Cinna Stix

OKAY, OKAY I’M BACK. Sorry that took so long. I’ve still been cooking, I just haven’t had time to blog anything in months. But now that my favorite cooking season is right around the corner I’ll try to be better about sharing what I’m up to in the kitchen.

This hurrr is an extremely easy and satisfying recipe for something we all know and love whether we admit it or not: Domino’s Cinna Stix. Because sometimes you don’t want to order a pizza you’re not craving just to have these bad boys delivered curbside.

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These cinnamon coated dough pillows (#metaphor) come together in just about 20 minutes and require very little prep and cleanup. So, perfect for satiating last minute sweet tooth demands.

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This recipe is adapted from food.com.

INGREDIENTS:

1 bag store bought pizza dough – – Trader Joe’s has a great one that’s only $1.29

1/4 cup margarine minus a tsp or so, melted

1/3 cup sugar

1 3/4 tsp cinnamon

8 oz. confectioners sugar

2-3 tbsp milk + more if needed

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp butter, melted

DIRECTIONS:

For the cinna stix:

Preheat the oven to the suggested baking temp for your store bought dough. (I use Trader Joe’s and their temp is 425 F).

Grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Use a whisk to eradicate any lumps!

Stretch the dough into a large rectangle. It should be thin but not translucent. Brush with the melted margarine, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Slice vertically and then 8 times horizontally so that you’re left with roughly 16 sticks. Bake according to the instructions that came with the dough. (I baked mine for 14 minutes). The cinnastix should be golden brown on the edges and the sugar should no longer look raw. Be cautious when removing from the oven since the sugar will be extremely hot.

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For the icing:

While the dough is baking, place the confectioners sugar in a bowl, then add the butter, milk, and vanilla. If the icing is too thick, add more milk by the half tablespoon.

Once cool enough to eat, dip the cinnastix in the frosting and enjoy!

Cinnastix are best when eaten the day of, so either invite friends over or gorge yourself on hot cinnamon sugar bread.

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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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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