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Happy Birthday to Me = Hazelnut and Chocolate Ganache Tart

happy birthday indeed!

This post has been sitting on my back burner for way too long. I originally made this tart (and took the pictures) when I visited my folks up in the forever gorgeous Door County, WI for my birthday. That was over labor day weekend. I suppose we have been pretty busy, you know, work, life, growing a baby. I kind of get a little forgetful, what with preggo-brain and all.

Then I made the tart again last night when we had some friends over to belatedly celebrate me getting older, and I remembered it, sitting on the back burner, waiting patiently, fending off any attacks of mold or vermin. (Really, you shouldn’t leave food on the stovetop for as long as I’ve neglected this blog, or it’ll turn into a science experiment.)

So without further ado, I bring you:


hazelnut and chocolate ganache tart

Happy Hazelnut and Chocolate Ganache Tart

It sounds so fancy (well, okay, it tastes quite fancy, too), but it’s rather quick and easy. (The hardest part is getting the skins off the hazelnuts, and that’s more tedious than it is difficult. You’re not diffusing bombs, here folks, so it’s nothing to be afraid of!)

Adapted from Real Simple.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafer cookies (about 30 cookies)
  • 6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, plus 1/2 cup if you want to make homemade whipped cream
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, plus 1 tsp for whipped cream
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 TBSP sugar, for whipped cream

Directions:

russian cups

Heat your oven to 350°F and gather together all your ingredients. Aren’t these Russian Nesting Doll measuring cups just adorable! They were a present from my parents, and I find they make cooking and baking all the more delightful!

Spread out the hazelnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast them in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until the skins are very dark, 10-20 minutes. Once they are fragrant, and the skins are dark (but not burnt!) pull them out of the oven. Using paper towels or a clean dishtowel that’s dark in color or you don’t care about (because the skins can stain the towel) immediately start rubbing the hot nuts together in the towel to remove the skins.

remove the skins with a towelso easy

ingredients

You’ll discard the skins, but don’t worry about removing every spec; 75% of removed skin is just fine! It might feel like it’s not working but before you know it, they’ll be bald, or mostly balding, little hazelnuts sitting in a nest of flakes. The key is to keep rubbing them against each other and to get ’em while they’re hot. (As in, don’t wait until they’re cool. You can still remove the skins at that point, but not as easily.)

pulse the hazelnuts

Bust out that handy-dandy food processor and finely grind 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts. (The remaining 1/4 cup we’ll use later for a garnish.)

Add the crushed cookies and melted butter, and pulse until fully combined.

chocolate wafers

Using the bottom of a flat ramekin or measuring cup, press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Place the pan on the same rimmed baking sheet we used earlier and bake until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. If the crust puffs up during baking, you can press it down with the back of a spoon or metal spatula.

press down the tart use

Once it’s done baking, let it cool on a wire rack and start making the ganache! In a medium saucepan (heavy-bottom is best, but regular will work too), heat 1 1/2 cups cream until it’s ALMOST boiling. (Be sure to stir or whisk or swirl or something; just don’t let it sit there while it’s heating so the milk doesn’t scald on the bottom.)

add the chocolate chips

Once it’s reached that point where it’s steaming hot but not yet boiling, add the chocolate chips and 1/2 tsp vanilla and remove the pan from the heat. Now just keep whisking until it looks like chocolatey silk.

whisk the gancheso silky smoothpouring the ganache into the tart

Pour the ganache into the cooled tart shell; smooth out the top as needed with a spoon. Don’t let any of that ganache go to waste; make sure to lick that spoon clean! Put it in the fridge for about an hour, longer if preferred. (It’ll keep for several days, if it’s not devoured first.)

Now to make it fancy!

You could just skip this next step and buy whipped cream in a can, but homemade is so stinkin’ easy, and no chemicals, and no weird film on the roof of your mouth feeling.

Get out your standing mixer or hand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (hopefully not the hand-crank kind, unless you’ve got muscles like Popeye, or my friend Stefanie who once worked at a place where customer service was unparalleled, and they happened to be out of whipped cream, so she had to make it by hand).

Pour the remaining half cup of heavy whipping cream into the bowl of your mixer, along with the sugar and remaining vanilla. Turn up the speed full blast and let that good old electric motor do all the work. Keep an eye on it, as the cream will only take a few minutes to set. Stopping to scrape down the bowl (with a spatula, not your fingers – I know, so tempting!) is a good idea, as you can check if it’s done while scraping those sides. We’re looking for stiff peaks here, folks. But seriously, don’t walk away from this baby, or you may end up with sweet vanilla butter instead.

Chop the remaining 1/4 cup nuts. