Fried Cheesecake

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quick blogger question: What do you get when you deep fry a cheesecake?
Fried Cheesecake
HEAVEN! Absolute heaven! There is something about frying a cheesecake wrapped in wonton wrappers (or tortillas - trust me just as good!) that just opens up a whole new world of flavour. I never grew up on fried food, nor is it a norm in my house, but every now and then I do love to indulge in some fried food. It is what Jenny Craig would call "My Days". So, reward yourself tonight and have some indulging fried cheesecake.

Fried Cheesecake

Fried Cheesecake
Prep time: 25 min        Cook Time: 40 min           Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
- 1 pkg (250g) cream cheese, softened
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 8 square spring roll wrappers (or small flour tortillas)
- Egg wash (1 egg and 1 cup water; use only if using spring rolls)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- Chocolate sauce, for garnish
- Whipped cream, for garnish

Directions
1. Cheesecake: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8-inch round pan. In a bowl, beat cream cheese with egg. Add icing sugar and vanilla and stir until combined. Pour into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely (Cool faster by placing in the fridge for an hour). Cut cheesecake into 8 slices.
2. Deep-fried Cheesecake: Place each slice on a spring roll wrapper or flour tortilla (add egg wash around edges if using spring roll wrappers). Fold up bottom side of the wrapper, then fold in the sides. Roll up the cheesecake. Meanwhile, combine granulated sugar with cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.
3. In a deep pot, add vegetable oil deep enough to cover each cheesecake roll. Heat to 350˚F. Drop each cheesecake one at a time. Fry for 1-2 minutes until golden-brown. Remove with tongs and place on paper towels to allow excess oil to drain off. Place each fried cheesecake in the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Stir to coat.
4. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and top with whipped cream.

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Creamy Chicken Salad Bake

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I love this recipe so much. It is such a yummy and tasty dish. I got the recipe once a while ago but have modified it many times to fit my taste...now it is tested to perfection :) I have seen other recipes for chicken salad bake and they top it off with crushed potato chips or bread crumbs. You are welcome to try that alternative or stick with the gooey cheesy topping - your choice! As you can see from the recipe I don't add any additional seasonings like salt or pepper, since the mushroom soup and mayonnaise are already packed with lots of taste and flavour...you don't want to over-do it! Sometimes working with the ingredients you have will release their own true flavours! Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Salad Bake


Creamy Chicken Salad Bake
Prep time: 15 min        Cook Time: 30 min           Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- 2 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 2 cups pasta, cooked and drained (penne, spiral, large shell, small shell, etc.)
- 1 cup shredded cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish.
2. Heat olive oil in a deep pan or pot. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the green peas and cook for 3 more minutes.
3. Add cubed chicken breast, mayonnaise, mushroom soup and pasta. Stir to combine well.
4. Pour mixture into greased baking dish. Coat with shredded cheese. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 20-25 minutes. 

Variations:
For a different topping, toss 1 cup soft bread crumbs with 1 tbsp melted butter and sprinkle over chicken mixture before baking.

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Free Valentine's Day Photo Editing

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I was playing around with PicMonkey yesterday and noticed they are offering some Valentine's Day effects that you can apply to your pictures. I started playing around with my wedding picture of my bouquet. PicMonkey offers some tools that are free and others that are a "Royale Feature". I just played around with the free tools :)

Hearts and kisses

Bokeh hearts and romantic text
Head on over to PicMonkey and create your own free Valentine's Day photos!

How To Make A Blog Button {Blogger Tutorial}

You have probably seen many blogs with a "grab my button" spot somewhere on the website. Having a button is an easy way for any other blogger to share your website, and it is the prefect way to market your blog. This opens a door to more visitors and new users. All you need to do is to simply provide the code as well as a preview of what the button looks like. I'll show you how to create a button of your own just like this one:
Taste of August


1. Create Your Button
If you are not already using some image editing software, you need to familiarize yourself with some programs. Don't worry, you don't need to pay an arm and a leg...or anything for that matter! There are many online programs that are offered for free: Pixlr, Ribbet, PicMonkey, BeFunky and iPiccy. I use GIMP, which is a free downloadable open-source photo editing tool. It takes some time to get used to it (believe me, when I first started using it I thought I was going to throw my laptop out the window and be done with blogging! But now I consider my GIMP knowledge as intermediate).

