Cheesecake Party

I’ve gotten behind on my blogging again :( But I’m SO excited for all of the cooking I’m going to do over Thanksgiving! Since I’m so behind, I’ll make this a double recipe post just to make it up to you. The first one is a dessert you can definitely have at your Thanksgiving. Yes, it’s pumpkin. Of course.

A couple weeks ago, we had a party at our house. I’d been wanting to use my mini cheesecake pan again, so I thought, why not make cheesecake for the party? My roommates said, “WHAT? What kind of college party has cheesecake?!!” The best ones, of course. And everyone appreciated the cheesecake, so I win.

If you don’t have a mini cheesecake pan, you can still bake this in a regular springform pan, but scale everything back to 2 packages of cream cheese.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake
Makes 2 1/2 dozen.

Ingredients
for the crust
26 regular (not Double-Stuf) Oreos – 2 rows in the package
4 Tbsp butter, melted
for the cheesecake
3 8oz packages cream cheese
3 eggs
1 15oz can pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions
1.
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease cheesecake pan.
2. Put Oreos in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Pour in melted butter, stir. Press about 1 1/2 Tbsp into the bottom of each well in the pan (I found a shot glass works best for this – it’s really difficult with your fingers).
3. Bake crusts for 10 min. While they are cooling, begin the cheesecake.
4. With an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla until completely smooth.
5. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until combined.
6. Pour into each well, filling completely to the top. Bake 20-25 minutes until set.
7. Let cool about 15 minutes then remove from pans. Chill in fridge (or on your porch if it’s cold enough and your fridge is full like mine…) for at least 1 hour before serving.

So to go with all that cheesecake, I guess you might need some real food… maybe… Sometimes…

Quinoa Risotto
Serves 2-3.

Ingredients
1 C uncooked quinoa
2 C vegetable broth
1/2 C sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 C diced red onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C white wine
1/4 C parmesan cheese
1/4 C goat cheese
3/4 C fresh spinach
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
1.
Cook quinoa in vegetable broth, either on the stove top or in a rice cooker.
2. Saute mushrooms and onion in oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add quinoa and cook a couple more minutes.
3. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Turn off heat.
4. Add cheese and spinach and stir until cheese is melted and spinach leaves are wilted. Serve immediately.

“_____ Week”

Last Week. Tech Week. Show Week. Stress Week. I Have No Time Week. It’s the last week of classes, the week of my dance show, the week when everything is going on all at once and I’m freaking out. Which means I’m stress baking to make myself feel better, but also that I don’t have much time to blog. So next week is Cookie Week, where I post all the different cookies I’ve made so far. I’ve got three already.

Last last weekend, instead of breakfast, we made delicious spinach lasagna rollups.

You can check out the recipe here. They were pretty straightforward to make, and very good, but next time I’d put more cheese. Mostly because I love cheese.

Anyway, onto the main event. Breakfast from last Saturday. Amazing. I wish I could eat these everyday. They’re sweet but not too sweet – I hate when breakfast gets too close to dessert. Making them was so quick that I really could do it on any random morning.

Applesauce Banana Muffins
Makes 10 muffins. Original recipe here.

Ingredients
2 ripe bananas
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C applesauce (if using unsweetened, add a bit more sugar)
1 C flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a medium bowl, mash bananas and mix in sugar.
3. Stir in remaining ingredients.
4. Pour into a muffin pan and bake 20-25 min until a knife comes out clean.

They’re really light, so don’t feel bad if you eat two. Or three. Or four. Which I did. They’re also pretty good with a little bit of butter on top, but they don’t need it.

Breakfasting Alone

This semester is going by so quickly – I can’t believe it. Only five weeks left in the semester, including this one, and then it’s finals and then my internship. I’m starting to feel like I haven’t done nearly as much cooking as I wanted to. Well, let me rephrase that. I cook everyday, but usually it’s lazy cooking. Pasta, sandwiches, whatever. I haven’t done as much fun and exciting cooking as I wanted.

