National Cheesecake Day!

Did you guys know that July 30 is unofficially declared National Cheesecake Day in America? To celebrate this special holiday, I went to a local Cheesecake Factory chain for lunch to indulge in half-price cheesecakes! I had Tex-Mex Eggrolls for an appetizer first and then had Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheesecake for dessert. My friend got a new cheesecake they're debuting called Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake (pictured in the back). My cheesecake was pretty good! I'd definitely get it again. I tried a bite of my friend's cheesecake but wasn't too impressed. If you're a big peanut butter fan, unlike me, then I'm sure you're enjoy their new creation.

Apparently other cheesecake stores are also having some kind of celebrations, so make sure to check their websites for great deals. Happy Cheesecake Day!



Hummus is one of my favorite ways to snack on fresh vegetables (it's a lot healthier than mayonnaise-based dips!). I usually just buy pre-made hummus at grocery stores but I decided to make my own today. It's super easy and much cheaper, not to mention it only takes seconds to make. I found tahini (sesame paste) in the kosher isle of QFC. The good thing about making your own hummus is that you can control what goes inside. If you like your hummus to be really creamy, you can add more olive oil. Make sure you adjust ingredients slowly though. It's a lot easier to add things than to remove them. I made plain hummus, but you can have fun with toppings. Toasted pine nuts, roasted peppers, and olives add great flavors.

1 16-oz can of chickpeas, drained
4 tbsp water
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil + more for garnish
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
Some paprika

- Blend all the ingredients (except for paprika and extra oil) in the food processor until creamy and mixed.
- Drizzle some olive oil on top and garnish with paprika.


Bellevue Arts Fair

I went to the Bellevue Arts Fair in Downtown Bellevue, WA on Saturday and saw some cool paintings and sculptures by the local artists. I should've posted this on Saturday so I could've encouraged some of the local readers to check out the festival (it ended on Sunday). Oh well, maybe next year!

I really liked these giant animal sculptures (they move too!), but I don't think I have the money to buy or place to put them!

These coat racks are a great way to recycle your old spoons and forks. It would be cute to have one of these in the kitchen for hanging aprons and other cooking-related items.

I promise I'll do a food post soon. Thanks for reading!


Strawberry and Rosemary Shortcake

Strawberries are in season right now, so I used that as an excuse to make strawberry shortcakes. Who can resist strawberries and homemade whipped cream on top of freshly baked biscuits right out of the oven? To the classic Betty Crocker recipe, I added a little bit of dried rosemary. Ever since I watched Giada De Laurentiis make her Strawberry and Rosemary Scones on Food Network, I've wanted to try this flavor combination. To be honest, I was a little skeptical at first, but my strawberry and rosemary shortcakes turned out really tasty! I liked the woodsy warmth from the rosemary with the sweetness from the strawberries. Do you guys know of other seemingly strange flavor combinations?

(Adapted from Betty Crocker; makes 4 servings)

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter
1/2 egg
1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

- In a bowl, mix the strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar and let stand about 1 hour.
- Heat the oven at 425 degrees F.
- For the shortcakes: Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl; cut in the butter with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; add the egg and milk until mixed.
- Drop the dough by 4 spoonfuls and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
- Beat the whipping cream with sugar and vanilla long enough to form soft peaks.
- Assemble the strawberries and whipped cream on top of the shortcakes.


Vegetable Panino

I've always preferred hot sandwiches over cold ones, so when I finally got a grill pan over the weekend I was very excited to make my first panino ever. I had some vegetables in the kitchen, so I decided to roast them and use them as fillings for the sandwich. Provolone is a great choice of cheese for this sandwich as it's sharper than other types (i.e., mozzarella) and melts beautifully. The basil adds freshness to otherwise a bit greasy sandwich.

2 slices bread (I used ciabatta)
2 slices roasted eggplant
2 slices roasted red pepper
1 tbsp roasted onions
3 fresh basil leaves
1 slice provolone cheese
2-3 tsp butter or olive oil

- Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.
- Slice the vegetables, coat with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the vegetables on a cooking sheet for 15 minutes.
- Heat panini grill over medium heat and spray Pam.
- Brush one side of each slice of bread with butter or olive oil (I used herb butter).
- Assemble the sandwich by placing the vegetables, basil and cheese between the two slices of bread (buttered side inside).
- Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until brown and crispy.

