75 Delicious Recipes: Cheesecake Love

“If it doesn’t have cheesecake in it, it should” is the baking motto that Jocelyn Brubaker lives by. Over the years, she has baked thousands of cheesecakes and challenged herself to work cheesecake into any and every dessert for the millions of readers who try and trust the recipes on her blog.

Now, in her debut cookbook, Cheesecake Love: Inventive, Irresistible, and Super Easy, Brubaker shows all the wild and wonderful ways you can go beyond traditional cheesecake and make creative and mouthwatering cheesecake desserts like:

* Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Brownies
* Cookies-and-Cream Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries
* Snickerdoodle Cheesecake Cookie Bars
* Marshmallow S’mores Cheesecake
* Apple Crumb Cheesecake Pie

With over 75 delicious recipes, dozens of easy-to-use baking tips, gorgeous color photos, and Jocelyn’s warmth and bubbly personality on every page, this cookbook will become the go-to source for all things cheesecake, perfect for new and experienced bakers alike. With Jocelyn by your side in the kitchen, every dessert can become a blank canvas for a little cheesecake love.

About the Author

JOCELYN BRUBAKER is the baker, photographer, and writer behind the popular blog Inside BruCrew Life, which she started in 2008. Jocelyn’s recipes regularly appear on BuzzfeedThe Huffington Post, and Cosmopolitan.com, among other sites.

Orange Cream Cheese Cheesecake

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN MAKING THIS ORANGE CREAM CHEESECAKE RECIPE:

  • Make sure you set your cream cheese out ahead of time. It’s so much easier to beat it when it is softened.
  • Toast the macadamia nuts in a skillet for a few minutes, then let them cool before pulsing them in a food processor. Just do not over pulse the nuts, or you will end up with macadamia butter.
  • Place a large baking sheet on the very bottom rack in your oven. Fill it halfway with water and let it heat up. This creates a steam effect as the cheesecake bakes. No water baths ever happen in my kitchen!
  • Do not over mix the cheesecake batter because it will add air bubbles into the batter which could cause cracks as it bakes.
  • When the cheesecake comes out of the oven the second time, let it cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge. This loosens the cheesecake from the pan, so it doesn’t crack as it cools.

For the Crust:

  • 1 ½ cups chopped macadamia nuts
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup melted butter

For the Cheesecake

  • 1 – 10 ounce can mandarin oranges
  • 3 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten slightly
  • Zest of 1 large navel orange

For the Topping

  • 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed navel orange juice (from orange that was zested)
  • 1 – 8 ounce container Cool Whip, thawed
  • maraschino cherries with stems, patted dry
  • 1 navel orange cut into small segments
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Place the macadamia nuts in a skillet and toast over medium heat for a few minutes. Remove and dump the nuts onto a tray to cool completely. Once cool place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Do not over pulse and create butter.
  3. Mix together the chopped nuts, crumbs, and butter. Press firmly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  4. Place a large baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it halfway with water. Let the oven reheat to 350 degrees.
  5. Drain the can of mandarin oranges very well. Place the orange segments onto paper towels to drain even more. Cut each segment in half and press with a paper towel. Set aside.
  6. Beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add the sour cream, orange juice concentrate, vanilla, and flour and beat again.
  7. Add the eggs and beat again until mixed in. Do not over beat the mixture. Gently stir in the orange zest and mandarin orange pieces.
  8. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust. Place the pan on the oven rack directly above the pan of water. Bake for 55 minutes.
  9. While the cheesecake is baking, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and orange juice. Place in refrigerator.
  10. When the cheesecake is finished baking, remove from the oven and spread the sour cream mixture evenly on the top of the cheesecake. Bake another 5 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack.
  11. Let the cheesecake cool 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen the sides from the pan. Let the cheesecake cool for 2 hours on the wire rack, then place it in the refrigerator to chill completely.
  12. Loosen and remove the springform pan sides. Gently lift up the cheesecake and remove the parchment paper. Place the cheesecake on a serving plate.
  13. Use a piping bag and icing tip 1M to swirl Cool Whip around the top of the cheesecake. Top each swirl with a maraschino cherry or orange piece.

Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Crust

  • 8 Oreo cookies with filling
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Cheesecake

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ▢4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate melted
  • 2 large eggs

Mousse

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 8-ounce container Cool Whip thawed

20 mini Oreo Cookies with Filling

Instructions

Place a large rimmed baking sheet onto the bottom rack of the oven. Fill halfway with waterPreheat the oven to 350° F. and line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Line 8 wells of a second cupcake pan with paper liners as well.

