Archive for the ‘Ra Loves Reading’Category

Great Expectations & Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes That Live Up To Them

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” – Charles Dickens GREAT EXPECTATIONS

I have been doing some reading lately and by reading I mean uppercase READING! In fact, I just read my first full Charles Dickens book. May seem rather high school or college to some but for one who struggled to learn to read, and indeed did not learn until I was on the far side of 10, reading Dickens felt like climbing Everest. I have read quotes by Dickens, I have been a fan of his Masterpiece Classics, the themes I know affect my life, but it’s all those words, there are just so many of them.

Then in the winter of this year a few friends and I started reading and gathering a rather loose book club of sorts – lots of fine food and discussions and some reading thrown in. It’s been so fun to see friends and discuss what we are all reading. We started light and ramped up until this “let’s read a classic, how about Dickens?” Gulp…challenge accepted. And I can’t say how happy I am. Yes, it took me the better part of 6 weeks, but oh the language, the characters, and the themes that reach out from centuries ago and are still relevant today. I rather loved it and feel a bit proud of myself; I know most people read this when they were half my age, but I have to admit I never saw myself reading Dickens just as I admire everyone who climbs Everest I don’t see myself doing that either.

For our first gathering I made these delicious chocolate yogurt snack cakes from David Leibowitz’s THE SWEET LIFE IN PARIS, and they should live up to every great expectation you have for them. They are delicious, moist, not too sweet, easy, and they freeze like a dream. I seriously have always had at least one in my freezer since I first made these over a year ago; I think it might be one of the best parts of them. And the book had me rolling with laughter.

And some future kitchen reading I am super excited to check out is VEGETABLE LITERACY recommended by the wonderful Joe who also introduced me as a child to risotto along with other fine culinary masters, to Chanticleer I still don’t get it, and put up with a rather large amount of Ramona sized melt downs and fits. Thanks and apologies from a more grown up version of that feisty kid.

For all your expectations and the realization that they are more complicated in reality than in the dream. To a whole lot of growing up for Pip, Estella, and myself, and for the love of chocolate and literature, I give thee cakes!

Love,

Ramona

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes from David Leibowitz’s THE SWEET LIFE IN PARIS

Makes 12 cupcake-sized snack cakes

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract(I left this out and it still tastes great)

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners or lightly butter the pan.

In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of the oil. Once melted and smooth, remove from the heat. (Or if you are like me you can do this in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, then in 15 second increments, stirring well between each until smooth.)

In another bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup oil with yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla and almond extracts.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yogurt mixture. Stir lightly a couple times, then add the melted chocolate and stir until just smooth.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until they feel barely set in the middle and a tester or toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving.

These cakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for four days or freeze them and take them out 15-20 min before you want to enjoy and delight in home made dessert from the freezer.

30

05 2013

Oh Sugar

Oh Sugar, OH SUGAR! I have become completely entranced with the writer Cheryl Strayed also known to some as Sugar.  I have been reading WILD and TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS and have become absolutely undone and put back together again.

Her writing is luminous, it is honest at its most heartbreaking core, it’s reassuring, enlivening, and stunning.  I have wept and giggled in equal measure as I read and I found myself so often embracing both books to me the way I wish I could embrace my mother so many times.

Sweet peas, glow bugs, beauties, beasts, and lovable savages; she sees it all and says it in a truth that is inspiring to push ourselves to become our better selves.

Thank you Cheryl Strayed for the most amazing reading and sharing so much of your life, for putting words so eloquently to the emotions that leave so many speechless. Thank you to Timmy for the signed paper, to Jennifer for introducing me to the wonder that is Sugar SUGAR, thank you Nugget for sharing WILD and all that is Cheryl Strayed’s writing and listening to so many of my very poor readings of her profound words; you are right our Mom would be crazy about her!

Love, love, love, love, love you all like iron dinner bell,

Ra

05

12 2012

CHOCOLATE NUTELLA COOKIES

I love Chocolate! I love chocolate in almost any form it will come – a molé, a cake, melted to cover or dip fruit in, ice cream, a bar, a cup – you know what I mean. Sometimes life just needs a little more chocolate in it, and along came this cookie. Anne sent me the recipe a little before Christmas, before I had found my new apartment, before I had a kitchen to bake anything in. But I read the recipe and held onto it knowing the first chance I had I would bake these.

They are more than chocolate; they are Chocolate Nutella Thumb print cookies. I am also a big fan of the thumb print cookie, I find it loads of fun to sink my finger into the round lump of dough, bake it, and then fill the indented valley with more yumminess, in this case Nutella. I had a Dutch roommate one summer who introduced me to Nutella; she would take Nutella and thickly slather it over a piece of bread and then cover it with chocolate sprinkles. I thought that took it a bit far for first thing in the morning but from then on I was an avid fan of Nutella.

With my aforementioned devotion to chocolate it must be said these cookies are a little on the chocolate overload meter – not for the faint of chocolate heart. They are delicious but they are rich and they fill your chocolate void in a small delectable few bites.

Chocolate Nutella Thumbprint Cookies:

I think this recipe came from the newspaper, originally from Huntsberg and Willis of Whisked! In Washington.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at a very soft room temperature

½ cup sugar, + 2 tablespoons separated for dusting (the recipe called for double this but I am a fan of cutting back on sugar where and when I can)

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup Nutella

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl.

Combine the butter and ½ cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat for about 2 minutes on low speed, until fluffy, then add the egg yolk, cream and vanilla extract; beat on low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Place the remaining sugar in a shallow bowl.

Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets, I got about 24 from this recipe. Shape each mound of dough into a ball, then roll it in the remaining sugar to coat evenly. Space the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, then use your thumb to make an indentation in the top of each cookie, gently flattening the cookies a bit as you work.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes or until the edges are just set; the tops of the cookies will be soft. (If the indentations have lost definition, press the centers again immediately after you remove the cookies from the oven.) Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Pipe or spoon the Nutella into the center of each cookie while the cookies are still slightly warm.

The other way I have been spending my days lately has been catching up on a list of reading. To start my current bed side list looks like this.

THE SPIRIT CATCHES YOU AND YOU FALL DOWN, By Anne Fadiman; BIRD BY BIRD, By Anne Lamott; SUPER NATURAL EVERY DAY: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen, By Heidi Swanson; MY FATHER’S DAUGHER: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness, By Gwyneth Paltrow.

Happy Choco-loting and Reading,

Ramona

22

02 2012

A Beautiful Book About A Tragic Crisis

Upon returning from Kenya a wonderful family friend in San Francisco sent me a book by one of her friends. The book is a stunning photo account along with the remarkable stories I became too accustomed to while spending my time in Kenya.

Face To Face Children Of The Aids Crisis In Africa is the stunning story and images of life in its hopeful persistence in the face of heartbreaking sadness. It looks at the effects of an ongoing epidemic that has taken too many lives and left too many children to grow up before their time and in unthinkable circumstances. The images take me back and the stories resound with the truth of what I experienced during my time at the orphanage. But beyond anything the book, along with what I saw in every face and with every handshake in my small town, is the inspiring testament of the human spirit, of resilience, and of the amazing people doing what they can to make a difference in a myriad of ways.

The end of the book has an enlightening chronology of Aids in Africa that left me devastated by its 30 year history and more strikingly its enormous and continuing devastation on a personal and global level.

I encourage everyone to get a copy of this book – to read the stories, to see the faces of the children, and to do some good while you turn the pages. All proceeds from the book go to organizations dedicated to helping Africa Aids Children.

Thank you Iris for thinking of me, and for sharing this incredible book, and for the compassion you show so openly to those in your life.

Ra

12

09 2011