Wednesday, February 14, 2018


I finally got a chance to check out one of our new books Cheesecake Love by Jocelyn Brubaker. It must be a good one because every time I went to the shelf to find it, someone else beat me to it. Maybe it was the attractive cover depicting pretty mason jars filled parfait style with strawberry pie filling, cheesecake, whipped cream and topped with a strawberry cut to resemble a heart? Or maybe it was the subject matter....a whole book dedicated to cheesecake! I finally reserved it, hoping that I was the next on the list and went to the store to stock up on cheesecake baking staples.

If you love cheesecake, this book does not disappoint. It  is filled with over 75 inventive cheesecake recipes, one more scrumptious sounding than the next. There are so many kinds to choose from: cheesecake pies, cheesecake brownies, cheesecake cupcakes, breakfast cheesecake, and even no bake cheesecake. The full color photos helped me to choose which recipes I wanted to try; Triple Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake, Banana Caramel Cheesecake, Triple Peanut Butter Cheesecake....the list goes on and on. 

It has been a while since I've made a cheesecake so I decided to start with a simple recipe - Vanilla Bean Cheesecake.  It is a great base cheesecake that can be eaten plain or  dressed up to suit your taste. I chose to pair it with berries and fresh whipped cream but depending on your mood, you can top it with mixed fruit, candy, chocolate or flavored syrups. It will be perfect for Valentine's Day dessert!

I halved the following recipe to make (3) 4" mini cheesecakes and baked them until the center of the cheesecake was firm ( about 1 hour ) . The benefit of making mini cheesecakes is:

1) You don't need a crowd to serve it. One 4" round cheesecake is just enough for 2 people or 1 hungry cheesecake lover!

2) They are easy to freeze - just make sure to leave the cake in the springform pan and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. ( it can survive in the freezer for up to 2 weeks)  Take it out in the morning, defrost in the refrigerator and it should be ready to eat when you come home form work!

Vanilla Cheesecake with berries - perfect for Valentine's Day dessert.

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

For the Crust

50 regular size Nilla Wafer cookies
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbs unsalted butter - melted

For the Cheesecake
4 (8 oz) package of cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs vanilla bean paste ( I used pure vanilla extract )
4 large eggs

1. Place a large rimmed baking sheet on the very bottom rack of the oven and fill it halfway with water. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 10" springform pan with parchment paper. (I used three 4"round mini springforms and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray)

2. For the Crust : Pulse the cookies in a food processor a few times until they are completely crushed. 

3. Mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar and melted butter until it resembles course sand. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside. 

4. Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. 

5. Add the cream and vanilla bean paste and beat until creamy. ( I used pure vanilla extract  -  extract and paste can be used interchangeably along with vanilla beans - in equal amounts) 

6. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Make sure the eggs are fully incorporated but do not overbeat the batter. 

7. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust. Place the pan on the oven rack right above the tray of water. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour 20 minutes. 

8. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Let cool for 5 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges of the cheesecake to loosen it from the pan. 

9. Let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate it for 4 to 6 hours, or until completely chilled. Detach the springform pan ring and remove the cheesecake from the pan. Slide the cheesecake onto a serving plate. 

10. Serve with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, if desired. 

"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."

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I had my heart set on apple picking this fall and trying some new recipes along with making one of my favorite fall dinners;  pork chops with apples and onions, apple sauce on the side and apple nut cake for dessert. An apple lovers dream! I will have to wait until next year to pick my own, but lucky for me supermarkets stock locally grown varieties in abundance and for a reasonable price. Each apple has is own unique qualities depending on what you want to make with it. So, after a trip to the supermarket and 3 varieties of apples ( Cortland, Empire & Granny Smith ) I decided to make mom's fall favorite:  Apple Nut Cake. The cinnamon and nutmeg flavored batter combined with fresh apples and nuts makes for a super moist cake. I usually bake it in a 9x13 pan and cut large squares, douse with powdered sugar and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complete. Although this cake tastes great warm right out of the oven, I think it is best eaten a couple of days later when the apple flavor and moistness is at its peak. 

