The wonder that is cottage cheesecake.

I just donated $80 to the Seattle Public Library. And, by that, I mean I just paid my library fines because they sent me a very threatening email. Well, a threatening email by library standards. Fortunately for them, I’m easily intimidated and don’t like paying bills late. Unfortunately for me, I am now $80 poorer than I was ten minutes ago. Le sigh.

Work was unusually stressful today, as is almost always the case the day after a three-day weekend. I had done some serious baking this weekend, which produced, among other things, my first cheesecake. Prior to the cheesecake creation, I finally procured my first set of springform pans, courtesy of Ross, of all places. $9.99 for three springform pans! It would be a miracle if Ross happened to be a more pleasant place to shop. Alas, it is not, but I’m not above conducting a treasure hunt for cheap housewares.

This, however, was not just any cheesecake. This was a cottage cheesecake. Why use cream cheese when you can use cottage cheese?

Cottage Cheesecake

Ingredients:

For the crust
A bunch of leftover cookies (I used a chocolate cookie recipe I’d invented on Sunday)
1/2 to 1 cup olive oil, adjust depend how many cookies

For the cheesecake filling
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup almond milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup stevia or Splenda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate cheesecake swirl
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons almond milk
1/2 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup stevia or Splenda
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.

2. Crumble the cookies in a small bowl. Mix the olive oil into the cookie crumbs until the crumbs are close to the consistency of dough. Tightly pack mixture to the bottom of the springform pan.

3. Pour all the ingredients for the cheesecake filling into a blender and blend for about 2 minutes, or until the mix becomes a liquid consistency. Pour over the crust.

4. Pour the chocolate cheesecake swirl ingredients into the blender. Blend for about 2 minutes, until the ingredients are completely mixed and there are no lumps. Pour in the center of the cheesecake.

5. Swirl the chocolate center with a knife, making a circular pattern (or really, whatever you want – but I’m a fan of circles!).

6. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until filling is firm. Allow to cool completely before removing the pan from the cake.

This was devoured by my coworkers today, but I sampled – I had to! It’s my obligation as a self-proclaimed chef to test my own creations. It was delicious, and because it was cottage cheese, I didn’t feel quite so guilty about eating it.

I’ve been blogging quite a bit lately about sweets, I’ve noticed. I’ll try to diversify. I recently invented a new(ish) chicken recipe, so… maybe that will be my next post.

I heart my grill.

I did some grilling this weekend. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of grilling this week – mostly salmon, but on Friday I hosted a dinner party and grilled some chicken from Trader Joe’s. And my little electric grill? Amazing.

I’m still working on getting the grill marks, but this meal (I think it was on Tuesday) was delicious. Grilled salmon and grilled asparagus… how could that be wrong? Oh! And iced tea! I made that myself. Oh so summery.

I figured it was apropos to blog about grilling, since it is Labor Day, the unofficial last weekend of summer. I also had homemade frozen yogurt for breakfast. It just felt right. It is a holiday, after all. I think I’ll spend today doing some residual grocery shopping – I went to Target for much of my weekly food supply on Saturday, then walked to Uwajimaya for the remainder yesterday – but I went into cleaning-out-the-cabinet-by-baking-sweets mode last night, so now I need more lemon juice (I took my first shot at baking lemon bars). I also baked some cookies. Don’t worry, I won’t be eating either of these concoctions. I will be donating them to a very special cause, the My Coworkers Need Snack Food Fund.

It’s almost 10:30 am. Guess I should get dressed and go walk around in the sun while we still have it!

Creative solutions for chocolate cravings.

I’m doing so well on this round of Perricone meal plans. I’m realizing belatedly that this isn’t supposed to be a temporary fix for the effects of over-eating (as I will admit I was doing), but it’s a lifestyle. I’ve even gotten back into my exercise routine. Yay me.

Despite all my progress, I still can’t seem to get away from my love of sweets. Thankfully, I’ve finally made the switch over to stevia, so at least I’m not potentially poisoning myself with Splenda. But lately I’ve been thinking about chocolate bars. Dr. Perricone says that dark chocolate is okay, even recommended – the darker the better. And unsweetened cocoa powder is great. I keep unsweetened cocoa powder around the house. How convenient! Now, how does one make a chocolate bar? This looks promising…

But, butter? I don’t even keep butter in my apartment. And vegetable oil is a questionable choice. So… wait. I know! Olive oil! And it would be so healthy! I could put some stevia in there for sweetener, too. And vanilla extract, and orange extract… oh boy. I decided to try it.

After several hours in the refrigerator, I consider it a success. So much so that I decided to share it. I think Dr. Perricone would be proud.

The challenge will be not eating it all in one sitting.

Healthy Dark Chocolate Bar

Ingredients:

6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (12 packets) stevia
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange extract (optional)

Directions:

1. Mix the cocoa powder, stevia, and olive oil in a small bowl. Once the mixture is the consistency of melted chocolate, mix in the extracts.

2. Spread mixture into pre-formed container lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate or freeze for a few hours, until the bar is solid.

3. Wrap in parchment paper and aluminum foil to store.

Three-Berry Pie with Olive Oil Shortbread Crust.

