Monthly Archives: December, 2012

Pumpkin Not-Cheesecake Cheesecake Brownies

Cheesecake… the very embodiment of guilty eating pleasure. The word synonymous with both “decadent” and “unhealthy.” Most people who, like me, try to live health-conscious lives, never let a bite of cheesecake pass their lips. However, they are liable to dream about the forbidden stuff day and night until it drives them insane and they have little images of cheesecake literally swirling in their eyeballs like a cartoon. How do we solve this problem? By eating cheesecake, of course.

What? Yes, I said the incessant human desire for cheesecake can be assuaged by eating cheesecake – on condition that that cheesecake is a not-cheesecake cheesecake. Now, don’t despair: just because it isn’t technically cheesecake doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste just like it. These not-cheesecake cheesecake brownies have a creamy, tart yet sweet swirl of pumpkin “cheesecake”  made of yogurt, a dash of vanilla extract and light spreading cheese to embrace the chewy, chocolatey moistness of the brownie. It doesn’t taste exactly like cheesecake, but if anything I think it’s better: the “cheesecake” swirl resembles both pumpkin pie and delectable cheesecake at once!

sinless pumpkin cheesecake brownies

Even the brownie, come to think of it, could be described as a “not-brownie” brownie, because it is very low in sugar. Most of the sugar of a traditional brownie recipe has been replaced with Truvia sweetener. An ad for Truvia sweetener came up on my computer the other day, and I actually clicked on it and saw that Truvia is an all-natural sweetener derived from the Stevia plant.

Truvia natural sweetener packet

It is naturally calorie-free and very sweet without sugar. When I first read the hype about Truvia sweetener, I was skeptical and expected it to taste yucky. But I gave it a try in these brownies, and they turned out amazing (if I do say so myself.) I had several of my family members try it, and they all liked it, saying it tasted like brownie cheesecake. My mom’s first remark was actually that it was sweet. But I tried it, and I assure you it is not too sweet, just sweet enough.

The brownies also contain no butter, because I replaced the butter called for in the original recipe with vegan cookie dough. It may seem weird, but it worked!

One 16th of the recipe is only 119 calories, so go ahead and have two!

Pumpkin Cheesecake brownies fireworks

(Fireworks because I’ve finally found a delicious, healthy cheesecake brownie recipe.)

See this page for the full recipe.

pumpkin cheesecake brownie with ice creamTry a chilled brownie with a Skinny Cow caramel cone flavored ice cream snack for a super dessert that is high in nutrients!

pumpkin cheesecake brownie in a smoothieOf course, it goes without saying that I blended a brownie into a smoothie with pumpkin cream, frozen chocolate mint yogurt, and Laughing Cow cheese. Delicious!

Chocolate Pecan Pie Smoothie

This morning, I came home from a run and wanted something sweet to cool off with. I had just seen a post from the rantings of an amateur chef about chocolate pecan pie. That sounded really delicious, but I couldn’t have pie at 9:00 in the morning… or could I?

I made this smoothie using the pecan pralines I bought yesterday to make pumpkin praline chocolate chip scones. The main body of the smoothie was chill chocolate, with a splash of cinnamon and crunchy pecans I fished out with a spoon. I like my smoothies to have some texture to them, with chunks of something interesting floating around. Some people may consider this weird, but they just haven’t tried it.

Here is the recipe for the chocolate pecan pie flavored smoothie.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Smoothie

Chocolate pecan pie smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Snack Pack brand pudding cup, frosted sugar cookie flavor
  • 1 tbsp Peanut Butter and Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp Hershey’s cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • generous shake cinnamon
  • tiny pinch nutmeg
  • 5-7 ice cubes
  • 10 or so praline pecans

Praline Pecans

Directions:

Place all ingredients except the pecans in the blender. Blend for a minute or so, until the ice is crushed. Add the praline pecans and blend for 20-30 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy this smoothie version of a traditional winter pie.

the chocolate pecan pie smoothie

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and happy new year!

You might also like:

Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Cheesecake Smoothie Parfait

Chocolate Caramel Peanut Butter Cheesecake Smoothie Parfait

The Evil Machine and Pumpkin Praline Chocolate Chip Scones

I really haven’t made as many “holiday” foods as I’d hoped this year. I feel like everyone in the world has been blogging about what they’ve made for the holidays. I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I didn’t have as much reason to make fruitcake or whatnot, but I could have made jelly donuts for Hannukah (however many millennium ago that was.) Oh well. Next year.