I’ve been experimenting with tempeh quite a bit, actually. I like the taste and texture better than tofu, and it’s more versatile too. I have a hard time putting tofu in anything that isn’t Asian. I know how to put it with noodles or rice, but anything else and I just feel like it doesn’t belong! The other day I made fake Spam musubi with tempeh, which was pretty good (and super Asian), but you can definitely do more with it than that. For example, my bbq tempeh, or the really great sandwich I made the other day. I cut the tempeh really small and grilled it with some baby bella mushrooms, then stirred it up with some pesto I picked up at Trader Joe’s. Put that with some spinach and wheat bread, and you’ve got yourself a really great meal.

I have this bizarre obsession with vegan baked goods. I’m not a vegan, of course, but I love baking things and then saying GUESS WHAT THAT’S VEGAN! What I hate, though, is “vegan” recipes that call for “vegan butter” or “vegan cream cheese” or whatever. Taking a regular recipe and subbing in vegan versions of the ingredients doesn’t make a real vegan recipe.

This past weekend my Weekend Breakfast partner in crime was busy, so I decided to go vegan just for fun.

Blueberry Walnut Muffins 
Vegan. Original recipe here. Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients
1 C quick or rolled oats
1 C soy milk
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 2 tbsp water)
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C chopped walnuts
1 1/3 C fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions
1.
Preheat oven to 400F.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together oats, milk, agave, and almond extract.
3. While the oats are soaking, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, chia, flax, salt, and sugar.
4. Stir in the flax egg, walnuts, and oats. Last, add blueberries.
5. Spoon into muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes.

I used frozen blueberries, which was fine I think. As soon as I stirred in the berries, the batter turned a crazy greenish color. They looked like zombie muffins but they tasted great! Not too sweet – perfect for breakfast. Although I will say you have to eat them fast. Since there’s no oil in the batter, by the second day they’re already pretty dried out. I wrapped them in a damp paper towel and zapped them in the microwave for 15 seconds, which helped, but these are definitely meant to be eaten the day of.

Iron Woman

I have a bunch of disjoint thoughts in this post, but it’s been a week since my last one so I felt like I had to blog. Also I’m putting off writing an essay for my Chinese film class, so this seemed like a good way to pass the time.

This weekend, instead of Weekend Breakfast, my friend and I went to the Strip District. I’ve heard about it but I’ve never been before. It actually made Pittsburgh seem kind of… I don’t know… Cool? Lots of little shops selling specialty foods. We went to a coffee and tea store where I bought about a half pound of Kahlua and Cream coffee beans, a store selling all sorts of overpriced spices (honestly, how many types of cinnamon are there?), a biscotti shop, even a pasta shop that made their own olive oil. It gets pretty crowded on Saturday mornings, and some bakeries even set up tables on the sidewalk to sell all sorts of pastries.

Do you like brussel sprouts? I’ve only ever tried them once. I was a kid, maybe 9 or 10, and I didn’t like them. But how can you really know whether or not you like something if you’ve only ever tried it once, ten years ago? So I had some. And they were delicious. I didn’t make them – my friend did, and she saved some for me to try. They were two days old and microwaved and I still liked them. Who knew?

On to the main event: the recipe. I love things that are fast and delicious. If you are like me, you will love this recipe. It’s so simple, it’s not even really a recipe. Do you know what tempeh is? It’s a “meat alternative,” made from soy, but it’s nothing like tofu. It comes in a block and it’s pretty dense; the soy beans are actually kept whole. I started eating it this summer at Google – they serve it all the time in the cafes – but this was my first time cooking with it.

Ten Minute BBQ Tempeh

Ingredients
tempeh (4 oz. per person)
olive oil
barbeque sauce

Instructions
1. Heat olive oil in a pan over high heat.
2. Add tempeh and cook each side for one minute.
3. Pour barbeque sauce into the pan (the more the better, I say), making sure to coat the tempeh evenly.
4. Reduce to medium heat and cook another 2-3 minutes.

I cut my tempeh into little squares and ate it in pita with spinach, red onions, mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella. I bet it would be good as a burger, too.

I made this a few days ago, and then again tonight. So quick and so delicious! And it fills you up, which was definitely what I needed. I donated blood today for the first time in four years, which is a major achievement for me. I’ve tried and been turned away a couple of times because my iron levels are always too low, but today the nurse told me that for a vegetarian my iron was actually HIGH! How awesome is that? Guess I’m eating right!