I slept in until 11 this morning, something I haven’t done in what seems like a very long time. I had breakfast at noon, then I did something else I hadn’t done in a long time – I sat down and wrote a song, start to finish. I used to do that all the time (Exhibit A), but I haven’t been feeling creative/inspired/what-have-you enough to sit down and write. Everything comes out sounding wrong. But I’m really enjoying this project. Maybe after I get back to my happy weight I’ll even get professional photos taken for my album art. That would be a nice reward, right?

So anyway. (Nice segue, wasn’t it?) Yesterday, one of my employees had a birthday. I’d decided about a month ago that I would make it a tradition to bring in treats for each of their birthdays – it’s practical, because there are only four of them, and it allows me to get my baking fix. For yesterday’s celebration, I baked this berry pie. It started out as olive oil shortbread cookies, but the dough were entirely too crumbly despite my best efforts to keep it together, so I molded it to a pie dish and threw some berries in there. The experiment was a definite success.

Three-Berry Pie with Olive Oil Shortbread Crust

Ingredients:

For the crust
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups granulated Splenda
3 cups rice flour
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling
4 cups berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly oil a pie pan; set aside.
2. Make the crust: Mix the olive oil, 1 1/2 cups Splenda and rice flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the almond and vanilla extracts. Once ingredients are thoroughly mixed, place dough in the pie pan and spread evenly along the bottom and the sides.
3. Make the filling: Mix the berries, 1/2 cup Splenda and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Evenly pour into crust.
4. Bake pie for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden. Remove from oven and crush berries, then let cool before consuming. I recommend refrigerating the pie – covered – overnight to allow the filling to set.

Meals of the week!

I have had quite the busy week – and now my mom and her puppy (the adorable chocolate lab Coco Chanel) are staying with me for a few weeks. I’ve already acquired a new electric grill and many other small things I really did need but was too cheap/lazy/unwilling to buy myself.

I’ll catch you up on my week, food-wise. Warning: Some of the images you see on this page are depictions of food that is not 100% healthy (namely, the flan – recipe here).

Healthy foodie comes clean.

I will literally eat anything. Well, wait, let me qualify that a bit: as long as it can be loosely construed as food, I’ll eat it. This bodes well for my travels, but it does occasionally make it difficult to continue eating healthily.

I made it through college on a diet which consisted of two main food groups: pasta (which does include Top Ramen) and takeout. I did not enjoy cooking unless it involved using two forms of cookware or fewer and/or took less than 30 minutes (half an hour was for “fancy meals,” like the odd occasion I would decide to make spaghetti and broccoli). I always had the potential to be a good cook, but I was too lazy to tap into that potential. And I never bothered to understand or care about how unhealthy the foods I was eating were.

Of course, now that I’ve made the effort to educate myself, I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum: I know too much. To the point where I feel a little twinge of guilt when I deign to eat pasta (which, by the way, is only allowed when in foreign countries) or treat myself to a cappuccino. I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed about it lately, but it’s still a struggle to let it go for a minute without letting it go completely.

I went through a phase in February/March where I was trying – mostly in vain – to come up with healthy versions of desserts. You may have seen this more recently in my healthy frozen yogurt/healthy fudgecicle posts (these desserts are becoming gradually less healthy as I continue to make them, so it may be time to cease and desist). I’ve always been fond of baking cookies, so those were my main vehicle for experimentation. Of course, the best part of baking cookies is eating the dough, so… you can see where this is going. Somewhere bad.

Now imagine this, but applied directly to the thighs.

Last night, I was bored. I was bored and I wanted chocolate; never a good combination. I came across a recipe for oatmeal cookies that didn’t use butter – it used vegetable oil – so I decided to try it and substitute coconut oil and Splenda and add some chocolate and some strawberries… yum. It was pretty tasty, especially right out of the oven. So tasty, in fact, that I ate half the cookies. Yes, half of them. The cookies were gluten free and not that horrible for me, but did I really need to eat half of them? Probably not. There’s something compulsive about my eating habits, especially when it comes to desserts. The Splenda probably contributes to that, and I’m sure it has something to do with an insulin spike… I think I’m going to have to stay away from desserts for awhile. They make me crazy, I tell you.

Ice cream Sunday!

Once again, we overslept this morning – we may or may not still be on West Coast time. We weren’t super adventurous with our food today, but we did finally check out the helado situation this afternoon. The place we stopped at had quite the selection to choose from:

It was a tough decision. Like the Sophie’s Choice of ice cream.

This was what I had – that’s flan with dulce de leche on top, and chocolate with bombones (candies) on the bottom. It was deeee-licious.

Mom had crema de rusa (top) and pistachio. She was pleased with hers as well.

The cafe boasted some of the best ice cream in Buenos Aires, and I will definitely back that up, despite the fact that we have not and probably will not be sampling any other helado (to avoid the whole not-fitting-into-our-jeans problem that would arise shortly thereafter).

I think we will have to eat empanadas for the rest of our trip. Fortunately, we found the bakery where we got our favorite empanadas a few days ago – they’re AR $2/US $0.50 apiece, so we will be non-broke and well-fed. My skinny jeans still fit me today, so I’m still good for the time being, despite all the bread. You know what I miss, though? Salmon. And cooking in general.

Oh, before I left Seattle, I had the brilliant idea of freezing cottage cheese like I had with the yogurt. Turns out it’s even better than frozen yogurt, because it doesn’t harden the same way and I like the texture better. I’m looking forward to getting back and making more. One more week…