Avocado Cheesecake

avocado cheesecakeIf you’ve never tried avocado in a sweet recipe, I highly recommend it! Avocado milkshakes, cheesecake, ice cream, etc., have a really nice delicate flavor. The original recipe for this cheesecake was from here. I made a tiny version, 1/4 of this recipe, in a 15-cm (6″) round pan.

Ingredients (makes 16 2-inch squares)
Crust:
150g (5 oz) plain vanilla or shortbread cookies
1 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt (if your pistachios are salted, leave this out)
1 tsp lemon peel
57g (2 oz) melted butter

Cheesecake:
1-1/2 tbsp powdered gelatin
120mL (1/2 cup) water
450g (16 oz) cream cheese
2 ripe avocados, peeled and with the pit removed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
200g (7 oz) yogurt
240mL (8 oz) whipping cream
2 tbsp pistachio for garnish, optional

Instructions

In a food processor, blend cookies, pistachios, sugar, salt, and lemon peel until finely ground. Add melted butter and pulse to combine. Press into an 8-inch (21cm) square pan.

Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C (350C). Allow to cool completely before adding the cheesecake mixture.

For cheesecake:

Combine gelatin and water and heat in a double boiler or microwave until the gelatin dissolves. Let cool slightly.

Cream together cream cheese and sugar. In a food processor, blend the avocado and lemon until smooth. Add to the cream cheese and mix until well-combined.

Add the gelatin mixture to the avocado and cream cheese. Whisk until combined. Add the yogurt and mix.

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into the avocado mixture.

Pour onto the prepared crust. Place in the refrigerator overnight until it sets completely. Once chilled, cut into 2 inch (5cm) squares. Top with chopped pistachios if desired.

Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts

brussels sproutsBefore you claim not to like Brussels sprouts, try them like this! This is a simple and imprecise recipe, so adjust it as you like. In Japan, Brussels sprouts are not common, but I see them once in a while. You’ll see them labeled as 芽キャベツ (me-kyabetsu) or “cabbage buds”!

Ingredients
Brussels sprouts – try to choose small ones, since they’ll naturally be less tough and bitter.
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half vertically. Put them on a microwave-safe plate or bowl, add a few tablespoons of water, and cover with plastic wrap (leaving a gap for steam). Microwave for a few minutes until the Brussels sprouts soften and turn bright green.

In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter or margarine. Add the garlic and Brussels sprouts. Stir occasionally and let them brown in the butter.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Coconut Cashew Curry

IMG_7439I’m always trying out new recipes for curry. This is my latest one, and we really enjoyed it. It ended up being very flavorful and a good, inexpensive, filling dinner that included plenty of leftovers for the next day’s lunch. I sometimes leave out the chicken or replace it with tofu, in which case this recipe is vegan.

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomato (canned diced tomato is fine)
3/4 cup cashews, divided
2 cups (480 mL) vegetable broth (chicken would be OK too)
2 to 2-1/2 cups vegetables of your choice, sliced or chopped into bite-size pieces
2 chicken breasts (optional – leave out or replace with cubes of 木綿/firm tofu)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, fennel, and kaffir lime powder**
1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch (optional; see recipe)
Rice for serving

* Vegetables: really, you can use whatever you like here. I always use what I have on hand or what is on sale or in season at the moment. Some of my favorites are asparagus, green beans, zucchini, carrots, and… daikon, which is great in curry and has a similar taste and texture to potato when cooked.

** Kaffir lime powder is a seasoning I found here in Japan but have never seen elsewhere, so i don’t know how common it is. You can leave it out, or add a little extra lemon or lime juice if you like instead.

Instructions

Heat the vegetable oil in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Saute the sliced onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until the onion is translucent, then add the tomato. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato has broken down and most of the juice is gone.

Meanwhile, toast the cashews in the oven or in a dry pan over medium heat on the stove.

Let cool for a few minutes, then scrape the mixture into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup toasted cashews and some of the vegetable broth (depending on how much your appliance can hold) so the mixture will blend. Process until smooth.

