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Not Without Dessert

Ashley Rodriguez, author of Not Without Salt

Ashley Rodriguez, author of Not Without Salt Photo courtesy of Ashley Rodriguez / Not Without Salt

Here, the blogs you should be reading right now with recipes and cooking tips from their creators. Plus: Each subject's insider picks lead us to the next blogger of the week.

The Blog: Not Without Salt
A former Los Angeles pastry chef turned mom of three kids in Seattle, Ashley Rodriguez writes about her healthy family dinners and indulgent desserts. Her forthcoming book about dating her husband will be out on Running Press next year.

What are your favorite desserts for the following occasions?
Birthdays: If it's for my birthday, this is the cake I always want. Layers of ice cream mixed with homemade chocolate cookie crumbs, sticky hot fudge and candied cocoa nibs. In fact, I will use any excuse I can get to make this cake.

For the kids' birthdays they often want towering cakes or intensely frosted cupcakes. This incredibly simple and just-so-happens-to-be-vegan cake is what gets us through our birthday season. It's best served the day after baking. The frosting (not vegan) is dark and delightfully tangy.

Gifts: I love food as gifts. I love to give packs of cookies and candies loaded with shortbread, caramels and homemade candy bars. It isn't a dessert, but last year I made bitters for family and friends.

Anytime: This cookie, chocolate chip to be precise, is what I crave again and again. It's on the site and going into the book and has won one of my readers a baking contest. It's been around for awhile and in my life will always be around.

What is one dessert you feel everyone should learn how to make, or one that even a novice could get right the first time?
Everyone should know how to make a simple ganache. It's just a matter of heating up cream to a simmer then pouring that over the same quantity of chopped chocolate. Stirred together, it turns into a creamy and decadent ganache that is the base for hundreds of desserts like rich hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream and chocolate truffles. When warm it makes a great glaze or whips up into a smooth frosting. It could be as simple as serving a bowl of the stuff with strawberries for dipping. Oh, and it makes a great tart filling—I could go on and on like this.

What are three blogs you're loving right now?
Sprouted Kitchen, Seven Spoons, A Sweet Spoonful.

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.

Related: Dessert Recipes Guide
Homemade Food Gifts
Incredible Layer Cakes

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