Pumpkin Cheesecake and Tiramisu

Posted by on Dec 7, 2010 in Recipe | 4 comments

While the entrée may be dubbed the star of the meal, we all know in our heart of hearts that dessert is what we’re secretly waiting for. Not only is a sweet treat looked forward to by many, but it also makes a nice excuse to gather round with a cup of hot coffee/tea in hand to help settle the meal with some pleasant chatter. Also, let’s keep in mind that dessert is the last impression guests leave with! So let’s make it special. Here are two simple recipes that are quick enough to make that you should be able to easily squeeze it in your busy schedule and whip it up without a problem. Pumpkin Cheesecake Ingredients: For the crust – 1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs 3 tbsp brown sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 stick melted butter For the filling – 3 (8 0z) packages cream cheese 1 (15 oz) can pureed pumpkin 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk 1/4 cup sour cream 1 1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 2 tbsp all purpose flour 1 tsp vanilla extract Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For the crust: Combine the crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the melted butter and mix evenly so that all of the crumbs are moist and coated. Press down firmly into a 9-inch springform pan. I use the bottom of a measuring cup and spread out so that the crust climbs up the sides of the pan as well. For the filling: Beat the cream cheese until it’s smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, eggs and egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and spices. Mix well, then add the flour and vanilla. Make sure everything is incorporated evenly before pouring the batter into the crust. Spread out evenly and bake for 1 hour. Let cool for a few minutes before sliding a knife around the edge of the crust to separate it from the pan. This keeps the pie from staying nicely shaped while cooling, otherwise it may end up breaking as it cools. Cover in plastic wrap and cool for at least 4 hours before serving.   Tiramisu Ingredients: 6 egg yolks 3 tbsp sugar 1 lb mascarpone cheese 1 1/2 cup strong espresso (cooled) 2 tsp dark rum 24 packaged ladyfingers unsweetened cocoa, ground cinnamon, fruit (optional) Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until it’s thick and pale. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix until smooth. Add 1 tbsp of espresso and combine thoroughly. Add the remaining espresso in a separate dish with the rum. Dip each lady finger into the espresso on both sides. You’ll want to dip and turn quickly since the ladyfingers will get soggy and start falling apart. Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of your preferred serving dish and start layering the bottom of the dish. Feel free to break them in half if needed. Spread an even layer of the mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers before adding yet another layer of ladyfingers on top. Repeat as many times as you’d like (or are able to). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (lasts up to 8 hours). Before serving, powder the top with unsweetened cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, and decorate with your preferred fruit. Enjoy~! ~ AJ ~ Photographs taken and provided by AnnMarie...

Read More

Hot Springs – bouncing? No. Hot? Oh yes.

Posted by on Sep 30, 2010 in Itadakimasu Japan! | 2 comments

Considering how Japan is technically one giant volcano, dipping into one of the many hot springs is a must. Although it may seem strange and even embarrassing at first, you quickly realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re walking around butt naked in a room full of strangers because you’re too busy soaking and relaxing. A trip to these natural wonders does wonders to your skin and plenty of other health benefits as well. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in this field and this is a food blog and so…what else can a hot spring do? Well, besides the obvious answer of bathing…eggs! An onsen (hot spring) tamago (egg) is literally an egg that has been slowly cooked in the hot waters of a natural hot spring. At first I thought these eggs were either hard boiled or raw…in fact, since I had no idea what they were and there was no one around to ask, I spent a good five minutes just staking out the table with the bucket of eggs to wait and watch as someone else served one to themselves. (I did a lot of this while in Japan…pretty obvious I’m a tourist!) Upon cracking the egg open I was surprised to find that it only seemed to be half-cooked. It certainly wasn’t hard-boiled and it couldn’t even be considered soft-boiled, if anything it looked very much like a poached egg – just much more watery. However, there was no mistaking that it was fully cooked. The whites were almost like that of a delicate custard while the yolk was somewhat firm despite its color and creamy texture being akin to that of an uncooked yolk. Add a small ladle of dashi [similar to miso – its ingredients are made up of dried shiitake mushrooms, konbu (dried kelp), niboshi (dried baby sardines), katsuo (dried bonito flakes)] and you basically have egg soup for breakfast. Since the egg is still so soft, it can easily be ‘drunk’ along with the ‘broth’. The mixture goes down rather smoothly and is light despite the fact that you’re basically drinking a chilled broth. Next is something that I just enjoy having at home from time to time. A little bit of tofu can go a long way with the right toppings. For the picture on the left: scallion, garlic, bonito flakes, soy sauce. Yum. At home, we use pretty much the same ingredients with the only addition being preserved duck eggs. An easy dish for a meal, not to mention quick and pretty cheap too. I’m sure that you’ve all had sushi before, so many of you are probably familiar with the sushi topped with a dollop of fish roe. Tasty right? Where each salty little egg just pops pleasantly in your mouth as you bite down, a short burst of flavor following right after…mmm. This was my first time having the pleasure of eating an entire little bowl of fish roe. Quite fun really, just don’t think about how many unborn fishies you’re devouring – it might ruin your appetite. Lastly…holy crap! Do you see the size of those peaches? They’re huge. In fact, they’re bigger than my fist. If you don’t believe me, my hand is right there to testify the truth. These peaches were the most amazing ones I’ve ever had thus far. It wasn’t just their size that made an impression but the taste as well. Sweet and juicy, one bite had you hooked. In fact, Jas even wanted more…and she usually stays away since she’s allergic. Now that’s saying something, huh? Coming back to New...

