Tuna Avocado Sushi

I’m never completely full after eating sushi. It’s just not something that happens. Reason being, the most I’ll ever order is three rolls; otherwise it gets too pricey. I’ve wanted to try making it at home for a long time to solve this issue (I always imagined making a sushi boat’s worth), but hesitated because I didn’t know where to find sushi grade fish*.

*I live on an island so I really should have thought harder on that one.

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In a moment of serendipity my friend and I decided to make it a few months ago. I volunteered to get most of the ingredients so long as he got the fish. HEE HEE HEE, the fish problem was off my hands. He bought pre-packaged sushi grade tuna at Whole Foods and neither of us died, so I decided to make it again today with my friend Lauren. I got my sushi grade tuna from Fairway since that’s closer to me than Whole Foods– though I only realized Fairway had sushi grade tuna AFTER chatting with multiple Whole Foods fish department representatives about their sashimi inventory over the phone.

If you’re going to make this recipe, only do so if you can find safe, sushi grade tuna!! Do not go rogue!

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Makes 3 rolls

INGREDIENTS:

5 oz. sushi grade tuna

1 cup (uncooked) sushi rice, prepared according to package instructions — you will need 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar for this

3 sheets nori, prepared according to package instructions

1/2 cucumber, thinly julienned

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Soy sauce, if desired

Pickled ginger, if desired

Wasabi, if desired

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DIRECTIONS:

Roll out a sushi mat or a clean kitchen towel. Place one sheet of the prepared nori on the mat or towel. (If you’re using a towel you may want to cover it in nonstick saran wrap to assist with the rolling process).

Put a third of the cooked rice on the nori and press it evenly into the seaweed, keeping it about a half inch away from the edges. Sprinkle a third of the sesame seeds over it. Lay the cucumber, avocado, and tuna at the edge of the nori that is closest to you. Using the mat/towel to guide you, gently roll it away from you.

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Once it is fully rolled up, squeeze the mat/towel to tighten the roll. Remove the towel/mat and slice the roll into 5 or 6 pieces.

Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and/or pickled ginger if desired.

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Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcakes

I remember the first time I heard of the California based cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I was watching acclaimed reality show “The Girls Next Door”, the fairytale saga of Hugh Hefner and his collection of girlfriends. Bridget, his number 2 GF, was throwing a birthday party and brought in Sprinkles cupcakes for the occasion. “Doesn’t everyone order cake for a birthday? What’s the big deal?”, you ask confusedly. Well when you have your own kitchen staff like the Playboy mansion, you don’t have ANYTHING brought in unless it’s really spectacular.

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Several years later when I was interning at “E! News” in LA, I finally laid my paws on one during an event at the office. Little did I know that by then, a Sprinkles had opened in my home state of New York. It was everything I dreamed of: moist and delicate, with dense, creamy frosting. So when I found a recipe online, of course I wanted to try it. The recipe I found is for their peppermint cupcakes, so I adjusted it slightly to be plain vanilla, and to make 24 cupcakes rather than 12. I also used this fondant recipe to make the heart garnishes. Yes, I know they make the cupcakes look vaguely boob-like, for better or worse.

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Servings: Makes 24 cupakes

INGREDIENTS:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour , sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup whole milk , room temperature

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature*

4 large egg whites, room temperature*

*If your eggs are warming too slowly, gently place them in a cup, then fill the cup with lukewarm (not hot) water until they reach room temperature

For the frosting:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold

1/4 tsp. salt

7 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. milk


DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Make sure the racks are in the lower two thirds of the oven. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently shake the tins so that any raised batter flattens. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes– I know this is a super scary way to test them as opposed to the toothpick method, but they’ll keep cooking in the pan so take them out as soon as you can touch the top without getting any residue on your finger. Rotate tins once while baking. Transfer tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

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For the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

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To assemble:

While gingerly holding a completely cooled cupcake, scoop a large amount (thing about a half a tennis ball) onto the top of the cupcake using a spatula. Then, swipe the sides of the cupcake in a circular motion until the top looks flat and the sides are smooth, almost like a volcano. Place any decorations on top, then eat!

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.

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Fudgy Cheesecake Brownies

I’ve been craving cheesecake brownies for upwards of two weeks. I had off from work today, it’s raining, and my uterus hurts*. Three prime reasons to make them on this fateful Tuesday afternoon. These particular cheesecake brownies have a very fudgy chocolate brownie base, and a creamy cheesecake layer that sits on top like a duvet on a mattress. (Yes I’m in bed writing this, SO WHAT?!).

