Featured

The Absolute Best Gin and Tonic Cupcakes for New Year’s Eve

Nothing is as much a classic cocktail as a gin and tonic, however, if your sweet tooth is needs a pick-me-up, then this recipe for Gin and Tonic Cupcakes from Good Housekeeping U.K., is definitely worth the effort.

Don’t allow the unusual measurements and “caster sugar” dissuade you from making these cupcakes. A scale is useful in any kitchen and one can be found at any big-box store for a few dollars. Caster sugar is simply a more finer grain of sugar than the granulated sugar we American’s are used to using. I use Domino’s Superfine Sugar. It can be found at Wal-Mart. It comes in a tall plastic bottle in the baking aisle along with other sugars. And ounces are found on the side of measuring cups opposite the cup measures listed along the side.

These are my cupcakes following the recipe. I think you will enjoy them for your next party or get-together. (This recipe will make 12 cupcakes; I needed to test one first)!

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Here is a list of what you will need:

Ingredients:

200grams (7oz.) unsalted butter

200grams (7oz.) caster sugar (I used Domino’s Superfine Sugar in the yellow plastic bottle)

4 medium eggs

200grams (7oz.) self-rising flour

Grated zest of 1 lime

75ml (3 oz. gin) (I used Gordon’s London Dry Gin)

And for the syrup:

50grams (4oz. caster sugar)

50ml (4 oz.) tonic water

2 tbsp. gin

For the buttercream frosting:

200 grams (7oz.) unsalted butter, softened

450 grams icing (confectioner’s sugar)

2-3 tbsps. of gin

Grated zest of 1 lime

Decorate with two limes cut into slices lengthwise, and cut through up to the rind, then twist and place on top of each cupcake.

Add a straw cut in half for the added effect of a gin and tonic.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180*C or 350 degrees F*.

Fill a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the eggs one at a time and mixing well after each addition.

With a large spoon, fold in the flour and lime zest, followed by the gin. Spoon into cupcake liners and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into middle of cupcake, come out clean.

While cupcakes are baking, make the gin syrup.

Gently heat caster sugar and tonic water in a small pan, stirring often until sugar has dissolved. Turn up heat and boil for 1 minute. Stir in the gin.

Once the cakes have come out of the oven, poke holes into each cupcake with a toothpick and begin to brush the syrup over cupcakes. Leave the cupcakes to cool for 15 minutes then place cupcakes on a wire rack.

Make the buttercream by beating the butter until very soft then beat in the icing sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the gin to taste and the lime zest. Pipe buttercream onto cupcakes and add lime twist to each. Add a straw.

Yummy! Enjoy these delicious cupcakes.

Recipe can be found at http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/food/recipes/gin-tonic-cupcakes

Featured

Southern Baking and Beyond

For many in today’s world, baking is a hobby, something dabbled in once the leaves begin to change into their brilliant colors towards the end of another year. Baking is a reason to show off a recipe seen practiced between the pages of a trendy magazine, or seen demonstrated on any number of television shows clamoring for our attention and ratings.

In the South however, baking is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life. It is as much a  fixture in our DNA as in our culture.

Southerners share food at every occasion, in times of celebration as well as sadness. Ask any Southerner to share a favorite memory of childhood and usually the answer will involve a grandmother’s kitchen filled with aromas that comforted the most troubled soul. The memory may include holidays and women with busy hands gathered together to make easy work of pies, cakes and cookies. Or perhaps thoughts harken back to a time one was in need and a special dish made from the heart was sure to accompany healing words. Nevertheless, kindness was the most important ingredient of any bake.

My mother remembers the multitude of baked goods served at dinners on the ground of her hometown church. She recalls how her mother made a well in the wooden bowl filled with flour, salt, and buttermilk for biscuit dough and “pinching off” the dough into drops that would mysteriously form a perfect round biscuit.

I still remember my grandmother’s fried chicken she always made special when we came to visit. The delicious, perfectly seasoned poultry was juicy and tender and far superior to anything you could buy in a bucket! My grandmother has passed on, but forty years later have not lessened the memory for me.

Old-fashioned Southern baking is too quickly becoming only memories for many. Today’s South seems to have no place for what is tried and true, replacing everything Southerners know and love with something newer, quicker, and more exotic. There is nothing wrong with trying something new, but when I can no longer find pimento cheese at the supermarket because it is considered “too Southern” for newcomers, I feel like a part of my heritage is being stripped away.

