cooking

The Process of My Pumpkin Cheesecake

That above is a pumpkin cheesecake I made from scratch. Why? I’ll tell you.

Reason:

I first had this at the Barnes & Noble café and theirs tasted delicious! But because of the pandemic, I haven’t gone back there. It could be open, but I feel that many places are worthless until we’re back to typical life.

So, I decided that I wanted to make my own. I also had leftover pumpkin for something else I cooked and I had to use it, otherwise it would rot. I finalized with pumpkin cheesecake.

Process:

The process was no easy task. I had to make the crust with graham crackers and butter. Then I had to mix everything else. I cannot remember every ingredient, but it did overwhelm me to the point that I kept putting it off. My mom suggested to break the steps up into little ones at a time.

After the cheesecake finished baking, I had to let it chill for several hours. Then I took it out and decorated it with stabilized whipped cream, but I used cream cheese instead of unflavored gelatin. The recipe called for that. I also chopped pecans and sprinkled them around the interior of the whipped cream.

Result:

It tasted good, but was dense. I could not finish a whole piece. Despite using the amount of sugar that the recipe asked for, the cheesecake did not taste very sweet, unlike the Barnes & Noble one.

Regardless, my family enjoyed it and so did my dad’s staff at work. I also really admired the way I decorated the cheesecake as did everyone else.

cooking

How to Cook for Private Events Without Making Yourself Crazy

Image from Pixabay

I have been cooking for many years, ever since I was 12. I first discovered how much I enjoyed it when taking home economics in 7th grade.

Recent years, I have been cooking for many of my private events, such as birthdays. But the reason isn’t for health or money—it’s because I have a few friends with dietary restrictions. One who has come a lot is allergic to nuts and intolerant of soy. So, I have usually cooked the food from scratch, both the dinners and desserts.

I am turning 27 on the 22nd of this month. Because my friend with the nut allergy didn’t come, I could order a cake as well as dinner. I did cook a pasta dish with garlic and oil for another friend, who is voluntarily vegetarian, although we ended up not serving it. 

But last year, for my birthday, I cooked all day for the party. I did not even get a chance to eat lunch. So, for my birthday party next year, I will cook only one thing: a pasta dish. I will also serve premade bread and butter along with salad. If the friend with the nut allergy comes, I will make the cake, filling  and frosting from scratch. Or I will make a pull-apart cupcake cake.

The lesson I learned is less can be more for food at parties. Although my parents are health freaks, and my dad has enforced protein at every meal, especially when I was younger, I can rebel against that for events. I would gladly order pizza, but I am allergic to tomatoes. I developed the allergy in 2017, right after graduating from college.

Anyway, if possible, cook only a little bit or not at all. If you have to cook, then pick up to a few items that are not super involved. It’s not the end of the world if you have a guest with a dietary restriction and you need to accommodate him or her. If their food intolerance or allergy isn’t too severe, then it’s okay to serve something with the ingredient they can’t have as long as you tell them. 

I hope this helps.

cooking

Very Delicious Oreo Pudding

I’ve wanted to make an Oreo dessert for a while. In fact, my first idea was to make a no-bake Oreo mousse pie. The recipe sounded promising. However, something about the steps in that formula made me too lazy to start. So, I kept postponing until I decided on something simpler. That is what you see in the picture above: Oreo pudding.

There were a bunch of exciting recipes in the Google results. But I desired something quicker. I chose the option where the preparation time was 30 minutes. I made a cream cheese frosting with more cream cheese than butter, which the instructions called for, anyway. Then I made the vanilla pudding from a mix, followed by the whipped cream. I then crushed thee Oreos in a bag. At some point, I removed the cream filling from the inside since it was kind of interfering with the smashing of the cookies. After that, I mixed the cream cheese icing with the pudding and placed it in a pan. I then covered it with the crushed Oreos, and repeated the process until I topped it with the whipped cream and sprinkled the remaining cookie crumbs on top.

After chilling it for a half hour, I took it out and ate some. It tasted good, but not as delicious as the next day. I guess it needed more time to be in the refrigerator.

One thing I used less of was sugar. Not that it was a choice, but because I was low on the powdered kind. Therefore, I had to made do with what I owned. Despite that, it still came out great. The Oreos already contained lots of sweetness to begin with. What also matters is that I came back for more. That is a sign of success.

I don’t remember what site I got the recipe from, but if you do a web search for “Oreo pudding,” just look for the one that says it’ll take 30 minutes. If you make it, I would recommend chilling it for at least an hour or 2. That way, the ingredients blend better. I hope this helps.

cooking

Making the Frosting was a Tough, But Happy Journey

That you see there is a frosting I made from scratch. It looks liked whipped cream, and yes, it does contain heavy cream. However, it is whipped buttercream icing.

The process of this was no easy task. In fact, it took time to get right. I don’t just mean that for the specific one pictured. I also am talking about other moments I made icing, whether it was buttercream, cream cheese, or just whipped cream frosting.