What Month Is It?

I’ve been back in sunny Southern California for about two weeks now, loving this weather and absolutely dreading my return to Pittsburgh and the snow. It’s “cooled off” a bit here, down to about 75 everyday, but it was high 80s last week. Feels like summer. I hate snow.

I’ve got a couple recipes for you. It’s been so hot that I’ve been making smoothies almost everyday for lunch. This one has hidden veggies in it, but unlike my Tropical Green Monster it doesn’t have a scary color.

Berry Green Smoothie

Ingredients
1 C frozen mixed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
1/4 – 1/3 C milk, as needed (I used soy but any milk would be fine)
1 Tbsp chia seed
1 Tbsp flax meal
soy protein powder
1 large handful fresh spinach leaves
agave nectar, to taste

Instructions
Blend until smooth and serve.

Then the other day, my mom and I tried out a new recipe for vegetarian chili. It was really delicious but it took a lot of work. It wasn’t difficult but just cutting the vegetables took forever because there was so much. I must say, though, this is a pretty substantial chili. Some of my meat-eating friends seem to think there’s no such thing as vegetarian chili – I think they should try a bowl of this. It’s got some really interesting ingredients – coffee and chocolate – that give it a really unique flavor.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Original recipe from Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large bell peppers (1 red, 1 green), chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp adobo seasoning
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
1/2 C brewed coffee
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, crushed
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 15 oz. cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 head cauliflower, grated
1/2 C fresh cilantro, chopped
cheese, onions, corn, etc. for topping

Instructions
1.
 In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, carrots, and salt, stirring frequently for 8 minutes or until carrots are soft.
2. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
3. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, chipotle, adobo, tomato paste, and tortillas. Cook about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a splash of water if the mixture begins to stick.
4. Add coffee and let simmer 30 seconds until almost completely reduced.
5. Reduce to low heat. Add tomatoes, cocoa powder, beans, and 2 1/2 C water, and let simmer for 1 hour 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Stir in cauliflower and let cook an additional 10 minutes.
7. Dig in!

How do you eat chili? Just in a bowl? My mom puts it over rice, or sometimes we put it on baked potatoes, but my first choice will always be the Frito Pie. How do you make a Frito Pie, you ask?

Just like that. Asian noodle bowl is optional.

Mango Rice Noddles

This is officially my longest weekend ever. No class from last Friday through next Thursday because of 中秋节 (Mid Autumn Festival)! We only officially get Monday evening and Tuesday off, but I already have no classes Friday, Monday in the daytime, and Wednesday. Basically I never go to school.

Friday I went on a four hour hike on Lantau Island to a small fishing village called Tai O. It was such a long hike, but totally worth it. It was a paved sidewalk almost the whole way, which was very strange to see on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, but it made it a lot easier. Tai O is amazing – all the houses are up on stilts for when the water comes in, and the marketplaces have all sorts of crazy things. It’s mostly dried fish, but all kinds of fish – I saw dried shrimp, squid, seahorses, even blowfish. I even saw what looked like a dried shark! Just on display at the storefront though, not for sale.

Walking around, we saw someone making those bubble waffle things! It was really neat how they do it – you pour the batter into the mold, which is sort of like a waffle iron except handheld. Then you hold it over hot coals until it cooks! This one was way better than when I got it a little while ago in Mong Kok; that one had been sitting out for awhile (aka not blog-worthy), but this one was nice and fresh. It tastes just like a waffle, but the shape just makes it way more fun. It’s like bubble wrap!

Then Saturday I went to Macau, which was awesome. Macau used to be Portuguese territory, so the mix of culture there is so unique. All of the streets have Portuguese names, and you can definitely see the Portuguese influence in the architecture, but everyone is Chinese! Plus, it’s sort of like the Las Vegas of China – tons of hotel casinos. Ones you’ve heard of too, like the Venetian and the MGM Grand.

We walked around a bit getting some street food… EGG TARTS!! They’re hot, with a really buttery crust and eggy filling. They sell them all over at little shops along the street for ridiculously cheap. Also, if you walk around the marketplace people will try to get you to eat samples of whatever they’re selling, like these awfully dry cookies and amazing beef jerky thing. You could basically eat a whole meal there for free! I also got a delicious matcha milk tea with red beans (my favorite) instead of my usual boba. For some reason, none of my friends like red bean… they’re crazy. But anyway. We went to the Ruínas de São Paulo, one of the most famous landmarks in Macau, and that’s basically it. I’d definitely like to go back and explore a little more and see what else Macau has to offer; I feel like there is so much more to see there!

