Kamis, 07 November 2013

Martha's Easy Light Cheesecake

heavy holidays are on the way...

you might want to lighten things up a bit.

start with this absolutely delicious light cheesecake.
so easy to prepare.
and baked with NO WATER BATH
no one will suspect the ingredients.  friends and family had no idea the main ingredient was cottage cheese.  don't say anything...


the original recipe is for a 9" cake, but i made mine in an 8" then made 2  individuals in small mason jars with cookie crumbs at the bottom.


28 Nabisco Chocolate Wafers
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
4 Tbsp melted butter

put wafers in possessor and pulse until crumb texture.  add sugar and butter and process again.  pour crumb mixture into springform pan and tamp down with something flat.  gently press mixture up the sides.  it's a bit crumbly, but as you can's do-able.
this Martha original recipe does not require going up the sides, but i found it to look more attractive.  (you shall see an example in my Lightened Up Pumpkin Pie recipe soon)


bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes.  remove to cool.

NOTE...i did not use all the crust mixture and as you can see i had a nice thick crust all the way up the sides of an 8 inch pan.  better to have too much than not enough.

simply wipe out processor and begin to prepare mixture  for cake.


3 cups low fat cottage cheese
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, room temp.
3/4 cup  granulated sugar
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp vanilla extract (Martha called for 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt

preheat oven to 325 degrees.
have prepared crust as noted above, or crust from original found in link.
as noted i used an 8" springform pan and had leftover.

blend cottage cheese and cream cheese until very very smooth and glossy, scraping down sides as necessary, about 4-5 minutes.  add 3/4 cup sugar, sour cream, eggs, flour, vanilla, salt and blend until filling is completely smooth.
pour filling into prepared crust.  bake until barely set in the middle, ABOUT 1 HOUR.  there should be some "jiggle".  TURN OFF THE OVEN and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 more hour.  i left the oven door slightly open...very slightly!  transfer to wire rack and let cool to room temp for 2 hours, then refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Brown Sugar Apple Cookies

I have been ignoring you.  I'm sorry, you don't need to yell!  Listen up, my little brother is GETTING MARRIED this weekend!  The little brother of Sirious Sips, by the way, whatever happened to those?  Anyway, my focus has been elsewhere.  But yesterday, my focus was on making a scrumptious fall cookie, and you should totally use the word "scrumptious" more often.  No seriously, try saying it out loud, right now.  Scrumptious!  Doesn't it make you feel joyful?  I found this recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies and I thought, why not add some apples?!  Two peeled, diced Honeycrisp apples to be specific.  I also added 1/2 tsp of vanilla to the recipe and a cup of oatmeal.  I had EVERY intention of drizzling caramel on top and sprinkling them with sea salt (Salted Caramel Apple Cookie anyone??) but my focus faltered.  YOU'RE YELLING AT ME AGAIN.  They were delicious on their own.  


Rabu, 30 Oktober 2013

Afghan Master Kebab

You know that song, "All my friends are getting married"?  Well, all my friends are moving to Sunshine.  I thought it was because they were smart cookies, but maybe they had a sixth sense about this awesome new opening - what I think is the western suburb's very first Afghan restaurant.


Feast your eyes on its awesomeness!  My youngest is enamoured - she thinks it's like eating in, I quote, "a princess castle".


Afghan Master Kebab specliase in skewered meats which they cook over a narrow charcoal pit at the back of the restaurant.  As the meat straddles the pit, the chef fans the charcoal, encouraging it to glow redder and emit more of that tantalising smoke.  (Don't worry, the restaurant is not at all smoky.)

Mix kebab, $13.99

This is the "mix kebab" - the two chicken kebabs were out of this world, uncommonly juicy and rubbed with a spicy mix.  We also scored a lamb kebab (smoky, tender, yum) and a mince kebab - the only one the kiddo could handle in terms of spice.  Thin, Afghan-style naan bread, some fine fresh salad, a yoghurty sauce and another minty, chilli one made for a most excellent lunch.


In my experience, Afghan food in Melbourne tends to be on the dear side.  Not here - Afghan Master Kebab has really fair pricing, with everything between $12 and $15 (and the "mix kebab" above was really enough for two).  I'm keen to try their "qorma" curries and rice pilafs, studded with carrot and red barberries.

The westie dining scene just got even more diverse - and even more delicious!