Crust

Place the Oreo cookies into a food processor and pulse until they become fine crumbs.

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and the cookie crumbs. Evenly distribute the crumb mixture into the cupcake liners. Press the crumbs down firmly.

Cheesecake

In a mixer, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add the sugar. Beat again until smooth.

Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat again until well incorporated.

Pour in the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Fully incorporate the eggs and be sure to not overbeat the batter.

Evenly distribute the batter over the cookie crusts. Place the cupcake pans on the oven right directly above the tray full of water. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Cool the cheesecakes in the pan for 10 minutes.

Gently remove the cheesecakes from the pan and place them on the wire rack. Cool for 1 hour and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until completely chilled.

Mousse

Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Scrape down the sides and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In a food processor, pulse the 7 regular size Oreos until they are crumbs.

With a rubber spatula, gently fold the Cool Whip into the cream cheese mixture. Then gently stir in the cookie crumbs.

Using a piping bag and a 1M icing tip, swirl the mousse onto the top of the cheesecakes. Top each one with a mini Oreo cookie.

New Worlds for the Deaf: The Story of the Pioneering School for the Deaf in Rural Mexico

          In 1982, Gwen Chan Burton, who had previous taught in a government secondary school students in both  Australia and Canada for 12 years was faced with a big career decision.

            Burton (whose name at the time was still Chan but that would become part of her adventure as well) had recently been certified as a teacher for the severely hearing impaired. She could either again teach in Canada albeit in her new specialty or move to Jocotepec, a small village in the Mexican state of Jalisco where several years earlier two retired  Canadian women, Jackie Hartley and Roma Jones, stated a small school for children who couldn’t hear. The impetus for the school came about after meeting a young deaf boy in the plaza of the town where they were living.

            It was quite an undertaking particularly considering that Hartley and Jones weren’t teachers and spoke little Spanish. Add to that, they had no building to house their school nor did they have the money to fund it.

For Hartley and Jones these were just mere details and within 15 years their Lakeside School for the Deaf, which started off with classes in an upgraded chicken coop, would become an international success. The term Lakeside is an English term used by local expats and tourists to refer to the general area along the north shore of Lake Chapala where thousands of expats live – stretching from city of Chapala, through Ajijic to Jocotepec at the western end of the lake.

            But when the Hartley and Jones tried to recruit Burton and another teacher of the severely hearing impaired named Susan van Gurp, it was still very early days indeed—one that promised hard work in an unknown environment and barely subsistence pay.

          “As a student at Melbourne University in the late 1960s, I had dreamed of volunteering as an English teacher in the wilds of Papua New Guinea, then administered by Australia,” says Burton.  “However, after I learned that the government required three years teaching experience before applying–I ended up in Toronto instead of PNG. I guess Jackie Hartley’s offer re-awoke my dream of volunteer teaching and since I was single and debt free, my main concern was how to learn basic Spanish in the three months before we flew south.”

            Within a  few years, Burton would become the school’s director, a position she held from 1985-1994. The school’s enrollment grew as did the number of teachers, resulting in scores of disadvantaged deaf children and youths who found life-changing communication, free education.

            Burton, who now lives on an island off the coast of Vancouver, recounts the story of what is now The School for Special Children (CAM Gallaudet, Special Education Centre) in her awe-inspiring book, New Worlds for the Deaf: The Story of the Pioneering School for the Deaf in Rural Mexico (Sombrero Books 2019; $14.99 Amazon price).

            “The book describes the school’s much loved teachers, first Canadian then Mexican, who opened new worlds for those atypical students, with specialized teaching methods and amazing special events,” says Burton. “Also described is the school’s unique home-based  boarding program that allowed many children from distant villages to attend classes.”

In between all her work, Burton met geologist Tony Burton on Canada Day at an Octoberfest celebration in Guadalajara. After the couple married and had children, life became even more hectic  especially when Tony was away leading field studies courses and eco-tours around the country.

“Thankfully a wonderful Mexican grandmother was willing to care for our children whenever needed and from her they learned the local customs, the Spanish language and a love of Mexican food,” says Burton. “She was also a generous boarding mother for two adolescent deaf brothers for several years.”