Pumpkin Scones with pralines and chocolate chips

I did really want to have at least something to blog about before Christmas was over, however, so I set my heart on making some pumpkin scones. (I know, I know, pumpkin is for Thanksgiving, but it can also apply to Christmas, can’t it? Especially since everyone in my family likes pumpkin.)

pumpkin chocolate chip praline scones

We happened to be walking to the drugstore today to look for hand moisturizing lotion. I searched the whole store for the stuff and couldn’t find my favorite type. I did see a package of pecan pralines, which I imagined would go great in the scones I was planning to make, so I decided to buy that and some cereal. That may just have been the worst decision I’ve made in my life.

The drugstore I went to is all fancy-shmancy and has special machines that scan your items and take your money instead of a cashier. They probably got a lot of complaints from customers about the speed of their cashiers, so they decided to just make the customers scan their own items so they couldn’t say the cashier took too long. Clever idea… except the contraptions don’t work.

The thing told me to insert my cash into its slot, so I put in a twenty-dollar-bill for my $2.99 purchase, expecting it to give me change. First, a penny was regurgitated from the change slot. A few moments later, the machine grudgingly coughed up two measly $1 bills. I waited patiently, but the machine was stubborn. It wanted to hold onto my extra $15, acting like Ebenezer Scrooge if he were asked to give some penniless children money on Christmas Eve or something. In short, that stupid machine was a cheater. (Or just really bad at math. Or broken.)

I got an employee to help me, and she had me go through the whole process again of pushing buttons on the machine, telling it what language I spoke, what my phone number was, how many bags I was using, scanning my items… then she needed to go get another employee to open the machine’s cash store and get me my $15. By the time we finally got out of there, I was determined never to shop at that store again. That crafty machine will remember me, try to cheat me again, or worse, eliminate me altogether out of bitterness that I violated its personal temple of money to get my $15. We’re at the fiscal cliff, and it’s every man, woman and machine for himself. That machine is not going to give up dough without a fight.

Praline Pecans

On the upside, I did finally get my pecan pralines! It was definitely worth the hardships I suffered to obtain them, because they tasted delicious with the chocolate and pumpkin flavors in these scones. The scones have a chewy outside and a soft, buttery inside. They are also healthy because of vitamin A from the pumpkin, and protein and fiber from the pecans.

For the recipe for the scones, click here.

Pumpkin scones with praline and chocolate chip

Happy holidays to all! (Except you, you wicked machine.)

Saturday Morning Breakfast

This morning, the main theme of breakfast was pancakes. It all started with my adapting the single serve gingerbread pancake recipe I used last week to make a single cranberry lemon pancake. I replaced the cinnamon and ginger from the original recipe with a few cranberries and a half teaspoon each of vanilla and pure lemon juice. It could have used more lemon juice, as it turned out.

I also didn’t really cook the pancake quite long enough, so the inside was a little undercooked.

Evil Face Cranberry Pancake

I tried to place the cranberries in the shape of a cheerful smiley face, but once I’d flipped the pancake a time or two it turned into an evil grin.

I spread the pancake with St. Dalfour’s pear jam. Delicious!

Evil Face Cranberry Pancake with pear jam

I also had a pumpkin caramel chocolate smoothie.

Smoothie on Saturday December 22

My brother Sam was hungry at like eleven when he finally got out of bed. I proposed making him chocolate chip pancakes, which he enjoys upon occasion when he finally gets sick of cereal. Even though I detest using mixes, I figured I’d use the Betty Crocker mix he’s used to because he’s super picky and distrusts anything I actually make from scratch. But we were all out of the mix, so I got to make them from scratch using a recipe in Kosher by Design: Kids in the Kitchen by Susie Fishbein. The only alteration I made to the recipe was to add a splash of vanilla. I suggested adding cranberries and almonds, but Sam would have none of it.

the first good pancake

He took the above picture with his new camera of my first good pancake. (Good means well-cooked; I tend to be afraid to cook them too long so they are undercooked. This time I was brave enough to let the pancake sit on the pan long enough to actually be a pancake instead of a conglomeration of batter, and everyone was so proud!) I made more pancakes. I was starting to get the hang of it, sort of.

Making Pancakes

Sam told me in restaurants, they make the pancakes perfectly round by filling the whole pan with batter so the batter adheres to the circular shape of the pan. So, I dumped a lot of batter on the pan and tried to do this. Instead, we ended up with what he aptly described as “an epic fail pancake.”

the epic fail pancake

Of the non-failed pancakes, he said “they were pretty good” which is a huge compliment coming from him. I know if I ask him about this later, though, he’ll tell me he just ate them to be nice and they were awful. But I know the truth…

When he was done eating, the cat leaped up on the table amidst the numerous plates with a few rejected pancakes and looked at me intensely. She seemed to be saying, “you made pancakes and you didn’t put fish in any of them? What were you thinking?!”

kitty want a pancake?

“Those brainless humans.”

All in all, it was a relaxing and fun way to spend a weekend morning.

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pear Brownie Muffins

Sometimes I like to make things that are very random and outlandish. I didn’t know for sure these would taste okay, but I do know white chocolate and pears go together, so do peanut butter and pears, and so do cheese and pears. So, why not try throwing them all together in one baking recipe?

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pear Brownie Muffin

I based this recipe on the Nutella Banana Brownies I made a while ago. Instead of semisweet chocolate chips, I had planned to use all white chocolate, but I ran out of the white so I used a few tablespoons of semisweet chocolate. I don’t think it made a big impact on the flavor.

I also did this in a muffin tin instead of a brownie pan because I remembered that the Nutella Banana Brownies were hard to cut before they were refrigerated, and I wanted to taste the fruits of my labors right away today. So I’d just skip the cutting by baking them in individual servings to begin with.

These taste great, though the concept is a little unusual. They mainly taste like white chocolate and peanut butter, with soft pear chunks and the faintest suggestion of cheese in the background, if you know to look for it. (Or taste for it.) I forgot to add cinnamon, which is what I had planned to do, but I think it is fine as is. My mom and dad both liked them.

Here is the recipe I used:

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pear Brownie Muffins

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Pear Brownie Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsps creamy peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 3 wedges Laughing Cow brand spreadable cheese, creamy Swiss flavor
  • 6 tbsps Egg Beaters egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium ripe green pear, diced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with twelve paper muffin cups.

Place peanut butter, brown sugar, and water in a medium pot. Turn on to medium heat and stir with a spoon or whisk until mixed thoroughly.

Remove pot from heat. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until they are melted into the mixture. Whisk in the egg or egg substitute. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and stir thoroughly until the mixture is thick and all elements are combined. Mix in the diced pear.

Spoon batter into muffin cups. They will be about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tops of muffin-brownies are firm and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Texture of Pear White Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Muffins

Single-Serve Gingerbread Pancake

It’s Saturday, but I didn’t have my usual smoothie for breakfast today because 1) it’s too cold and 2) I didn’t have much time this morning because I was going to an event at the Presbyterian church. An organization called The Giving Spirit was having volunteers assemble kits to distribute to the homeless of Los Angeles. I am very motivated to help the homeless in any way possible, because I think it’s so sad that they are out in the cold and feel alone all the time. With that said, after 4 1/2 hours straight of tossing shampoo bottles into bag after bag, on my feet the whole time, right next to an open door letting in the freezing air, and then coming home and working on math homework, I needed some comfort. And since my breakfast this morning had been disappointingly boring and smoothie-less, I decided I might as well eat a breakfast item for lunch, along with my Lightlife vegetarian meal. How about a pancake?

I came up with this idea a few days ago to make gingerbread flavored pancakes. And I only wanted to make enough for one person, since no one else was home but my sleeping dad, who probably wouldn’t want them anyway. So this recipe was an experiment with many variables: does it work to make a single-serve pancake? Is the amount of ginger I’m putting in too much? Will it taste good? How does one make pancakes anyway (I’d never made any before)?

I was practically certain something would go wrong, but nothing did and it tasted amazing! There was just a perfect quantity of ginger, so I could taste it but it wasn’t overpowering. I took a bite and could just feel myself being transported to a warm cottage in the snowy mountains, sitting with family in front of a fireplace and gingerbread cookies fresh from the oven.

This recipe is a lovely thing to make for your family during the holiday season. I might experiment with adding pieces of fruit and/or chocolate chips in the shape of a face, like the “gingerbread man” cookie in pancake form. If you (unlike me) are a seasoned pancake-maker, making the pancake in the shape of an actual gingerbread man might be a possibility.

Here is the recipe I used. If you want to make more than one pancake, the recipe can easily be multiplied by two, four, sixteen, whatever!

Single-Serve Gingerbread Pancake

Recipe based on Single Serving Pancakes from bellkidscooking.blogspot.com

Makes 1 pancake

bad photo of gingerbread pancake

(I apologize for bad photo quality but I had to use photo booth on my computer to take the pics because my mom is out of the house with the one working digital camera we have between us.)

Ingredients:

Pancake:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of ginger
  • one shake of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp egg (I used Egg Beaters – so useful to have that in the house)
  • 1/4 cup milk

Gingerbread Glaze (the best part!):

 

  • a little less that 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • about 2/3 of 1/4 tsp ginger (a little goes a long way)
  • 1 shake cinnamon
  • 1 tsp milk

Directions:

Spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients and stir until it has the consistency of glaze, like for donuts. Set aside.