Return to the pot with the remaining vegetable broth and heat to a simmer. Add any vegetables that need time to cook (for example, daikon, carrot). Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the sliced chicken and coconut milk and stir. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Add the spices and lemon juice and mix well. If the curry is not thick enough, you can add the cornstarch, mixed with a tablespoon of water, and cook for two to three minutes until thickened.

Taste and add salt if necessary (it depends how salty your broth is).

Serve over white or brown rice, with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted cashews sprinkled on top!

Cheesecake Brownies

cheesecake browniesThis mixture of cheesecake and brownies makes a beautiful and popular dessert.

Ingredients
Brownies:
113g (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Cheesecake:
200g (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
100g white chocolate, chopped (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square pan.

Make brownie batter:
Melt butter. Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir slowly – try not to get too much air in the batter. Batter will be thick.

Make cheesecake batter:
Mix cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. If using white chocolate, mix into the cheesecake batter.

Reserve 1/2 cup brownie batter, and spread the rest in the pan. Spread cream cheese batter over brownie batter in pan. Drop blobs of the reserved brownie batter on top and swirl gently with a knife.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool before serving.

Creamy Pasta with White Beans

pasta with white beansThis recipe is quite adaptable. As I’ve written it, this is a vegetarian pasta dish, but you can add chicken as well, and you can change the vegetables to fit what’s in season or on sale. It also includes some protein from the beans.

Ingredients (serves 2 with leftovers)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
700mL (3 cups) vegetable broth (chicken broth is okay too)
200g dry penne pasta (1/2 lb)
1 cup cooked white beans
1-1/2 cups vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, and spinach or a mixture are all great)
125g (4 oz) sun-dried or salted tomatoes
120mL (1/2 cup) cream (in Japan, I use 35% cream)
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until softened. Add vegetable (or chicken) broth and pasta. Bring to a simmer.

Cook pasta for the time directed on the package, plus 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If too much liquid evaporates, add a little more water. With five minutes remaining, add the tomatoes, beans, and vegetables and stir.

After the pasta finishes cooking, add the cream. Stir and cook until the cream thickens into a sauce. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Lemon Rosemary Ragu

lemon rosemary raguThis meat sauce comes together very quickly and has a great flavor. There is some tomato in it, but the tomato taste isn’t so strong. It works well for people who aren’t into a very tomato-y pasta sauce. I adapted the recipe from here, which calls for using veal and olives, but those ingredients aren’t so common in Japan, so I’ve made a few changes.

Ingredients
200g (about 1/2 lb) dry pasta (choose a shape with surface area that will hold the sauce)
1 tbsp olive oil
200g ground beef/pork mixture
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tbsp tomato paste
60mL (1/4 cup) white wine
120mL (1/2 cup) beef broth (In Japan, I use a bouillon cube plus 120mL water)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon peel
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (of course fresh is always best, but in Japan I use canned grated cheese and it works fine)

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the ground meat until it loses its pink color. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.

Add rosemary and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a minute or so. Add the wine and beef broth and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add parsley, lemon peel, and grated cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Mix cooked pasta with the ragu, and serve, along with extra grated cheese.

Pumpkin Spice Steamer

pumpkin spice steamerI’ve heard a lot about pumpkin spice lattes this season, and I can imagine the popularity. I don’t drink much coffee, though, so I thought about creating a similar drink without the coffee. It was surprisingly easy, and is much cheaper (and probably healthier) than buying it at a coffee shop. I imagine you could add coffee, too, if that’s your thing!

Ingredients (serves 1)
240mL (1 cup) milk (low fat or whole are both fine; I haven’t tried any other varieties)
2 tsp brown sugar
a sprinkle each of: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt (OR a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice)
1 thin slice fresh ginger (OR a sprinkle of powdered ginger)
2 tbsp pumpkin puree*
a few drops vanilla extract

*Pumpkin puree is not easily found in Japan. I have seen canned pumpkin once at an import store. It’s also available online. Leftover pumpkin puree can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag for months.You can use frozen puree in this recipe, since it’ll thaw in the hot milk.

Instructions

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Heat over medium-low heat until steaming – do not allow the milk to simmer or boil, or a skin will develop on top.