Baking

Pintertest #2: Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

Yesterday was National Cheesecake Day, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and look up a too-good-to-be-real recipe on Pinterest. I found this one for raspberry swirl cheesecake and thought that it looked a little too pretty and perfect, so I decided it was perfect for Pintertesting.

Not sure what Pintertesting is? It’s for those pins that look a little too good to be true, so I test them out in this little series. The name was coined by Yvette, and the first post can be found here. The link to the board is in the sidebar in case you want to follow it.

Anyway, the pin linked back to another blog, which linked back to the original recipe by Martha Stewart. The blog made only a couple small tweaks to the baking process. I’m here to make a couple more.

Original Recipe

INGREDIENTS

1 cup finely ground graham crackers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 ounces raspberries
32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
Boiling water, for roasting pan

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap exterior of a 9-inch springform pan (including base) in a double layer of foil; set aside.
Stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom of pan. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Process raspberries in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pass puree through a fine sieve into a small bowl; discard solids. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar, and set aside.
Put cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in a slow, steady stream. Add salt and vanilla; mix until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until just combined (do not overmix). Pour cream cheese filling over crust.
Drop raspberry sauce by the teaspoon on top. With a wooden skewer or toothpick, swirl sauce into filling.
Set cake pan inside a large, shallow roasting pan. Transfer to oven. Carefully ladle boiling water into roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake until cake is set but still slightly wobbly in center, 60 to 65 minutes.
Transfer cake pan to rack; let cake cool completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, 6 hours or overnight. Before unmolding, run a knife around edge of cake.

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake
This is what my cheesecake looked like after baking and setting up overnight.

Refining the Recipe

To tell when cheesecake is done baking, you have to see if the middle of it wiggles. My cheesecake may have gotten slightly over-baked, because I had no idea how much the middle is supposed to wiggle when you gently shake the pan. Fortunately, you won’t make the same mistake because I found this video of an Australian guy explaining how to tell. You’re welcome.

One of the ingredients for the crust is finely ground up graham cracker. To make your own ground up graham cracker, take 6-8 whole sheets of graham crackers, and grind it up in a food processor until fine. This should make about 1 cup, which is what the recipe calls for. Because I used up my food processor for graham crackers, I had to use the blender to puree the raspberries.

Speaking of pureeing the berries, I found straining out the seeds to be a pain in the butt since I didn’t have a sieve. I ended up using a food mill, which didn’t get all the seeds out. I also tried using a cheesecloth, but that just ended up making a mess. My suggestion if you don’t have a sieve is to just leave the seeds in there and don’t bother with straining. It doesn’t matter and won’t affect the swirling. (My favorite part of this was the swirling.)

Another tip I have for you is to let your cream cheese sit out and come to room temperature. It will be much easier to mix up and you’ll avoid having little chunks in your cheesecakes.

The Result

Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

I discovered that yes, it does come out about as pretty as the picture, as long as it doesn’t brown on top. Despite being slightly over-cooked, it came out light and fluffy and delicious. This recipe is well worth trying out and it’s super fun to swirl the raspberry puree. Also, using homegrown berries like I did just gives it that extra little something when you serve it to guests. You can tell them “I made this from scratch and grew it from scratch, so it’s got extra love in it.”

Jewelry

Harry Potter Charm Bracelet

Tomorrow, July 31st, is Harry Potter’s 35th birthday. In honor of it, I thought it would be appropriate to share the Harry Potter charm bracelet I made about a year ago. Once upon a time, this bracelet was up for sale on my Etsy shop, but I have since learned that I had it up for sale illegally because it wasn’t licensed or anything, like it should have been. This means, unfortunately, that it won’t be appearing in my shop for the grand reopening on August 1st, but you can admire it here and make one of your own if you want. (I’m still going to sell charm bracelets, however, they won’t be be inspired by anything that’s copyrighted.)

I prefer charm bracelets that are balanced well with both the charms and other beads that add a pop of color. I think the colorful beads add more character and can be customized to fit different people’s tastes (like if you have a friend who’s a fan of Gryffindor, and another who’s a fan of Slytherin).

Harry Potter Charm Bracelet

Sorry, Slytherins, but I made this bracelet with Gryffindor colors. You can’t tell very well from the picture, but the gold beads I used had holes that were too large for the head pins I. I had to put little gold seed beads before the larger gold beads so that they would stay on the head pins. It worked out well and the seed beads blend in nicely with everything.

Harry Potter Charm Bracelet

Here is a close-up of the first four charms. A snake (I’m not going to totally exclude you, Slytherins.), a lightning bolt, a witch hat, and a reindeer/stag.

Harry Potter Charm Bracelet

Here are the other four charms. A train (Hogwart’s Express), a feather (for a Snitch or Hippogriff), an owl, and a dragon.

There you have it! Charm bracelets are a really great gift idea. Fans of any sort, whether they are into sports teams or books or movies or TV shows, will probably be tickled pink by a charm bracelet inspired by their favorite things.

