Best Ever Cheesecake

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I love the idea of cheesecake. The almost custard-like creaminess, the ever so slight chew, the sweet yet cheese-y flavour, the millions of flavour combinations you can do with it. But every time I had some cheesecake I was disappointed. Either it was too sweet, or too dense, or not cheese-y enough. And I started researching cheesecake recipes hoping to find the perfect one. Along the way I discovered that there are several main kinds of cheesecake – the New York cheesecake, the sour cream based cheesecake, the no-bake cream cheese cheesecake, and the Italian ricotta based cheesecake.

I tried each as I discovered them, still none of them fulfilling my fantasy standards. Until I came across one that combined all the ingredients on Allrecipes. I have since lost the original link and have made many a modification. But this cheesecake is damn near perfect. Though I still struggle with crusts. Why can I not successfully make a crust – crumb or pastry?

This latest cheesecake making was to celebrate one of my oldest and dearest friends move to Miami to start a career at a travel agency! So with the promise of discounted Disney Cruises ringing in my ears I baked mini heart-shaped cheesecakes to drop off before her departure. I used crushed gluten-free ginger snaps and butter to make a base crust for the mini pans, and the rest of the recipe is already gluten-free (make sure to double check your ingredients for sneakily added gluten fillers though!) so it was an easily converted recipe. =)

My most current version of the recipe is modified to fill either several mini 4″ springforms or 2 cookie crusted pie tins.

For mini cakes:

  • 6 oz Cream Cheese
  • ¼ cup Whole Milk Ricotta
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (or sour cream, I just used what I had on hand)
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Heavy Cream
  • ¾ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Egg and 1 Egg Yolk, beaten
  • ¾ teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • OPTIONAL fruit or chocolate chips

For regular cake:

  • 24 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Whole Milk Ricotta
  • ½ cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups Sugar
  • ⅓ cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs and 3 Egg Yolks, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

Directions for both batch sizes:
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat first 4 ingredients with electric mixer.
Whisk heavy cream and vanilla together, beat in eggs.

On medium speed slowly incorporate egg mixture into cream cheese.

Add lemon juice.

Once thoroughly combined, you can gently fold in any fillings or flavourings. Pour into sprayed pan of choice (with or without cookie crumb crust).

**If you want to add some jelly or chocolate swirls, now would be the time to dollop and drag through with a knife.

Bake for 10 minutes for the minis (15 minutes for normal).
Turn temp down to 275 F and bake for another 45 minutes (1.5 hours).
Turn oven off and let sit in oven for 1 hour (3 hours).

Refrigerate what you don’t immediately and voraciously consume!

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Carlota’s on Lambert

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Carlota’s is a local Mexican place right in the heart of Oro Valley. The location has a long history of Mexican food. Ever since I can remember we would go to the Mexican restuarant -El Burrito Patio- and I would order a hot dog wrapped in tortilla. Very latino, I know. Since then, my tastes have expanded and the restaurant has changed.

The decor is pretty much the same – Mexican turquoise, coral, yellow – and there are pictures of old vaqueros on the walls. It’s cozy and fun. The menu offers all the yummy type meats in burros, enchiladas, tacos, and combo plates! And, like any good Mexican restaurant, complimentary chips and salsa (at least the first bowl and refill.)

I ordered the carne asada tacos lunch special. The meat was tender and flavorful, the toppings – cabbage and cilantro and onion and tomatoes – were fresh and crunchy. Add some of the house salsa and you got perfect tacos. The rice was moist and not bland. And the beans… were your ordinary run of the mill refried beans. Overall a great lunch for about $8.

Cupz n Crepes

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Cupz n Crepes is an adorable little local restaurant in ‘Tukee just a few blocks West from the I10 on Ray. I went to  meet a friend here for breakfast while visiting The Valley and am I in love! It is the best crèpe place I’ve been to in the states.

It is a seat-yourself diner, and the wait staff were pretty friendly when we went. Our order even got lost but they were quick to fix that once we brought their attention to the wait. The decor is classy cutesy with mirrors and shelves full of porcelain vases and flowers. And on the walk to the bathroom hallway you can see the cook making the crèpes the traditional way – on a giant circular grill with the little wooden spreader.

The crèpe selection is widely varied – veggies, cheese, meats, and the dessert options are plentiful!! And the price is oh so right. Most of the crèpes run in the 5-7 dollar range. A SUPER AFFORDABLE BREAKFAST OR LUNCH, non? I ordered the above pictured strawberry, honey and almond dessert crèpe.

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The crèpe itself was slightly crispy but still retained it’s chewiness. The strawberries were fresh, the honey was not overly sweet and the almonds added a great crunch and nuttiness. My friend ordered a make your own with avocado and jack cheese. It was delicious as well. The cheese was some of the freshest and creamiest I’ve ever tasted.

I was so pleased with this restaurant. I highly highly recommend it. Go and support this local place. Order a crèpe, order a café. Sit and chill for a bit à la vie française!

