Archive for January, 2012

January 23, 2012

Heart Shaped Mini Cheesecakes

by tina

Happy Lunar New Year! I made these heart shaped mini cheesecakes for a potluck :)

When I received my mini cheesecake pan, I made a batch of cheesecakes to test it out, and then I decided to get creative and tried making another batch of heart shaped ones! The pan’s individual cup size is actually quite small already, so the heart shaped ones were a bit difficult to make. Still, they were fun to make because of its cute shape.

If you’d like to try a simpler version of this, try this other recipe out: mini cheesecakes.

Ingredients:

Baking pan set-up

  • parchment paper

Base crust portion

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/4 tablespoon brown sugar (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Sugar)
  • 1 1/4 tablespoon butter, melted

Cheesecake portion

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (I used a little less than 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Part 1: Baking pan set-up

Cut 4 inch wide parchment paper. Fold in half. Cut 12 ~3 inches length-wise of the folded paper.

Place a parchment paper piece in each individual cup.

Place marbles in between the metal and parchment paper so that the paper is a little more stable.

Part 2: Base crust

I crumbled the graham crackers with the side of the rolling pin (used it like a pestle and mortar. pestle=>rolling pin, mortar=>cutting board)

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a mixing bowl, first mix the graham crumbs and sugar well with a fork. Then add the melted butter in and mix very thoroughly.

Evenly distribute the mixture into each cup. Press the graham crumbs down as firmly as you can. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 mins, then remove from oven and let it cool. Keep the oven on.

Part 3: Cheesecake

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla on low speed (speed 1/2 with stand mixer) until fluffy. Be careful not to over-mix. Once it is mixed well, Add the egg in and mix on low speed (speed 1). It’ll look weird and gooey at first. But after a few minutes of mixing, it will become smooth.

Use a spoon to place the cream cheese mixture into the cups. Smooth out the tops of mixture in the cups as much as you can. Bake for 17-19 minutes. Cool completely in pan before removing (about 1 hour). Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Kind of looks like pac-man or fortune cookies.

This was a fun little experiment. I noticed that it didn’t bake very evenly with the parchment paper/metal combination–the parchment paper section didn’t bake as much as the section that had contact with the metal. Although this happened, the cheesecake still tasted great.

I topped them with sliced strawberries and chopped walnuts.

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January 18, 2012

Taiwanese Ground Pork Over Rice (肉燥飯)

by tina

There are many variations of this dish in Taiwan. Some use spices (star anise, 5 spice powder), or there’s the saucy (thickened with corn starch) slow cooked kinds. As for my version, I like to keep it simple. =]

Ingredients:

  • ~0.5 lbs ground pork (good quality recommended)
  • 7 shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  • fried shallots (about a spoonful)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • black pepper
  • cilantro/coriander (optional)

(~4-5 servings)

Set the temperature to high. Add the oil once the pan is warm. When the oil is hotter, place the garlic in. Let the garlic sizzle a little and place the ground pork on one side of the pan and place the shiitake on the other. Quickly divide and separate the pork into smaller pieces while also stirring the shiitake.

When the pork is partially cooked (half cooked, half raw). Mix with shiitake. Pour in the soy sauce, stir, and continue separating the pork. Add the shallots. Stir.

Add black pepper to taste. Continue stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Super quick and easy. You could garnish it with cilantro/coriander.

January 13, 2012

Tonkatsu (Japanese Breaded & Fried Pork Cutlet)

by tina

This is another one of my mother’s specialties. I love it–So crunchy and flavorful (no sauce needed!). I was always responsible for helping her beat the egg whites and making this again reminds me of how much my hand gets sore from the constant beating. some things don’t change. :]

Instead of deep frying the breaded pork cutlet (how it’s traditionally done), I pan fry it instead (less oily–keep it healthier).

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork loin chops (bone in or no bone, ~0.5 lbs)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon rice wine (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch (太白粉)
  • 1 egg white
  • Panko bread crumbs

*if you were to double this recipe, 1 egg white would be enough for 4 pork loin chops.

