Pumpkin Cheesecake, Part II…the leftovers

As I mentioned, I had quite the large amount of leftover filling from the pumpkin pie cheesecake. Not wanting it to go to waste (I hate waste) I thought the perfect solution would be mini galettes, with cheesecake filling and sliced apples. Since Martha’s crust was amazing (see recipe below) I put together another batch, and split it into 6 portions. Each portion was then rolled out, dolloped with filling and topped with apples which I had mixed with a little sugar, flour, lemon juice and cinnamon (think apple pie filling)

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contrary to what you may think, that is not a bite taken out of the bottom left tart.

I greased a cookie sheet and baked them for about 35 minutes on 400. Success. Opposed to the cheesecake where there was not enough crust IMO, in these galettes the crust was the superstar. Especially the bits where it was folded over creating a nice cookie-like texture. 

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Since I still had enough filling to fill a small swimming pool (swimming in cheesecake batter would be a little gross) I needed something else. Brownies perhaps? But no, since my crazy family does not like overly dense, chocolatey, sickly sweet things (I know, right?) A google search for cookies turned up cheesecake thumbprint cookies which I used as my inspiration. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies, modified from Bake or Break

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • scant 1/2 c sugar (between 1/3 and 1/2)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 T coco powder
  • 1 t cinnamon 

Method

  • preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  • add the salt, vanilla, and egg yolk and mix well to combine
  • add the flour, coco and cinnamon and mix to incorporate. the dough should come together. don’t mix too much.
  • roll into a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  • roll the dough into tablespoon sized balls and use your finger (or another object) to poke indentations in each cookie ball

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  • bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, re-poke cookies and bake again for 8-10 minutes until just barely golden on the edges. 
  • remove from oven and let them cool (mostly completely cool)
  • use a teaspoon to fill the cookies with cheesecake filling and return to the oven for 10-12 minutes until the filling doesn’t jiggle and looks…done. sprinkle with cinnamon, if you so desire. 
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see the one thats gone missing? its in my belly.

After all of this baking, I still have more cheesecake filling. help?!

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back.

With it being 2014, and me being done with school and simply working and having spare time to fill, I thought it might be an appropriate time to restart this thingie. Its also an appropriate time to make a new year’s resolution that I will post at least once a week. And since resolutions are made to be broken, it wont be catastrophic if that does not happen. But I hope to keep you entertained with commentary about my adventures in the bay area. I will spare you from reading all the (very interesting) details from the past several months, and just say that life is rolling merrily along, and that despite having a diploma, I still find myself constantly thinking: “I have no idea what I want to do”. I thought I would have epic epiphanies while at Cal, but the only epiphany I have had is that I want to do “something food related” yet that something is still formulating. And perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned, is being comfortable in the discomfort of not knowing. Its hard and I am not always good at it.

I am thankful for the things I’ve got: a place to live, good company, family, and a job that I like. But as a goal oriented person, its difficult to not have a goal which I am actively working towards. While (attempting) to live in the moment, and enjoy my daily activities, there is a constant nag of “what are you going to do?”. Of course, silencing that nag with a rash decision is not a good decision, and so I sit here, biding my time.

So stay tuned for what I do while I bide my time.

On Doors Opening and Closing (you know, the sappy stuff)

I suppose it finally hit me that school is now over, that I’ve graduated. It hit me with a flood of tears, when I was at home (parent’s home), in my room, on my bed, with my childhood stuffed animal. It also probably didn’t help that my “person” had just left, not to be seen for 3 months.

And now that the school door is closed, at least temporarily, I’m moving into the world of “real adulthood”. My definition of real adulthood is not at all related to the way one acts, but more to the responsibility one must shoulder: bills, work, rent. I suppose “financial independence” translates into “real adult” for me. 

School may be over, but the next several months are still a liminal stage for me. I am not quite adult, because I am not quite financially independent. I am not quite child because I pay for and manage a fair amount of my expenses. But like a ritual, where you start off with one identity and exit with a new identity, such will be the summer months. I am still like a student in the sense that I am doing something over the summer months–prep cook at farm camp–and when this summer gig is over, instead of returning to the bustle of another semester at school, I will return to the bustle of finding a job and a place to live. 

Speaking of places to live, I am also in-between places. Not quite a resident of SoCal and not quite a resident of NorCal. My stuff is all over the place. My heart is all over the place. Yet making the decision to stay in the bay provides a foundation to spring forth from, instead of lollygagging in my parents home unsure of what to do. 

