Sprinkle Cake

Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream covered in rainbow sprinkles on a pedestal plate

Is it a special occasion? Or just an occasion that would be made that much better with cake? Does it matter? I think not! Especially when this cake is so easy to make and requires little more than some basic pantry supplies and a large container of rainbow sprinkles. And, it definitely brings out the joy in everyone. People get really excited when they see that I’ve used a ton of sprinkles. It’s like I’m throwing around dollar bills when I walk into the room with this cake. Money is great but, a slice of cake tastes way better.

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Thai Carrot Soup with Tahini Swirl

pureed carrot soup with Thai flavors and a swirl of tahini, ginger and lemon dressing

An abundance of grated carrots in my freezer and a craving for sweet, spicy, sour and earthy flavors led me down the path to this recipe. Pureed carrots thickened with rice and seasoned with a hint of fish sauce, warm spices: ginger, cumin and nutmeg and sour notes of lime. To finish it off, I riffed on one of my favorite salad dressings borrowed from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly from her recipe for “Chinese Chicken Salad with Sesame -Ginger Dressing”. (You will not regret purchasing this book as all of the recipes are delicious, easy and useful. So, as soon as you are finished reading this, order your copy!) And yes, I realize that her salad is described as “Chinese” and I am calling my soup, “Thai”. To be honest, in this area, I may not be accurate but I do know what I like. And this carrot soup with Tahini Swirl drizzled on top is a winner.

Thai Carrot Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 inch piece of ginger, chopped fine

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons sambal oelek (chili paste)

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup white rice

8 large carrots, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 can coconut milk

juice from 1 lime

1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce

2 teaspoons fish sauce

For garnish: fresh cilantro, Sriracha sauce, Thahini sauce (see following recipe)

Add olive oil to a large stock pot and heat on medium high. Add onion, garlic, ginger, salt and chili paste. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil.

Add the carrots, cumin and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, until carrots and rice are soft. Add the coconut milk. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender or allow to cool before blending in a regular blender being careful to release the steam. Add the soup back to the pot and add lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference by adding more salt, lime juice or sambal oelek (chili paste).

Serve with Tahini dressing, Sriracha and cilantro leaves.

Tahini Dressing

(adapted from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly)

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons tahini

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste or sambel oelek

3 tablespoons of grapeseed or canola oil

 

Using a whisk, blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve with meats, vegetables or soup. If you would like to use this as a salad dressing, reduce the amount of tahini to 2 teaspoons and increase the oil to 1/2 cup.

 

Meringues

recipe for chocolate meringues

I often search for gluten free dessert options with my sister, Karyn in mind.  Whenever there is a gathering, I would rather make a dessert that is naturally gluten free so that she can enjoy it, too.  Although she insists that she doesn’t want anyone to go to any trouble, it is troublesome to me that someone may have to skip dessert because of an allergy or intolerance of some kind.

On one occasion, it was a birthday party, if I recall correctly, I was making my mother’s favorite dessert, a specific, gluten filled cake that would not work with my sister’s dietery restrictions.  But happily, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues that sounded absolutely delicious.  I knew that she would love the flavors and the fact that there would be no need to make any special substitutions that may or may not work out as intended, was icing on the cake.  So I made these confections just for her and packaged the rest up for her take home and enjoy later.

When Karyn arrived early to help with my mother’s birthday dinner, I happily informed her that I made something special, just for her.

“I made you some chocolate espresso meringues!!” I blurted out.  Eager to have her try one.

“I hate meringues!” she said with such emphasis, that I dared not mention them again.

But as the evening went on and everyone sang happy birthday, I got madder and madder about her comment.  I knew she would like them and how rude was her response to a gift that I made for her?  I was determined that she would at least try them. she didn’t even know what she was missing, damn it!

While everyone else was enjoying cake, I pulled Karyn into my office where I was keeping her special stash of Chocolate Meringues.
“Get in here and try these, they are really good.” I said as I pulled her arm.

Karyn looked at the meringues and decided that they were worth at least a bite.  Well, her face told me the rest.  Then she devoured three more in quick succession before heading back into the kitchen to join everyone else.

Later that night, after everyone when home and all the dishes were done, I got a text from her:

“I just ate the last meringue.  They are so good.  Will you make me some more?”

Aaah! Sisters.

meringues made with chocolate chips and espresso

Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues

(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, March 2016)

(Makes about 24 small ones)

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

2  oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

a pinch of salt

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons instant coffee

 

    Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

   Place egg whites in a medium bowl with cream of tartar.  Mix with a hand mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and begin adding sugar one tablespoon at a time.  Beat until the whites are stiff , about one minute.  Fold in chopped chocolate and salt.  Sprinkle cocoa and instant coffee on top of egg white mixture.  Fold together 2-3 times to lightly incorporate.

Spoon about 24 dollops of meringue onto prepared baking sheet.  (About one heaping tablespoon each)  Using the back of a spoon, gently flatten the tops of the meringues.  Place in oven and bake for one hour until the meringues are firm on the outside and still chewy on the inside.  Let cool completely.

Can be stored in an airtight container for one week, if they last that long!