I was at my local bookstore, Chapters/Indigo Books, the other night and had just lugged a stack up to the checkout counter.  Some ten books, they were all research materials for an upcoming project.  The cashier rang up the sale and, as I swiped my credit card, I asked how much I was saving on the purchase.  “Nothing,”she said.  “But you have a twenty dollar gift certificate.  Would you like to redeem it?”

A twenty dollar gift certificate?  Surely, she was mistaken.  I’ve had a Chapters/Indigo irewards card that has allowed me to save on my purchases for years – a not insignificant amount since I’m one of those individuals who still prefers the feel of a real book over the ethereal tidiness of a digital copy.  Not only that but I’m a spontaneous shopper when it comes to books, often picking up anywhere from six to a dozen titles a visit based solely on what captures my interest on the day: the cover, the write-up on the book jacket, the recommendation of some passerby.

“You DID have a reward card that let you save on purchases,”the cashier informed me after checking on her computer, “but it expired last year.  Your new card lets you earn points toward certificates up to a $100.”

WTF?  Why the hell would I switch to an obviously far less advantageous card? Well, the simple answer is: “I wouldn’t”!  Who knows how much money I could have saved over the last year if the store had done me the service, as a long-standing loyal customer, of NOT CHEATING ME.

“We can switch you back to your original membership card,”offered the cashier.  “For a thirty-five dollar annual fee.”

Really?  So let me get this straight: They expect ME to PAY THEM for the privilege of giving them my business?



Hey, I’ve got an even better idea.  Do you know what would save me even more money than purchasing an ireward membership card with a thirty-five dollar annual fee?

Doing all my shopping online through Amazon.com from here on in.

1Apologies to those who have joined me on this blog-sponsored culinary odyssey.  We’ve been working our way through some inspired recipes provided by blog regulars and, to date, have prepared Puerco Pibil and Chicken Breast with Brown Butter and Sage Leaves without burning down the kitchen.  Last week, we were supposed to tackle Shiny’s sancocho (I’ll step in preemptively here to say – Das, get your mind out of the gutter!) but I didn’t get around to it until yesterday. Apologies!

So, how was it?  Well, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much beyond “good”.  The ingredients sounded weirdly uncomplimentary.  Sausage and plantain?  Gnocci and shrimp?  Beans and cabbage?  I was, admittedly, dubious.  But, boy, did this dish deliver.  It was nothing short of fabulous!  The myriad ingredients worked incredibly well together, offering layers of flavor and texture.  Akemi loved it too and we both ended up eating waaaay too much.  This is a dish we’ll definitely be adding to the rotation!

Looking ahead to next week, let’s try a little dessert…

Jeff and Barb’s White Chocolate Cheesecake recipe:


1-1/2 cups Keebler Graham cracker crumbs
½-Cup White Chocolate Morsels
2/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar

Mix the crumbs, morsels and sugar and then add the melted butter. Mix thoroughly and then let sit. After a couple of minutes, mix again. Spray the sides of your 10” springform pan with cooking spray and crimp parchment paper over the bottom of the pan (trim excess paper from the bottom side of the pan). Dump the mixture into the pan and press it down into a level, flat disc that covers the bottom. Put the pan with crust into a freezer to prepare for the next step (this will harden the crust and create a nicely defined boundary between the crust and cream-cheese filling). You will end up with a crust around 1/3 inch thick.

The cheesecake batter will be made in two batches; one batch of regular cheesecake batter and one batch of white chocolate cheesecake batter. We’ll start with the regular first:

2 warm packages cream cheese
¼-cup sour cream
¼-stick butter (2 Tbsp)
2 eggs
1-1/2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3/4 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Start by melting in a micro-wave a 1/4 stick of butter (use a 20 or 30% power setting at 30 second increments to avoid boiling the butter). Then add the result to your mixing bowl. Combine the ingredients and use a mixer to blend them until free from lumps.

n.b. – some cream cheeses will produce small, BB-sized pellets of cream cheese when mixed (most notably, Lucerne Cream Cheese seems to behave this way). This is not necessarily a problem and can add texture and flavor to your cake so don’t be concerned if this happens to your batter. These cream cheeses also seem to have less of a tendency to crack while cooling.

Now, dump the batter into your pan on top of the crust. Try to level it with a spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect; some leveling will occur during baking.

Now we’ll make the White Chocolate Batter.

