Classic Chocolate Cake

During my elementary school years, I could always count on coming home to a snack and a glass of milk in the afternoon. We had a snack drawer, which evolved into a healthier snack drawer over time, then eventually ceased to exist as we got older and more in tune with nutrition. But back in the snack drawer’s glory days, we also kept one Entenmann’s treat on the counter at all times. At the dawn of our family snack habit it was the yellow cake with chocolate frosting, or the full blown chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. That gradually morphed into chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting because we wanted to *shake things up*.

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Beautiful, silky frosting

The other day I had a craving for chocolate on chocolate cake with a cold glass of milk. Truth be told, I’ve just been craving milk in general and I think making a cake seemed like the perfect excuse to drink more of it without causing any suspicion. Conveniently, a few days before my mom’s birthday, she asked me to make her cake. “What kind”, I responded, silently hoping that she would tell me to pick. Which she did. Chocolate on chocolate it was.

I found this recipe on a blog called Add a Pinch. I adjusted it slightly; I used instant coffee powder instead of espresso powder, so I diminished the amount in the frosting. If you like your chocolate frosting to err on the side of mocha, feel free to add a touch more.

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

1 cup whole milk

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:

1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened

1 cup unsweetened cocoa

5 cups confectioner’s sugar

½ cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray.

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and instant coffee powder to a large bowl. Whisk through to combine.

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Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

Slice off any uneven tops if you wish. Normally I do, but with this cake the domed top can give it a nice homemade charm.

For the frosting:

Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.

Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.

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Cute baby sticks of butta.

Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.

Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.

If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

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I love how the rainbow sprinkles pop against the milk chocolate!

Assembly:

Frost the cake. Throw some sprinkles on there. Stand back, admire. Eat. Maybe one more slice.

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There’s nothing like decade-old birthday candles

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Imagine that with a cold glass of milk… yes, please.

 

Joy the Baker’s Confetti Cookies

Every once in a while, I stop by Joy the Baker’s site to see what she’s been up to. And by “once in a while”, I mean at least once a week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Joy, she is the epitome of what it means to be an enjoyable food blogger: witty, knowledgeable, and direct. When I found myself on her site this week, two recipes gave me pause. Strawberry rhubarb pie, and these vanilla bean confetti cookies. I’ve ogled both before but had yet to make either.

Initially I chose to make the strawberry rhubarb pie, but it’s still so cold outside that I wasn’t sure that my Fairway would have rhubarb yet. It’s also so cold outside that I did not, in fact, want to go outside. I had all the ingredients for the confetti cookies, so confetti cookies it was. And I am VERY content with my choice. They’re playfully colorful and so soft that eating them is probably the closest one could come to safely consuming a tube of raw cookie dough. I said safely. They also have a depth of flavor that other sugar/butter cookies don’t have, due to the vanilla bean and their chilling time.

The one warning I must give before you embark on your confetti cookie journey is that the dough needs to be refrigerated prior to baking. SO. If there isn’t a lot of time before you want these cookies to meet your face, I would pick a different recipe. Or at the very least find something to distract yourself for two hours while they chill.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cream of tartar.. all of mine is from the 80’s and has expired.. shh.. don’t tell

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sprinkles, more if you want to throw them in the air joyfully while you bake

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DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vanilla bean seeds, then the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.

With the mixer on low add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in a few doses. The dough will become quite thick– don’t worry, this is correct. Fold in 1/4 cup of the sprinkles.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup sprinkles in a bowl. Scoop up 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball– I was using about 1/4 of dough at first, so I quickly ran out of dough. Gently roll the ball in the bowl of sprinkles to cover lightly. Put the balls on a plate. Repeat with the remaining sprinkles and dough. Chill the soon-to-be cookies for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

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Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Transfer the chilled dough balls to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space in between each ball.

Bake until the cookies have spread very slightly and are just beginning to brown around the edges, but are mostly pale and pillowy, 8 to 10 minutes.* Let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely, then transfer to your  mouth ASAP.

*I took mine out a bit before they browned on the edges, since I like my cookies to be very soft and chewy. If you want more of a crisp exterior and a soft interior, stick with Joy’s directives.

 

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Et voila!

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Last summer my best friend Lauren invited me out to her family’s house in the Hamptons. I’ve lived on Long Island for 23 years and yet somehow, this was my first opportunity to visit the infamous area. I didn’t want to show up empty handed, so I made these lemon chia seed muffins. The original recipe calls for poppy seeds, but I only had chia seeds on hand, and I actually prefer them now. I also substituted plain greek yogurt for the buttermilk, since I found that it made for moister muffins. Because of these additions, I think the muffins qualify as healthy. That’s why I ate not one, but two, for breakfast at work this morning.

