Feeds:
Posts
Comments

A few years ago, with the encouragement of friends & family, I did something I had always wanted to do — I opened a restaurant!  It’s one of those things that many people who really love to cook dream of doing. Have a little lunch place with a simple menu of soups, sandwiches and salads– just a fun part-time little business.  But the dream and the reality of running a restaurant can be two very different things.  There is nothing part-time about it at all (even though I was only opened for lunch).  It’s just dadgum hard work! And stressful, and full of making all kinds of decisions that you’ve never made before and aren’t really sure about.  Add to that dealing with employees (including hiring and firing when necessary), payroll taxes, keeping up with inventory, creating the menu, dealing with equipment that breaks down, bills, and. . . have I talked you out of it yet? 

Well, for me, cooking is my love– but I found I had to turn over the day to day cooking and food preparation to my employees mostly, while I handled the business side.  That was not what I signed up for! So, I sold my little dream and became a legal secretary/receptionist.  I now let someone else handle the headaches of owning a business while I show up, smile, do my job, go home and cook whenever I feel like it! Yup, this suits me much better.

So, what does this have to do with scones, you ask?  When I had the restaurant (which was located inside a coffee shop), I served some amazing scones that we baked fresh each day.  However, I didn’t make them from scratch, they were frozen, pre-made scones.  But they were wonderful! Sweet, moist, so delicious!  Ever since then, I have been on a quest to find a recipe that duplicates those scones.  Alas, I’m just not sure a scone produced in a large, professional bakery can be reproduced exactly in the home kitchen.  But– you can come close.  After years of trying and looking and experimenting, I  have finally stumbled upon a recipe that I think is really, really good.  It is sweet, moist yet still bisquit-like and it is husband approved (not an easy thing to do with my hubby & official taster of all recipes– he is quite picky!) The original recipe did not call for using Bisquick, but rather used a flour/salt/baking powder mixture.  After having made it both ways, I think the Bisquick adds more moistness and produces a better scone than the flour.   

To this recipe, I added frozen blueberries.  You can certainly change up the flavors, for example–add orange zest and dried cranberries, or raspberries and white chocolate chips, or just plain chocolate chips, or lemon zest and lemon extract.  You also could  just prefer to leave them plain and simple with the pure flavor of vanilla.  Be careful not to overbake these, I put foil over mine about 3/4 of the way through because they were getting a bit brown on top.  For me, this is finally a “keeper scone” recipe.  I hope you will try them!

VANILLA BEAN SCONES

3  C. Bisquick (or 3 c. flour, 1 T. Baking Powder, 1/2 t. salt) — I recommend the Bisquick

2/3 c. sugar (use less if you don’t like it as sweet)

1 stick butter (frozen)

2 eggs

1/2 c. whipping cream (can sub. 1/4. c. milk & 1/4 c. half & half)

1 t. vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean cut & scraped (or 1 t. vanilla bean paste or add another teaspoon of vanilla extract)

1/2 c. frozen blueberries (optional)

Mix sugar & bisquick together with a whisk.  Grate the frozen butter and thoroughly mix in.  Add the wet ingredients and vanilla. Turn onto a floured board and knead a few times until it comes together.  Form into 2 disks and cut each disc into 4 pieces, separating them slightly.  Cover w/ Saran wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.   Bake at 375 for about 10-12 min.  Frost w/ a simple powdered sugar glaze, or add lemon juice, vanilla bean or whatever other flavoring you may prefer.

Here’s what my fruit & vegetable bowl that sits on my countertop typically looks like (of course this changes from week to week, based on what is in season and what looks best at the store!).  I like to keep it full of fresh, healthy veggies & fruits. This is my go-to stash for easy & quick side dishes that usually don’t involve much more than peeling and slicing.

For example, I love to serve a plate of sliced avocadoes & tomatoes with just about any meal.  I slice them up, sprinkle them with kosher salt & olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice on the avocado, and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  If I have fresh basil growing out on the patio, I cut some and chop it up along w/ fresh pepper and maybe some balsamic vinegar– and that’s it.  Even easier, I just grab my favorite salad dressing (Gerard’s Old World Italian) and pour a little on top of the sliced tomato/avocado– delicious.

My boys have never been huge salad eaters, so I keep plenty of fresh fruit in this bowl.  Almost every meal I have a fruit salad for them–even if it’s just one or two fruits.  I like to make sure that they eat something fresh and healthy, and now they are pretty good about eating fruit everyday.

I also always have a head or two of fresh garlic, which can be added to almost any dish you are making, from Italian pasta to chicken spaghetti to soups, garlic bread or roasted veggies.

So keep your fruit & veggie bowl filled.  It is a very simple way to  help you add an easy side dish to whatever meal you may be preparing and even if it is take out, you can pump up the nutrition value by grabbing something from this bowl!

P.S. I’ll try to post the recipe for the chicken spaghetti shown above– it is a really great one!

