Monday, April 27, 2009

Triple Strawberry Cheesecake

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I really loved this challenge. Even though we made cheesecake for the cheesecake pops in a previous challenge, this allowed many more variations and it was so much fun seeing some many drastically different cheesecakes from all the other Daring Bakers.

A couple weeks, maybe months ago, I found this adorable cookbook collection called Sugar and Spice by Keda Black. It was languishing in the sale pile at Urban Outfitters and was calling out my name: 16 mini books each dedicated to one or two ingredients in recipes for candies, cookies, cakes and the like. Not only are the recipes inspired but the books are so incredibly cute! I think I might try to do one recipe out of each 16 books and post about it here. Any interest? Here's the first book:

The backside is dedicated to Yogurt!

Start by hulling and cutting 2/3 of 2lbs of strawberries. Don't worry about the math- you just want to save some of the strawberries for decoration at the end (the 3rd part of this TRIPLE strawberry cheesecake)

Blitz it all together with 2tblsp sugar.

Next, break up the graham crackers and run them through a food processor until you have crumbs. Make sure you use pulse the graham crackers intermittently and not continually for about 30 seconds or you will end up with cracker dust and a couple chunky bits.

Then you add in good stuff like melted butter and vanilla extract and smoosh it into a spring form pan.

Mix up your cheesecake ingredients and finish the filling off by folding in half of the strawberry puree without blending it until it's homogeneous- so much prettier this way!

Once it's out of the oven, let it cool completely (or just put it in the fridge overnight) then spread the rest of the strawberry puree on top.

Finish it off with some sliced strawberries.
The verdict? The cheesecake was excellent- The best I've ever made, that's for sure. And the recipe wasn't really difficult at all. I did this early in the month and had plans to try other flavours, but ran out of time. But I know I will revisit this recipe again- plus the variation based on Keda Black's book was so simple and effective. I can't wait to try this with every other berry this summer!

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake
  • 2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
  • 1 cup / 210 g sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)
  • 1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Triple Strawberry Cheesecake variation:
From Strawberry + Yogurt by Keda Black

Wash and hull 2lb strawberries. Puree two third of them with 2 tblsp sugar.

Continue with recipe as written then fold in half of the strawberry puree, without trying to obtain an even mixture. Pour into the cake pan. Bake as directed above.

Turn out the tin and and store in the refrigerator until the next day. Slice the remaining strawberries. Cover the cheesecake with the remaining strawberry puree and add the sliced strawberries.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

India- September 17th 2005

September 17th 2005
Delhi is insane. I’ve already brushed my teeth with the contaminated water and become the life long friend of a rickshaw driver named Ravi who has promised to pick me up again tomorrow against my will- “No problem!” What should have been a 20 rupee ride turned into 50 because he took us to the wrong side of town, thinking I had asked for some Babar market and not Babar lane, He then proceeded to drive us to Babar road, which was different of course. Who the heck is Babar anyway?
I thought we would never make it home

September 18th 2005
There is a man outside our window who has been pacing back and forth while sounding like a goat and chiming some bells on a sick.

This has been the craziest day yet- from a rickshaw ride with Jen’s butt hanging out the window (and later mine) to a Punjabi and Sari shopping spree and then a Las Vegas inspired Jain Temple.

The owner or some high ranking man immediately ran over to us, explaining that he was from Vancouver, Canada & how he knew that it was a long way away (a whole 5 hour plane ride, he says).
He ushered us through a highly decorated bird hospital and then through sacred areas. By the end of our forced tour, we know that he wrote and appeared in musicals and that he would be waiting for us to return to Delhi in three months to have lunch and dinner.
Next, as we walked to the Red Fort, a man walked up to Elise and asked: “would you like a beard, Madam?” She just about collapsed on the floor laughing and then had to get back up and ask the price. The man said 100 rupees, which Elisa said was too expensive and he replied: “but this is real human hair!” well this argument cinched the deal for Elise and they settled on 50 rupees.
We finished the night at a “sound & light show” at the Red Fort which last half an eternity.

September 19th 2005
Today was our last day in Delhi, so it was mostly spent running errands, but we did manage to go see where Gandhi ashes are kept, in a beautiful garden in the middle of dirty Delhi.
As a special treat our leaders treated us to movie tickets to Salaam Namaste, but before that us girls had to go pick up our handmade punjabis & saris. I bought a sari and a punjabi (tunic, pygama pants and matching scarf) which was a perfect fit, but the sari needed a shirt and petticoat made to order. Let me tell you that having something custom made is amazing- The shirt fit perfectly and I now have an extra skirt- and it’s a pretty purple! After trying on my gorgeous sari, snapping a picture with the woman who helped me for 2 days, we darted to out movie.

