Basic Country Bread and My New Bread Baking Obsession

Last year, I bought the Tartine Bread book.  There was a special on Amazon.  It was $2.99 on Kindle.  I couldn’t turn it down.

I remember I started reading it while on the plane to Philadelphia.  The photos are so amazing and the recipes so detailed that I knew I had to try it as soon as possible.   Weeks went by and I didn’t bake any bread.  The thought of making a starter was intimidating to say the least.  Then, on December 2nd (funny how I remember these dates), my friend brought me some of her starter.

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Blog friends, meet Bernard.   Bernard is about 5 years old and comes from a culinary school in Michigan.  Now a part of him is with me, and through Foodologie with you too.  Here’s here to help us make bread.

I love that my friend named the starter.  It makes the process so much more fun.  Because after all, he needs to be taken care of and fed.  I feed Bernard on Monday nights and leave him in the fridge until I’m ready to bake some bread.

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Some of this glorious bread.  It’s nothing short of amazing.  It might take days to make, but it’s worth it.  And it all starts with Bernard.

The night before I want to make bread, I take a big spoonful of starter and mix it with pretty much equal parts flour and water (if we want to be specific 3/4 cup water + 3/4 cup Flour and about 1/4 cup starter will give you enough leaven, or fed starter, to make 2 loaves of bread).

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So I let that sit on the counter.  It gets all bubbly and smelly in the most endearing way possible.  Once it’s bubbly and ready to go (you’ll know it’s ready when you drop a bit of it in some water and it floats), I mix it with flour and water.  Once it’s all incorporated, I let it sit for about half an hour.  After half an hour, I add a bit of salt and some more water.  Then the first “bulk rise” begins.  This takes 3-4 hours.  You don’t have to do much, just turn it every so often.  That means dip your hand in water, then dip your hand in the dough and turn it a bit.  Pretty simple right?

After a few hours (assuming it’s in a fairly warm temperature, sometimes I’m too cheap to put on the heater and so I turn the oven on for a few minutes, turn it off, then put the bread in there to keep it warm), I turn it onto a well-floured surface and divide it in two.

This part is tricky.  The dough is sticky.  It sticks to everything. Your hands. The towel. The surface. Your hair.  Everything.  My first time around was rough.  I think I was a little shy with the flour, but after the next few times, I leaved that a lot of flour is necessary.  So you divide the dough into and fold it into two rounds mounds.  Then it sits for hours.    I know right? There’s a lot of sitting involved.

So those mounds sit for another 3-4 hours on the counter covered with a towel (flour that towel too, because seriously the dough will stick to it).  I’ve also tried leaving it in the fridge overnight.  That worked too.

After the dough has sat for a good while (either 3-4 hours or overnight in the fridge), you can start getting everything ready to bake.  I bake this bread in a dutch oven.  I think the dutch oven is my saving grace, because I’m pretty sure my oven is a bit messed up.  The dutch oven ensures an even bake, so you can’t argue with that.

So I turn the oven to 500F and put the dutch oven in there (empty that is, with the lid on), for about 20-30 minutes.  You want it to get piping hot.  This also gives you bread a little more time to rise (or to get to room temperature if it was sitting in the fridge).

Again, I reform the loafs into a round loaf then score to top.  Scoring apparently is important because it allows the bread to rise to it’s full potential.  I have a really hard time with the scoring.  In Tartine Bread, they suggest using a razor; I use a knife.  We made due with what we have, right?

Then the next tricky part, putting the dough in the dutch oven without burning your hands.  The dough isn’t the sturdiest.  The water content is pretty high so it’s a very sticky dough.  But it’s easy enough.  Drop it in, re-score if necessary and put in the oven with the lid on, reduce the temperature to 450F and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the dutch oven lid and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes or until it reaches the level of brownness you like.

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Remove the bread from the dutch oven, allow to cool then serve.  You can repeat the baking process with your second loaf now.  The dutch oven doesn’t need to heat as long.  I usually just put it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes then move on.

For the full recipe, check out this write up in the New York Times.  It has all the measurements and weights you need to get your bread making on.  I still can’t get mine to look exactly like their bread, but sooner or later, I’ll get there.  But even if it doesn’t look exactly like the Tartine loaves, it tastes amazing.