And so, I created this blog for classic Southern baking. You will not find obscure ingredients, or words you cannot pronounce. Along the way, I’ll provide stories and history behind our favorite bakes, as well as how-to videos and the recipes that didn’t work. (I’ve had many recipe fails! I am not a pro pastry chef!)

I look forward to sharing, learning and creating the bakes that are truly Southern as well as many that we have adopted as our own and become Southern through the years.

Thank you for visiting,

Suzanne

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…Make Trifle!

This past weekend was rough. I had my plans all laid out before me for baking Daffodil Cake. The spring flowers bursting forth after their winter slumber was my inspiration and as I tend to be impatient, I was ready for a recipe from the old days that would hopefully bring a little sunshine into everyone’s lives right now.

However, best laid plans tend to never come into fruition. I went to bed Thursday night with a headache and woke up Friday morning with a migraine. I struggled through the day with the usual nausea and what came with it, praying I could keep down the pain medication my doctor prescribed and hoping I could just get through the day. Maybe tomorrow would be better. “After all, tomorrow is another day,” to quote Scarlett O’Hara.

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My recipe for Daffodil Cake came from the archives of one of America’s most famous and trusted resources for homemakers of the previous century. I will not mention the fictional character by name as not to cause a panic of die-hard fans to attack me online. But I will say, the pictured cake from the cookbook resembled the opening of a daffodil, hence its name. Topped with a orange gelatin and frosted with yellow tinged icing swirled over the edges and draped over the top, I had not seen a prettier cake in years.

The cake tasted great, I just wish it had risen up into a fluffy masterpiece as pictured in the cookbook. Two attempts using an all-purpose flour and again with a cake flour, did nothing to change the texture. I had four orange flavored pancakes on my countertops. Now I am down to my last cup of flour and remembering my mother’s memories of rationing during and after World War II. I’ve already become like those millennials I keep reading about…it’s all about me. I feel so ashamed.

But as our state goes into stay-at-home orders by the governor at 5PM tonight, and neighbors hoard toilet paper, and what would seem to be otherwise rational people give in to fear and panic making runs on gun stores for pistols and ammo, I am just trying to unravel the mystery of why my cakes never rise, and if I will survive another headache from hell.

But even in the current chaos, people are trying their hand at baking for the first time. Maybe they have decided to give it a go as a means of keeping the peace in their own homes where bored children are driving parents to scratch out every morsel of hope to keep their sanity with the little ones home all day. If so, just remember what the Bible says, “This too shall pass,”

From years back, I can remember those colorful posters from childhood classrooms. Those with a monkey dangling from a long string with slogans like, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!” Or, the drawing of someone with a frown being rained on by a bucket of lemons, and the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” with the person smiling in the next frame with a tall glass of cool lemonade in their hand.

Well, many of us feel we are at the end of our rope, and life is sure pelting us with lemons right now, but we can turn it around if we just, “tie a knot and hang on.” Instead of lemons, I had oranges and a cake that didn’t rise very well. But I still had cake, so…I made trifle!

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Campbell’s Original Chicken and Rice Bake…Easy on the Tummy

The past few weeks have not been easy on anyone, whether they have been affected directly from Covid-19 or are just trying to keep their sanity while being cooped up for the duration of the outbreak. Meanwhile, I have been neglecting my blog for other reasons. A bout of unexplained nausea knocked me off my feet a week ago and it hasn’t allowed me to enjoy cooking or baking.

The sight of food hasn’t been easy. Just a glimpse at my Twitter page and a bevy of posts from fellow bakers and chefs with their culinary victories made my stomach beg for mercy.

At least now my stomach bug has disappeared as silently as it came on and after days of plain chicken, boiled rice and an occasional banana, I was able to savor a classic from the Campbell’s Soup archives. Their One Dish Chicken and Rice Bake was just what my tummy and taste buds needed.

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If any of you have forgotten this blast-from-the-past or even if you have never tried it before due to the simplistic ingredients and instructions, give it a try. I know my stomach is thankful. A side of a green vegetable makes this casserole a blessing when times are tough. It stretches out the meal for a family, or someone with a healthy appetite!

 

Campbell Soup’s Classic One Dish Chicken and Rice Bake

 

Ingredients:

1 can (10 1/2 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell’s Condensed 98% Fat-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup

3/4 cups of uncooked long grain white rice

1 cup of water

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. paprika

1 1/4 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I cut mine into smaller cubes for ease of serving)

 

Directions:

  1. Stir soup, water, rice paprika and black pepper into an 11x8x2 inch pan. (A bigger pan is fine, the casserole will just be a bit flatter). Cover the baking dish with foil.
  2.  Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through and rice is tender. Let stand 10 minutes before baking.

