Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Vanilla Wafter Crust


Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of laughs and delicious food. I stayed in Seattle again this year and went to a Friendsgiving on Friday. Of course, while I was studying and writing papers, my breaks were recipe hunting for a good dessert to bring to the table. While I could have brought a healthy quinoa salad, I decided to go with a pumpkin dessert (again). This is my first time making flavored cheesecake! I decided to adapt this Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with a cookie crust recipe from Love From the Oven blog. Easy enough to make but just decadent enough to impress.

This recipe comes in 3 “phases” – the crust, the cheesecake, and the topping! Definitely recommend making the crust and base a day before so you don’t have to rush around the kitchen the day of. NOTE: I doubled the recipe to make about 18 muffin tin-sized cheesecakes. The original recipe was a little different due to different mold sizes.

First up: the crust! 

You will need:

  • one box of vanilla wafers or 48 gingersnap cookies (my grocery store didn’t have gingersnap cookies!)
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter (should be Unsalted but I grabbed the wrong one in the pre-TG supermarket frenzy)

23330523595_12e8d78637_oI don’t have a food processor, but have no fear, you can do it the good old fashion way: a large ziplock bag and a rolling pin. An awesome arm workout. I did have to separate the crumbs a few times to make sure I did not have big pieces left.

23330521065_95dfb89672_oMelt the butter is a small saucepan on low heat just long enough that it’s all melted, you don’t want it to bubble. Let it cool for 5 mins. Slowly mix the butter into the wafer crumbs until there’s no dry crumb spots.
23311351986_b81221b51c_oScoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of crumbs into muffin tins (either slightly greased or with paper liners). I love more crust for more texture to balance out the richness of cheesecake but feel free to put in more or less. I loved this shot glass trick from Love From the Oven to make flat, even, tightly packed crusts. Put your crusts into the fridge for about 1 hour. 22969548589_242d5d1642_o

Phase 2: the pumpkin cheesecake! 

You will need:

  • 2 (8 oz each) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

23101607800_a822b756c7_oPut the cream cheese, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.
Preheat the oven for 350ºF.

Scoop the batter on top of the firm crusts, up to you how big you want the cakes to be, they don’t expand very much so however much batter you scoop in is how the big cakes will be. Bake for 25 mins. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 1 hour and place them in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight!


Phase 3: the topping(s)! 

Okay this part is totally optional, those cheesecakes are ready for palette pleasure, but for presentation’s sake – I wanted to go all out with the cream (it’s Thanksgiving after all!). Whipped cream from a spray bottle melts after awhile and knowing these cakes were going to sit out on a potluck table, I wanted something that would hold shape but still be light and fluffy. I bagged some whipped topping and just pipped them right on, took less than 5 mins! 23371272136_8e5fdeb269_oI did not want to overwhelm the presentation or make it too messy to eat so I used Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Sugar mix grinder and gave 1-2 twists over each cake for a pretty crystal sugar sparkle.
Of course, go crazy creative with the toppings as you want. Use chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, toffee bits, leftover vanilla wafer crumbles, or Fall-themed sprinkles!

The results are perfect layers of sweet and crunchy, rich and smooth, and light and fluffy! 23101290180_cceba05a21_o

Oven-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Happy November readers! Here in Seattle, we are definitely feeling that autumn chill, pulling out those heavy coats, chugging hot toddies, and bouncing off the walls from leftover Halloween candy. I don’t usually get to do much for Halloween, not that I don’t like the holiday, I just usually am too lazy/busy to join in the festivities. But this year, I had some classmates who have never carved pumpkins before so we had ourselves a little carving party.

This was a great chance to keep the seeds and roast some healthy snacks! Man, have you guys ever hollowed out a pumpkin before? It’s a lot of (messy) work!  22933674832_84259c2dd1_o

The last time I got to carve a pumpkin was probably when I was like 9! That was also the last time my dad kept the seeds and roasted them. My boyfriend and I decided to carve something cute and easy: we looked up a lot of ideas on the net and settled on characters from Totoro– a very famous childhood anime movie. This is mini totoro and the soot gremlin. Aren’t they cute!

Okay – back to the cooking! Pumpkin seeds are also known as “pepitas”. They are super healthy, loaded with fiber, protein, iron and magnesium. I love tossing a handful of shelled seeds into salads, oatmeal, or quinoa. Course, they are also awesome as snacks. There’s lots of recipes online on how to roast these but I just found this one from Popsugar that has foolproof steps.

