Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blackberry Scones


me: "Look at all these blackberries!"
Hubby: "What are you going to do with them?
me: "I don't know, any suggestions?"
Hubby: "Blackberry scones maybe?" (undoubtedly an idea inspired by a visit to a favorite mountain bakery in Colorado while we were on vacation)
me:"hmmm" (Wheels start turning. I go to the computer and type in scones at my favorite recipe sites. I study the recipes, read the reviews and wonder whether to use a recipe with cream, or a lighter half-and-half, or buttermilk. Should I use my preferred all-butter or a combination of butter and shortening like some recipes suggest. Should I pick a sweet recipe with ample amounts of sugar, or one with less?...one with only baking powder or powder and a little soda??? I go to my extensive and ever-growing cookbook collection and find a recipe in my trusty old copy of Baking with Julia and decide that this is the one - it uses buttermilk, all butter, and a modest amount of sugar. Julia has never let me down. It's quite a process, but I can't waste good ingredients and hand-picked blackberries on a recipe that may not turn out! The recipe I choose HAS to be a good one! But too much time spent on research and the blackberries will be past their prime...by now you're thinking I'm crazy...all this over a little scone?)

the next day...
Hubby: "What are you making?"
me: "Blackberry scones"
Hubby: "Mmmm."
Hubby goes to work...
me and children: eat scones right out of the oven and rave...
later that evening...
Hubby: "Why is a piece of our good china out?" (surprise - I haven't done the dishes yet)
me: "I was taking a picture of the scones."
Hubby: (gives a look like "ooouuu-kaaaay...") "Are there any left?"
me: "there's one on the counter"
Hubby: (with a look of disappointment/astonishment) "Only one?"
(I froze half of the scones thinking of my parents visiting later this month and gave a few away to friends - we'd be very large people if we ate all of what I bake!-plus, Julia tells me in her recipe that these are best right out of the oven...don't want to leave many around for the next day...)
Hubby: pours a glass of milk, eats scone, and raves...

Blackberry Buttermilk Scones
adapted from Baking with Julia
makes about 12 scones

3 cups AP flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk
1 T lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh or frozen (unthawed) berries
1 egg, beaten with a little water for egg wash
sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 425. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add cold butter, and with your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the mixture looks crumbly (small pieces of butter coated with flour). Add buttermilk and zest and mix with a fork until ingredients are just moistened. With floured hands, turn dough out onto a floured board or countertop, pressing the dough in a ball so it holds together. Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick. Sprinkle the berries on top and very gently fold the dough over onto the berries from all sides like an envelope to mix the berries in among the dough. Spread the dough out again into a rectangle 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. With a large knife or pastry scraper, cut the dough into approx. 4" X 4" squares and cut the squares into triangles. Carefully transfer the triangles to a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silpat liner. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 minutes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pizza with Grilled Vegetables



Could my search for the best homemade pizza dough be over? The kids said this was the best yet - and to me, kid approval is one of the greatest compliments you can receive as they are a mom's toughest critics!


I started the dough the day before, mixing and kneading and chilling the dough in the fridge overnight. Last night, I got the dough out 2 hours prior to cooking time and let it warm up a bit. I heated the oven to 500, with a pizza stone on the bottom rack, 45 minutes prior cooking time. I turned on the gas grill and prepared my vegetables...red peppers (placed on the grill whole), zucchini slices, red onion slices, and portobello mushrooms. I brushed everything (except the red peppers) with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper and grilled them for about 10 minutes. With the grilled vegetables, some homemade sauce I had taken from the freezer (basil pesto would be awesome too!), and some shredded mozzarella, I was ready!


Shape the dough, pile on the toppings, and bake! Dining al fresco with a glass of zinfandel on the side and you've got yourself a perfectly delicious and healthy summer meal. More difficult than taking diGiornio out of the freezer but the taste and wholesomeness cannot compare! You've got to try making your own!


For Peter Reinhart's Napoletana dough recipe from American Pie, click here.

For the sauce recipe, see below...


Pizza Sauce

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 T red wine vinegar

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp dried oregano

3 garlic cloves (or more to taste), minced


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. It's that simple!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tabbouleh




When it comes to food, I have a few bad habits. One of them is to buy ingredients without a plan of how I will use them. And since I want to try just about everything, it means that I have a pantry full of different varieties of beans, rice, pasta, oriental noodles, baking chocolates, honeys (think I have 8 varieties of honey) and, as pictured above, grains. (See The Perfect Pantry blog to see other people's pantries every Saturday.)


The grains I have include two kinds of polenta (fine and coarse), wheatberries, spelt, amaranth, barley, millet, bulgur, and quinoa. I have yet to cook with the spelt, amaranth, and the millet but you can be sure you'll see them here eventually! One of the easiest grains to prepare is bulgur. It is a type of wheat that doesn't even require cooking. Just pour some in a bowl, cover with boiling water and let it sit for 20 minutes. It has a mild taste and could probably be used in place of cooked rice in just about any recipe.


I found the recipe for tabbouleh when my daughter, in 5th grade at the time, brought home the Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook by Angela Wilkes, which she found at her school library. When I looked through it, I was pleasantly surprised to find recipes other than chicken fingers and pizza. Actually, there were very healthy-looking recipes within a variety of international cuisines using all fresh ingredients. The book was very well laid out with lots of great pictures of every step in the recipe.