Once you have found your go-to software, upload your image that you want to use as your button and re-size it to 125px by 125px. This is the standard size of buttons so it's advisable to stay within the 100-150px range. For my button, I simply used the same text, background picture and "eat live design" picture of my website header. This keeps with the theme of my blog. You can do whatever you want - include a pic of yourself or use images you normally use on your website. Be creative, but keep it professional - remember you want to attract new visitors to your site!








2. Upload Image to Server
Once you created your button, you need to upload it to a server. This way it is easily retrievable from any website that shares your button. You can use any image hosting site, such as Picasa, ImageShack, Imgur or Photobucket.

Once your photo is uploaded, you need to get the URL code for the image. Depending on your upload server you can simply right-click and select "Copy Image URL".  I used Photobucket to upload my image, so I have to select "Share to Other Services" in the top right area (delineated with red box below).

From there you select"Links" and copy your HTML code.

3. Create Button Code
Now that you have the HTML code for your image, you need to create a code that other bloggers can copy and paste. The basic code the button is:
<a href= “http://www.yoursiteurl.com”><img src=“http://yourbuttonimageurl.jpg /></a>

Make sure to replace the "yoursiteurl" and "yourbuttonimageurl" with your own links.

For my blog, my button code looks like this:
<a href="http://tasteofaugust.blogspot.ca"><img src="http://i1306.photobucket.com/albums/s574/tasteofaugust/TOA_Button_zpse4425eae.jpg" /></a>

And the image should appear like this once the code is copied

4. Add Your Code
In your Blogger layout page, go to "Add a Gadget" and click on "HTML/Java Script".

Copy and paste the following code, replacing the coloured font with your own info. This is the code that will show your button picture as well as the code that others will copy and paste:
<div align="center"> <a href="http://www.yoursiteurl.com" target="_blank"><img  alt="YourBlogTitle"; src="http://yourbuttonimageurl.jpg" /></a> </div>
<div align="center"> <textarea><center><a href="http://www.yoursiteurl.com" target="_blank"><img alt="YourBlogTitle" src="http://yourbuttonimageurl.jpg" /></a></center></textarea></div>

Make sure to replace all purple text with the direct link to your blog, the pink text with the direct link to your button image, and blue text with your blog website name. Notice the target="_blank" in the code? It is simply a way to open up the link to your blog in a new window or tab. That way the user has both the previous (referral) site and new (your blog) site open. Win win for both!

This is what you will end up with:
Taste of August


Have a question? Feel free to ask in the comment section below. I will try my hardest to answer your questions :)

Free Valentine's Day Fonts

Friday, January 25, 2013

I love using fonts for crafts and scrapbooking, especially when they are free! I have a thing for fonts - I love adding them to my pictures when I post up any recipe or craft. It adds a touch of funk and colour to any picture. Plus (for those who are more visual) you can skip all the blah-blah-blah and see pretty pictures with short descriptions!

For those who love to collect free fonts or just add some glam to your pictures or crafts, here are some free fonts offered from my fave website dafont.com! Enjoy!


Skinny Black Bean Brownies

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I found this recipe once when I was searching for beans recipes. It was sort of an accidental find, but after trying this recipe I am so happy I did find it! I promise they do not taste like beans at all! That was my biggest fear before I even tried making them. But something inside me wanted to try them since they sounded so delicious. And the only tool you need to make them is a food processor or blender. These are low in fat because they don't have a single drop of butter, high in fibre due to the beans, and gluten free since there is no flour. And they are so chewy and delicious! A great vegetarian dessert!

Start off with the beans. Process them in a food processor to get a nice bean paste.

Add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3 eggs, 3/4 cups sugar, 3 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Pulse it all together into a smooth batter.

Pour batter into a greased or parchment paper-lined 8x8-inch pan. Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips (you can also do chopped walnuts or pecans). Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.

Enjoy!
Skinny Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies
Prep time: 5 min        Cook Time: 30 min           Yield: 12 brownie squares

Ingredients
- 1 19-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed well
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch salt

- Chopped walnuts, pecans, or chocolate chips for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan, or line with parchment paper.
2. In a food processor, puree black beans until smooth. Add remainder of the ingredients and pulse until smooth and all combined.
3. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with walnuts, pecans or chocolate chips, if using. Bake in centre of the oven for 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow Hearts

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

During the Christmas season I came across this post for homemade marshmallows that were cut into snowflakes using a cookie cutter. So I decided to do the same thing but make some marshmallow hearts that are perfect for Valentine's Day! A perfect hot drink to warm up the heart! :)

Needed: some marshmallows, a heart cookie cutter, a knife and some vegetable oil.

