Almond Ricotta Cake with Blood Orange Glaze

This week as we unpacked our Christmas ornaments and strung twinkle lights, my mind turned to food, as it usually does when a holiday is approaching. I love nothing more than planning a menu that will be both decadent and nourishing for my family and friends. And my favorite course to plan is always, without…

cchitnis-for-vitamix_4935 This week as we unpacked our Christmas ornaments and strung twinkle lights, my mind turned to food, as it usually does when a holiday is approaching. I love nothing more than planning a menu that will be both decadent and nourishing for my family and friends. And my favorite course to plan is always, without fail, dessert. I love the idea of wrapping up a delicious meal with the perfect treat, one that isn’t overpowering in its sweetness, but instead delivers a delicate, pleasing close to the night.

I always begin the process of shaping a menu by browsing the in-season offerings at our farmers market. Although I call New England home, we’re lucky enough to have a vendor at our market that offers incredible citrus from his family’s farm in Florida. While is isn’t technically local, I still indulge.cchitnis-for-vitamix_4983 This rustic Almond Ricotta cake is topped with the most beautifully hued blood orange glaze and a festive sprinkling of pistachio. The cake itself is dense and nutty, yet there is a lightness thanks to the ricotta. The citrus tang perfectly balances out the rustic cake, and the presentation couldn’t be more beautiful. Simple, nourishing and satisfying, I hope you’ll find this to be the perfect end to a holiday meal with loved ones. Our family makes some of our most memorable moments around the table and I hope this holiday season, your family has a chance to do the same.cchitnis-for-vitamix_5059Almond Ricotta Cake with Blood Orange Glaze
As I’ve focused more on gluten free recipes in the past few years, I’ve found the Vitamix grain container to be invaluable. Here I used it to make almond meal, which is simply made from raw almonds. I use my Vitamix to make all of my flours now- from oat flour to quinoa flour- there is nothing that the grain container can’t handle.

For the cake
Ingredients:
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups almond flour*

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a 9×9 inch cake pan.
2. Whip eggs and sugar until well combined, light and fluffy. Add the cooled melted butter, vanilla extract, ricotta cheese and blood orange juice. Stir until well combined.
3. Add blood orange zest, salt and almond flour and stir until well combined.

4. Transfer the batter into greased cake pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is a toasted brown and firm to the touch. Allow the cake to cool before removing from pan.

For the glaze:
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons blood orange juice

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

1. In a small bowl whisk together juice and sugar until well mixed. Pour over the cake, and sprinkle with crushed pistachio. Allow the glaze about 10 minutes to set.

Serve and enjoy!

*Note: One cup of raw almonds pulsed in the Vitamix grain container makes about 1 cup of almond flour.
Thanks to Vitamix for the products used in this post. All opinions are my own. Right now you can save up to $90 on a new Vitamix! I use mine daily and am so impressed with the quality and durability. Make sure to check out their holiday deals. cchitnis-for-vitamix_5063

Icy Creamy at The Pantry

The final event during the West Coast leg of my book tour was a party held at The Pantry. It was a gorgeous afternoon in Seattle and I spent the morning at Pike Place Market stocking up on local flowers and produce. The moment I walked into the space, I was hit with such a…

julieharmsen_C001 copy The final event during the West Coast leg of my book tour was a party held at The Pantry. It was a gorgeous afternoon in Seattle and I spent the morning at Pike Place Market stocking up on local flowers and produce. The moment I walked into the space, I was hit with such a feeling of calm. The space was so warm and inviting- it felt like walking into the kitchen of a good friend. I knew it was going to be a great party.julieharmsen_C30 copyjulieharmsen_C011 copyjulieharmsen_C033julieharmsen_C026 copy julieharmsen_C030 (1) copyjulieharmsen_C029 copy julieharmsen_C050 copy As the guests arrived, they were greeted with delicious eats from Rain Shadow Meats, and tall, icy glasses of homemade celery soda. It sounds strange, but trust me when I tell you it was incredibly refreshing. The group that gathered was so interesting- food bloggers, restaurateurs, stylists, chefs- a really eclectic and interesting crowd. We all easily fell into conversation. I actually had to be nudged to start my demo, or I would have spent the entire party chatting away.julieharmsen_C12 copy julieharmsen_C012 copyjulieharmsen_C087 copyjulieharmsen_C15 copy julieharmsen_C039 copy I was thrilled to partner with Seattle ice cream phenom Molly Moon for the event, so along with the fresh peach syrup and almond coconut chocolate chip cookies that I made, we had incredible, homemade ice cream (without me having to lug my ice cream maker along for the ride)! After the demo, we all feasted on fruit-syrup drizzled sundaes and ice cream sandwiches.  julieharmsen_C16 copyjulieharmsen_C18 copy julieharmsen_C095 copy julieharmsen_C103 copy I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to come and celebrate with me, including Jenn, Megan, Lisa, Deborah, Heather, Janti, Leslie, Marisa, Kellen, Di, Paul, Grace, Phillip, Jess and Andy. A special thanks to Julie Harmsen for the gorgeous photographs that you see here. Thank you to The Pantry for the use of your beautiful space. And a huge thanks to Molly Moon for those incredible tubs of ice cream! Finally, my deepest appreciation to Vitamix, for making this leg of the tour possible. Lots of love for you, Seattle!julieharmsen_C104 copy

