Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

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It’s a rare weekend morning that I lounge in bed past 8:00. Responsible for that is both habit and a fear of missing something or that I’m wasting time.   So on a ‘free’ weekend, I typically get up and start listing things.  What I need to accomplish during the weekend, things I need to pick up at the market.  I determine when I’m going to work out and if we don’t have dinner plans I’ll browse blogs and pinterest looking for menu inspiration.   This busi-business gives an open weekend intention and comforts my type-A side.  Last Saturday I woke up at 7:45, right on queue, but instead of fluttering about and listing things I made some tea and sat in a quiet corner. I set my iPhone’s timer for 15 minutes, shut my eyes and began the sometimes excruciating act of turning off my thoughts.  While I’m not the most faithful practitioner, I’ve come to realize that meditation is, some days, more important than an hour at the gym or a night of deep and uninterrupted sleep.  In fact, it enables the latter two.

At the end of quiet time the buzz of my morning chatter was gone.  I was an easier version of myself, relaxed, present and again sleepy.  I went back to bed where the Mr. and I lounged, dozing and talking.  And instead of flying off to the gym first thing we decided to do something else differently.  We nearly never make proper breakfast food in our house but the subject of pancakes came up which got us talking.  If you have ever been to Plow in San Francisco then you know that its not easy to think about pancakes without conjuring images of the lighter-than-air lemon ricotta pancakes that they serve.  I attempted to describe them to the Mr. but we both decided it was best for me to stop talking and for us to eat them.   So after a bit of research and a trip to Whole Foods (still wearing my pajama top – classy) we had our very own topped with butter, maple syrup and leftover strawberries which we cooked down to a coulis.

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The Icing on the Cake

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It appears that I have just enough brain space to maintain a career, a relationship, some passable level of family contact, do a mediocre job of participating in friendships and plan a wedding.   The blog has been just a bit more than I can accommodate these days.  The ironic thing is that all of this event planning is making for some pretty tasty material.  I’ll have a lot to share, post-nup.

For now, lets talk about the holiday weekend.  It happened to include two very exciting events. The first being the launch of Arrested Development, season four which made for an epic and highly anticipated marathon. The second, the birthday of a very sweet friend.  She has recently discovered Nutella and because she’s human, loves the stuff. That said, I couldn’t resist baking her a cake just so that I could frost it with Nutella Buttercream icing.  And so it was.  The cake was devils food from a box. Acceptable because it served only as architectural support for the layers of Nutella, chocolate and butter that lived in and around it.  The icing on the cake.

The key to great buttercream icing is to start with room temperature butter. If you nuke it or melt your butter on the stove the icing won’t hold up so if you give this recipe a go try to plan ahead and let it temp, naturally. From there, the recipe is totally manageable (see below). You can pretty much follow along and you’ll get what you came for. The only thing I would suggest is using your instincts and a little freedom with the milk, adding as much as you need until you achieve the right consistency. I find you need just a little more milk than the recipe calls for.

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Because I wanted this cake to be as lovely as its recipient I gave my frosting technique a refresher. In doing so I found This video to be really helpful. I’m not equipped with very professional tools but I improvised. I created a bit of a frosting station/tower using my cake stand. It doesn’t spin like the professional frosting platform used in the video but it was easier to navigate than level counter space. One of the cake pans turned upside down and a sheet of parchment served as the surface to hold the cake as I frosted. I then used an old chefs trick that I learned from the Mr. that’s used to secure cutting boards to the counter underneath. I used a damp kitchen towel layered between the pan and cake stand so that it wouldn’t shift while frosting. A little MacGyver but it worked.

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NUTELLA BUTTERMILK FROSTING

INGREDIENTS
1 C. (two sticks) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C. confectioners sugar
2 Tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 C. bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted
1/3 C. Nutella
1 Tbsp. whole milk
A pinch of salt

INSTRUCTIONS
Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter beating on low speed for a minute or so. Add the vanilla and continue beating on low speed until well-combined. After melting the chocolate allow it to cool slightly then add to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat on medium speed until smooth, roughly three minutes. Finally, add the Nutella, milk and salt and mix to combine adjusting the amount of milk to influence the volume and texture of the icing. I gradually added an additional tbsp. and it was perfect.

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What Ales You

So far, 2013 has been the year of the bug.  Save for a few days last week, one of us has been sick since day one.  We both have our own way of dealing when we’re under the weather.  My other half refuses any sort of drug therapy, opting to suck on cloves of garlic (forcing me swiftly to the other side of the house).  I’m a little less puritan about these things and will happily down a dose of Sudafed or anything that will rockabye baby.   We both, however, honor and  respect the power of nutrition in both prevention and healing.  So today, on day five of this lousy cold, I’m waging war.  My weapon – the biggest hunk of ginger I could find.

I’ve been researching homemade ginger ale recipes and decided to mashup a few of those that look best.  Most call for a traditional simple syrup made by simmering ginger into sugar and water.  I wanted to keep things as clean as possible so I opted for honey instead of refined sugars.  I also added cardamom seeds to amp up the flavor.  And of course, lots of fresh squeezed lemon.

[Slice 1 1/2 cup of raw ginger.]

[Combine the ginger + 1/4 cup cardamom seeds + 1 cup honey with 1 1/2 cups water.
Bring to a boil then reduce to  simmer  for 20 min.]

[Strain the syrup and allow to cool.]

[Collect 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice – roughly 1 1/2 lemons.]

[Add 2 tbsp of syrup and 1 tbsp of lemon juice to a glass of ice.  Top with 1 cup of sparkling water.]

This really is the perfect concoction.  Sparkling and spicy with a bit of tang and not too sweet.
Maybe I’m just desperate to feel less lousy but I’m pretty sure I can feel it working.
Bye bye, bug!

xo – Heather