February… A month has now passed since the New Year’s Resolution craze. The once- packed gym with those resolutioners sweating it out on the treadmill, stair climber, and elliptical machines is now thinning out. Come March, I’m pretty sure I can go to the gym after work and there will be plenty of machines that I can use. In fact, I can reclaim that treadmill that’s located in front of the flat screen tv. As for me, I did not bother making new year’s resolutions this year. It’s bound to be broken anyway… Oh wait, I forgot that I did! and my resolution was this: to try to be better physically, emotionally and spiritually every day. So I try to go to church every Sunday, I try to have a positive outlook everyday, I still keep up with my kickboxing and zumba classes, and I try to run two to three times a week. However, the past few weeks are undeniably so stressful for me so in the process of juggling different responsibilities, I let the half marathon training slip away. Third week into my supposed-to-be training schedule, I finally half-heartedly admitted to myself that there’s a very high possibility that I won’t be able to do the half-marathon in April. That’s a real bummer, and that made me so mad at myself for “failing” to stick to my training schedule. In a way, I felt so disappointed at myself. I failed my expectation. If only I was disciplined enough to stick to the plan… So, to make me feel better [remember, my new year’s resolution is to be better physically, EMOTIONALLY, and spiritually?], I made something that no doubt would put a smile on my face — cheesecake. But this time, I made a mouth-watering, deeply satisfying Oreo cheesecake bars! This yummy goodness is a very nice treat on a gloomy day.
Ahhh… chocolate and cheesecake make everything better. 🙂
Oreo Cheesecake Bars
adapted from Thedelishdishblog
For the crust:
- 23 Oreo cookies
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the cheesecake:
- 12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 6 tbsp sour cream, at room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 12 Oreo cookies, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F and line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with foil.
- For the crust, process Oreos in a food processor until finely ground. Add in the melted butter and pulse until the mixture is moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes and set aside.
- For the filling, beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Mix in the sugar until well combined. Blend in the sour cream, vanilla and salt. Beat in the egg and egg yolk on medium-high speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- Stir in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula.
- Pour the cheesecake batter over the prepared crust, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly wobbly in the center.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool about 1 hour to room temperature. Cover the pan and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
My friend’s daughter recently had her 5th birthday. She’s into princess stuff… Pink, glamorous, sparkly dresses, shoes and things that 5-year-old girls are very fond of. So for her birthday, I promised her that I would make Princess cupcakes for her. It’s actually vanilla cupcakes but I added a little bit of red food color to make pink butter cream icing. To make it more girly, I used the Wilton Cupcake wraps with Pink Princess theme to wrap the cupcakes in, and added some pastel-colored sprinkles. It sure was fun making these colorful girly cupcakes.
Vanilla ‘Princess’ Cupcakes
adapted from The Martha Stewart Show – Martha Stewart
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Basic vanilla buttercream, recipe follows
- Colored cupcake sprinkles, for decorating, optional
- Cupcake wraps, for decorating, optional
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low-speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
- In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
- Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.
To make basic vanilla buttercream:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- a few drops of red food color, optional
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low-speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.
My mother-in-law recently hosted her grade school reunion party and she asked if I can prepare a dessert for the event. She said there would be at least 30 guests who will attend. So I immediately thought of making cheesecake because it’s easy, does not need a lot of preparation, and it always satisfies the palate. And who doesn’t want cheesecake for dessert?? So I was excited to do it! I settled on New York Style Cheesecake because it is not too sweet, and it is, for me, still the best cheesecake variety. What’s even more fun with the New York Style Cheesecake is, for the minimalist, you can eat it just the way it is. Or you can put fresh fruits for garnish, or add a little bit of chocolate or berry sauce (just like what I did). Mmmm… yummy!!!
New York Style Cheesecake
adapted from Good Housekeeping
Graham Cracker-Crumb Crust
- 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (either from 11 rectangular graham crackers, or you can buy a box of cracker crumbs)
- 4 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup milk
- Fresh berries, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare Crumb Crust: In 8 1/2- to 9-inch springform pan, with fork, mix crumbs, melted butter, and sugar until crumbs are evenly moistened. With hand, press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up side of pan. Bake 10 minutes; cool crust in pan on wire rack. Turn oven control to 300 degrees F.
- Prepare Cheesecake: In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in flour and vanilla until well combined. Reduce speed to low and beat in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in milk just until blended.
- Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, until set but still slightly jiggly and moist in center, and pale gold near edge.
- Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight before serving. To serve, remove side of pan. Place cake on plate; garnish with fresh fruits.
To make triple berry sauce:
- 3 cups frozen berries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries
- Place 3 cups of berries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the frozen berries are soft and sugar is melted (you don’t need to add water).
- Puree berry mixture with a blender; replace in saucepan.
- Mix together water and cornstarch and stir into berry mixture.
- Add 1/2 cup frozen or fresh berries and boil over medium heat until thick. Chill to serve
When I decided to try baking, this is the first cupcake I made. My husband requested this for his co-worker’s birthday. I told him I have never baked from scratch before, and we’ll see how it turns out. So crossing my fingers, I went to the kitchen and started measuring and mixing. Since Ina Garten’s recipes are already tried and tested, I used her recipe. It was such a great first time experience! The cupcakes were moist, and that gorgeous red color! The chocolate-y flavor of the cupcakes jives well with the sweet cream cheese frosting. I will surely make this again!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
modified from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
- 1 tbsp liquid red food coloring
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- Red Velvet Frosting, recipe follows
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
- In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute, until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients alternately in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Stir with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is mixed.
- Scoop the batter into the muffin cups with a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop or large spoon. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans and frost the cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting.
To make the Red Velvet Frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (3/4 pound)
- Place the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed just until combined. Don’t whip!
- Add the sugar and mix until smooth.
So I recently noticed that whenever I’m extremely happy and satisfied with my day, I go to my kitchen to bake. I made it a golden rule to not bake when I’m mad, because I know that it will not turn out right. I think your emotions emanate to the food that you’re making at that moment. For example, if you’re angry and you’re cooking, there’s a tendency for the food to be overly spiced. So one night, I decided to bake because that was the first day that I got to relax and not worry about a single thing. And because I had positive vibes that night, my carrot muffins turned out to be so moist, and the cream cheese filling was so creamy with the right sweetness. I shared the muffins with my family, and my husband’s co-workers, and they all loved it!
And a bonus: this muffin is great with coffee 🙂
Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling
adapted from Fix Me A Snack
For the muffins:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup finely shredded carrot
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
For the filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- In a small bowl, make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and oil. Stir in the flour mixture until combined. Then add the carrot and raisins. Stir to incorporate.
- Spoon the muffin batter into a well-greased mini muffin pan, filling each cup only half way. Then place one teaspoon of the filling in each cup. Cover the filling with the remaining muffin batter.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the largest muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5-10 minutes before gently moving them to a cooling rack. Serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours or freeze in an airtight container in a single layer.