Afghan Master Kebab
3/20 Devonshire Road, Sunshine
Phone:  9311 9277

Gender Reveal Cupcakes

Are you familiar with 'Gender Reveal Parties'??  They are all the rage these days, and remind me never to say "all the rage" again because it makes me sound ancient.  Anyhoo (ancient-er), if you are not hip to the Gender Reveal (oh dear god), then let me give you the 411 (make it stop): it's a party where an expecting couple reveal the sex of their baby to friends and family (and many times themselves) in a fun manner, like cutting into a cake or biting into a cupcake that's pink or blue inside.  Well, I was not only recently invited to one for my dear friends, Beth and Brad, but they asked me to bake the cupcakes!  And in this instance, they didn't know the sex either.  Their doctor wrote it down, sealed it in an envelope and gave it to me!  Talk about your head exploding with knowledge that you can't share with anyone, oy.  In full disclosure, I told my four-year-old son, Jack.  And he probably told a couple of buddies at school.  And they were like, "meh."  

    But, I was able to keep the secret, and I didn't even play a prank and swap genders like Carson wanted me to.  I had never baked stuffed cupcakes before, and decided to go for a homemade Hostess Cupcake following this recipe.  Every part of it was perfect.  Super moist, chocolaty cake, a sweet and fluffy marshmallow cream center and topped with a rich, chocolate ganache.  My kind of dessert.  I used a paring knife to core out the cupcakes, which was time-consuming but very easy.  And I used a freezer bag with the end snipped off to fill the centers wiiiiith... BLUE icing : )   

The happy couple...

Congrats Beth and Brad!  I can't wait to meet this sweet baby boy.  

(All images by Katy at Chasing You Photo)

Selasa, 29 Oktober 2013

Halloween Marshmallow Pops

I still rip things out of magazines at doctor's offices.  And I still nervously look around me as I'm doing it, half expecting a police officer to jump out from behind a plant and arrest me.  This habit is very old school, because I could easily take a photo of whatever it is with my iPhone or go home and Google the same magazine and find the article in its entirety online.  Alas, ripping it out makes me feel dangerous and 82 years old at the same time.  So, I recently found this article stuffed in my purse about Marshmallow Pops, which looked so fun and easy to recreate at home.  And they were!  Perfect after-school activity with Jack...  

I used lollipop sticks I had on hand, melted white chocolate for the ghosts and candy melts for the Frankensteins and pumpkins.  (I didn't have orange candy melts so I combined yellow and red, which sort of came out coral but go with it.)  Simply dunk your skewered marshmallows and then let cool on parchment paper.  Melt some chocolate chips and dunk the tips of your green marshmallows for Frankenstein hair.  Place the rest of the melted chocolate in a piping bag (or plastic baggie with the end snipped) and use to make spooky faces!  You could make mummies or Dracula's too, and use other candies for decorating.  The possibilities are endless when you rip articles out of magazines!       

Minggu, 27 Oktober 2013

Talking Big West over lunch at Sapa Hills

When I left school, I loved food as much as I do now, but I hadn't considered trying to get into food writing.  In fact, my first career aspiration was to be an art critic.  I was very into semiotics, postmodernism, and wearing lots of black.  I ended up dropping out after a year (I realised I looked much better in red) but I've still always enjoyed art.  There are lots of different experiences you can have observing it, but my favourite is the comparatively rare moment when, browsing a gallery or watching a performance - BAM!  Something hits you, like a key in a lock, and you can't look away.  It's fantastic.

This is why it is very exciting to tell you that I am the 2013 Big West Festival's official blogger.  The Big West Festival is a biennial arts festival held in the west, showcasing western suburbs artists, and celebrating what makes the west the eclectic, gritty and gutsy place it is.  I'll be blogging over at the site throughout the Festival, but as an intro, come and meet Marcia Ferguson, the Festival's director, over some delicious treats from one of my favourite Footscray restaurants.


Plan A had been some lovely soup at Sen, but with it surprisingly shut that day, we strolled to Sapa Hills.  Quite a few people seem to think its slightly swish decor means that it's some kind of gweilo tourist trap, but its Hanoi-style specialties and confident renditions of Vietnamese staples make it one of my favourite spots in Footscray.

Bun nem ran, $12

For instance, spring rolls at Sapa Hills don't just mean the typical tiny tubes with a hunk of iceberg lettuce you get elsewhere.  These are Hanoi-style spring rolls, wrapped in rice paper (instead of wheat) and fried so that they are delicately crisp and crackly all over.  The filling is a delicious mix of pork, vermicelli noodles and black mushroom.  Make a little salad with spring rolls, rice noodles, greens and refreshing dressing for a big whack of yum.


Just about all the artists in this year's Big West Festival are from the western suburbs.  Marcia and I spoke about what makes this part of Melbourne have such a strong and defined identity.  She said she thinks of the west as a "mini Philadelphia".  "Philadelphia loves Philadelphia, and you can feel it on the street," she says.