Usually, I publish my jewelry-themed posts on Tuesdays, but earlier this week was crazy busy. I am planning to publish the baking post at the usual time tomorrow, since later today I’ll be making a little something for National Cheesecake Day, which happens to be today. (Whatever could I be making?)

Books and Beverages

Books and Beverages (#5)

July caught me off guard in how busy it was. Summer classes and preparations to reopen my Etsy shop have been huge time sucks and left me with little time to read. (My Etsy shop will be reopening in a week, so there’s not much to look at right now. Check the Jewelry section for sneak previews.) I did manage to read one book, however, so it wasn’t a total loss. I guess that means that this month, Books and Beverages is a bit of a misleading title. It should probably read Book and Beverages, but for the sake of continuity I kept it the same. I’m still ahead on my Goodreads 2015 reading goal, which I increased to 20 books, so I could afford to read only the one book. However, I don’t think I’ll be accomplishing the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge at this rate, but who knows.

Books

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

This is another one of those memoirs written by someone under 40. However, I found this one to be the more interesting and compelling one out of the three memoirs by young authors that I’ve read. (The other two being The Invisible Girls and Still.) Anyway, this memoir follows Mitchell’s relationship and journey with food from when she’s 5 to when she’s almost 30. As a child, food was used to fill the loneliness she felt from having an alcoholic dad and a mom who was working several jobs and rarely home. Throughout middle school and high school she tries a few fad diets and experimental weight loss studies, but continues to gain. It’s not until after her freshman year of college when her mom comes to pick her up and is appalled at how much bigger she is. Without a scale during that whole year, she’s shocked to see that she’s nearly 300 pounds. She gets a gym membership and works out with a good friend and overhauls her relationship with food. She finds that eating more of something doesn’t make it taste more delicious and learns to savor her food. After a year or so, she loses a lot of weight and then finds herself facing another struggle with food in that she becomes obsessed with working out and counting calories, scared that she’s going to gain it all back. She seeks therapy, but still struggles with her relationship with food and her self-image. You’ll have to read it to see how it ends, because I felt like I’ve given away too much of the story already. This book is for anyone who has ever struggled in their relationship with food, which I’m pretty sure is just about everyone, including me. It’s also interesting if you’ve ever wondered how someone could let themselves gain so much weight and gets you to empathize and understand why. At the heart, it’s really a story about self-acceptance and following Mitchell’s journey as she finally starts to respect and love herself for who she is and who she was. The first half of the book is written very beautifully and has eloquent descriptions, but the second half kind of veers off that course a little bit and takes a different focus. There is a recipe in the back, which I think is probably going to end up in one of my baking posts given how deliciously it was described in the book. Oh, and Andie Mitchell even has a blog of her own called Can You Stay for Dinner?

Beverages

Teavana Shaken Iced Mango Black Tea Lemonade

The name is a bit of a mouthful, but I decided to try this at Starbucks the other day because they were advertising it as new. I’d had the Peach Green Tea Lemonade before and enjoyed it, so I figured I’d enjoy this one too. Fortunately, I was right. It was very good and very refreshing on a hot day. I tried to pace myself while drinking it, but it was still gone pretty soon.

Snapple LiberTEA

They had a six-pack of these for sale around the Fourth, so I figured I’d try it out. They combined red raspberry, white peach, and blueberry teas all into one beverage. It’s pretty delicious and also a great refreshment on a hot day. The flavors all kind of blend together for a nice fruity tea that makes you feel all patriotic inside.

Baking

Peach Ice Cream Sundae

Today is peach ice cream day, and since I don’t have the time to make peach ice cream from scratch, I made a sundae instead. (Another suitable alternative would be going to Chick-fil-A and getting a peach milkshake, by the way.) This recipe (I suppose we can call it that) is pretty simple and results in a delicious treat for a hot summer day. And it’s got peaches in it, so you’re getting in a serving a fruit and you can pretend it’s healthy (it’s not).

Happy Peach Ice Cream Day!
Happy Peach Ice Cream Day!

You Will Need:

  • A fresh peach, pitted and diced (I prefer the yellow flesh peaches)
  • Vanilla ice cream, 2-3 scoops
  • Caramel sundae topping sauce
  • A graham cracker, crushed or crumbled up
  • Whipped cream and maraschino cherry (optional)

Step 1: Take half of your diced peach and place it in the bottom of an ice cream bowl.

Step 1

Step 2: Put 2-3 scoops of ice cream on top of the peach. Top the ice cream with the crushed up graham cracker.

Step 2

Step 3: Sprinkle on the rest of the diced peach and drizzle on all the caramel sauce you want. (The bottle of caramel sauce I used was running low.)

Step 3

Step 4: Finish it off with the optional whipped cream and cherry and enjoy!

