Sometimes It’s OK to Cheat: Dump Cake

So I know that here at ES (and in my life in general) there is a no-cheating policy. That is, make your own damn food, don’t use a bunch of boxed, pre-made mixes and shortcuts. Basically, don’t be Sandra Lee. Sometimes, just sometimes, though… there is a time to break the rules.

Now is that time.

Have you ever heard of “dump cake?” Kind of a gross-sounding name, I know. My mom used to make it for us when we were younger. It’s a very easy, quick, and delicious dessert comprised solely of peach pie filling, cherry pie filling, and yellow cake mix. After dumping those in a cake pan and baking, it kind of comes out as a cross between an actual cake, a cobbler and a pie. Anyway, this summer I got to thinking about my mom’s dump cakes and decided I wanted to bust out my grownup version of the old favorite. It still uses some of the “cheater” ingredients—canned pie filling and cake mix—but I changed up some of the flavors (coconut instead of cherry) and added a few more interesting elements to the topping (toasted coconut-almond crunch versus just cake).

I wasn’t sure if this old recipe would stand up, but the acclaim I received from everyone who tried it confirmed my actions. Sometimes it’s okay to be a cheater.

Peach, Almond, and Toasted Coconut Dump Cake

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Chenopod Cooking: Spicy Coconut Kale Quinoa

When it comes to side dishes, I’m a creature of habit. I’m obsessed with dark, leafy greens like kale and chard. I’m also really into quinoa lately. Fun fact, ES friends: did you know quinoa isn’t a grain? It’s a “chenopod” (What is that? Real talk: I’m not sure.) Apparently, it’s more closely related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweed. Maybe tumbleweed will be the next hot food trend! You heard it here first.

Anyway, since I use quinoa so much in my cooking, I need to find ways to keep it interesting. One of my favorite methods is to cook it in coconut milk rather than water or broth, which gives it a slightly creamier texture. To balance out the sweetness of the coconut, I add lots of salt and spices. This is a very adaptable base; you can mix in whatever herbs and vegetables you desire.

Spicy Coconut Kale Quinoa

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Endless Ice Cream: Cherry Whiskey Caramel

When I saw the Father’s Day cake from bakersroyale, I knew I had to make it. Actually, I made two. It was one of those fortuitous days where I had everything on hand for the recipe, plus a little extra. Have you ever eaten something that has left you breathless, wordless? That’s how I felt about this cake.  The combination of flavors was just perfect. So of course I had to convert it to ice cream form: almond flavored ice cream, with a salted caramel swirl and whiskey-soaked cherries. And while the ice cream didn’t leave me quite as stunned as that cake did, it is very, very delicious. The cherries can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead, and the salted caramel sauce can be made up to 2 weeks ahead if you’re not up to tackling everything in one day.

Cherry Whiskey Caramel Ice Cream

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This is What Brunch at Per Se Looks Like

Per Se may be the best restaurant in New York, but it’s also a food blogger’s nightmare: no photos allowed!?! ES Spy Sara Huneke discovered a secret: opt for their $200 brunch instead of dinner, and you’ll have enough natural light flowing in to surreptitiously take drool-worthy smartphone shots.

Red wine-braised heirloom onions, arrowleaf spinach, broccolini, cauliflower, Meyer lemon and preserved horseradish.

Glazed white asparagus, yellow cling peaches, Belgian endive, Pearson Farm’s pecans, sorrel and Australian black winter truffle.

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This Week at the Farmers Market: June Strawberry Salad

I spent Father’s Day weekend with dad at my parent’s country house near the Adirondacks, mowing, weeding, trimming overly eager tree branches, sweeping out the cobwebs, vacuuming the pool, and generally sprucing the place up in anticipation of summer. After our hard work we treated ourselves to a some fresh produce from the neighboring farms… not sure if you’ve heard but strawberry season is in full swing and THANK GOD, because strawberries are one of those fruits, like melons and blueberries (coming soon!!), that are basically bland and tough in the off-season. But holy mother, in June there’s nothing better.

Of course, juicy strawberries are superb on their own, topping off ice cream, boiled down for homemade jam, or baked into a pie. This weekend it was effing hot and I didn’t feel like turning on the oven, plus I wanted to try something a bit more savory to go with our dinner of grilled salmon. The farm stand down the road also sells local cheeses, meats and greens, so we picked up a bag of big, leafy spinach, and a small wheel of goat cheese, wonderfully named “Purple Haze,” and this salad was born.

June Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese, Fresh Spinach, and Lemon Vinaigrette

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The Cookie Dough-Lympics: Banana Almond Poppers

Banana Almond Poppers

Have you ever witnessed the “law of attraction” at work? Like when you think about something for a long time, dream it to be true, and then voila! it shows up at your front doorstep? Well, ladies and gentleman, all my years of wanting, wishing, and longing for have finally come to light—in the form of a book full of raw cookie dough recipes.

Before you go singing the salmonella symphony to me, let me explain: this cookie dough is egg-less. What does that mean, my friends?  It means that you can stick your head right into that bowl and nom you way to the bottom, worry-free. And thanks to Lindsay Landis, creator of this cookie dough recipe and book full of desserts to make with it, all of our lives have now been touched.

With this new cookbook ES has entered the “Cookie Dough-Lympics,” where we come up with our own recipes based around this egg-less delight. I sat down with the book while brainstorming ideas and found cakes, ice cream, souffles…you name it, Lindsay created it. In brainstorming for my own recipe I realized I wanted a yummy, easy to make, minimal-ingredient summer treat with this dough.  I want the kind of thing that is bite-size so I can munch with ease. I want the kind of thing I can make on a weeknight, store in the freezer, and grab whenever I need a frozen pick-me-up. And then it hit me: the Banana Almond Poppers were born.

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Endless Ice Cream: Fig and Candied Walnut

I never ate a fig that wasn’t in Newton form until I was 28. Then, I picked up a pint for a dollar while grocery shopping one warm October evening. I gingerly bit into 0ne (it was oozing and I was scared), and proceeded to inhale the whole pint in about 30 seconds.  I love figs. I dream about them when autumn rolls around and I can anticipate their arrival at the supermarket. But in the meantime, I’ll settle for this ice cream. Dried Black Mission figs are simmered and pureed with a bit of hard liquor (which keeps it from freezing solid). Walnuts are candied with butter and brown sugar, then chopped and added to a creamy custard-based ice cream. The fig puree in swirled in at the end. A quart of this in the freezer should help tide me over till fig season.

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