To her, Big West is about bringing out and presenting to the public the west that is already here.  It's about celebrating what Marcia describes as our "gorgeous mix of immense cultural tradition".  One really exciting event that does just this is Dance Republic, a kind of cross-cultural dance-off between groups like the South Sudanese Dombai Dancers, dancers from the Chin community and students from local high schools.  It's on Sunday 1 December at Little Saigon Market - read more here.

Wonton soup, $5

Just a little wonton soup to whet your appetite.  This is a bargain at five bucks and boasts lovely restorative soup and fat wontons with whole prawns inside.  (I find these soups are great for kids - just enough and not too many tricky noodles to try to scoop up.)

Big West is about inclusiveness and community engagement, but it also offers opportunities for artists to present their work, even if that work is "high end" or highly conceptual.  "Labour" is a "part video installation, part participatory event" by local artist Hoang Nguyen.  His inspiration is his childhood experience of the Vietnamese show tunes that played while his mother made clothes at home.  Through this work he aims to "[explore] notions of work through open karaoke participation".  If that's not a world first, I don't know what is.

Vietnamese coleslaw with prawns and pork, $18

The coleslaws at Sapa Hills are another must-have.  We loved this prawn and pork number - sometimes the pork in soups and salads can be a bit grey and chewy, but here it was really tasty and tender.  I could live off this stuff - so much crunchy cucumber, fresh herbs and sweet pickled carrots.  Scoop it onto the prawn crackers for a Vietnamese tostada.  Yum!

"Massive" perform at the Big West launch

You can read the whole Big West program here.  As mentioned, the rest of my Big West posts will be on the Big West site itself, so stay tuned there for artist interviews and reflections on works during the Festival itself.

Jumat, 25 Oktober 2013

Monster Eyeball Cookies

My daughter has been waking up at 5am this week, which is fun, because then we can bond while I'm super grumpy.  She also knows what "Mama, Coffee, HOT" means, so there's that.  And I've had a chance to get my blog posts up on the early side.  Morning Celebration!  Anyways, remember these Mini Candy Corn Sugar Cookies?  I've been pretty obsessed with the recipe since discovering it.  The dough comes together in a matter of minutes (I usually double it), it's easy to work with, it freezes well, and the creative possibilities are endless (think every holiday).  This go around, I added a small amount of green food coloring to the dough before adding the flour, and then topped each baked cookie with eyeball sprinkles.  Jack and I wanted to make faces on a few of them, so we melted chocolate chips and used a plastic baggie with the end snipped off to create silly, scary monsters... 

Ok those aren't scary at all.  Can you believe Halloween is less than a week away?  Good thing my son has 3 costumes he can't decide between!  If you feel like getting festive and domestic this weekend, check out the homemade candy I've made in the past.  And don't forget these Butterfingers!


Kamis, 24 Oktober 2013

Panache Pantry Chicken, Pasta + Giveaway

Have you ever heard of gourmet bread crumbs?  I had not, until the nice people of Panache Pantry sent me some samples.  Panache, a company founded by two at-home moms, have taken bread crumbs to a whole new level, whether it be their classic Sicilian line or their more modern products like Banana Nut Curry or Pumpkin Cajun (which I plan on sprinkling over ice cream as soon as I go buy ice cream).  It's such a brilliant, simple idea, and saves you the time of adding fresh herbs and spices to your boring old bread crumbs.  So far, I've sprinkled the Zucchini Rosemary crumbs over pasta...     

...and the Vintage Sicilian with chicken.  Take boneless, skinless chicken breasts, coat with mayo on both sides, sprinkle with bread crumbs on both sides, season with salt and pepper and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Trust me, if you don't like mayo, you will still love this.  It just makes for SUPER moist chicken.  And the Sicilian bread crumbs add such a depth of flavor.  Easiest dinner ever!

SO, Panache Pantry wants to give one of YOU some samples (any 2 crumbs from their 5 lines, your choice)!  Please "like" Panache Pantry on Facebook, comment below to win, and let me know how you would use these crumbs.  I will pick a winner Monday morning (10/28).  Good luck!    