I am very good at finding the “means” to reach and “end”, but what is hard for me is settling on the end; that is, what am I to do? However, “I want to stay in the Bay Area” is a definite end for the time being and I must figure out the means that will allow me to do so. Namely, a job. My “end” may, and probably will, change over the next few years as I piece together a career goal, or as opportunities spring up before me. Since now I have a fancy bachelors degree which legitimizes my capacity to get things done, that means I can do anything, right?

Goodbyes and Banana Bread

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6 days ago we drove a few friends to the airport, who were, “never coming back”. That is, college had ended, and although they may return to the bay for visiting, it was the realization that they were no longer living here which made them a bit sad. I don’t think it has really sunk in for me quite yet, but those words about never coming back, and it being the last time, made me pause momentarily [schoolisoverwhattheheckdoidonow?] And we said bye and hugged and they walked into the airport.

I’ve made a fair bit of friends and acquaintances these past two years. Some I will most likely keep in touch with and see again, while others are temporary friends, who filled up a meaningful spot in my life, and taught me things, but I will probably not see them again. This is sad, yet OK, because I suppose I have now learned–like I said before–that there are temporary friends and forever friends. Forever friends you may not see for years and then when you do see them, its like no time has gone bye. Temporary friends are situational friends, serving some purpose while they are your friends and then…they just kind of disappear and all you see of them are ditties on facebook. I am extraordinarily bad at keeping in touch with people via phone, which is definitely something that I should improve upon.

Its random moments when I am meandering through campus to walk to the bank, or walking down the street to get to the farmers market, or biking by the marina, that a few tears spring to my eyes behind my darkly tinted sunglasses. I am not necessarily tearing up for any specific reason, its more that, I am overwhelmed with feelings that are both happy and sad. Therefore, tears. I am excited for my summer adventure as a prep cook, although a bit nervous. I am excited to come back to berkeley and job hunt, although a bit nervous.

Said friends that we took to the airport, love banana bread. And so, a perfect snack to send them off with seemed to be banana bread. The recipe is from a book I have called “the cook’s encyclopedia of baking” by Carole Clements. It is actually the first baking book that I got (I think on sale at Borders…whoa) and it has a few recipes that I do like. It is your basic cookie, cake, quick bread, yeast bread, pie, etc baking book. And so, the recipe is your basic banana bread recipe  that uses half whole wheat and half white flour, 1/2 cup walnuts in it, and I sprinkled more on top.

It is not a vegan recipe. I used good butter and good eggs. And holy moly was I surprised with the rise I achieved in this quick bread. I suppose I am quite used to vegan breads that are slightly more dense and compact, but the eggs, butter, baking powder…must have done something right.

Unfortunately, said book is packed and tucked away in a box somewhere, since I am leaving my trusty room of 2 years tomorrow morning. So, enjoy the photographs. And if you want to make banana bread, there is always google to help.

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No Longer a Student. And Spiced Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies.

One day and one week ago I walked across the stage at Memorial Stadium in the clusterf*ck that was General Commencement. 6 days ago I walked across the stage at Zellerbach Hall in the well organized Sociology Commencement.

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I don’t think it ever quite “hit” me that I go to the best public school in the country, and then, whoa its graduation?! I am no longer a student; that piece of my identity has, for the time being ended. Of course this does not mean I stop learning and reading. In fact, I feel that most of my learning at Berkeley has taken place outside of the academic classroom, be it through friends or extracurricular activities. And, since I will keep reading about things I like, I can continue to build up my knowledge base until I go back to school in a couple of years from now. This is a strange, liminal, in between stage of my life at the moment. I have summer work, and then…ummm….uhhh…what do I do? That is the next adventure which awaits I suppose.

A while ago, when I was feeling nervous and uncertain and a little bit “empty”, someone asked me: “if there was a hole in the ground, and you had to fill it, what would you use?”. Well, dirt obviously. “Dirt, why dirt?” ummmmm…”Dirt because you have to fill the hole with the same stuff that it is made of” And so, over the past few years I have been filling up my empty with the same stuff that I am made of. And I am no where near complete, and I will continue to figure out what substance my dirt is made of.

I can list a few things. I am made up of sugar and flour and chocolate and butter because I like to bake. I filled with fresh fruit and vegetables because I am vegetarian and I value sustainable and ethical eating choices. I am made up of my bike because I like to go exploring the city on my bike. I am made up of adventures and excursions because I like seeing new things and new places. I am made up of words and sentences because I like to read and write (I suppose). I am made up of values and morals, because I think about the lives of others whether immediately in my life, or somewhere far off making the things I use. I am made of lots of questions and some answers and compassion. I am made up of laziness and tiredness because sometimes I like to take the easy way out. I am made up of some insecurities that sometimes make me jealous of other people. I am made up of all the people I have met these past two years, and years before that, because the self is shaped by others.

