Carrot Surprise

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When the temperature hit 90 degrees here in DC last week, it was clear that time for spring planting was upon us.  Mercifully, this week has brought some slightly cooler weather, but it seems that the time of hard frost has passed, and I am itching for some home-grown arugula.  With lots of “help” from my two-year-old, I began pulling up the weeds from our two raised-bed gardens and in addition to foot-deep dandelion roots, we unearthed-surprise!-some carrots.  Ah yes, I do seem to remember planting those at some point last year.

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Some of the carrots were clearly past their prime, but a handful were still surprisingly orange and crunchy.   I knew that these semi-miraculous winter survivors deserved some special treatment, so I decided to make a carrot-cashew salad that I had enjoyed at book club a few weeks before.  I even went so far as to (gasp) purchase some ingredients specifically for the recipe.  Served over curried chickpeas and rice, this little salad was the perfect inauguration to a summer of homegrown produce.

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Shredded Carrot and Cashew Nut Salad

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Sweets For Your Sweet: Tiny Turtles

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These candies are pretty, delicious, and best of all: simple. Chewy caramel is layered over toasted pecans, then topped with chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt. These candies need to stay refrigerated (since the chocolate is not tempered it will ‘bloom‘ if left at room temperature. It will be safe to eat, but not very pretty). The caramel will also be easier to unmold from the paper wrappers if it is chilled.

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Tiny Turtles

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Cooking with Fabio: Drunken Red Spaghetti

Has anyone else missed Fabio Viviani? I know I’d take his crazy Italian ramblings over this year’s boring Top Chef-testants any day. Well, not to worry—I just stumbled upon his new web series, in which Fabio and his disturbingly hot mom cook up drunken red spaghetti—pasta doused in red wine and smothered in pecornio, walnuts and caramelized pancetta. I love this dish because he doesn’t add just a little bit of booze. Uh-uh. He adds enough wine to turn those noodles purple! Now that’s Italian.

Also – check out his nickle-and-dime pasta serving size trick at 2:40!

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Almond Spice Cookies with Anise Frosting

These cookies are the answer to my love of Jingles cookies, but my dislike of crunchy cookies. I made an almond-gingerbread hybrid dough. The almond paste gives the cookie a nice chew and the ginger/molasses gives the cookie a hint of spice. A light anise buttercream frosting finishes these off with my favorite taste of the holidays.

Almond Spice Cookies with Anise Frosting

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My One-Item Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is coming, which means that it’s time for many of my favorite blogs, especially the food ones, to give me their annual list of suggestions for the foodies in my life (see here and here, for example).  Now, I enjoy reading what other people like as much as the next guy, but the problem with lists like these, for me,  is twofold.  Uno, the things are often super-specific. I can already tell you that my mom will not like tea that tastes like pine trees, or even sounds like it might taste like pine trees.  Two, the gifts on these lists tend to offend my delicately frugal sensibilities ($24 for 12 oz. of olive oil?  Seriously? In my dreams.)

And so, ESers, I bring you the only food gift you need this holiday season: the classic cast iron skillet.  Here are five reasons why it makes the perfect gift:

1. Everyone needs one, whether they know it or not, and if they already have one, they probably need it in another size.  (Come on, so cute!)

2. It’s perfect for a tight budget.  They are a good value to begin with, and I find them often at thrift stores where, after simple re-seasoning, they are at least as good as new.

3. Not only functional, if you hang it on the wall, it makes you look like you know what you are doing in the kitchen.  Just be sure to use wall anchors.

4. It offers endless cooking adventures.  My new fav: cake baking (see photo above and recipe below).

5.  Even for the non-cook,  cast iron skillets always come in handy:

Skillet Apple Cake

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100 Ways to Use Beer in Food and Drinks: #14 Cake

Upon skimming through the latest version of Cooking Light, we fell upon a “breads” section—correction—“quick breads” section. You’re wondering why I’d be skimming through Cooking Light? The gf has a subscription and you do know I’m watching my girlish figure… Anyway, we decided to go with the maple stout “quick bread” recipe since I had some of my homebrew stouts left.

But first: I’ve come to the conclusion that the jerks at Cooking Light have some gall to call this thing bread…er “quick bread.” I have no f’ing clue what the hell quick bread is, but this thing is cake…and I’m proud of it. I’m not doing research on what quick bread is either—I don’t want to know. Okay, now we can move on.

I got out my Vanilla Cafe Con Leche Stout and we started baking. Typically, when the two of us do some form of cooking/baking, there is an ample amount of bickering  (and in my case, exaggerated *sighs*) occurring.  However, this time we did well as a team; I had a good feeling about this.

The cake came out really well, with rave reviews from the fam. Probably the best of these cooking with beer recipes to date.  I claim fame to this recipe for two reasons:

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Endless Ice Cream: Cannoli Cups

Here is a marriage of two of my favorite things: cannoli and ice cream. This is a pretty easy recipe: no eggs, no straining, barely any cooking at all. Plus, these cups are adorable, and perfect for individual party desserts. You can fully assemble and garnish them up to three days ahead of time and pop them back in the freezer, in an airtight container, until it’s time to eat. No need to defrost, you can eat them right away. I really like the wonton wrapper cups, they are crispy but not crispy enough to give you Doritos mouth shank.

Cannoli Ice Cream Cups

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