In just a few hours Foodbuzz’s “Project Food Blog” contest will commence. In short, there will be a total of 10 challenges with a final prize of 10K. There are about 2,000 contestants and only 400 will move on to challenge #2. I think my chances are quite good, no?
And no, challenge #1 has nothing to do with “the best cheesecake ever”, but if it did, I might have this one in the bag. But at last, the first challenge is as follows:
What defines you as a food blogger and why should you be the next food blog star?
Like many food bloggers, their title is a great indication of their niche. My title, however is not only my niche, it is what defines me as a food blogger all around. You may only see “Cooking For Mark”, but there is more. It’s a little hard to read, but below you will find “Around the World Cooking Made Simple”.
“Cooking For Mark”
Mark is my fiancee, whom I cook for. But that is not what defines my blog. Mark is also my loved one who enjoys the dishes I create for him. Cooking, for me, is about family, about friends. It’s about socializing, comforting people, and making them just a little happier. This is the reason I cook. Sure, people need to eat. But when the food is delicious and enjoyable it converts your soul. And it’s not only about the food. It is my way of showing people my love and appreciation for them.
“Around the World Cooking”
If there was something I loved more than cooking (besides Mark, my family, and my pug Chups, of course), it would be traveling. When traveling to a new country you are literally experiencing a part of the world for the first time, in all respects–It’s exhilarating! It’s the greatest learning experience about both the world and about yourself. But be careful not to mistake being a traveler versus being a tourist. Tourists sightsee, but travelers see beyond. They get to know the people, experience the culture, smell the air, and seek out foods they have never tasted. I’ve had a squid sandwich in the city of Madrid, snails in the great medina of Fez, and BBQ crickets in the jungles of Siem Reap. But I’ve also had the best noodles in Hangzhou, the best Doner in Bilbao, the best sweet tea in Bangkok, and the best cider in Oviedo.
My memories of traveling are best revived in my kitchen. Closing my eyes and smelling the sweet spices in the air takes me to another world. And when I take a taste, it brings that world to me. Even if I can’t travel all the time, I can bring a piece of Delhi, Tapei, Azerbaijan, or Sao Paulo to my kitchen, and to the kitchen of my readers.
I am not a chef. I am an amateur in every sense. In effect, the things I make will never be beyond the capacity of anyone. Everyone can cook, and everyone can make my recipes. It’s that simple.
And now, to the final question, “why should I be the next food blog star”? Because I feel people want and need to cook out of their comfort zone. Doing so will be such a rewarding experience not only for the cook, but for the families you cook for. It will teach your kids about different cultures and different foods, resulting in a more tolerable, culturally sensitive generation.
Further, in the 1 in 2,000 chance I have to win the final challenge, I would take my 10K and really travel the world! My dream is to visit remote areas of the world, sit down with the family’s grandmother and learn from her. Everything from the culture, to the food, to her cooking methods. Because becoming a great cook does not begin in a class room. It originates in the heart and comes out through curiosity, getting stronger the more you experience. This will be a lifelong journey. It is not the end for which I am looking forward to, but everything in between.
And now, I will bribe you with a cheesecake recipe, to urge you to vote for me. Remember, 80% of the contestants will be dropped after this first challenge, so if you want to help me out, please take a minute and vote here. (Voting ends Sep 23).
I made this cheesecake for my brother’s 20th birthday. He just moved to Washington from Utah about a month ago and I wanted to make a little something that reminded him of home.
In our home we grew up with cheesecake. We also grew up with a special dessert my Mom makes made of guavas and a milk-based jello, which is honestly the best dessert I have ever had. So I decided to incorporate the two and make a guava cheesecake. And what a great combination of flavors! It was tart, sweet, creamy…it was perfect. Since the cheesecake was so big I was planning on freezing a large portion of it, but before I knew it the guys had devoured it entirely. They loved it.
As the guys took their first bite they both groaned with pleasure (my favorite sound to hear when people taste my food). I then went on to explain that it was a guava cheesecake. Mark, being the picky eater that he is, replied “good thing you told me afterwards, or I wouldn’t have wanted to taste it”. So, even Mark, who dislikes guava greatly enjoyed this guava cheesecake. Give this one a try, even if you aren’t particularly fond of guavas. You will not regret it!
Pecan Walnut Crust
- 1 c. pecan shortbread cookies (about 8 cookies)–optional. Can just use 2 c. gram crackers
- 1 c. gram crackers (about 8 crackers)
- 1/3 c. walnuts
- 1/4 c. melted butter
Directions: blend all ingredients except butter. Place in bowl and add melted butter. Combine. Mold mixture into bottom of spring form pan. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Place in freezer until ready to use.
- 4 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 c. sugar
Cream together, but don’t over-beat
- 3/4 c. coconut cream
- 7 guavas (canned), seeded
Blend together and strain
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- zest of 1 lime
Combine with guava and coconut milk mixture
Slowly incorporate eggs and flour. Be careful to not over-beat. Incorporate mixture with cream cheese. Fill the spring form pan and bake in pre heated oven at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 250 and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. DO NOT open the oven door. Turn off heat and let the cheesecake sit there for 4 hours with door slightly open. When cake is completely cool, place in refrigerator overnight.
Guava Cream Topping:
- 5 guavas (canned), seeded
- 1/4 c. coconut cream
- 1/4 c. sour cream
- 2 tbsp cream cheese
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Directions: Blend together and store in refrigerator until ready to use.