You could tell me to just buy a premade frosting from the grocery store. However, my family doesn’t really like that. Not only do those kinds contain ingredients that don’t exactly please my parents or brothers, but they think I can do a better job. After all, I know what goes in the icings and any food I make from scratch.

In fact, this is one of the cases where less is more. Homemade frosting consists of softened butter, powdered or confectionery sugar, vanilla extract, and milk or cream. Of course, you can also use food coloring to dye the icing or cocoa powder to give it a chocolate flavor. You may use shortening or almost extract, as well. That is, if you are not allergic to nuts, nor is anyone you serve the dessert with the frosting.

But one thing that you should take seriously is the amount of liquid you put in your homemade icing. Otherwise, it won’t mix well and the thickness might not please you. What happened to me when I added lots of heavy cream to my buttercream frosting was that there were chunks in it, even though I used an electric mixer. It also tasted sour. My goal was to make a whipped buttercream icing. And what I discovered is that in order to get the right consistency, adding a little at a time is absolutely necessary. I start off with the butter, sugar, and vanilla, followed by two tablespoons of heavy cream. Then I mix them for a few minutes. If I want more, then I add a little extra. The process repeats until the thickness is where I want it to be.

The message you want to take home is that you should take little steps at a time when making icing, even when following a specific recipe. I wouldn’t recommend pouring a lot of liquid with mixed butter. In fact, the only time you should really pour a large amount of fluid is if you are cooking whipped cream icing, and without butter. You would stabilize the whipped cream with unflavored gelatin. But that’s another topic.

Anyway, I hope this post helps. Also, take your time when making frosting. It could take several minutes for your icing to satisfy your desires.

cooking

Mmm… Meaty Marinara Without Tomato

Before I became allergic to tomatoes, I really enjoyed Pizza Hut’s meaty marinara. However, since then, I had to make my own versions of my favorite foods that normally contain tomatoes, except without them. Sadly, they usually don’t taste very good. Or they will only be similar at most. But even that is not satisfying.

Luckily, this one is different. Yes, the recipe calls for tomato sauce and paste. But I use canned pumpkin and puréed roasted peppers instead. I also mix apple sauce with the peppers, which gives it more of a texture like tomatoes. I even include red wine, and that improves the flavor, too.

I think what also makes this taste good is that you have to simmer the sauce for at least an hour. That gives the meat enough time to absorb the sauce and add flavor to it. After that, you mix it with the pasta, top it with shredded mozzarella, and bake it for several minutes. I don’t remember how many, though.

This isn’t something I can make regularly, however. It is time-consuming, so I don’t have the luxury of cooking this often. On the bright side, though, I think it makes the pasta more enjoyable.

I find that when I eat something frequently (not everything), I get tired of it and won’t want it for a while. I’m already beginning to feel sick of eating commercially-made food. When the world was on lockdown in the spring, I couldn’t eat out, although I could receive takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery. But now that restaurants in my area have opened up again, since early summer, I think I went crazy eating out. Now my body hasn’t felt the best. So, I am starting to cut down on the commercially-made food, but gradually, since abrupt changes do not work for me.

Anyway, one thing I am going to try is find copycat recipes of my favorite commercially-made foods. At least I will know what is in them. Hopefully, I will also feel better.

cooking

Lemon Meringue Pie: Delicious!

I’ve first discovered this pie when reading “Amelia Bedelia” as a young child. However, the pie never appealed to me…until recently. I saw a post about it on my Facebook page. That triggered me to want to make it.

It’s kind of involved and not too easy. You have to temper egg yolks into a preserve-like mixture and not end up making scrambled eggs by mistake. That made me kind of nervous, but I succeeded with the tempering.

You also have to blind-bake the crust. What that means is you make the pie dough, put parchment paper on it, and pie weights on it. That will bake some of the crust, but not the whole thing, especially the bottom. It makes the pie crust just right, not too soggy or hard. This is essential with lemon meringue pie.

The process took a while, and to the point where I didn’t experience hunger while cooking it. In spite of never making or eating it before, it came out delicious! In fact, it became addictive. I would eat a few slices a day. I also got excited to tell others about it, including my friends.

One thing you should take seriously, though, is letting it chill several hours. I mean that. Otherwise, the lemon part will be liquid-like, and a bit messy, as in the picture above. I sliced it too soon. If you keep it refrigerated overnight, it’s even better. The pie will look like a pie.

I believe I got the recipe from “Sally’s Baking Addiction”. You can Google something such as, “Lemon meringue pie Sally’s Baking Addiction” and try it. Patience and care are important, though. Take your time with the steps, and hopefully, you’ll enjoy it.

cooking

Rainbow Cupcakes, Rainbow Cupcakes, I Loved You

Ooh, pretty colors. Lots of people admire bright prismatic hues, especially in desserts. I am no different. That above is a multi-colored cupcake I baked from scratch.