The movie was just as crazy as Delhi is and I’ve never heard louder music. All in all, I loved it.


dateSat, Sep 17, 2005 at 6:04 AM

hide details 9/17/05

Hello everyone!!
well, Im here and its completely INSANE. But let us start from the begging- Im sorry I didnt call anyone from Hong Kong, but I left my address book in my checked luggage and didnt have the special phone card number with me. The 13 hour flight turned out to be a cinch since I took a sleeping pill (thank you Ashly!) and was knocked out for 9 hours. We arrived at 5:30 AM and took the train into the city. Our first stop was the Botanical and Zoological gardens which were awesome. I am officially in LOVE with this city. It is like nothing I've ever seen before. It's an island with massive hills covered in greenery and the skinniest, tallest skyscrapers I've seen. We took the Peak Tram which took us at a 60 degree angle up the mountain and witnessed the prettiest views of the city. We also visited a famous temple (but dont ask me which one...) and it was the coolest kitchiest place. It was stuffed full is statues of gods, fruit, candles, twinkling colored Christmas lights and incense. They even had those giant spiraling incence sticks which look like beehives, and these covered the ceiling. All in all, the place was pretty smoky and under construction, so it was very 'transy'
At about 6 pm we decided that we were all pretty exhausted and headed back to the airport, where we all promtly fell asleep sitting up.
We arrived in Delhi at 3 am to rain and craziness. They drive on the left hand side, but we would never have know that since no one obeys any traffic laws. They incessantly honk and try to squeeze in between trucks and concrete pylons. I've found that the best way to cope is to close your eyes.
Right now I'm in the middle of a crazy scavenger hunt and i think my team is loosing- we are way too tired to think straight- after getting to bed at about 6 am, we were up for breakfast at 9.
Also, I went on the best shopping spree in Hong Kong. Its fabulous and cheap. My bag is much heavier now and I could care less.
I miss everyone terribly and feel like I'm might as well be living on mars right now (at least they might have hot water and a shower head there!!) but I think this should only get better. Delhi is a little to crazy for me,and I cant wait to find inner peace in the mountains.
I shall write back as soon as I can find this dingy little place again- but right now I have to go bargain for a ride back to the guest house in a rickshaw (think bicycle pulled carts).
Much love!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tag's Chicken Noodle Casserole

Although the weather has improved significantly over the past few weeks, you can still feel the cold undertones in the air and wind. While Monday's weather just sucked, each day since has been getting progressively nicer and I hear rumours of 80 degree weather this weekend. So before spring caught up with us, I wanted to make this casserole one last time. The recipe comes from Kris' mom and was some major comfort food back in the day. What I love about it is that it is totally comforting without the guilt of not getting enough veggies. Plus it's covered in cheese. You can't go wrong, I tell you!

Start off by prepping the veggies- peeling and chopping the carrots and chopping the broccoli.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add in the chicken- after about 25 minutes, add in the vegetables. Strain the vegetables and chicken as they finish cooking. The chicken should have clear running juices and the veggies should still be vibrant but with less of a crunch.

Now add a bag of egg noodles to your boiling water and cook until al dente

After you strain the pasta, return it to the pot. Here my veggies are soaking in a bowl of ice water because I was worried about overcooking them. Strain the veggies and add them to the pot of cooked noodles.

Add in a can of Cream of Chicken soup

Mix in the veggies.

And once your chicken has cooled, tear it off the bone and add it to the pot. At this point I also like to add a good handful of shredded cheese before mixing it all up and adding a good layer of shredded cheese on top.

Pop the pot into the oven for about 20 minutes until everything is heated through and the cheese and golden brown.

Tag's Chicken Noodle Casserole
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 smalls head of broccoli or 1 large head, chopped
  • 4 chicken thighs, bone in.
  • 1 bag of egg noodles
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • salt and pepper
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add in the chicken and cook until the juices run clear, about 30- 40 minutes. Half way through cooking the chicken, add in the chopped vegetables (in bacthes if necessary) making sure to remove them before they loose their vibrant color, about 5 minutes.

Strain all the chicken and vegetables out of the boiling water and leave chicken to cool.