Although she and her friend only wanted to try making the goodies in the dessert section (which turned out fantastic if I remember), I was drawn to the recipes such as tabbouleh, falafel, chicken curry, thai kebobs, and chicken chow mein- things I had never tried before. The tabbouleh is delicious and is a great use for the tomatoes and cucumbers from the farmer's market and my bumper crop of parsley and mint (come help yourself if you need any-please!). It makes a great, healthy, summer side dish or potluck salad since you serve it cold or at room temperature and it's not too heavy.





Tabbouleh

from Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook by Angela Wilkes


1 cup bulgur
1/2 cucumber
3 seeded, diced, tomatoes
4 scallion
a handful of pitted black olives, optional
1 bunch parsley
small handful of mint leaves
3 T olive oil
3 T lemon juice
salt and pepper


1. Put the bulgur in a bowl, cover it with boiling water, and let soak for 20 minutes until the grains soften.

2. Finely chop the cucumber. Trim the scallions and slice them finely. Rinse, dry, and finely chop the parsley and mint.
3. Drain the bulgur in a sieve over a bowl. Use your hands to squeeze out as much extra water as you can.

4. Put all ingredients in a bowl. Mix together and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

America, The Beautiful


The Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming - Lower Falls

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - Never Summer Mountains

McConnell's Mill State Park, Pennsylvania


I'll let these untouched photos do all the talking in this one. After all, these four pictures are worth 4,000 words...

Rhubarb Raspberry Pie and Pate Brisee


Sorry to make you look at waffles so long...
Saturday's harvest from the backyard gave me the ingredients for my all-time favorite rhubarb treat - Rhubarb Raspberry Pie. I'm still harvesting rhubarb and now the red raspberries we transplanted 5 years ago are starting to ripen, plus we have wild blackberry and black raspberry bushes surrounding our yard at the edge of the woods. The crust (Pate Brisee) recipe comes from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. Martha taught me the greatest method for making pie crust in the food processor many years ago and I will be forever grateful! I may have to write my tribute to Martha (and Mom) in a future blog...

I found this awesome, big silicone mat in King Arthur Flour catalog and it sure beats plastic wrap for rolling out the dough. It clings to the countertop so the dough doesn't slide while rolling.

Fill the bottom crust with the yummy filling...

and now I'll tell you my secret to a scrumtious, crunchy crust...brush the top with heavy cream or egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar and voila!...awesome pie! Add a picnic with fabulous friends and you've got perfection!


Pate Brisee
Adapted from the Martha Stewart Cookbook

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup ice water

Place flour, sugar and salt in the food processor and pulse to combine. Slice the cold butter into the processor and pulse about 10 pulses until mixture has only small lumps of butter. Add ice water slowly while pulsing until the mixture just comes together in the food processor and doesn't fall apart when you squeeze some into your hand. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, divide in half, and shape each half into a flat circle. Wrap each circle in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to a day.

Raspberry Rhubarb Pie
Adapted from the Junior League Centennial Cookbook

1 cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp grated orange or lemon zest
2 cups, fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups fresh or unthawed frozen raspberries
2 T butter

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a pie plate with pastry. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and citrus zest in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the raspberries and rhubarb. Add sugar mixture to the fruit mixture and stir gently to combine. Place the mixture into the pie plate and dot with butter. Cover with top crust and seal and flute the edges. Brush top with heavy cream or beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 45 minutes or until crust is browned and the filling is bubbly. Cover pie with foil during baking if the crust is getting too browned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

First Day of Summer Vacation and Waffles


It was Sunday night and my kids asked, "What do we have to do tomorrow?". I had to think for a moment because lately we've been running to something every night. Last week it was dance dress rehearsals, pool parties, baseball playoffs and music lessons. Wouldn't you know, we had nothing on the calendar yesterday...we could do whatever we want! Annie asked if it could be movie day and that got the ball rolling into a weekly schedule for summer vacation. Here it is:

Monday: Movie night
Tuesday: Outside Day (I hope it doesn't rain!)
Wednesday: Game night
Thursday: Baking Day
Friday: Reading Night
Saturday: Random
Sunday: Family Outing Day

I was quite impressed with this schedule of events they came up with without my help. I'm sure it will help with an otherwise unstructured summer.

So here's how our first day of summer vacation went: I had to wake the girls up at 10am! (pooped out after a long dance recital on Sunday). We made delicious Belgian waffles with real maple syrup for breakfast (see recipe below). The kids spent almost an hour taking turns jumping off my bed onto a mound of pillows on the floor while listening to loud dance music. We couldn't go for the walk we planned because of the rain (so much rain lately!), so we hopped in the car and went to the library and the video store to pick out movies for "movie night". It is no small feat finding one that everyone wants to see but we decided on the Disney movie "Enchanted". The kids played with friends after lunch and at dinnertime we ordered a pizza and watched the movie. All in all a very good day. Let's hope the rest of vacation goes this smoothly!

Classic Buttermilk Waffles
adapted from a recipe from King Arthur Flour

2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus more to thin if necessary
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground golden flaxseed or ground pecans (optional)

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. In another bowl whisk together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients just until almost smooth. Add more buttermilk if it seems too thick. Spray your non-stick waffle iron with cooking spray before preheating it. Cook according to wafflemaker instructions.

Makes about 8 Belgian waffles. Halve the recipe if you like, or make the whole recipe and let the extras cool on a cooling rack (so they don't steam themselves soggy) and place in a zip top bag and freeze. To reheat, place waffle in the toaster to crisp.

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