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.

IMG_3418

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)

IMG_3368

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..).

IMG_3412

 

 

 

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.

IMG_2615

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.

IMG_2626

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
IMG_2602

IMG_2607

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.

IMG_2626

 

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.

IMG_2409

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.

IMG_2421

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.

IMG_2446

 

 

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.

IMG_1849

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.

IMG_1898

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.

IMG_1890

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

IMG_1874

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.

IMG_1859

IMG_1863

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.

IMG_1899

Enjoy!

Leslie

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.

IMG_1669

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.

IMG_5766

Mookie picking up seashells on our way back home.

IMG_5775

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.

IMG_1671

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

IMG_1680

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.

IMG_1657

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.

IMG_1679

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.

IMG_1664

Cut into 20 squares. Serve immediately or wrap each bar tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

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.

IMG_1150

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.

IMG_1143

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

IMG_1116

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.

IMG_1156

Enjoy!

Leslie

Baked Occasions Strawberry Cake

I’m always trepidatious when it comes to trying desserts with fruit in them. Fruit-bearing desserts almost always have way too much fruit, and way too little butter and cake and brownies and chocolate. For example, “berries and whipped cream” are almost always a bunch of blackberries and strawberries with a tiny dollop of whipped cream; I’m not in dessert for the fruit, I’m in it for the dessert.

In spite of my clearly defined feelings toward fruit masquerading as dessert, this Strawberry Supreme Cake, as it’s called in the cookbook Baked Occasions, caught my eye. I kept flipping back to the photo of the elegantly whimsical cake, on which three strawberries were neatly perched. The cake to berry ratio seemed to be in my favor. I skimmed the recipe and though it calls for multiple cups of fresh or frozen strawberries, it also calls for butter, heavy cream, and sugar, so my fruit fears were abated. (I want to reiterate, it’s not that I don’t like fruit, it’s just that it has it’s place, and that’s usually not on my dessert plate, or in salads… generally speaking, I find fruit in salads to be a bit wonky).

IMG_9959

IMG_9969

This cake is probably the best homemade strawberry cake you’ll ever make. It’s fluffy and moist, thanks to the shortening and meringue in the batter. The frosting, which contains three sticks of butter, is fluffy and enchanting in texture. The strawberry preserves, which lie under the whipped cream filling, round out the cake perfectly. To be honest, I doubted whether I could finish my slice since it’s so, so sweet, but somehow I managed.

IMG_9945

IMG_9981

Due to copyright laws I can’t reprint the wonderful recipe here, but hopefully the pictures will inspire you to buy the book, or try a strawberry cake recipe of your own!

IMG_9910

 Enjoy!

Graham Cracker Cookies

If you live anywhere near me (any New Yorkers out there?), you know that the sweltering humidity we’re currently experiencing is far from autumnal. With that said, I usually consider everything post Labor Day and pre Christmas to be part of my favorite season: fall. Fall is the rebirth of the year for children… sort of like New Year’s for adults. It’s when they get to start the new school year with a clean slate, new hopes and dreams, and most importantly, great snacks in their lunchboxes.

One of the snacks that my mom always kept stocked in the house growing up was graham crackers. When I was younger I didn’t really get the appeal unless they were transformed into s’mores. But now I enjoy them with peanut butter and fresh strawberries as a dessert when I’m being healthy. When I’m not being healthy, I still use them for s’mores making purposes.

This recipe, which comes from the pretty and pink Miette cookbook, takes graham crackers to the next level by making them into cookies. They’re delicious with milk, as most cookies are, but I especially like putting them out when I have people for tea.

Buy the Miette Cookbook here: https://www.miette.com/mailorder/books/miette-book.html

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

Heaping tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark, but either works fine)

2 tbsp honey

DIRECTIONS:

Sift together flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

001

In the bowl of a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid) fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey on low speed for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl throughout.

Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture a third at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Form the dough into a disc shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Similarly to a pate brisee, this dough has a lot of butter so it must be chilled in order to roll properly.

002

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and place between 2 sheets of wax paper. It’s important to use wax paper and not flour because flour would ruin the caramel complexion of the dough. Roll out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. I made mine a little bit too thick so they didn’t turn out as crispy as they otherwise would have. If you like chewy cookies, feel free to make them thicker, but if you want more of a traditional graham cracker texture, I recommend sticking to the 1/4 inch suggestion.

Using a 3 1/4 inch round cookie cutter with a scalloped edge, cut out the cookies. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and LET COOL COMPLETELY! I put that part in caps because I tend to be impatient and always move my cookies too early. But be warned: these cookies will break very easily.

006

Re-roll remaining dough scraps and cut out more cookies. Bake as directed and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

010

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/

023010

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.

022

025

Enjoy!

Leslie

Simply Delicious Crostini

Sometimes I find myself surrounded by remnants of meals past; some mozzarella and basil from that lasagne I made, some tomatoes from that sauce I cooked, some bread from me eating that loaf of bread… you get the picture. I hate throwing out food since it’s wasteful and not cost effective, but it can be hard to concoct a meal out of leftovers. How are you supposed to find a recipe that uses everything you have laying around your kitchen? Often, you can’t, but if you only have to run out and  buy one new thing in order to make a recipe that involves most of your leftovers, why not?

I came up with this crostini recipe when I saw that an old loaf of Italian bread was about to be thrown out. I looked around and saw that we had some tomatoes, which we normally keep in the house to put in salads, and some basil leaves from our basil plant out back. I had never made crostinis before, but one of my classmates had made them recently, so I had a rough idea of what making them entailed. Luckily, I discovered that cooking crostinis is very simple. As long as you don’t burn the bread (which I’m sure you won’t), there’s not much that can go wrong. Since this recipe was intended as a way to use leftovers, I left the ingredient amounts loose so that you can adjust it to fit your pantry.

Leslie Camera 546

INGREDIENTS:

 One loaf of few-day-old Italian bread

Olive oil

Kalamata olives

A couple of small-medium sized tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes)

Mozzarella cheese (fresh is always preferable, but feel free to use prepackaged like I did here)

Feta cheese

3-4 torn basil leaves

Garlic salt (if you don’t have garlic salt, you can use a pinch of garlic powder and coarse salt)

Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil so that the middle appears yellow and slightly moist- no need to drench them! Sprinkle each side with garlic salt and pepper.

Leslie Camera 547

Lay the crostini on a baking sheet (or two, depending on how many you’re making). Put crostini in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they no longer appear moist and the crust is a deeper brown than when you put them in. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet(s).

Leslie Camera 548

Chop the kalamata olives and mix with feta cheese. Take half of the bread off of the baking sheet(s) and top with kalamata-feta mixture. Set aside.

Cut tomatoes so that each piece is no larger than the size of a nickel. Do the same with the mozzarella. There should be about the same amount of mozzarella and tomatoes. Tear the basil leaves and mix with the tomato-mozzarella mixture. Put on top of the remaining crostini.

Combine both types of crostini on a serving plate, and sprinkle with a few pinches of pepper.

Leslie Camera 549

Enjoy!

Leslie