Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine's Day Special: White Chocolate-Yuzu Cheesecake

So, Valentine's Day is tomorrow and I couldn't resist whipping up a sweet something even though I am not a sucker for the sappy Hallmark holiday 😛 It does help when your beloved has a rather strong sweet tooth! 

A few weeks ago, I was at this popular cafe in Singapore, enjoying a brunch date with the husband. Once I was done, I spent a few minutes curiously wandering around the cafe to check out the interesting items on display and it was then that I saw it - inside a gleaming glass shelf, sitting prettily on a platter was a sinful-looking White Chocolate-Yuzu Cheesecake. I stood there gawking at it for a while. I then cursed myself for just having polished off a large serving of Belgian waffles with vanilla ice-cream for despite my enormous an appetite, I couldn't possibly have eaten any more (even if I tried). But it didn't stop me from making a vow right there that I would replicate the same at home. 

So, I didn't have a point of reference with this dessert. I didn't try the cheesecake at the restaurant, nor had I ever tried it before that. The very fact that I found it so alluring was probably because I hadn't come across that combination in a dessert anywhere else. But I thought it was a genius idea - white chocolate with its milky sweetness and yuzu with its aromatic zing, would be a perfect couple together in a rich, creamy cheesecake. 

Talking about yuzu - when I first came to Singapore over 11 years ago, I always noticed cartons of yuzu juice from different brands scattered across the shelves in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. I had no idea what the thing was and therefore, no clue about what it tasted like. But time and a curious palate are great teachers as I soon discovered.

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit but has the flavour that is a mixture of lemon, grapefruit with hints of mandarin orange. It seems to me to be softer on the palate than lemon. It is refreshing and has an intoxicating subtle fragrance. Once it entered my home, there was no looking back! Over the years, the amount of yuzu juice that has been consumed in my household has been staggering. At any point of time if you open my refrigerator, you will most likely find a carton of yuzu juice. That is how much we like it! I would absolutely love to use the zest from fresh yuzu in my cooking but strange thing, I haven't spotted the fruit anywhere. Maybe I should keep that in mind next time I pass by a Japanese speciality store. 

I did not follow any particular recipe for this cheesecake but rather formulated my own. I modified one of my go-to cheesecake recipes by incorporating white chocolate and yuzu juice and reducing the amount of sugar. The result was amazing! The rich and incredibly creamy cheesecake showcased the flavour of both the white chocolate and yuzu without being cloyingly sweet. My family gave it the thumbs up (my toddlers kept screeching "WANT IT!" after each bite which I took to mean that they liked it!). 

So it isn't too late to make this my dear readers. This dessert is love on a plate! It comes together in a snap too. If you aren't lucky enough to find yuzu juice, you can substitute with lemon juice (but it would taste slightly less awesome). 

Wishing you all a very Happy Valentine's Day!💗 Love certainly makes life worth living doesn't it? Cherish those you love, appreciate them and celebrate their presence in your life. I will be enjoying a family dinner with the three loves of my life at my favourite Italian restaurant. Totally romantic, I know 😜

Till my next post 🙋 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Recipe of the month: Banana-Berry Smoothie

This has got to be the shortest and most easiest recipe on my blog! Since the recipe is so short and sweet, let me keep the intro the same way 😉  

Smoothies are a great way to start the day and the perfect 'snack' to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Not to mention, a refreshing and nutritious drink to cool off in the summer (which is of utmost need in this part of the world!). It can be a lifesaver especially for busy moms. On the rare occasions that my toddlers get off their highchairs after no more than three tablespoons of food, all I have to do is whip up a smoothie and it disappears within a few greedy gulps! And you can rarely go wrong with them....chuck in a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies with some yoghurt, milk and a dash of honey and voila! within a matter of minutes you have got yourself a delicious drink containing energy boosting proteins and healthy fats.

Some of the ingredients I prefer to use in smoothies are bananas, assorted berries, mango, papaya, peaches, sapota, honeydew, avocado, peanut butter, blanched almonds and chia seeds. I usually don't fancy citrus fruits, pineapple, kiwi, carrots, cucumbers, kale and spinach but that is just me. When it comes to smoothies, anything goes! 

Feel free to get creative and tweak this recipe any which way you want. 

Happy chugging! 💦

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Baker's Corner: Vegetarian Tex-Mex Casserole

I can't tell you how much I'm savouring the Chinese New Year long weekend break we are having in this part of the world. Waking up late (8:30am for me is like super late 😝), lazing around home, catching up on some reading, cooking and eating hazardous amounts of food, taking ridiculously long naps, catching up with pals, taking the kids to the pool and on outings.....I'm talking 100% pure fun! 