Icy Creamy in San Francisco

It’s a bit hard to put into words the whirlwind adventure I’ve been on this past month. Going into my book tour, I had no idea how I was going to pull off numerous events in multiple cities. My itinerary was three pages long, with multiple flights and accommodations to keep track of, as well…

IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-20It’s a bit hard to put into words the whirlwind adventure I’ve been on this past month. Going into my book tour, I had no idea how I was going to pull off numerous events in multiple cities. My itinerary was three pages long, with multiple flights and accommodations to keep track of, as well as all of the food preparation and grocery shopping that took place. I boarded a plane to San Francisco with two 50 pound suitcases loaded to the brim with kitchen tools, stacks of books, gift bags, and personal effects. The moment the last event ended I let out a huge breath, my stress melted away and my shoulders finally stopped hovering around my ears. But then I see these gorgeous photographs, and I remember all of the amazing people that came out to support me and my book, and I think…yep, I’d do all over again in a heartbeat! I am so incredibly thankful to my sponsors, Vitamix and HawaiianShavedIce.com not only for supporting me on my book tour, but making products that are an absolute joy to use. Okay, so San Francisco…besides a book signing at the incredible cookbook store, Omnivore, I also held a private party for local tastemakers. We had the best time- a gorgeous venue (thanks Cookhouse), a super talented, inspiring crowd and a shaved ice bar with homemade syrups! Plus…Prosecco and pops! cyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-2 IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-51 IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-49 I greeted my guests with homemade strawberry pops served in a wine glass filled with Prosecco. Not only was it delicious but it served as such a great ice breaker! While I had a rough idea of the recipes that I would demo at the party, I let a trip to the Ferry Building Farmers Market inspire my final choices. The strawberries were at their peak, and locally grown. Plus I splurged on some gorgeous local wildflower honey. The pops were so vibrant and delicious…plus soaked in Prosecco, so there’s that! After mingling and sampling some catered fare, I demoed a Strawberry and Basil syrup recipe, which I made with the help of my new Vitamix (the smaller size makes it so travel friendly!). And then we all went crazy drizzling homemade Peach, Watermelon Mint and Strawberry Basil syrups over fluffy shaved ice from my HawaiianShavedIce.com machine! Snow cones, you guys! Best party idea- seriously, it was a blast!IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-56 IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-11IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-72 IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-67IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-62IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-59 I want to personally thank all the wonderful people that came out to help me celebrate Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet including Nik, Stephen, Molly, Jessica, Alexis, Marisa, and Kim. You sure knew how to make a girl feel welcome San Fran. And a final, huge thank you to Nanette Wong for the gorgeous images you see here! Have a lovely Fourth of July weekend, folks, and if you’re up for some fun, give this frozen treat thing a whirl 😉cyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-1 IcyCreamyHealthySweet _ Nanette Wong-3

Decisions (and celebrations!)

It’s funny…by now you’d think I would realize that I am a writer.  After so many years of keeping this space, and writing for pleasure and work, it is in my bones.  Writing helps me to bring clarity and intention into my life, and yet when things get hectic, my writing often falls to the…

birthday6It’s funny…by now you’d think I would realize that I am a writer.  After so many years of keeping this space, and writing for pleasure and work, it is in my bones.  Writing helps me to bring clarity and intention into my life, and yet when things get hectic, my writing often falls to the wayside.  Writing down my thoughts last week helped to bring such clarity to our current situation…well that, and the wonderfully supportive comments and emails I received.  Several readers asked the question, “Is there something that you could do to ease your schedule?”  When I sat with that question, I realized that the answer was a huge, resounding “YES!”

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birthday5Vik started preschool this year and it has been a difficult transition.  He is only 3 years old, yet he is an independent, mature child.  He attended summer camp this past summer and absolutely loved it.  So we figured he was ready for school, although we didn’t start his brother until he was almost 4.  It turned out to be a situation that wasn’t a good fit for Vik.  Vik is extremely chill, and the wild class environment wasn’t at all suited to his personality.  He would begin crying the night before school, and wake up in tears.  And this is a child that isn’t prone to crying.  Coupled with the fact that I work on Tuesday and Thursday, the two days that Vik is in school, which meant that I didn’t see him for the entire day, it was clear that the school situation was causing undue stress.  And so we pulled him out last week.  The decision was so clear, and the relief was so instantaneous.  Now, two mornings a week we have nowhere to be and the three of us- myself, Vijay and Vik- have unstructured time together before I go to work at noon.  It has been the biggest blessing.

