Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

So you go to college, like you’re supposed to, and you get degrees in the artsy things that you love. You don’t have to do any math, and that is super awesome. But then there’s real life, and you have to pay the rent. And you love food, so you definitely want to eat stuff that doesn’t taste like cardboard. In order to get a paycheck, you find yourself having to do math. All the time. Every day. It’s easy, but it still hurts your brain, and your soul rebels a little bit.

That’s why this weekend I had to make this chocolate peanut butter cheesecake. It soothes my soul. Baking math doesn’t count as real math because it ends in completely joyful deliciousness.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

This recipe was the May cookalong at the website of my idol, Nigella Lawson. Have I told you lately how much I love her? Immensely. Not only is she completely mesmerizing to look upon, but I love her whole philosophy. Even with her beauty, talent, and fame, she manages to be humble, approachable, and unapologetically indulgent. Read all her books. Just do it.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake bite

This cheesecake is everything you hoped it would be. It’s rich, dense, and smooth, and absolutely must be accompanied by a tall glass of milk. Chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite flavor combinations. My husband’s not really a fan. He finished his piece in about twelve seconds. Even people who think they won’t like will love it.

If I’ve learned anything from Nigella, it’s that life is meant to be enjoyed. You don’t need to apologize or feel guilty about doing the things that make you happy. Like eating cheesecake. It’s super awesome.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Yields 1
Fantastically rich peanut butter chocolate cheesecake heaven
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
for the crust
  1. 1 sleeve graham crackers
  2. 100 grams (1/2 cup) dark chocolate chips
  3. 50 grams (4 Tbsp) butter, melted
for the filling
  1. 500 grams (16 ounces) cream cheese, room temp
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 3 egg yolks (whites can be saved in a zip top bag in the freezer)
  4. 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
  5. 1/2 cup sour cream
  6. 250 grams (1 cup) smooth peanut butter
for the topping
  1. 1 cup sour cream
  2. 100 grams (1 cup) milk chocolate chips
  3. 30 grams (2 Tbsp) brown sugar
for the crust
  1. Give the graham crackers a good smash up before opening the sleeve just to break them up a bit. I just smack them with the heel of my hand.
  2. Dump the graham crackers into your food processor and process until you achieve small crumbs.
  3. Add your dark chocolate chips to the food processor and pulse several times to break up the chips a bit.
  4. With the processor running pour in the melted butter and mix until everything is combined. It only takes a few seconds.
  5. If you don’t have a food processor, just smash up your chocolate and graham crackers in a zip top bag. Anything heavy will work. Rolling pin, sledge hammer. Just be careful.
  6. Press your wet crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. I use a piece of wax paper to keep from getting crumb hands.
  7. Park your crust in the fridge while you proceed with your filling.
for the filling
  1. Preheat your oven to 340.
  2. Rinse out your food processor (you could also use a mixer), then add the cream cheese. Give it a spin for about thirty seconds to make sure it’s all nice and smooth. This will make it easier to combine all your ingredients as you go.
  3. Add the rest of your ingredients, processing for a few seconds after each one. Scrape down your bowl with a spatula, and give it one final spin to make sure everything is smoothly incorporated.
  4. Pour your filling over your crust and smooth the top. Bake for 50 minutes. The top should be just set. Take the cheesecake out of the oven while you work on the topping.
for the topping
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over low heat.
  2. Stir frequently to incorporate the chocolate and the sour cream.
  3. Once everything is melted and smooth, gently spread the chocolate mixture over the cheesecake.
  4. Return to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely on the counter. (If you put it in the fridge too soon, condensation will develop and you’ll have water spots on your chocolate topping. It’s perfectly edible, just looks a bit different.)
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
  7. Remove from refrigerator. Carefully remove springform ring.
  8. Slice and indulge and try not to think about algebra.
  9. Store in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

Star Wars Day & Two Cocktails

Star Wars Cocktails

Okay, I know Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and there are burritos and margaritas and stuff. That’s totally awesome. But dudes! Saturday is Star Wars day! May the fourth be with you!