So on one of the days, we had company for dinner and decided to go for a Mexican-inspired menu. We had a grilled corn salad, tortilla chips and quesadillas with sour cream, guacamole and salsa, black bean burgers and a continuous supply of Margaritas to wash it all down. The food was good and company even better so at the end of the evening, everyone had a little too much to eat (and drink!) 😜  

The next day, I opened my fridge to discover half a can of black beans, half a tub of sour cream, an almost full jar of pickled jalapeños, a container of leftover homemade salsa and an unopened packet of flour tortillas. I usually hate it when I find a bunch of stuff in my fridge that I have no idea what to do with. I didn't want to repeat any of the dishes of the previous night coz we had eaten way too much of it already. It was then that I remembered a Mexican enchilada casserole that I had at my friend's home last year that I really loved. It was ordered from a home-based caterer so I couldn't get my hands on a recipe but I had picked and prodded the dish long enough to make a mental note of what had gone into it. I was so glad that in addition to the leftovers, I still had a wedge each of green, red and yellow bell peppers in the fridge so got to working on my version of a Tex-Mex Casserole.

I'm pretty sure you will not find this exact same recipe anywhere on the internet or in any book (if you do, I will be thunderstruck!). There is a randomness to this dish that comes from tossing in whatever one finds at the time of their culinary experimentation! I have attempted to recreate the taste of the delicious casserole I have described☝ but I made a few deliberate changes along the way. I've named this dish 'Tex-Mex Casserole' because it suffers from a serious identity crisis 😆 Notwithstanding issues with authenticity, this dish has rich, bold and bright flours incorporated into it so I would recommend it as being worthy of consideration. I took the time to jot down and carefully measure all the ingredients to create a tested and reproducible recipe. I'm stoked I did that because the dish received positive feedback from whoever ate it! It was so good that even the leftovers were gone by the end of the day! The next time, I don't even have to wait until there are specific ingredients languishing in the fridge to make this dish...I can serve it at our next dinner party and I'm sure it will be appreciated 🙌

One thing I need to mention before I forget - a casserole is ideally made in a 9x13 inch baking pan but since I don't yet own one of that size, I split it into two - one round and one square 8-inch baking dish. Whatever works for you guys, okay?

I need to rush back and enjoy what is remaining of this glorious 4.5 days of break 😊  Signing off make this dish and let me know how it turned out! 


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Family Fun at Club Mahindra Resort - Madikeri, Coorg

I've been suffering from a mild case of post-holiday blues. Quite expected when you go through more than three weeks of nothing but eat-sleep-repeat! No setting alarms, no household chores, no never-ending to-do lists....not even babysitting (and this is a twin mom talking here!). There were people who would readily take over childminding duties for me even without my asking. So all I did was eat, vegetate on the couch, sleep, catch up with family and friends, go out and shop like nobody's business. I don't remember the last time I got to live the life of a sloth! So now I'm back to the grind and pining for those days of utter laziness. It has taken a herculean effort to get off my behind and show the blog some love. 

Food-related posts can wait for the time being (coz after all that mindless bingeing, food is the last thing on my mind!). During our holiday in India, we went on a short trip to a resort in Madikeri, Coorg with my siblings. Even though it was for a few days, we had such a memorable time that I had to blog about the experience. 

Madikeri is a hill station and the vibrant capital of Coorg, a little corner of Karnataka. Nestled in the Western Ghats, the district is known for its exquisite beauty. It is verdant and filled with nature’s splendour that spans more shades of green than you know exist. Driving in, the plains gradually gives way to mountain ranges and as the road begins to curve upwards, the wide vistas of hills and mountains transports visitors to another world. All around are mountains, hills, valleys, paddy fields, grasslands, coffee plantations, pepper and cardamom plants, orange orchards and amidst all this flows the life-sustaining river Cauvery.

During my lifetime, I have passed by Madikeri innumerable times so I am no stranger to the place. Hailing from Udupi, any road trip from Mysore to Udupi would invariably take us through Madikeri. It used to be our go-to place for coffee/tea pit stops. Breathing in the chilly air while sipping hot cups of masala tea with my family brings back fond memories. Aside from brief stopovers, I've been there on a few family trips and college trips too. 

This trip took a wee bit of planning since we had three kids under the age of three travelling with us. We were looking for a resort that was suitable for families with young children and offered activities to keep them occupied (coz everyone knows what toddlers can be like!). Club Mahindra was one of the first options that came up and it ended up being the destination of choice. 

Set amidst this lush green landscape, Club Mahindra Coorg is a sprawling resort built in the local ainmanés tradition and is located within a coffee plantation, swirling with scents, colours and sights of the hill station. It has 220 luxurious apartments and lots of facilities including a gym, two swimming pools, three restaurants, a lobby lounge and bar, a holiday activity centre, a spa complex and more.