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birthday8Thank you for being here…and thank you for gently voicing your support and asking the tough questions.  Isn’t it funny that sometimes a very obvious solution might be hiding in plain sight?  We are still adjusting to this new schedule, and there will still be moments of stress, but gaining those precious hours with my boys gave me renewed energy to tackle this season with positivity and thankfulness, starting with a huge 5th birthday celebration this past weekend!!

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Home Again

In past years I have gone through a mourning period upon returning home from Michigan.  This year it felt good to be home, and that, my friends, is HUGE.  I have struggled for years to accept Providence as my home.  I have always enjoyed this city, but it always felt like a semi-permanent residence, despite…

_MG_3772In past years I have gone through a mourning period upon returning home from Michigan.  This year it felt good to be home, and that, my friends, is HUGE.  I have struggled for years to accept Providence as my home.  I have always enjoyed this city, but it always felt like a semi-permanent residence, despite the fact that we own and love our home and have found a great community.  But this was the year where it all fell into place, and I worked really hard on adjusting my thinking to view my city in a positive light, despite its issues.  Because let’s face it…there is no such thing as a perfect place.

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_MG_7410Upon returning home the first thing we did was pay a visit to our farmers market.  Oh how I’ve missed our market.  We are in the middle of some major kitchen work (more on that later) and so I was limited in what I could buy since we are without a place to cook for the next two weeks.  So basically we just bought a ton of fruit and ate it all day long!  The following day the boys and I drove to the Cape to help my friend Sarah celebrate her daughter Emily’s birthday.  It was the loveliest party and I was once again blown away by Sarah’s creativity.  Would you look at those cupcakes and cookies?  She made it all, even down to the starfish hair clip (embellished with french knots) in Emily’s hair.  Although we are already midway through August, summer still feels delicious and although we ache for the lake, and miss my parents terribly, it sure is good to be home.

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Vik Turns 3!

My baby turned three this past week.  WHAT?  Three years old, I can hardly believe it.  He is such a little man, probably due to the fact that he is constantly trying to keep up with his older brother.  He is such an incredibly calm spirit with a determination and grit that is well beyond…

_MG_7204My baby turned three this past week.  WHAT?  Three years old, I can hardly believe it.  He is such a little man, probably due to the fact that he is constantly trying to keep up with his older brother.  He is such an incredibly calm spirit with a determination and grit that is well beyond his years, and for such a young boy he is so very self assured.  He amazes me every single day and it is a privilege to be his mama.  It was such a joy to shower him with love for his birthday!

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_MG_6978I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating…we are so lucky to spend out summers on this little lane of ours.  We’ve known all the families on the lane for twenty years now, and many of them have been here for generations before us.  They all look forward to Vik’s party every summer, and I love knowing that he’ll grow up celebrating with this wonderful group of people.  We kept the party centered around old-fashion fun: sack races, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, Simon Says, clothespin in the bottle drop, face painting and of course, a pinata.  We made finger sandwiches, cut up a few big watermelons, and made mini-chocolate cupcakes.  Everyone had a blast, Vik especially.  Happy birthday my sweet boy…we love you so!

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Vijay’s Birthday Bash

There is nothing cuter than a four year old boy…and nothing more exhausting!  In case you didn’t know, four year olds are the smartest people in the world, and can do everything themselves!  Although he tests our patience daily, Vijay is still the light of our lives, and it was our greatest pleasure to throw…

_MG_7267There is nothing cuter than a four year old boy…and nothing more exhausting!  In case you didn’t know, four year olds are the smartest people in the world, and can do everything themselves!  Although he tests our patience daily, Vijay is still the light of our lives, and it was our greatest pleasure to throw him a big bash over the weekend to celebrate his fourth birthday.  After a week of dreariness and rain, the clouds parted, the sun shown down, and we were gifted the most beautiful day.  The pictures don’t do it justice- the sunlight was gorgeous and dappled, and I only managed a few snaps during the party, but I simply had to share.  My baby’s four…and that is something!

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IMG_3449What started out as a small party- you know, let’s just invite preschool friends and neighbors- blossomed to quite a crowd.  Luckily we had a firetruck, a cappella group, balloon artist, pinata and face painter, not to mention a full catered Indian lunch, 100 mini cupcakes, and the coolest cake ever (yup, I made that sucker!) to keep everyone entertained.  It was a great day, and it was the first year that Vijay understood that a birthday party equals presents and sweets, so he was totally pumped.