The original recipe states to add an additional 1/3 cup of water for creamier rice. I tried both ways and like the creamier version better.

Chewy Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am back to loving chocolate again. After breaking away for a few weeks from chocolatey treats and gooey filled confections, I am ready to embrace my favorite sweet treat again. The past three months have been rough. Christmas is an overload of chocolate in every description, and once you have your feet under you, and an attempt to keep away the New Year celebrations added pounds, in comes Valentine’s Day, just when you thought you were well off.DSCI0287

Even if some of us are expert at keeping resolutions made over the holidays, it doesn’t mean we can’t indulge. And unless you decided to give up chocolate for Lent, (I did one year and it didn’t go well), these cookies are great as an after supper treat. The chocolate is just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth without being overly indulgent. One cookie is enough to keep you from losing your cool. (As I did when I gave up chocolate for Lenten season). Also, this recipe calls for cocoa powder instead of melting chocolate to be added into the mixture, which makes these cookies a snap to make.

If you like the chewiness of a cookie, bake these no longer than 8 minutes, then remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. If you desire a more crumbly texture, leave them in the oven for a full 10 minutes and allow them to cool for an additional 3 minutes in the oven. They will break with a few crumbs and result in a cookie perfect for dunking in milk!

 

Chewy Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

1  2/3 cups Martha White all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup Dixie Crystals granulated sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips ( I used Nestle for this recipe)

 

Stir together in a large bowl the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat butter or margarine until creamy. Beat in the brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix until creamy. Add gradually the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoon sized portions of mixed dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes for chewy cookies or a full 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Allow to cool on wire rack.

 

Pineapple Casserole

The weather is still playing tricks with Mother Nature here in the South. One day, we are teased with warmer temperatures and small buds appearing from trees, the next is a blast of cold and icy winds ripping the air. My dad always says, “Spring is just around the corner,” and he is always right. Spring will always come after the long days of dark skies and bitter cold. I am impatient though and have already began searching cookbooks for recipes bringing thoughts of warmer weather to mind.

Last week I indulged in another tropical favorite, using sweet pineapple and a twist of salty crackers, and grated cheddar cheese. Pineapple Casserole is a side dish popular in the South. Though many think of it as a dessert, and it certainly is sweet enough for an ending to any meal, but with fish, pork, or especially, chicken dishes, as a side, it works well. Why not have a second helping for dessert?

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Pineapple Casserole is a mix of sweet and tart, as well as a hint of saltiness from buttery, crackers. Soup crackers could be used as a substitute, just be sure to mix them well with extra butter. Buttery crackers such as Ritz brand work best though. The addition of cheddar cheese pulls this casserole together and gives it another level of texture and taste. If you have never tried Pineapple Casserole before, I think you will find this particular recipe easy to make, and a joy to serve and enjoy. Even in the dish it looks tempting with it’s cracker crust and bubbly fruit underneath.

 

Pineapple Casserole

2  20 -ounce cans of crushed, unsweetened pineapple, drained well

3/4 cup of granulated sugar

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I use Martha White)

1 3/4 cups grated cheddar cheese

3/4 cups crushed Ritz crackers

1/2 cup butter, melted

 

Preheat oven to 350*. Pour the drained pineapple into pan. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and flour, and sprinkle over the pineapple. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the sugar and flour mixture. Mix the crushed crackers and butter together and sprinkle over the top of casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Tangy Lemon Squares

 

It’s been a month of non-stop sweets for everyone. After filling my sweet tooth with a heart-shaped box of decadent chocolates from my dad over Valentine’s Day, I needed a break. I was craving something different, and non-chocolate. I kept thinking of the sharp taste of lemon, and with the rain beating outside against my windows and the assuredness of snow overnight, the bright yellow orbs stacked in bins at the local grocery store were calling to me.

While others stock their carts with the staples of bread and containers of milk, I am glad I reached for lemons. I had my mind made up…lemon squares would just hit the spot right now.

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Tangy Lemon Squares

 

There are many recipes for lemon squares in my many recipe books, and I have found they are satisfying. But the addition of lemon zest, brings them to another level. Of course, one doesn’t have to add the zest, but since you already have the lemons, you might as well take advantage of the fruit and get the most for your money and efforts.

I think this recipe will help anyone get over their Valentine’s Day chocolate hangover.

