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

Easter Eggs- a few ways

I love Easter- it is such a beautiful holiday, one that celebrates rebirth and hope. It just so happens that Easter crafting is my favorite! Here is a fun round-up of different egg decorating tutorials I’ve shared over the years. It’s not too late to whip up some Easter egg fun! Playing with natural dyes…

Botanical eggsI love Easter- it is such a beautiful holiday, one that celebrates rebirth and hope. It just so happens that Easter crafting is my favorite! Here is a fun round-up of different egg decorating tutorials I’ve shared over the years. It’s not too late to whip up some Easter egg fun!Natural dyeNatural dye 1 Playing with natural dyes it my absolute favorite! I’ve given detailed instructions in this post, as well as this one, as to how to dye eggs with ingredients you likely have around the kitchen. For the botanical print eggs pictured at the very top, I used natural dyes and this tutorial from Erin of Reading My Tea Leaves. When the boys are a bit older and have more patience, I’d love to try the botanical eggs again! This year, we just used natural dyes, with the occasional rubberband wrapped around the egg to achieve stripes. Their favorite part was then peeling and eating the multicolored hard-boiled eggs! Oh boys.Succulant eggs 1Succulant eggs Another fun egg craft includes blowing out the eggs, dying them and using them as planters for tiny little succulents and flowers. This is definitely a craft for older kids, and more delicate crafters. Blowing out the eggs does take some work! I wrote more about it here. Eggs w pansy Finally, if you are in a real hurry (let’s say the morning of Easter, perhaps!), this craft will save you! Simply cut little hats out of colorful paper and rest them on top of a few eggs. If you’re so inclined you might even draw funny little faces. I think these would be adorable place-markers at the kids Easter table. Have fun and happy Easter!Easter eggs w hats Eggs w hat

 

Merry Christmas

We made it back to Michigan and spent the past few days relaxing with my family.  We’re so lucky to have the next few weeks to spend together.  It is the greatest gift of the season- time to unwind, unplug and reconnect with family and friends.  Of course the sugar cookies, Christmas movies, and bottomless…

Tower HillWe made it back to Michigan and spent the past few days relaxing with my family.  We’re so lucky to have the next few weeks to spend together.  It is the greatest gift of the season- time to unwind, unplug and reconnect with family and friends.  Of course the sugar cookies, Christmas movies, and bottomless mugs of hot chocolate certainly don’t hurt!  This year has been full of ups and downs and joys and sorrows, but when I reflect back I mostly remember being surrounded by love- the love of my two precious boys, my supportive husband and my incredible circle of family and friends.  All of you who read and comment and send little messages of love and support are a part of that, too.  Thank you for taking the time to stop in my little corner of the world. I certainly love sharing it all with you; the beautiful stuff, and the hard stuff.

I’ll see you back here after Christmas with a really beautiful story to share- a story of handmade love and community.  Until then, my sweet friends, I wish you and yours a most blessed holiday season.

xo

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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

I kept putting off dying Easter eggs because I really wanted to photograph them surrounded by spring blossoms.  When it started snowing this weekend I realized that my blossom wishes would not be coming true anytime soon, and so we got down to it.  I love using natural dyes, but it does take time and…

_MG_2626I kept putting off dying Easter eggs because I really wanted to photograph them surrounded by spring blossoms.  When it started snowing this weekend I realized that my blossom wishes would not be coming true anytime soon, and so we got down to it.  I love using natural dyes, but it does take time and patience.  The kids weren’t so into the whole process, to be honest.  Mainly it involves boiling ingredients and allowing the eggs to sit in the dye overnight.  So if you are into instant gratification, like my kids, this might not be so exciting!  Our eggs turned out a bit more molted in color than in years past, but I still think they are beautiful in an earthy way.

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I used the following ingredients to achieve these colors:

Tumeric (yellow and orange)

Red Cabbage (blue)

Red Onion Skins (brown)

Beet (pink)

Grape Juice (dark blue)

Combine ingredient with water in a saucepan, submerge the eggs, and then bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.  Strain the mixture, composting the solids, and straining the dye into small glasses.  Add one egg to each glass, place the glasses in the fridge and allow them to soak overnight. In the morning, remove the eggs from the dye and allow them to dry.  The key is to remove the eggs gentle from the dye and allow them to dry completely before you handle them.  The dye will rub off if you handle the eggs before their dry.

Play around with both brown and white eggs for varied results.  Also, try adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to some of the glasses and the colors will be richer.  I just play around and each year the results seem to be a bit different.  These eggs are completely safe to eat, and we never notice any odd flavors due to the dyes or vinegar!

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Merry Christmas

I wanted to take a moment and express my sincere gratitude: thank you for reading all year long and for being a part of the conversation.  This space means so much to me…more than I can put into words.  I wish you the merriest Christmas and happiest New Year.

