Monday, October 28, 2013

Easiest cheesecake cupcakes

Hunting for a dessert that is ever so simple to make, yet it will impress guests & friends?

I was feeling a little lazy about crushing up oreos and adding butter for the base, so I was inspired by my other cheesecake cupcake recipe. The base is just a single oreo.

The beauty of these, are they literally take no time to make, since there's no processing of the biscuits for the base, mixing melted butter and baking it for a while. Simply pop an oreo, get your cream cheese mixture ready and SWIRL.

Alternatively, you could add an oreo base. Or you can add oreos into the mixture or anything else, if you're not a fan of berries. This recipe is quite versatile, so feel free to change up with add ins etc. End result? You're going to have to wait for some time, as cheesecake needs to be cold! But it's worth the wait for creamy, smooth baked cheesecake. You'll find yourself, slapping your hand from grabbing another one. It's so easy to eat more than one! Cheesecake is extremely deceptive, as it tastes so light.. Yet, cream cheese is your diet's worst enemy..... 

Berry swirl cheesecake cupcakes with an oreo base 
12 oreos
1/2 cup frozen raspberries or any kind of berry, thawed
1 tsbp of icing sugar/confectioner's sugar, sifted
375 g cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar (increase to 1 cup  if you like your cheesecake sweeter. I used 3/4 because berries are sweet.
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 degrees Celsius. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases, and place 1 oreo in each one.
2. Mash raspberries to a pulp with the back of a fork. Strain through a sieve and discard the seeds. Stir in the icing sugar.
3. Place the cream cheese in a bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand. Beat until light & fluffy.
4. Add the sugar slowly, beating until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Then, beat in vanilla.
5. Pour cream cheese mixture over biscuit bases. You can also put some drops of the berry mixture before you fill the cup to the top.
6. Place small drops of the berry puree on top of the cakes, and use a wooden skewer to carefully swirl through the cheese mixture.
7. Bake until just set. The recipe calls for 10-15 minutes, however I had to bake mine for about 25-30 minutes. Once it is done, leave the oven door open and allow the cakes to cool.

Adapted from Taste

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The romantic Venice by night and day

Venezia is such a unique, romantic city that was my favourite part of Italy that I visited! Romantic enough for one couple in our tour group; the fiance proposed on the gondola! Could it get any cheesier?

I highly recommend to visit both during the day AND at night (if you're not staying around the island itself). Why? The atmosphere is different. If I have to be honest, I would much rather go at night than the crowded, hot, sticky day. I also didn't get to go on the gondola because my parents were adamant about it, because it's 'too touristy' and not a big deal. I'm making it a mission to go on the gondola next time..

During the night, we saw some bands play at the restaurants around the city square. May I say, it was some of the finest jazz music I've ever heard. I would've loved to just dine outside and listen to them for the night.
 That night, we dined in at Ristorante Antico Picnolo. We had some pasta, fish and tiramisu! The tiramisu was some serious authentic tiramisu, I wish they could've given us two slices!

So, I really do recommend to explore Venice by night!

It's also quite easy to get lost in Venice, but eventually you will find your way out. And I kind of just love getting lost within those little small shops in the narrow streets. It's so much fun! Venice is famous for its murano glass. The glass is available in different vibrant colours, and there are many shops with different displays and interesting designs.
We also visited the island of Burano. It's a pretty island, a bit more quiet than Venice. However, I hated the boat ride. The boat right took about an hour to get there... It was an optional excursion with Cosmos to visit the island, and it did sound enticing from the info 'Explore Venice's lagoon'. However, my parents and I were deeply disappointed. First of all, the time to get to the island is ridiculous. An hour there and an hour back. I hate boats (bad experience with sea sickness). Second of all, we were only on the island for about 45 minutes. Third of all, I was so sad afterwards, because we didn't have any time left in the island of Venice itself. I would've rather spend the 3 hours, getting lost in Venice...
 Asides from the complaining though, it was actually a nice island to visit. We also visited a beautiful hand-stitched lace shop.
One thing I haven't talked about Europe is the self-service places. The self-service cafes are not bad to go to, if you're in a bit of rush (which in that case, we were half the time during the tour). During our second day in Venice, I actually quite liked the self-service place. We shared some pasta & lasagna that was nice. A MUST while you're in Italy, is the panna cotta! Panna cotta is a type of pudding with cream, milk, sugar and gelatin. The mixture is cooked, and then poured into a typical cup. After a few hours in the fridge, you will have a wobbly panna cotta. You can find good panna cotta virtually anywhere.

So, Venice is on my 'favourite places' list from my trip. Although, I visited some other beautiful cities like Rome, Venice is something different. I love the atmosphere there, and you can't beat the scenery you get there.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Florence & Pisa

We visited the famous Leaning tower of Pisa and Florence! The Leaning tower of Pisa is quite something, and it's something you should definitely see if you're in Italy. It's much more magnificent in person, than depicted in photos. At the same time, I would love to climb up the tower, but I'm sort of scared of heights and the fact that it's tilted? Hmm... Have any of you travellers climbed up the tower?

Then, we visited the beautiful Florence, the capital of the region, Tuscany. Florence is the 'birthplace' of the Renaissance. Driving through Tuscany is picturesque, except maybe perhaps if the sunflowers were blooming rather than dead, it could've been more magnificent. But, nevertheless, it's always been one of my fantasies to drive through Tuscany.