2 warm packages cream cheese
¼-cup sour cream
¼-stick butter
1/2 cup of white chocolate morsels
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
¾-cups sugar

Same as you did for the regular batter, start by micro-waving the 1/4 stick of butter. After the butter is melted, add in the White Chocolate Morsels (stir) and then micro-wave in 30 second increments at 20 or 30% power until you achieve a pudding like consistency. Remember to stir the mixture in between heating sessions. When thoroughly melted, add the resulting mixture to your mixing bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients and use a mixer to blend them until free from lumps (see note above about lumps).

Now, dump the batter into your pan on top of the regular batter, leveling it with a spatula.

Bake for 15 minutes at 350, and then reduce the heat to 250 and bake for another 90 minutes. Be sure to place a catch pan under the cheesecake to catch any butter that may leak out.

Overcooking or fast cooling can cause cracking of the cheesecake. Proper cooking time and cooling is essential to avoiding this. Some experimentation may be necessary to “dial-in” how your oven cooks at these low temperatures. Start with proper cooling; once the cooking time is done, turn off the oven and prop the oven door open a few inches and allow it to cool for three hours (overnight is preferred). If cracking occurs, then on the next cheesecake, reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes (up to a maximum of 15 minutes). If cracking still occurs, try changing cream cheese brands. Baking multiple cheesecakes can also affect this (more cheesecakes means more cooking time), so you could find that two cheesecakes baked together will not crack, while one by itself will. In this case, reduce the cooking time by 10 or 15 minutes for the single cheesecake.

After cooling, use a butter-knife to separate the side of the cheesecake from the side of the springform-pan and then pop the side of the pan (if you don’t separate it first, some of the cheesecake will inevitably stick to the side of the pan and crack the cake when released). Cover and refrigerate at least three hours or better yet, overnight (you may want to wait until after refrigerating to separate the cake from the pan as the cake will be “harder” and separate more cleanly at this stage).


1 16-oz. Package of fresh strawberries
5 tbsp. sugar

Note, the best time to prepare the strawberry sauce is while the cheesecake is baking. The great thing about making this strawberry sauce is that it requires no cooking! Strawberries will make their own syrup if sliced, sprinkled with sugar, and then refrigerated. You can either dice or slice (I prefer pencil-thick slices). Layer the strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar with each layer. Make sure to use a dish that can be covered with an air-tight lid; you’re going to leave this in the refrigerator a day or two and you don’t want it picking up other food flavors.

When the cheesecake is chilled, pour the strawberry sauce on top (holding back the strawberries). Next, Arrange the remaining strawberries on the top of the cake. For a bit of color (or if your making it for Christmas), garnish with mint leaves.

Keep the cheesecake chilled until your ready to serve it.

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Sparrow_hawk.  And her noggin.  Speedy recovery!

26 thoughts on “May 22, 2013: The Chapters (Indigo Books) Cheat! Spectacular Sancocho!

  1. My slightly scrambled and dented noggin and I thank you for the blog dedication, Joe!

    I can’t believe what that book store did to you. Not a good way to retain customers.

    I really want to try that cheesecake. And the sancocho. Both are going to have to wait a month or so until my collarbone heals.

  2. Like I said, some people will do anything for a blog dedication. *winks at Sparrow*

    And Joey, my mind was NOwhere near the gutter. However, for you to think it must mean yours was not only near the gutter, but wallowing somewhere deep down in the mire. 😉


  3. Joe that is such a ripoff, what nerve. My sister told me of a book store, she went to, local lady, and she had A LOT of credit, that lady decided to retire and close the store, no way to give it back,, that kind of stuff is just not right, buttheads. karma is around, maybe. Might explain why bookstores go under. Amazon is not so bad, good luck with that. Shiny’s sancocho looks great, stuff going on, no extra time, , but will try that in the future, yum.

  4. @Sparrow: Ouch! Feel better soon!

    Hey Joe, Shiny’s Sancocho will have to wait, still dealing with the aftereffects of my cold/bronchitis and antibiotics, and my stomach’s been a mess for days. Haven’t even made the pibil yet, either, so I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do. For cheesecake, I’ll go and buy one from Carnegie Deli and save myself all that work! 🙂 Oh yeah, I hate yogurt now.

    @Das: Nice patio!

  5. I prefer doing all my book shopping online too. Not a fan of digital copies, just stick to one website or two, get all your pre orders in and just not worry about it for a while. That’s what I do anyway.(I find this to be a great time saver, I do the same with anime and movies, and anything really in general)


    Sorry to hear you had bronchitis, such a horrible illness to have, I had it a few months ago and it had me feeling awful for over a week even.

