4th of July Berry Pie

The past few weeks I’ve been in a heightened state of spring cleaning. Throwing out random receipts (except the ones from Sur and Moonlight Rollerway in LA, obv), old shoes, and a terrible hat collection has been my go-to pastime. As I ran out of things to toss from my room, I set my sights on the refrigerator. In it, I found remnants of my insanely brief smoothie faze: a bag of frozen mixed berries. Next to this sad ghost of a healthier me sat an unopened bag of frozen cherries, which were leftover from last week’s cherry pie. In a fit of glorious, cleaning-driven energy I whipped up this five berry pie. It’s based on a recipe from Food Network, though I changed it a little bit to make it tarter since I love a good tang in my pie. I also used a star shaped cookie cutter from Christmas to make cute stars to top the pie with, turning what would be a regular, ho-hum-da-dum pie into a stunningly fabulous Fourth of July Berry Pie.

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INGREDIENTS:

4 cups of frozen berries, thawed (I used cherries, strawbs, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)

2 Pillsbury pie crusts

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (you can use a little more or a little less depending on how sweet you want the filling to be)

4-5 tbsp cornstarch (depending on how thick you want it to be– I’d start with 4 and work your way up if you need to add more)

1/8 tsp vanilla

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tbsp butter, to dot

1 tbsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle

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DIRECTIONS:

Place berries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot berries and mix well. Mix in the lemon and vanilla. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool– I always lose patience and just wait until it’s not hot… oh well. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place one Pillsbury crust in the pie pan. Using a star cookie cutter, punch stars out of the other one. Set aside.

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Pour the cooled berry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Top with the star cutouts, then sprinkle the remaining tbsp of granulated sugar on top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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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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Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cake

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, and not for the reasons you might think. Yes, if you have a significant other, it’s about celebrating your “relationship” (i.e. it’s actually about overdone Hallmark cards, overpriced roses, and last minute restaurant reservations made by frantic boyfriends and husbands… I know, because I take said reservations). For me, Valentine’s Day has always been about celebrating all forms of love in my life. Every year, my mom has given me and my sister a few small goodies on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Last V-Day I was living in California, and she sent me an awesome package: Dove chocolate, cherry/vanilla tootsie rolls, the movie “It’s Complicated”, themed socks, and decorations.

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^The package from my mom.^

Growing up, we also had an annual Valentine’s Day tea party for friends. We stopped doing it at some point, but, inspired by Leslie Knope’s Galentine’s Day festivities, I decided to revive it. Instead of doing a tea party, though, we’re going to be having dinner, cocktails, and cake. And thanks to my friend Lauren, buff chick and heart shaped mozzarella stick appetizers. HEYOOO. Buff chick for the win.

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At the afore mentioned Valentine’s Day tea parties, my mom always made a heart shaped cake. Usually vanilla, and usually with those little red heart gummies that you find at CVS perched on top. As an homage to that cake, I made a red velvet heart shaped cake with cream cheese frosting. I generally think that red velvet cake is slightly overrated, as compared to say, peanut butter and chocolate cake, but it was the most festive option. If you have a heart shaped tin (mine is from Wilton), you can use the following cake recipe and it will fit perfectly. I used Alton Brown’s cream cheese frosting recipe, but feel free to use your favorite. Whatever recipe you choose, I recommend sifting the powdered sugar before adding it to your wet ingredients, or you’ll have lumpy frosting.

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Original Cake Recipe: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016329-red-velvet-cake

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 ½ cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

pink/red food coloring

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 ½ flour, sifted

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon white vinegar

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DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare heart shaped cake pan by greasing heavily with butter or crisco, then coat with a thin layer of flour or cocoa powder, tapping out excess.

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.

Add food coloring and cocoa powder. If you’re using pink food dye, add more than you think you need in order to make a deeper red color.

Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.

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Pour batter into cake pan. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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Let cool, invert onto wire rack, then frost as desired.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Cheeseburger Cupcakes

Who doesn’t love dessert that looks like meat? Sausage shaped jello, cake that looks like honey glazed ham, cookies that open and close like clams… I’m into it all. While these cupcakes are a little more on the normal side of your dessert meats, they’re equally exciting in presentation.

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Since cheeseburgers are an American classic, these little guys are perfect for a Memorial Day BBQ or the like. But one of my friends was having a “Burgers ‘n Booze” birthday party this weekend, so OBVIOUSLY I had to make them for her. (Side note, this friend has an awesome burger blog that you should take a look at: http://projectgutenburger.tumblr.com). The girl likes burgahs!