Rabu, 23 Oktober 2013

Dark Chocolate Breakfast Bar

with granola, hickory smoked BACON, espresso beans and pecans

what self respecting chocolate lover doesn't dream about chocolate?

well, now you can wake up, enjoy your chocolate and feel fabulous about the day ahead.


of course there are health benefits in dark chocolate.  pecans have their omegas, bacon has protein...HA HA...and granola is...granola,
but the best part about chocolate is that "moment"
that feeling that everything is gonna be okay



1 pound of good dark chocolate.  i use Guittard 61% coverture discs
BACON...about 8-10 slices cooked crispy and chopped or crumbled
1 1/2 cup of good plain (gluten free) granola
1/2 cup "sweet-spicy" pecans, some cut, some whole.  try Trader Joe's
1/2 cup chocolate covered espresso beans
1/8 cup cocoa nibs
1/4 tsp hickory smoke flavoring in a bottle
1/8 tsp chipotle powder...a little more maybe?
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
smoked sea salt for top sprinkle.  try Maldon's flaked

NOTE...have extra goodies (granola, pecans, bacon etc.) on hand in case your mixture looks too "soupy".  ingredient size and shape can vary.

prepare an 8x8 inch square pan.  lightly butter the bottom and sides. this will help hold the parchment to the sides.  line the bottom and two sides with "the parchment sling" (baking tip from Suzie Sweet Tooth).

this is rather important in my opinion.
tempering keeps your chocolate fresh and snappy instead of a melting blotchy mess.  it will keep at room temperature and be a lot more enjoyable to wrap and give away...TRUST ME.
this is not a hard thing to do.  i think the "microwave method" is easiest.  see my tempering instructions HERE or visit Alton Brown's instructions HERE.
IN A NUT SHELL... you will slowly melt the chocolate, bring it up to 115 degrees (for dark) and slowly lower the temp to 90 degrees before using...but please click on link for instructions.

once your chocolate is tempered and at about 90-91 degrees, start to add in your goodies. a few bits and pieces for a sprinkle on the top.  when adding in the powdered spices like chipotle, i like to do this through a small strainer for more control.  i wouldn't want one person to get a mouthful of heat...right?
also be very careful with the "hickory flavoring".  this can make or break you.  use a light hand with this for the first time using.  i found that just about 1/4 tsp was good enough.
don't go wild with the mixing or everything will lose it's individual unique flavor, ie...the spicy pecans, the smoky bacon and the cinnamon granola.  you want everything including the dark chocolate to shine on it's own.
pour/spoon mixture into prepared pan.  let sit on counter until solid or put in the fridge.  when set, loosen sides with a knife and lift out by the "sling" handles.
cut into desired pieces with sharp clean knife.

Senin, 21 Oktober 2013

Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have I ever told you about how I hate Pumpkin Pie?  I hate it, really I do. 

I haven't even tried a piece since I was probably 9 years old, and I won't try it.  You probably think you can get me to eat a bite, but you're wrong.  I will run away from you and your bite, like a bat out of hell.  But the weird thing is... I like pumpkin bread, and pumpkin bars, and pumpkin ravioli, cheesecake, seeds, cookies, etc.  Just get away from me, Pumpkin Pie.  Get far, far away.

Back to me liking pumpkin other things, like cookies.  I decided to make up a recipe on Thursday and I think I did good.  All the autumn-y pumpkin flavor that I love, in the consistency of a cookie (not pie).  I brown butter all year long, but there's something extra special about the nuttiness the flavor offers in autumn time.  I added chocolate chips, because I do that to everything, but white chocolate chips would also be lovely.  If you only have all-purpose flour, that will be fine, but I love what the combination of bread flour and cake flour does for cookies.  They help to provide a chewy interior with a crackly exterior.  Be warned: this dough is sticky, so it's important to refrigerate it for as long as possible, preferably overnight.  But it will be worth the wait.  Happy Fall Without Pumpkin Pie, everyone!    

Brown Butter Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes approx. 2 dozen)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips (or white)

In a small pot, brown butter over medium low heat.  This takes some time, but if you turn the heat too high the butter will burn.  Once it's foams, turns brown and starts to smell nutty - it's ready.  Remove from heat and let cool.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together both flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and cloves.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together with an electric mixer both sugars with browned butter.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing in between.  Add pumpkin and vanilla and mix until fully combined.  Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least an hour).  When ready to bake, remove dough from fridge and preheat oven to 350.  Place rounded spoonfuls (I use an ice cream scooper) on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.       

More Pumpkin on SD:

About coffee


Coffee, Elixir of life. At least for this tired mama. I'm not a huge drinker, but I do want at least two cups a day - one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. And one mid-morning, if I'm at work. However, I really prefer my coffee to be quite good, and I'm pretty particular. At home, I mostly use a Moccamaster, which brews really well. We also have a small Nespresso Pixie, which is great in its own way - good for a quick cup, especially if just one of us wants coffee. (It's also the very best way to make an iced latte - one shot of epresso over lots of ice, cold milk and a little vanilla syrup.)