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_MG_7278The funniest moment of the party had to have been rounding the corner to find my dad fully decked out in the fireman’s gear.  He was so excited.  “Take my picture.  This one’s going in the office.”  I guess you never grow out of the fireman fantasy!  As we were snapping pictures, their unit got a call.  The firemen quickly rustled my dad out of their uniform, jumped onto the truck, flicked on the sirens and peeled out of the party.  The kids went nuts.  We couldn’t have planned it any better!

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Seaside Tinkered Treasures

Writing a book can be both exciting and incredibly isolating, especially in the final stages when your head is buried in your manuscript and all you can think about is what’s left to be done.  I’m grateful to have a few writing friends who help keep me sane, and who can relate to the craziness…

p082-CB777_Luminaries_01Writing a book can be both exciting and incredibly isolating, especially in the final stages when your head is buried in your manuscript and all you can think about is what’s left to be done.  I’m grateful to have a few writing friends who help keep me sane, and who can relate to the craziness of it all.  Elyse Major is one of those friends, and she just finished her second (!) craft book.  She is so full of creativity and drive, and I am so proud to share her book here.

p0120-CB777_Ice Cream Spoons_01Seaside Tinkered Treasures is like a breath of spring air, full of beach inspired crafts and projects.  As I was browsing through the pages, my first thought was…”These projects would make for adorable party decor.”  Of course our party themes tend towards construction and fire trucks, but in the event I had a few girlfriends over, or perhaps one day have the pleasure of planning a little girl’s birthday party, I would absolutely whip up a few of these.

p072-CB777_Pinwheels_01I could see pastel colored tin lanterns dotting the yard, a table full of doily covered pop bottles and colorful pinwheels, as well as an ice cream station complete with little decorated spoons and bowls.  What I love about Elyse’s crafting is that all the materials are easily sourced, and many make use of things that would otherwise be discarded, like tin cans and pop bottles.

p089-CB777_Bottles _01Congratulation Elyse, on another amazing craft book.  I don’t know how you come up with all of your ideas, but I am greatly inspired by your creativity.  Please check out Seaside Tinkered Treasures, as well as her first book, Tinkered Treasures, and her delightful blog.  Maybe if we all craft with an eye to spring, we can make the warm weather approach with greater speed!  There’s a happy thought!

IW CB777_SEASIDE_TRSRS_BLAD_DSJ_xSeaside Tinkered Treasured by Elyse Major is published by CICO Books and is available from Ryland Peters.

Vijay’s Third Birthday

This past weekend we celebrated Vijay’s third birthday with a bash for around 100 of our friends and family.  We just can’t help ourselves…we love a good party.  Vijay’s birthday falls at the perfect time of year to throw a big outdoor party that not only celebrated his birthday, but allows us to see all…

_MG_1829This past weekend we celebrated Vijay’s third birthday with a bash for around 100 of our friends and family.  We just can’t help ourselves…we love a good party.  Vijay’s birthday falls at the perfect time of year to throw a big outdoor party that not only celebrated his birthday, but allows us to see all of our friends and family that we missed over the busy summer months.  It was a great mix of people- neighbors, Vijay and Vik’s little friends, college kids, our colleagues, friends with older kids….pretty much everyone we know and love!

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_MG_1818Of course no party is complete without a few party tricks- mainly face painting, balloon animals, entertainment by the Brown’s Tones (Brown’s fierce all- female a capella group), a pinata, Indian food and over 150 mini cupcakes.

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_MG_1813Every year we count our blessings.  To have so many wonderful people help us celebrate our little guy is an amazing thing.  And to our sweet boy…happy birthday to the light of our lives.  We love you bunny.

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Vik’s 1st Birthday Party

On our last full day in Northern Michigan we celebrated Vik’s first birthday…and on the actual day he was born!  We have lived on this little dirt lane of ours for twenty summers, and most of the surrounding cottages have been in the same family for generations.  We have grown up with our neighbors, and…

On our last full day in Northern Michigan we celebrated Vik’s first birthday…and on the actual day he was born!  We have lived on this little dirt lane of ours for twenty summers, and most of the surrounding cottages have been in the same family for generations.  We have grown up with our neighbors, and now there is a new generation of little ones.  We all gathered to celebrate our little Vik, and it was the sweetest party.

We kept things simple- pretty decorations, finger food, little cupcakes, a pinata, face painting and bubbles.  The tree house also provided endless entertainment- the kids attached a small cup to the pulley and spent most of the party passing cupcakes and treats up to each other.

Perhaps the biggest source of joy was the pinata.  I followed this tutorial, and it was very easy, although a bit time consuming.

Everyone kept asking us if this could be a yearly thing…and oh, we hope it can be!  There is really no better place to party than on our gorgeous lake, with old friends and adoring grandparents.

Happy birthday dear baby boy.  You have added endless amounts of joy to our lives.