It is scary having this gaping hole of “time” now that I am done with school, and this hole will be sometimes empty and sometimes full. I don’t like the empty because it feels insecure, unsteady, unsettling. I don’t really know what I would like to do, which is the biggest gaping part of said hole. And, it is my choices that will determine what, exactly, gets to fill it.

And now, cookies.

My parental unit arrived on a Friday night, and like a good daughter, I wanted to serve them tea and cookies. And so, cookie making on a late friday night it was. (Bonus, they were still warm when my parents got here).

I settled on chocolate chip molasses cookies that I adapted from Averie Cooks. I made these over winter, they turned out delicious in my opinion, yet too chocolatey and too sweet in my parents opinion. So the following version omits some sugar and some chocolate. Admittedly, the following version allows the spices and molasses flavors to shine through, instead of being smothered by chocolate, which was very nice. I also used “heaping teaspoons” for the spices because, well, I love those warm, cinnamon-y spices. I also apologize for the poor quality photos; crappy kitchen lighting+crappy camera=crappy quality.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter. melted.
  • 1 egg. (preferably from the farmers market 😉
  • 1 cup sugar (fair trade, organic)
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 T oil (I used applesauce instead because I had a bit sitting around)
  • 1/5 t vanilla
  • 1 t cocoa powder
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1.5 t ground ginger
  • 1 t cloves
  • .5 t salt
  • 2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/5 t baking soda
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • Coating: 1/4 c sugar, 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves

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Method (for about 18 cookies)

  • After you melt the butter, allow it to cool slightly before adding in the egg. Otherwise, you will get scrambled egg cookies. So, add the egg, sugar, molasses, oil, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon ginger, cloves, and salt. whisk ’til smooth.
  • add the flour and baking soda. stir to incorporate. Start off with 2 14 c flour and add a little more if needed (depends on the type of flour and on weather). I used half white and half white whole wheat flour, so I stayed at around 2 1/4. The batter will, and should, be thick, but pliable.
  • add the chocolate chips, and stir to just incorporate. roll the dough into a ball, wrap it with wax paper, or just cover the bowl with a towel and refrigerate for 2 hours. Or, up to 5 days. (If you plan to store it for more than a few hours, I would recommend storing in an airtight container)
  • when you are ready to bake: preheat the oven to 350. grease your cookie sheets!
  • make your coating in a small bowl by stirring the sugar and the spices. get the batter out of the fridge.
  • use your hands (or a scooper) to make walnut sized balls and roll them around in the sugar coating.
  • place them on the tray about 2 inches apart and flatten them slightly (not all the way though. they should bake slightly domed up)
  • bake for 8-9 minutes. It is important to NOT over bake because you want that nice, chewy texture. I usually just do 8 minutes since the cookies continue to bake a little once out of the oven, and they will harden as they cool
  • Once you pull them out of the oven, use the back of a spoon to tap the cookies flat. This will also crinkle the top of them, which looks pretty.

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Liking the bowl was delicious. And, my parents approved. Success.

The Problem with Broccoli

I generally like broccoli. Its quite the versatile vegetable. It can be eaten raw: dipped in hummus or in a salad or sliced thinly onto a sandwich. It can be eaten cooked: in pasta sauce or on a pizza or sauteed with garlic. (note, this is not an all inclusive list of broccoli’s many uses). 

The last time I ate broccoli, I somewhat overdosed on it. I believe I had cooked it with sweet potatoes that I seasoned with curry and cinnamon. Said dish was tasty and I had made enough to feed myself for a week. On day one, I ate a heaping serving. Day two and three rolled by and I was still eating broccoli, but with somewhat less enthusiasm. By day four, just the smell of broccoli made my nose turn. But as someone who hates wasting food, I had to shovel it down my throat for dinner. And for lunch the next day. I think that did me in. 

And so, for several months, I have been avoiding the broccoli while I shop for vegetables. I opt for rainbow chard or kale or spring mix or spinach in order to get my daily intake of green things. However, last weekend at the grocery store, organic broccoli was on sale and lookin’ mighty fine. I decided to take my chances and buy a bunch of it that would be cooked into some vegan mac n cheese

Fast forward a few days and I get to cooking the broccoli. I wash it, and start to chop it into tiny florets. Popping one into my mouth I pause for a moment to appreciate the slightly sweet flavor. ohbroccoli, wherehaveyoubeenallmylife! I peel the fibrous part of the stem and eat the crunchy part inside (what I have dubbed the broccoli heart). Its slightly bitter yet leaves my tongue tingling with joy. I steam it and set it aside. Clearly, I am excited to incorporate the dear broccoli into my dinner. 