Read More

Highlights of Japan

Posted by on Sep 25, 2010 in Itadakimasu Japan! | 2 comments

Upon arriving in Japan, our tour guide (otherwise known as Soy sauce) quickly briefed us on some of Hokkaido’s famous eats. Here were the main points: dairy products, ICE CREAM, lavender (ice cream that is), corn, honeydew, pumpkin, and natto. Great. I quickly memorized this list and made it my quest to eat all of them during the trip. And……….I did. =] Since my sis already posted about the wonderful ice cream (go check it out), I will elaborate on the other dairy delicacies we had. Cream puffs. Oh. my. goodness. I thought American cream puffs were good, but I was wrong. Compared to these babies, they are nothing. Feast your eyes: Now that is one huuuge puff. I call it, The Queen. The puff itself was crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inner side. The top was dusted with powdered sugar, which added a light sweetness that helped balance the heavy creamy goodness inside. And they definitely were not cheap on the cream. Flavored with lavender, it had a light herbal-y flavor mixed with the strong milk taste. The cream was very thick, and not watery at all. I originally thought it was pretty expensive at a few 100 Yen per puff, but for this? Delicious. Now this is what I describe as a sort of doughnut cream puff hybrid. Soysauce treated the group to these Milano Chou cream puffs, which are “all the rage” in Japan right now. Or at least in Hokkaido anyway. And I can totally understand why. Freshly made everyday, these have the texture of a soft sugar doughnut, but the taste of cream puffs. Very interesting, and verrrrry good.  The cream of these were completely different from the previous cream puff. The Queen had a light lavender flavor but a heavy creamy texture. These however, tasted like it had a sweet custard filling. In the end, I was sad. Sad because I only had one. Corn. The corn in Hokkaido had a sweetness that only fresh American corn could rival. Not only that, but they were also so huge that I wondered how they got so big without steroids. See that? The color is a lighter yellow than most corn, and is much sweeter. With salt and butter added for taste, it was extremely satisfying. You can tell how big and long it is from the picture. It’ longer than my Dad’s head!!! Tasty. Honeydew. All I can say is that Hokkaido’s honeydew are ginormous, extremely sweet, and so juicy that its like drinking juice at every bite. Plus, the outside skin is very beautiful, with neat little lines criss crossing everywhere. And as a side note, that plate was pretty big. Pumpkin. Although we had pumpkin several times during the trip, I have to say my favorite dish was this awesome fried pumpkin tempura. Cut into thin slices, the Japanese pumpkin is quickly rolled in a thin layer of batter and tossed to fry. The tempura was extremely crunchy and delicious when eaten warm. Although the outside was crispy and salty, the inside was still soft and had the sweet heavy taste of pumpkin. Lastly, natto. Oh boy do I love natto now. Before coming to Japan, my reaction to natto would have been “Meh, it’s okay. Not bad.” But, that was because I had never eaten fresh local Japanese natto before. Mixed thoroughly with the mustard and soy sauce they give, topped over warm rice, and wrapped in crispy seaweed, I wouldn’t mind having natto for breakfast every day! Previously, I’ve only ever had natto by itself,...