To say that I love this bread is underselling it.  I seriously love this bread.

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It’s great for sandwiches (ahem, grilled cheese anyone?).  Awesome toasted with butter.  Amazing if you spread it with jam.  The process might be time consuming.  Scratch that, it’s totally time consuming, but it’s worth it.

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So this is my newest obsession: bread.  I want to make it all the time and eat it all the time, but I probably shouldn’t, so gifting loaves of bread is becoming my new thing.

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Now that I’ve mastered the basic country bread.  I’m ready to move on to new varieties.  Of course, croissants and brioche are on my bucket list for the year, but I also want to start experimenting with different flours: whole wheat, rye, etc.

Let’s get our carbs on!

Are you a home bread baker or just an equal opportunity bread lover?  What’s your favorite kind to bake or eat?

Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

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The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Smores… and other PB&J Creations

I feel like everyone I talk to had PB&J for lunch as a kid.  I had ham with cream cheese.  PB&J was not a staple in my household growing up.  I’m not even sure my mom kept peanut butter in the house, because she hates it.  Peanut butter is one of those super American things that my mom never got on board with.

But regardless, growing up here, I developed a love of Peanut Butter and Jelly.

To share in the love of Peanut Butter and Jelly, Peanut Butter and Co. sent me and some other bloggers some jars of Peanut Butter and preserves to make some awesome peanut butter and jelly creations.   My jars arrived…

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and I was excited to start!  I had such high hopes.  I started by taking a stab at Peanut Butter and Jelly Sticky Buns.

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Doesn’t that sound awesome?  It was! But the recipe turned out a bit dry (my first time ever making some sort of sticky bun/cinnamon type roll!).  So tweaks are needed.  And sadly, I used so much PB and Seriously Strawberry Jam (it’s seriously delicious), that I had none left to retry the recipe.

Instead of retrying (maybe I will in the future), I decided to try another idea that piqued by interest: Peanut Butter and Jelly Smores.

The ingredients are pretty simple, but this is really the perfect end of summer (early fall) recipe.

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Smores

2 graham crackers

2 large marshmallows

2 heaping tsps Old Fashioned Crunchy Peanut Butter

2 heaping tsp Awesome Apricot Preserves (or other jam of choice) 

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Cut graham crackers in half (so you have 4 pieces total).  Spread 1 tsp of peanut butter on each of two of the graham cracker pieces and 1 tsp of apricot preserves on the remaining two cracker pieces.  Place marshmallow in the peanut butter.  Put under the broiler for a few minutes (about 3 or 4) or until the marshmallow is toasted to the right consistency.  Put the pieces together and enjoy the oozey, gooey deliciousness!

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I wasn’t sure that the PB + Apricot combo would work out well, but it was delicious!   I definitely recommend it!

Let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with PB&J.  There are so many delicious ways to eat it, like in Pie form!

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What’s your favorite way to eat Peanut Butter and Jelly?  Are you a strict strawberry jam eater or do you branch out to other preserves?

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I have a hard time with this whole gluten-free movement that’s been happening the past few years.  I get that some people have genuine intolerances, but for the most part I’m a non-believer.  When someone tells me they don’t eat gluten, I roll my eyes.  Yes. I am that person.  I am a jerk.

Karma is a thing.  Let me tell you why…

You might have noticed that I fell off the face of the Earth a while (err 2 weeks).  Really it’s because I’ve been having major stomach issues and the last thing I want to do is cook and eat food.  Don’t worry.  This isn’t a blog post to tell you that I suddenly am going gluten-free.  No no.  But this post is about exploring new ways of eating, because I’ve come to the realization that having stomach issues sucks.  Right now, I would eat (or not eat) anything to make the discomfort go away.

Because now I understand how much it sucks, I have a little more sympathy for those with food sensitivities.  I have no idea if I have food sensitivities.  I’m currently trying to figure out what the heck is causing my stomach to implode on me.  I’m starting by avoiding dairy for a while.  Jury is still out.  We’ll see.

But in the meantime, let me tell you about my first experience with a gluten-free cake.

