Spice Up Your Life!

This month we’re offering a “Take Home” activity for adults! Beginning April 1st, you can stop by the Dillsboro Public Library or the Aurora Public Library to pick up your “Spice Up Your Life” information. April’s featured spice is paprika, and you’ll receive a sample of three different types of paprika, along with recipes to try. Then read all about paprika (and check out more recipes) by using our online resource AtoZ Food America. You’ll just need your library card number to sign into the resource.

If you try one of the featured recipes, send a copy to stephanie@eapld.org, and we’ll show your creation on one of the library’s social media pages. You can also learn much more about the variety of spices in these three books which are available in the library’s print collection.

The Spice & Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill The Flavor of Spices by Fabienne Gambrelle The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

Hannah Swensen Mystery #1: Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Hi there! Welcome to my blog series where I will be reading and reviewing Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen series, as well as trying out some of the recipes included in the books!

You do not necessarily have to read these books in the order that they were published; however, for the purpose of this blog, I did start from the beginning. Since there are so many books in the series (26, with number 27 expected in late February), I will not be writing a blog over each book, but every five or so. Today I will be discussing the first book in the series, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

Review

The book begins by introducing Hannah Swensen, a twenty-something year old woman who owns a cookie and coffee shop called the Cookie Jar in her hometown of Lake Eden, Minnesota. We learn that Hannah once had aspirations to become a professor, and was well on her way to a Doctorate Degree when her sister, Andrea begged her to come home when their father died to help their mother get his affairs in order. Hannah dutifully returned to Lake Eden to assist her family, and subsequently ended up staying and opening the Cookie Jar instead of going back to school.

One morning, Hannah happens upon a crime scene in the alley behind her shop involving the Cozy Cow delivery driver, Ron LaSalle. The scene leads into a criminal investigation led by Andrea’s husband Bill, a Winnetka County Deputy Sheriff. Hannah uses her wits, some skills she’s picked up from mysteries she’s seen on TV, and possibly illegal tactics to help Bill track down the criminal and solve the town’s mystery. Through her investigation, we meet some Lake Eden locals, and learn some shocking town secrets.

I would consider the Hannah Swensen books to be cozy mysteries. They are gentle, easy reads, and though they include murder, they are not overly graphic. I read this particular book in two days, and it kept my interest the entire time. The plot lines aren’t overly complicated, but they aren’t obvious either. In Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, I thought I knew who the murderer was about halfway through, but I ended up being wrong.

For the most part, I really do enjoy these books. I love Hannah Swensen’s sarcastic character, and the fact that she is an independent woman. However, I feel these books are a bit problematic. For the sake of space, I will go deeper into these issues in future blogs, but here are some things I’ve noticed. Joanne Fluke uses the r word to describe Freddy Sawyer, a character with a developmental disability. The character Betty Johnson is never mentioned without also mentioning how fat she is and how unflattering her outfit is. There’s also a sort of unhealthy dynamic between Hannah and Mike, one of her love interests. All that being said, this book was published in 2000 and I realize times were different then. I’m interested to see if these things continue into the later books.

If you want to get started on the series, APLD has a large print, regular print, ebook, and eAudiobook copy of Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder! You can go online or call the library to place a hold on our print copies, or access the digital copies on Libby or OverDrive.

Recipe

I decided to try to make the Regency Ginger Crisps that Hannah made for the Lake Eden Regency Romance Club. The recipe makes 6 to 7 dozen. Since I had so many extras I brought them to the library with me the next day, and they were a hit with the staff!

Regency Ginger Crisps

Do not preheat oven yet, dough must chill before baking.

3/4 cup melted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 large beaten egg (or two medium, just whip them up with a fork)

4 tablespoons molasses (that’s 1/4 cup)***

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 1/4 cups flour (not sifted)

1/2 cup white sugar in a small bowl (for later)

Melt butter and mix in sugar. Let mixture cool and then add egg(s). Add soda, molasses, salt, and ginger. Stir it thoroughly. Add flour and mix in. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour. (Overnight is even better.)

When the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F., rack in the middle position.

Roll the dough into walnut sized balls in white sugar. (Just dump them in the bowl with the sugar and shake the bowl gently to coat them.) Place them on greased cookie sheets, 12 to a standard sheet. Flatten them with a spatula.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on cookie sheets for no more than 1 minute, and then remove to wire rack to finish cooling. (If you leave these on the cookie sheets for too long, they’ll stick.)