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One of the best traits of any muffin is its portability factor; I like a breakfast that can be zipped in a bag and taken with me, no muss, no fuss. That’s why I eat candy for breakfast so often. Very portable.

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, SEPARATED. SEPARATED!

1 1/3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp chia seeds (these can be found at Trader Joe’s in a resealable bag)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (about 1 single serving plastic cup)

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half of a juicy lemon)

1 tsp vanilla extract

The zest of 2 lemons
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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (this recipe makes about 12 muffins).

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each.

In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, chia seeds, and lemon zest.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating two times with the greek yogurt, then lemon juice, and then vanilla.

Beat just until smooth.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Gently fold them into the muffin batter until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, 3/4-full.

Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely.

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Haystack Rice Krispie Treats

As I write this lying in bed on a Saturday morning, I’m debating a few things. A) Do I eat the Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups that are lying next to me? (And YES, they are in a package, not loose). B) Do I knock on my wall to let my neighbor know that she’s playing her music too loudly? (I woke up at 7:46 am to “Glory” by Common and John Legend, a magnificent song that is not meant to be used as an alarm clock). C) DO I eat the peanut butter cups??

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See, life is full of hard decisions. But one thing that wasn’t hard to decide was whether or not to make these pumpkin candy corn rice krispie treats. I know that a lot of people think candy corn is disgusting, considering that it’s carnauba wax and all, but so are sprinkles, people. And we eat those all the time. Plus I love candy corn, especially when it comes in the pumpkin shape because that means more to bite into. Pumpkin candy corn also brings up fond childhood memories of trick-or-treating on my block. The elderly couple who (is it who or that in this context? I never know) lived across the street used to hand out small zippy bags filled with popcorn and a couple pumpkin shaped carnauba treats. I never saw them anywhere else so I thought that the couple was especially cool for having the hookup.

You might be a-wondering why I added vanilla to the pre-existing rice krispie recipe. That’s because vanilla is already the prominent flavor in marshmallows and candy corn, so the extract enhances it and makes the end result more robust.

Also, how cute are these pumpkin Peeps?! I’ve always been into Peeps, so they were an exciting find for me.

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INGREDIENTS:

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

4 cups mini marshmallows (these melt more easily than the large ones)

3 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Orange food dye (just enough to make the marshmallow-butter mixture slightly orange so that it looks more hay-like)

1 bag pumpkin shaped candy corn

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DIRECTIONS:

Spray a 9×13 inch pan with non stick spray.

Melt butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Don’t turn the heat too high, or the butter and/or marshmallows will burn. Once the butter is melted, add in the marshmallows. Stir until a shiny, smooth mixture has formed. Add the orange food dye and vanilla, and stir until evenly distributed. Remove from heat.

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Add in the rice krispies, and stir until combined. Move mixture into the 9×13 pan, and press down using wax paper or an off set spatula that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray. Push the pumpkin candy corn into the top of the krispies. Let cool.

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Using a sharp knife, cut into squares that are the size that YOU WANT THEM TO BE.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I made these cookies about two weeks ago, and I still haven’t posted them! First, my Great Aunt was visiting from Florida, and next it was my birthday and then my birthday party (which my wonderful friend Mookie and her lovely roommates hosted for me). Needless to say, I’ve been a bit busy. I wish I had posted some of the amazing recipes I used for my aunt’s visit, like Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, or Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Chip Pound Cake, both of which were met with rave reviews. But alas, it was a busy weekend so I didn’t have time to take photos while I baked. But believe me, both recipes are more than deserving of your time. Have you ever been amazed at how good something you’ve made is? Both of these recipes will give you and your guests that reaction. Or just you. I won’t judge if you make them for yourself. In fact, I will applaud you.

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When I made these cookies they were actually for my mom to bring to a beach gathering. It seemed a little counterintuitive since it was still pretty warm out at the time, but I was in the mood to make warm, chewy pumpkin desserts. They’re simple to make, and can be made with or without the sugary drizzle, though I recommend icing them. The cookies themselves are not super sweet, so a little bit of the icing goes a long way. If you do ice the cookies, make sure to let the icing dry before stacking them on a plate, or they’ll get stuck together- they just want to be friends! They can be kept in a container for up to three days (normally I suggest airtight, but because they’re so moist, they will create condensation which will change their consistency). So eat them quickly!

