Ricotta Cheesecake

There is almost nothing more luscious than a cheesecake, am I right? Thick and creamy, sweet and slightly tangy…the perfect canvas for any flavor you are craving, be it chocolate, caramel, or even cherries.

But if you are anything like me, heavy-laden slices of cheesecake just don’t make good summer fare. That’s why, when I found a recipe for ricotta cheesecake, the cream cheese cake’s skinnier cousin, in Ready for Dessert, I immediately went out and bought an obscene amount of ricotta cheese so I could try it. Why not have your cake and eat it too?

Now, before you get all excited about eating a guilt-free cheesecake, let me warn you that the ricotta version is more like a custard than a cheesecake. It is much less dense, though still creamy, and still a good canvas for your favorite add-ins. David Lebovitz suggested adding fruits…which I, of course, ignored.

I tried out two versions of this recipe. The first aimed to see whether I could sacrifice any of the dairy fats and still result in a cheesecake that was creamy enough to substitute for the New York-style cheesecake I am used to. I used part-skim ricotta and added extra flour to compensate for the extra liquid in the cheese. That version was fine, though a bit crumbier than I would have liked. But the second version, which was more true to David Lebovitz’s recipe, was a delight.

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Greek Caponata

My husband and I don’t have a cable plan at our house. This is really no big deal, as Hulu keeps us knee deep in shows to waste time watching. The main drawback for me is that the Food Network hasn’t really caught on to the online episodes trend. Sure, they do have some episodes online, but for a very limited number of shows…and the episodes posted never seem to change.

Alas!

So what happens is that every time I get near a TV that has the Cooking Channel or the Food Network, I become attached to it and I soak up every second possible of Ina and Giada and whoever else is on. Sometimes, I get really lucky with a great, figure friendly, vegetarian dish like this Greek Caponata, which I saw one glorious December day on Everyday Italian, and have waited anxiously to make once warm-weather vegetables were readily available. Which is now!

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Double Chocolate Buttermilk Cookies

It’s Spring. The blogosphere is running wild with fresh fruits and fruit bars and fruit tarts. Not being a fruit-lover, I feel puzzled and occasionally jealous when I start seeing all of the colorful desserts splashed across magazine covers and blog entries. I have never once walked into a grocery store and gotten excited about raspberries. Thus, my kitchen knows no Spring, and honestly, I don’t think it knows the difference. Chocolate is timeless.

Today was the perfect day to curl up on the couch with some chocolate cookies and a book. Outside, the sky struggled to make up its mind…is it sunny? is it about to break into a thunderstorm? I erred on the side of thunderstorm and whipped up a batch of double chocolate chip cookies.

These cookies live up to their “double chocolate” headline. Filled with chocolate chips and Dutch-process cocoa powder, they are so rich they are almost black. They bake up crispy on the outside and soft, almost gooey, on the inside. One cookie is definitely not enough (though you should probably stop after two).

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Cereal Muffins

Okay, okay, these are really bran muffins…but I wanted to lure you here, and I know how many people are afraid of the word bran. Also, if you are smart and try these muffins out some time, now you will have a euphemism at the ready!

A few weeks ago, my very own copy of Super Natural Every Day arrived in the mail. I have been on a healthy kick lately, and I love Heidi’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, so I was sure this cookbook would be a hit–full of hearty vegetarian eats that would make my insides smile. I carried the book around with me…I put little yellow post-its on almost every page to mark the recipes I wanted to make…I decided to start with a breakfast food…but even I was a little afraid of the word bran before I finally got myself up early to make these muffins.

Let me just assuage your fears: these muffins are fantastic. They are crumb-y and flavorful, more filling than your average white flour muffin, but no less delicious. They are full of great ingredients to start your morning off right. In fact, my husband woke up to the smell of these muffins in the oven and broke his no-breakfast tradition to eat two of them.

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Cardamom Tea Cakes

I have told you before of my love affair with cardamom. It is by far the most interesting spice I have tasted to date. But I will admit that the first time I smelled it and tasted it, I was not so sure I wanted to do it again.

