Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lemony ricotta bundt cake

The long weekend is over  and the sunshine is back. Besides one day, it was rather cold and gloomy, and most people resorted to the first rule of long weekends: shopping.  I had some stuff to do around the house and then baked a lemony ricotta cake which was to die for (people went back again and again to cut off another small slice, it was so addictive). Accidentally, I overbake it a bit but it added to the flavor with a bit of a dark ‘crust’ almost and the moist, lemony, sweet interior.

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Lemony Ricotta Bundt cake

  • 1  stick unsalted butter At room temperature
  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • dash of orange extract
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 large, organic, untreated meyer lemon (save rest for glaze)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1  cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For The Lemon Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • juice of half lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bundt pan.
  2. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each. Add the extracts and lemon zest and mix until fully combined.
  3. Add the sliced almonds and gently mix in.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and soda.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in several smaller parts, mixing just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon as needed.
  7. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
  8. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
    Cool completely.
  9. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth and thick.
  10. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake.
  11. Let the glaze set for 30 minutes and then cut into wedges and serve.

 

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I poured the cake batter into a regular 10 cup bundt form (the amounts are for a 6 cup bundt cake pan), and it came out like a large ring with smaller slices, just right for the afternoon coffee.

BabyCat approves.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The search for a summery turquoise running shoe

In the summer I love love love the color turquoise or aqua, a gradient mix between blue and green, that reminds me of the ocean. A few weeks ago I wanted to get a pair of running shoes in this color. But it was actually not that simple to decide.  Which kind of aqua? More on the blue side, or more on the green side? Which complementary colors? Yellow!  A fresh lemon yellow, for summer.  And for running shoes, it needs to be a reasonable brand.

So, I ordered a whole bunch of shoes, and yesterday they finally had all arrived and I went through the sorting process, with a glass of wine, to narrow it down. These were the contenders:

The first ones to be eliminated were the Ascics Gel-Kayano.  They fit really nice, but I really liked a darker contrast color.

The three contenders that survived the first round. The Ascics FuzeX look really nice from the color schema, but they are a bit flimsy for running shoes, there is very little cushioning and they just feel a bit ‘cheap’. 

Down to two contenders. Now, it was difficult to make up my mind. If I could only keep one pair I would keep the Ascics GT-1000 (upper pair). However, they run small. My typical size in Ascics is size 8, but with these my big toe hit the shoebox, and I don’t like that for running shoes. They are going back for a different size.

Love! Really nice, the right type of blue, the blue laces, the yellow shoe box and the purple low color.

But --- how can I say no to these? So cute! More aquamarine, with the darker turquoise as the shoe box, and the  flower-type pattern and the grey mesh. So elegant, and a great running shoe.

I might be in for 2 pairs of shoes…..

Friday, May 20, 2016

Palak without the Paneer

Spinach is a great vegetable that is available in the winter (frozen) as well as in the summer (fresh), and it is really affordable. Typically, I’ll prepare fresh spinach sauted with other vegetables but I rarely make it creamed because it seems rather bland done in a conventional, Western way. There is one exception: the palak part of the Indian dish palak (spinach) paneer (soft cheese).   The other day,  I made my own version at home and it will definitely become a staple in my house.

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Palak witout the Paneer

  • 2 bags of frozen spinach, thawed, not squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 Thai chile diced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 5 to 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 2 cloves 
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek leaves
  • pinch of cinnamon 
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, about 1-inch pieces 
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup (or sugar)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (optional) 
  1. Put the thawed spinach, the ginger and the thai chili in a blender with 1 cup of water, and puree into a smooth puree. Set aside.
  2. Roughly crush peppercorns, cardamom and cloves in a mortar and pestle and throw out the cardamom skin. If using a spice grinder, remove the cardamom skin and use only the seeds (save the cardamom skin for chai). Add the turmeric, fenugreek leaves, and cinnamon and stir.
  3. Heat a thick-bottomed pan with the heat at medium. Add the spice powder and roast for 1/2 minute to make them fragrant. Add the ghee and wait until it is melted.  Add the chopped onion, and garlic and saute for 3 minutes until translucent. Add the tomatoes and agave, and sauteed for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour the spinach into the pan. Add salt and 1/2 cup water to adjust consistency. You can add a little bit more if you find the sauce is getting pasty.
  5. Once the spinach mixture boils, reduce the heat, and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add garam masala. After 4 to 5 minutes, pour ricotta.
  7. Eat with naan or over rice with a curry, or just as palak.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Curried hummus

Whenever I go to the farmers market, I am enticed by these great non-traditional hummus variations: with cilantro, with artichoke, and with curry. I made my own version of the curried hummus and it is really nice --- Indian notes with the curry, spicy and a hint of sweet. Basically,  it is like hummus with curry, a dash of maple syrup and some red pepper flakes or cayenne.

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Curried hummus

  • 2 cups of chickpeas (ca. 1 cup of dried chickpeas cooked in the slow cooker with a bay leaf for 4-5h)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled (or less)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 TB maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 TB curry powder
  • salt to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 tea spoon garam massala, 1/2 ts roasted sesame oil

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add water if mixture is too thick. Serve.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Stamping tea towels–the whole story

I am coming full circle: finally, I uploaded all the photos from my tea towel stamping adventure. It started out with store bought stamps and the perfect summer aqua.

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….and French provincial looking tea towels (I have a thing for the Provence).

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But what I really wanted was a tea towel with tropical leaves. After much deliberation of how to find leaves, I did the obvious – check out Home Depot.

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The tricky question was: how to transfer the design on the linoleum block? First, I pressed the leaves flat in a book. Then, I photographed them and thought I could transfer the photo outline to the block. In the end, I was too lazy to print out the photo. Instead, I glued the leaves to a piece of paper, and with a tracing pencil traced the leaves’ outline. Then, turned the paper around and traced the outline again, so that some of the original tracing would rub off on the linoleum block. Afterall, it has to be a negative-positive design. To be honest, there was only the faintest outline, and I made up the rest.

With an hour of evening sun on my desk and caring about nothing else in the world I carved the leaf design into the linoleum block. I was so in trance I got it done in one go.

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A few days later, it was time to stamp. First, a few test stamps.

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Then, the real thing.

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It was not perfect, but it is hand-made by me. 

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And then, just  as I imagined it….  Below is Tracy’s original inspiration that set it all off. I still love her rounder, softer shapes of the leaves more, and the white line in the middle. Time to go back to the stamp, and make some more changes. But for the first try, it was very good and rewarding.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

A whiff of summer



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After the obligatory round through the Belfast shops, and a first wine tasting at Cellardoor winery in Lincolnville it was time for the first hike of summer 2016, up Maiden Cliff.
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The winter was the mildest on record, but the trees took a beating, with high wind storms.
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Poor trees. Their roots are on top of the mountain boulders, and a whole cluster of 3 wiped out.
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Sun!
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I finally made it to Long Grain in Camden, one of the 10 bucket-list worthy restaurants on this list that I had not been to. Long Grain is a hole in the wall kind of restaurant, easily overlooked but once I heard that it is one of the favorite restaurants in Camden of my chef-friends I decided it is time to try it out. I never made it last year, because it was always full with tourists when I got there. Yesterday I was more lucky, and snagged a seat at the bar. The Thai beef salad completely wow-ed me. It was quite spicy but with vibrant flavors and the meat so buttery soft it must have been a really good steak. 
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The tourists are still mostly local, the ships still in their larva, but summer is coming. Definitely.