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Isn’t it beautiful?  By the looks of it, you wouldn’t even know it’s gluten-free, but it is.  And it came about because my good friend Allison (check our her blog Sweet Potato Bites) has a lot of food allergies.  I wanted to make a cake that would fit her allergy needs for a surprise birthday gathering.  Her husband sent me a list of Allison-approved cake recipes.  After a few days of back and forth, we decided he would make a gluten free cake and I would make a cake that everyone else could have.  Nice compromise for guests not into the gluten-free thing. So I went ahead and made a chocolate cake with raspberry whipped cream filling and frosting.  

But after that night, I still had a curiosity for how a gluten-free taste would be like.  I’ve never really eaten one, other than flourless chocolate cake.   So I went with it and made a cake anyway, because there’s never a wrong time to make a cake. I used a recipe for Carrot Cake from Elana’s Pantry, because having never made a gluten free cake, I couldn’t really wing it on my first try.  

But that said, I made a few adjustments to make 1 smaller (6-inch) cake.  Here’s my attempt:

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Gluten Free Carrot Cake

adapted from Elana’s Pantry

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of mace
2 eggs + 1 egg white
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease and line 2 (6-inch) cake pans with parchment paper

I used my vitamix to chop up the carrots instead of grating, but you can grate them if you’d like .  Then I throw all the ingredients into the blender and blended until combine.  It’s really that easy.  Pour batter into 2 prepared cake pans.

Bake about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.  While your cake is baking, make your frosting.  It’s easy.  Whip the cream.  Once the cream starts forming peaks, stream in maple syrup.  Taste it.  If you want it sweeter, add more maple syrup.  If it’s too sweet, oops!  (JK, add a bit at a time, and try to get your desired sweetness.  I didn’t want mine too sweet I only added about 2 tbsp).

Allow to cool completely.  Then lather with maple whipped cream and serve.  Store leftovers in the fridge.

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Confession: I actually think it tastes better cold.

2nd Confession: I meant to take Allison a piece of this cake but Jesse dug into.  Fail.  But really I can’t complain if he liked it.  That means it was tasty.

 

Overall: I thought this was tasty.

Does it taste like cake? Not really.

Does it have the texture of a cake? Not really.

Is it worth trying? Absolutely.

 

While I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities that I know of, the point of all this is that I will stop being a hater, because stomach issues suck.

Are you a fan of gluten-free foods?  

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Pie in a Bourbon Crust

Before this week, I hadn’t made a pie in a really long time.  I had almost forgotten how fun it is to make a pie.

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There’s something really special about making a pie.  I think it has to do with all the steps.  It’s a process, but almost always, it’s worth it.

With this pie, it’s totally worth it. I can honestly say, I thoroughly enjoy making pies.  I love making the dough and using my fingers to break up the butter.  I love rolling out the dough to fit the pie pan.   I should also tell you that I’m a little bit in love with the crust.  I decided bourbon was a good idea, so I used bourbon instead of water.  Then I decided thyme goes great with blueberries and lemon. So why not?  I won’t lie, the thyme gives the pie a really earthy flavor.  I’m not sure it will be to everyone’s liking.  If you aren’t into earthiness, omit the thyme and you will have one rockin’ pie.

The only part of pie-making that I’m not crazy about is chopping fruit.  With this pie, this is a non-issue. pieingredients

This is pretty much the pie for those who don’t like to chop things.  There’s really zero chopping involved.  Just rinse your blueberries, grate your lemon and pluck some thyme off the stem, then throw it all together with some sugar and flour.  It all is pretty simple. blueberrylemonpie2

Of course with any pie, you can always get fancy.  Lattice tops are always fancy.  I tried to get even fancier by using a spoon to crimp the edge.  Oh and the little heart adds a nice touch, right?  All sorts of cute! blueberrylemonpie3

  I’m a fan.  If you’re in the mood for a fancy pants pie that is comforting and earthy (is earthy a bad thing?), this is the jam:

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Pie in a Bourbon Crust

For Crust:

350g all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, cold
1/4 cup bourbon

For Filling:

1.5lbs fresh blueberries (5 cups)
3/4-1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp fresh thyme  

First make your crust.  Mix together dry ingredients.  Cut your butter into cubes, using your fingers work into your flour mixture until you get coarse crumbs.  Add bourbon and work into a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.  Resting is a critical part of pie dough  making.  If your pie dough is shrinking, it’s because it hasn’t rested enough. So let it chill in the fridge a few hours. Pour yourself a glass of bourbon while you wait.