You can go hardcore and watch all six movies in one day like we did a couple of years ago. It’s totally doable. Make sure you have plenty of breakfast pizza, Swiss and bacon dip, and lots and lots of beverages. Preferably of the adult variety,  if you are one of those. Because what’s a movie marathon without a drinking game?

The first shot is the toughest. May the force be with you!
The first shot is the toughest. May the force be with you!

Here’s how to play.

  1. Put some minor characters’ names into a hat or something, then have each person choose a name. Whenever that character comes on screen, you have to drink.
  2. Whenever a lightsaber is in use, drink until it has been switched off.
  3. Whenever a stormtrooper or droid is killed, drink.
  4. And best of all, whenever someone says “May the force be with you,” take a shot. 

It’s gonna be a long, awesome day.

Lando

Costumes are highly recommended. I mean, you might as well get into it and embrace your inner nerd. I don’t recommend spending any money on it. Just twist your hair into two buns and call yourself Princess Leia. If you own it, no one will question you. Or if you’re a human with potential facial hair, a stick-on mustache totally makes you Lando Calrissian.

Stormtrooper Crew
photo by Lara Grimm

Or you could go all out like these guys. They do events all over Honolulu. They wear these full plastic suits with face smothering helmets in public. Guys, it’s always summer in Honolulu. That is some serious commitment. Respect.

r2d2 and c309

In case you’re not sure what to drink, my live-in bartender, who also happens to be my husband, has created two new cocktails for you.The R2D2, is blue and white and will probably save your ass when you really need it to. Then there’s C3PO, human cyborg relations. This drink is golden, sweet, and a little bit fancy, just like everyone’s favorite droid. Oh, and it contains Red Bull. That’s gotta be why he’s so high strung. Trust me, these are the droids you are looking for.

I hope you let your inner nerd fighter shine through this weekend and spend a little time enjoying a cocktail in a galaxy far far away.

The droids you are looking for

R2D2
Serves 1
A cocktail inspired by the most helpful droid in the galaxy
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Total Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 parts blue curacao
  2. 1 part coconut milk
  3. 1 part coconut rum
  4. *all ingredients should be chilled
Instructions
  1. Pour blue curacao into your glass.
  2. Shake coconut milk and coconut rum with ice.
  3. Straining out the ice, pour coconut mixture over the back of a spoon slowly so that it floats on top of the blue stuff.
  4. Mix together before drinking.
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
C3PO, Human Cyborg Relations
Serves 1
A little bit fancy, a little bit high strung
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Total Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 shot lemon vodka
  2. 1 shot lilikoi (passion fruit) vodka (if you can’t get lilikoi, you can double the lemon vodka)
  3. 1 shot Red Bull
  4. 2 shots pineapple orange juice
  5. a plate of sugar for the rim
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in your cocktail shaker and shake with ice.
  2. Wet a paper towel and press the top of your glass into paper towel. Then press the top of your glass into the plate of sugar.
  3. Straining out the ice, pour cocktail into waiting glass.
  4. Let a robot take care of all your worries while you enjoy a well-deserved drink.
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

Awesome in April

The hibiscus lady at the KCC Farmer's Market is super awesome!
The hibiscus lady at the KCC Farmer’s Market is super awesome!

April has come and gone and we’ve reached the end of our first full month of Awesome on $20. No idea how that happened. I’m so thrilled that a few people have found their way here. Isn’t the internet crazy? Indeed.

Here’s the awesomest stuff April offered up. Let’s do this every month! And let’s invent new words.

joy_art-280x280

Awesomest Way to Get Funny Looks at Work

My new obsession is the Joy the Baker Podcast. I’m honestly a little sad that this has been happening for two years without me. Luckily, when you subscribe on iTunes, you can get every episode, and then listen to two a day at work. There’s a strong chance you’ll burst out laughing while everyone is quietly clicking away in their cubicle, then everybody will look at you like you’re a freak. It’s okay. They don’t even know how awesome you are.