Often issues were time related –needing time to make new ear molds for students using the classroom FM systems, but also needing to attend a morning meeting of the school board 20 kilometers away or taking time to show visiting former teachers around the classrooms and answer all their questions. Many challenges were unexpected such as the arrival of new students unannounced and needing accommodation.”

            But the rewards were many such as seeing the changes in new students as they learned to communicate using Mexican sign language and were able to ask questions and understand the answers for the first time in their lives; then seeing their enthusiasm and their parents’ pride as they learned to write their own name, and later begin to read.

 Asked to share a story about one of the school’s students, Burton takes time to think—there were so many—before deciding to talk about Juan Luis, who after being abandoned by his mother was sent out to beg in Guadalajara by his next caregiver.

“He was rescued by an aunt who sent him with a truck driver to the home of Rita, one of our staff,” recalls Burton. “The young boy, profoundly deaf, was called Carlos by the truck driver and spent his first week at school as Carlos. When his aunt visited Rita the next weekend we found out his real name and the following Monday at school we need to erase Carlos from his workbooks, and create a different sign name, because  he is actually Juan Luis, nearly nine years old, bright, personable but unschooled and unable to recognize or express his own name….or count to nine.”  

For those deciding on such an adventure, Burton offers the follow advice.

“Go, with an open mind and positive attitude about the people and customs you will encounter,” she says. “Preferably have a good friend with you at least for a long settling-in period, unless you are joining a well-established group of like-minded people. Be able to carry on a basic conversation in the local language and learn whatever you can about your host nation before you arrive. But definitely go if you feel you have skills, knowledge or a harmonizing philosophy to contribute and accept that it will undoubtedly be a pivotal experience in your life.”

All proceeds from the sale of New Worlds for the Deaf benefit the hearing aid program for children in the Lake Chapala region, a program the author runs in partnership with the local committee that supports the CAM Gallaudet Special Education Centre in Jocotepec, Jalisco.

Healthier Southern Cooking: 60 Homestyle Recipes with Better Ingredients and All the Flavor

Can true Southern cuisine—think fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, and fried okra—be transformed into healthier fare without losing the flavors and tastes that make this type of cookery so satisfying?

While most of us would say no way, Eric and Shanna Jones, authors of Healthier Southern Cooking: 60 Homestyle Recipes with Better Ingredients and All the Flavor, are out to show that healthy doesn’t mean boring. Their Southern credentials are impeccable. A husband and wife team, Eric is a native of Louisiana and Shanna hails from Houston, Texas, where she was born and raised. Together, they’re the founders of Dude That Cookz, a creative cooking blog with lots of great recipes and photos. Eric is the cook and Shanna a photographer who manages the brand, a role that also includes maintaining their blog and social media content and whatever else needs to be done so that Eric can focus on cooking. But Shanna also contributes to the kitchen as an avid baker. Married for more than a decade, the couple has two children.

And a love of cooking.

Eric, who describes himself as a country boy and country cook, learned his way around a kitchen early on from his grandparents. His grandmother made—and he learned—the type of Louisiana Southern cuisine that tastes oh so good but definitely doesn’t meet the criteria for low in calories or heart healthy. But his own need for what he terms as “dietary adjustments” as well as his parents’ early demise from health issues made him rethink the food he loved to cook and eat. The conundrum was how to make rich and soul-satisfying Southern food that’s healthy without losing the flavor.

Well, it turns out that you can, often by substituting ingredients without losing the full mouth feel that fats provide. Cooking clean is the key. Clean is the term Eric and Shanna give to their recipes that have less salt, less fat, less sugar, and a lot fewer calories.

Creamed corn, a staple of the Jones’ kitchen, is reimagined by substituting evaporated milk for heavy cream and using coconut milk and Parmesan cheese. Peach cobbler, that classic Southern dessert, eschews the usual thick sugary syrup, reducing the amount of sugar and instead adding maple syrup as an ingredient.

Southern potato salad calls for lots of mayo and, of course, potatoes themselves are starches that convert to sugar in our system. The solution? Less mayonnaise, the use of red potatoes since they have less carbs and calories than russet potatoes, and adding hard boiled eggs—all of which, says Jones, make a dish that is full of flavor and texture.

But what about that Southern staple: fried chicken with gravy? The answer again is coconut milk, this time replacing buttermilk. Then instead of deep frying, it’s pan-fried in a minimum amount of sunflower oil. As for the gravy, 2% works just as well as cream or whole milk.