When you’re ready to make your pie, make your filling.  In a bowl, combine all ingredients Roll out the crust, half for the bottom and half for the top.  Place one half in the bottom of the pan.  Fill with fruit filling.  Then make a lattice top (or just roll it out and cut a few slits in the top), crimp as desired.

 If you want some cool pie crimping ideas, check this out. Put your pie in the freezer while you preheat your oven to 350F.  Once heated, bake for about an hour or until the blueberries are bubbling all around. Allow to cool completely and serve. eatingblueberrypie

Blueberry pie always looks like a mess when served.  But that’s part of the fun of pies.  Unlike layer cakes, pie aren’t perfect.  They’re messy and chunky, but overall pretty great.

 

I’m really interested to try more herbs in pies.  I’m thinking maybe strawberry basil might be a good combo.

Any other ideas?  How do you feel about pies? Fan? Not so much?

Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad

I’m currently having a bout of I-don’t-want-to-cook.

It’s a chronic syndrome.  I haven’t quite found the cure, but I have a remedy.

The situation is this:  I want to eat healthy meals, but I’m just not in the mood to prepare them.

An unfortunate result of I-don’t-want-to-cook is a desire to eat bad things.  And thus, I also want to eat fatty sandwiches and burgers (because those are cheap and easy to pick up… but really I should mention Del Taco Bean and Cheese burritos because they’re my weakness).  Today, I almost gave in to a fatty sandwich for lunch, because I was too lazy to pack a lunch.  I got a salad at a local spot.  And while it was healthier than the fatty Reuben I also wanted, nothing beats the healthiness of a home-cooked meal.

So the solution to the chronic I-don’t-want-to-cook (or really I-don’t-want-to-do-dishes) is to get a boyfriend who cooks having lots of healthy leftovers.  I’m a fan of cooking in bulk for the week because I always know there will be a day when I don’t feel like cooking so I might as well be prepared.  My most recent creation is perfect for these days.  You can make it on Sunday and it’ll still be good for Thursday, since there’s no meat involved.

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Don’t worry, I didn’t go crazy with photoshop.  I used yellow cauliflower.  That’s why it’s so bright.  I’m currently making this again with purple cauliflower.  I’m going to bet that will look awesome as well.

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So if you’re like me and you’re having an I-don’t-want-to-cook (or do dishes) moment, this is your solution.  Very little work and lots of deliciousness and nutrients.  So get your cauliflower/lentil on…

 

Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Salad

3/4 cup lentils, dry
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
garlic salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 oz goat cheese (optional)

Cook lentils for 20 minutes (or until tender) in boiling water.  While the lentils cook, pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Chop cauliflower, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, cumin, paprika, cayenne, garlic salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until golden and crispy.

Next make dressing.  Whisk together 1 tbsp olive oil, mustard, vinegar and some salt and pepper.  Now combine all ingredients.  Toss together lentils, cauliflower, cilantro, and dressing.  Top with goat cheese and serve!  This recipe will serve 4.

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  Like I said, this recipe is super easy.  It only takes about 5 minutes of prep work.  The rest is pretty much just the oven and stove doing the work.  That means you can watch Orange is the New Black while you wait for it all to be ready, then take 2 minutes and throw it all together. RoastedCauliflowerLentilSalad4

Sounds like a great idea to me.  I have some cauliflower in the oven, now all I need is Netflix.

 

What’s your quick and easy, to-go healthy meal?

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado-Pepita Pesto

These days I pretty much only want to talk about vegetables.  As I mentioned last time, I’ve been over doing it with desserts/sweets recently so I’m going to get super excited about vegetables and tell you about my most recent vegetable-filled discovery: Zucchini Pasta.

