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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6 and Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes

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Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.” Give me an “R.”

I’m not going to waste your time or mine finishing the word, but I trust you get the idea. It’s spring!!! And I feel like cheering about it.

O.K. So you’re probably thinking–Get a life. It’s been spring for over a month.

Yes, that’s true. But until the fresh berries start showing up at the farmer’s markets, it’s not really spring. And just this week, the pick-your-own strawberry farm down the road opened its gates–earliest opening on record!

So it’s spring! Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.”

How ’bout give me a recipe?

O.K. Try this out for size–Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes. Doesn’t that just cry out for spring (and summer)? Lemon! Fresh berries! The cool richness of cheesecake! The baker, who lives a little farther north than this writer, used blueberries for this batch. But fresh-picked strawberries would work just as well. And they’ll be coming your way soon, because it’s spring!

Give me an “S.” Give me a “P.”  .  .  .

Hey, don’t throw your shoe at me. I’m not some howling dog!

mini lemon cheesecakes

Mini Lemon Berry Cheesecakes

For the crust:

4 honey graham cracker sheets

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, room temperature

1 large lemon, juiced

For the topping:

6 Tablespoons berry jam* 

1/2 cup fresh berries*

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with 9 paper liners, and set aside.

Add the graham cracker sheets to a food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Add the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and melted butter, and process until ingredients come together. Divide the mixture between the 9 paper liners, pressing and packing the mixture into the bottom of each liner.

Next, make the filling by adding the cream cheese and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer, beat the ingredients on high until smooth. Add the flour, salt, vanilla, egg, and lemon juice to the mixture, and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Divide the batter between the 9 paper liners. Bake the cheesecakes in your preheated oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown and the centers are just set. Allow the cheesecakes to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Once the cheesecakes are cooled, the centers will have sunk slightly, leaving room for the fruit topping. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the berry jam on high for 10-15 seconds, or until warmed. Mix the fresh blueberries into the jam. Spoon this mixture on top of each cheesecake. Return the cheesecakes to your refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes 9 mini cheesecakes.

*Any berry jam or berries will do. I used blackberry jam and fresh blueberries, but any variety of berry jam and berries will work. The possibilities are endless!

mini lemon berry cheesecakes

{Adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #6, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #7 and Mini Lemon Soufflés

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Soufflés–whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert–are an underutilized treat. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because they need to be prepared at the last minute and eaten promptly. But that’s true of many culinary favorites, from omelets to hamburgers; yet we don’t shy away from preparing them.

We think soufflés are the perfect dessert for Reading and Recipes! For one thing, they are fun to make; and we try to choose recipes that are as much fun to prepare as to eat. Secondly, you can make a small number, to indulge only yourself or yourself and a few lucky others. Finally, they provide immediate gratification, as in take them out of the oven and eat! A couple months ago, we snuck in a soufflé under the name Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. It’s been one of our most popular desserts for 2015.

This week we’re offering Mini Lemon Soufflés. They are light and airy with the wonderfully enticing flavor and aroma of lemon (make your whole house smell nice!). They are also rich and satisfying. So don’t be afraid to give them a try, along with a side helping of Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #7.

And maybe you too will begin to wonder why we don’t make soufflés more often!

mini lemon souffleMini Lemon Soufflés

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

zest from 1 lemon

3 eggs, at room temperature and separated

juice from 1 lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

lemon souffle

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 1-cup individual serving ramekins or a 1-quart dish.

Using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and lemon zest and cream ingredients together. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, to the creamed butter until well mixed. Add the lemon juice, Greek yogurt, and vanilla to the mixture and slowly stir ingredients together. Once ingredients are combined, stir in the flour and salt.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, ensuring that the batter is light and airy.

Divide the batter between the four prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins in a 9×13 dish and pour hot water up to 1 inch deep. Bake the cakes in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and the center is just set and puffed. Remove the cakes from the oven and the water bath; place the ramekins on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.

Serves cakes warm with a dusting of powdered sugar and fruit on the side.

Serves 4.

mini lemon souffles

{Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #7 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #7, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #7, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #2 and Strawberry Lemon Bread Pudding

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At Reading and Recipes, we hit the ground running.

Did you notice that spring arrived this past weekend? Thank goodness! I know, some of you still have mounds of snow along the driveway and in the yard, and maybe some more on the way this weekend. But we’ve turned the corner. Bye-bye cold gross winter. Hello, sunshine and warm temps!

And at R&R we aren’t going to ease into spring, we aren’t going to back into spring, we aren’t going to slide into spring. We’re going to leap into spring and give it a bear hug with this original take on an old standby–Strawberry Lemon Bread Pudding! 

With the strawberries, we’re paying homage to the signature fruit of spring (won’t be too long till we’ll be picking our own at the farm down the road!). Then with the zest and tartness of lemon, we’re calling forth a key flavor of summer, reminding us of glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade on the back porch or one of those drinks with the umbrellas while we sit around the pool.

Then we’re wrapping these signature flavors of spring and summer in the ultimate comfort food of all time–bread pudding! So this dessert works toward giving you hope for the warm and happy seasons to come while offering you consolation for the long cold winter that maybe isn’t quite ready to surrender.

