Smoky Cashew Dip

It’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I last posted a recipe here. I haven’t stopped cooking. It’s simply that I hadn’t made much until December that I had to write about, and we all know how busy December can be.

To motivate myself to write more, I came up with a new food goal for 2017. This year, I’m going to use up all the extraneous ingredients in my pantry. We all have them – those random ingredients that we buy for a single recipe, only to put the rest back into the cabinet, to be pushed back behind all the cans of tomatoes or boxes of pasta or canisters of cocoa powder (if you’re me). I’ve inventoried my pantry and refrigerator, and on my fridge is a list of all the ingredients that I have that I should use up. It’s more than a once-a-week cooking task. I doubt I’ll write about all of them, but I hope I’ll find some great things to share.

That said, I decided to make this recipe long before I decided on 2017’s food goal. I found this smoky cashew dip when I happened to read an email from Bon Appetit, which I usually don’t read. It’s my new favorite thing – by which I mean I’ve made it three times in the last week. I don’t eat dip, but I make an exception for this one, as it’s simply cashews, chiles in adobo sauce, water, and salt to taste.

Chiles in adobo sauce are something that recipes only use a tablespoon or two of, meaning I store the remainder in my fridge to hope that I can use before I feel obliged to throw it away. I’ve never used up an entire can, until now. (For those curious, I’ve brushed the adobo sauce on grilled pork before.) The chiles add a little spiciness and smokiness to the ground cashews. I generally can give or take cashews, but this dip makes it worth buying them.

Other things I like about this dip: it takes less than 5 minutes to make. It’s high in protein and fat (to make up for all the crackers you might eat it with). It’s also gluten-free and vegan.

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Microwave Peanut Brittle

As I was preparing to do my holiday baking and cooking, King Arthur Flour posted a recipe for Microwave Peanut Brittle. The recipe sounded perfect. I love making candy to gift for the holidays because it ships well and stays good for a long time. However, although candy-making can deceptively simple – you boil sugar water to a given temperature, then add things – it can also be time-consuming and prone to failure. I did not want time-consuming when I would make 3 batches of brittle to include with my other baking, but this recipe took no more than 20 minutes to make. Perfect.

I’ve made peanut brittle a few times, since it happens to be a favorite of my dad’s. This recipe is my favorite one yet.

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Stollen

For Bread 43, I made Stollen. I’d actually planned to make a different panetonne recipe than I have in years past (and skip fruitcake entirely), but with the move and holiday travel, I didn’t have a chance to plan my holiday baking and gifting until last week, with only a week until Christmas. That meant no planning ahead and ordering panetonne papers in advance from Amazon, and the staff at the Michael’s that I went to didn’t know what panetonne was. So, like any good baker, I improvised with a different, but similar, bread. Stollen, like panetonne, also has nuts and liquor-soaked fruit. To its advantage – you can start the dough and bake the bread on the same day.

Stollen is a bread with history and symbolism behind it, of which I basically know what exists on the internet, and so I won’t discuss it here. In any case, it stands to reason that there are many different stollen recipes, but since I’d planned to use the panetonne recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (which I couldn’t do in any case, since the panetonne requires a sourdough starter), I opted for the Stollen recipe from the book instead. Reinhart said that he sometimes baked stollen in panetonne wrappers, so I hoped it would be similar enough. Also a plus – the stollen looked to be much less heavily spiced and lighter on alcohol than fruitcakes I’ve made in the past, which is a good thing if I have to eat some of it. I don’t like heavy, clovey spice mixtures, and I can’t try anything with much alcohol.

Overall, this was a delicious bread – much better than stollen I tried to make several years ago before I knew anything about baking bread. It’s also a great bread to give as gifts. I made several batches, so I did not have the energy to shape the bread traditionally, but I hope that next time I can practice some fancy, decorative shaping.

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Thai Chicken with Basil and Cashews

I started buying a CSA box this year. I really like getting a variety of veggies, but it can be a struggle to figure out what to do with them, particularly when the farm has a bumper crop of the same vegetable each week. I did a good job of eating everything in the early spring, but when work got busy in June, I basically decided I didn’t want to cook any more. I’m sure you noticed the slowing down of recipe posts over the past few months, and it wasn’t just fun bread and dessert recipes that I neglected. I neglected dinner, too.

