium like Shawn White, ribbons adorned with medals draping my neck. You can do anything you put your mind to and believe in. If you fail because you didn’t think you could do it, well, you were right. Now imagine if you could, try, and watch your greatness shine through.

It’s complex, but you will never know unless you try, so roll up your sleeves and attempt to make this absolutely, awesome Cheesecake, you might just surprise yourself, and “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home!”

Cheese Cake, Who doesn’t Love Cheese Cake!


• 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted

• 4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 5 large eggs

• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 2 teaspoons sugar


Step 1
Preheat oven to 475°F. Place a large pan filled with 1/2 inch water in oven.

Step 2
Make crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon; add butter or margarine. Press crust onto bottom and 2/3 of the way up a 9-inch springform pan lined with parchment. Wrap a large piece of foil around bottom of pan. Freeze until filling is prepared.

Step 3
Make filling: Use an electric mixer to mix cream cheese, sugar, sour cream and vanilla. Blend until smooth and creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Whisk eggs in a bowl; add to cream cheese mixture. Blend just until eggs are incorporated.

Step 4
Remove crust from freezer and pour in filling. Carefully place cheesecake into preheated water bath. Bake for 12 minutes; turn oven to 350°F and bake until top of cheesecake turns golden, 50 to 60 minutes.  Remove cake to a wire rack to cool.

Step 5
Make topping: Combine sour cream and sugar; spread over cake. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.


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