I’m not the biggest fan of pasta and I’m partially convinced that I’ve talked myself into not liking it, because I just don’t feel like it’s amazing enough for the calories.  Bread, on the other hand, I’m happy to eat tons of bread, regardless of calories.  Pasta… I’m meh about pasta.  That said, I’m a huge fan of eating things in the shape of long stringy pasta.  I love spaghetti squash and when my co-worker gave me an extra spiralizer that she had, I was ecstatic.

Since then my brain has been churning with awesome zucchini noodle ideas.

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The inspiration for this recipe came from a raw, vegan cooking demonstration I went to a few weeks ago.  They served us zucchini noodles with pesto. So from there, I decided to make my own version with ingredients I had on-hand at home.  It was a complete success. zucchinipasta1

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado-Pepita Pesto

5 small zucchini squash, spiralized or julienned
1 small avocado
1/4 cup pepitas
1 cup fresh basil
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced

Place avocado, pepitas, basil, lemon juice in food processor (or vitamix).  Pulse.  Stream in olive oil and water and continue to blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss zucchini noodles with some of the pesto, you can add more or less to your liking.

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Please note, this recipe will make more than enough pesto for 5 zucchini.  You can refrigerate the rest for another day (it’ll start to turn brown after 2-3 days). zucchinipasta3

 

What I loved about this dish was:
1. how easy it is to make.
2. how well it tastes the next day and
3. the fact that it doesn’t require you to turn on the stove or oven, with our recent heat wave and summer just around the corner, that was essential.

I’ll definitely be making this again.   I’m consistently surprised at how much I like raw zucchini.  It’s definitely an underrated vegetable.

 Do you have a spiralizer?  Any ideas on what I should try to spiralize next?

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Peanut Butter and Co. Bee’s Knees Giveaway to win two free jars of Peanut Butter!

Tomato and Ricotta Salad

I’m currently having a love affair with full fat ricotta cheese.

It has to be a full fat thing, because I’ve had ricotta before, but none as delicious as this.  It’s just the regular whole milk ricotta from Trader Joe’s. Nothing fancy.  Usually, I buy part-skim, but this time all I could find was full fat.

That was the best thing that could have happened.

Now I’m obsessed with ricotta.  I want to put it on everything.  In fact, I have been putting it on everything lately, but this is my favorite combination:

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  It makes for the perfect appetizer or light meal.  It goes great with wine and doesn’t weigh you down.  You can probably go dancing after eating this and feel great. TomatoRicottaSalad1

Tomato and Ricotta Salad

2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp (or more) ricotta cheese
2 tsp Chipotle Olive Oil*
1 wedge lemon
salt/pepper to taste

Slice tomatoes, top with ricotta, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with chipotle olive oil and finish with a squirt of lemon juice.

Serve and enjoy!

*I got my olive oil from Antica Olive Oil.  If you don’t have Chipotle Olive oil on hand, I would recommend extra virgin olive oil with some crushed red pepper flakes or chipotle powder.  If you’re not a fan of heat, your favorite olive oil will work.

I loved everything about this.  I had it for dinner this past Friday (before a fun flamenco show), then again on Saturday night and then for lunch on Sunday.  What can I say? I know what I like!

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I’m definitely making this for my next gathering.  It’s easy, fresh, delicious and super easy to scale up or down depending on how many guests you have. It also goes great on bread if you’re looking for finger foods!

 

What’s your favorite way to eat ricotta?  After this Lemon Ricotta Cake, this tomato/ricotta combo might my favorite!

Lemon Ricotta Cake

I feel like Allison and I have been talking about lemon far too much lately. We’re obsessed ladies.

So I finally broke down and made a lemon cake.  I’m continually on the search for a lemon cake, and this is finally THE ONE.