In the cookbook, the first by the couple but undoubtedly not the last, each recipe has a write-up by Jones as to how he’s reducing the caloric footprint of the dish as well as lowering the level of salt but maintaining the flavor profile with the addition of other herbs and spices.

Of course, Jones admits, sometimes you just need a double-stacked burger. But the beauty of all this, by eating clean, once in a while you can eat dirty without a lot of guilt.

This review originally appeared in The New York Journal of Books.

The Night Swim

True crime podcaster Rachel Krall arrives in Neapolis, a small resort town on the Atlantic Ocean, to cover the trial of Scott Blair—a local hero—a swimming star who may be destined for Olympic glory. That is, of course, if he can avoid being found guilty of rape.

His hot shot attorney crafts a defense that his accuser is lying about what was a consensual encounter in order to get even with Blair after learning that he used her to score points in a contest with his roommate as to who could bed the most women. Not so, says the district attorney, a former hot shot criminal lawyer who has moved back to his hometown. Instead Kelly, the teenaged girl identified as K in court documents, was telling the truth when she said she was horrifically assaulted and then abandoned late at night on a deserted beach to find her own way home.

Rachel dives deep in the case, attending court during the day and at night recording her podcasts, interviewing the families of both teenagers, and researching the case. But soon Rachel is caught up in another mystery. Since arriving in town, she has been receiving letters from a woman named Hannah who asks her to look into the death of her sister Jenny—which occurred a quarter of a century ago. Reported as a drowning, Hannah believes that Jenny, an expert swimmer, was murdered, and she wants Rachel to prove it.

In The Night Swim (St. Martin Griffin) author Megan Goldin, a former reporter for Reuters who lives in Australia, deftly handles multiple story lines that crisscross between past and present. It’s a page turner as we follow Rachel’s podcast, “Guilty or Not Guilty,” which recounts the daily court proceedings, the cultural aspects of the townspeople and their reactions to accusations of rape, and the personalities of those involved in the case.

She learns that Scott once risked his life to save a stranger who was drowning and that he hopes to win a gold medal in part to please his father, a former swimming champion whose own dreams of gold were ended when he was injured. As for the alleged victim, Kelly was a happy, well-adjusted high-achieving teenager with dreams of going to college but now is broken, unable to move past the trauma. She is so emotionally distraught that she breaks down under the brutal and dehumanizing cross-examination by Scott’s attorney. Leaving the courtroom, she is unable to continue her testimony and without the jury hearing her side of the story, Scott will likely walk free.

And then there’s Hannah and Jenny. Hannah keeps writing letters, but she refuses to meet with Rachel. Jenny’s death itself is a mystery. Autopsy photos show a beaten and bruised young girl, but the police determined that it was an accidentally drowning. Was it a cover up and if so, why? Rachel, driven by her own experiences, wants to bring about justice for Jenny by finding out the truth. It’s a dangerous business, and she’s warned to back off. But for better or worse, she can’t stop until she knows the answers.  

This review originally appeared in The New York Journal of Books.

About the Author

MEGAN GOLDIN, author of THE ESCAPE ROOM and THE NIGHT SWIM, worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs.

The Night Swim is also available on Kindle and Audible.

Jen Lancaster: I Regret Nothing

Fans of Jen Lancaster, bestselling author of Bitter is the New Black and Twisted Sister, surely know that when she decides to write her bucket list as a big birthday looms,  it isn’t going to entail knitting an afghan or doing an extra set up of push-ups. Indeed, nothing Lancaster tackles—whether it’s emulating Martha Stewart for one disastrous year which involved a need for serious glitter removal in her book The Tao of Martha or, as she discovers in Jeneration X, that a great dinner option does not include Froot Loops—is ever dull. 

Headshot credit: Jolene Siana 

And so in her latest novel, I Regret Nothing: A Memoir (New American Library 2015; $26.95), Lancaster takes on another set of self-improvement tasks which includes a juice cleanse, learning Italian and even having a tattoo removed at a cost 100 percent higher than she spent getting it and takes us along on the journey.

Lancaster, who lives in the Chicago area, rejoices in humiliating experiences because she knows that’s what makes her readers laugh. She also offers a quote for what it’s like to be a friend or family member when it comes to her writing career and what she is willing to put down on paper.

“It goes something like this–being related to a writer is like having an assassin in the family,” she says.  “Where do you draw the line on what you’ll include in a memoir?”