In another small bowl, combine all the dry pancake ingredients. Stir in the wet pancake ingredients. Batter will be liquid-y.

Turn pan onto high-medium heat and drop batter onto pan. When the top is bubbly, flip the pancake and cook for another minute or so.

When pancake is done cooking, place onto plate, drizzle with glaze, and get ready for yumminess!

another bad photo of gingerbread pancake

Apple Cinnamon Banana Bread with Chocolate Peanut Butter

Apple cinnamon chocolate peanut butter banana bread

Do you ever feel like you can’t come up with anything unique? I know I feel that way all the time. I’ll have a great idea for a nail design, then the next day I’ll see someone wearing almost the exact nail design I envisioned. Or a brilliant point will come into my mind during a discussion at school, but by the time I get a chance to articulate my thought someone else will have said the same thing so I’ll sound redundant. Or I’ll have an idea for a song to be written, and the next week I’ll hear that song on the radio. It can be kind of discouraging; sometimes it seems like anything I come up with will be a carbon copy of something that’s already been done.  I had an acting teacher tell me once, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Then why bother even trying to be creative? Sometimes I’m jealous of the cavemen and people in primitive times: they had the opportunity to come up with all the possible ideas in the world, with no one telling them “someone already invented that 100 years ago.”

So, what is the point of trying to be creative? After all, especially in an area such as food there is a finite number of different things that are edible, taste good, and are somewhat healthy. Haven’t all the possible combinations already been tried?

My philosophy, which I try to remember when I feel too “unoriginal”, is that each person is different, so their execution of any particular earthly possibility is in some way different from all the others who have done that thing before. Dance has been practiced and performed for many years, but each dancer has their own personal style and each choreographer adds their own flavor to any type of dance. When African style art was taught in my elementary school class, each student drew a person wearing traditional African clothing as the teacher instructed, but every single drawing was different.

This is my motivation to keep trying to be creative, and come up with twists on classic recipes. Even though I may be bombarded with descriptions of people that have come up with approximately the same idea for a recipe, the way I carried out the idea will be different than the way that person carried out their idea. The presentation of the final product will be a little different. And doing the recipe will surely inspire everyone who does it to try it a different way, and all the new things we all try lead us in different directions entirely. Someone may discover something great – but that great discovery would never have occurred if people didn’t try to create new things.

a slice of apple banana cinnamon chocolate peanut butter bread

That’s why I baked this banana bread. It has several different flavors based on what I often eat for breakfast: I have chocolate peanut butter on bananas or apples. I know it is pretty likely that someone, somewhere in the world has already baked a similar bread to this, but their effort is different from mine in some small way, and that’s what made it worth doing, for both me and others who have baked a “creative” banana bread like this. (Well, that and the fact that it tastes so delicious.)

With that, I give you… my own apple cinnamon banana bread with chocolate peanut butter.

finished apple cinnamon banana dark chocolate peanut butter bread

This recipe was yummy and according to my mom “not too banana-y”. It uses Greek yogurt and plenty of fresh fruit, which is a health bonus. Unfortunately, it also has a considerable amount of sugar. I think sometime I’ll have to find a way to bake a sweet bread that uses less sugar. Possibly I could use only natural sweeteners? That’s a project for another time. For now, I’ll just enjoy what I’ve got: a delicious bread, popular with my family and boosting my kitchen confidence. (My kitchen-related self-esteem fluctuates dramatically based on how well-recieved my past few baking attempts have been. I’m at a high point right now, but that could change at any moment with a failed baking attempt…:))

Check out this page for the full recipe. And don’t be afraid to give it your own unique twist!

Pioneer Avocado Smoothie

I’m sick today. My throat is sore. This seems to happen to me; one day I’m fine and the next day I just get sick out of nowhere. I just hope I feel better by this Sunday because I’m performing in my temple’s choir at an old age home.

I wanted a lunch that wouldn’t scratch my throat, so I made this smoothie. I had planned to use orange juice and possibly grapefruit as well, but the idea of a citrus-y taste just didn’t appeal to me as citrus can aggravate cuts, and I felt like I had a thousand tiny cuts inside my throat. (I know that’s not what a sore throat is, but that’s what it feels like.) So I did the natural thing and made a chocolate smoothie instead. Not as high in vitamin C, but it did have something very healthy in it… avocado. Avocado has healthy fats in it, which help your body go through its necessary processes. It does not contain saturated fat, which is the “bad fat” that can lead to high cholesterol. It is also a good source of fiber and numerous other valuable vitamins and minerals.

avocado chocolate smoothie...very thick!

