Cup of Dirt

Growing up, my favorite place to get dessert (besides cheesecake in Philadelphia…), was Ground Round. Ground Round, for those of you unfamiliar with the 90’s haven, was a chain restaurant that led kids eat for a cent per pound of their body weight. Crazy, right? Yes, crazy. And crazy cheap. But the best part for me as a kid was the dessert. Their specialty, if you will, was cup of dirt. A child friendly delicacy made out of pudding, Cool Whip, crumbled Oreos, and gummy worms. They were always a little chintzy with the worms, so I had to ration them out through the meal. So now that I’m an adult and it’s within my power to add more worms, I decided to make them on my own.

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INGREDIENTS:

Makes about 6 servings

1 package of chocolate pudding, made

1 8 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed

1 small package of gummy worms

1 sleeve of oreos, crumbled (I smashed mine with a meat mallet)

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DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, fold the Cool Whip into the pudding. Be careful not to over mix. Put a few spoonfuls into a small glass. Slide a couple of gummy worms into the pudding, letting them hang over the side of the glass. Top with Oreo crumbles. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

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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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Fluffy Key Lime Pie

I made this pie what feels like ages ago, and just haven’t gotten around to posting it. Which is a shame, because it’s the perfect summer pie in a couple of respects. 1. It’s made with key limes, which hit their peak around now. And 2. It’s a Weight Watchers recipe, so you don’t have to eat it and then worry about sinking to the bottom of the pool. Not that that’s how eating works, but you know the feeling.

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3 weeks ago I went to the beach with my friend Ashleigh after stopping at the deli to pick up some sammies. Naturally, I picked the hottest, most buttery, sauerkraut filled sandwich there ever was. Eating that on the beach, though decadent and clearly uprooting social norms, is probably not something I would do again. Although the melted butter dripping off of the bread did give my hands the beautiful sheen of a basted chicken, so maybe I should reconsider.

But I digress.

I first tried this recipe at least a decade ago, when some family members were on Weight Watchers. Even as a kid, I remember becoming obsessed with its light, marshmallow-esque texture and its tangy but sweet flavor. And the graham cracker crust?! Fuhgettaboutit!

INGREDIENTS:

1 package (.3 ounce) sugar-free lime gelatin

1/4 cup boiling water

2 cartons (6 ounces each) Key lime yogurt — try to find something that’s not full on Greek yogurt, since that’s so thick, but a derivative is fine

1 carton (8 ounces) lite Cool Whip

1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust (8 inches)

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DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Whisk in yogurt. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour into crust. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.

Top with more Cool Whip (I assume you bought two..).

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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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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

Chicken Pot Pie

It’s hard to find shockingly good recipes, but this is one of them. I have never been a huge fan of chicken pot pie, probably because up until now I’ve only eaten the frozen ones. It might seem strange to try a recipe for something that I don’t like, but I had a feeling this one would change my mind, and I was right! This recipe, though not complicated, is a bit time consuming, so I’ve been waiting for a day where I had a few spare hours to make it. Finally, a nippy fall day rolled along on which I didn’t have work, so I thawed those peas and grilled that chicken and geared up to make chicken pot pie.

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The wonderful blogger behind this recipe, Joy the Baker, warns against using pre-made pie crusts with this recipe. Normally I would have heeded her advice, but I was in no mood to patch together pate brisee, so I went for it: I used Pillsbury. Consequently, I had to cook my pie for about 10 minutes past the instructed baking time, and it didn’t appear to be as crispy as Joy’s. But, truth be told I’m kind of into semi-moist pie crusts (if you use Pillsbury and notice that your crust appears to be a bit translucent, it’s probably not undercooked, it’s just absorbed some of the creamy filling!). Additionally, I switched out her preferred fresh string beans for canned corn, which I had on hand. The corn also added a nice pop of color to the pie.

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One of the most convenient things about this recipe is that it calls for grilled chicken breasts, not leftovers from a rotisserie chicken, which many chicken pot pies use. However, because you’re using grilled chicken, make sure you season it well with salt and pepper so that it has as much flavor as a rotisserie chicken would.

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Original Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/double-crust-chicken-pot-pie/

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INGREDIENTS:

2 pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts, thawed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

3/4  cup whole milk>> I often use skim when recipes call for whole milk, but in this case, USE WHOLE MILK! It adds to the creamy luxuriousness of the sauce.

2 oz cream cheese

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cubed chicken meat (2-3 chicken breasts, seasoned and grilled)

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted or salted is fine

1 small onion, diced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup canned corn, drained

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

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DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  The mixture, which is a roux, will look almost too thick- but don’t worry, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.  Heat for 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and slowly add the chicken stock.  Whisk until no flour globs remain.  Whisk in the milk and add the cream cheese.  Heat over medium low heat, stirring often, until cream cheese has melted and the mixture is thick but not stiff.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from heat and carefully pour or spoon into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In the same skillet over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add carrots, corn, and peas.  Cook for  about 5 minutes. Remove from heat even if the veggies still look crisp, and stir in cooked, cubed chicken.  Pour the mixture into the sauce, and stir to combine. Set aside and let cool for a hot sec.

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Unroll one pie crust and place in a 9 inch pie dish. Make sure there are no cracks, or the filling may seep through. If the crusts are fully thawed, they generally won’t crack.

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Spoon or carefully pour the filling into the bottom pie crust.

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Drape the second pie crust over the filling in the pie dish. With your fingers press the top and bottom crusts together and fold under. Crimp the edges of the dough. Cut five small slits in the top of the crust so the steam can vent.  Brush lightly with beaten egg and place in the fridge to chill while the oven preheats.

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Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Place pie in the oven bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 375 and bake for 20-25 (increased time based on Pillsbury crusts) more minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving.

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Enjoy!

Leslie