Yum: Almost-No-Bake Berries & Cream Cheese Pie

082a Summer berries are here, huzzah! To celebrate, I was going to make a typical fruit tart with cream cheese filling. But then I remembered this wonderful berry pie recipe from Cooks Illustrated and decided to combine the two. It takes some time to put together, but if you like berries and the tangy richness of cream cheese, this pie's for you!

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I went with a graham cracker crust because they're easy and I secretly think they're the best part of cheesecake anyway. This is the only part that requires baking and if you use a store-bought graham cracker crust, you won't have to turn on your oven at all!

Beryr Pie Collage

Once the crust is baked and cooled, in goes a berry puree that is thickened with cornstarch and simmered briefly on the stovetop. I used frozen berries - they're cheaper and why not if you're just going to blend them all up!

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After the berry puree has firmed up in the fridge, a lemony-sweet cream cheese layer is spread on top. I found "Greek Cream Cheese" at the market (a combo of cream cheese and greek yogurt) and it tasted great! But you can also use regular or low-fat cream cheese.

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And finally, the fun part - decorating with whatever fresh fruit you like! (I realize mandarin orange segments aren't berries, but they're happy and yellow so whatevs.)

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Berries & Cream Cheese Pie

Crust Ingredients: 10 full graham crackers 1 tbsp granulated sugar 5 tbsp melted butter

Berry Filling Ingredients: 2 cups mixed frozen or fresh berries (I used strawberries and raspberries) 1/2 cup granulated sugar 3 tbsp cornstarch 1/8 tsp salt 1 tbsp lemon juice

Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients: 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (for a healthier version, use neufschatel or Greek Cream Cheese) 1/4 cup granulated sugar zest from 1/2 lemon

Directions:

1. GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Break graham crackers into big pieces and place them and 1 tbsp of sugar into a food processor. Process about 30 seconds or until you have fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate using a spoon or measuring cup to get the crust even on the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to wire rack to cool while you make the berry filling.

2. BERRY FILLING: In a food processor, puree 2 cups of the mixed berries until fully smooth. Press the puree through a mesh strainer and into small saucepan. Reserve a couple tablespoons of this puree to glaze the fruit which will top your pie. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, then whisk this mixture into the saucepan with the puree. Cook the puree over medium heat, stirring constantly until the puree has thickened to the consistency of pudding. Stir in the lemon juice, then let the puree cool slightly. Pour the puree into the graham cracker crust and refrigerate at least two hours or until the puree has set. (If you're in a hurry, you can stick the pie in the freezer for 20 minutes).

3. CREAM CHEESE FILLING: In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, combine the softened cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth and well mixed. Once the berry puree layer is set, spread the cream cheese filling carefully over the top until it is even with the top of the graham cracker crust.

4. DECORATE! Slice up your favorite fruit. Toss red or darker colored fruit with the reserved berry puree to give them a nice shine. (Lighter colored fruit may look discolored when combined with the berry puree). Decorate the top of your pie and refrigerate for a few hours to set before serving.

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Yum: Quick n' Easy Toaster Oven S'mores

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I discovered toasted marshmallows fairly late in life. Another one of those all-American things my Korean parents had no idea about. Serving raw crab to their five year old? Yes. Burning marshmallows? Uh... why?

But once I had a taste of a perfectly browned, crispy caramelly outside, meltingly sticky inside toasted marshmallow, there was no going back. If toasted marshmallow is anywhere on a dessert menu, I'm getting that dessert.

My love of toasted marshmallows is so great that I've even attempted to toast them over a gas burner on my stove and it kinda worked but it was also a little tough and gas-y flavored which was no good.

Thankfully I now have access to a toaster oven and making toasted marshmallow s'mores in there is so easy and fast it's dangerous.

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I used mini marshmallows and jumbo semi-sweet chocolate chips because that's what I had on hand. But it ended up working really well. The big chips create a structural base to keep the mini marshmallows from rolling around. And the layer of mini marshmallows browned more evenly than one big marshmallow would have.

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I moved the toaster oven rack to the highest position and set it to broil. The marshmallows browned so quickly that you really have to sit and watch them so they don't burn. It will depend on your toaster oven but my crappy little one only took three minutes or so.

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Pop on the top graham cracker and just like that, you have a sweet and satisfying dessert.

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And they're so easy to make, you might just find yourself repeating the process.... a couple times. It's okay - a little s'more never hurt anyone ;)

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Yum: Bread Crust Stuffed Pork Chops (on the cheap!)

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This is budget cooking that kicks ramen noodles' ass(es?). Don't get me wrong, I love me some instant ramen but this is so much better and still super affordable. See how I combine inexpensive pork chops with leftover bread crusts to make this tasty meal after the jump!

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First up - these guys are always on sale at the grocery store. And three good-sized pork chops for a little over $5 is too good to pass up. But grocery store pork can be pretty lean and flavorless and after cooking to the recommended 145 degrees, I often had tough, boring pucks of meat on my hands.

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But this time, I had a bag full of pesky bread crusts and those end pieces that no one likes. Because I abhor waste, I thought I could turn them into a stuffing that would add flavor and moisture to my pork. And huzzah! The sum of the two was greater than the parts.

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To add lots of flavor to my stuffing, I diced up some onion, garlic, celery, mushroom, scallion and sage and browned them well in butter before tossing in my bread crumbs and some chicken stock for moisture.

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Then I cut a pocket into each of my pork chops, and in went the stuffing. As much as I could get in there without it all spilling back out again.

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Next, a good sear on each side in an oven-proof skillet (except for that guy on the right, I don't know why he's so pale). And finally, into the oven to finish cooking.

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Bread Crust Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients: 3 pork loin chops (1-inch thick) 2 celery stalks, diced small 1/2 medium onion, diced small 1 clove garlic, minced 1 cup small diced button or cremini mushrooms 3 leaves sage, finely chopped 2 tablespoons butter 2 cups fresh homemade breadcrumbs (see note below) or 1 cup dry store-bought    breadcrumbs 1/2 cup chicken broth salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until just translucent. Add the celery, mushrooms and sage and cook for another five minutes or until the celery is tender but still has a little crunch. Season with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add in the breadcrumbs and mix well. Pour in chicken broth a little at at time until the stuffing is slightly moist but still fluffy. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

3. Cut a pocket in each pork chop by slicing carefully into one side. Smoosh as much stuffing as you can into each pocket. Secure with string or toothpicks (or if you're lazy like me, skip this and just be really careful when flipping your chops). Season generously on each side with salt and pepper.

4. Pour 2 teaspoons of oil into an oven-proof skillet and sear the chops on high heat until well browned (about 3 minutes per side). Cover the skillet, pop in the oven and bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork chop registers 145°. Rest 5-10 minutes and remove string or toothpicks before serving. Thicken pan juices if desired.

NOTE: To make homemade bread crumbs out of bread crusts -Toast the breast crusts in a toaster oven until they are golden brown and crusty. Break into large pieces, then whiz them in a food processor until you have coarse, chunky crumbs. For this recipe, don't worry about getting your bread crumbs too small or uniform.

 

Yum: Chocolate-Raspberry Crepe Cake with Whipped Cream

Blog - Crepe Cake 063b One day I had way too much leftover whipped cream (you know, it happens sometimes..). See my spoon drowning in the excess? My roommate suggested I just throw it away to which I gasped audibly and dramatically. WASTE this heavenly, pillowy goodness?

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Instead, I decided to make a crepe cake - I had been wanting to try one and this was the perfect opportunity. See how I punched up the flavor after the jump!

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I knew I wanted rich chocolate-y flavor and a fruit filling to add a fresh tartness. Naturally, I wanted to use what I had on hand. Which happened to be Trader Joe's hot chocolate powder and raspberry preserves. Of course, if you're legit and have real unsweetened, high-quality cocoa powder on hand, your crepe cake will be slightly better than mine. But I'm perfectly happy with my lazy version =)

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I used raspberry preserves on every third layer, so I had twice as many whipped cream layers to balance out the tangy berry flavor.

Oh and here's a helpful and probably unnecessary hint - don't water down your raspberry preserves so that it will spread easier. 'Cause I did that and then the extra water just seeped down and pooled at the bottom of the cake and made things all soggy. Lesson learned.

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One other thing, since we're being honest: turns out crepe cake isn't my favorite dessert ever. I prefer a good fruit pie or fudgy brownie. And it's a lot of work. But I brought it to a party and everyone was super impressed and it was gobbled up immediately. So I figured I'd share... you know, just in case you have a ton of whipped cream and a few hours on your hands =)

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Chocolate-Raspberry Crepe Cake with Whipped Cream:

For the Crepes:

2 cups milk

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

6 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tbsp sugar and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or 1/2 cup hot chocolate powder if that's all you have on hand)

2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 tsp butter or oil, to grease the skillet for the crepes

For the Filling:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup raspberry (or whatever flavor you like!) preserves

Make the Crepes:

Mix the crepe ingredients in a blender until just smooth, making sure to scrape down the sides of the blender to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Chill the crepe batter for at least an hour so the glutens have a chance to relax and the air bubbles dissipate.

Put a little oil or butter in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Raise the skillet off the heat, ladle in some of the crepe batter, then quickly swirl the skillet around so the crepe batter distributes evenly. (It should take about a 3 tbsp of crepe batter for a 9-inch skillet.)