Fruit Pizza

I love my two boys dearly, but unfortunately, neither one of them has inherited the cooking gene from my side of the family (I have many great cooks in my family tree!) I have tried over the years to get them in the kitchen with me, but to no avail! The only thing they love about cooking is the end product and the subsequent consumption of it! So when my older son asked me if I knew what Fruit Pizza is and could I teach him how to make it, I of course jumped at the chance.

Fruit Pizza is one of those desserts that really looks impressive when you serve it, and tastes as great as it looks, however, it is quite easy to make and can be embellished in whatever way your imagination takes you! I love to use as many different colored fruits as I can find, but you could also just use only one or two fruits, and you could do the fruits in a diagonal pattern or make the crust into some special shape to suit the occasion. As you can see, since Blake is an Aggie and we love Texas A&M, we chose to give the Aggies a shout out on this one!

These are beautiful to serve at bridal showers or luncheons or teas.  I have also used this recipe when I taught a children’s cooking class and the kids loved decorating the pizza with their favorite fruits.  I encourage you to try this recipe for your next special event or just do it for fun for your family– you’ll love it!

FRUIT PIZZA:

1 roll refrigerated sugar cookies

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese (softened)

1/3 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Assorted sliced fruits such as:  kiwi, strawberries, mandarin oranges, blueberries, grapes, bananas, red grapes, cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the sugar cookie roll into slices as if you were making cookies.  Place on a 12 in pizza pan, pressing out the dough as if you were making a pizza dough –the dough will spread as it bakes.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes, being careful not to overbake, but you don’t want it doughy and underdone either!.  Allow to cool completely.

Mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Spread out over the cookie crust, almost to the edges.  Slice the fruit you have selected, and starting from the outer edge, begin to carefully place the fruit in a decorative circular pattern. This is best eaten the day it is made. If you wish, you can melt some apricot jam and thin it with a little water, then brush on the fruit for some added sheen.

Well, 2011 is about gone– hard to believe that!! It’s been a great year for many reasons and I’m looking forward to 2012, despite any of the “end of the world” fears– which I have no fear of whatsoever!! I know what is in store for me for eternity, so bring it on!! But in the meantime, if we’re all still here, how ’bout a great dessert that everyone will love?  It would be a wonderful New Year’s Day dessert–after you enjoy it, THEN you can start the diet!

This is a recipe I usually make into 2 pies, but I decided to do it in a 9 x 13 casserole for an office lunch that I was taking it to.  If you don’t want to make a homemade graham cracker crust (which I do recommend, but hey, sometimes you just don’t have time for all that!), then buy two pre-made graham cracker crusts.  Either way, it’s a great, easy recipe for any holiday or family gathering.

BLUEBERRY ICE BOX PIE/DESSERT

2 graham cracker crusts (or see below for homemade crust)

1 can blueberry pie filling

1 pkg. cream cheese

2-3 bananas (optional)

2/3 c.. sugar

1/2 c. sour cream

1 small container Cool Whip (8 oz.)

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream the cream cheese and sugar together until blended well. Add the sour cream and vanilla and blend well.  Fold in the Cool Whip (I don’t use the entire container, about 3/4 of it).  Slice the bananas and cover the crust with a layer of bananas.  Spread the cream mixture over the bananas, then spread the blueberry pie filling on the top of each pie. Chill well.

Homemade graham cracker crust:

3 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 c. sugar

2/3 c. melted butter

Mix all together.  Press in 2 pie pans or a 9 x 13 pan (you probably won’t use all the crumbs in a 9 x 13 pan).  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until lightly browned.  Cool completely before filling.

Ever since I bought some peppermint vanilla bean sugar from  the Savory Spice Shop in Austin, I have been trying to come up with a great way to use  it for a holiday recipe.  I think I may have come up with a new favorite Christmas cookie with this recipe.  I took a vanilla wafer recipe that I got years ago, lessened the vanilla, added peppermit extract and white chocolate chips, colored it a deep pink, rolled them in the peppermint vanilla bean sugar–and there ya have it!! Awesomeness!  I would encourage you to get online and go to the Savory Spice Shop website and order a jar of the sugar. However, if you don’t get around to it before Christmas and still want to make these, you could roll the cookies in red sanding sugar ( I did both!) Or, you could make an easy glaze by using the remainder of the bag of white chocolate chips and melt them with a  half teaspoon shortening and just a few drops peppermint extract (taste it until you get enough peppermint in it, but go easy, peppermint extract is strong!) Drizzle this on the cooled cookies.  Try this one– everyone I have served them to has loved them!

PEPPERMINT WHITE CHOCOLATE VANILLA WAFERS

1 C. butter (no substitutes), softened

2 C. sugar

2 eggs–room temp.