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_MG_0271I wanted to take a moment and express my sincere gratitude: thank you for reading all year long and for being a part of the conversation.  This space means so much to me…more than I can put into words.  I wish you the merriest Christmas and happiest New Year.

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Preparing for Christmas

The holidays haven’t felt rushed at all this year, instead they feel slow and sweet.  We decorated our little Charlie Brown tree as a family (only one ornament casualty, which is truly a Christmas miracle). Out of all the trees in the lot, Vijay picked the smallest, cutest little tree.  It was the perfect size…

_MG_0093The holidays haven’t felt rushed at all this year, instead they feel slow and sweet.  We decorated our little Charlie Brown tree as a family (only one ornament casualty, which is truly a Christmas miracle). Out of all the trees in the lot, Vijay picked the smallest, cutest little tree.  It was the perfect size for the boys to decorate and once I had strung the lights and garland, they handled the rest.  We put candles in all our windows and at night, when the candles are glowing and the tree twinkling, it feels pretty magical in this little home of ours.

_MG_9709We’re keeping things really simple this year in terms of gifts- the boys are getting hockey skates and perhaps a few books and little stocking stuffers, and for the rest of our immediate family, we’re continuing the tradition of giving Pinhole Press calenders, which everyone requests year after year.  As much as I love crafting, it feels good to have lifted the self-imposed pressure to make something handmade for everyone on my list.  _MG_0110We used Tiny Prints this year for our Christmas cards, and I was immensely proud of myself for finally organizing all of our friends and family into an address book that I uploaded right to the website for printing labels.  Why oh why did it take me so long to do this?  Not having to write so many addresses by hand- priceless!  I’m looking forward to these next few weeks rolling out slowly, giving all of us time to savor the holiday spirit without feeling rushed or pressed.

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Chicago

It’s always a mixed bag of emotions going back to Chicago.  Around every street corner is a memory of the time I spent there right after college.  I still think of it as “my town” and being a tourist is such an odd experience.  I want to check out all my old haunts, and try…

_MG_3824It’s always a mixed bag of emotions going back to Chicago.  Around every street corner is a memory of the time I spent there right after college.  I still think of it as “my town” and being a tourist is such an odd experience.  I want to check out all my old haunts, and try the hot new restaurants.  I am dying to be “in the know” and yet I haven’t lived here for 6 years, so I have no idea what is new, fresh and hot.  And so we ended up eating at the hotel quite a bit (it’s just easier when working around the boy’s schedules), and spending our visit at the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium with all the other tourists.  But it was a blast, and thankfully my husband gave me free reign during the boy’s naptimes so I was able to hit up some of my favorite tucked away shopping spots and eateries.

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6413604691_df90fbb925_oIt was fun seeing the city through Vijay’s eyes.  We had been reading the Little Critter book “Just Me and My Mom” by Mercer Mayer where Little Critter goes to the big city with his mama, and they experience museums, the aquarium, taxi rides and trains.  Vijay loved doing all of the activities we had read about- especially the aquarium and the train.  He was wide-eyed the entire trip- it was adorable.

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_MG_3812We found the best restaurant for dining with kids- amazing food, a boisterous atmosphere, and great coffee (important for mom since the boys never adjusted to the slight time change- hello 5am wake-ups).  Girl and the Goat has received rave reviews since it opened, but it is not a real kid-friendly option, which is why I was thrilled to find out that the same owner had opened Little Goat Diner, a more casual option, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner all day.  If you are in Chicago- eat here.  Period.

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_MG_4088A trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of holiday shopping thrown in.  I am sure there are a thousand amazing shops, but I’m not a big shopper, and the Miracle Mile gives me hives, so I have it dialed in to my two all-time favorite shops.  If I get to visit these two gems- I’m a happy camper.  First up- P.O.S.H.  Think Parisian flea market with a sprinkling of Christmas.  It is my favorite place to buy Christmas decorations and ornaments, and I am endlessly inspired by their displays.

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_MG_3950I equally adore A New Leaf.  To call it a mere florist would be a disservice- it is so so much more.  Imagine a flea market, mixed with an imaginative floral boutique, with a touch of an exotic feeling thanks to trinkets and imports from around the world.  You can find piles of amazing old ceramic tiles, beads, buttons and trim, hand-dipped beeswax candles in every color imaginable, ornaments, every kind of floral container/ vase/ pot you could ever need, rare plants, beautiful bouquets and random treasures galore.  I could get lost here for hours.

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_MG_3991I also had a chance to wander through my old neighborhood, Lincoln Park.  When I used to live there, I remember admiring the houses and wondering who could ever afford an entire, single-family home in Lincoln Park.  Wandering through this past weekend, I found myself wondering the same thing.  I love imaging the fabulous decorating and entertaining that must go on in these magnificent homes.

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_MG_4029But the real reason this trip was so special had nothing to do with the food, or the shopping or the sights.  Spending time with our family is always takes our trips and elevates them to extra special status.  We feel so thankful to have spent this past week with them, and we are all missing them terribly already.

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Halloween at the Zoo

We’re having a tough Halloween season over here.  Vijay is scared of all of it…the carved pumpkins, the ghosts and ghouls decorating every stoop we pass, the masks hanging in the windows of shops.  Poor dear.  We didn’t realize his fear of pumpkins until we took him to the Roger Williams Zoo this week for…

_MG_2207We’re having a tough Halloween season over here.  Vijay is scared of all of it…the carved pumpkins, the ghosts and ghouls decorating every stoop we pass, the masks hanging in the windows of shops.  Poor dear.  We didn’t realize his fear of pumpkins until we took him to the Roger Williams Zoo this week for their incredible Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.  Vijay loves the zoo, so we figured it would be a fun night out.  He cried scared tears the whole time, but the rest of us sure loved it!  It was the most amazing carving/ etching display I have ever witnessed.  This is definitely worth a trip if you are in the area (and aren’t deathly afraid of pumpkins!)

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_MG_2218And then there was good ole’ Vik, totally unaffected by the whole thing.  He sucked his two fingers and looked around like, “I’m missing my bedtime for this?”  He’s too funny.

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Little Hats

I think these little guys will look very sweet in the boys Easter baskets, although I am sure they will last no more than a moment!  This was a super simple craft, just folding and snipping colorful bits of paper to make little hats, crowns and bunny ears. This will be the first Easter that…

I think these little guys will look very sweet in the boys Easter baskets, although I am sure they will last no more than a moment!  This was a super simple craft, just folding and snipping colorful bits of paper to make little hats, crowns and bunny ears.

This will be the first Easter that Vijay is old enough to understand the whole idea of an Easter egg hunt.  Our church is hosting a fun day of activities, including an Easter egg hunt with 6,000 candy-filled eggs.  I sense a looming sugar high, followed by confusion on Monday morning when our breakfast eggs are filled with yolks instead of sugary treats!

However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a happy Easter and a lovely weekend.  I’m hoping against hope that we might get some blossoming trees this week.  My family is coming into town and I would love to show off our wonderful city in all its spring finery.

Easter Eggs, A Few Ways

Easter comes but once a year, so I can’t help but go a bit overboard in the egg decorating department.  I love Easter crafts- bunnies, chicks, pastels- what’s not to love?  Last year I experimented with natural dyes, and I really liked the results.  I decided to do the same this year, with the addition…

Easter comes but once a year, so I can’t help but go a bit overboard in the egg decorating department.  I love Easter crafts- bunnies, chicks, pastels- what’s not to love?  Last year I experimented with natural dyes, and I really liked the results.  I decided to do the same this year, with the addition of a few new ingredients, including red and yellow onion skins, blueberries, and paprika.  You can find my complete instructions on natural dying here.

I hollowed out, and hardboiled a bunch of eggs, and then I dyed them a variety of colors.

Inspired by Erin’s beautiful eggs at Reading My Tea Leaves, I decided to try botanical printing.  I also played around with quail eggs (both in their natural state and dyed), as well as using the hollowed out eggs as little planters for succulents and pansies.  I am pretty over-the-moon with the results (a special thanks to Sarah for coming over to help me style my eggs!), and although it required a few late nights to pull it all together, I do believe I’m going to have the prettiest Easter table around!

For the little egg planters, I dyed uncooked eggs, and once they achieved the perfect color, I gently cracked the top, and very carefully broke off little pieces of the shell until I had carved out a hole.  I filled the hole very carefully with dirt, and a single succulent.  I kept adding dirt, and carefully packing it in, until the succulent could stand on its own.

I mainly kept the quail eggs natural since they are so beautiful with their speckled cream and brown shells.  I did try dying a few, and I discovered that when you get the quail eggs wet, the speckled coating comes off, unless you allow it to dry before touching.  It proved to be difficult to get a dyed, speckled egg, but I handled a few very carefully, and allowed them to dry thoroughly, and it seemed to work.  My favorite dyed quail egg are the ones pictured below, dyed in coffee, which achieved a gorgeous caramel color, and dyed in red cabbage for a rich blue.

For a little more of a color pop, I decided to plant some pansies.  The eggs dyed in turmeric made for the perfect planter, their yellow color pairing perfectly with the flowers.

Tomorrow, I’ll share one last Easter craft- the eggs which will grace the boy’s Easter baskets!  And if you have any fun egg decorating links or suggestions, please pass them along.  I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!