Red Lentil Soup with Cashews

The weather on my Nana’s birthday was pretty dismal in my part of the world.  If there’s one thing I hate more than cold, rainy weather, it’s warm, rainy weather.

That treasured sunlight which brings me such joy has gone away, and in its stead is an oppressive humidity that clings to every corner of the apartment, even if it’s not all that hot.  There’s nothing worse than breaking out in a sweat while doing some light vacuuming.  It’s pretty gross.

Yet somehow, I still crave warm comfort foods when the sun is hidden.  In Taiwan, I inhaled steamed buns like oxygen, desperate for a glimmer of sunlight during monsoon season.  Back in the US, I resort to other options, which sometimes means soup.

And this soup happens to be one of my favorites.  It’s also the only soup I’ve gotten Luke to eat that contains *gasp* lentils.  And carrots.  The boy hates carrots.

But this soup is great.  It’s incredibly easy to make, and freezes well so you can keep it on hand.  Oh yeah, and there are cashews.  Cashews in soup you ask?  Yes, and it’s delicious.  I’ve started adding cashews randomly to other soups, hoping it’ll be as good as this one, but it’s not quite the same.  The cashews cook in the soup for the last 15 minutes of simmering, and imbue the soup with a little of their flavor.  They also soften a bit, and provide a great contrast in texture, taking this soup to another level of awesome.

Red Lentil Soup with Cashews

Adapted from The Parsley Thief

Makes 8 servings

3 Tbsp canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 tsp garam marsala
2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
two 14.5 oz cans petite-diced tomatoes
1 pound dried red lentils, picked over & rinsed
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 cups roasted cashews

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add in the chopped onions, a generous pinch of salt and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garam marsala and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional minute.
Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and their juices, lentils, celery, carrots, garlic, cayenne, salt and water. Turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir in the cashews and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Check the soup for seasonings and add additional salt if needed. The soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and frozen for up to two months.


White Chocolate Cashew Dulce de Leche Bars

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m posting about a certain dessert that I cannot stop thinking about.  I know it might not be the same concept as Memorial Day, but I felt that if I didn’t post about a dessert that I’ll remember forever (or at least a long time) I’d have no other way of acknowledging the holiday.

Besides saying Happy Memorial Day to everyone, and to thank the men and women who have served our nation.

So what makes these bars so darn good?  Well, it’s the flavor combination.  Three things I can’t get enough of (white chocolate, dulce de leche, and cashews) all in one delicious package?  Umm, yes please.

Yes please times a billion.  These bars are essentially a dulce de leche flavored blondie studded with chopped cashews and white chocolate chips.  Their texture is denser than that of a traditional blondie, and therefore even more dear to me.

I am one of those people who likes the gooey center pieces of brownie, not the firm, crispy edges, so to me, the soft chewiness the dulce de leche adds to these bars is ethereal.  Please excuse me, I’ve made myself hungry.  Time to hit the bars, if you catch my drift.

White Chocolate Cashew Dulce de Leche Bars

Adapted from The Capitol Baker

Makes one 8X8” pan

1/2 cup (1 stick)unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 cup Dulce de Leche (store-bought or homemade)
3/4 cup roasted salted cashews, roughly chopped

1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 x 8” pan and set aside.

Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Add the brown sugar to the saucepan and whisk until mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the egg then add the salt and flour and stir until fully combined.  Add the dulce de leche to the batter and stir until it is uniformly combined, then fold in the cashew pieces and white chocolate chips.

Spread the batter evenly in the greased pan and bake for 35 minutes or until set in the center and golden brown at the edges.  A toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean.  Cool the bars completely in pan before cutting and serving.

Caramel Cashew Rice Krispie Treats

The last cake tasting has left us with a bit of a quandary.  Mostly because at this last tasting, we didn’t actually taste any cake.  We were given samples of little pastries that showcased a certain filling or mousse, but there were no actual pieces of cake involved.  This bakery only does cake tastings at bridal shows and expos, or at arranged group tastings.

Which means it’s not over yet because I must taste their cake!  While I thoroughly enjoyed eating the mini pastries and chatting with the owner, both Luke and I agreed that we have to actually try the cake before deciding.  So I have one more cake fest to look forward to.

Ok, extracting my head from cake-filled clouds and pulling myself back down to earth for a more everyday kind of dessert.  Everybody loves Rice Krispie Treats.  They’re so simple, yet so delicious.

And these take the ubiquitous treat to a whole new level.  Add chopped cashews to the cereal, and instead of melted marshmallows as the binding agent, we’re using caramel sauce.  The resulting bar is a little less flexible, but soooo much more flavorful.

I wonder what these would be like with Cocoa Krispies.  Probably all kinds of awesome.  Feel free to substitute in different kinds of chopped nuts.  I just happen to love cashews the most.

Caramel Cashew Rice Krispie Treats

Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

4 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup salted, roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
1 1/3 cup sugar

6 Tbsp water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

 Grease a 9X13” baking pan and set aside.  In large heatproof bowl, toss together cereal and nuts.

In medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together sugar and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, then raise heat to medium high and boil without stirring, until syrup turns deep amber in color, about 8 minutes. Carefully stir in cream (mixture may splatter and briefly harden) then stir in butter. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla.

Drizzle caramel over cereal-nut mixture and, using heatproof silicone spatula or wooden spoon, stir until fully incorporated. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm and slightly cooled, about 10 minutes, then break into bite-sized pieces.