After all that adventuring, I was feeling pretty tired today and just stayed local. We went to a place in Hung Hom called Dumpling King for dinner, and had noodles and 饺子, or pot stickers. It seems like dumplings are the only time I can get vegetables! I had some that were all veggie and some with spinach and pork, plus freshly made soy milk. They were pretty greasy, but very fresh – you could tell they had just made them.

Then we went to a place right next door for dessert, and of course I got sago – mango with fresh mango chunks and grass jelly.  It was sooooo good. Seriously, sago is my new favorite food. Someone else ordered peanut 汤圆 (tangyuan), which is sort of like mochi filled with peanut butter and served in a sweet broth. And then, one of my friends ordered…. mango rice noodles. Or, “noddles,” as the menu said. I don’t know what the waitress thought she ordered, but it definitely wasn’t mango rice noodles. It was a big bowl of grass jelly in this ridiculously strong sesame soup with a little bit of mango on top.

I didn’t think it was that bad, just too strong. I was the only one who didn’t make a gross face when I tasted it. Next time, I think we’re all going to order by just pointing to the pictures.

Hostess with the Mostest

Double recipe post!! So last Saturday, I decided to invite some other interns over for dinner since my roommate was out of town and I was bored. Surprise, surprise, it ended up just me and the boys. Occupational hazard, I guess.

Anyway, my roommate’s fish was sick, and she said that if I put a couple of peas in the tank they would get better. I have NEVER heard of this before. Have any of you? It seemed so silly, but it works – her fish is swimming fine now! I healed the fish with two peas and had a huge bag left over. That was the motivation behind this recipe.

Spinach and Pea Pesto
Vegan. (adapted from Sunny Vegan)

Ingredients:
1 C peas (thawed if frozen – I microwaved mine)
1 C spinach
1/2 C chopped walnuts (raw)
1/4 C fresh basil
1/3 C olive oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Special Tools:
Food processor (or a good blender)

 Instructions:
1.
 Pulse walnuts in food processor until they form a fine meal.
2. Slowly add in the peas and spinach, pouring in olive oil as needed so it will process. I ended up using a bit more than 1/3 C because my blender was being mean, but the end product was slightly more oily than I wanted. I was just impatient.
3. Add basil, lemon, and garlic.

4. Mix with 1lb of your favorite pasta and serve.

So then, for dessert, I really wanted to make ice cream. I felt guilty making ice cream after a vegan entree, but I really wanted it. That makes it okay, right?

The only good fruit on sale at the market was strawberries, but I’ve already done strawberry ice cream, and I wanted to experiment! I remembered I had about a third of a bag of frozen blueberries laying around, so I thought, why not? Let me just tell you, it turned out great. If I didn’t have company, I probably would have pigged out way more than I did on this stuff.

Blueberry Ice Cream
(adapted from Cuisinart)

Ingredients:
~1 1/2 C frozen blueberries
3/4 C low fat milk
1 1/2 C heavy cream
2/3 C sugar
Pinch salt
1 1/2 – 2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla if you don’t have almond, but in my opinion the almond is what really made this amazing)

Special Tools:
Ice cream maker

Instructions:
1.
 In a small saucepan, bring blueberries to a boil over medium heat.

 2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, salt, and almond extract until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Once the blueberries are boiling, squish any berries that havent popped yet. If you really care, you can puree the whole thing and remove skin/seeds using a mesh sieve. I didn’t care and it came out fine. Up to you.
4. Mix the blueberry mush into the milk.
5. Whisk in the heavy cream.

Look at that amazing color.

6.  Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Normally I skip this step out of laziness, but you do NOT want to do that with this since the blueberries were just on the stove!
7. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to its directions.
8. Serve immediately, or transfer to a container and save it in the freezer for later.

Oh, and PS: I ordered a Canon Rebel T3. You know what that means? No more blurry pictures!! I should get it in a week and a half or so.