Add the egg noodles to the pot and cook until al dente. Strain and return to pot with 1 can of cream of chicken soup. Add it cooked vegetables and mix. Once the chicken has cooled, tear it off the bones and shred it before adding it to the pot along with one good handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Once everything is combined, top it off with more shredded cheddar and put in the oven for about 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Now that's some good stuff.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

India- September 14th 2005

As a Sophomore in college, I spent a semester backpacking through Northern India with a small group of students. It was an incredible experience amplified by the fact that for the first time in my life, I kept a daily journal. Now 4 years later, wanting to combine my writings with all the pictures we took along the way, I thought it might be appropriate for the blog. I hope you enjoy the journey!

I still can’t believe I’m going

I got up at 5:30am Washington time to take a shower, my last real shower, before embarking on a 50 hour adventure flight to New Delhi leading to a 3 month stay in India. When you know that you’re going to spend 15 hours flying to Hong Kong, a 5.5 hour flight to San Francisco is a piece of cake. I think that hardest part will be the 9 hour wait in the airport before I meet any of my fellow explorers. But even when I do meet them, we still have another 6 hours until our flight at 1:20am (or 4:20am Washington time) which means by the board, I will have spent 15 hours in this airport and been awake for 23- All on 4 hours of nervous sleep.

I’m to meet my fellow travelers at 7:30-8ish at the Cathay Counter. Well- here I am. And I’m finally nervous. I’m the first one here and keep thinking I’m at the wrong desk- wrong terminal- maybe we’re meeting at LAX and not SFO after all. All I know is that I’m about to embark on the biggest journey of my life and I’m early and alone. Talking to Ash and Kris and Mom made me think that I wish I was home- I’ve been at this airport for so long that I’ve forgotten why I’m here.

The 13 hour plane ride turns out to be a piece of cake after I take a sleeping pill & pass out for some 9 hours.

I want to live in Hong Kong

Started the day off at the Botanical & Zoological gardens where some 20 people were doing Tai chi with swords. We took the peak tram to the top and saw amazing views of the city. In the galleria at the top, Jen and I were lectured upon faith and life:
“ Jesus- peace be with him”
“You are deserve”
“Jonah was in the whale of the belly”

We finally tore ourselves away after 30 minutes but not without a picture and his card with promises that we would call if we ever felt like talking. It was a mind boggling and surreal experience.

Eating beef noodles for breakfast- sending postcards home- shopping spree! HK$ 119 for a robe- HK$148 for a saddle bag- HK$40 for 2 magnets. HK&68 for a bracelet blessed in a temple we visited & HK$ 99 for a T-shirt.

I can smell my hair ☹

We land in Delhi and take a taxi to our homestay. Because of the rain & heat it is hard to see out the windows of the 1950’s cab, but what we imagine is enough- They drive on the left, use their horns constantly and risk their lives squeezing in between trucks and concrete blocks. Our homestay consists of 4 floors filled with tiny rooms which seem to appear out of nowhere and somewhere between the catwalks outdoors and the rooftops we climb to get to our room.
It’s been raining here for 3 months and the dripping water is nothing compared to the honking and what seems to be a parade going on outside. Someone is definitely singing. Tomorrow I shall awake to a whole new world.

Cleaning out my archives

I stumbled across this video I took when Kris and I went to Paris for a last hurrah before he moved back to the states. He's like a modern day Snow White!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Return to Arts and Craps

Back in the day I was a huge crafter. I reached a point in my life where I managed to annexe a part of the family house's finished basement to make my very own craft cave. I painted the walls ocre and the trim and extra furniture a color called Chippendale. Then I filled it with cheap travel prints and other travel paraphernalia including a mini shrine to the Indian Goddess Green Tara (brought back from India- I don't actually pray to her or anything...). It didn't match any other part of the house and I loved it.

The family moved from the house right after I graduated from college and left for London, but not before I spent several days sorting through all of my arts and craps. Most of it was thrown out, some was packed up and now lives in the parents garage waiting for better days.

It's been about 2 years since I've crafted anything so last week, with Easter around the corner and the boyfriend out of town, I figured I should get back to it. With the new Martha Stewart Living magazine on the kitchen table, I decided to give this a try:

Because my kitchen is already pretty colorful and the branches I would be using would definitely not have blooms or greens, I decided to dye the eggs green- maybe throw in a couple white ones- you know, keep it simple.

Step 1: Blow out each individual egg and leave them out to dry.
easy enough right? no- not really. Unless you have a sharp utility knife and a rubber ear syringe. In my case, you poke holes with a needle (and please, whatever you do, don't make them too small!) and blow with your cheeks (and if you're holes are too small, you might just break some blood vessels in your cheeks, like me, so watch it).

