Monthly Archives: December 2010

Apple Pie Scones

Dear Citizens of the United States (an open letter of apology):

I may have made some recent life decisions that have altered the climate patterns of the north-western hemisphere. The 30 degree temps in normally tepid Florida. Eagle’s game cancelled and rescheduled. LaGuardia airport completely shut down. Me. Me. Me.

Wait, wait. Let me back up a bit.

I really should start by saying that I’m a terrible baker. Or maybe that baking is terrible to me? How about this: In the past, the process of making cupcakes has given me minor (but palpable) levels of anxiety. We, baking and I, are terrible to each other.

But is that so hard to believe? I mean my goodness! What a high maintenance form of cookery! You have to “measure” things and those “measurements” are actually important. And baking doesn’t do “close enough”. If I’m making potato soup and have only sweet potatoes, whatever. Po-ta-to, po-tah-to. But if I’m baking a cake, baking powder is baking powder and baking soda is baking soda. These are not interchangeable. (Unless of course you are competent enough to know how to change the rest of your recipe.)

However, as is true of all high maintenance things, when you get it right the payoff is BIG.

And then, as is true of all big payoffs, you’re immediately in search of the next one.

So somewhere over my not too distant past I became a baker. I started buying flour every other month instead of every other year. I learned how to make things like pound cakes and soft pretzels. And then my mind started to wander to recipes that weren’t in the cookbooks. “I like this recipe, but I want it to taste like this instead.” I mean, what if you could make a scone taste like an apple pie? That would be like eating crumbly and tender awesomeness! For breakfast! And then…and then…

And thensomehowIcreatedthisrecipefromscratchandI’mprettysureImadehellfreeze

overandI’mreallyreallyreallysorryaboutthat.

So to make up for it I’m going to do two things. 1) I’m going to post the recipe below because I feel like I should at least share the reward with those I have punished and 2) I’m going to the grocery store and buying a box of brownie mix which I will immediately go burn in my oven, therefore returning the world’s climate state to its natural balance.

But I’m really sorry about the weather…

(A quick note for anyone who’s been anxiously awaiting the results of the 2010 Fudge-off, after a very carefully executed taste testing – to omit any bias – of my grandpa’s two fudge recipes, the recipe I featured a week ago was declared the winner!  The mystery of the “good fudge recipe” has finally been solved!)

Apple Pie Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 Granny Smith apples cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp + 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (can substitute unbleached AP flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2″ thick slices
  • 2 cups rolled, old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • turbinado sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. In large bowl combine apples 1 Tbsp cinnamon and 1 tsp nutmeg and stir until apples are well coated.  Set aside.
  3. In food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining cinnamon and nutmeg and pulse 2-3 times until well mixed.
  4. Add in sliced butter and pulse food processor until dough looks “sandy” and holds together when pinched.
  5. Move dough into large mixing bowl and stir in oats and apples until well combined, then add in half of buttermilk, incorporate in and then add in 2nd half.  Work the buttermillk in until the dough is moistened.  Using your hands to mix the dough at this point is the best way to get a feel for whether or not the dough is moist enough.  You can add in 1-2 more Tbsp of buttermilk if necessary.  You want your dough to moist and hold together, but not so much that it’s oozing.
  6. Flour your countertop, place your ball of dough in the center and, using your hands, pat into a round disk until it’s approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut the disk like you would a pie.  Your typical 8 slices will give you 8 very large scones, I cut mine a little narrower but still got 12 good sized scones out of it.
  7. Brush your egg wash onto the scones, sprinkle with turbinado sugar and move to baking sheets.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until scones are cooked through and bottom of scones are golden brown.  Bake time will vary based on how thick you cut your scones.


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Christmas Candy Corns

Merry Christmas!!

I’ve actually had this post idly waiting for today.  I wanted to post earlier, but it contains a Christmas present that wouldn’t be revealed until this morning.

Back in October I saw an Alton Brown special on making halloween candy – including candy corns – that piqued my interest.  Candy corns are a very polarizing candy in the same realm as orange slices, mike n’ ikes and sweedish fish, but my dad happens to stand in the pro-candy corn camp.  He also happens to be IM-possible to find a good Christmas present for.  And when I come across life’s seemingly insurmountable obstacles my natural defense mechanism is to feed it until it either goes away or becomes dormant.  So there you go – I give you Christmas Candy Corns!