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It’s amazing. Simple. Moist. Light. Delicious. I really couldn’t ask for more.  This is my new go-to lemon cake recipe.  Because let’s be honest, we all need a few go-to cake recipes.  My go to Chocolate Cake recipe is the Hershey’s chocolate cake.  My go to Banana Cake recipe is my Little Banana Cake. This recipe will make 1 (9-inch) round cake.  So if you were looking to do a lemon layer cake, I would suggest doubling (or even tripling if you’re doing a 3 layer cake) then spreading each layer with lemon curd and frosting with a simple whipped cream icing or a cream cheese frosting. Those would be delightful.  Don’t be surprised if you see the cake I just described on Foodologie soon. LemonRicottaCake4

Lemon Ricotta Cake

For Cake:

1/2 cup Canola Oil
3/4 cup Sugar
2 Lemons, zested
2 eggs
1/2 cup Ricotta
1 cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt

For Glaze:

2 tbsp Butter
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour a 9 inch round baking pan and line with parchment paper.

In a mixer, combine oil, sugar and lemon zest.  Beat until well combined.  Beat in one egg at a time.  Beating each a few minutes until fluffy.  Beat in ricotta and juice of one lemon (reserve the other lemon for the glaze).  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Allow to cool.

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Make glaze by heating butter, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Allow to cool a bit.  Then turn cake over onto serving dish.  Pour glaze over cake.  Garnish with lemon slices, slice and serve. LemonRicottaCake2

I’m biased because I love lemon, but this was seriously good.  Perfect for a simple afternoon treat with tea, but also good for a simple dessert for your summer dinner party.

Do you love lemon desserts? What’s your favorite?

I love lemon tarts, like this one.  But this lemon cake is giving lemon tarts a run for their money.

The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I pretty much always wish I had a reason to make a cake.  The more I think about it, it’s one of the reasons I love weddings, because I think wedding cakes are amazing.  Tonight I had a conversation with some ladies about wedding media.  Wedding sites, blogs, shows magazines are all geared at woman.  The wedding is portrayed as entirely about the woman, which to me seems a little unfair, given that the woman is only one half of the equation.

But in the conversation, one of the things I pointed out is that part of my fascination with wedding media is the aesthetic.  I think weddings are beautiful.  I think cakes are beautiful.  That’s probably why I love food blogs too, because I think the photography is pretty.

Most of the time when I see a beautiful cake my first thought is I want to make that, then second, I want to eat that.  For me, making cakes is fun.  I love making them look beautiful, but I also love making them taste good.

ChocolatePBCake1

Because really, isn’t a layer cake just one of the prettiest things out there?

While I always want to make cakes, there isn’t always an occasion to make a cake.  I originally made this cake for a birthday/going away party for friends.  But it was so popular and pretty that I wanted to make it again and photograph it.  

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think it just means I appreciate aesthetics. So if you want to make a cake for a special ocassion or no reason at all other than to please yourself… please do! ChocolatePBCake3

And as a bonus, it’s amazingly delicious and the perfect 6-inch cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Cake (adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Cake):

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For Filling:

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

For Frosting:

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache:

3 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Make Cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (6-inch) cake pans, set aside.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.  Beat together.   Add boiling water and beat until combined.  Pour batter evenly between both 6-inch cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (this might vary based on your oven so start checking for readiness after 20 minutes, especially if using a convection oven) or until cooked through (i.e. do the toothpick test: insert toothpick, once it comes out clean, it’s ready).

Allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream into firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make your frosting.

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Now assemble the cake.  Level your layers and slice in half, so you have 4 layers (you’ll notice in my photo I only had 3 layers, you can accidentally drop one on the floor and have 3 layers as well… that’s allowed, but not advised).  Place your first layer on your cake circle or cake dish of choice. Lay some filling on top of the first layer and spread evenly, press on second layer, it’s ok if it overflows a bit.  Repeat until all layers are complete.

Next, frost with a generous layer of frosting.

Place in the fridge while you make your ganache.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat heavy cream and vanilla stirring constantly until it comes to a light boil.  Pour cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Pour over cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve.

ChocolatePBCake2

I had hopes and dreams of making a beautiful vide to go along with this blog post, but I’m still working on perfect my video making skills… but in case you’re curious… here’s my first attempt:

 

Not the prettiest video, but I’ll take it for a first try!  We can’t expect to make gorgeous creations the first time around, and I’m cool with that.

 

So tell me, are you a fan of layer cakes, weddings and pretty things?  Are you overloaded with wedding stuff? Don’t even see it?  Is a cake just a cake for you?