Apple Turnovers

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By my daddy’s request I have made turnovers! Apple ones, at that. A classic and very very simple.

What I did was buy the frozen pre-made puff pastry. With my dismal history at pie crust I didn’t feel up to the challenge of home made puff pastry. At least not today. Make sure you put the pastry in the refrigerator a DAY before you want to use it. It says you can leave it out at room temp or briefly micro it, but it really won’t hold up as well or have the same fluffy texture.

But now, I’m sure you are curious about the filling. In a pinch you can use canned filling. Super cheats two-step way of making these turnovers. If you want to get really fancy though, I suggest using the apple filling from these Wonton Apple Pies from Neighborfood blog. (Also, try out the wonton version. They are adorable and addictive and a huge hit at parties.) The filling is super simple and quick to make. And I even made it with white sugar, having forgotten I had run out of brown! But it’s pretty fail-pro0f and very open to improvisations.

Another pro-tip: drizzle the caramel sauce from that recipe over top of the turnovers and/or use as a dipping sauce!

 

IMG_3162 (2)All you have to do to put the turnovers together is cut your puff pastry dough into squares (my dough was sized so I simply cut it into quarters), put a heaping spoonful of apple filling in the center and fold over the dough diagonally to make triangles. I didn’t bother using milk or egg to seal the edges, but I did go over the seals with a fork to make a simple crimp around the edges.

Then I beat an egg quite thoroughly and brushed it on top of the turnovers to ensure they baked to a golden brown and to give them a little shine. I then popped them into a 400F oven for 15 minutes. They are done when the pastry has a nice deep color around the edges!

Let cool for 15 minutes so you don’t burn yourself and enjoy!

And if you happen to have leftovers, microwave for 30 seconds to have them nice and hot again to if you happen to need to keep warm during this polar vortex thing. Here in sunny AZ it is actually unusually warm for winter. In the 60s and 70s. But my dad and I still microwave the turnovers at night (when it gets cold enough we can pretend it is a legitimate winter here.)

 

 

Phoenix Adventures

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So I went up to Phoenix this last weekend. Again. Can’t resist the delicious food…erm I mean amazing friends that are in the city just North of me. While up there I got to see some friends who have gone off to the East Coast for grad school, hike South Mountain and try new restaurants!

This was actually my first time hiking in Phoenix. Though I’ve meant to explore the trails for the last several years it just never worked out timing wise. XP But I have done it now! And it was… interesting. Much different from the hiking trails I’m used to in Tucson.  First of all, South Mountain is more of a large hill than an actual mountain. I could easily reach the peak of this “mountain” whereas I’ve never been able to scale to the top of any mountain in Tucson (without the aid of a car.) The first third of the path was paved. Which is abominable. If you want somewhere paved go to a PARK not a hiking trail, jeesh. After that it starts to get rather steep and rocky, but the trail is so short it isn’t terribly exhausting. I only needed one rest and then just some breathers.

The interesting bit about the South Mountain trails is that there is actually one trail that is 14 miles long!!! It goes around the range in a mostly flat and even trail. That just happens to be on the very outside middle part of a small mountain.
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After hiking we went to SUSHI. Our usual place is Teharu the revolving sushi bar but we decided to mix it up and try someplace new. Mido Sushi on Ray and Kyrene. We got there for happy hour and BOY was it DELICIOUS.  We all got full on under $10. On fresh and good quality sushi! Elizabeth and I split four rolls – to have the greatest variety of flavours. There was a spicy tuna, a gyoza roll (a sushi roll with gyoza inside. BRILLIANT!), jalapeño tuna, and the pancho roll (which has shrimp tempura and avocado). They were all delicious. I don’t even care much for shrimp and I loved the pancho roll. Since then one of us has gone back 3 times. I am incredibly jealous and can’t wait to go back up and enjoy the happy hour again.

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Then we had BOBA TEA. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH. I don’t actually care much for traditional boba balls. But I love milk tea, I love mini boba and I love popping boba/fruit caviar. I try a different combination almost everytime I enjoy a tea. This time it was a coconut taro tea (the purple one in the back) with mini bobas (yay Boba Tea House for having mini boba). Taro is such an interesting flavor and I am obsessed with the beautiful color it creates. If you have been wary to try something so exotic, don’t be. It’s a mild flavour, slightly sweet and it tastes… opaque? or ever so slightly chalky? It’s extremely unique. Please, give it a try!