Joy and her sidekick Tracy of Shutterbean chat endlessly about “totally important unimportant things.” Sometimes they even talk about food and blogging. It’s reassuring, as a new blogger, to know that people as successful as these two once felt a bit insecure as well. I’m totally normal. Yeah, I’m totally not normal. Joy the Baker podcast. Get it. Laugh much too loudly. You won’t regret it.

The Steeldrivers

Awesomest Band You Never Skip When Your iPod Is on Shuffle

Do people even have iPods anymore? I’ve been using the same one since 2008, and I don’t think I’ve ever skipped over a Steeldrivers song. I’m always in the mood for their perfect brand of contemporary bluegrass. Alas, they lost their lead singer and songwriter, Chris Stapleton, a few years ago. I haven’t heard any of their recent stuff with the new singer, but that doesn’t stop me from singing bad harmony while driving my moped down busy streets. Their first two albums, plus “Live from The Station Inn” will always be worth listening to.

If you have Adele’s 21, and who doesn’t, then you already know one of my favorite Steeldrivers songs, “If It Hadn’t Been for Love.” I adore everything Adele does, but you really have to check out the original version. This song has a fiddle solo that just rips my heart out. Even if you think bluegrass isn’t your thing, I urge you to check out this band and have your mind thoroughly blown.

photo and recipe by Tracy of Shutterbean.com
photo and recipe by Tracy of Shutterbean.com

Awesomest Thing I’m Super Excited to Make

Whilst obsessively listening to the Joy the Baker podcast, I heard Tracy of Shutterbean talking about making her own amaretto. I immediately gasped (cue weird glances) and dropped everything to pin the recipe from her site. A few weeks ago I wanted to make a cocktail that called for amaretto, and the cheapest bottle at my grocery store was $25. What? I’m not paying that. When I looked at her recipe, I realized I already had everything except the vodka. How are we out of vodka? That needs to stop. I’m so psyched to try this out. I promise to let you know how it goes.

Clockwise from the top: pulled pork grilled cheese; pulled pork sandwich with smoky bbq beans and spicy mac and cheese, both from Tin Hut BBQ; mini sampler from Dolcita
Clockwise from the top: pulled pork grilled cheese; pulled pork sandwich with smoky bbq beans and spicy mac and cheese, both from Tin Hut BBQ; mini sampler from Dolcita

Awesomest Opportunity to Stuff Your Face in Honolulu

Since before I moved here, I’ve been saying I wanted to check out Eat the Street. That was a year and a half ago, and I finally went for the first time last week. Eat the Street is a monthly gathering of food trucks in Kaka’ako. They have around forty vendors, including beer and wine. There’s music and entertainment, and it’s all outside under the stars (depending on what time you get there, I suppose). Every month there’s a theme, and each truck creates a special dish for the event. April’s theme was bacon. How could I stay at home?

Next month is garlic Eat the Street. It happens the 4th Friday of every month. You don’t want to miss it. I don’t think I’ll miss out ever again. If you live in town, or you’re visiting my island, look for me. I’ll be near the cupcakes eventually.

What was the awesomest thing in your life in April?

Spam Mac and Cheese & Spam Jam Waikiki

Spam Mac and Cheese

On Saturday evening, we went to the Spam Jam in Waikiki. The what? Yes, Spam Jam. It’s a huge annual street festival on Kalakaua in the heart of Waikiki. Tents stretch for blocks with vendors selling their best recipes featuring Spam. I heard there were 25,000 people there. It was packed. Hawaiians love their Spam. I mean, you can get Spam, eggs, and rice for breakfast at McDonald’s.

This event also benefits the Hawaii Foodbank, an organization that is dear to me. I urge you to consider donating or volunteering with your local foodbank. Their work is absolutely vital to the community.