Putting herself out there and seeing the absurdities and humiliations of life as things to be turned into humor is what makes reading her books so much fun. And it’s absolutely who she is as well.

 “I love readers to come to my live events,” says Lancaster. “I’m absolutely the same person on the page as I am at an event. And I think it’s good for people to know that.”

For more information, visit jenlancaster.com

Recipes from Tara Teaspoon’s Delicious Gatherings

I love cookbooks, whether they’re old or new and I’m always looking for those that offer recipes for what’s available from local farms and also using ingredients that I want to learn more about. And my friend Carrie Bachman sent me a cookbook that covers both. It’s by Tara “Teaspoon” Bench, a former Martha Stewart food editor and food stylist, and is titled “Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together.”

It offers new recipes for many of the fruits already available and soon to be: blueberries, grapes and apples as well as quinoa. I have several packages of Ancient Harvest’s Quinoa with Sea Salt, Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic, and Inca Red Quinoa so I was happy to find Tara Teaspoon’s Grape and Feta Quinoa recipe.

Bench offers complete meals in her new cookbook but also says that the menus are created so that home chefs can pick and choose singular recipes, just a few or all of them to create the meal they want. There are more than 120 recipes which are divided into four main sections: “Main Events,” “Serious Sides,” Breakfast and Brunch,” and “Baking and Sweets.”

“Bringing my cooking expertise to print and online articles taught me how to clearly share my recipes and knowledge with every kind of cook,” said Bench who also has a blog, tarateaspoon.com. “I know how to create recipes with easy steps so everyone at home can be successful in the kitchen.”

Waldorf Salad With Radicchio and Buttermilk Dressing

SERVES 6 TO 8

Makes ¾  Cups Dressing

Hands-On Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 30 Minutes

“Really, the resemblance to classic Waldorf salad is just the combo of apples, celery, and grapes—but I just love that one of my favorite salads heralded from New York City, where I live. I’m paying a little homage to its history,” writes Bench. “With shaved apple, flavorful radicchio, and a light, savory buttermilk dressing, this updated version of Waldorf salad is elegant and welcoming. I made a tangy buttermilk herb dressing and opted for delicious, candied pecans instead of walnuts.”

Candied Pecans

  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¾ cup (3 ounces) pecans

Buttermilk Dressing

  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Salad

  • 1 small head or half a large head
  • radicchio (10 ounces)
  • 1 apple, cored and cut in half
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced on the bias
  • 1 ½ cups California red grapes, sliced in half

For the pecans: Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. In a small skillet over medium heat, bring maple syrup and cayenne to a boil. Boil 1 minute, and then add pecans. Stir to coat and cook another 30 seconds. Turn onto lined baking sheet and separate nuts. Set aside and let cool completely. When cool, coarsely chop.

For the dressing: Whisk together all ingredients and set aside in the refrigerator.

For the salad: Break or chop radicchio into pieces. Use a mandoline or slicer to thinly slice apple. Arrange radicchio, apple, celery, and grapes in a bowl, then top with chopped pecans. You can toss with the dressing and extra parsley at this point, or you can serve the salad with the dressing and parsley on the side so guests can dress their own salad.

TARA’S TIP

Radicchio is a very strong, sometimes bitter leafy vegetable. I think it’s fantastic with tangy buttermilk and yogurt. But if you want a milder salad, opt for butter lettuce leaves.

Grape and Feta Quinoa

Serves: 6 To 8

Makes: 4 cups

Hands-on time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

“This is my favorite grain salad with all the crunchy nuts, salty feta, herbs, and juicy grapes,” Bench wrote about this recipe.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) grapes, halved
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta
  • 1/3  cup (1 ounce) walnuts, toasted and broken up
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

DRESSING

  • Grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To cook quinoa, rinse in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Transfer to a medium saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

While quinoa cooks, make dressing by whisking together all dressing ingredients. Set aside.

When quinoa is cool, add grapes, feta, walnuts, and parsley. Toss with dressing and serve. Quinoa can be refrigerated for up to a day.

Blueberry Bannock Scone

 Makes: 8 servings, 1 (9-inch) scone

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

“Traditional Scottish Bannock cakes are baked on a griddle, but I make a simple one in the oven to serve the whole family. I’ve added wheat germ instead of whole wheat flour to give the quick bread a nutty but light texture, and finely chopped pecans add amazing flavor,” she wrote in the intro to this recipe. “I’ve stuffed my Bannock with blueberries, which takes an extra step to get them nestled in a layer, but it’s well worth it when you slice into a molten-berry middle! My biggest tip is to use a gentle hand and not overwork the dough.”