You’ll need:

  • the seeds (It’s okay if you have the stringy, gooey pumpkin insides stuck on them)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper or whatever spices you like
  • a big bowl
  • a paper towel/towel
  • a cookie sheet
  • foil

Start off by filling up the bowl with cold water and soaking the seeds for about 15 mins. This will get most of the membrane off like magic! Drain and spread them out on a towel or paper towel until they are completely dry. I actually left mine out overnight, but maybe 4 hours is enough. Blotting with a paper towel may help too.

When you are ready to make the seeds: preheat your oven at 350ºF and cover a cookie sheet with foil.

Toss the dried seeds with a tablespoon of olive oil or enough so that each one is lightly coated. Sprinkle salt and spices in so that they are evenly covered. I used Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning” that just has tons of stuff in it from black pepper to garlic to paprika!

In about 15 minutes you get crispy, golden pumpkin seeds!  22759072040_bac8de6861_o

Let them cool and them store in an airtight container.22933656162_99695a74d6_o

Snack on and snack happy everyone!

Pumpkin Toffee Cake Cookies

Hey all, sorry I’ve been MIA for most of summer but I just came back from a month in New Zealand(!) and been getting back into school mode. Missed out on most of the hot, hot summer in Seattle and went right into the chilly, dreary Autumn weather of the PNW. Time to heat up the oven and brighten up the season with some pumpkin and spice! 21455966323_e5d5d1bfa7_o

You know this season is all about pumpkin, besides it tasting delicious, pumpkin puree is a healthy addition to baked goods. I did not want to do the typical pumpkin and chocolate chip combination, so I found this Pumpkin Toffee Cookie recipe from I Wash…You Dry blog. I’m always down to try some new combos!  22064636952_5361041a1e_o

This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies and you will need:

  • ½ cup butter – softened
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup caramel sauce (I had some leftover TJ’s pumpkin caramel sauce in the fridge so I used that instead!)
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • 1 cup Heath Toffee Bits

First pre-heat your oven to 350°F and grease your cookie sheets (unless you want to use parchment paper, which makes clean up super easy). Start off by creaming the room temperature butter with the dark brown sugar and vanilla until it’s a thick creamy texture.

Next add in the pumpkin puree, eggs, and the caramel sauce- mix until well incorporated (It will look a little watery with the eggs added in).

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In a separate mixing bowl: combine all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg) except for the crushed Heath Bar bits. Next slowly add the dry ingredient mix to the wet mixture 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup until it’s pretty thick. If you have a handheld mixer, better make sure it has enough power to turn this batter.

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Lastly add and fold in the 1 cup of toffee candy! Yum!


I am so glad I finally bought a cookie batter scooper from the cooking store – it’s a game changer! I can finally make uniform cookies with minimal mess! The batter with the pumpkin puree is pretty “fluffy” and light, for sure the cookies will be much more “cakey” than usual cookies. 
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The one challenge I did have was figuring out the perfect baking time for these little guys. Luckily there was a lot of batter and each cookie sheet I filled, I tested different times. The original recipe said to bake the cookie for 8-10 minutes. With my oven I definitely needed to bake it for longer. I tried out 10, 11, 13, and 15 minutes. Even at 15 minutes I ended up with very cakey, soft cookies and they were barely turning brown. So depending on how you like your cookies, you should try different times.


They came out great looking though! Once out of the oven I cooled them on wire racks. Taste test: the cookies were soft, great pumpkin pie flavor but not too sweet and and once cooled the toffee pieces gave a great, fun crunch! These cookies would be great with a glass of milk, coffee or some chai tea. 21889200068_45ed4ff52f_o

Easy Creamy Spinach Dip

Summer means BBQs, pool parties, and picnics – and this is one of my go-to recipes for something fast and easy to make but also a crowd pleaser. This creamy spinach dip is great if you don’t want to show up empty- handed but want to bring more than chips and a jar of salsa.
20356543796_e5cb85f384_oThe first time I had this was 10 years (!) ago when my one of my roommates made it, I thought it was magical…she said it’s Knorr. I’ve been making it for BBQs every since. It uses simple ingredients that you can find in most major supermarkets, even the water chestnuts (Hint: they usually hide in the “Asian” or “Ethnic” food aisle.) 