After about a minute of cooking, carefully lift the edge of the crepe and use your fingers to carefully flip the crepe over. Cook another 30 seconds on the second side.

Repeat until all the batter is gone, stacking crepes on a dinner plate as they cook.

Assemble the Cake:

Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

Place one crepe on the bottom of a cake stand or flat plate, then spread about 1/4 cup of the whipped cream over the top. Repeat with one more crepe and whipped cream. For the third crepe, spread a couple tablespoons of the raspberry preserves over the top. Continue layering two crepes with whipped cream and one with raspberry preserves until all the crepes have been used up.

For the top, spread with a generous layer of whipped cream and decorate with chocolate shavings, chocolate chips or whatever else you have to make it pretty! If you have any whipped cream remaining, save it to serve alongside slices of the cake.

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Yum: Korean BBQ Pork & Beef Sliders

074a I'm so proud when I can draw on my Korean heritage to make something epically awesome and yummy. Which these sliders are: plump, juicy, full of salty/sweet flavor and so so good on lightly toasted Kings Hawaaiin Rolls. Seriously, these will make you the hero of any party. Get the recipe after the jump!

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To make these sliders extra juicy, I used a puree of onion, apple and ginger, just like I do when I make traditional marinated Korean short ribs. Just a few dashes of soy sauce and sesame oil and some chopped green onion and you have truly flavorful patties so moist they make a bit of a mess when pan frying. Well worth it, I say!

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For the pork sliders, I used the exact same recipe and process but added some red pepper flakes to make them spicy, just like traditional Korean BBQ pork!

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The Kings Hawaain rolls were a blessed accident. They were the only rolls available at the Korean market and I was too lazy to go another grocery store. Turns out my laziness paid off once again (huzzah!) because these squishy, sweet rolls compliment the patties beautifully.

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To garnish, I used sriracha mayonnaise and lightly pickled daikon radish strips that I got at an Asian market. But you could use regular cucumber pickles to equally awesome effect.

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This next pic makes me hungry every time I see it. EVERY. TIME.

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Korean BBQ Pork & Beef Sliders

Ingredients for Beef Sliders:

3 lbs ground beef

1/2 large apple (or asian pear)

1/2 large onion

1-inch piece of ginger root, trimmed

3/4 cup finely chopped scallions

4 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Pork Sliders:

Same as for beef sliders, but use ground pork and add 2 tsp red pepper flakes

Garnishes:

Kings Hawaiian Rolls

Pickled daikon (if this is hard to find, you regular cucumber pickles also work great)

Sriracha Mayonnaise -- stir 1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce into 1/2 cup mayonnaise; add more sriracha if you like it spicy

Lettuce leaves

Directions:

Place the apple (or asian pear), onion, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and black pepper in a blender or food processor and puree. Add the puree and the chopped scallion (and red pepper flakes, if using), to the ground meat and mix until just combined. Make a small test patty and cook to make sure your meat is seasoned properly. Adjust seasoning as needed, then shape meat into small patties and fry in a cast iron skillet or on a grill. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side over medium-high heat for medium rare sliders.

To assemble, slice King's Hawaiian rolls in half horizontally and lightly toast in a toaster oven. Add sriracha mayonnaise, pickles, lettuce and patties and dig in!

Yum: Gourmet(ish) Sandwiches

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A friend gave me this gorgeous, seeded loaf of bread and what can you do with really wonderful bread except make a really wonderful sandwich?  And that doesn't mean going out and buying $20 of prosciutto (although that would be divine). You can elevate almost any sandwich with some humble ingredients.

See what they are after the jump!

It's onion and avocado!Blog - Sandwich 003Balsamic Onions: Slice a small onion thin, then sautee for 10 minutes with a tablespoon of butter and a splash of vegetable oil. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar and sautee for 5 minutes longer until the onions are tender but not mushy.

Smashed Avocado: Smash a medium avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper until you have a chunky spread.

Blog - Sandwich 019All I had was some sauteed chicken breasts, but that onion and avocado sure make it look fancy. In fact, these two condiments will make ANY sandwich better (except maybe tuna salad... but now that I think of it, that might still be pretty good.)

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So next time you're looking ahead to a week of dry, boring sandwiches in your lunch bag, try making a batch of balsamic onions and smashed avocado and see if you can't liven things up a bit. Happy Sandwiching!

 

Yum: Oreo Mini Icebox Cakes

icebox cakes PicMonkey Collage2One day my friend told me about icebox cakes and then I couldn't get them out of my head until I tried them. Icebox cakes are one of those classic American treats that I never knew existed because to my Korean parents, dessert is cut up fruit. Fortunately, they're dead easy to make so I was able to go home immediately to try it. See a step by step how-to after the jump!

