As much as I enjoy a good night out, it’s not uncommon for me to spend a Friday night at home by myself – usually by choice. I enjoy a good solo Netflix and wine night, and I’m often so tired from my week that I wouldn’t make it out very late anyway. On one of these nights last winter, I found myself at home alone again, and was taking full advantage. I had changed into my pajamas at 6 p.m., ordered a pizza, and cracked open a bottle of wine. My face was covered in some sort of rejuvenating mud mask to try to combat my most recent breakout, and although I was keeping myself busy by binge watching The Good Wife and painting my nails, I still found myself glancing at my phone every couple of minutes just to see if the guy I was sort-of-I-think-but-I-don’t-really-know-for-sure dating had miraculously texted me to tell me how perfect I was and why in the world was I spending Friday night alone instead of with him? Oddly enough, I never got that text.
Somewhere around the third fifth glass of wine and second fourth piece of pizza, it occurred to me that if time travel were possible and the 16-year-old version of myself from 1999 was all of a sudden transported into this exact moment, she’d be… appalled. I mean, sure, there would be a couple of minutes of exclaiming about how cool the future is and staring in disbelief at my phone, but once she calmed down and fully processed the sad situation in front of her, I can only imagine how extremely disappointed she would be to see that when it comes to the important stuff, absolutely NOTHING had changed in the last 16 years. She’d see that the bad skin never went away (even though I was told repeatedly that it would as soon as I turned 18). She’d stare in dismay at my pajamas and the pizza box and wine bottle (and then take a swig from it of course), and then, she would see me staring longingly at my phone and (because she’s me) she’d know that I was waiting to hear from a boy. And at that realization, I can’t help but think that she would burst into tears because she would know that after 16 years of relationships and dating, it’s still the same old bullshit.
Since that night I’ve been using this as a kind of test for everything I do. When I get dressed for a date, I think “Would 16-year-old Ellen be impressed or sad with my outfit and more importantly, with my date?” As I leave work every night I think, “What would 16-year-old Ellen think about my job? Would she think it was cool or wonder why the hell I haven’t moved on yet?” Here is what I’ve decided she thinks:
On my wardrobe: Love it! The jean size has gone up a lot more than I would have thought (seriously, lay off the pizza), and I would strongly suggest investing in a few more flannels, but who cares – look at all these clothes! And shoes! We wear dresses now! We’re so grown up and adult and fab.
On my apartment: Holy shit, we finally got our own place. There’s a couch! And a bed! Do you have boys over?! This is so cool – there’s even a balcony. Wait, why is the ceiling falling down? How come nothing in here works? Is this seriously all we can afford? What kind of job do you even have?!
On my job: Weren’t we supposed to write a book by now? Or be in the Olympics? At the very least you could have tried out for American Gladiators.
On living in Cleveland: What’s Cleveland?
On my diminished metabolism and other signs of aging: Seriously? This is what happens when you get old? Gross.
On my still being single: First of all, online dating is freaking awesome. This is a million times better than an AOL chat room! And you can chat from your phone?! What is this trickery?! I can’t believe how many guys we’ve been on dates with! And made out with! We clean up kind of nice, huh? But seriously what happened? What happened to Justin? Weren’t we in love? Didn’t we meet anyone in college? How are you STILL dating after 16 years?!
On my Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette: We bake now?! Can I get the recipe?
No matter what 16 year-old-me might think about my eating habits or dating life, one thing I am 100% confident about is that she would be extremely impressed with my baking skills, and especially with this ridiculously awesome pie-cheesecake-danish thing. So, per her request, here’s the recipe.
Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. very cold butter (unsalted), cut into pieces
1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
3 to 4 Tbsp. ice water
1 c. fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white (save the yolk)
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk beaten
1/2 tsp. water
1-2 tsp. regular, turbinado or coarse sugar for sprinkling
1-2 Tbsp sliced almonds
For the pastry: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl. Drop in the butter pieces and then use a pastry blender, two forks or your hands (I always use my hands) to work it into the flour. Work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Spoon the yogurt over the mixture and continue to use your hands to combine. Add the cold water 1 Tbsp. at a time, only adding more if the mixture seems too dry. It will start to form large clumps which you can then form into a ball. Transfer the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Wrap it up and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
For the filling: Combine the cherries, 1 Tbsp of sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir together and set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the cream cheese, egg, and egg white until light and fluffy. Beat in the 7 Tbsp remaining sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and a pinch of salt.
Putting it all together: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan 9 (you can also use a cake pan or tart pan) with baking spray and set it on a baking sheet.
On a floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle. Drape the dough into the prepared pan, and don’t worry about it hanging over the edges (that’s what we want.) Pour in the cream cheese mixture and then spoon in the cherry mixture and swirl it around. Gently lift the dough that’s hanging over the edge and pinch it into creases. Lay the creases down over the filling.
Lastly, combine the egg yolk and water in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the crust. Sprinkle crust with the sugar, and sprinkle all of it with sliced almonds.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Then move it to the fridge and let chill until fully cold.