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.
Apologies 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)
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
1/2 cup of white chocolate morsels
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
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).
STRAWBERRY SAUCE INGREDIENTS
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!