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Patti Howerton: Potluck desserts to please

I am being asked for more cake and dessert recipes readers can take to the church suppers and luncheons to wow everyone. What a task, indeed. I have tried to please most tastes this week with the following recipes. Enjoy!

JAM-TOPPED MINI CHEESECAKES

• 1 cup graham cracker crumbs

• 3 Tbsp. butter, divided

• 1 pkg. (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

• Assorted jams, warmed

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press gently into bottom of 12 paper-lined muffin cups. In another small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add egg, beat on low speed just until blended. Spoon over crusts.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until centers set. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Remove paper liners, top each cheesecake with 1 teaspoon of jam. Makes one dozen.

Note: Give your graham cracker crust a boost by replacing 1/4 cup of the crumbs with flaked coconut or finely chopped nuts.

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE BARS

• 1 pkg. fudge brownie mix (13”x9” pan size)

• 12 peanut butter cups, chopped

• 1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped

• 2 cups (12-oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

• 1 Tbsp. butter

• 1-1/4 cups creamy peanut butter

• 1 tsp. vanilla

• 1-1/2 cups crisp rice cereal

• 1/8 tsp. salt

Prepare brownie mix according to the package directions. Spread into a greased 13×9 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until near the center when inserted with a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. Sprinkle with peanut butter cups and peanuts.

Bake 4-6 minutes longer or until chocolate is melted. Cool on a wire rack. Meantime, in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chips, peanut butter and butter, stir until smooth. Stir in the cereal, vanilla and salt. Carefully spread over brownies. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before cutting. Makes three dozen.

CREAMY LEMON CAKE BARS

• 1 pkg. lemon cake mix (regular size)

• 1/2 cup butter, softened

Filling:

• 1 can (16-oz.) lemon frosting

• 1 pkg. (8-oz.) cream cheese

• 2 large eggs

In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, butter and egg until crumbly. Press into the bottom of a greased 13×9 baking pan. In another bowl, beat frosting and cream cheese until smooth. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping. Add eggs to remaining mixture, beat on low speed just until combined. Spread over crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until filling is set. Cool on a wire rack for one hour. Spread reserved frosting mixture over top. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator until serving. Makes 16 servings.

DID YOU KNOW? Always store brown sugar in an airtight container. You can soften brown sugar by placing a slice of bread or an apple wedge with the sugar in a covered container for a few days. If you’re in a hurry, you can microwave the sugar on high for 20-30 seconds. Repeat if necessary. But watch to be sure sugar does not melt. I store my brown sugar in a tight-lidded Mason jar.

TIP OF THE WEEK: For perfectly sized bars, lay a clean ruler on top of the bars and make cut marks with the point of a knife. Use the edge of the ruler as a cutting guide.

Patti Howerton is a retired accountant and caterer and can be reached at pphowerton@ gmail.com