I really like this because you can build your own sundae by choosing the toppings you do or don’t want. This is my favorite combo of toppings because you get the fruitiness of the peach, the crunch of the graham cracker, the ooey-gooeyness of the caramel sauce, and who doesn’t love whipped cream and a cherry on top? The textures and flavors of this particular sundae just make me so happy inside and I wanted to share that happiness. This is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

Jewelry

What to do with Leftover Beads

Sometimes I’ll find myself with a bunch of leftover beads after I finish a few projects. And more often than not, I have no idea what to do with the leftover, mismatched beads. I have heard of people making cool pieces from leftover beads, so I wanted to see if I could do it to. I threw together some leftover beads that went together and strung them up into a necklace. Here is the result:

What to do with leftover beads

At the top of the necklace toward the clasp, I used some clear pink seed beads. Then the necklace branches off into two strands. The two strands are made up of the bead mix I threw together. In it are some round faceted glass beads that have the aurora borealis finish, which reflects in blues and purples. There are also some pink rose quartz chips, bicone crystals with more of the AB finish, metal spacers, a few gray glass pearls, and some small black beads.

I think the necklace came together quite well and I’m glad I did the two strands because it gives it a sort of movement. I like the black beads for this reason as well, because they have so much contrast and your eyes are drawn to them. I also really like the pink tones, so this necklace could go with anything pink, or even black. Basically, I really like this necklace and that it came out so well after just throwing some things together.

I highly recommend trying this if you’re having any beader’s block. It really forces you to just start putting things together that you may have overlooked, and the results can be great.

An Unrelated Note

I’ve talked some on here about Etsy before, and even wrote a post on why it’s hard to sell jewelry on Etsy. Back in early 2014, I owned an Etsy shop. I had very little idea of what I was doing then and did not do very well. Now that I know a thing or two more, it’s occurred to me that all this jewelry I have made might as well be making me money instead of just sitting around in little plastic bags. So I’ve been pondering the idea of reopening shop, and I’d like your input on whether or not you would honestly consider buying any of the jewelry featured on this blog, either for yourself or to give as a gift. If so, let me know which pieces intrigue you, and if not, let me know what you’d rather buy instead. Also, if you have any honest opinions on my photography, please share anything constructive. Your input will help me to decide if reopening is a good idea, and what I should sell if I do. Thanks!

Baking

Sugar Cookies!

In honor of Sugar Cookie Day, which was yesterday, I made some delicious sugar cookies from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book. You can find the recipe after scrolling through some tips here. Since there isn’t a major holiday coming up, I decided to just make some simple cookies and not bother with cookie cutters. I used the rim of a plastic cup instead, which worked great and the cookies turned out perfect. Depending on the size of the cookies, this recipe should yield about 2-3 dozen cookies.

Sugar Cookies!

You Will Need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Colored sugars, sprinkles, cookie icing, etc.

Directions:

Step 1: In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Set aside.

Step 2: With an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed. Then, add the egg and vanilla until well incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Step 3: On a low speed, slowly pour in the rest of the flour mixture until dough just starts to form. Do not overmix.

Step 4: Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or plastic storage bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight until firm.

Step 5: Preheat oven to 325°F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about a 1/4″ thickness. Cut dough with cookie cutters (or rim of cup). Place on ungreased cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Decorate with sprinkles and/or colored sugars.

Step 5

Step 6: Bake for 13-15 minutes, just before the cookies start to brown. Be careful that they don’t brown. Immediately transfer the cookies to a flat surface. Once cool, decorate with icing if desired.

Step 6

Enjoy! Sugar cookies are a fun way to get others involved and to help with with your baking. Practically everyone can put sprinkles on a cookie and decorating is the second most fun part next to eating the cookies!

Jewelry

Pink Jasper Set

Pink Jasper Set

One day browsing in the bead shop, I came upon these really pretty jasper beads. Although the label claims they are red leopard jasper, I think they look more pink. Anyway, I found some other beads to go with it, some plain crystals and some bamboo coral. I first made a necklace and had enough left to make a matching pair of earrings. I think they came out quite well.

The Necklace

Pink Jasper Necklace
I made this one for myself because I liked the beads so much. However, I do wish that I had changed up the pattern a bit or given it a pendant just to add something extra and make it less predictable. I still like its simplicity, however, and I’ll wear it with pink shirts sometimes. I like the contrast between the brightness of the bamboo rose coral beads and the darkness in the jasper beads.

The Earrings

Pink Jasper Earrings
I had just a few of the jasper beads leftover, so there wasn’t much I could do except make some earrings or buy more and make another necklace. I chose to go with the former route, and this is the product. It features the same jasper and coral beads as the necklace, and I even added a wrapped loop at the top to give that extra little something. The jasper beads don’t quite match, but I kind of like that they’re not perfectly symmetrical.

And that’s it! Maybe if I buy some more jasper and coral beads I’ll make a bracelet, but that isn’t something I see on the horizon in the near future. There’s the whole issue that you need money to buy more beads. Anyway, something that will happen in the near future is my guest post on xo, Yvette. So I suggest you subscribe or keep an eye out on her blog for that post, which will be on jewelry. That’s all I’m saying. No spoilers.