 

 

IMG_2696 (2)And then for dinner one night we tried a local Italian place – Floridino’s. I split a steak sandwich and was pleased at the dinner. The steak was not dry, the peppers were still crisp and not overcooked, the bread was nice and toasty… but it lacked something. It was dry (and even marinara sauce wouldn’t have added much to it) and not very flavourful. It tasted like something I would throw together from  leftovers, honestly. The pasta salad was rather nice… again extremely simple to the point of being bland. It was pasta and oil and vinegar and some herbs. I won’t be going back there again. The price just does not reflect the quality of the food. If it were 5 dollars for one of their sandwiches I’d be game, but even 7.50 seemed excessive for something so terribly bland. I also have to admit that I was thoroughly let down by the lack of veggie dishes. I just was not in the mood for something entirely bread and sauce and cheese. I have come to expect something more layered. Is it really so much to add some broccoli or zucchini to the pasta at least? GIMME VARIETY and nutrients.

However their calzones did look promising. They are ginormous and worth two meals. If I do ever end up there again, that is what I’ll try.

And so we have our third post of the new year. I’ll try to add some more life anecdotes with my recipes and reviews. If you have any comments on what you’d like me to make, bake or suggestions of restaurants in Tucson or Phoenix areas, lemme know!

Hope your new year is going splendidly!

 

Quiche Time

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It’s been a long time since I posted a recipe! I hardly realized how little I’ve been cooking for you besides the occasional cookie here and there.

So here is one of my absolute favorite recipes. A no-fail completely customizable quiche recipe. I have made so many different variations: onion, ham, tomato; broccoli and bell peppers; with cheddar; with swiss.

The base recipe I discovered via one of my long time high school friends, the author of Tillary does Photography (not only are there great photos but she also analyzes the cinematography of whichever movie or TV show she happens to be watching at the time.) After the first magical baking of this quiche it was our go to for potlucks, picnics and family events. We even had plans to open up a quiche shop if we ended up bored of all our other options.

We have yet to open up a quiche shop, but to spread the joy and simplicity of this timeless egg dish, here is the base recipe to which you can add whichever ingredients you desire (other ideas: olives, chicken, salmon, zucchini.)

Ingredients:
1 deep-dish, 9-inch pie crust (frozen is a-okay!)
1 cup of milk
3 eggs
1-2 tbsps margerine (melted)
1 tbsp flour (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1-2 cups of cheese (I used a mexican 4 cheese blend for this one)
1 pound of filling. For the quiche pictured above, I used:
1 medium tomato, cut in circular slices and seeded
1/2 yellow bell pepper, 1/2 orange bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped broccoli 
Directions:
1. Brown pie crust for 10 minutes (do the poking holes in it thing) at 350
2. Chop vegetables and meat
3. Mix egg, milk, flour, butter, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. If using lots of veggies (like I did) add an extra tablespoon of flour and use 2/3 cup milk. This will help thicken the egg mixture so it won’t be runny from the excess liquid.
4. Layer some of the meats and veggies, the cheese, then half of the egg mixture, continue layering the meats, veggies, and cheeses until you reach the top of the crust. If using tomatoes put those on top for a decorative finish and a delicious roasted tomato flavour.
5. Pour the rest of the egg mixture over the filling into the pie crust
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 min. When fully baked a knife should come out clean.
7. Let rest and cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.
Sometimes, if you used a lot of veggies, the quiche will be runny when you cut out a slice. It is fully cooked and will set if you leave it in the fridge for a couple hours.
This is great fresh and as leftovers. Experiment and tell me what combos you make!

Chino Bandido

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Confused by the meal pictured above? You have every right to be. It’s a mix of Chinese and Mexican food! There are a couple locations throughout the “Greater Phoenix Area” (put in quotations because everyone not born in Phoenix knows that Chandler, Scottsdale, Tempe, etc don’t really matter. It’s all Phoenix to us!) and it is quite an interesting experience.

Chino Bandido’s most popular plate option is the combo: you get two meats (burrito or quesadilla style), rice, and beans for about $7. On top of that you can choose refried beans, spicy black beans (what I had, try them. They are delicious), rice, or a variety of fried rices.

What I ordered was suggested by the delightful and knowledgable waitress Fizz (at the Tempe location. GO VISIT AND SAY HI!). She recommended the Emerald Chicken quesadilla with the Jade Red Chicken, white rice (because fried was a dollar extra and I’m cheap) and the spicy black beans. It was delicious. The Emerald chicken is a ginger and scallion seasoned chicken and it was delicious covered in cheese and sandwiched in between crispy quesadillas. I also suggest you spread some black beans on with every bite, it gives it a lovely kick. The Jade Red Chicken is sort of a Sweet and Sour style chicken and it was tender and reminiscent of classic American style Chinese food. All in all I enjoyed the meal, and I had leftovers, too!

The best part, however, may be the fresh daily baked Snickerdoodle cookie that comes with the meal. It’s soft and chewy and honestly one of the best snickerdoodles I have tried. Doesn’t happen often at quick service restaurants, but here it is amazing. They make the dough and bake the cookies on site so it’s fresh and tasty!

If you need more reason to go check out this unusual food combo here is a picture of their mascot. He is adorable (if a bit racist):

 

Now go! Enjoy and marvel at the taste sensation! And again, if you go to the Tempe location say Hi to Fizz!