20194822858_d971bd28e3_oThe best part is your shopping list is at the store, pick up a packet of Knorr vegetable recipe mix (there’s other brands of veggie mix out there but I just have not tried it.) and get started. 

  • 1 package of 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 16oz container of sour cream (use Lite if you’d like)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (again use a lite or “olive oil” version if you want)
  • 1 packet of Knorr vegetable mix
  • 1 80z can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 3 green onions (optional)

20194816858_fa0a4fc41e_oOkay, it’s not very pretty or appealing when you are making it and in such large quantities, if you are freaked out by how much mayo goes into this like I was, breathe….it’s worth it in the end! Super easy steps: prep all your ingredients, dump it all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. Very important to give it the full 2 hours (or more) to chill and to really let the vegetable mix “meld” with the other ingredients.

A few tips:

  • make sure the spinach is “chopped” – you don’t want stringy leaves of spinach hanging from people’s mouths. Awkward.
  • use clean hands to squeeze out the water from the thawed spinach- it’s the best way to get all the water out and I’d usually squeeze in small fistfuls and at least twice
  • unless you or someone really loathes water chestnuts- I highly recommend adding them in. They really add texture to the dip and a great crisp crunch that balances out the creaminess.
  • This goes great with any sort of veggies (cucumbers, carrot sticks, bell pepper slices, celery) or crackers but my absolute favorite pairing is French baguette slices! I usually pick up two fresh baguettes from the store bakery section and ask them to slice them up for me.
  • Serve in a hollowed out bread bowl for extra fancy presentation! 20382795205_81dee26520_o

Hope you all are having a wonderful summer (with good people and good food)!

Mango Lassi

photo 1Lassi is a traditional yogurt drink really popular in India and Southeast Asian countries. It is absolutely delicious, refreshing and (sorta) healthy! Every time I eat Indian food I can’t help but order one. This is my own simple recipe I based on recipe research from Mango Lassi II and Veg Recipes of India

IMG_0575Makes 1 serving (~12 oz). You’ll need:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 cup yogurt (greek or regular) -any flavor is fine
  • 1/2 cup milk (or your own preference of milk substitute)

Some recipes will suggest sugar or honey but since my greek yogurt is already honey flavored and the mango was very ripe- it was already very sweet.

IMG_0577  IMG_0579 IMG_0580Chop up the mango. I found a neat trick for cutting mangos, stand the mango up, slice off the sides and carefully score a grid without cutting through the skin, push it inside out, and cut off the cubes.

IMG_0581 IMG_0583Blend up the mango chunks first and add the yogurt and the milk and blend again. Add more milk if you’d like a more liquid consistency.

And just like that – a mango lassi drink! I was so excited to be able to make lassi at home and drink it whenever I want. With the warm summer weather, a lassi is a great alternative to smoothies!

Lassis can come in all flavors, you can use papaya, rose, or any flavor you want to try! photo 1


Spam Musubi

Yup that’s right…SPAM. Mystery meat in a can.

Before you make a face and turn up your nose, if you’ve never tried spam musubi- you need to try this! Spam musubi is the ultimate Hawaiian snack- it’s delicious, filling, cheap, and easy to make. 2015-04-18 22.25.15In this post, I will actually be showing you two assembling methods- using a musubi mold OR if you don’t have one-do not despair-you can use the original Spam can!

I actually did not follow a single recipe, but just to make sure I did not go in blind I reviewed Momfuku’s Spam Musubi recipe and Eating Richly’s recipe – both give you the basics and also shows you how Spam musubi can vary! There’s tons of recipes out there you can follow.

Pre-recipe step: make the rice! I used premium grade sushi rice. Sushi rice is moist, sticky, and slightly sweet and can be bought at most large chain grocery stores. But if you don’t have sushi rice, not a big deal, you can use regular rice too. I’ve actually used brown rice (for a “healthy” version) and it was fine, except it’s not as sticky, so the rice may fall out.

Prepare 2 cups of cooked rice according the instructions on the bag.

2015-04-18 22.32.32This recipe makes 8 servings.

