Chrissy Teigen’s Cheesy Guac

I know it’s been a while since I posted– I was moving, and then Christmas happened (our dinner was French-themed so I made bacon fat mashed potatoes with cantal cheese and it was fist pumping good). I don’t know what my excuse for January is, but I’m gonna blame it on Donald Trump and the family of hamsters masquerading as his hair.

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I especially enjoy cooking when it’s holiday specific, so I figured I’d make something for Superbowl Sunday (go Beardogs!). I’ve been eyeing Chrissy Teigen’s cheesy guacamole recipe for a couple of weeks now, and this seemed like a good excuse to make it. I get that adding cheese to an otherwise healthy dip seems like overkill, but it takes it from being just an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop to being an inexplicably delicious pile of green goop with cheese mixed in. Plus, who’s really trying to be healthy on Superbowl Sunday?

 

INGREDIENTS:

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 medium onion, diced

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced (jarred is fine)

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips (NOT “hint of lime”, unless you are a “hint of lime” eating monster)

*If you’d like to add tomatoes, Chrissy says to add 2 romas, seeded and diced. I have acid reflux so raw tomatoes are my worst nightmare. But if you can eat them, they add beautiful color and sweetness to an otherwise salty and tangy dish.

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DIRECTIONS:

Put the avocados in a medium bowl. Cover with the lime juice. Mash with a potato masher. Mash. Mash. Mash away, until there are only a few delightful little chunks left.

Mash in the spices and salt.

Gently fold in the remaining ingredients. Cover the guac in saran wrap for an hour to let those flavors dance together.

Wash your hands really well so you don’t touch your eye later and get jalapeño juice in it.

Dip your chip and enjoy.

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Brie En Croute

Halloween is over, so that means Thanksgiving and Christmas are in full swing. At least according to mall decorations and Galleries Lafayette in Paris, which already boasts a giant Christmas tree that looks like a beautiful upside down ice cream cone. With the exception of a harvest-decorated townhouse on the upper west side, I haven’t seen any indications of the imminent holiday season here in New York.

The brie and the cranberries look SO BEAUTIFUL together!!

Obviously if you’re asking me, one of the best things about the holiday season is the food. UGH. THE FOOD. The box stuffing, the turnips with butter and mounds of salt, the canned cranberry sauce, the fresh haricots verts, the buche de Noel, the parker house rolls, the pumpkin pie, the butterscotch oatmeal cookies, and not last and also not least, the brie en croute. Or as my family calls it, baked brie.

My high school was near a Whole Foods, so my mom started shopping there sometimes while waiting to pick me up after rehearsal or whatnot. One fateful day, she purchased a pre-made baked brie. And my family went NUTS. Ever since, it’s been a must-have appetizer on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And just like, casual Tuesdays.

Brie En Croute is perfect for holiday celebrations.

This past year I decided to make it from scratch, since I figured that would be cheaper and dare I say, even more delicious than the store bought version. I used the framework of Paula Deen’s recipe; the changes I made were basically omitting the nut topping and replacing it with a tart yet sweet cranberry-apple mixture, as well as cutting the amount of brown sugar added to about half, though that alteration can be left up to your palate.

You might find that you don’t need the kitchen string, which both the original and my adapted recipes call for. Sometimes the brie you find will be slightly wider, and will therefore not leave enough excess dough to tie. If this happens, it’s totally fine. Just press the dough down onto the cheese firmly so that it doesn’t open up while baking.

Before baking, tie any excess puff pastry with kitchen string.

INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet pre-packaged frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced and peeled granny smith apple

1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1, 8 oz. wheel of brie

1/8-1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

Special tools:

*Kitchen string*

Ingredients for Brie En Croute

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Take out a baking sheet and set aside. You do NOT need to spray it.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and cranberries and let cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the apples are slightly translucent and the cranberries are no longer hard. Add the cinnamon and stir until the fruit is evenly coated. Set aside.

Place the puff pastry onto the baking sheet. Place the brie in the center. Gently pour the  fruit mixture on top of the brie. If some falls off onto the puff pastry, that’s fine! Sprinkle the brown sugar over the fruit topping.