Step 2: Dye eggs!
Now I can't exactly recall the last time I dyed eggs, but I certainly don't remember it being this difficult. Martha makes it look super easy- But let me tell you something: eggs float. And that means that makes for some uncooperative little buggers.

Martha suggests leaving eggs in for 5 minutes for a light color and 10 minutes for a darker color.
I say- go do your laundry and hope your eggs don't get a dark patch on their undersides.

I was aiming for a fresh springy green, but ended up with something too blue which no amount of yellow could correct-

To finish them off- Martha says to thread some ribbon through the holes and tie it up with a pretty bow. As I only have normal sized needles, this was not happening. In fact, looking back at Martha's set-up, I'd say her needle is about as long as my middle finger... (yeah, I went there.)

I had to compromise by sticking a toothpick through the top to secure the ribbon then another one through the bottom so I could twist the ribbon and then tie the whole thing up like a package and hope it didn't fall off.

I guess it worked out in the end-

yeah- I'd say that looks just like Martha's picture...
But even though I wasn't completely thrilled with my return to crafts, I have been enjoying not killing plants! look:

I might actually be growing something beyond garlic and that old onion in the bottom of the pantry! (who am I kidding, I don't have a pantry) Care to guess what these little beauties might one day become?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tasty Tortilla Soup!

Another great recipe from another great blogger- this time we have Tortilla Soup from Matt over at Having made this a couple times already, I simply cannot wait for summer when tomatoes will be at their best and will taste even more fantastic after being roasted and pureed.

A surprisingly easy and quick recipe, this is great weeknight meal and when you add a small quesadilla (made in the microwave) or a small fresh salad you'll have enough soup for leftovers!
Let's get started shall we?

Because I made this batch of soup in fast forward and at night the pictures might be lacking.... but the process is so easy you could do it blindfolded (maybe)! Either way, you start by putting 8 tomatoes, 1 onion halved , a jalapeno and 2 cloves of garlic onto a cookie sheet and broil them in the oven until the skins darken.

Let the veggies cool off a bit then remove their skins and add the flesh and 1/2 cup of water to the blender. Now I forgot to buy a jalapeno, so I added in a couple slices of the pickled variety and this worked just fine. Another mishap was my garlic got completely charred- next time I'm going to keep an eye on the little buggers and take them out earlier... I used some raw garlic instead.

Once the veggies are pureed, strain the mixture into a hot pot. Let the mixture boil up until it turns dark red. Which is not really the case in the pot below.. something to improve for next time!

Finally add in the chicken broth

Might need to fry or bake some tortilla strips

Just top it off with some cheese and maybe a lime wedge.

mmmmmh- Mexican food

Tortilla Soup
From this recipe on

  • 8 tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves with skin on
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 8 cups chicken stock (you can easily use vegetable stock too!)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 anaheim chiles
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 corn tortillas (and of course you can fry more if you want, I certainly wouldn’t mind)
  • oil for frying1
  • cup Oaxacan cheese
  • lime

Broil the tomatoes, onions, chiles and garlic in the oven til blackened. Make sure to flip over and broil them completely. Once done remove the skin from the tomatoes, garlic and chiles.
Place the tomatoes, onion, chiles and garlic in a blender with 1/2 cup of water and puree. Strain the mixture.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium high heat and add the pureed mixture. Boil it until it thickens and turks a dark red, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and salt to taste and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Cut the tortillas into 1/2-inch strips and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Careful not to burn them! Dry them on paper towels to remove excess oil.

To serve the soup place the tortilla strips in the bowl and ladle the soup over them. Garnish with cheese and a wedge of lime and if you’re feeling colorful you can add chopped cilantro on top.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Apricot Teacakes from Tartelette

A couple weeks ago, the fabulous Tartelette posted a recipe for Apricot Teacakes which sounded too delicious to pass up. And the fact that it uses only a couple ingredients, all of which are pantry standards, this has quickly become my go-to recipe for an easy weekend snack.

Make sure you egg crate and mixing bowl match. This is a very important step!

Mix all the ingredients and poor into a greased mold- or in my case, fill a cupcake tin about 1/3 of the way.

Now that I have this recipe in the arsenal, I think I may invest in a cuter mold...

Apricot Teacakes
Makes about a dozen
From this recipe on Tartelette
  • 1/3 cup (67g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (56.5gr) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup (58gr) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (62.5gr) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125gr) dried apricot halves, diced
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and sour cream. Whisk well and add the flour. Add the dried apricots and mix until incorporated. Divide evenly between muffin tins (or other small molds) coated with cooking spray and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Particularly tasty with a cup of Earl Grey