This was the first time I ever made an avocado smoothie. I’d heard of it before and it sounded interesting. Then I realized I had some avocado left over from the other day when I made avocado lemon biscuits. Why not use some of it up in an unusual way?

This smoothie was super thick and delicious. It tasted mainly like chocolate and banana, with a hint of avocado and mint. Next time I make an avocado smoothie, I may use more avocado or combine it with different flavors, so the avocado flavor is complemented, but isn’t overpowered.

Here is the recipe, for anyone who wants a thick, rich smoothie laden with the health benefits of avocado.

Chocolate Banana Avocado Smoothie

chocolate banana avocado smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 of a whole ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Snack Pack brand butterscotch pudding snack
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup Stonyfield brand minty chocolate chip frozen yogurt
  • 3 ice cubes

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in blender. I recommend adding the frozen yogurt and ice last, so they stay frozen. Once all ingredients are blended and texture is smooth, stop blender and pour smoothie into glass. I would chill it in the freezer for a few minutes while putting everything away, so that frozen texture and temperature is maintained. Enjoy! (And stay healthy this cold season!)

chocolate avocado smoothie

Sources: http://www.livestrong.com, http://www.med.nyu.edu

Finally! A Perfect Cookie Recipe

I’ve tried time and time again to make cookies. The only time I’ve ever really been successful was in my white chocolate strawberry cheesecake cookies, and that was already a long time ago. I kind of resigned myself to the idea that cookies in general just suck – until today, when I was alone at home, it was raining, and I suddenly had the urge to bake some cookies. Isn’t rain the perfect weather for cookie baking? I love the aromatic scent of cookies in the oven as rain splatters on the windows.

Anyway, I took a recipe from a “kid-friendly” cookbook my aunt gave me when I was about eleven, entitled Kosher By Design: Kids in the Kitchen by Susie Fishbein. I’m not exactly a kid anymore, but the recipes are good. I actually never really tried too many of them up until recently.

I adapted the recipe slightly, and it still worked out amazingly, if I do say so myself. The texture was perfect, and the taste was sweet, with all the flavors working together in harmony.

cookie healthy harmony

As soon as my family came home after I baked them, my brother told me, “it smells really good in here.” He asked me what flavor the cookies were. As soon as I said they included oatmeal and raisin, he lost interest. “Sorry I asked,” he said, and quoted Diary of a Wimpy Kid: “oatmeal raisin cookies were invented as a practical joke.” But the cookies sure had their fans: the recipe made 18 cookies, and after my family was home for about five minutes there were only 13 left. I didn’t see who took how many, but since my parents are the only possible takers, probably my dad had three and my mom had two. I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad had four and my mom had only one. At any rate, the cookies are not just a guilty pleasure: they are naturally low in calories, plus they include nutritious dried fruit and walnuts. These cookies are not for the kind of person who likes simple, uniflavor desserts. They are, however, perfect for an adventurous eater who likes delicious treats.

healthy harmony cookie texture

For the recipe, check out this page.

Healthy harmony cookies

Swiss Cheese French Toast Tortilla

Awhile ago (it feels like years ago already; weekends are so few and far between) I French-toasted a tortilla and made this apple cinnamon French toast tortilla. It tasted good, but was tough to cut. Yesterday I tried again, this time with a savory theme of Swiss cheese with a ton of pepper I accidentally dumped on it (I was trying to get just a little and a lot poured out of the container. I tried to scrape most of it off.)

Swiss cheese French toast tortilla

This time it was not at all hard to cut. The only things I changed from the last time are 1) I used a corn tortilla instead of a flour one, and 2) I only toasted it for a minute or so. So that may have affected the texture. This time it was easy to cut using primarily the side of my fork.

I did it the same way as last time: Mixed an egg with milk and dipped the tortilla in the mixture, then put it in a cooking-sprayed pan over medium heat. I flipped it a couple times, then placed a slice of Swiss cheese on top.

French toast tortilla with Swiss cheese

I removed it from the heat, folded it over, and had the little pepper incident at that point. Finally, I actually microwaved it for a few seconds to get the cheese all melty. Voila! My masterpiece (well, it would have been a total masterpiece if not for the pepper problem. At least now I know for next time.)

tortilla Swiss cheese French toasted

I expect this concept of French toast tortillas will become a standard weekend breakfast for me. This is kind of like a quesadilla except with Swiss cheese. It’s a combination of the best of three different nations: French toast, Swiss cheese, and a Mexican tortilla!

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