The original recipe hails from Allrecipes.com. I altered it slightly to omit the ground cloves; my mom has never used them so I don’t keep any around. If you like a hearty spice element in your pumpkin desserts, add the cloves back into the recipe, and add them alongside the other spices.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (Libby’s or organic is fine)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with non-stick baking spray. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.

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In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly. The batter will be very sticky so don’t be disheartened if they look like crazy, misshapen rocks. 

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven.

To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork. You’re done! You did it! Reward yourself with a cup of hot apple cider and a few (handfuls of) cookies!

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Ooey Gooey Lemon Bars

These lemon bars, a must for any citrus lover, are the best I have ever made. My lemon-obsessed cousin Lara is about to have her second child, so this post is a sort of homage to her. Her husband and she smartly decided not to share the baby’s name until she’s born. So while Lara’s in labor, I’ll be eating stacks of lemon bars contemplating possibilities– hopefully I don’t eat all of them and can bring her some after the delivery.

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Anyway. Lemon bars. I haven’t made these in a long while, partially because when I do, I eat the majority of the pan. But I’m glad that I did, because OMGARETHEYDELICIOUS. Prior to making these, the last time I had a lemon bar was when my good friend Mookie and I took a day trip to Santa Barbara from LA. We found a little cafe to eat in, but couldn’t find a parking spot where we wouldn’t be ticketed, so we bought our food and ate it in the car on our way back home. I think we both got portobello sandwiches of some sort, and two different pastries. The lemon bar I bought was so large; it was probably the size of at least four of mine combined. I ate it as we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping only to take in the cinematic sunset at a little beach next to a retirement home.

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Mookie picking up seashells on our way back home.

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If California was a lady, she’d be very photogenic.

I like these lemon bars because the zingy lemon flavor is the star, with the buttery, crumbly crust taking a back seat. Using good lemons is a great way to ensure a tasty result. The lemons I used this time around were so juicy and sweet, they almost smelled like yellow Starbursts. This recipe heralds from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread, and I simply can’t recommend it enough.

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INGREDIENTS:

CRUST:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

FILLING:

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 juicy lemons)

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

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Does that piece not look like Idaho??

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of oven. Butter and paper a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. As you can see in the photos, I absentmindedly forgot this step. My lemon squares still came out wonderfully, but buttering and papering your pan makes the last few steps much easier.

 To make crust: Whisk together flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers. I recommend taking the butter out of the refrigerator about five minutes prior to this step.

Pour crust mixture into prepared baking dish, pressing down with your fingers to create a 1/4-inch-thick layer along the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides, pressing firmly at the edges to seal. Transfer pan to freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan once during baking, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and flour; stir in lemon juice, milk, and salt until well combined.

Remove baking pan from oven. Stir topping and pour into warm crust. Return pan to oven and continue baking until topping is just set but not browned, about 20 minutes.

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Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool completely.Once completely cooled, dust extra confectioners’ sugar over the filling. Use a fine mesh sieve for even dispersion.

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Cut into 20 squares. Serve immediately or wrap each bar tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Leslie

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

As summer winds down I’m trying to make recipes with produce that is only available during the hot, sweaty months. If you can’t tell, summer is my least favorite season. I can’t stand the sweltering humidity that feels like a wet sweater clinging to my arms every time I go outside, or the fact that I sweat every time I walk thirty feet- it sort of throws a wrench in looking presentable.

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But back to the benefits of summer: I really like zucchini bread as an alternative to banana bread, which is a bit denser. Zucchini is super versatile being that it’s very water based and, in spite of its vegetable food grouping, is quite sweet. Therefore, it can be used in dessert and main course dishes alike. Zucchini bread in particular is great because you can eat it for breakfast or with a plop of whipped cream for dessert. And, since it’s technically veggie based, you can pretend you’re being healthy by grabbing seconds.

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This recipe comes from my old standby, Allrecipes.com.

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups white sugar

2 cups shredded zucchini

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 pint fresh bloobs (blueberries)

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans. I used 4 super mini pans, so I had extra batter to make mini muffins with. If you make mini muffins, only bake them for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.

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Bake 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

S’mores French Toast

I KNOW I just missed National S’mores Day by a hair, but I’m sure you can find it in your hearts to forgive me and try this recipe anyway. I’ve been wanting to play around with variations of french toast for a while, and adding s’mores to the classic breakfast was one of the first things I thought of.

