Monday, August 10, 2015

Mysteries & Savory Scones


I love to read, its a bit of an addiction, but one I hope to cultivate in my daughter as well. I usually try to read 100 books each year, but this year I've found quite a few series I like and have read even more than usual - its only August and I've read 84 books! One of the genres I enjoy is foodie lit, especially if they include recipes. Stacey Ballis is one of my favorite authors in that genre, so is the fabulous Ruth Reichl.

However, thanks to goodreads, I stumbled upon a series of mysteries that also have a cooking/magic element (2 of my favorite things!) by Bailey Cates last week and quickly blew right through the first 4 books (my library doesn't have the 5th yet). I decided to try one of the recipes featured in the book this week and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was.

This recipe for savory Cheddar Sage Scones from her book "Brownies & Broomsticks" is perfect to accompany a soup or salad for a lunch or light dinner, or serve them alongside an afternoon tea for a yummy snack. Scones are so easy to make, the keys to perfect ones are to use super-cold butter and not over-mix them. These turned out flaky, tender and delicious, I can't wait to try them again. I just used some leftover mild cheddar I had in my fridge, but I think they'd be fantastic with a sharp white cheddar. This is a great base recipe too, you can always switch up seasonings and cheese or even add dried fruits. I love the sweet/salty combo of fruit with cheese so white cheddar and dried cranberries will be my next attempt!

Cheddar Sage Scones

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp, kosher salt
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage (I like to use Penzey's)
6 tbsp. butter (cut into small cubes and frozen for at least 15 minutes)
2/3 cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used whole)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set aside ¼ cup flour in a small bowl. In a medium bowl combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and sage. 

Add chilled butter and cut into flour by rubbing with your fingers or using a pastry blender until the consistency of rough cornmeal. Add the grated cheddar to the ¼ cup flour and toss to coat. Shake to remove excess flour and add to pastry mixture, tossing with your hands to evenly distribute the cheese. 

Whisk together the egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring lightly with a fork until ingredients are moistened and just hold together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead twenty times. 

Add more flour to the surface if needed. Pat into an 8-inch circle, slightly higher in the center than on the edges. Using a very sharp knife, cut eight equal wedges. Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, slightly apart from one another. Bake for 12–14 minutes, until golden brown.

Recipe courtesy of Brownies & Broomsticks by Bailey Cates

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How To Spice Up Your Weeknight Pasta {With Chicken}


I love a good pasta dish and the sauce in this one is amazing. Don't get me wrong, I love the classics like homemade marinara, alfredo, etc., but this tomato cream sauce is so delicious! I love the concentrated tomato flavor that's mellowed out just a little with the creaminess.

The seasoning on the chicken is perfect too, packs a little bit of a heat kick that really balances out the creamy sauce. I had never thought to use a steak seasoning on anything but steak, but adding it to the chicken is going to be a go-to technique in my pantry for the foreseeable future! If you don't want to buy a separate seasoning blend for this recipe you can easily mix up your own. I would suggest including salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, a pinch of cayenne and ground sesame seeds.

Simple dishes like this are some of my favorite weeknight fare. Comforting and easy to put together, but still really flavorful and delicious.

Creamy Tomato Pasta With Seared Chicken

Ingredients
1 lb boneless, skinless, thin-sliced chicken breasts
Montreal Steak seasoning (McCormick brand was readily available in my grocery store)
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter (use 4 tbsp. if not grilling chicken)
2 tablespoons olive oil (use 4 tbsp. if not grilling chicken)
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chicken broth
12 oz canned tomato sauce
1 cup half and half (or light cream)
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
1 tbsp. dried parsley
8-10 fresh basil leaves (chopped)

Instructions
Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the steak seasoning. If you have a grill, go ahead and cook these on the grill or grill-pan. I went with a cast iron pan, melted 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Then I added the chicken and cooked for 4 minutes on each side (working in batches). Set the chicken aside to rest while you cook the pasta and sauce.

Cook your pasta in well-salted water according to the package directions (8-10 minutes). While the pasta cooks you can make the sauce. I just used the same skillet I cooked the chicken in and heated Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet over medium. Once melted, add in the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds or so. Pour in the chicken broth and let it simmer and reduce by about half. 