 We didn't actually spend that much time in Florence, so I can't really comment besides that it is a stunning city to visit. I do recommend hitting up the leather markets around, and small little stalls for some shopping! It's a nice city to have a slow, relaxed walk around.
Beautiful church
 Also, I had my first encounter with what I call 'fake pizza'. Not the real Italian pizza, that is out fresh from the wood-fired oven in the evening. We were supposed to have a quick short lunch, so we just went to a cafe where they had pizza. :( I just know that the next time I come back to Italy, I will be having crispy, thin-crust pizza!

Watch out guys!
Didn't get to check this shop out, but it looks pretty awesome.
Another note I wanted to add, that I forgot to write about in my Rome post. You'll be told this about a million times, but beware of pick-pocketers. Honestly, I don't recommend bringing a backpack because I have that fear of someone going behind and taking something without me noticing anything. Just keep your bags (especially you,ladies!) really close to you and ignore any suspicious looking people. Funnily enough, as we were just about to hop on the bus in Rome, there were these two ladies who were carrying cloths, mumbling something to us in Italian. My dad was carrying my mum's fanny pack around his waist, and he only noticed when he got on the bus that his pack's zip was actually open. Thankfully though, he only had a pen visible, and his phone was deep down in the pack. If the pick-pocketers had seen the phone, oh my. It's the same case in Paris as well. We were walking to Lafayette, and on the way, there was this gypsy who started following us from the back. My parents & I held on to our bags really tightly once we saw her, and eventually she stopped. So, keep your eyes glued to your bags everyone!

Friday, October 11, 2013


Rome is a beautiful city. I've always had the image of Rome, growing up as a child I was inspired by 'Lizzie McGuire'. A romantic city, with the Trevi fountain and beautiful architecture. For one, the architecture did not fail to impress me. Old, ancient buildings that are hundreds, even thousands of years old are still standing. Sculptures, carved to every single detail gives Rome a charm.
Admiring the lovely tall, old doors.
The Colosseum was just as I imagined. Such a stunning, massive structure. Still amazes me that gladiators fought there.
 We went around the Roman forum, which strikingly reminded me of Ephesus, in Turkey.
 Passed by the Altare della Patria, which I would've loved to visit. It's even more impressive in person, and has been dubbed as a the 'wedding cake' as it is quite magnificent white structure. It is dedicated to the first king of Italy.

Levitating I question?

 Also, you'll see a lot of umbrella trees around Rome! I think it is so cute and such a unique tree. It was planted to provide more shade, as Rome is BLAZINGLY HOT. It's pretty cool during the morning, but by 11 o'clock, you can really feel the heat. I wish we had trees like that in Australia.

Of course we had to make a trip to Trevi Fountain. I made three wishes, using my right hand and throwing coins over my left shoulder. Legend says that throwing coins in the fountain will ensure a visit back to Rome. Hopefully I'll be back for you Roma :)

The only thing I would recommend is, visiting it maybe during night time? I've heard that it's less crowded then. The crowds in Rome are completely nuts, I've honestly never been to such a crowded touristy place (maybe besides Japan). So if you want to really enjoy the tourist attractions, I recommend visiting during early the day or evening-night time.

The Pantheon is another place you should not miss. I was pretty much wowed by it, just like the Celsus library in Turkey. You literally have to stand back and just take in the view as much as you can.

My parents' mango, pistachio and coffee.
The gelato is a must, especially in the blazing heat! Now, in Italy, there are hundreds of gelaterias, that you will not know which one is good and bad. However, I have read online a few tips to tell a real 'authentic' gelato.
1. Colour. Mint and pistachio are not meant to be vibrantly green. More of a subtle green, almost pale. The gelato colours should not look too colourful, but rather more natural.
2. The texture. Gelato should be creamy (made from milk), rather than icy. Icy, and you've got yourself a sorbet. I had an icy lemon & tiramisu gelato in Venice which wasn't very nice.

I recommend visiting the gelateria, Cremeria Monteforte near the Pantheon. It was recommended from the tour guide, and is definitely the best place for gelato. It was ultimately creamy, and not too sweet. I had mango, nutella and berries. I also tried my parents' coffee which was a good hit for coffee.

To be honest, there weren't really any food stand-outs in terms of lunch or dinner. We were with a tour group, and though we were given free time, we wouldn't have known where the hot spots are for dining. Sometimes, we had quick lunches because we had meeting points and we ended up having lunches at self-service places! Or else, we had dinner with the tour group in the hotel or in a restaurant. And we also left Italy without actually TRYING a proper Italian pizza which is thin and crispy, fresh from a wood-fired oven and served usually during dinner.

Thoughts on Rome? A beautiful, vibrant ancient city. However, a little too crowded for my liking, and my favourite city in Italy is Venice. I would come back to explore more of the food, and have two gelatos a day! I stand firm with my view that Italy has great authentic Italian food, as many people have said not to expect 'too much'. I personally think that we just didn't have enough time to really explore around the food gems of Rome. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

European adventures

If you've seen my photos of me gallivanting around Europe through Instagram, you know why I've been on a hiatus! I toured from Rome to London, visiting the beautiful floating city of Venice, for the second time, Austria, the perfectly manicured Switzerland, the romantic city, Paris and finally the land of  posh British accents!

It takes nearly a whole day to travel to Europe from Australia. The first time I went, I flew from Malaysia which wasn't too bad. However, this time, it took 14 hours from Melbourne to Dubai, transit for 3 hours and 6 more hours to Rome. Yikes. This trip reminded me how much I hate flying.

My body clock is so confused, I should really be sleeping right now but I still have school work & preparation for term 4 on Monday. It's the last lap of year 10, end of year exams are coming! You may see an absence of food posts, but not to worry, the edition of EUROPEAN ADVENTURES IS COMING!

Here's a teaser.