How did I do it? I used a vanilla chiffon cake recipe, divided the batters into different bowls, dyed them various colors, piled them up in the muffin cups, and then placed them in the oven. I added green frosting to some (not pictured) and consumed those. They were delicious!

That was…just for a few days. Unfortunately, they warmed in the container and went bad. So, I had to throw them away. Bummer! And that recipe had succeeded with me before.

Excellent vanilla cake recipes from scratch are hard to find. Not kidding. In the past, I’ve often preferred boxed cake mixes when it came to the vanilla flavor. However, I have a friend with a peanut allergy and she’s been to many of my parties. Since there aren’t a lot of nut-free bakeries in my area (there are only a few, and several minutes away from my house), when the friend with the nut allergy comes, I have to make the cakes from scratch. They’ve come out good before at every party I’ve had.

Anyway, regardless of the previous success with that recipe, if I choose to make vanilla cake or cupcakes again, I will likely find another formula to follow.

cooking

When I Made White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

During quarantine, I missed a lot of my favorite commercial foods. One of those included white chocolate raspberry cheesecake from the Barnes & Noble café. It was super-delicious—both that and the one I made.

There is a lot involved, though. You have to make raspberry preserves, crush Oreos and bake them as a crust, and melt white chocolate as well as prepare the actual cheesecake.

While this particular “error” worked out in the end, I melted white chocolate chips instead of using the special kind the recipe recommended since I did not have it. However, that substitute was technically incorrect, and would have messed up the final creation. Luckily, though, my mom taught me a trick to avoid a bad cheesecake. That was to add milk to the white chocolate, but a little at a time. And guess what? It resulted in a great dessert. I would eat the cheesecake pretty much every day.

Aside from the white chocolate thing, the raspberry preserves, Oreos, and cheesecake were no problems preparing. Like many, I stress-baked when pretty much nothing was open. I’ve baked a lot less these days. However, I did make rainbow cupcakes from scratch recently. But I might save that for another post.

cooking

Cake-Decorating Techniques I’m Glad I Learned

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been baking and cooking since I was 12. I’ve also learned to decorate cakes and other baked goods around that age. Of course, I struggled several times, especially in the early days.

However, I’ve been making a lot of my own occasion cakes in recent years, because one of my friends is allergic to peanuts. Unfortunately, many bakeries aren’t nut-free, including near where I live. In fact, although I reside outside New York City, allergy-friendly bakeries are rare.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy my homemade cakes and cupcakes. The interest worked out very, very well. So, without further ado, here are the techniques I am thankful for learning.

1: Crumb-coating

This is when you put a plain layer of buttercream all over the cake and put it in the refrigerator to cool. That way, you don’t end up with crumbs in your icing. That is when you put the next layer over it and you can be free to do what you want. This might not work for whipped cream frosting, though.

2: Whipped buttercream technique

You do the usual for making buttercream icing, but add extra milk (a little at a time), and whip with an electric mixer for as many as seven minutes or so. That way, your buttercream can turn out similarly to whipped cream icing. There are a few reasons it might work. One, colors tend to come out bolder in butter cream than whipped cream. Two, writing on a cake is easier with better with buttercream than whipped cream. Three, there is a special trick to whipped cream icing that keeps it from sinking into the cake. That is adding unflavored gelatin to hot water, letting it cool, and then incorporating it into the whipped cream. It’s fine, but a little more work, depending on your needs or desires.

3: Less can be more

Good cake designs don’t always have to have lots of decorations. In fact, a minimal amount can be just as beautiful, if not, more. That’s what happened when I prepared for my 26th birthday party in November 2019. I had a lot of cooking to do, so I just made simple flower-like borders around the cake’s exterior (not attached), wrote “Happy Birthday, Sunayna” with buttercream on a piece of white chocolate, and that was it. It still looked great.

So, there you have it. I hope this helps.

cooking

Signs of Success and Failures in Cooking

Image from Pixabay

Every expert has started out knowing little to nothing about his or her field or hobby, including chefs and people who cook in general. Before someone succeeds in something, he or she will struggle and need help along the way, especially when he or she starts out.

I am no different. I’ve started cooking at age 12, after taking a home economics course in middle school. In my early cooking days, I would constantly throw away foods I made. A little later, like in high school, I baked or cooked more items that people could enjoy, including myself. Now I can make just about anything that people would like.

These are the signs of success in a cooked creation:

-Experiencing a great taste

-Coming back for more

-Making the item again with the same recipe

Of course, this is more common for me now and in recent years. That being said, there are still rare occasions where I throw my cooked items away.

Which brings me to the signs of failure in cooking

-Finding the taste or texture of the food just okay or not good at all

-Letting it sit untouched

-Having to toss it in the trash not long after

Don’t worry if you fail to cook something good. If you keep at it, you will improve, just like with anything.