Did you know that New York grows more apple varieties than any other state? In fact, there are approximately 10 000,000 apple trees that produce enough apples to bake 500 million apple pies! 
The New York Apple Association's website is a good resource to familiarize yourself with the varieties and what they are best used for.

This all-purpose apple was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, the USA in 1898. It is a juicy, sweet apple with a hint of tartness. Excellent multipurpose apple for eating, baking, sauces and salads. Freezes well. 

A cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious. Firm textured and sweet-tart makes this apple a great all purpose apple good for juice, sauces, pies, baking, and eating. 

Granny Smith 

One of the most popular apples, Granny Smith's are a bit sour but a good all-purpose baking apple. Is best when paired with sweeter spicier varieties to create a balanced pie.

Tips for Baking with Apples

Select apple varieties that are in season. If the apples are out of season, they may have been in storage and will not be as flavorful and juicy as fresh-picked apples. Look for firm apples that have no bruises or bug holes. Choose apples that look fresh, are bright in color and have a fresh apple aroma. Don’t choose unripe apples that are hard and have too much green or yellow color for their variety. If you're slicing apples and don't want the exposed pieces to turn brown, dunk the slices in a bowl of three parts water to one part lemon juice. When baking a pie, use a mix of sweet and tart apples to ensure a balanced flavor.

Mom's Apple Nut Cake

1 cup butter
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon ( I always add more - I just love cinnamon!)
2 tsp vanilla 
3 cups peeled chopped apples
1 cup chopped nuts 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan. 

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Gradually add sifted flour, baking powder,salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in vanilla. Fold in apples and nuts and bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean from center of cake. 

Friday, August 25, 2017


I'm slacking off in the ice cream department. It's nearing the end of August and I haven't even gotten started on my ice cream making. So far only blueberry, banana chocolate chunk (aka chunky monkey), pineapple and the latest attempt at toasted marshmallow. I have to say at first I was not sure if the flavor represented its name but the more you eat it, the more you think you should grab some graham crackers and chocolate and eat some more! It's creamy and decadent and worth a try. 

Marshmallow Ice Cream

  • 1  16 oz bag of marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk 
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Spread the marshmallows on a baking sheet and toss in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes, until lightly browned, turning them a few times to brown on all sides. 

In a large saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla and heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot but not boiling. 

Transfer the milk mixture to a blender, add the marshmallows, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Submerge the bowl in a larger bowl filled with cold water and ice and transfer 
both to the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours and up to 12 overnight.

Transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturers directions. When frozen, transfer to a container and freeze until firm.

Review: "Fans know Richard Blais best as the winner of Bravo's Top Chef All-Stars, the first competitor to be invited back as a permanent judge on Top Chef, and now as a Food Network regular as well. On television, Blais is famous for his daring cooking, making use of science (think liquid nitrogen) to dazzle and impress. But how does he cook at home when the cameras are off? That's what this book will answer, with elevated homestyle recipes and personal stories which invite you behind the scenes and into his own kitchen for the first time. Some recipes might look familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs, but have a secret, flavor-boosting ingredient, and others feature clever but unexpected techniques, like his fried chicken which is first marinated in pickle juice. These are creative recipes that anyone can make and are sure to excite, from Seabass with Ginger Beer and Bok Choy to Jerked Spatchcock Chicken and Plantains, making this this the book Blais fans have been waiting for."

Thursday, March 16, 2017


St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner and even though I am not of Irish descent, each year I make a traditional "Irish - American" meal of corned beef and cabbage Don't they say that everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day? Most of us associate corned beef and cabbage as a typical Irish meal because it's a popular dinner eaten on that celebratory day however, it is not a meal customary to Ireland. Instead of corned beef and cabbage, the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal eaten in Ireland is lamb or bacon. (salted pork ) It wasn't until the late 19th century that Irish American immigrants used corned beef as a substitute for bacon since it was an inexpensive alternative thus starting a new American St. Paddy's day tradition.

 This year, I decided to make something more traditionally Irish. I looked at a  few books on Irish cooking from our vast cookbook collection and chose a recipe from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook by Christine McFadden. Dublin Coddle. A bacon, sausage,onion and potato stew that has been a favorite in Dublin since the seventeenth century. The photo of the soupy stew in the book helped me to decide. Yum...cold weather comfort food. I just happened to have most of the ingredients on hand. That, coupled with a cold, snowy weekend convinced me to try a stab at it and I assure you, it was worth the effort.