You will need:

  • 1 can of spam (they have turkey, low sodium, teriyaki, etc.)
  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 4 large sheets of nori, cut in half (sushi seaweed you can get at Japanese/Asian grocery stores)
  • sweet soy sauce (optional)
  • a musubi mold OR save the spam can!!
  • saran wrap
  • small bowl of water

Slide the spam out of the can, cut in half and then cut those halves evenly, and cut them in half again. You should have 8 even slices. Spam from the can is not very pretty to look at, but I promise it will look more appetizing later.
2015-04-18 22.27.20Heat up a wide non-stick pan at medium heat. DO NOT put oil in the pan- it’s not necessary since there is fat in the spam. Place the spam slices in and cook on each side until it’s caramelized and a little crispy. If you want extra flavor, you can add some sweet soy sauce on the top before flipping it over. Wait until the sauce is bubbly and has thickened. 

2015-04-18 22.30.12Now we are ready to assemble! Here is my assembly station already to go (except for the wine!).  

2015-04-18 22.41.50First I’ll show you guys how to make the musubi with just the can! Wash the grease from the can and line it with saran wrap. Fill about 1/4 of the can with sushi rice. Pack it in with a spoon, make sure the rice is super-squished in. 

2015-04-18 22.43.16Lay a spam slice on top of the rice layer and fill up the rest of the space with more rice. Wrap up the saran wrap and gently pull it all out. Take the “naked” musubi and place it on top of half sheet of nori (shiny side down) and roll it up! 

2015-04-18 22.43.41While I think the can mold is a brilliant way to do it if you cannot get your hands on a mold. I really do recommend getting one though. You can get it online and I bought this one from the local Japanese grocery store for $3 and it was the best $3 spent!! Made a huge difference in neatness and speed of making them.  

2015-05-17 22.44.23With a mold, you want to set it on top of the nori sheet, slight off center. Again fill it will a little bit of rice. Use the little handle to press the rice layer down flat. 

2015-05-17 22.53.58Place a slice of spam on top, press it down with the mold so it “melds” to the rice better. 

2015-05-17 22.54.26Rice layer #2 and press again. Pushing down on the handle, lift the mold up….

2015-05-17 22.55.32It’s it perfect? Now tightly wrap the nori around it. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and spread it across the edge of the nori to help it stick and seal close.  2015-05-17 22.55.51As much as I hate waiting to devour these, I’d advise to leave them for about 15 minutes so the nori soaks some moisture from the rice and spam and softens or else your nori will be crunchy and may rip and fall apart when you bite into it.

2015-05-17 23.01.03I like to wrap the musubis in saran wrap so the rice does not dry out and it makes  a really awesome grab-n-go lunch/snack! The musubis should be eaten within a day or two. You should fridge them after a day since it is meat,  but know that if you do -the rice can harden. You can microwave them too- they are really best when warm.

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On nom nom nom. Hope you like it!
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French Apple Cake


This French Apple Cake, or “Gateau aux Pommes“, from Food Network is simple to make but like anything French- feels kinda fancy. This cake is dense without feeling heavy, delicately sweet without frosting or cream, and has a nice rustic look to it. I imagine packing this on a picnic!

I bought too many apples and found this delicious way of getting rid of some.

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Pre-heat your oven to 400ºF.

For the cake you’ll need:

  • 9 inch springform cake pan, buttered
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (needs whole if you want that rich luxurious cake texture)
  • 4 baking apples (about 2 lbs) – peeled and cut into small wedges or squares
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Take a large mixing bowl and combine your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt.

Add your wet ingredients one-by-one: vanilla, beaten eggs, oil, whole milk- blend.
2014-12-13 20.34.48While not crucial, I would recommend dicing your apples AFTER you mix your ingredients so they don’t start browning. I personally added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and coated the apples.

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Add the apples to the batter and make sure it’s well-mixed and coated. Then pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the the cake looks firm and the top is golden. 2014-12-13 20.56.14

Not done yet! To create an awesome sweet crispy, creme-brulee-like top mix in a small bowl:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter

2014-12-13 21.17.46Take out the cake from the oven and immediately pour the topping mixture gently and evenly over the cake.

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Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the top has a medium golden brown color like creme brûlée. Take the cake out of the oven and cool on a rack until it’s room temperature (it will be very tempting to try a piece earlier!). 2014-12-13 21.59.04

Run a knife around the sides of the pan and release and remove the springform side. Serve and enjoy with a side of freshly whipped cream! 2014-12-14 09.16.26