Since candy corns are all sweetness, I like them best mixed with some salty add-ins.  My dad’s favorites are macadamia nuts and pretzels, hence the mix I have below but if you want to try this on your own you could definitely do the classic peanut-candy corn mix or use your own imagination to come up with other variations.  Maybe with roasted almonds and apricots or with pumpkin seeds and banana chips?  Go nuts!  Also, check out some of my head notes for tips I found helped make this process a little less temperamental.

Either way, I hope everyone out there is having a great Christmas!  By the time this post goes live I’ll hopefully be pulling some newly concocted apple pie scones out of the oven.  It’s a recipe I’ve been developing from scratch and this is my second attempt.  If this version works out I might have some new updates for 2011!

Candy Corns

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

Notes (a few things you might want to know before getting in the kitchen)

  • There are three less common kitchen supplies you’ll need for this recipe:  a silicone baking mat, a candy thermometer and a silicone spatula.
  • Gel food coloring is a very concentrated source of food coloring.  You can find it in the baking aisle of your grocery store and depending on the volume of “stuff” you’re coloring you typically only add it in a toothpick dip at a time until you reach the color you want.
  • When cooking sugar I always give the same two tips:  stir constantly and use a long handled spoon.  Boiling sugar = crazy hottness and it has the ability (if it feels so inclined) to jump out of the pan at you.
  • When it came time to handle the candy dough I kept a small saucer of canola oil handy to rub into my hands (just a dab at a time).  It helps to keep the sugar from sticking to  your fingers as you work with it.
  • I also laid out a few feet of wax paper on my countertop as a holding spot for my strands of candy.  This frees up your silicone mat as a workspace.  The candy strands should roll off the wax paper, but if they start to get stuck gently hold onto one of the strands and you can peel the wax paper off of it from underneath.
  • If your candy corns don’t come out looking just right, that’s ok.  Just pinch them into submission.  Or tell people you like that “homemade look”.

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups (4 ½ oz) powdered sugar
  • 6½ tsp (½ oz) nonfat dry milk
  • ¼ kosher salt
  • ½ cup (3½ oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (3¾ oz) light corn syrup
  • 2½ Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp room temperature unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring of your desired colors

Directions

  1. Combine the powdered sugar, dry milk and salt in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times until well combined.  Set aside.
  2. Combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup and water in a 2 qt pot, put over medium heat, cover and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the butter, clip on your candy thermometer and cook until 230°F.
  3. When mixture reaches 230°F immediately remove from heat, take out thermometer and add in the vanilla and dry mixture from earlier, stirring consistently with silicon spatula until well combined.
  4. Pour mixture onto silicone baking mat and allow to cool, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Once dough is cool enough to handle, divide into three equal parts.  Color each of the three sections by adding 1-2 drops of the food coloring in at a time and kneading it into the dough until it is evenly colored.  Do nothing with the third section if you wish to keep one white.
  6. Next, further divide each section in half and roll each into a long strand until it’s about ½-inch thick (about 22-inches long) and set to side.  Once you have all 6 of your strands rolled out (2 of each color), lay three different colored strands side by side and gently press together using your fingertips.  Then, cut the tri-color strand into 4″ sections using a pizza cutter or knife.  Fold part of the silicone mat over your strand and use it to help gently press the candy into a wedge shape (think:  sidewalk ramp).  Last, use your cutter to cut the strand into ~¼-inch pieces.
  7. Lay out to dry on silicone mat for 1+ hours and store in airtight container.

Hey look!  You just made candy corn!  Bravo!

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Fudge-off

I was having trouble deciding if I wanted to post about this simple, yet perfect tomato soup I made the other day or if I wanted to post about fudge…

Duh.

Fudge…fudge means I’ve either made a recent trip to Branson or…it’s Christmas!!!  (Imagine an unnecessary amount of exclamation points here that I made myself delete.  I think three gets the point across.  It conveys excitement without making the reader wonder if I had a seizure on my keyboard.  It’s all about editing.)