Warning: it is not considered a diet dish. It starts with a pound of bacon! Don't worry....if it makes you feel better, you can choose to prepare it as a special treat for St. Patrick's Day....once a year!

Feeling a tinge of guilt, I chose to broil 1/4 of what the recipe called for and the stew was still very flavorful. I can't imagine if I used a pound of bacon! It is a hearty dish that will stick to your ribs. A comfort food for a winter's day and as I decided for can always start your diet tomorrow.

Dublin Coddle

1 lb of bacon strips ( I only used 1/4 lb)
8 good quality pork sausages
4 onions sliced
black pepper
1 leek sliced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme 
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves chopped
6 starchy potatoes peeled and cut into 2 or 3 large chunks
3 cups ham or chicken stock 
soda bread to serve

Preheat the broiler to high and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Broil the bacon for 7-8 minutes, until just starting to crisp. Drain on paper towels, slice in half widthwise and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the sausages and cook, turning for about 15 minutes, until evenly browned. If necessary, use a little bacon fat to prevent the sausages from sticking. Remove the sausages from the skillet, slice in half widthwise and set aside.

Using the same skillet, gently cook the onions for 7 minutes, until soft but not colored.

Layer the onions, sausages and bacon in the bottom of a flameproof casserole dish, seasoning each layer with plenty of black pepper.  Add the leek, herbs and garlic and finish with a layer of potatoes. Season with a little more black pepper, then pour in the stock.

Layer the onions, bacon and sausage add herbs, leeks and lots of fresh black pepper

Add potatoes, sprinkle with more black pepper and add the chicken stock

Cover the casserole dish tightly and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Serve with chunks of soda bread to mop up the juices.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016


What dishes do you think of when planing your Thanksgiving dinner? For some of us, the celebratory banquet includes similar dishes year after year, such as roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes,  candied yams and pumpkin pie. When the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag Indians in 1621 to the historic feast to celebrate their successful harvest, most of what we as Americans think of traditional Thanksgiving dishes were not on the menu. 

The first "Thanksgiving" was a three day festival of eating, hunting and entertainment and since no record exists of the feasts exact menu, historians can only surmise the details from writings of Edward Winslow, William Bradford and predictions based on the crops that were prolific at that time. Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that the Governor Bradford sent four men on a "fowling" mission in preparation of the event and that the Wampanoag arrived with the gift of five deer, so venison and some type of  poultry were likely consumed in addition to native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, leeks, wild onions, beans, and squash. Other English crops such as turnips, cabbage, parsnips, onions, carrots, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme might have also been on hand. It is assumed that since the Pilgrim's sugar supply had dwindled at the time of the feast, that the meal did not feature pies, cakes or desserts so typical in our contemporary Thanksgiving celebration.

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of comfort food. Turkey accompanied by carb rich side dishes - stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, squash, and green beans swimming in a creamy mushroom sauce with fried onions. Thanksgiving without them is just not Thanksgiving. Typically we Americans eat an overabundance of these starchy comfort foods and by the end of Thanksgiving dinner feel drowsy, weighed down and just the turkey. This year I decided to give guests an alternative; a healthier,lighter side dish, full of flavor but also full of nutrients. It looks festive, has some leafy greens, goat cheese, dried cranberries and roasted carrots.

 Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad. I found this recipe in Ina Garten's new book "Cooking for Jeffrey". I'll let you know how it turns out and if  any of my dinner guests decide to give it a try. And remember...this is an alternative not a replacement. I will try the salad but I'm still looking forward to the traditional stuffing, potatoes and pumpkin pie! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


2 Pounds carrots
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice ( 2 oranges )
3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves - grated
6 ounces baby arugula
6 ounces goat cheese - medium diced
2/3 cup roasted, salted Marcona almonds


Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Trim and scrub the carrots. If the carrots are more than one inch in diameter, cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the carrots in large diagonal slices one inch wide and 2 inches long and place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Toss well and transfer to two sheet pans. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once, until the carrots are tender. Transfer all the carrots to one of the sheet pans and the maple syrup, toss, and roast for 10 - 15 minutes, until the edges are caramelized. Watch them carefully! Toss with a metal spatula and set aside for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine the cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, then set aside for 10 minutes. 