I found a recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil and Cashews when I finally got around to reading a previous issue of Eating Well. I was excited because I had everything to make it. It would help me use up the scallions and squash I’d stashed in the fridge but forgotten about, and would let me use some of the fresh basil that I keep feeling guilty about not using.

I generally enjoy Eating Well recipes, but I always double the sauce recipe since they never include enough sauce with their stir fries. The original recipe called for fish sauce, which I really don’t like the smell of. I refuse to keep it in the house, but I always substitute soy sauce with great, although perhaps not identical, results.

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Applesauce Oatmeal Bread

Bread, Week 10: I wasn’t sure what to bake this week. I was out of town over the weekend so I had no time to make yeast bread. I didn’t have ingredients (mostly bananas) for other bread recipes I had bookmarked. This Applesauce Oatmeal Bread recipe was perfect because I had everything available to make it. I wish I could tell you I had a burning desire for an autumn bread after the additional snow we got during the first weekend of March, but no! Convenience was the sole reason I made it, but I was happy with the results.

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Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting

Valentine’s Day was a Friday this year, and I couldn’t bear the thought of going out to dinner with hordes of other people. I had no inspiration for dinner (we ended up buying steak and appetizers at Trader Joe’s), but I had decided earlier that I absolutely had to make this Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting. I love baking and I love sweets, but decorative desserts usually aren’t my thing. I don’t like having to focus on presentation. But for this dessert, I made an exception.

I’ve tried making almond macaroons once or twice, and they haven’t turned out perfectly. I simply don’t whip egg whites often enough to have them turn out well every time. But this time, everything turned out just fine.

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Gluten-Free White Chocolate-Hazelnut Bread Pudding

I had a bread-making disaster recently. The resulting bread was edible but ugly with the top crust separated from the loaf; I was going to soldier through, eating it for breakfast, until I came across a recipe for a white chocolate and hazelnut bread pudding using gluten-free bread. I don’t even like bread pudding, but I was much more interested in eating it than in eating the bread that I was stuck with.

This recipe makes a lot of rich little bread puddings. I was very aware of how many calories the bread puddings had, what with all the cream, but this is the first bread pudding I’ve had that I haven’t minded eating. It was definitely a good way to use up my misshapen bread.

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Nut and Seed Bread

Bread Week 7: Sometime in January I came across an article that linked to a recipe for bread that promised to change my life. What caught my eye about this loaf of bread was that it was not only gluten-free – it had no flours in it whatsoever. Not that I mind using rice flour and sorghum flour and almond meal and cornmeal and grinding oats and coconut and so on, but it’s nice to find recipes that don’t involve substitutions for flour. This bread recipe took no leavening and promised to be hearty, crusty, and healthy.

It’s a good loaf of bread to have for breakfast; I also bet it would be great with a hearty, earthy stew. I’m not sure that this loaf of bread has changed my life, but I am glad that it exists.

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Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

In my quest for gluten-free recipes, particularly those recipes that take ingredients I would expect in most pantries, I found this recipe for Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. This was a very easy and delicious recipe to make. You’ll need shelf-stable peanut butter for this – not the natural, peanut-only butter that you have to keep in the fridge. Luckily for me, I usually have both around – natural peanut butter for my toast, and pantry peanut butter for cooking/baking.

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Vegan Maple Donuts

Bread, Week 6: My friend sent me this recipe for maple donuts that happened to be both vegan and gluten-free. I decided I had to make them, and immediately ordered myself two donut pans.

I looked at my bread manifesto, and I didn’t specify anything about donuts. They’re similar to muffins, but I’ve never made baked donuts. Since I was going to make them anyway, and I had some other cooking plans for the weekend, and I have a lingering cold, I posed the question to my friends: are donuts bread? They said yes, so these donuts have become bread for this week. You all go along with what your friends say too, right?

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