So fudge.  A first in my kitchen, but my grandpa, my grandpa has been making it for years.  I’d start looking forward to it somewhere around early November, right when Thanksgiving popped up on the horizon.  I became attached to the fudge.  Too attached.  I started to have a fear that my seemingly never-ending fudge fortune might disappear.  What if there was NO fudge this year!  Travesty!  I mean yeah, there’s family and happiness and love…but what about the FUDGE!

*sigh*  I’m getting carried away again.

Let’s get to the point.  My grandpa makes fudge every year for Christmas and this year I was hoping to get in on the production side of things.  He actually has two recipes in his files.  One for a solidly good fudge and the other for a great fudge.  Neither of us knew which was which.  So we made a deal.  He would make one and I would make the other and we’d reconvene at Christmas and finally figure out which recipe was the good recipe.

This was my version.  It’s good fudge, but I think my grandpa might of had the better recipe.  Only time will tell.  Stay tuned!

Fudge

Ingredients

  • 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 oz butter
  • 7 oz marshmallow creme/fluff
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Start melting butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Once butter is about halfway melted, mix in sugar and milk and stir constantly until mixture comes to rolling boil, slowly increasing the heat if needed.
    • Mixture will foam and double in size in this process, hence the large pot.  Use a long handled spoon to stir the syrup unless you enjoy the thrill of candied blisters on your fingers.
  3. Continue letting the mixture cook at rolling boil for 5 minutes (or until 238°F if using candy thermometer).
  4. Remove from heat and fold in chocolate and marshmallow creme.
  5. Pour into a 9 x 13″ greased pan and set aside on countertop or in fridge to cool until firm.

Oh! And before you go, check this out.  My friend Emily runs a food blog of her own (which was actually just recently featured on FreshlyPressed).  Lately she’s been featuring a lot of homemade presents you can make right in your kitchen.  A lot of familiar favorites like apple butter and some exotic gifts like vanilla lavender sugar.  I’ve been following along myself, ogling her creations only wishing I had enough time to make them all myself…and then look what popped up on my doorstep!!  

Thanks again Emily!  (Notice the dent in the candied pecans before I even finished snapping shots.)

And if I don’t get a chance to post again, Merry Christmas everyone!

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This ain’t cho mamma’s Mac n’ Cheese

Boxed mac n’ cheese – the great orange equalizer of life.  Moms serve it to kids mixed with tuna and peas, college students eat it “Easy Mac” style, vegans are die hard about finding a cheese-free substitute, even the Barenaked Ladies said they’d continue to eat it as millionaires, they’d just eat more.  So I feel confident in saying that if you’re American, you’re likely a connoisseur of the macaroni cheesiness.

And if you are a connoisseur sometimes you want to take it to the hilt.  For Thanksgiving I was in search of just such a mac n’ cheese dish.  I found the original version of this recipe via Bon Appetit.  They call it “Mac and Cheese with Sourdough Breadcrumbs.”  I tweaked it a bit and have a list of names that I would choose to call it:Sourdough croutons

  • OMG with Cheese
  • $20 Macaroni
  • Heart Attack Mac

and…”This Ain’t Cho Mamma’s Mac n’ Cheese.”

If you have a discretionary grocery budget, a deep passion for cheese, well controlled cholesterol levels or a holiday dinner coming up, then enjoy!  In the recipe below you’ll see the adaptions I made to the recipe.  (I mean, I love comfort food but I’m still an RD.)  If you want to see the original you can check it out on Bon Appetit’s website.  Spoiler alert:  they post the calories, so you’ve been warned!

Either way, this goes great with a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette and a great glass of wine…like a Malbec.  Mmmmm…

P.S.  Dear Santa, all I want from Christmas is some natural light!

This Ain’t Cho Mamma’s Mac n’ Cheese

adapted from Bon Appetit’s Mac and Cheese with Sourdough Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb topping

Ingredients

  • ~4 cups sourdough bread, torn into 1″ pieces
  • 5+ Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup shallots, diced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh marjoram (or rosemary or oregano)
  • Salt

Directions

**steps 1-3 can be done 1-2 days beforehand.  Just store croutons in airtight container**

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss bread pieces with ~3-4 Tbsp olive oil and spread across rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake until bread crusts and turns golden brown (20-25 minutes).
  4. In large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil on med-high heat.  Add shallots and herbs and cook until shallots are translucent, then add croutons.  Toss together, remove from heat and set to the side.

Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 lb cooked pasta (rotini, shells, macaroni or any other that will hold onto sauce well)
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (3/4 tsp if you like an extra kick)
  • 6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) butter
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 3 cups extra sharp Cheddar, grated (could probably get away with 2% Cheddar without sacrificing much flavor in this dish)
  • 3 cups Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated (or fresh Parmesan)
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh ground nutmeg to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions **can be assembled day beforehand and kept covered in fridge**

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and coat 9×13″ casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, making sure to salt the water.
  3. Meanwhile, sift together flour, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and melt butter in large pot over med-high heat.  Add in flour mixture; let cook 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning.  Do not let roux brown.
  4. After 1 minute, slowly whisk in skim milk and hold at a simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in only 2 cups Cheddar, 2 cups Fontina and 1/4 cup Romano cheeses, let melt and season with salt, pepper and additional nutmeg as needed.  Mix in cooked, drained pasta and remove from heat.
  6. Spread 1/2 of pasta mixture along bottom of casserole dish, top with remaining cheese and then other half of pasta mixture.  Lastly, top with breadcrumbs.
  7. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes; sauce should bubble along sides of casserole.  Remove foil and bake an additional 7-12 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Top with chopped parsley if desired.

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Pomegranate and Pistachio Couscous

Pom seedsPomegranates are in season now.  I consider them the shooting star of the produce world.  For about 4 or 5 weeks out of the whole year you can find them in the grocery store and when you see them you have to buy them.  If you tell yourself, “I’ll pick one of those up next time.” there won’t be a next time.  Trust me, I learned the hard way.  And then you have to wait another 47 weeks before you get a chance at one again.  Luckily, pomegranates keep right on your counter top for a week or two.  So if you’re tied up with Christmas decorating and holiday parties it will wait patiently for you.

pomegranate

When I get an ingredient that I haven’t played around with much, I like to search through some cookbooks and trusted websites for starter recipes.  Check out my links on the left if you want to know what I mean.  But I couldn’t find anything this time around that really jumped out at me.  Mostly everything out there involves turning it into a chutney or a dessert and I wasn’t in the mood for either.  But I did come across a recipe in the NY Times’ archives that combined pomegranates and pistachios and that gave me an idea…

I’ve had a jar of Israeli Couscous sitting in my pantry for what feels like forever now.  I hadn’t been a fan of couscous originally.  I thought it was mealy and bland.  Then this summer my friend had cooked up a dish where the base grain was an Israeli-variety couscous.  Totally different story.  Instead of being mealy, Israeli couscous is a much larger, pearl-like grain.  It’s soft and absorbs flavors like a blank canvas.  It can be the perfect base to carry a flavorful dish, and that’s exactly how I used it.  When you cook couscous in a good broth, then pair it with sauteed winter veggies and a great cheese you have a super savory dish.  Add the pomegranates in and you get, quite literally, these bursts of bright, tarty-sweet flavors.  It’s quite a combo.

So this dish is a super quick one to throw together on a week night.  You can scavenge in your fridge and pantry for ingredients you already have on hand and find what works just like I did.  All in all, it took me 30 minutes, and that’s including stopping for photographs.  And in the end you get a super-flavorful homemade dish that includes one of my favorite winter veggies – kale.  Your most intensive step is likely going to be getting the seeds out of the pomegranate, and you can do that while your couscous cooks.

Speaking of, did you know that?  That it’s the seeds of the pomegranate that we eat?  A pomegranate is actually one huge berry with hundreds of water-laden seeds inside.  When you look at a pomegranate with that in mind you can see it.  It’s shaped just like a big, red blueberry!  If you’ve never deseeded a pomegranate before, check my tips and tricks below.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Pomegranate and pistachio couscous

Pomegranate and Pistachio Couscous

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium broth
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed well and torn into 1-2″ pieces
  • 3/4-1 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • seeds from one pomegranate (will only need about half)
  • 1/4 cup asiago cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup de-shelled pistachios
  • kosher salt