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the arugula in a large bowl and add the carrots, cranberries ( with their liquid ), goat cheese, almonds and the vinaigrette. Toss with large spoons, sprinkle with salt and serve at room temperature. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

J9'S COOKBOOK CLUB- Summer Sides and Apps

Do you love to read cookbooks and try new recipes? Want to talk about your triumphs and disasters and exchange advice and culinary ideas? Then join me this summer on August 25th at 7:00 pm for a new twist on book discussion:  J9's Books for Cooks Book Club.

The theme will be Summer Sides and Appetizers. All you have to do is find a cookbook from our vast cookbook collection and make the recipe of your choice. Then come in with the book and a sample of your creation and share your thoughts and ideas. If you need help finding the perfect recipe, just ask one of our librarians or use the book list of suggestions to help you.

In the spirit of my new cookbook club, I decided to get started on some ideas to support the theme. One of my all time favorite recipes is from Ina Garten. I know, I seem to always fall back on a recipe from Ina but if you've ever tried any of her recipes, you would know why.

Orzo with roasted vegetables is a full of flavor, easy to make crowd pleaser. And you can serve it at room temperature which is a plus when you are having a big party and you have limited space in your refrigerator. Grilled vegetables with orzo, feta, pine nuts and basil. So liight and refreshing and goes with almost anything at an outdoor barbecue or summer get together. It is also quite versatile. Sometimes I add zucchini or double the amount of vegetables and it comes out delicious every time!


1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4 inch diced
1 red bell pepper - 1 inch diced
1 yellow bell peppers - 1 inch diced
1 red onion peeled and 1 inch diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound orzo
4 scallions minced 
1/4 cup pignoli nuts toasted  ( I omit sometimes if I don't have them on hand )
3/4 pound feta cheese - 1/2 inch diced not crumbled
15 fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade


1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the eggplant, peppers, onion and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula. 

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling water for 7-9 minutes until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. 

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl. 

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature and then add the scallions, pignolis, feta and basil. Check the seasonings and serve at room temperature. 



Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I always wanted to learn how to make pickles and preserves....maybe jar some fresh tomato sauce just when the tomatoes are most ripe and at their peak. I have all the supplies from my mom. I remember summers where she would come home with bushels of strawberries, pick out the perfect ones and make a whole winter's supply of strawberry jam; cooking the sugar and berries, boiling the jars and sealing the lids to preserve the freshness. We would eat strawberry jam all summer and winter!

A few weeks ago I decided to try a new food store. While perusing the produce department for salad ingredients, I stumbled upon cute, mini cucumbers. My first thought was to forget the salad (since they can be somewhat boring and redundant) and to use them for something not so ordinary. Pickles! Here is my chance to learn the process of pickling and use the supplies that have been packed away in my basement for years. Unfortunately canning takes a bit of time and since a lot of free time was lacking in my schedule and not knowing how long these little cukes would stay fresh, I decided to take a short cut and make quick refrigerator pickles. Obviously a shorter shelf life than if I canned them but tasty and very easy to make. I have an Aunt who practically pickles anything all summer, as long as the vegetables are abundant and fresh. She has a brine recipe for everything ... string beans, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower... They're all good. I decided to use her recipe for bread and butter pickles so here goes:


  • Wash cucumbers well with cold water. Slice them and put them in canning jars that are clean and hot - just out of the dishwasher. ( I also sliced red peppers since I had them in the fridge)
  • Combine sugar,  vinegar, onions, salt and spices and bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Let cool for a couple of minutes and then ladle the brine over the cucumbers in the jar. Make sure to leave 1/4 inch space at the top. Cover the lids and then refrigerate. Shake the jars once a day to distribute the brine. 
You can store these in the refrigerator for up to 2 months but they won't last that long!

You can find recipes like this in the book Canning & Preserving with Ashley English