A Perfect Scone

As we all know, I love brunch—especially when that brunch involves a waitress bringing me eggs Benedict and mimosas. But, I have been known to love a potluck brunch at a friend’s house or to even host a brunch or two myself.

As much as I’d like to say that when I host brunch I make eggs Benny for everyone and the hollandaise sauce comes out perfectly, I am a mostly honest person. I do a lot of make-ahead recipes. And, this one that I found on epicrack is probably the best of the bunch. Quick to make the night before, easily portable, and generally a winner across generations (read as kids love ‘em and they won’t bother the denture wearing set).

Chocolate Chip Scones

Makes 6 ridiculously large scones

  • 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ C plus 2 T sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 6 T (¾ stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ t grated lemon peel
  • ¾ C miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ C chilled buttermilk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Milk or buttermilk (for glaze)

Butter and flour baking sheet. Preheat oven to 400°.

Sift flour, ⅓ C sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Add butter and lemon peel; rub in with fingertips until butter is reduced to size of rice grains. Mix in chocolate chips. Whisk buttermilk, egg yolk and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; mix until dough comes together in moist clumps.

Gather dough into ball. Press dough out on lightly floured surface to 8″ round; cut round into 6 wedges. Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing 1″ apart. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) This is the part I found most irritating. This is an extremely wet dough and will not cut nicely. Here are a couple tips:

  • Make this into 8 wedges (easier to cut than 6). The scones will still be plenty big.
  • Use a long, flat-edged, thin spatula (if you have one for frosting cakes that would be best) or a long chef’s knife. Dip it in water before each slice.
  • Use a wide spatula to move each piece to the baking sheet and then reform it a bit into a triangle. When these cook out, they will lose a bit of their triangular shape, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect.

Brush scones lightly with milk; sprinkle with remaining 2 T sugar. (I used large grain, sugar in the raw for this part so you could actually see the sugar after baking.) Bake until scones are crusty on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Results

This recipe is also very forgiving when swapping out the chocolate chips. For one batch, I used ¼ C chocolate chips and ½ C dried cranberries. I soaked the cranberries in about ½ C orange juice for a few hours. Then, replaced the lemon zest with orange zest. The dough was a bit wetter due to the additional liquid, but they still came out lovely.

Although the recipe says to serve warm, they work just as well the next day. So, these scones have become my go-to recipe for brunch potlucks and work breakfasts where my husband needs to take a dish to pass. Oh, and kids seem to love them even though they’re not as sweet.

Scones

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The Devil Made Me Do It

Here’s another staple of appetizerland that I’ve never made before: deviled eggs. This Food Network recipe isn’t anything special. In fact because I omitted all of the garnishing, they were really just your basic deviled eggs.

The funny thing about this recipe is that it comes from Paula Deen and contains absolutely no butter. I know, right? There’s also no deep frying (which would make it more like a Scotch rather than devil egg… but some people consider the Scottish to be devils… so there’s that). Anyway, no butter, no lard, no oil. Just some mayo which seems pretty standard for deviled eggs.

Traditional Southern Deviled Eggs

  • 7 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
  • ¼ C mayonnaise
  • 1½ T sweet pickle relish (I abhor sweet relish, so I used dill relish. And, it came out just fine and dandy.)
  • 1 t prepared mustard
  • Salt and pepper, for taste
  • Paprika, for garnishing
  • Sweet gherkin pickles sliced and pimentos, for garnishing (I hate both of these so I eschewed them completely.)

Halve the eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl. Mash yolks with a fork and stir in mayonnaise, pickle relish, and mustard. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Fill egg whites evenly with yolk mixture. Garnish with all the icky stuff above. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Results

A decent, easy-to-make deviled egg. Now that I’ve tried this one, I can honestly say that I prefer my eggs in salad format (egg salad sandwich being my all time favorite sandwich). But, if I have to devil eggs, these are suitable, if a bit bland. I might add a dash of Tabasco next time.

Deviled eggs on a plate

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Finishing Up Winter

Oh last of the winter veg boxes, you have forsaken me. Your 90 pounds of potatoes and onions are just really too much. (Although the dried beans and locally-sourced, organic tomato puree were a nice change.) But the root vegetables are just getting me down. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but there are only so many fries and fried parsnips that one person can take.

When all else fails, I go to the soup aisle of my cooking brain. After a bit of digging, I found this recipe from about.com that uses as many potatoes and onions as possible. The bonus? It’s Irish-style. And, aren’t we all just a bit Irish-style this weekend?