Baked Salmon with Herb Butter

I had originally made herb butter with the intention of making Chicken Kiev. But when I realized that I had accidentally bought chicken tenders and not breasts, I decided to use the butter for a salmon dish. The butter melts beautifully on the baked salmon and the shallots and lemon juice in the butter really enhance the flavor of the fish.

1 8-oz salmon fillet
1 tbsp olive oil

- Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.
- Coat the salmon with oil and season with salt.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes until cooked.
- Serve with 1/2 to 1 tbsp herb butter on top of the fish.

Herb Butter
1 stick butter
2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt

- Mix all the ingredients.
- Refrigerate for an hour until solidified.


Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was craving something sweet after dinner, so I decided to bake some cookies. I recently bought "The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook" on the recommendation of a friend, so I decided to try one of the recipes in the book. This recipe is very similar to many of the popular cookie recipes except for two things: it uses melted butter (as opposed to room temperature butter) to achieve a chewy texture and an additional egg yolk to prevent the cookies from becoming tough. I didn't want to make too many cookies, so I halved all the ingredients.

1 cup + 1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips

- Heat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with a parchment paper.
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- Beat the butter and sugars until smooth; add the eggs and vanilla until incorporated.
- Mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients until combined; add the chocolate until incorporated.
- Divide the dough into 9 portions and place them on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.


Roasted Vegetables with Cheese

This is one of the first recipes that my mom taught me when I was in college. It's easy, fast, and healthy. I used eggplant, zucchini and red bell pepper, but you can also use other vegetables such as yellow squash and red onion. Make sure all the diced pieces are about the same size, so that they'll cook evenly. Adding 1/2 tsp of dried rosemary or basil also enhances the flavor of this dish. Leftover makes a great filling for an omelette or a frittata.

1 eggplant, cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp crumbled cheese (i.e., blue cheese, feta)

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Coat the vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Spread the vegetables evenly on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle cheese on top.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.


Steak Salad

In the past, I've had so many failures cooking a steak. It would be too raw to eat (and I'd have to resort to using a microwave to finish cooking - a really bad idea!) or too overcooked that it looked and tasted like rubber.

One problem was that I was reluctant to use high heat... I was afraid that too much smoke in my apartment might set off the fire alarm for the whole building, irritating every single resident in my apartment complex. Now that I know that it's OK to use high heat as long as I leave the window open and let the smoke out, cooking a steak is not so intimidating!

1 steak (I used rib eye)
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 bag of arugula
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp blue cheese, crumbled

- Bring the steak to room temperature.
- Pat dry the steak with paper towels.
- Rub the steak with vegetable oil and season.
- Sear the steak for 4 minutes on each side in a pan over medium to high heat.
- Take out the steak, cover with foil, and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Slice the steak.
- Mix the arugula with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Put the sliced steak over the salad and crumble blue cheese on top.


Greek Yogurt with Honey, Dates, and Nuts

I usually eat savory breakfast with eggs. But when I'm not in the mood and don't have time to bake, I often opt for Greek yogurt. I've tried a few other brands, but Fage is the best in my opinion. It's all natural and has a very thick, creamy texture.

To the yogurt, I added honey and chopped dates for sweetness and toasted pine nuts for crunchiness and nutty flavor. Because pine nuts have a high fat content, you don't need to use oil when toasting them. Pine nuts tend to go rancid fairly quickly, so make sure to store them in the freezer. I used pine nuts, but you can pretty much use any type of nuts you have in your pantry. Candied nuts are great too.

1 7-oz Greek yogurt
3 dried date, chopped
1-2 tbsp honey
1-2 tbsp nuts (i.e., pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds)

- Toast the nuts in a single layer in a pan over medium heat.
- Shake the pan regularly to ensure even browning.
- When the nuts are lightly browned, turn off the heat and let them cool.
- Assemble all the ingredients.