Grease both the knife and cookie cutter. Cut each marshmallow in half horizontally.

Press the cookie cutter into the centre of each marshmallow half.

If your marshmallows get super sticky and gooey, rub them in some powdered sugar.

Add them to your fave hot chocolate mix and serve it to your loved one! Enjoy!

Creamy Hot Chocolate
Prep time: 5 min        Cook Time: 5 min           Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp sugar

Directions
1. In a saucepan, add all ingredients and whisk until well combined. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until chocolate has melted. Pour into mugs. Add heart-shaped marshmallows. Serve.

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Wedding Preparations - Weight Loss Challenge

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I wanted to make a post on my pre-wedding weight-loss journey, since I have been married for six months now and have been really thinking back to my wedding weight loss challenge that started around this time one year ago. It is also a good source for those who are getting married this year and are thinking about getting into shape.

Me and my hubby were dating for over 7 years before he popped the question. We were high school sweethearts and I met him at the end of my grade 11 year. Back then I took care of how I looked, tried to stay up to date with fashion trends, and always made sure to pretty myself up for any outing, especially on our dates.

This lasted for 3 years or so. I then started getting too comfortable in the relationship, and in combination with all the studying, exams and stress during my undergraduate and graduate studies, I ate, and ate, and ATE. Thus, I gained 20 pounds in 6 years. And so I didn't feel the need to dress up or "beautify" myself. The pic below is of me in my last semester of my master's in 2011. Sad, so sad!

In late 2011 I was trying on wedding dresses and picked "the one", but it was two sizes too small. I was informed, however, that it can be taken out and altered. I told myself I will take action and lose weight so I can fit into my dress. Not only did the alterations cost a lot (we are talking about $100+ just for taking the dress out!) I also wanted to feel comfortable in my dress and look my prettiest on my wedding day! That is when I took action! I knew my friend (and bridesmaid) did her P90X exercise ritual at home, so I asked if I can join her. And thus I started my own exercise ritual*!

I took three days off for wedding planning and worked hard for four days. Because I was working full-time, I had to exercise in the evenings. This is just an example of what my week was like (approximately). If I had an appointment or meeting for the wedding planning, I would skip that day and either make it up in the week or add it on to the following week.
At first, it was hard for me to cut down on my snacks. I love sweets and I love to bake! But after a month of working hard I saw I was only two pounds lighter - no joke! So I knew I had to cut back on my baking and sugar intake. We also changed up our exercise routine and started doing a different exercise program - Insanity*.
The first time we tried it, we both thought we were going to die (and I'm talking the first three minutes in!). However, we stuck to it and eventually got used to it. The other bridesmaids joined in by May and it felt good to exercise as a group! By May I was pretty much all done my wedding planning and only had appointments to confirm my choices, so I was sticking to this schedule pretty well!

By June I was afraid to step on the scale. I felt like I did lose weight, since I could definitely feel it in my clothing. But I didn't want to be disappointed with another pound or two that I might have lost. However, when I had my dress fitting, the lady fitting me said (and I quote) "You don't need to get anything altered hun". When I heard that I was so ready to give her the biggest hug and kiss in the world! When I got home that day I stepped on that scale and was honestly the happiest! I was TEN pounds lighter than what I started in January!
 
When I first started this weight loss journey, I was expecting to lose some weight, but I never actually set a target weight goal - just thought of losing as much as possible within 5 months. After five months, I lost 10 pounds. I am so much happier now and make sure to dress up when I go out. I still exercise (although the holiday season really threw me off track with both setting time to exercise and over-indulging in sweets).

As the warm weather is kicking in, I am really motivated to lose the other 10 pounds I have left. I started the Insanity 60-day program, and you can read about my journey here.

*Just so you know: I am in no way affiliated or associated with the workout programs mentioned in this post. This is not a sponsored post.