Oreo Mini-Icebox Cakes

Ingredients and Supplies:

One package chocolate sandwich cookies

3 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Foil cupcake liners (paper liners can soak up the cream and get soggy)

~Step 1 - Place whole oreos in the bottom of cupcake liners. Separate the rest of the oreos into halves (I removed the cream center but you can keep it if you like).~Blog - Icebox Cake 002

~Step 2 - Whip cold heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form (leaving whipped cream a little loose will make assembly easier)~Blog - Icebox Cake 022

~Step 3 - Drop about 1 tbsp whipped cream onto whole oreos, then top with a half oreo~Blog - Icebox Cake 032

~Step 4 - Repeat two more times or until the stacks are as tall as the cupcake liners~Blog - Icebox Cake 040

~Step 5 - Finish with a dollop of whipped cream and crushed oreos~ Blog - Icebox Cake 062

~Step 6 - Chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours so the cookies soften (be patient!)~Blog - Icebox Cake 068

~Step 7 - FINALLY...DIG IN!~Blog - Crepe Cake 012

I also made a few raspberry-flavored icebox cakes by mixing a dollop of raspberry jam into a separate smaller bowl of whipped cream. The jam makes the whipped cream a little lumpy so they don't look quite as polished as the plain ones, but they taste divine!Blog - Icebox Cake 065

I just assembled these lil' guys in a deep baking pan, covered with saran wrap and they traveled easier-than-pie to a party. Where they were a big hit, of course =)

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They're easy, cheap, portable, adorable and delicious - give 'em a try!

Yum: Easy Peas-y Chicken Salad

picmonkeya025 (2) I'm a practical cook. I abhor waste and I love transforming ingredients. So most days, my recipes are fueled by whatever is in my fridge. This time, it was half a roast chicken leftover from last night's dinner. We also had waaaay too much sliced bread on hand. So chicken salad sandwiches just made sense. At the last minute, I threw in some sliced snap peas for crunch and they added such a lovely texture that they're totally invited to my next chicken or tuna or potato salad.

Read on for the recipe and more!

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With only a few ingredients, this chicken salad comes together fast and makes a satisfying and zippy sandwich.

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Oh yeah, a little drizzle of olive oil on the outside of your toasted bread gives your sandwich a subtle extra layer of flavor (especially if you're using whole grain bread because white bread makes you feel guilty).

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This chicken salad also loves entertaining - make little tea sandwiches or just put it in lettuce cups or on top of crackers for some satisfying party fare.

OR, pile it high on a a toasted slice of thick, hearty bread with a soft boiled egg sliced on top, finished with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Now that's a grown-up lunch.

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Easy Peas-y Chicken Salad 

Cooked meat from 1/2 chicken

1/2 c snap peas, sliced thin

2 stalks celery (including celery leaves), sliced thin

2 scallions, sliced thin

3 tbsp mayonnaise

2 tbsp whole-grain dijon mustard

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tbsp white balsamic, red wine, champagne or other mild, light colored vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 tbsp chopped parsley or 1 tsp chopped tarragon, dill or thyme

Pull your cooked chicken off the bone and shred or rough chop. Slice your celery, snap peas and scallions thin and throw it into a big bowl with the chicken. Add your mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, poultry seasoning and whatever herbs you are using and mix this all together. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Yum: Turkey Burgers (good ones)

I've mentioned before that I tend to cook without recipes - I'm a dash of this, pinch of that kinda girl. But I made turkey burgers the other night that turned out so yummy and moist I thought I'd make a stab at writing a recipe. Get it after the jump! Turkey Burger Collage2

Really Good Turkey Burgers

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey (I used 85% lean)

1 small shallot (or 1/2 large one), minced

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dijon mustard

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

1/2 c. panade (find the recipe here)

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Directions:

1) Saute the minced shallots in 1 tbsp. olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper, plus 1/2 tsp. each dried oregano and thyme, for 5 minutes or until shallots are translucent. Let cool slightly.

2) Add the cooked shallot mixture, 2 tsp. mustard, 2 dashes Worcestershire, 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, 1/2 c. panade, 2 tbsp. parsley, and 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper to the ground turkey. Mix with hands or two spoons until ingredients are just combined.

3) Form 4 large patties or 6 small patties. Add oil or nonstick cooking spray to a cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until a thermometer reads 165°.

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You can eat these on a bun or over a salad with avocado and tomato for lunch. Or with mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner. I suspect you can also shape this into a loaf and bake with strips of bacon or sauce over the top to make a fantastic turkey meatloaf. In any case, happy cooking!

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