Simple Syrup

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics.

Making simple syrup is, well, simple.  And yes, I know that you can buy it at the store.  But trust me, this is too easy and much cheaper.Simple Syrup | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water.  Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely.

Congratulations, you have just made simple syrup!

Use it to make candied fruit, add it to a granita or sorbet, or my personal favorite: sweeten drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic).  I’ll show you a fantastic cocktail later this week as an example of how to use it!

Easy Chickpea Curry

I think it’s pretty well-established that I have a serious soft spot for Indian curry dishes.

And really, what’s not to love?

This dish is easy, and doesn’t take a ton of time.  It reheats really well, too.  Make the rice while the curry simmers to cut down on prep time (i.e., minimize the time between a curry craving and food entering your mouth).

Easy Chickpea Curry | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from the blog Chef De Home.  I tinkered with the proportions of some of the ingredients, but otherwise stayed true to the spirit of the original recipe.

You’ll need:

  • 3 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or coconut milk)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • rice, for serving

In a food processor, pulse the shallots, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and ginger until not quite smooth.

In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium.  Add the cumin seeds and heat until they start to pop a bit.

Add the mixture from the food processor to the skillet.  Add the curry powder, cinnamon, and garam masala.  Mix well.  Allow this to cook over medium for a few minutes, or until some of the liquid has cooked off a bit.

Add the chick peas and stock.  Again, allow it to cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until some more of the liquid has cooked off.  After that time, use a potato masher to squash some of the chick peas.

Turn off the heat and add the Greek yogurt or coconut milk, along with the salt and pepper.  Serve over rice.

Easy Chickpea Curry | A Nerd Cooks

Can’t get enough curry, either?  Try some of these dishes out!

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Sweet Potato Curry

Chicken Curry

Chicken Tikka Masala

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats

We officially moved to Durham, NC last Saturday!

I’m beyond excited to finally be down here and to start work at Duke next week.  I’ll be sharing more about the transition to southern life as things develop.

I’ve spent the past week unpacking and trying to organize the house.  I am finally at a point where all of my blog props and whatnot are unpacked, and the bedroom that I’m using as a “studio” (and as a spare bedroom) is organized enough that I could take some photos.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

In an attempt to kick things off with a proper Southern treat, I decided to go with Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

Haven’t tried Cheerwine?  Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soda that was created right here in North Carolina.  It was introduced to me by my friend, Emily, who is a South Carolina native.  It’s bubbly and sweet, and perfect over vanilla ice cream.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 1):

Drop the scoops of ice cream into a tall glass.  Top with Cheerwine.  Drink!

Be careful, because as soon as the soda hits the ice cream, things will get pretty foamy.  Pour slowly.

Cheerwine Ice Cream Floats | A Nerd Cooks

Looking for more float goodness?

Dr. Pepper Bourbon Floats

Dirty Coke Floats

Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Join me in wishing this little blog a very happy 4th birthday!  A Nerd Cooks turned 4 years old yesterday.  Hard to believe that I have a pre-school-aged blog on my hands.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache | A Nerd Cooks

What started as a creative outlet and way to keep my sanity during grad school has turned into… well, it’s still those things (except swap “grad school” for “post doc”).

I have so much fun blogging, and hearing from others saying that they enjoy the food that I share makes it that much more fun.Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache | A Nerd Cooks

This cheesecake is my way of sharing my blog-related joy, and celebrating, with you.  It’s a classic flavor combination that can’t miss: peanut butter and chocolate.  You get peanut butter flavor in the cheesecake itself and the salty peanuts on top, and chocolate in the ganache as well as the Oreo cookie crust.

Make it, and soon.  You will be happy that you did.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache | A Nerd Cooks

This cheesecake is based on, though modified a bit, the recipe found here, from Buttercream Bakehouse.

You’ll need:

For the crust –

  • 24 Oreo cookies
  • 4 tbs butter, melted

For the cheesecake –

  • 3 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache – 

  • 4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salted and roasted peanuts, optional (Actually, these shouldn’t be optional. They’re fantastic on this cheesecake.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter.  Set aside for a minute.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the Oreo cookies until they are fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse again until the mixture resembles damp sand.

