Rosemary Cashews

Last weekend we went to a family potluck and – as usual – I struggled with what to make. 

Since I rarely cook or bake, I was not about to volunteer to bring, say, coq au vin or baked Alaska.

I settled on two things: these gluten-free peanut butter cookies (to which I added chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups from our leftover Halloween stash with great results) and rosemary cashews.

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This recipe is a spin on one from Real Simple magazine. The original article showcases four ways to start with mixed nuts and make them sweet or savory.

For my version, I decided to skip the mixed nuts and started with a 16 ounce bag of lightly salted cashews instead. Here’s the step by step:

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz lightly salted cashews
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet
  2. Add sugar, nuts and rosemary. Stir to coat and cook until cashews are fragrant and lightly toasted, about 4-5 minutes. Don’t burn!
  3. Spread nuts on a baking sheet to cool and sprinkle with coarse salt. Eat. Enjoy.

I brought back some sea salt from Hawaii and the big flakes really elevated the flavor.

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Candy Bar Brownies

Our friends P & T invited us over to their house on Sunday, and I gallantly said I would bring a dessert.

Except that I barely ever cook, I didn’t have much time, and I couldn’t think of anything to make.

And then I remembered these candy bar brownies.

I saw this recipe in a newspaper column about five years ago, back when we were still living in Texas.

At the time, it seemed over-the-top decadent for a picnic or potluck, which struck me as being particularly Texan.

These brownies couldn’t be easier (even for me!), and they turn out great every time. You can also mix up the filling, but I am partial to the original recipe.

Ingredients:

Here’s what to do:

  • Spray a 9″ x 13″ cake pan with cooking spray
  • Prepare the boxes of brownie mix according to instructions
  • Pour half of the raw dough into the prepared pan
  • Top with broken-up pieces of the candy bars
  • Cover with the rest of the brownie mix
  • Bake at 350 F for one hour. This last part is important! It takes a long time for these to be done.

Here’s a snap from the half-way point:

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I leave the candy bar pieces pretty large and distribute them so that each brownie will have a bit of candy.

After baking, the candy bars form a truffle-like layer of filling that is absolutely delicious.

A few tips:

  • Don’t try to skimp and just use one box of brownie mix, unless you use an 8″ x 8″ pan. Otherwise, they’ll be too thin and you’ll lose the layered effect if you use a 9″ x 13″ pan.
  • Box brownie mix is also fine for this recipe, since the truffle-y filling is the star.
  • There’s something about the smooth and creamy texture of the Symphony bars that make them well-suited for this, but these would also be awesome with Reese’s peanut butter cups in the middle.

 

 

 

Lemony Quinoa Salad

I had to bring a dish to a Forced Family Function (F.F.F.) over the weekend, and I decided to counter the usual cheesy/bacony/buttery fare with a healthy quinoa salad.

Lemony Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I used Trader Joe’s Tricolor Quinoa)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 cup fresh peas (Also Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lemon for zesting and for the juice
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 6 oz fat-free feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions, except use the vegetable broth instead of water for a more flavorful end product.
  2. At the same time, prepare a large put of boiling water and blanche the asparagus pieces and peas. It’s fine to cook them together. 
  3. Zest the lemon, set aside.
  4. Drain the asparagus and peas, then toss them with the olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Combine the quinoa, lemony green vegetables, tomatoes, parsley, lemon zest and feta.
  6. Squeeze the rest of the lemon over the whole thing, stir, and taste. You’ll probably want to season a bit more with salt and pepper.
  7. Eat.

Taking care to season the quinoa and the vegetables before mixing everything together really adds to the flavor and cuts the need to use much fat at all. The feta is also a strong note that stands up well. I like this dish to be really lemony, but you can make it to suit your own palate. I thought it was delicious.

Here’s what it looked like before I added the feta:

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P.S. Regardless of my opinion, this was a decided failure at the F.F.F. A few people politely tasted it, one proudly declared she’d “never even heard of qui-no-ah,” and I ended up bringing most of it back home, which was fine by me.

 

The Perfect Dessert

Do you ever need an impressive dessert that works for almost every occasion?

Try this flourless chocolate cake.

I mean it! 

It’s sophisticated enough for even the most particular palates***, but kids also chow it down like there’s no tomorrow. 

(It’s also gluten-free, but make no mistake; this is dessert and it is NOT healthy).

Now, everyone knows that I can’t cook a darn thing. Really.

But this cake brings it home, every time. The only potential stumbling blocks are needing a springform pan (even I can handle that) and deciding what type of chocolate to use (more below).

Seriously, follow the directions, and you are golden.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus a sprinkling for the pan
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I have used part of a giant Trader Joe’s bar and two semi-sweet Ghirardelli bars; both with good results)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar

What to do:

  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder. (Use the paper from the two sticks of butter to do the buttering. Dump a little cocoa in your pan, roll it around, dump excess in sink).
  3. Break up the chocolate into pieces. Sampling is ok. Why wouldn’t you know what you’re getting into?
  4. In a medium pan, heat the butter with ¼ cup whipping cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted.
  5. Add the broken chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat.
  6. In a different  bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and cocoa.
  7. Whisk in the hot chocolate mixture from the pan.
  8. Transfer everything to the springform pan and bake until puffed and set, 35 to 40 minutes. (Abide by this! I use 35 mins). It will fall after you take it out of the oven, but that’s ok.

How to serve:

  • Dust with powdered sugar
  • With creme fraiche and berries (optional: mint leaves)
  • With whipped cream (whip the extra you bought for the paltry 1/4 cup above; season with a toss of sugar and a soupçon of vanilla)
  • With ice cream
  • Sprinkled with coarse salt (and caramel if you’re going all out)
  • As it is. This cake is really good.

*** The most recent debut of this dessert was to a group of people that I can best describe as extraordinarily nice but used to the best. I was so nervous to cook for them! But this cake was a hit. My kids also begged for the extras!

March Makeover

If you’re looking for a spring cleaning for your diet and well-being, Purely Elizabeth’s got it covered!

(FYI, this is my favorite little gluten-free grains company, and I feel like I unearthed a great secret when I discovered their products last year. Plus I love the company’s philosophy about well, everything. They are so inspirational to me).

Back to the March makeover: each week has several wellness goals. There is also advice about cleaning out your pantry plus healthy recipes that sound really great. The quinoa and kale salad with avocado – one of my favorite things in the universe – is something I’m going to try this weekend.

Check out week one here.

Avocado Hummus

My recent long travel spell (10 days!) brought me home with a suitcase of dirty laundry and a desire to cook my own healthy food.

Yes. You read that correctly. I am contemplating a domestic chore.

This recipe (generously given to me by my work friend, D, who can make a lot of really good things to eat) is something I occasionally make when I am forced to bring something to a potluck and can’t fake my way out of it by bringing something to drink instead.

And since this is me we’re talking about, it’s incredibly easy. 

Avocado Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained (reserve liquid)
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil OR use the liquid from can of garbanzo beans
  • Juice of half a lemon (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (again, to taste)
  • Optional add-ins:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

Directions: Mix it all together in your food processor or blender. I like it a bit chunky, but blend to your preferred smoothness. Eat with jicama and carrot sticks, pita chips, etc. This also tastes great on a veggie sandwich.

Supreme Fruit

Have you ever had perfectly sliced citrus fruits at a restaurant? 

The way they are transformed from mangled, crushed sections (a.k.a. my usual preparation) to gorgeous perfection is with a technique known as supreming.

Here’s the desired result:

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Here’s how to do it yourself:

Full disclosure: I’ve met myself, and I will never do this. But a girl can dream!