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As much as they’ve been on my mind, I was only able to eat 1 1/2 because they’re so intensely rich and gooey. If you think about it, cheesecake brownies are kind of an epic dessert; essentially the lovechild of two gold medalists at the dessert olympics, brownies and cheesecake.

*If you think it’s gross of me to mention this in a post for a food blog, I don’t know what to tell you.

This recipe is derived from this brownie recipe, and this cheesecake brownie recipe.

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I use Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, which makes the brownie base a little bittersweet

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The shiniest brownie batter in town

INGREDIENTS:

For the brownie layer:

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake layer:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

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This is already looking decadent

DIRECTIONS:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang for easy removal. Spray with non-stick baking spray, or butter lightly.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Be careful not to microwave it on high if you have a powerful microwave (mine is quite strong so I heated it on level 6). Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly and is no longer hot to the touch. It’s okay if it looks a little gritty– this is normal.

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This paper, which truly makes me smile, is from Paper Source

Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring to combine after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Dump into the lined pan–I say “dump” because that is essentially the noise it will make when you pour it in–and spread out using a spatula. Wiggle the pan if necessary to flatten the batter more.

Combine the cheesecake sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and egg in a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low until everything is combined and there are no lumps or watery areas. Pour onto the brownie batter. Spread out with a spatula. Using a knife, swirl the batter and cheesecake topping as much as possible. Because the brownie batter is so dense, it will not combine with the cheesecake layer very much.

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It’s not gonna look perfect, and that’s okay!

Bake for 35-40 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after the 25 minute mark. Brownies are done once a toothpick is inserted and comes out with only a little bit of moist residue. It will not crumb like a cakier brownie would, so do not look for crumbs as a sign that it is done! The cheesecake layer never completely hardens, so just because it’s soft doesn’t mean it’s undercooked.

Let cool on a wire rack, then place in the refrigerator for about an hour. Cut into 16 squares. Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days for optimal freshness.

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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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Buffalo Chicken Blue Cheese Pizza

Right now, my best friend Lauren is lying on my sofa and “Modern Family” is playing on TV. Actually, at this precise moment a Purina commercial is playing on TV, but you get the picture. Lauren and I are in this quasi comatose state because of what we did this afternoon. Or, I should say, what we ate this afternoon. Not only did I make buffalo chicken pizza covered in nuggets of mouth watering blue cheese, but I also made my favorite chocolate chip cookies, which we ate while watching the Hillary Duff-Heather Locklear classic, “The Perfect Man”. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s one of those perfect late 90’s meets early 2000’s romcoms).

It’s been a couple of hours since the credits rolled on that and our cookie eating, so we just ordered Chinese. But don’t be too worried for our health; we kept it light, only ordering wanton soup and egg rolls… That’s light for us.

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Buffalo chicken with blue cheese is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and I absolutely LOVE buff chick pizza, especially from the pizza parlor Rosa’s out in Huntington. Their sauce is tangy and spicy enough to make you cough and down a glass of water. Sadly, they’re not handing out the recipe, so I used Sweet Baby Ray’s, which is still tangy but not quite as tear inducing.

Update: Lauren is now fully asleep on my sofa. She’s probably enduring some horrible heartburn. I’m sure the wanton soup will fix that…

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Makes 1, 12-14 inch pie. Serves 2 people.

INGREDIENTS:

1 bag Trader Joe’s pizza dough

1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s buffalo sauce, plus 2 tbsp.

Scant 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup chopped red onions

1/4 cup sliced celery

1-2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped in 1/2 inch cubes

1/4 blue cheese dressing, if desired

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DIRECTIONS:

Let the pizza dough sit on the counter for 20 minutes in the bag.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly grease a baking sheet, or cover it in parchment paper. On a separate, floured work surface, roll out the dough using a rolling pin. It wouldn’t stretch as far as I wanted it to, so I picked it up and rotated it through my hands in order to help the process along. Once it’s the size and shape you want it to be, relocate it to the baking sheet.

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Toss the chicken in the 2 tbsp of buffalo sauce. Set aside.

Pour the buffalo sauce on the center of the dough and spread around, leaving about an inch of the circumference bare for the crust. Sprinkle the mozzarella on the sauce covered portion. Pour the chicken on top and spread evenly. Cover with onion, celery, and blue cheese chunks.

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Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. Make sure that the cheese is melted fully before taking it out. The crust should spring back when you poke it. Drizzle blue cheese dressing on top if desired.

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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