SCONE

  • 1 ¼ cups (160 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up and chilled
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon water

ICING

  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

For the scone: Heat oven to 400.F. Use the top of a bowl to draw an 8- or 9-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper as a guide. Set aside on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 4 tablespoons sugar. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into flour mixture until mixture forms small crumbs with tiny bits of butter.

In another bowl, combine buttermilk and 1 egg. Add to flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Dough will seem wet and sticky but work it as little as possible.

Divide dough in half and use two spoons to dol lop half the dough around the circle marked on the prepared baking sheet. With floured hands, shape the dollops into one circle. Spread blueberries evenly over the scone, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Using spoons again, dollop remaining dough over blueberries, then with floured hands press together to make a top layer, covering the berries.

Beat remaining egg with water and brush some on top of the scone. Score into 8 wedges on top. Bake until scone is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

For the icing: Stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk to make a thick icing. When scone is almost cool, drizzle with icing.

Spoon batter over blueberries, then gently press together to form the top of the scone, sealing the edges around the blueberries.

Apple Pudding Cake with Butter Sauce

Serves: 12 to 14

Hands-on time: 40 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 55 minutes

“This rich cake, reminiscent of the dense steamed puddings my grandma used to make, is our family Christmas dessert—although we’ve been known to make it year-round, especially during peak apple season. It’s subtly spiced and full of the tart and sweet taste of apples, plus crunchy pecans. To make the cake even more special for the holidays, top with Apple Crisps.

“You may think adding the sauce is gilding the lily, as the cake on its own is delicious. But in my opinion, the sauce is essential and makes each bite of cake extra divine.”

Apple Pudding Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 cups grated apple, any variety, from 3 to 4 cored apples
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus more for pan
  • 2 large eggs

Butter Sauce

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups (12-ounce can) evaporated milk
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

For the cake: Heat oven to 350.F. Brush a 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan generously with extra butter. Sprinkle pan with extra sugar, then tap out excess. Set pan aside.

Stir together flour, pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor or with a box grater, shred apples with the skin on. You should have 4 cups grated apple.

In a mixer, cream together butter and sugar with the paddle attachment. Add eggs and beat until mixture is fluffy. Stir in apples (and any juice they produce) and flour mixture until completely combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and cake pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Tent cake with foil for the last half hour of baking to prevent overbrowning.

Let cool on a wire rack, about 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to remove from pan. Let cool completely.

For the butter sauce: In a saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer all butter sauce ingredients, stirring, for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve the sauce warm over slices of cake or serve sauce on the side and let guests add a generous amount of warm sauce to each slice of cake.

Garnish with apple crisps, if desired.

NOTE The cake and sauce can be made a day in advance. Allow both to cool completely before storing. Cover cake with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Refrigerate butter sauce and reheat in microwave or saucepan to serve.

TARA’S TIP

I make this cake in a fun tube pan for the wow factor at the holidays, but it bakes perfectly in a 9-by-13- inch cake pan. Bake about 35 minutes.

Apple Crisps

2 apples

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 250.F. Thinly slice apples using a mandoline. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat liner.

Use a sieve to lightly dust both sides of each slice with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake one to two hours, turning apples over once during baking. To test doneness, remove one slice and let it cool. It will be crispy when cooled, and the apples will be done.

Remove from oven and quickly transfer apples to a wire rack and let cool.

The recipes above are courtesy of ‘”Delicious Gatherings: Recipes to Celebrate Together by Tara ‘Teaspoon’ Bench.” Photo by Ty Mecham.

Tales of Al: The Water Rescue Dog, the Making of a Super Athlete

With her golden eyes and short brown coat, Al is unlike most Newfoundland dogs not only in color. She’s also bigger than a bear cub at an equivalent age and able to pull two to three times her weight. Al is also exuberant, intelligent, and eager to please. But in her overwhelming enthusiasm, Al doesn’t always listen to commands.

In other words, does she have what it takes to be a water rescue dog?

Lynne Cox is an inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame who has set open-water swim records around the world including being the first to swim across the Bering Strait which she did in 43° F. water. Fascinated by watching videos of these dogs projecting themselves into the water to save people, flew all the way from her home in Long Beach, California to Lake Idroscalo in Italy to watch Al along with other Newfoundlands, Labradors, German shepherds, and golden retrievers undergo rigorous instruction at the Italian School of Rescue Dogs. Would Al be able to make it?