Once the broth has reduced, stir in the tomato sauce. If you use no-salt added sauce, make sure to season well with salt and pepper at this stage. Then add in the dried parsley. Stir to combine and add the cream. Taste and add additional seasoning if you need to before turning off the heat. Add the fresh basil into the sauce, then add the cooked pasta to the sauce, stirring well to coat all the noodles with the sauce.

Serve the pasta in individual bowls with sliced chicken on top (this recipe makes great leftovers too!).

Recipe adapted from Kevin & Amanda and The Pioneer Woman


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Frozen Treats: How To Avoid Your Oven This Summer {2 Recipes!}


I don't know about where you're from, but it has been insanely hot here on the Eastern Shore this week! I'm talking over 100 degrees with the heat index and all those scary flashing red warnings all over the screen whenever I check the weather.


So I had a quandary...I love dessert, but really couldn't think of anything I wanted to do less than turn on my oven (except go outside!). With that in mind I want to share two of my new favorite no-bake/freezer desserts. They're similar, but one has a creamier cheesecake/mousse feel and the other relies on frozen berries for a different texture. You can really swap any of your favorite seasonal fruits into these recipes, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and peaches have been big hits around here.

Perfect for entertaining or just enjoying on a hot, humid summer day...these are definitely going in my permanent summer dessert repertoire!

No-Bake Summer Berry Cheesecake (courtesy of The Chew)

Frozen Strawberry White Chocolate Mousse Squares (courtesy of Kraft)



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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Simple Dinners: How To Use Fresh Summer Veggies


I love a quick, fresh, summer dinner. We're so fortunate to live in an agricultural area that provides such a delicious bounty of spring/summer veggies! This recipe is a twist on a simple one I found through The Chew

You can certainly make your own gnocchi, but I just didn't have the time (or a potato ricer), so I used a bag of pre-made ones lurking in my freezer. You can find these at most grocery stores in either the dried pasta aisle or in the fresh pasta section of the refrigerated area.


This simple dish highlighted fresh asparagus, snap peas and scallions, but you can use any quick-cooking seasonal produce you like. I stayed away from summer squash, just because I didn't want another soft texture in with the gnocchi, but grab whatever looks good at your farmer's market and throw it in the pan! With a little butter, olive oil, salt and pepper you have a quick and delicious summer meal (even better topped with a little Parmesan)

Gnocchi With Spring Vegetables Recipe (courtesy of The Chew and Jonathan Waxman)

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tasty Toddler Eats: Zucchini Bread Mini Muffins



Its no secret that I'm mom to a picky booger of a toddler. I love that kid, but I swear she keeps me on my toes trying to find foods she'll eat every week! This week her favorites are milk, strawberries, applesauce, spinach/mango veggie pouches, toaster waffles (plain - sauces are apparently trying to kill her), dry cereal, oatmeal and occasionally rice.

Yep, I have a carb-loving kid that's for sure!

Because she's not the biggest fan of veggies on their own, yet turns up her nose at sauces, I try to include things like shredded zucchini and carrot in baked goods like mini muffins. One of the best purchases I've made for the kitchen since I had her was this set of silicone mini muffin pans. They ROCK and make baking up a batch of toddler-friendly treats a breeze. I've also used them for savory rice cups (rice + broccoli + cheese + egg) and they work super-well.



I have been trying to get my daughter in the kitchen more now that she's 3 and really seems to love the "dump and stir" part of recipes. Lately she's been obsessed with steam coming off pots on the stove, so we're working on safety with the stove and oven. Still, the stirring and pouring ingredients is her favorite, especially adding pinches of salt!



She helped me make up a batch of these fantastic little muffins and I've actually convinced her to eat several of them over the past few days. Its a miracle, I swear. These muffins aren't too sweet and you can add in extras like mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, raisins or dried cranberries. I went with this basic recipe and they were a hit in our house. Now, I can't vouch for next week, she'll probably switch to loving sauces and decide muffins are trying to kill her.



Toddlers...

Even if you're not trying to convince a toddler to eat her veggies, these are great for breakfast or as a snack with tea or coffee.

Zucchini Bread Mini Muffins

Ingredients
1.75 oz. whole wheat flour (I use Hodgson Mill brand)
3 oz. unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (just use a box grater)
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. clover honey
1 large egg

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and combine the whole wheat flour, AP flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together with a whisk in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the zucchini, milk, oil, honey and egg until well combined. Make a little well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the zucchini mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Scoop about 1 tbsp. into each mini muffin cup (coat with cooking spray first if not using silicone!) and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from www.myrecipes.com

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