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They’re very easy to make, but are somewhat time consuming because you have to bake two batches of cupcakes. The time went by especially slowly since I was anticipating eating the leftover cupcake bottoms while watching “Total Divas” on demand: a valiant goal that I have since accomplished. This is an adapted version of a recipe from Duncan Hines.

Original Recipe: http://www.duncanhines.com/recipes/cupcakes/cabaker77/hamburger-cupcakes/

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INGREDIENTS:

1 box Devil’s Food chocolate cake mix + called for ingredients

1 box golden cake mix + called for ingredients

2 cans vanilla frosting

Yellow OR red food dye

Green food dye

Coconut (optional)

Sesame seeds

Honey (optional)

Toothpicks

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DIRECTIONS:

Bake both boxes of cupcakes according to package instructions. Do not line cupcake tins; spray heavily with non-stick spray. If you use the same tins for both flavors of cupcakes, make sure you wash them in between.

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While the cupcakes bake, mix yellow (cheese/mustard) OR red food dye (ketchup) into one can of frosting, and green into the other. If you prefer, you can add a couple of drops of green food dye to a Ziploc bag of coconut. Shake it a few times, and you have your lettuce! Since I didn’t know if everyone liked coconut, I opted for using green frosting and a special lettuce-looking piping tip to create the same effect. Set aside.

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Once your cupcakes are finished baking and have cooled, cut the golden cupcakes in half horizontally. Cut off the cupcake tops of the chocolate cupcakes. You may discard the bottoms of the chocolate cupcakes, or eat them, as I did. (Waste not, want not).

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Put a small dollop of frosting on the top side of the bottom half of the golden cupcake. Adhere a chocolate top to it. Using a knife, spread on some yellow frosting. Use enough that it can be seen form under the bun, but not so much that you can’t see the chocolate cupcake (the hamburger meat). Once you have completed these steps on each cupcake, you can add your lettuce. Then, put the top halves of each golden cupcake onto the burgers. Lightly wet each top bun with your fingertips, then sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top. If you want to add an extra sweet element (though BELIEVE ME, ’tis not necessary), use a dab of honey rather than water. Skewer each burger with a toothpick.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Coffee Kahlua Brownie Bites

Every Christmas, I bake the same three types of cookies: chocolate chip, sugar, and oatmeal butterscotch. Though I love these cookies and the memories that come with them, I also like to try a few new recipes every year. My friend Casey is hosting a wine and fondue tasting party tomorrow night, which gave me the perfect excuse to make these mini brownies. Because they’re miniature, they’re perfect for entertaining or bringing to a friend’s house. They also make you feel like a giant that’s eating normal sized brownies, so that’s a plus. The original recipe (Better Homes and Gardens) actually calls for creme de menthe, but I have a giant bottle of Kahlua in my cabinet so… these are now coffee and Kahlua brownies.

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I kept the proportions the same as they were in the original recipe. But, if you want a strong Kahlua flavor in your frosting, add more, a half tablespoon at a time, after the first two tablespoons have already been blended. If the frosting becomes too thin, compensate by gradually adding more confectioners sugar.

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INGREDIENTS:

BROWNIES:

1/2 cup butter

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp strongly brewed coffee

1 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

FROSTING:

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 cups confectioners sugar

2 tbsp Kahlua

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DIRECTIONS:

BROWNIES:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8x2 baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

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In a small saucepan, cook and store butter and chocolate over very low heat until melted. Let cool slightly.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each until just combined. Stir in coffee and vanilla.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and stir briefly until it looks uniform. Spread this batter into the baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lift the foil and brownies out of the pan. Cut brownies into roughly 49 small squares. Set aside.

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FROSTING:

In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1 cup of confectioners sugar, then beat in Kahlua. Add the second cup of confectioners sugar.

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ASSEMBLY:

Using a spatula, spoon frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe a dollop of frosting onto each brownie bite. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Halloween Cards

My mom has always been very into rubber stamping and making her own greeting cards, so it’s not a huge surprise that I’m interested in crafting as well. I normally focus more on scrapbooks than on greeting cards, but this year I was in the mood to make something cute to send to friends for Halloween. Though some of my best friends live nearby, a few of them live across the country or even on a different continent. Since I won’t see them for the holiday, I thought it would be nice to show I’m thinking of them by sending a card.

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I used a rubber stamp for one of the cards, but for the most part I relied on pre-packaged Halloween paper kits and appropriately themed ribbon. I used double stick adhesive tape and brads to bind the materials together. You may have noticed that most, if not all, of these cards have glitter on them. I used a pigment pen and embossing powder to achieve this look (though some of the paper came with glitter already adhered). You can find all of these items at your local craft store, such as an AC Moore or a Michael’s.

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Happy crafting!

Leslie