Pour the Oreo and butter mixture into the bottom of the springform pan.  Lightly press the crust into the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the pan and allow it to cool while you make the filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter on medium speed until completely smooth.

Add the sugars and beat again until well combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Add the vanilla extract.

Pour the cheesecake filling over the Oreo crust, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center isn’t too jiggly.

Turn off the oven and open the door partway, allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove the cheesecake to a wire rack to allow it to cool completely.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Once the cheesecake has cooled and been refrigerated, add the chopped dark chocolate and heavy cream to a microwave safe dish and microwave in 30 second intervals.  Whisk the mixture between bouts in the microwave until it is completely smooth.

Pour the ganache on top of the cheesecake.  Add salted peanuts.  Slice and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache | A Nerd CooksPeanut Butter Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Ganache | A Nerd Cooks

Still hungry for more cheesecake goodness?

S’mores Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cake with Cheesecake, Gingersnap, and Salted Caramel Topping

Chocolate Raspberry Stout Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Chocolate Sauce

Simple Fudge Brownies

These brownies are simple, classic, and oh-so-fudgy.  Simple Fudge Brownies | A Nerd Cooks

Sean is a plain brownie aficionado; These were made with him in mind.  They are definitely best enjoyed with a glass of milk.

This recipe comes from the blog Bunsen Burner Bakery.  Stop over and check out the blog; Julie is a fellow scientist, dog-lover, Penguins fan, and admirer of the Oxford comma.

You’ll need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil.  Lightly spray with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and vanilla extract.  This will be a bit difficult, so don’t worry.  You’re not doing anything wrong.

Add the granulated sugar to the melted butter and stir until combined.  Add the butter/sugar to the cocoa/egg mixture and stir until combined.

Add the flour and chocolate chips, stirring until the flour just disappears and everything is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick, when inserted into the center, comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  Allow the brownies to cool for a few minutes in the pan.  Ten, using the foil as a sling, lift the brownies out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Simple Fudge Brownies | A Nerd Cooks

Want more brownie action? Check out some of these other delicious treats:

Guinness Brownies with Caramel Fudge Frosting

Loaded Brownie Cookies

Brownie Batter Dip

Banana Cinnamon Crumb Muffins

Banana Cinnamon Crunch Muffins | A Nerd Cooks

We’ve done the muffin thing quite a bit lately, haven’t we?  There have been zucchini banana, lemon raspberry, blueberry avocado, and double chocolate chunk.

I like muffins, and like to bake muffins, for the same reasons that I like to bake and eat cupcakes (which you also see a lot of on this blog).  They couldn’t be easier, and they’re perfectly portioned!
Banana Cinnamon Crunch Muffins | A Nerd Cooks

This muffin recipe comes from the blog My Baking Addiction.  I made a couple of small changes: I upped the amount of cinnamon in the muffins and swapped oil for applesauce.  They’re great if you need to use up a few bananas before they become too ripe.

You’ll need:

For the muffins (makes 12 muffins) –

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the crumb topping – 

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbs all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a muffin tin with liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine the mashed bananas, sugars, egg, applesauce, and vanilla extract.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until just combined.

Distribute the muffin batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the topping.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until everything is crumbly in texture.  Top each of the muffins equally with the topping.

Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife, when inserted into the center, comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan before popping the muffins out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Banana Cinnamon Crunch Muffins | A Nerd Cooks

Want more muffin action?  Check out these tasty treats:

Zucchini Banana Pecan Muffins

Lemon Raspberry Almond Crunch Muffins

Blueberry Avocado Muffins

Bakery Style Double Chocolate Muffins

Roasted Beets

Let’s take a walk on the healthier side, shall we?

I’ve been having a real love affair with beets of late.  They’re kinda sweet, and taste a little like dirt.  In the very best way, of course.

Much like pretty much all vegetables, they’re great when roasted.

Roasted Beets | A Nerd Cooks

You may want to consider wearing latex gloves while peeling and chopping the beets.  They can stain your skin, even if you wash up right after handling them.

You’ll need:

  • 6-8 medium sized beets, peeled and cut into roughly bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Put the cut beets, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper into a zip top bag.  Toss everything around until the beets are well-coated.

Spread the beets on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the beets are fork tender.

Eat ’em up.

Roasted Beets | A Nerd Cooks