1  1/4 T. vanilla extract

1  1/2 t. peppermint extract

2  2/3 C. flour

1  1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 – 3/4 bag white chocolate chips (use a good quality)

several drops red food coloring (batter should be a deep pink)

2-3 T. peppermint vanilla bean sugar or red sanding sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and flavorings and mix well.  Add the red food coloring until batter is a deep pink.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and whisk together well.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture gradually, until just combined, don’t over mix.  Fold in the white chocolate chips by hand.  Using a small cookie scoop, form rounded balls.  Dip the top of the cookies in the sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, you want the cookies a little underbaked so they are soft and chewy.  If you like a crisp cookie, bake for 12 minutes.

I can’t believe I let my favorite food holiday (Thanksgiving) pass me by without blogging about it! I just flat ran out of time to do any blogging! I had two great sides recipes all ready to go, but just wasn’t able to get around to it! So– I’m determined to post some easy and, of course, delicious recipes for the holidays!!

First up–my very favorite holiday ice cream pie.  This pie is not only “as easy as pie”, but it looks (and tastes) like Christmas! I’ve made this for many holiday celebrations, as well as for friends and co-worker’s birthdays, by request! Another great thing about this dessert, is that you can make it up several days ahead if you need to, pop it in the freezer and it’s ready for your next holiday event. Once you cut into it though, it won’t last long.  Try this for your next holiday party, Christmas dinner or just for fun for your family!

HOLIDAY PEPPERMINT MOCHA ICE CREAM PIE

18-22 Oreo cookies, crushed well

1/2 gallon Peppermint Ice Cream (Blue Bell is best)

1 jar Smucker’s Fudge Sauce (make sure it is very cold before spreading)

Mint M & M’s (only available during the holidays)

Take a large gallon zip lock bag and place the cookies in it.  Crush them with a rolling pin until  finely crushed.  Place in a pie plate, and push up the sides of the pan.  Place in the freezer to set.  Allow a container of ice cream to soften on the counter about 10-15 minutes.  Scoop most of the container (you won’t use it all–actually, sometimes I can get 2 pies out of it, depends on how high you want the ice cream to be).  Smooth out the ice cream with an off set spatula.  Place back in the freezer to set.  When set, use the spatula to spread a nice, even layer of the cold fudge sauce on top of the ice cream.  If it is room temperature, it will melt the ice cream as you spread it and you will end up with a mess! Now, take maybe a 1/2 cup or so of the M & M’s and crush those in a ziplock bag as well.  You want them just roughly chopped, so you can still see the red and green coating.  Sprinkle over the fudge sauce.  Place back in the freezer until ready to serve.

SPICE HEAVEN!

      Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit a really fun, unique shop in Austin, TX.  It is called Savory Spice Shop, and for a foodie like me—it was Heaven! They had a huge and eclectic variety of spices, herbs, rubs and blends.  I would venture to say, that if there is a spice out there, they’ve got it!

      There were several things that I really loved about this store:

1.    Layout—when you walk in the door the first thing you notice is that it is clean, neat and very organized.  The way the store is laid out makes it so easy to find what you are looking for.

2.    Staff—the ladies that work here are friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful.  When I go to a specialty shop like this, I ask a lot of questions and usually need a lot of help to find exactly what I need.  I expect the staff to know their product and how to use it best.  These ladies did not disappoint.

3.    Product—not only do they have a huge variety of spices and herbs, but they have blends of spices, rubs, curries, salts, peppers, sugars and so on.  They have the spices in many different forms:  whole, ground, salted, powdered, etc.  The other great thing is that they give you lots of options in how much you can buy of each spice.  You don’t just have to buy a 4 oz. bottle like the grocery store sells.  If you don’t need that much, you can buy a 2 oz. jar.  Or, for an even better deal, you can buy them in small bags.  For example, they had whole nutmeg in bags of 5, but I just wanted 1 nutmeg, and they let me buy it that way.  This is so handy when you have a recipe that calls for a specific spice, but you don’t want or need a whole jar, you can just buy a small bag.

4.    Samples—I love the fact that they have a “sample jar” so you can taste, touch and smell any spice that you want.  This is huge to me as a cook.  I would never cook with something that I hadn’t tasted and smelled to make sure it is really good.  This gives you the freedom to try new blends and experience different items that you might not have if you hadn’t tasted them.

      One of my favorite things I bought there was Peppermint Vanilla Bean Sugar.  I’ve never seen a blend like this, but I can’t wait to come up with a fun Holiday recipe that I can use this in! I will post the recipe as soon as I figure it out!

                                                                               

      Another favorite item was the tomato powder.  There are so many ways you can use this:  in soups, stews, sauces and chili.  If you add just a little water to the powder, you get tomato paste, add a little more water, and it is tomato sauce, add a lot of water and you have tomato juice! I’ve never seen this before and I LOVE it!

      Here are some pictures of some of the other items I bought:  Minced Garlic, Herbes de Povince Seasoning Salt, Pure Almond Extract, Greek Seasoning and Garlic Salt.

                                                        

      If you go to their website, you can order anything on-line as well. Or, better yet, if you are in the Austin area, drop by this wonderful little shop and expand your spice cabinet!! You’ll be glad you did!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.