Directions

  1. Cook couscous according to package directions using a good broth as your liquid.  I choose to use low sodium broth so I can salt to my taste preferences vs. the manufacturers.  Therefore, when couscous is done, salt to taste.
  2. While couscous is cooking, remove seeds from pomegranate and reserve.  See footnotes.
  3. In your biggest skillet heat olive oil over med-high heat.  Add in torn kale and cabbage.  It should crackle and pop like bacon when added to the pan.  Add a pinch of salt and toss in the oil until the kale gets bright green and starts to go down in size but still retains its structure and texture (read:  not mushy).  In last 30 seconds or so toss in garlic then remove from heat.
  4. In bowl or on serving dish, lay down bed of kale and cabbage and top with couscous.  Top ad lib with pomegranate seeds, asiago cheese and pistachios.

Serves 2 as a main dish, likely with leftovers to spare.

How to deseed a pomegranate

    1. Change out of any white cloths…just in case.
    2. Fill large mixing bowl with cool water.
    3. Cut pomegranate into quarters trying to keep the inside of the pomegranate facing your cutting board (to minimize juice squirting up at you).
    4. Hold quarter of pomegranate under water and with your hands flip rind of pomegranate inside out, similar to how some people like to eat orange segments.  Seeds should start to pop off rind by themselves.
    5. Still in the bowl of water, use your fingers to pop off any remaining seeds.  The seeds will sink to the bottom while the white, spongy membrane will all float to the top.
    6. Skim all the white stuff out of the water and then pour out your seeds into a colander.
    7. Voilá!  You’ve just separated the seeds from the rind!

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Welcome! Have a cookie…

cut jack n' lenasHere we go, post numero uno.  If you followed me over from my previous mental meanderings, thanks for sticking with me!  If your new to my site, welcome!  I have many, many interests in life but I created this site to focus on two of them:  photography and food.  I could get into more backstory, but I’ve got plenty of time for that later.  Let’s get straight to the food.

I’m actually out of town right now; at my parents house for the sole purpose of baking Christmas cookies.  So while my dad was making macadamia nut cookies I made a cookie that I’ve eaten for years and years and years but never actually made until this afternoon:  Jack and Lena’s.  Yep, that’s a cookie name.  Around these parts we actually call them “Jackalenas”.  Seems a little odd, right.  But when you think about it, it would be pretty awesome to invite people over to your house and be all like, “Welcome, have a Kristy.”  Or, “I love these’s Kristy’s!  Can I have the recipe?”  Now it seems awesome, right?

jack n' lena dough

Jack n’ Lena’s are like very thin oatmeal cookies.  So thin, in fact, that the sugar actually caramelizes a bit and the cookie comes out crispier than no other.  I love them because they’re a bit on the old fashioned side, not exactly traditional, unique but familiar.  I’ve never come across a cookie quite like this anywhere else and they always remind me of my family.  There are still 2 more weeks before Christmas, so if you’re still in cookie-baking mode give these a try.  I can almost guarantee that no one else will be making them in your cookie exchange.  And if you’re not as big of a fan of the crispy cookie, check out my notes in the header.

Jack n’ Lena’s

For a chewier cookie, reduce the temp of your oven to 350°F

This batter also has no egg, so you can eat the batter worry-free 😉

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Canola oil
  • 1/4 cup boiling water (+ 1/4 cup in reserve)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together (including sugars) in large bowl.
  3. Add in oil and water and mix until there is no more loose, dry mix.  This is when you may need 1 or 2 more tablespoons of the reserve boiling water in order to incorporate the last of the dry mixture.
  4. Split the dough into two balls – it’s easier to work with in batches.
  5. Roll each ball out between sheets of parchment paper until the dough is ~1/4″ thick.  Slightly thicker sheets will create a chewier cookie, but make sure that whatever thickness you do your dough is even, otherwise it will bake unevenly as well.
  6. Peel back the top sheet of parchment paper and use cookie cutters or the rim of a glass to cut the dough into shapes.  Move the cut cookies onto your prepared cookie sheets.
  7. Collect the scraps back into a ball and repeat the rolling out process until all your dough is used.
  8. Bake for 4-6 minutes, or until deeply golden brown.  Shorter for chewy cookies, longer for crispy cookies.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies 3″ cookies.

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