So jump into this dessert with both feet the way R&R is jumping into spring, ready or not!

strawberry lemon bread pudding Strawberry Lemon Bread Pudding

1/2 loaf stale bread, cubed (about 3 cups)

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

zest from half of a lemon

juice from half of a lemon

1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries

1 cup powdered sugar

lemon strawberry bread pudding

In a mixing bowl, add the milk, eggs, sugar, both extracts, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk until the eggs are beaten and all of the ingredients are well combined. Add the cubed bread and strawberries and mix until all of the bread is covered by liquid. Let this mixture sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 5×7 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Pour soaked bread into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until bread pudding is set and no longer jiggles. Remove the bread pudding from the oven and cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the lemon glaze by combing the 1 Tablespoon of milk or water and powdered sugar. Stir until no lumps remain. Serve the bread pudding warm, with a drizzle of glaze and sprinkle of lemon zest on top.

Serves 3-4.

strawberry lemon breadpudding

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #2 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #2, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #2, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #22 and Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

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In this week’s reading segment, Angels Unawares, Serial #22, Laura agrees to make blueberry muffins for Devon and Josh but then realizes she doesn’t have the recipe. And even if she can recall the recipe, she might not be able to find the ingredients in Josh’s unfamiliar kitchen. These uncertainties, combined with the emotional stress she’s under, result in a mini-meltdown right there in the kitchen (we’ve all been there, haven’t we?).

Too bad she didn’t have Internet service with access to Reading and Recipes. We would’ve provided her with the recipe right here. Instead, she had to get help from a long-lost spiritual companion named Amy, one of the several spiritual entities that populate this book and guide their human charges to a safer shore.

Picking up on this muffin theme, this week’s recipe is Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. These might not be quite as universal as the tried and true blueberry muffins Laura plans to make, but they come in a close second. The nice thing about Poppy Seed Muffins is that they are so versatile–good for breakfast, to be sure, but also great on a brunch buffet, for a picnic lunch, or even as an accompaniment to many dinner entrees. Not too sweet or gooey, they transport well (try them in a bag lunch) and keep for several days. Oh, and did I forget to mention the lemon flavor? That little tartness is just the right complement to the richness of the muffin and the earthiness of the poppy seeds. And it smells so good while baking. So give them a try.

And if you’re really ambitious, follow Laura’s lead and mix up the blueberry muffins as well. Then you’ll have two kinds of muffins and your stomach, and anyone else in the house, will be doubly happy.

lemon muffin

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

1/4 cup buttermilk

optional: zest from one lemon

lemon poppy seed muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a regular size muffin pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Add the butter and granulated sugar to a large mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, cream ingredients on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix into the batter. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix in. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure all ingredients are mixed together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Add some of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated, careful not to over mix.

Divide the batter between 4 muffin cups in the prepared pan, filling each about 3/4 full. If you have enough batter left over, fill one more muffin cup. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and putting on a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 4-5 muffins.

lemon poppy seed muffin

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #22 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #22, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #22, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Carousel Ride and Lemon Cupcakes

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Admit it–there’s something happy about cupcakes. Even the word brings a smile to your face.

And what about lemon? The color and the scent and the flavor are all bright and light and fun.

Now put the two together–lemon cupcakes! Just typing the words practically brought the sun out–and it’s two hours after sunset here! Now imagine mixing together the ingredients, stirring the batter–the pale yellow color, the delicate scent of lemon mixed with butter and egg and sugar and flour. Then the scent of the cupcakes as they bake, filling the kitchen, brightening your day (or evening or night). Then add a light vanilla buttercream frosting and a little lemon zest and they’re ready to eat. But you might want to hold off a little while, let those cupcakes sitting on the counter add joy to your life by their mere presence. LEMON CUPCAKES–yup, here comes the sun again, rising above the western horizon!

“Carousel Ride” is a short story about a joyful outing on a bright and unseasonably warm afternoon in January. The love Becca and Zach share more or less exactly mirrors the glowing day. But there are shadows amidst all this sunshine, and the clock is ever ticking on their youth and infatuation. Take a look or a listen while you bask in the sunshine of your lemon cupcakes!

  lemon cupcake

Lemon Cupcakes

1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoons egg substitute (or crack one egg, beat it, and use 1 1/2 Tbsp)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1 1/2 Tablespoons milk

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (zest the lemon first for garnishing cupcakes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put two muffin liners in a cupcake pan. Set aside.

Beat butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy, or about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat ingredients together until well blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the cake batter. Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Lastly, add the milk and lemon juice and stir until ingredients are well mixed, careful not to over mix the batter.


Divide the batter between the two liners. Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.


Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

3/4-1 cup powdered sugar

3 teaspoons milk

zest from the lemon for garnishing

Add the butter to a mixing bowl. Beat on high until butter is smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla, salt, and about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Slowly mix these ingredients together. Once the powdered sugar is mostly incorporated, beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Add the milk and the remaining powdered sugar and mix everything together. Frost the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with lemon zest right before serving.

lemon cupcake with zest

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Carousel Ride cover

Carousel Ride, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Carousel Ride, text © Jeffrey Anderson