Fruit topping on Brie En Croute

Starting with a corner, roll up the puff pastry onto the brie, working in a circle. Using a pastry brush (TBH you can use your fingers if you don’t have one), lightly coat the puff pastry in the egg wash. Tie up any excess pastry with a piece of kitchen string.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Finally done! Ooey gooey delicious Brie En Croute.

Enjoy!

Leslie

Watermelon Caprese Salad

I think it’s safe to say that summer is finally winding down. Last week I thought it was, but she gave us the old fake out and now we’re still encountering 80 and above weather. Oh, well. That just means that fall will start and end later, if all goes according to plan- my plan being controlling the tri-state area weather. Obviously.

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Anyway, when I look back on all of my summers, they all have some things in common: they’ve all taken place on Long Island (for the most part), they’ve all involved at least one dip in a salty ocean and/or chlorinated pool, and they’ve all included caprese salad. Caprese salad is simply sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and sometimes balsamic vinegar, depending on who’s making it. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that my grandma made this for us every time that we came over in the summer, or at least it felt like she did. She’s not Italian, but she lived in an Italian neighborhood for most of her life so she picked up some delicious traditions, this included. The house that she and my grandpa owned wasn’t on the water, but for some reason (probably their amazing amount of lighthouse themed paraphernalia), it felt oceanic. I think I sometimes pretended I was on a ship while I was there. They also had a pool, so maybe that contributed to the water vibe. Who really knows. But caprese salad encompasses all of those memories for me.

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Since I *tragically* cannot eat the traditional version, I decided to try mixing it up by replacing the tomatoes with watermelon. They’re relatively similar in texture; the biggest difference is that watermelon is tremendously sweet and bursts with liquid, whereas tomatoes straddle the vegetable-fruit border (though yes, they are really considered fruit).

This salad (you can call it an insalate if you’d like to stick with the Italian theme, or if you feel like being pretentious) is perfect for a barbecue, or an indoor appetizer on a hazy summer evening. I can’t say I’ll miss much about summer, but I will miss after dinner walks on the beach, sitting on my stoop eating ice cream sandwiches and drinking lemonade, and the refreshing smell of air conditioned air hitting my face after emerging from the swamp-like outdoors. But those sentiments aside, BRING ON DA AUTUMN.

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INGREDIENTS:

1/4 medium sized watermelon, cubed into 1 inch chunks

6-8 large basil leaves, torn

8 oz. “cherry sized” mozzarella balls, drained and cut in half (get the ones that are packed in water, not olive oil)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar

1 pinch of table salt

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DIRECTIONS:

Put the cubed watermelon in a strainer. Place the strainer in a larger bowl. Toss the watermelon with the pinch of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes.

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In a small pan over medium-high heat, warm the balsamic vinegar. Add the reserved watermelon juice from the bowl underneath the strainer for sweetness. If it’s still not sweet enough for your taste, add a tsp of honey. Allow the vinegar-juice mixture to become syrupy, then remove from heat.

Take the watermelon cubes out of the strainer and put in a serving bowl. Add the mozzarella and basil, and toss with the olive oil. DO NOT add salt as you would with tomato caprese; the salt and the watermelon do not mix well. They are not friends. They should stay far apart. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic to your liking– take note that though sweeter than regular balsamic, this reduction is quite strong, so use very sparingly. Serve ASAP.

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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

Kahlua Coffee Chocolate Cake

Kahlua Coffee Chocolate Cake: it’s a mouthful to say and to eat. Sometimes I bake for a specific reason, like a special occasion or a family gathering, but there are also times when I just bake for the sake of trying a new, enticing recipe. I’ve had my eye on this recipe, which I found on the beautiful bakersroyale.com, for a while now. And by a while, I mean 3 or 4 days, but those few days felt like a month. How could you see this cake and not want to make eat it immediately?