Cox, who obviously is tough as nails, admires the dedication and strength of these dog and recounts the training that makes them capable of jumping from helicopters and boats as well as swimming through heavy waves to rescue those in peril. All this is recounted in her fascinating new book “Tales of Al: The Water Rescue Dog, The Making of a Super Athlete.”

“I love dogs, I love swimming, I love Italy, and I love people working together to accomplish something,” says Cox about the impetus for her trip to Lake Idroscalo. But there was more than that.

In some ways, she says, it’s because both she and the dogs train and swim under the most challenging conditions. After all, she’s twice set the record for swimming the English Channel. The first time at age 14 and then when someone broke her record, she did it again the following year setting another record.

But the training the canines undergo is no harsh doggie bootcamp.

“I really appreciated the way the dogs were taught,” she says. “There was never a time when anyone yelled at the dogs or hit them. Both the owners and their dogs really love each other.”

Together: Memorable Meals Made Easy by Jamie Oliver

Noted chef Jamie Oliver has introduced a cookbook full of recipes for making memorable meals easily.

Minimizing your time in the kitchen and maximizing your time with friends and family is what Jamie Oliver’s newest cookbook, Together, is all about. There are recipes for entire meals such as his Taco Party–Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Black Beans and Cheese, Homemade Tortillas, Roasted Pineapple and Hot Red Pepper Sauce, Green Salsa, Chocolate Semifreddo, and Tequila Michelada or you can select one or more of the 130 recipes in this fascinating book with its lush photos. Oliver, being British, offers some unique recipes such as Wimbledon Summer Pudding, Bloody Mary Crumpets, and My Maple Old Fashioned.

My Sumptuous Beef Bourguignon

Burgundy, Bacon, Button Mushrooms & Shallots

Serves 10

  • 3 pounds beef cheeks, trimmed
  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 small pinch of ground cloves
  • 3 cups Burgundy or Pinot Noir
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 slices of smoked bacon
  • 7 ounces shallots
  • 14 ounces button mushrooms
  • ½ a bunch of Italian parsley (½ ounce)

GET AHEAD Chop the beef cheeks into 2-inch chunks. Wash, trim and chop the carrots and celery into 11/4-inch chunks. Peel the garlic and onion, then roughly chop. Place it all in a large bowl with the mustard, bay, cloves, a generous pinch of black pepper and the wine. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

ON THE DAY Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Pour the contents of the beef bowl into a colander set over another bowl. Pick out just the beef and pat dry with paper towel, then toss with the flour. Put a large casserole pan on a medium heat and melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In batches, brown the floured beef all over, turning with tongs and removing to a plate with any crispy bits once browned. Tip the veg into the pan, and cook for 10 minutes, or until starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally and scraping up any sticky bits. Return the beef to the pan, pour over the reserved wine and 3 cups of boiling water, then bring to a simmer. Cover with a scrunched-up sheet of damp parchment paper and transfer to the oven for around 4 hours, or until the beef is beautifully tender, topping up with splashes of water, if needed.

TO SERVE When the beef is perfect, turn the oven off. Slice the bacon, then place in a large non-stick pan on a medium-high heat. Peel, chop and add the shallots, tossing regularly, then trim and halve or quarter the mushrooms, adding to the pan as you go. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly. Finely chop and toss through the parsley leaves, then pour the contents of the pan over the bourguignon and season to perfection, tasting and tweaking.

CHICKEN, SAUSAGE & BACON PUFF PIE with ENGLISH MUSTARD, LEEKS & WATERCRESS SAUCE

SERVES 4

  • 2 slices of smoked bacon
  • 2 chicken thighs (3 ½ oz each), skin off, bone out
  • 2 pork sausages
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 small potatoes (3 ½ oz each)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons English mustard
  • 2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • 3 ¼ oz watercress
  • 11 oz pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 1 large egg