Recipe for Tangy Lemon Squares

2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour (set aside 2 cups for crust)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup powdered sugar (set aside 1/2 cup for crust)

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

 

  1.  Preheat oven to 350*. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the aluminum foil.
  2.  In a large bowl, cut butter into 2 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar. Continue to use pastry blender or fork ( or your hands) until the flour and butter resemble tiny crumbs and can be squeezed together in your hand and hold their shape. Press the mixture into the bottom of aluminum foil.
  3.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned.
  4.  In a bowl, mix together the sugar, baking powder, remaining flour. Add the eggs and lemon juice along with the lemon zest. Pour the mixture over cooled crust.
  5. Return the pan to the 350* oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The edges should be  brown and the mixture set. After removing from oven, allow to cool for at least an hour. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

This recipe will yield around 24 squares.

Mary Randolph Gets It Done!

“The prosperity and happiness of a family depends greatly on the order and regularity established in it.”

-Mary Randolph

Usually, I don’t make resolutions for New Year’s Day since I have a habit of breaking them as soon as January 1 comes around. This year however, I vowed to “get things done.” For me, that meant sitting down, planning my daily activities, writing out my short and long-term goals, and scheduling out time for them. That never happened, in spite of my good intentions. Life, somehow, always gets in the way.

I began to wonder how in days of old, anyone accomplished anything. With no electricity, no phones, no computers, no modern appliances, how did my Appalachian great-grandmothers get it done? I figured it out. Because they had to.

My mother can watch any movie or television program set in the past century and recall how her mother washed clothes by hand, used a coal burning stove, slaughtered chickens for Sunday supper, and hung clothes out on the line. Today we have more items promising a simpler life and all we really own is more frustration and stress.

In my efforts to streamline my recipe collection, I came across a small article about Mary Randolph, the author of, “The American Housewife; or The Methodical Cook.” The book is considered America’s first cookbook focused on regional cuisine, and guide to housekeeping. She was the Martha Stewart of her day, though Mary Randolph’s advice is more practical and probably more sound.

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Engraving of Mary Randolph

Mary Randolph was born to one of the wealthiest and most politically important families in American history. Her father, Thomas Mann Randolph Sr., was raised by Thomas Jefferson’s parents who were distant cousins and the ever growing tensions with England made for social and political stirrings within the Randolph household. From a young age, Mary would have learned the importance of keeping and running an efficient household.

“Management is an art that may be required by every woman of good sense and tolerable memory.”

-Mary Randolph

After marrying her cousin, David Meade Randolph, they moved from Chesterfield County, Virginia, to Richmond. Their home, called Moldavia, a combination of their names, became a central gathering place for the Federalist Party and Mary would have been required to meet the demands of a heavy social scene. It has been suggested by some in the articles I have read about her, that Mary would not have been very “hands-on,” in her duties, as the actual physical labor would have been delegated to the slaves in the household. However, I am sure, if she needed to, Mary Randolph would have been more than capable of getting her hands dirty in order to “get it done,” as the Randolph’s financial status changed considerably after Thomas Jefferson won the presidency in 1801. The Randolphs and Jeffersons may have been family, but blood was definitely not thicker than water when it came to their opposing political views. David Randolph was removed from his office as United States Marshall, and as tobacco prices fell, the Randolphs were forced to sell their beloved home. They rented a house and Mary turned it into a boarding house to make ends meet. This was a risky venture and had Mary not the training and determination, the family would have floundered even further.

“The government of a family bears a Lilliputian resemblance to the government of a nation. The contents of the Treasury must be know, and great care taken to keep the expenditures from being equal to the receipts.”

-Mary Randolph

It was around this time when Mary began compiling the various items of recipes and household hints handed down to her from family, and organizing them into book form. It was in hopes of publishing her cookbook that would support more income to the family. Mary’s cookbook included uses for various vegetables and quickly became a staple for the Southern housewife. Turnips, roasted ham, bacon and cornbread along with batter breads and advice for making soap and cleaning silverware and making starch and blacking were just samples of the many recipes used in the cookbook. She emphasized the importance of making good use of the household resources and making due with what one had. As always, order in the home was of the utmost importance.

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Recent update of “The Virgina House-Wife”

 

“Let everything be done at the proper time, keep everything in its proper place, and put everything to its proper use.”

-Mary Randolph

It must have been a revelation for many women as they left the comforts of their family and friends and began making families of their own, to find a guide in running their own households. I can’t imagine marrying in my teen years and being expected to keep a house and run the daily activities of a family at a time when many children were orphaned at a young age and had often no proper guidance in managing a home.

The American Housewife; or The Methodical Cook, was published in 1824 and reprinted 19 times before the outbreak of The Civil War. 