Tenderize and marinate the pork cutlets the day before. Mix together the garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine (optional) for the marinade.

Make sure to soak them completely and evenly in the marinade. Cover and place in fridge.

The next day..

Dispose of any leftover marinade (along with all the garlic pieces) that the pork cutlets did not soak up. In a bowl, beat the egg white very well (with chopsticks) until it becomes light and fluffy, forming small foamy bubbles.

Coat each cutlet with a thin layer of potato starch (left pic). Then pour the egg white foam in and coat the cutlet. The egg white foam will allow the bread crumbs to stick on easier (right pic).

Pour panko bread crumbs on a plate. Take one cutlet at a time and fully coat each side with the crumbs. Let them naturally stick onto the cutlet and then lightly dab crumbs on the missed spots–Do not force press the crumbs on.

Set each finished piece on another plate.

Turn the temperature to High. When the pan is hot, place about 3-4 tablespoons oil in. Once the oil is hotter (test by putting a couple of crumbs in. if they sizzle, then it’s ready), place the breaded cutlets in. When the bottom side is very light brown, flip them over. When the bottom side is brown, flip them over again. (if your cutlet slices were thin enough, they should be done once both sides are evenly brown)

But.. If the cutlets you have are a little thicker or the bone is still not quite looking fully cooked, turn the temp down to Medium and place the lid partially on, but make sure no moisture gets in the pan. You might need to flip them over again and do the same.

Once done cooking, place the cutlets on a plate with a paper towel (folded over, double-layered) over it to soak up some of the excess oils.

Look at that crunchy goodness.

My full dinner. (I ate half of the other piece too!)

*I made this again a few nights later with no bone pork loin chops and they were definitely easier to fry–fried much evenly, much nicer.

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January 11, 2012

Mini Cheesecakes

by tina

This was my first attempt ever for cheesecakes. And in preparation for more cheesecake making to come, I had just ordered a mini cheesecake pan on Amazon :D so excited.

Recipe adapted from (allrecipes.com). 
This recipe was pretty easy to follow, but I wished it had been a little more specific in some areas.

Ingredients:

Base crust portion

  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Cheesecake portion

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (I used a little less than 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Part 1: Base crust

I crumbled the graham crackers with the side of the rolling pin (used it like a pestle and mortar. pestle=>rolling pin, mortar=>cutting board)

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a mixing bowl, first mix the graham crumbs and sugar well* with a fork. Then add the melted butter in and mix very thoroughly.

*I mixed everything together because the recipe didn’t specify, but I noticed that the sugar didn’t seem to be mixed evenly in the end, so mixing the crumbs and sugar first would minimize this problem.

Measure a tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each baking/muffin cup. Evenly distribute the rest into the cups. Press the graham crumbs down as firmly as you can.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 mins, then remove from oven and let it cool. Keep the oven on.

Part 2: Cheesecake

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla on low speed (speed 1/2 with stand mixer) until fluffy (left picture). Be careful not to over-mix*. 

Add the egg  in and mix on low speed (speed 1). It’ll look weird and gooey at first. But after a few minutes of mixing, it will look like the picture (on the right).

*Over-mixing may cause the cheesecake to rise like a souffle when baked. That’s what happened to mine. I did beat the ingredients together like crazy because that’s how I thought it was supposed to be done. But afterwards I read on a few sites and it says that over-mixing incorporates additional air and tends to cause cracking on the surface of the cheesecake.

Use a spoon to place the cream cheese mixture into the muffin cups. Smooth out the tops of mixture in the cups as much as you can*.

Bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely in pan before removing (about 1 hour). Then refrigerate until ready to serve.

*I didn’t know that cheesecake mixture doesn’t settle that well and smooth itself out when baked, or else I would’ve smoothed it and would not have had a rumpley (and slightly overbaked) result. haha.

Result after cooling and refrigerating for 1 hour. I added chopped walnut and blueberries at the top. ^_^

Despite the over-mixing and slightly over-baking, it still tasted pretty good in my book.

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