I found this recipe for tea cakes a while back, when I was trying to find a cookie I could make for my grandfather, who is diabetic but loves the classics (a.k.a., cookies with lunch). Ultimately, I doubt this itty-bitty spiced cookie would be up his alley, but I’m so glad I tried it! These are basically sugar cookies in ball form (not what you’d immediately think of when trying to find diabetic-friendly desserts…but hey, they are tiny so each one is low in carbs). The cardamom will kick you right in the taste buds, but let me tell you, as soon as I eat one of these cookies, it’s all I can do not to gobble up ten more of them!

Don’t worry, if you are afraid of cardamom, you can substitute ginger…or even cinnamon. But I recommend you be daring!

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Multigrain Granola

It’s so hard to find a good granola or trail mix when you don’t like fruit. Growing up, I was constantly chewing the yogurt off of the yogurt-covered raisins, or meticulously picking out the dried cranberries and holding them in my hand to throw away later.

So imagine my dismay when I got wind of the Greek yogurt craze: thick, creamy, fat-free yogurt (yay!) mixed with granola (uh-oh) and berries (danger!). I avoided the berries altogether and managed to find a granola that consisted entirely of oats and nuts…and a lot of high-fructose corn syrup. So I made a mental note that I’d better find a way to make my own granola.

As you probably know, granola is incredibly versatile. As I was searching the interblags for recipes, I came across so many different combinations that honestly, it took me 2 weeks to decide on what ingredients I wanted to include in my own version and buy what I didn’t already have. I knew I wanted something more complex than just rolled oats and almonds–surely there is something better out there for us fruit-haters!

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Creamy Hummus

This last week has been one of the most stressful weeks in my memory. I had two final projects due at the very beginning of the week (gah…30-page papers!), and I had to give quizzes to my students…then they had a meltdown about the quizzes, so I had to improvise my subsequent lessons so I could help them return to a calmer, more confident place. Anyone that knows me knows that I worship planning. Improvising freaks the crap out of me (yikes…maybe teaching is not my calling).

I also made many failed recipes recently: caramel sauce (I decided to refrigerate it so it would set faster…which caused it to bec0me extremely hard, more like toffee) followed by caramel candies (way stickier than I thought…ultimately a great, stretchy, sticky mess), golden gazpacho (is it supposed to taste like you are eating a grainy, raw tomato?), and last-minute microwave brownies (I know…that sounds like a horrible idea…and apparently when you halve the recipe, it actually IS a horrible idea). How frustrating! I keep trying to make great foods, but they are not coming out as intended!

However, I did have one minor success this week: Creamy Hummus!

I actually made a small gaffe on this recipe, as well (note to self: don’t start cooking 3 minutes after waking up). I made a double recipe of this hummus to serve to my students on quiz day…but in my sleepy stupor, I forgot to add the cumin! I actually didn’t notice this when I was sampling the hummus during school, though I thought the garlic was stronger than I remembered from the previous time I’d made it. Fortunately, none of my students (even those that grew up eating hummus regularly) noticed!

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Zucchini Ricotta Galette

I have mentioned previously that I am obsessed with several other food blogs, one of which is SmittenKitchen. About six months ago, when I was trolling through Deb’s archives, I discovered a delectable vegetarian entree called a galette, which could also go by the name of crostata or even “rustic tart.” I was, in a word, smitten.

The first galette I tried was a spicy autumn variety with butternut squash. The galette was an immediate hit with my husband and his meat-loving best friend, so I knew I would have to try some of the other variations posted on SmittenKitchen. Thus, I am bringing you a lighter and brighter filling that fits the spring weather. Last weekend, when I announced that I was making a galette for dinner, my husband practically started drooling.

Although delicious, the Zucchini Ricotta Galette is a once-in-a-while kind of meal. For one thing, it is loaded with cheese, but the biggest kicker is that it takes about 2 hours to make! I only ever make it on weekends, often when I am procrastinating other chores. It’s worth the wait, but it’s not a low-maintenance meal by any stretch.

That being said, please do carve out some time to make yourself a galette! Serve it with a nice, colorful salad. I promise, you will be happy if you do…

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