***To measure molasses, first spray the inside of the measuring cup with Pam so that the molasses won’t stick to the sides of the cup.

Yield: 6 to 7 dozen, depending on cookie size.

 


 

It’s National Cheesecake Day!

July 30th is National Cheesecake Day! Take the time today to enjoy a slice. Stop by the store to pick one up, or stay tuned for a recipe to try at home!

The cheesecake is thought to have gotten its start in Ancient Greece. The earliest mention of a cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus in a book he wrote on the art of making cheesecakes. However, a more modern version called a sambocade (pictured left), made with elderflower and rose water, can be found in Forme of Cury, an English cookbook from 1390. This has led to chef Heston Blumenthal to argue that the cheesecake is actually an English invention. The name cheesecake has been used since the 1400s; however, the cheesecake as we know it did not evolve until the 1700s when Europeans began removing yeast from the recipe and replacing it with beaten eggs instead. Modern cheesecake now comes in two forms: the regular baked cheesecake, and the unbaked cream cheese cheesecake on graham cracker crust that was invented in the United States.

Prep: 15 minutes

Inactive: 8 hours

Cook: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Serves 8-10


Ingredients

Crust

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Pinch fine salt

Filling

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups sour cream

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Topping

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

Berries, optional


Instructions

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.
  2. For the crust: Melt the butter, covered in the microwave, in a medium microwave-safe bowl, or a saucepan. Brush a 9-inch springform pan with some of the butter. Stir the remaining butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the pan, taking care to get the crust evenly into the edges. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool. Wrap the bottom and up the sides of the pan with foil and put in a roasting pan.
  3. For the filling: Beat the cream cheese on medium speed with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Add the granulated sugar and beat just until light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Slowly beat in the sour cream, then eggs, vanilla and both citrus zests; take care not to over whip. Pour into the cooled crust.
  4. Bring a medium saucepan or kettle of water to a boil. Gently place the roasting pan in the oven (don’t pull the rack out of the oven). Pour in enough hot water to come about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes—the outside of the cake will set but the center will still be loose.
  5. For the topping: Stir together the sour cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Spread over the top of the cooked cheesecake and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the oven off, cook the cheesecake in the residual heat in the oven for about 1 hour. This gentle finish minimizes the risk of the dreaded crack in your cheesecake.
  6. Remove cheesecake from the roasting pan to a rack. Run a knife around the edges and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
  7. Bring cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Remove the springform ring. Dip a knife in warm water, wipe dry before slicing each piece. Serve with berries, if desired.

Recipe taken from Food Network.

Prep: 20 minutes

Inactive: 8 hours and 20 minutes

Cook: 0 minutes

Serves 10-12


Ingredients

Crust

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 12-14 full sheet graham crackers)

1/3 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream or heavy whipping cream

three 8-ounce blocks full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 


Instructions

  1. Make the crust: Stir the graham cracker crust ingredients together. Pour into a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan and pack in very tightly. The tighter it’s packed, the less likely it will fall apart when cutting the cheesecake. I recommend using the bottom of a measuring cup to pack it into the bottom and up the sides. You can watch me do this in the video above. Freeze for 10-20 minutes as you prepare the filling.
  2. Make the filling: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cold heavy cream into stiff peaks on medium-high speed, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar together on medium speed until perfectly smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the confectioners’ sugar, sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Beat for 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed until smooth and combined. Make sure there are no large lumps of cream cheese. If there are lumps, keep beating until smooth.
  4. Using your mixer on low speed or a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the cheesecake filling until combined. This takes several turns of your rubber spatula. Combine slowly as you don’t want to deflate all the air in the whipped cream.
  5. Remove crust from the freezer and spread filling into crust. Use an offset spatula to smooth down the top.
  6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours and up to 2 days. For best results, 12 hours is best. I chill mine overnight. The longer refrigerated, the nicer the no-bake cheesecake will set up.
  7. Use a knife to loosen the chilled cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan, then remove the rim. Using a clean sharp knife, cut into slices for serving. For neat slices, wipe the knife clean between each slice.
  8. Serve cheesecake with desired toppings. Cover and store leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Recipe taken from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Want more desserts? We have a book for that!