Potato Onion Soup, Irish-Style

  • 4 T butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced (I think I used four, but they were on the small-medium side.)
  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 3 C milk
  • 5½ C chicken stock
  • ¼ C chopped fresh chives
  • ½ t celery seeds
  • ¼ t dried thyme, whole
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 C light cream (I actually used sour cream. Call me crazy.)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ C chopped fresh chives
  • 6 slices of lean bacon, crisply fried and chopped for garnish

Heat an 8-quart stockpot (and you will need a large size). Add 4 T butter and onion; cook gently. Do not let the onion brown. Add the potatoes and milk. Then, add the stock. Add ¼ C chives, celery seeds, and thyme. Cover and cook gently for about an hour.

Prepare the roux: Melt the remaining 2 T of butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Let the flour and butter mixture bubble for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. (You’re basically making a blonde roux.) Thicken the soup with the roux, whisking carefully to avoid lumps. Cook for 5-10 minutes longer.

Puree the soup in a food processor or with a food blender. (If you’re using a food processor, let the soup cool and work in batches. I used an immersion blender directly in the pot.)

Add the cream and gently reheat, but do not boil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with additional chives and bacon as garnishes.

Results

The soup is a pretty solid creamed potato soup. I don’t mean solid as brick solid, but rather a good go-to recipe for potato soup. It has just the right consistency—not a glutinous mess, but not overly watery. I served it with a side of rye bread. (My grocery store was out of pumpernickel. I think this would taste really good with pumpernickel.) It also needed a dash of Tabasco at the end, but that might just be me.

As you can see, I didn’t do the whole bacon garnish thing. I thought about crisping up bacon and then using the bacon fat to saute the onions. Perhaps next time.

Potatoonion soup with rye bread

In addition, the recipe says you can swap out leeks for the onions. Other suggestions included adding shrimp or lobster as garnishes

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Here Piggy Piggy

Continuing my appetizers for dinner mood, I decided to try my hand at the king of all finger foods—pigs in a blanket. I don’t remember ever having these as a child. I think my mom was probably too afraid of the choking hazard a blanketed pig posed to my style of eating (inhale anything that seemed like junk food). By the time I could safely eat these delightful little morsels, I was old enough to fully appreciate the full-blown hot dog. (And, yes, I just realized how kinda dirty it is to put the words blown and hot dog next to each other… so, I’m with the dirty birdies reading this.)

I found this recipe on the Food Network web site so it’s a little bit more highbrow than just wrapping mini weenies in flaky crust. (Yeah, that’s right. I called pigs in a blanket highbrow. I know I’m slipping. Call it depression, call it motherhood. But I’m tired.)

Neely’s Pigs in a Blanket with Tangy Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (8 oz) can original crescent dough
  • ¼ C Dijon mustard
  • 20 mini hot dogs or cocktail franks
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Poppy seeds or sesame seeds (I used sesame seeds.)

For the dipping sauce:

  • ½ C sour cream
  • ½ C mayonnaise
  • 3 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 T whole grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut each triangle of crescent roll dough into thirds lengthwise, making three small strips from each roll. Brush the dough strips lightly with Dijon mustard. Put the mini hot dogs on one end of the dough and roll up.

Arrange them, seam side down, on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

While they’re baking, let’s make the sauce. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Serve the pigs in a blanket warm.

Results

Really, really good. I am ashamed to admit it, but I like pigs in a blanket. This was just a bunch of yum.

Pigs in a Blanket

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Mermaids Monday

I’ve been having a Mermaids moment lately. Well, let’s be honest. I’ve been having a Mermaids month. Of what, pray tell, am I speaking? It’s the moment in time when you realize that you’ve actually been cooking like Cher in Mermaids. I know, not a very good movie to be referencing, but it kind of sticks with you, right? Oh, you haven’t seen it? Or, at least, not recently? Have no idea what I’m blathering on about?

Fine. I guess I have to do all the heavy lifting in this relationship. Cher starred as a single mother in the 1950s or 1960s. Her daughters were played by Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci back when they were young, dark haired, and not at all having troubles with their careers. Anyway, Cher’s character would only ever make finger food for dinner. That’s it. Just canapés, things on sticks, and chips with dips. I’ve been kind of doing that lately. And, even better, they haven’t been anything terribly creative. We’re talking the Kraft web site here… nothing fancy.

That’s right, I took a month off from blogging to bring you carrot pinwheels from kraft.com. (February in the Midwest just depresses the hell out of me.)

Carrot Pinwheels

  • 4 flour tortillas (8″)
  • 6 T chive and onion cream cheese (although I’ve used regular cream cheese)
  • 4 carrots, finely shredded (about 1 C… I discourage buying the pre-shredded variety as they are a bit too fat and long to make a decent roll)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Spread tortillas with cream cheese. Top with vegetables. Roll the tortillas tightly; wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Unwrap roll-ups; cut each into six pieces just before serving.

Results

You’ll really only get four or five pieces per wrap, depending upon how thin you slice them. (If you want pretty rolls, you’ll have to snip off the rounded edges of the tortillas. So, that limits what you can serve. Or, instead of 8″ tortillas, opt for the large 10″ variety to get more out of each roll.)

