Tried and True: Jan Merchen's Cheesecake Dreams

Jan Merchen, a customer care representative with The News-Gazette, recently won the company's holiday treat competition with this recipe:

3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

5 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Foil baking cups

For the filling:

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup sugar launch event scheduled Friday

CHAMPAIGN – will launch themselves at a free, family friendly event from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Indi-Go Artist Co-op, 9 E. University Ave., C.

The event, called Sugar & Spice, A Cupcake Christmas, is sponsored by Cakes on Walnut and Everyday Charming Image Boutique. The event will showcase the talents of Champaign-Urbana youths and the products and services of C-U businesses and organizations.

Tried and True: Jeannetta Vogelzang's No-bake cookies

Jeannetta Vogelzang of Monticello makes these cookies frequently for her family.

"They are yummy even when she considers them 'a flop,'" daughter-in-law LeAndra says.

No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup milk

3 cups oatmeal

1 cup coconut

Danville-grown chef making name with homegrown fare

CHICAGO – Jared Van Camp grew up in a home where growing a large garden followed by canning and preserving were the norm. His roots have stood him in good stead as he makes his own mark as a chef, specializing in using ingredients from local farmers.

"What my parents did made a big impact on me," said Van Camp, executive chef with Old Town Social in Chicago, which opened in late August this year.

After graduating from Danville High School, Van Camp, 31, attended the University of Illinois to study painting and sculpting.

Slow Cooked: Recipes that allow for time to visit

You probably have so much going on this holiday season that a few slow cooker recipes that look good and taste delicious will be a welcome reprieve.

These recipes are sure to give you extra time with visit friends and family. Plus, your guests will never know these delectable dishes came from the slow cooker - until, of course, they beg you for your recipe.

Despite economy, new restaurants popping up in C-U

About four or five years ago when Victor Fuentes started mulling over the idea of a tapas bar in Urbana, the economy was booming and nationwide sales for the restaurant industry were setting records.

In the years following, Fuentes, owner of the El Toro regional chain of restaurants, opened new El Toros in west Champaign, Rantoul and Monticello, chose the location of the tapas restaurant in downtown Urbana (at 214 W. Main St., previously home to The Office bar), and extensively remodeled the space.

Slow Cooked: Defining 'easy' with 5-ingredient limit

Here's our second round of low-stress foods designed to make at least the dinners of your holiday season. These recipes adhere to our definition for an easy meal: fewer than five ingredients and requiring less than 20 minutes from fridge to slow cooker.

Tried and True: Cher Pollock's pumpkin cookies

These cookies are my kids' favorite. What's fun about them is that they look like brown blobs, but when you get people to taste them, they love them. I've sent them to college and their friends are like "yuck," but then they love them, too, once they taste them.

Pumpkin cookies with maple frosting

Cream together:

'Homegrown' for the holidays: Gifts from local merchants

Here are some gift ideas from local merchants and businesses:

Slow cooked: Easy meals with 5 ingredients or fewer

The month of December is arguably the busiest of the year for some people. To help you out come dinner time, we've compiled several recipes that call for five ingredients or fewer and require less than 20 minutes of prep time. This meal practically makes itself. This is our first installment – you can look for more low-stress slow cooker recipes in next week's Food section, as well.