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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How to Make Flowers Last

On occasions when I’m fortunate enough to receive flowers, I often (woefully) neglect them to the point of desiccation or to where the water in the vase becomes toxic sludge.

These tips for making cut flowers last are helpful:

  • Start with fresh blooms. Gently squeeze the flower head; it should be quite firm and tightly closed. Check the stems and avoid anything slimy. Ick!
  • Choose long stemmed flowers over short. A long stem means a flower has had enough time to grow. Even if you ultimately want a short arrangement, start long and cut to size.
  • Make a fresh 45-degree cut to help flowers soak up water.
  • Remove all leaves that could be underwater. Otherwise they’ll be bacteria magnets and shorten the life of your bouquet.
  • Re-hydrate. If you’re making your own arrangement and have time, soak them for several hours in fresh water.
  • Use the flower food provided. Just follow the directions on the packet. (I am totally guilty of not doing this. Ever).
  • Change the water ever 1-2 days. Add a small amount of flower food with the fresh water.
  • Advanced tip: For droopy tulips, poke a pin through the stem just below the flower’s head. This will facilitate the flow of water and allow air to escape. (Thanks to Martha Stewart Living for that last tip).

Here’s a lesson from Martha on making floral arrangements and another from Real Simple magazine.

 

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!