In her declining years, Mary nursed her son who had been injured while in the Navy. She was much loved and was the first person to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Her epitaph reads: 

“In the memory of Mrs. Mary Randolph,

Her intrinsic worth needs no eulogium.

The deceased was born

The 9th of August, 1762

at Amphill near Richmond, Virginia

And died the 23rd of January 1828

In Washington City a victim to maternal love and duty.”

We owe much to this great lady who worked so diligently in the face of such changing fortunes, who never gave up and believed in the value of home and the family. God Bless.

 

Bone Broth…Help or Hype?

I am still trying to recover from the holidays. Family gatherings are always special but with worries about colds and flu, such celebrations make me uneasy. I know my kin wouldn’t impose illness upon me knowingly, it’s those hundreds of others rushing to and fro, coughing, sneezing, and bumping into us in the hustle that make me pause.

As I was chatting with my sister-in-law during Christmas, she brought up how she had been experimenting with bone broth and had heard much of its curative properties. I have been equally curious as I am susceptible to colds and various ailments and constantly wringing my hands this time of year over every sniffle.

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Photo by Jenvit on Pexels.com

But is bone broth able to live up to its recent celebrated status of wonder cure? I thought I would dig into the facts before turning my kitchen upside down with pots of simmering water and animal carcasses. What I discovered was intresting. Let’s begin with the same questions I had about bone broth.

What is bone broth?

Essentially, bone broth is acheived by simmering animal bones in water for a long period of time, usually 24 hours. Many use a pressure cooker to speed up this process. Simmering allows for the collagen and gelatin deep within the bones to be released along with any amino acids and minerals stored in the bones.

What are some of the claims of bone broth’s benefits?

People who drink bone broth claim doing so will make your skin glow, as well as protecting joints, help the body to detox, and that it is good for gut health, among others claims.

Will drinking bone broth give me better health?

As of right now, research hasn’t proven bone broth will help your overall health. The claims of bone broth and its benefits are not supported by clinical research. It is important to note none of the claims about bone broth’s benefits have been proven by research or clinical studies.

Is drinking bone broth bad for me?

No. It isn’t bad for you, but it isn’t a cure all. In fact, research shows you will receive better health benefits from eating from a diet chocked full of fruits and vegetables. Obtaining protein from meats, poultry, eggs, dairy, and beans are a better way to obtain the protein your body needs. Fruits and vegetables actually provide more minerals and nutrients than bone broth. Some examples:

1 cup of collards= 150 mg of calcium

1 cup of baked beans= 14 grams of protein

2 tablespoons of peanut butter= 7 grams of protein

Compare that with an average cup of bone broth that was found to have zero to 19 mg of calcium and six to nine grams of protein.

A study conducted in 2017, published in “Food and Nutrition Research,” analyzed bone broth and discovered it was, “not an especially good source of calcium or magnesium.” Furthermore, most of the nutrients found in bone broth come from the vegetables often cooked with the bones. It has been observed that vegetables, not animal bones, are the richest source for the vitamins, minerals and daily nutrients your body needs.

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Photo by Angele J on Pexels.com

There has also been concern about lead levels in animal bones as the bones, in animals as well as humans, is where our bodies store lead and other heavy metals. In a study published by “Medical Hypotheses,” a peer-reviewed journal, researchers examined the levels of lead found in broth made from organic chicken bones, and found the “broth had concentrations that were a up to a 10-fold increase compared to the water before the bones were added to it.”

Are there any alternatives?

If you would like to try your own broth, researchers suggest a vegetable based alternative, one with mushrooms, miso, seaweed, and other vegetables. Mushrooms are high in selenium, B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Seaweed contains essential iodine which is key for a healthy thyroid. And fermented foods such as miso, along with spices like ginger or turmeric can help as they contain ant-inflammatory agents.

So, if you are wanting a broth to warm you on a chilly day, or need a little pick-me-up as you nurse a cold, try a broth base of vegetables and spices. Bone broth with vegetables is fine if you prefer a meaty taste to your broth. Just remember, when the next celebrity touts a health claim, check it out first. And keep yourself hydrated and healthy this year.

 

Sources:

Macaela Mackenzie, “Does Bone Broth Actually Have Any Health Benefits?.” Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. 2020. Aug. 8, 2018. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/a22668149/bone-broth-benefits/

Ocean Robbins, “The Surprising Truth About Bone Broth.” http://www.foodrevolution.com. Food Revolution Network. Nov. 9, 2018. https://foodrevolution.org/blog/bone-broth-benefits/