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Growing up, I used to make s’mores at my aunt’s house in Connecticut. She doesn’t have a fire pit and bonfires definitely weren’t allowed in her suburb, so we always used the flames from her gas grill to toast our ‘shmallows. She bought these long roasting sticks at Christmas Tree Shop (one of her favorite stores, and one that I enjoy as well). I think we reused the same ones for a couple of summers in a row -not sure if that’s hygienic but oh well, we were kids. Being the sentimental person that I am, I wrote the dates that we used them in sharpie on mine. If I looked really hard, I’m sure I could find one tucked away under my bed, shrouded in dust bunnies and other childhood memorabilia.

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I also have a delightful memory of s’mores-making shenanigans from my semester living in LA: In the last week that we were there, one of my wonderful classmates Orrin had all of his fellow Business of Acting students over to his scenic house in Malibu. His parents made us handmade pizzas, grilled chicken and veggies for dinner. As the night wore on and the ocean breeze became chillier and more persistent, they built a fire and we made s’mores sitting around it under the twinkling white lights strung around the yard.

S’mores encompass summer, companionship, and community. French toast is a delicious treat that my mom makes for me once in a while (although this recipe is not the one that she uses). So, why not marry the two into one delicious, ooey, gooey, delightful mess that is sure to rot my teeth out of my head?

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Makes two sandwiches.

INGREDIENTS:

4 pieces hearty, day old white bread

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

Very scant 1/2 cup whole milk

1 tbsp orange zest

12 large marshmallows

8-10 rectangles of Hershey’s chocolate

A couple of pinches of brown sugar

4 tbsp butter

Maple syrup, if desired

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DIRECTIONS:

Combine the eggs, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest in a shallow bowl or pie pan. Whisk until combined and the spices aren’t lumpy and are evenly distributed. Heat 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat in a medium frying pan. As the butter melts, start soaking the bread, one piece at a time, in the egg mixture. Make sure you flip each piece so that they’re evenly coated and won’t stick to the pan. Once the butter is fully melted, add a piece of bread to the pan. It should sizzle. If it doesn’t, turn up the heat a tiny bit. Once the first side is golden and no longer soaking wet, flip it. Continue with the rest of the bread, putting them on a plate as you finish each one. Set aside.

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Once the bread has cooled ever so slightly, place half of the chocolate and half of the marshmallows on one slice of bread. Top with another slice, and add a pinch of brown sugar to the top. Repeat with remaining two slices.

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Add the remaining butter to the pan. Once it’s melted, add one of the sandwiches, brown sugar side up, to the pan. If you can fit both sandwiches at once, feel free to do so. Once the bottom seems firm but not dried out, flip them very carefully, so that the brown sugar side is facing down. Again, once the bottom feels firm but isn’t dry, per say, remove the sandwiches from the pan. The marshmallows and chocolate will keep cooking for a few minutes after they’re taken off the heat, so don’t worry if they aren’t completely melted at this stage. Drizzle the sammies with maple syrup if desired, and serve immediately.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Cannoli Cones

My cousin asked me to make a dessert for her second baby shower. Initially, I planned on making Ooey Gooey Lemon Bars, but the oven in my new apartment isn’t working (you can imagine the toll this has taken on my cookie making: I’ve been eating graham crackers with peanut butter as a midnight snack instead of moist, decadent, pillowy cookies fresh from my kitchen OMGIWANTCOOKIES), so I had to scratch that idea and think of something else that wouldn’t require baking.

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I really like the idea of marrying two desserts in one delicious package, so I started thinking of ways to do something a little different with cannoli cream; I went to brunch in Long Island a week ago and passed up a cannoli cream waffle, which I’ve been (rightfully) regretting ever since. Consequently, I’ve had cannoli on the brain.

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I realized it would be a cute and easy, no-bake idea to insert homemade cannoli cream into sugar cones from the grocery store. I could decorate the cones with some sprinkles to jazz them up and make them baby shower appropriate. The sprinkle actually wound up being mermaid themed, so the ice cream cone concept was a good fit with the beachy atmosphere that my aunt created with her decorations and menu options.

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I’ve never made cannoli before, but I know what I like, so I adapted a recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli.

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INGREDIENTS:

For the Cones:

2 packages (about 24), sugar cones

1/2 cup melted semisweet chocolate chips

Sprinkles

For the Cream:

2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese, strained (I used Bel Gioioso because it doesn’t require much straining)

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup small semisweet chocolate chips (I used regular, because I had them on hand, but small is more authentic!)