    Anyway, hope you and Sparrow_hawk and anyone else unwell gets better soon! 🙂

  6. @Joe:

    I had a similar bookstore issue with Barnes and Noble. They started charging for their loyalty card and then their customer service plummeted. Now that Borders has closed, I’m doing most of my book purchasing at Amazon.

    We made the Sancocho a couple of days ago and we enjoyed it…very gumbo like. Did you try the Gouda grilled cheese with it? It made for a nice “soup” and sandwich combo.

    Good luck with the cheesecake!


    Sorry to hear about the bronchitis. I’m hoping you feel better soon. Have you tried acidophilus for the stomach issues? It helps restore the good bacteria in your digestive tract.

  7. I hate when businesses make changes on you like that. AT&T likes to surprise me with crap like that too. Idiots! 🙄 Joe you should call the manager of the store and complain. He can see your purchasing history. Maybe he will do something rather than lose your business.

    I plan on making JeffW’s cheesecake but do not know if I will get to the store. It would be a perfect weekend cause it’s longer… The recipe looks like a booger (long and lot’s of work), but if you read it, it’s really not that bad. And I think the payoff will be worth it! 😉

  8. @ JeffW – instead of strawberries on top, I am either going with the White Chocolate Sauce or the Chocolate Sauce. I have the White Chocolate Sauce recipe but not the chocolate one. Jeff can you tell me how to make that?

  9. yeah. Don’t cha just *HATE* that when “THEY” *suddenly* change a Points-Plan usually just before you manage to acquire the needed amount to CASH IN!!?? — The best backup plan, have a NO Annual Fee Credit Card that has a points plan that you can actually USE!! – BTW, never use “AIR MILES” for actual Travel. Use them to redeem Store stuff such as Groceries or Drug-Store items or gift cards…

    As to Book-Buying… Try browsing through any local “Rummage”-Book-Sale or the SALLY-ANN… I’m into Hard Cover ART-DESIGN-NEEDLEWORK-HISTORY type books collecting… You’d be surprised at the kind of once $50.+ Tomes that you can pick up for $1. and still in great condition!! — For “$50.”, I have a rather Extensive LIBRARY of Reference Material!

  10. @Ponytail:

    It’s long because I’m a pedantic engineer and I compulsively feel the need to explain every step 😉 It’s not so bad once you do it. Make it a couple of days in advance, though; it really does need the refrigerator time to chill properly.

    Go here for a white chocolate sauce recipe (scroll down):


    You can substitute baker’s chocolate for the white chocolate morsels (2 cubes = about 1/2 cup of the morsels). You may need to add in a little more sugar for the chocolate sauce (vs. the white chocolate) since the baker’s chocolate is not sweetened. Stir frequently as you heat it in the microwave; if it gets grainy, continue to heat for 30 second intervals (at 20% power) in the microwave and keep stirring.

    For inspiration, here are a few different styles of cheesecakes you might want to try:

    A White Chocolate Cheesecake with White Chocolate Sauce and Strawberries:

    A Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake:

    A Butterscotch-Caramel Cheesecake:

    My wife, Barb, loves the chocolate sauce…especially on the chocolate cheesecake. Good luck!

  11. paying for store membership cards is BS. i refuse to join any membership program that has a fee, either one-time or yearly. especially if it’s somewhere i don’t go to often.

  12. Sparrow – get well soon!

    As for the book store, you’ve just described why so many people buy on-line!
    I watch store managers complain about how on-line shopping is killing the high street, but the truth is customer loyalty is not rewarded any more. Shops need to get back to basics. We don’t expect to get goods for nothing.Heck, we don’t even mind paying a little more for the opportunity to see and feel the goods first hand before purchase. What we don’t want is to get ripped off. The sooner the owners of these companies stop trying to make a fast buck off their loyal customers, the better.

  13. I’m so excited! My son liked das’s puerco pibil so much that he asked what this week’s recipe was and has volunteered to make the sancocho! Not sure I can get the family to make the cheesecake for me, though.

    Get well soon, Deni. Bronchitis stinks. Hope you feel better soon. And try the puerco pibil, by all means when your tummy recovers.

    @JeffW: Actually, I was admiring the completeness of your directions.

  14. For what it’s worth, I do almost all of my online shopping at Amazon. Do yourself a favor and get the Prime Membership. Yes, you are paying them for giving them your business, but the free 2 day shipping and access to the Kindle lending library, and streaming movie library more than make up for that $80.00 a year imho. I’ve saved hundreds on shipping alone.