GET AHEAD You can do this on the day, if you prefer. Slice the bacon and place in a large shallow casserole pan on a medium heat. Chop the chicken and sausages into 11/4-inch chunks, and add to the pan. Cook until lightly golden, stirring regularly, while you trim and wash the leeks, peel the potatoes, chop it all into 11/4-inch chunks, then stir in with a good splash of water. Cook for  10 minutes, or until the leeks have softened, stirring occasionally, scraping up any sticky bits, and adding an extra splash of water, if needed. Stir in the mustard and flour, followed by the broth, then the milk. Bring to a boil, simmer for  15 minutes on a low heat, stirring regularly, then season to perfection, tasting and tweaking. Carefully pour everything through a colander to separate the filling from the sauce. Pour the sauce into a blender, add the watercress and blitz until smooth. Spoon the filling into an 8-inch pie dish with 7 tablespoons of sauce. Let everything cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

TO SERVE Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Brush the rim of the pie dish with olive oil. Cut the pastry into 3/4-inch strips, using a crinkly pasta cutter if you’ve got one, then arrange over the dish – I like a messy lattice. Eggwash all the pastry, then bake the pie for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot. Gently heat up the watercress sauce to serve on the side.

VEGGIE LOVE

Peel 1 lb of root veg of your choice, chop into ¾ –1 ¼ -inch chunks and cook for 20 minutes with the leeks, potatoes, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the leaves from ½ a bunch of thyme (1/3 oz). Use veg broth with the milk, top up with ½ cup of sauce on assembly, then finish in the same way.

TANGERINE DREAM CAKE

A pleasure to make, this cake is joyous served with a cup of tea – make sure you pack your flask. Any leftovers crumbled over ice cream will also be a treat. I like to make the whole thing on the day, but you can absolutely make the sponge ahead and simply store it in an airtight container overnight.

SERVES 16

  • 1 cup soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 8 oz liquid honey
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 ¾ cups ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 tangerines
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Optional: plain yogurt, to serve

ON THE DAY Preheat the oven to 350ºF and generously grease an 8-cup non-stick bundt pan with butter. Place the remaining butter in a food processor with the honey, flour, almonds and vanilla paste. Crack in the eggs, finely grate in the tangerine zest (reserving some for garnish) and blitz until smooth. Pour the mixture into the bundt pan, scraping it out of the processor with a spatula, then jiggle the pan to level it out. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a bowl, then squeeze and stir in enough tangerine juice to make a thick drizzle. Pour or spoon over the cool cake, easing some drips down the sides in an arty way, then sprinkle over the reserved zest. Peel the remaining tangerines and slice into rounds, to serve on the side. A spoonful of yogurt also pairs with it very nicely, if you like.

CLASSIC CAKE: Don’t worry if you don’t have a bundt pan, a 10-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper will work just as well.

Short on time? Sarah Copeland has a recipe for you

              Want a dinner that tastes like Saturday night when you’ve had all day to putter around in the kitchen on a Wednesday? Don’t despair. Sarah Copeland, author Feast, has a new cookbook out that’s just right for you.

              In Every Day Is Saturday: Recipes + Strategies for Easy Cooking, Every Day of the Week (Chronicle, $29.95), Copeland, a former food director of Real Simple magazine, restaurant chef and mother of two young children as well as a New York Times contributor, zeroes in time management, maintaining a well-stocked pantry, and cooking dishes that do double duty. She also emphasizes healthy.

              Her recipes with prep time and total cooking time help you decide what fits in with your busy day.

              Reprinted from Every Day Is Saturday by Sarah Copeland with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019

MIGHTY YOGURT BOWLS WITH CURRANTS AND PEACHES

PREP TIME: 5 MINUTES

TOTAL TIME: 5 MINUTES or overnight

SERVES 4

·      ¾ cup whole milk, or almond, coconut, or
hazelnut milk

·      2 to 3 tsp pure maple syrup

·      1 tsp pure vanilla extract

·      2 to 3 Tbsp chia seeds

·      Plain yogurt, for serving

·     Currants, peaches, berries, honey, or maple
syrup, for topping

Quick-to-make chia pudding, with the right touch, can turn an everyday yogurt bowl into something beautiful and irresistibly creamy.

The secret is to keep the chia mixture loose, and treat it like a condiment, rather than the main event. (Chia thickens as it sets in liquid, so you’ll need to add fewer seeds if you plan to let it sit overnight.) Serve this creamy, coconut-milk goodness with loads of fresh fruit, as a quick morning breakfast bowl that’s nearly ready to go when you wake up.

Combine the milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons chia seeds in a mason jar or any glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Give it a shake or a stir and refrigerate up to overnight, or stir in the remaining chia to thicken if you plan to use right away. Spoon the chia mixture over yogurt, and top with fresh fruit and honey or maple syrup.

%d bloggers like this: