Strawberry Ricotta Toast

Given that we’re three full months in, now seems like a good time to check in and evaluate the resolutions that we made at the beginning of the year.  Shall we?  You’ll recall that I listed mine here, and that they included:

  1. Drinking more water
  2. Exercising regularly and consistently (i.e., 4x/week, all year)

A third that should have been added is to: 3. Read more books for pleasure.

I started tracking my exercise on my calendar, like a kindergartener, with shiny stickers.  Every day that I exercise, I put a sticker up.  At the beginning of February I started also tracking my distance,which is written next to the stickers.  There’s something about it that’s actually pretty reinforcing, so I’m going to stick with it.

You’ll notice that I’m falling short of my 4x/week goal, and averaging about 3x/week.  This is a vast improvement over the 0x/week that I was exercising before the new year, so I’m calling this one a win (with room for improvement, of course).


As far as drinking more water goes, I’m certainly drinking more during the course of exercise, and just doing okay at other times.  Onward and upward.

When it comes to the reading bit, I’m doing quite well.  I finished I Know This Much Is True, Hyperbole and a Half, Yes Please, and I’m in the middle of Not That Kind of Girl.

How is everyone else doing with their resolutions?  Still going strong, or have you abandoned them?

Now, back to what you’re really here for: the food.

Wondering what to do with that Dutch Oven Bread I showed you last week?  Maybe you’re curious about how you can work a little Homemade Ricotta Cheese in there, too?  Say no more.
Strawberry Ricotta Toast | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from the blog The Little Epicurian.  It’s simple, but yields delicious results.

You’ll need:

Slater some ricotta onto the toast and top with strawberries.  Drizzle a little honey over the top, and add a few chopped pistachios.

Simple to make, beautiful to look at, and delicious to eat.

Strawberry Ricotta Toast | A Nerd Cooks

Dutch Oven Bread

I’m making yeast my bitch this year.  First there was King Cake, then cinnamon rolls, and now we have Dutch Oven Bread.  This recipe couldn’t be easier, and is really tasty.

Dutch Oven Bread | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on the blog Bakes in Slippers.

You’ll need:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cups water, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all of the ingredients.  Using the dough hook attachment, mix until a dough forms.  If it’s looking pretty shaggy, you can add a little more dough and continue mixing until it comes together a bit more.

Coat the inside of a medium to large sized bowl with cooking spray.  Scrape all of the dough into the prepared, greased, bowl.  Cover it tightly with cling wrap and store in a warm place for 2 hours, until the dough ball has doubled in size.

Put a Dutch oven in the oven, without the lid.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  This will allow the Dutch oven to get nice and toasty.

While the oven preheats, turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface.  Knead it slightly, forming a nice, neat ball.  Cover it with a towel and allow it to rise a bit more for 20 minutes longer.

Score the top with a knife (I made 3 parallel slits).

Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and carefully place the dough inside.  Put the Dutch oven’s lid on, and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the lid and bake for 15 minutes longer.

Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Pie

This pie is a bit special, because it was made for my friend Olga’s birthday.  She has begun the tradition of hosting a Pi(e) Party–Get it? Like 3.14, but also pie–due to the proximity of her birthday to Pi Day, and the general deliciousness of pie.

It’s also special because it tastes great.Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Pie | A Nerd Cooks

I had originally considered making a savory pie (think macaroni and cheese), but couldn’t help myself and had to go with a somewhat more traditional option.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Pie | A Nerd Cooks

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Pie | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe via Foodgawker on Taste and Tell.

You’ll need:

For the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup peanuts

For the pie

  • 1 pie crust (I cheated and used a store bought, refrigerated crust)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup flour

For the sauce

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 12 oz. jar caramel ice cream topping
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out your pie crust and line the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish with it.  Place the pie dish in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to fill it.

To make the crumble topping, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and flour in a small to medium bowl.  Cut the ingredients together (using two butter knives) until combined.  Then add the peanuts and stir everything together.  Put the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.

To make the pie filling, heat the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until completely melted.

Remove the bowl from the heat, add the granulated sugar, cocoa powder, and brown sugar, whisking until combined.  Next, add the eggs one at a time, whisking to combine between additions.  Add the vanilla extract, salt, and flour, and whisk again to combine.

Pour the filling into the refrigerated/frozen pie crust.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the filling is puffed up and the center is set.

Allow the pie to cool for about 20 minutes.

While it’s cooling, make the sauce by combining the peanut butter, caramel sauce, and salt.

After the pie is partially cooled, drizzle some of the sauce onto the pie.  Reserve the rest for serving.  Allow the pie to cool completely.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge Pie | A Nerd Cooks

Dirty Coke Floats

Dirty Coke Floats | A Nerd Cooks

When a picture of these drinks showed up in my Facebook feed, I knew that I had to make them.  They looked so fun and tasty.  The original recipe doesn’t include any alcohol, but I couldn’t help myself and added a little rum.

I found this recipe on the blog Dessert Now, Dinner Later!

You’ll need (makes 1 drink):

  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 1/2 oz. (1 shot) light rum (can be omitted if you’d prefer a mocktail)
  • 1 12 oz. can of cola (I used Coke Zero, because I’m a fiend for it)
  • 2-3 small scoops coconut ice cream (vanilla would be good, too)

Squeeze the 1/2 lime into the bottom of a glass.  Add the light rum and whatever pop/soda you’re using.  I used Dr. Pepper for my husband’s drink.

Add the scoops of ice cream and stir gently with a spoon or straw.  It should foam up a bit, like you see in the pictures.

Garnish with a lime, if you’re feeling fancy, and enjoy!

Dirty Coke Floats | A Nerd Cooks

A Nerd Travels: Clarington, PA

My family has a log cabin in the mountains of northwestern Pennsylvania.  We’ve been spending time in the area since 1992, when my parents bought a piece of land that had a bright orange trailer sitting on it. That trailer has since been torn down, and replaced with a beautiful log cabin that my dad built himself, now known as Camp Maxwell House.

Camp Maxwell House | A Nerd Cooks

Even though it’s a bit of a haul from where we live now, Sean, friends, and I try to make it a point to spend a long weekend at camp every few months or so.  We usually spend the time playing cards, drinking beer, and going for walks in the woods: in sum, just spending time together.  I have such wonderful memories of all the time spent there while growing up; It makes me so happy that Sean and our friends enjoy spending time there now, too. 

One of the best things about spending time at camp is that it forces you to unplug.  We do have a landline phone, for safety reasons, but no internet.  Cell service is spotty, at best, so it’s wise to just shut your phone off.  You get to really disconnect from daily life, and just enjoy your surroundings and spending time with family and friends.


You can expect to see multiple travel posts about our visits to camp, but here’s something to get you started.  The snowy photos were taken in January, and the black and white ones were taken over a year ago.

 006My dad likes to fill this feeder up with corn for the deer, black bears, and the other animals that come into the back yard. 007Assorted antlers, either found in the woods or from deer that he or I have harvested. 008The fresh snow was clinging to everything in the woods so perfectly when we were there last. 005Fresh snow on logs that had fallen across the creek.




Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Banana Bread – Updated!

So, it’s been a little while.  I really don’t like going this long in between posts, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I made it a point to get back into the kitchen this weekend and bake something delicious.
Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Banana Bread | A Nerd CooksThis banana bread is an updated version of the recipe found here.  The original recipe is perfectly delicious, believe me.  But it was definitely past time for a redo of the photos, and I felt like jazzing it up a little.  The oatmeal gives it a chewier texture, and the chocolate… Well, yeah.  Chocolate.

Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Banana Bread | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In another medium-sized bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer (can also be done in a stand mixer).  Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine.  Add the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla extract, beating to combine.

Little by little, add the flour mixture and beat on low until just combined.

Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown.  You can check for doneness by inserting a knife into the center and removing it.  There should be only a few moist crumbs.

Remove the loaf pan from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan and allowing it to cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Banana Bread | A Nerd Cooks

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Feeling emboldened after my successful adventure with yeast when making a King Cake, I decided that it was finally time to make some homemade cinnamon rolls.  We got some snow and freezing rain on Saturday, and given how poorly they handle winter weather in Maryland, we were effectively snowed in.  I seized that opportunity to spend the morning in the kitchen, making these cinnamon rolls.

They’re pretty time-intensive, but worth it.  Trust me.  Plus, if you look at the end of this post, there’s also a tip on how to save yourself a little time by doing some of the work ahead.Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from the cookbook Cooking with Pumpkin.

You’ll need:

For the dough

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbs vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 egg

For the filling

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

For the icing

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ~2 cups powdered sugar

Start out by adding the flour, yeast, sugars, and spices to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk it all together so that things are well-combined.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the buttermilk, pumpkin, butter, and oil for 1 minute.  Whisk it all together until well-combined.

Fold the warm pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and add the egg.  On low speed, knead the dough for 5-7 minutes.  If things look too soft, and things haven’t combined well enough, add up to 1/2 cup of additional flour.  The dough will be pretty shaggy, and this is okay.  Just make sure that there are no pockets of flour hiding under the ball of dough, especially at the bottom of the bowl.  Mix those in with a spatula.

Scoop the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper.  Spray the bowl of the stand mixer with cooking spray.  Return the ball of dough to the now lubricated bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and cover the plastic wrap with a clean kitchen towel.  Put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place, and let it rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).

When the dough is nearly done rising, line a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray it with cooking spray, and set it aside.

Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a small bowl, melt the butter in another bowl, and set them both aside.

After it has risen, punch the dough down, and turn it out onto a floured surface.  I used a silicone baking sheet with a little bit of flour.  Knead it lightly for about 1 minute.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12×10-inch rectangle.  Drizzle the butter evenly over the dough, and use a pastry brush to help spread it around.  Sprinkle the filling over the dough in an even layer.

Starting on one of the long edges, roll the dough into a long cylinder, as tightly as possible.  Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinder of dough into 12 evenly-sized rolls.

Place the 12 rolls into the prepared pan.  Cover the pan with a piece of foil and let it rest in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour.  The rolls should approximately double in size.

After 45 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and set.  Allow the rolls to cool in the pan a bit before serving.  If you’re going to frost them, you should frost the rolls while they’re still pretty warm.

To make the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract together until smooth.  Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Add as much of the 2nd cup of powdered sugar as you’d like, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency.

Slather the rolls with the frosting.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Cream Cheese Icing | A Nerd CooksThe author notes that the rolls are best eaten fresh, but will keep for 4 days if kept in an airtight container.

Also, if you want to get a head start on these cinnamon rolls and make them ahead of time, you can, after placing the sliced rolls into the prepared pan, cover them and put them in the fridge for up to 18 hours.  Then, when you’re ready to bake them, allow them to rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 90 minutes before baking as directed.