  15. I’m glad the sancocho went over well! Keilbasa just makes everything better. The recipe owes a lot to cassoulet and gumbo which I love. And I love cheesecake too; J & B’s white chocolate cheesecake sounds very tasty.

    I never thought I’d switch to digital but once I realized I could read a book in seconds instead of waiting for the mail I was hooked.

    Hm, if I ever need a cool futuristic cuss word I’m going to use “sancocho”; it sounds way naughtier than frak or shtako.

    Have you seen Defiance yet? I’m guessing if you’re only just started Battlestar you’re probably years from checking Defiance out but it has a lot of Syfy actors in it. I’m loving Noah Danby as a alien badass.

    Oh and do you have any insight into David Hewlett’s “Debug”? He’s directing, with Jason M starring, it looks very intriguing.

  16. I’m in for cheesecake. I’ll have to give half of it away but it will be worth it. The white chocolate raspberry sounds good.

    Deni: So the cold you caught from Anakin went into bronchitis? That sucks and I hope the antibiotics knock it out soon. Mucinex D helps me.

    Sparrow_hawk: Your family sounds nice. Maybe they would BUY a cheesecake for you?

    Have you watched any U.S. news Mr M? They are pushing through an internet sales tax. A few of the American stores think we will stop buying online. I’ve got news for them, buying online is easier. I’ll pay the sales tax to keep from driving to an overcrowded/understaffed/rude staffed brick and mortar store most days. If I need something right away, I’ll drive over but that’s it.

  17. Joe, my family felt the same thing. Shiny’s sancocho is definitely added to our usual recipes. So far everyone has been extremely happy with the selections and my Mom is especially happy about the idea of her favorite dessert: cheesecake!

  18. Hey Joe!!
    When are you going to be a judge on Iron Chef? I, and probably many here, would love to see you on the show. Could you send a shout out to my daughter, Bethany (14 yrs)? She is having her gall bladder removed on Friday. She has been miserable for a month and has missed A LOT of school. Have a great weekend!

    Jen D.

  19. @Tammy: Yeah, it happens every time I get a cold, has since I was a kid. I try to avoid sick people, but in this case…oy. 🙂

    @Jennifer: Tell Bethany it’s a piece of cake, I had mine taken out many years ago and as surgeries go, it’s really not that bad! Hope she gets well soon!

    @Sparrow: Thanks, it’s been miserable but slowly getting better. 🙂 Do you have a big clunky cast?

  20. Hi Joe,
    I was not disappointed you took a bit longer to post about your Shiny’s sancocho experience. I finally had some time off to spend in the Kitchen. I made my batch for supper. When I was in the store gathering ingredients and in the soup aisle I ran into a quandary. Was the soup to be chicken noodle soup or chicken broth? I decided it did not make much difference but a choice of preference. And when it came to Kielbasa I was reminded of Heather Graham’s character on Scrubs. Oh how the excitement built.

    It was an enjoyable mixture. The broth reminded me of a favorite Thai dish Dom yam. I think it is due to the cilantro, garlic and shrimp. Also the plantain, with its starchy consistency, would work in many of Thai dishes. In fact I think it could make a great substitute for my favorite of the Curry dishes, Gang Masaman as this recipe calls for potato.

    I was a little worried that I might not find gnocchi now that I live in Chicago. One might find it surprising that in such a city it would be difficult to find thing, but it can be. For the last dish I had to go to a couple of stores to get every thing and I still missed out on some. I don’t even have a decent asian grocery store within miles of my place.

    I have all I need for the cheese cake. I have never made one before so this is another adventure. I do not have a round pan so I will use my square dish instead.

  21. Years ago when indigo was in the process of acquiring Chapters, the people at Chapters as a reward for loyal customers issued lifetime versions of the award card. (i was told later by certain chapter’s management it was a way for chapters to give an eternal finger to the new indigo management).Chapters has always had a pay for the discount award. Its not a new thing. however some of haven’t paid for it in at least 10 years. just saying.

  22. If you had an irewards card for years with them, you had to pay every year to renew it anyway, so what’s the big deal of paying again? They aren’t, not were they ever, free.

  23. @JeffW I really need to read this blog with glasses on. I thought it said you were a pediatric engineer. I was thinking, “What the hell is that?”

    @Deni: hope you are feeling better.

    Joe–That is just not right. They should have at least sent you a letter telling you they were going to switch so be sure to come in and use your rewards before they did.

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