Carrot pinwheels on a plate

Obviously, I doubled the recipe.

And, that’s it. Easy as wrap! They’re good for appetizers or if you have a finicky toddler at home. I’m not going to oversell it because it’s just a wrap, after all.

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Bring on the Butternut Squash

I stupidly bought a Costco-sized container of pre-cubed butternut squash—thinking (ever hopeful) that Mr. Moo would enjoy a few cubes for dinner. So, I have a lot of butternut squash going on in my fridge. And, there’s only so much butternut squash soup one family can eat before they go insane.

Thank the heavens for the internet and the British. (I get to say that a lot more frequently than you’d think. I do work in web marketing for a multinational company.) But in this case of thankfulness, it had more to do with the BBC’s Good Food site. I’ve done the heavy lifting on this one and converted the metric measurements into American craziness (which of course means that I’ve had to round up or down).

Thai Butternut and Chicken Curry

  • 3-4 T Thai red curry paste
  • 14 oz tin coconut milk (translation can of coconut milk for those of you who don’t speak British)
  • 2 C butternut squash , peeled and cubed
  • 6 skinless chicken thighs, cut into cubes (My thighs were huge [still are in fact, but that's a story for a different day]. I actually only used three chicken thighs.)
  • 1 C cherry tomatoes
  • Fish sauce to season
  • 2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 cut into cheeks to serve
  • 2 large handfuls Thai basil, or coriander (Please don’t use coriander seeds. Those British folks mean cilantro.)

Heat the curry paste gently in a wok (I used a large sauté pan.) until it starts to fry in its own oil, add a little extra oil if it starts to stick. (I definitely had to add extra oil.) Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Add the squash and simmer for 10 minutes or until it is almost tender. (This took more like 20 minutes to get to the tender state.) Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes (more like 10 to cook all the way through), add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes or until they just start to burst. (They must use super high cooking temps in the UK because this took more like 10 minutes. And, I still had to pop a few myself.)

Season with fish sauce (this is the equivalent of salt, so add a few drops and taste, then add more if you need it) and the lime juice and sprinkle with the herbs.

Results

I served this over rice and it was stinking fabulous. And, not unlike a green curry recipe I have made in the past. The reason that I like this one better is that it uses an entire can of coconut milk whereas the other recipe forces me to think of ways to use the ¾ C coconut milk that remains. Anyway, pretty easy one-ish (if you make rice two) pot recipe.

Thai butternut squash curry in a bowl with lime

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Crazy Couscous Cakes

You know you’re having a lazy Monday when you look for inspiration on the back of boxes in your pantry. I happened to have a box of couscous mix on my shelf—specifically a mango salsa couscous mix from Marrakesh Express (yeah, it’s a Hormel brand… sue me). I know, mango salsa and couscous isn’t exactly the flavor pairing I would have chosen, either. But, it was part of a set of six boxes I bought at Costco, so I was kind of stuck with it. And, it’s great with shrimp! (at least that’s what the front of the box shouted at me in annoying pseudo cursive font).

The back of the box had what sounded like a great meatless Monday recipe. And, besides the box of couscous, I had the ingredients on hand… so, why not? After I finished descrambling the ridiculous font (Seriously, why would a company use a lowercase j look like an upside down question mark? If I were any older or crankier, I’d be might peeved off.), I got down to business with this might fast recipe.

Southwest Couscous Cakes

  • 1 (6.1 oz) box of Marrakesh Express Mango Salsa CousCous (you know, the one I was holding in my hand reading the recipe from)
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (11 oz) can corn, drained
  • 1 (4.25 oz) jar diced green chilies, drained
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • Salsa and sour cream for serving

Prepare couscous according to package directions. Stir in next six ingredients. In large skillet, over medium-high heat, in 1 T oil, spoon couscous mixture (¼ C at a time) and gently press into a circle using the back of the spoon.

Cook 1½-2 minutes per side until lightly browned and crisp. Repeat twice with remaining couscous mixture. Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Results

While nice in theory, poor in execution. The flavors are all there, and taste great combined, but I was thwarted by the cake-i-fying of this recipe. Here I present the only three cakes that actually came out looking like cakes.

Couscous Cakes

I was going to serve them over lettuce as a bit of a salad topper, but they just did not hold up to the frying. No matter how little or long I let them fry, they crumbled upon flipping. (I even tried a two-spatula method… no luck). Plus, on the gross side of my thought train: The black beans reminded me a little too much of rabbit turds.

But, this recipe isn’t a complete loss. If you kept this as a salad (so omit the eggs, flour and olive oil from the recipe), it would make a great side to fish or veggie tacos. Or, if you love carbs like I love carbs, just throw the salad on top of our tacos.

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