Cook the mac and chreese, fold in the broccoli, and tuck in. Tasty. The broccoli reduced the creaminess of the sauce, but it was delicious nonetheless if not a little sweet. I loaded my plate with extra broccoli because I was rediscovering how much I had missed it. Perhaps I ate a little to much, or perhaps my stomach had forgotten how to digest broccoli, but within the hour I was not a happy camper to say the least. Burping up the flavor of any food is an automatic turn off. And its also not very comfortable to have it sitting in your stomach, like a rock, for hours on end as you attempt to drown it in super strong peppermint tea. Apparently I had not learned my lesson because lunch the next day consisted of a heaping plateful of broccoli mac n chreese. And once again, my stomach let me know that it was not happy. 

And so, I think I have developed an aversion to the treelike shaped vegetable that is broccoli. Just looking at it I get a lump in my throat and can feel it hibernating in my stomach. I can also vaguely smell the pungent odor it releases whilst steaming. And so, I have come to the conclusion that I will never purchase broccoli again–at least until the fluffy green tufts get the better of me and I am left spellbound by its power.

Strawberry Oat Bars

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The last day of my senior seminar consisted of presentations and food. My project was a map of fruit trees and convenience stores along Telegraph Ave. Here is a snippet:

Given the initial inspiration from LA based Fallen Fruit, our map focused on the blurred boundaries between public and private space through comparing fruit trees and convenience stores. Our data for convenience store locations came from driving along Telegraph. Conversely, our data for fruit trees came from publicly created and shared maps that reveal the whereabouts edible sustenance.

The layers on our map are an attempt to portray the city as an orchard. Peeling back the top layer, all you see is a multitude of trees (and stores). Without streets to directionally guide you, you are left lost between an edible, urban forest. Furthermore, the color scheme mimics a tree and mirrors where most of the bounty is concentrated.

If we reimagine public space as a space that can provide food, it might be part of a solution to creating a more equitable food system where fresh produce is accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. It would also be beneficial to residents that live in environmentally degraded areas because of the ecosystem services that trees provide. Fruit would be just a few blocks away, and free for picking. Trees could be taken care of by the community, and provide nourishment for anyone who wanders through.

The food we brought in, ideally, was to be related to our project (props to those that talked about bars and public intoxication and brought in beer for all. I think all seminar presentations should include libations since they take the nervous edge off). So naturally, fruit (not beer) fit in with our project. However, bringing in just fruit would have been boring and of course I wanted to incorporate fruit into a baked delicacy. I was planning to make Peach Crumble Bars, but strawberries (weekly special) were a good deal cheaper than peaches. Therefore, I settled on Strawberry Crumble Oat Bars instead. It seems that any fruit would work in a bar form, but the spice combination would probably have to change. For instance, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc would not pair well with tart berries (or would they…?)

I adapted this recipe from Smells Like Home but I found that this makes more than 9-12 bars. Unless they are huuuge bars. I also added oats to the final crumb topping, which are not included in that recipe. And instead of using 1 C of butter, I used 1/2 C butter and 1/2 C coconut oil. And I added a spoonful of Vanilla to the strawberry mixture!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 C sugar, will be divided 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 C AP flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • lemon zest from 1 lemon (or a bit more)
  • 1/2 C butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 C coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups strawberries, sliced. Better yet, get someone else to do the tedious, labor intensive slicing for you
  • 4 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • lemon juice from the above lemon (or a bit more)
  • 1/2 cup oats

Method

  • 375 degrees for the oven. 9×13 inch pan should be greased
  • In a bowl, combine 1 cup of the sugar with the baking powder, flour, salt, and lemon zest. Mix it with a fork. Inhale, because it smells really good.
  • Add the butter and coconut oil, and the egg and use your hands to break up the fats until you are left with what looks like course crumbs.
  • Press-in slightly more than half of said “crumbs” onto the bottom of your pan.
  • In another bowl, combine rest of your sugar (thats 1/2 cup) with the lemon juice, cornstarch and vanilla. Add the strawberries and stir well. Make sure the cornstarch isn’t clumpy.
  • Spread the strawberries on top of layer 1 in the pan. I did not use whatever juices appeared in the bottom of my bowl.
  • Add the oats to your remaining crumb mixture, and stir well. You could also add a touch of vanilla if you want.
  • Sprinkle the oaty goodness on top of the strawberries.
  • Bake for 45 minutes–should be slightly golden on top. Your house will smell amazing. You may want to let it cool before slicing so that the bars don’t fall apart. They are delicious if still slightly warm, and a bit of ice cream might go a long way.

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