NAIAS 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

This weekend we decided to take a road trip to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI. It was opening weekend, so we went on Saturday, the first day of the show.
Overall it was a great show. Many companies revealed their concept cars. We didn't have a chance to see all of the companies and their concept cars - mainly because the place got packed by noon and it was a hassle to walk through the centre - but we managed to snap some really neat ones that we liked and did see.

One concept car that I really liked was the Toyota Fun Vii (although it was first revealed to the public during the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show). This car of the future allows the user to change the exterior skin of the car, displaying images, colours, graphics or messages. The interior can also be changed to fit the mood of the passengers. Basically when I saw this car I thought of the movie iRobot. At the auto show, you were able to take a picture of yourself and watch how easily your image can be displayed on the car.

Other concept cars we saw were:
Toyota Corolla Furia

Toyota FCV-R

BMW i8

Volkswagen Cross Coupe

At one point, we ended up going through some open doors and into the Ford lounge - we needed a quieter place to sit, chill, and observe. I don't think this was open to the public since there was only our group and two Ford reps there. But no one said anything and we weren't doing any harm other than sitting there and observing. At least we have pics to brag about (hehe!).

My overall experience with the auto show was not that amazing. I have been to one other show in the past, and this just looked like a repeat. Yeah the concept cars were neat to look at, but to me there seemed to be a lack of technological advancement (well, other than the Toyota Fun Vii). It does seem like there are more electric and hybrid models for 2014 for most companies, which is a good thing. I am all for greener and cleaner energy! I guess I was wanting to see more solar powered vehicles or more technologically advanced vehicles than to see 2013 replicas :)

Meal Planning - How I Stay Organized

Friday, January 18, 2013

The more I learn to cook and bake, the more I see the need to be organized with my meals. When I first started living with my husband (then, fiance), I noticed how easily it was for both of us to say "let's go out tonight!" Sure, a date night, but every night? And slowly I noticed how little I was paying attention to finances and what I was consuming. Pastas, burgers, and ethic cuisines were becoming our staple foods. Yes I did cook, once in a while, but after coming home from work I really did not feel the need to make anything on some nights.

However, that all started to change about a year ago, when I committed myself to organizing, planning and executing a weekly menu. I read many great articles on menu planning online that really helped to motivate me. I stuck to this and noticed how much I was saving on my groceries and take-out. It helped with our finances, helped me be more in control of what I am eating, and helped me gain my cooking and baking skills. Yes we still eat out, but this has cut down from 2-3 times a week to 2-3 times a month. With what I have learned I wanted to share this knowledge with you all.

1. Do a Kitchen Check
First you need to see what you have already on hand so you don't end up spending more money than you need to. If you have a pack of bell peppers, maybe you can make stuffed peppers one night, or fry some sliced peppers and top your chicken fajitas another night. If you have some chicken breasts in the freezer, incorporate some chicken recipes instead of buying pork chops and steak to eat this week. You should always start with what you have.

2. Scan for Recipes
After seeing what ingredients you have, scan either your recipe books or the internet for some ideas. You might even come across some recipes that you are interested in trying in the near future. Print them out! I always make sure to print off any recipes I come across. I stick them in a folder that I have that is dedicated to only meal planning. This way I have all the recipes I plan to make in the near future. When I am done with the recipe, I stick it with my other cookbooks until next time.

3. Make a List
Make sure you make a list of items you need to buy from the store. This way, when you do your grocery shopping you stick to your list and don't end up buying items just because you might cook with it. I did this at the beginning - buying things I thought of making but by the time I came to actually making it the product was expired in my pantry. A waste of money and time!

4. Make your Plan
Using the free downloadable meal planner I made, you can easily fill in what meals you plan to make. If I find a recipe online, I write down the name of the recipe and in brackets the website or cookbook it came from.

5. Search the Flyers
Once you have your list of things you need to buy, make sure to check and see if they are on sale. Why buy at regular price when you can save and buy on sale? That is what I always do. Yes there are items that never come on sale, so I buy them when I need to. But if you know broccoli comes on sale every three weeks at the stores then hold off on your recipe and wait for it to go on sale.

6. Go Shopping
Make sure you bring your list and you stick to it! Buy the ingredients you will need for the entire week, to avoid having to go out every day to buy them. Make sure to always have a back-up recipe in case you don't find all the ingredients you were looking for.

Hope these steps help you in your menu planning!
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