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

1 tbsp of orange zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

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DIRECTIONS:

For the Cones:

Remove the cones from their packaging, and separate them. Set any broken ones aside (we’ll eat these later with any extra cannoli cream). Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl on high in 15 second increments, stirring in between each, until they’re thoroughly melted but not burned.

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^My nephew noshing on one.^

Dip the rounded part of each cone into the chocolate, then dip them in the sprinkles while still wet. I found the sprinkles adhered better when I stuck the cone directly into the sprinkles, rather than twisting it clockwise in them.

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Set the cones, chocolate-sprinkle ends up, in a few mugs, then refrigerate for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is no longer wet. Set aside.

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For the Cream:

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta until smooth. Sift in the powdered sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I made this at home on Long Island and left my sifter in the city, so I used a splatter screen. Hehe. Blend, whisking gently until just combined and there are no powdery lumps.

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In a small, chilled metal bowl, beat the heavy cream with the vanilla until relatively stiff peaks form. Do not over whip, or it will collapse. Gingerly fold the cream into the ricotta blend using a rubber spatula. Fold in the chocolate chips and fruit zests. Refrigerate for at least an hour before using.

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Assembly:

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop about 1 1/2 scoops into each cone. The cream will lie flat on top; it won’t be arched as ice cream would be. However, the better you strain your ricotta, the fluffier it will be (truth be told, I didn’t strain my ricotta at all, because I left my sieve in my apartment too! But it still tasted great and the texture was absolutely fine). Place a chocolate chip or two on top of the cream as a garnish. If you’re trying to be authentic, skip the sprinkles and simply coat the top of the cream in mini chocolate chips so that it looks more similar to a regular cannoli.

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^You can store the cones in an airtight container until use. DO NOT fill them until you are ready to serve, or the cones will become mushy!^

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Balsamic and Basil Strawberries

I’ve loved balsamic vinegar since I was a kid. When I was four, I used to dunk raw heads of broccoli into a small glass bowl filled with the stuff. My mom said I was the only kid she ever heard of who liked vinegar that much. Even now, it’s one of my favorite condiments; it’s tangy but there’s enough sweetness to balance the strong acidity.

For my mom’s birthday tea, I made Kahlua-whipped cream filled strawberries with turbinado sugar sprinkled on top. I enjoy Kahlua, but it invokes more of a cozy, wintertime feeling than I would want to experience right now (current temp in NYC: 84 degrees, F… humidity: the papers in my desk feel moist to the touch, as do the multigrain crackers residing in my cabinet). Thus, I opted against making Kahlua strawberries this go around, and decided instead to make more savory and refreshing balsamic-whipped cream filled strawberries with a basil garnish to fulfill the savory flavor profile of the balsamic cream.

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The first time I tried whipping the cream in my hot, sticky apartment, it collapsed a few whips away from being finished, partially because of the heat, and partially because I added too much vinegar too close to the end; I think the acidity cut the fat. Expletives were yelled. Fists were brandished. I put my sweat-tainted shirt back on (yes, I was working in a sports bra with a fan aimed directly at my sweltering, cream whipping bod), and trekked back to the store. This time, I bought not one, but two pints of heavy cream, in case the same thing happened again.

I got back to my apartment and with newfound determination and beads of sweat running down my forearms, whipped the cream successfully. When I went to put the cream in my piping bag, I discovered that something atrocious had happened to it, which I shan’t get into. Anyhow, I opted to use a spoon to insert the cream into the hulled strawberries rather than spend my afternoon searching West Harlem for a new pastry tool.

If you don’t mess up the cream like I initially did, these strawberries are very easy to make, and are great for a savory dessert or appetizer on a hot summer day. With that said, they’re best served cool, or the cream will become watery. I know this firsthand because I tried to bring some downtown to my friend Melissa, and they melted on the subway. She still ate them, which I love her for.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled

1/2 packet gelatin, dissolved in a few tbsp of boiling water, at room temp (whisk with a fork as soon as you add the water so it doesn’t become lumpy)

3 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (the sweeter the better)

1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

1/2 pint heavy cream

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DIRECTIONS:

Chill a mixing bowl and a whisk in the freezer for at least an hour.

Pour the cooled gelatin-water mixture into the mixing bowl. Add the confectioner’s sugar, balsamic, and cream. Whisk until soft peaks form. Using a metal teaspoon, dollop about a tablespoon into the core of each strawberry. Top the cream with a basil ribbon. Serve immediately.

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Enjoy!

Leslie