Twisted Spam Mac and Cheese from The Hard Rock Cafe

We decided to try the Hard Rock Cafe tent. I had the Spam mac and cheese, and Geoff had the Spam taco. When mine arrived, I was a bit… disappointed. It was not what I was expecting. This was my first time to try Spam, so when I had a huge scoop of ground Spam that looked and smelled like cat food on top of my mac, I was put off. I scooted most of it off to the side and just mixed a bit of the salty Spam into the mac. It was good enough, but I knew I could do better.

Spam mac and cheese

I switched out that soggy mess for crispy salty bits of Spam joy. It was a million times better. I also mixed the Spam throughout instead of just putting it on top. A hit of cayenne and garlic adds a lot of interest to the flavor. Spam is not a go to ingredient for me, and I’m not sure I’d work with it again, even if it is cheap. Yet I was pleasantly surprised that eating this Spam mac and cheese made me ridiculously happy. In fact, I ate it twice in one day. It was definitely awesome.

Spam mac

Spam Mac and Cheese
Serves 2
Salty crispy ham enhances a delicious and simple mac and cheese
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 oz macaroni
  2. 1/2 cup Spam, diced to small cubes
  3. 1 egg
  4. 6 ounces evaporated milk
  5. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1/4 tsp cayenne
  7. pinch of salt (go easy, Spam is really salty)
  8. 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 475
  2. In a medium pan, put your water on to boil. Add salt and macaroni to boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. Drain.
  3. In the meantime, cook your tiny Spam cubes in a small skillet over medium high heat. Once they are nice and crispy, they will start to jump and attempt to escape the pan. Transfer Spam cubes to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  4. Beat the egg and evaporated milk together, then add the seasonings, followed by the cheese and most of the Spam. Finally fold in the cooked pasta.
  5. Spoon your mixture into two greased ramekins which are resting on a baking sheet to catch any possible drips. Sprinkle the last of your Spam on top.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes to avoid burning your face off.
  7. Dig in and learn to love the Spam.
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/

 

Life on Two Wheels

What’s your dream car? Mine’s a Vespa. That’s right. A cute sleek Italian scooter. I picture myself wearing an A-line dress, Jackie O sunglasses, and a long scarf, cruising around the island. And of course, a helmet, preferably leopard print with goggles.

I wish this was my helmet.
I wish this was my helmet.

This does not fit into my budget. But driving a scooter definitely helps me live on $20 a day. Ask me how much I spend on gas each week. Go on, ask me.

$4

That’s it. Four bucks at the pump. And the only reason I spend that much is because I work so far away right now.

His, mine, and ours
His, mine, and ours

Every time I put gas in my car I want to cry. It’s always over $50. Luckily, I don’t drive it that often. Dealing with traffic and parking is so tedious, I want to tear my hair out. Then there’s the tags and the inspection fees. New tires. Dead batteries. Car ownership is a drag.

I paid about $900 for my current scooter, brand new. I get around 75 miles to the gallon. I’ve gotten 100 before. It’s worth it for the reduction in carbon emissions alone. My scooter saves me a ton of money.

Proper scooter attire required
Proper scooter attire required

But apart from being economical, it’s also super fun. I first started riding a scooter when I lived in Taiwan, and we’d ride those things everywhere. We even went camping at the top of a mountain. If you can find the right back roads, you can go just about anywhere. And you can see everything. There are no pesky roofs or windows to block your view of the scenery.

I realize a scooter might not be practical for everybody. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for travelling with small children, though I have seen dogs that are scooter trained. And I know for a fact you can pull a goat trailer with one. But if you live in a place that’s above 65 degrees even six months out of the year, and you don’t have to do a lot of freeway driving, it’s absolutely the best way to get around town.

Always wear a helmet!
Always wear a helmet!

Save money. Reduce carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Never have to search for parking. Look totally cool driving around saying “Ciao!” Ditch your car. Get a scooter. All the cool kids are doing it.

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