Read More

From fail to WIN

Posted by on Sep 14, 2010 in Recipe | 5 comments

So, as a few of you may know, I attempted to make brownies on Sunday (9/12/10) following a new recipe that I had [of course] tweaked. Let me just say that I rarely watch television, and when I do it’s usually FoodNetwork that’s playing…and I love Barefoot Contessa and her recipes. Ina Garten’s recipes have never failed me thus far – till now that is. After being requested to make brownies, I hopped on trusty ol’ FoodNetwork.com and searched for a recipe that called out to me. Ina’s Peanut Swirl Brownies seemed perfect. Not too sweet, but still fudgey enough to satisfy a sweet tooth and a serious brownie craving. The result? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Crumbling Tower of Chocolate. Upon taking it out of the oven, it looked perfect. Once I tried to run a knife through it, my confidence was starting to falter. These were definitely not like any other brownies I’ve made before. Crumbling and falling apart, I was eating it out of a bowl instead of eating it on the go. Despite its inability to stay in one piece for more than a minute, it was still moist and dense in the places with peanut butter swirls. Truthfully, it didn’t taste half bad, but a brownie that was actually a crumbling piece of chocolate was a failure in my book. So here’s where I confess my faults. I’ve never had too much trouble with new recipes before, my own ‘inventions’ and ‘concoctions’ are usually pretty tasty [though perhaps not plated to be aesthetically pleasing], and how could I mess up making such a simple recipe like brownies?! It was mind-boggling. And so I whined and sulked and pouted and complained about my “brownie depression” to everyone who cared (and didn’t care) to listen. Eventually, a good friend of mine gave me the best idea. Why not make a trifle? Carissa, did I ever tell you that you’re a brilliant genius? Encouraged and determined to redeem my baking/cooking skills, I managed to transform my fail brownies into a giant bowl of trifle that impressed even me. So? What do you think? Pretty nice, eh? Okay, so it may not be that pretty but I tried my best. Anyway, now that I’m done telling my tale I shall let you readers do the judging for yourself with the following two recipes… I still don’t know if the ‘brownies’ came out the way they were due to my fiddling with the recipe or due to my oven not cooking evenly. Either way, here’s my version of the recipe. Peanut Swirl Brownies Ingredients: 4 sticks unsalted butter 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels 8 oz unsweetened chocolate 6 extra large eggs 3 tbsp instant coffee granules 3 tbsp vanilla extract 2 cups sugar 2 cups flour 1 cup chunky peanut butter 1/2 cup chopped pecans Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a double boiler (or a makeshift one as I did), melt the butter and chocolate over simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water or else the chocolate may burn. In a large bowl, mix the coffee, vanilla, sugar, flour, and nuts (nuts don’t have to be pecans, whatever you prefer is fine). Mix in eggs one at a time. Once the chocolate mixture is all melted, pour it into the batter and mix well. Grease your baking sheet/pan with a light layer of butter. After pouring the chocolate batter into the baking pan, use two spoons to evenly place dollops of peanut butter on top of...

Read More

Taiwan: The Kingdom of Fruits

Posted by on Aug 20, 2010 in Eating like an Emperor - in Taiwan | 2 comments

Due to a lack of stable internet, S.S.Munchies has not been able to update with new posts for quite a while now. So, while I still have a steady stream of access, I’ll leave you all with a quick post about one of Taiwan’s specialties: fruit! Everyone loves fruit! Okay, I suppose I can’t speak for everyone but I know that I love fruit…even the ones that I’m allergic to. But an itchy throat doesn’t mean much to me as long as I’m rewarded with sweet juicy deliciousness. Thus, I persevere and continue to stuff my face (my specialty). =] Fruit in America just doesn’t compare with those of Taiwan’s. Here, everything is fresher, bigger, and ohmygawdelicious! From the common pear to the exotic Custard Apple, I’m more than happy to eat a meal that consists of fruit and only fruit…Oh wait, I already do that. Silly me~ Unfortunately, this will only be a small sneak peek at the wide assortment of fruits available in Taiwan due to: My being shamefully unprepared with a camera many times when stuffing my face, and Certain fruits are either out of season or not yet in season Nevertheless! Here is a small introduction to fruits that I’m sure everyone has tried before, and some that you may not yet have had a chance to.  Starting off with the Custard Apple, as mentioned above in my program, this fruit is quite unique. Named after Buddha’s head due to its strange shape, it falls apart easily in your hands (which can sometimes be inconvenient) but the taste is an awarding sweetness, pleasantly similar to that of custard. There’s quite a lot of seeds and it can be almost a hassle to eat, but makes a good snack for when you’re just sitting around watching television or something. The Dragon Fruit, also known as the Pitaya/Pitahaya orhuǒ lóng guǒ (火龍果) in Chinese [literally translated as the Fire Dragon Fruit], is the fruit of a cactus. Which cactus? I haven’t a clue, but I imagine its flowers are rather impressive little creatures. All I know is that despite the outside of the dragon fruit looking like a hot pink, underdeveloped artichoke of sorts, the inside is a monochromatic contradiction to the brazen colors of the outside rind. The fruit is made up of supple white flesh, flecked with a scattered design of black poppy-like seeds. With a mouth-watering, light, sweet taste, the texture of the flesh is soft and creamy. I’m told that the Dragon Fruit is highly concentrated in Vitamin C, minerals, and a high fiber content…not like any of that actually crosses my mind while I’m busily peeling its rind. Next up is the pineapple, but not just any pineapple! This one’s albino. The pineapple is seen as a symbol of luck and prosperity in Taiwan. This is due to the leafy parts of the pineapple looking similar to that of a crown, as well as it being called ‘ong lai’ in Taiwanese which is pronounced closely to the word ‘prosperity’ (wong lai). The white pineapple is supposedly sweeter and juicier than the regular yellow pineapples. I was a bit skeptical at first until I took a bite. Then another, and another, and another… Last but not least are the Fragrant Melon (xiang gua) and the beloved mango. I have to say, I wasn’t a very big fan of the Fragrant Melon, but then I realized my mistake was that I never had it when it was fully ripe…or overripe even. When the melon’s not yet ready to eat, it tastes like a cucumber...

Read More