At work, we have horrid coffee - big machines by Selecta. The coffee is truly bad. So I'm pretty happy that I got to borrow a Dolce Gusto Minime, by Delonghi. It's tiny, and fits on a corner of my desk. It also makes really good coffee - great to approximate regular brewed coffee. I'm less fond of the espresso or tea varieties, and I really dislike all the milk-based drinks (since they're made with milk powder), but the regular coffee = great.

This is an honest review actually - sure, I'm happy to have been able to try out the machine, but I'll honestly say that I'd love to buy one for the office. It works perfectly. I like this small machine better than the larger Dolce Gustos I've tried before though, although the results are pretty much identical. The  only things I don't like are:
- the very small water tank (but with a small compact size, well I guess that's what you get..)
- it's pretty loud
- it also vibrates quite a bit, and if I've used paper mugs, they've even fallen off

Minggu, 20 Oktober 2013


Well, it finally happened. I got sick of the "old" - way old - Blogger, and switched to "new".  It hasn't been new for years, but well, new to me. The blog has quite a new look, too -  I hope you'll like it. (Or at least tolerate it.)  The biggest news:

-I can fit wider photos - a big yeay for that

-The recipe archive has moved from the right-hand column to its own page

-I finally have added an FAQ

-More widgets - hopefully useful ones, like sharing on facebook and the like.

Still wanting to change the background and header a little bit but well, we shall see. I'm pretty proud of it so far!

Sabtu, 19 Oktober 2013

Chocolat Coconut Brûlée


 I rarely make desserts nowadays, or at least, so it seems. (I eat plenty of sweets, just not anything fancy. Or well, prepared.) So, as we haphazardly invited friends for dinner, I decided it was well about time to make something proper. And I had a lot of rhubarb to harvest. I decided on a variation on crème brûlée, with a rhubarb compote at the bottom. And coconut milk in lieu of regular milk, for a tropical touch. The recipe I used, from the cookbook "Strawberries and rhubarb" (a Danish book, by Sandra Leigh Dreznin) stated that it was enough for four servings. Instead, I got twelve. For the last four, I didn't have enough rhubarb since I was a bit too generous in the beginning, so I added a small handful of chocolate chips to each ramekin before pouring on the coconut-cream mixture. THAT turned out to be genious. The rhubarb ones turned out too watery and soggy, but the chocolate ones were delicious.

Chocolate Coconut Brûlée
12 small ramekins
12 tbsp chocolate chips
250 ml cream
400 ml coconut milk (1 can)
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
8 tbsp sugar

Extra sugar, for brûlée-ing.

Combine cream and coconut milk in a saucepan, scrape out the vanilla bean and the seeds and the whole bean, and heat until boiling.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add a spoonful of the warm cream mixture and whisk well, to temper the yolks. Then pour the yolks into the sauce pan and whisk well to combine. Heat on medium heat for a few minutes, but don't let it boil. It should thicken slightly.

Divide the chocolate between the ramekins, and then top with the cream-egg mixture. Place the ramekins in a large roasting dish. Pour warm water in the dish, to about half the height of the ramekins. Bake at 150°C for about 40-50 minutes. They should be just set. Cool, and let sit in the fridge for at least one hour but preferrably more.

Just before serving, sprinkle with sugar and use a small torch to caramelize the surface.

Kamis, 17 Oktober 2013

Lamb Meatballs in Coconut Sauce



Another really yummy dinner. I loved this, my husband did as well, and the little ones ate a fair share. Well, the four-year old found it a bit on the spicy side, but he's in a very picky phase. I can't figure out why I didn't take a photo - I rarely forget but sometimes, apparently, it happens. You'll have to make do with this happy picture of Dante, who really enoyed this. Update: found the photo on My iPad!

Lamb Meatballs in Coconut Sauce
serves 4

500 g lamb mince
1 egg
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
100 ml water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
butter, for frying

400 ml coconut milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lemongrass stalk
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1-2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ancho chili
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
100 ml cream (optional)

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs, and roll into large round balls. (About ten.) Brown in butter on medium heat.

For the sauce, pound the lemongrass to get maximum flavor and cut into large pieces. (You'll be fishing them out later!) In a large pot, mix coconut milk, garlic, lemongrass, ginger and all the spices. Bring to a boil. Add the meatballs and let them simmer until done, a few minutes. At this point, I decided to add a little cream as the sauce was pretty spicy, but you can leave it out if you prefer.

Serve with rice, and fresh coriander. We also had red bellpepper, and had I thought ahead, I'd have added some toasted cashews.