As fabulous as the recipe looked, I didn’t want to make an entire two layer cake for fear of eating an entire two layer cake by myself. So, I halved the cake recipe. I kept the buttercream recipe the same since I’m a fan of heavy frosting. I did have some leftover, but I never have a problem with surplus frosting. Since most of you would probably rather have a two layer cake to show for your labor, I have kept the cake proportions as they were in the original recipe. However, I did leave out the hazelnuts for allergy purposes.

Once I finished making the cake (and ate two slices), I actually brought it to my best friend’s house for her family to enjoy (especially Uncle Tony!). It also happened to be our 10th Friendiversary… yes, we celebrate the day that we became friends.

Original recipe: http://www.bakersroyale.com/cakes/kahlua-crunch-cake/

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE:

5 oz. dark chocolate

2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

¾ buttermilk

¾ cup brewed coffee, cooled slightly

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

½ tsp. kosher salt

4 large eggs

1/3 cup Kahlúa

FROSTING:

6 oz. dark chocolate

1/3 cup Kahlúa

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened

DIRECTIONS:

CAKE:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom of 2 8-inch cake rounds with baking spray.

In a heat-proof bowl, microwave the chocolate on high power in 20-second intervals until melted; stir between intervals. Let cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, coffee, Kahlúa and vanilla; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at time until fully incorporated. Turn mixer speed down to low, in 3 alternating batches beat in the dry ingredients and the wet mixture, scraping down the side down the bowl as needed. Fold in chocolate.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 40 minutes, or until wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out free of wet batter.  Let the cake cool in pan for 20 minutes. Remove and transfer cake to a wire rack. Using a wooden skewer or a long tine fork, poke holes in the cakes and brush Kahlua all over cakes.

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FROSTING:

In a heat-proof bowl, microwave the chocolate on high power in 20-second intervals until melted; stir between intervals. Let cool slightly. Cooling the chocolate is imperative; if it is too hot, it will separate from the butter when you mix it.

Transfer chocolate to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and on medium speed beat in Kahlúa and heavy cream. Beat in confectioner’s sugar.

Turn mixer speed to high and add butter in two tablespoons at a time and beat until the frosting is thick and creamy.

ASSEMBLY:

Transfer chocolate one cake layer to a serving platter or cake stand spread frosting on top. Place second layer on top and spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Garnish as desired: I recommend using turbinado sugar or dark chocolate bits.

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Enjoy!

         Leslie

Goat Cheese and Zucchini Tart

Autumn is my favorite season. I can’t wait for the leaves to fall and turn crisp, for everything in Trader Joe’s to be pumpkin flavored, and for it to be acceptable to make heartier, more buttery food. But, before I can dive into autumn, I must part ways with summer. Summer, though not my favorite season food-wise (or weather-wise if I’m being honest), is overflowing with fresh produce. If you live somewhere like California where there isn’t much of a season change, you maintain most of your produce quality year-round. But here in New York, there’s a relatively large disparity between what’s seasonal in the summer and autumn months. So, until Labor Day, I will be making recipes highlighting seasonal summer foods, as a sort of going away party for the season.

As a food blogger I really enjoy looking at other people’s food blogs and Instagrams to see what recipes they’re trying, and often, creating. A few months ago, I came across a food blogger (hautesucreblog.wordpress.com) whose food I’ve been itching to try. After a minute on her site, I found the perfect recipe for my going-out-of-season theme: a zucchini tart. Below is the original recipe, which actually uses feta instead of goat cheese.

Original Recipe: http://hautesucreblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/summer-zucchini-tart/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 large, or 1 1/2 medium zucchini, sliced very thinly using a mandolin (don’t try this with a knife!)

6 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Olive oil, for drizzling

Salt

Pepper

Herbs de Provence (I used Sunny Paris Seasoning from Penzy’s)

3 sprigs rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unfold the puff pastry on the baking sheet. Top with some goat cheese and a little bit of olive oil. Put a layer of zucchini on top, leaving a border of the pastry untouched as the crust. Hit with some salt, pepper, and herbs de provence, then repeat steps.

Lay rosemary sprigs across the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is puffy and golden brown.

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Enjoy!

Leslie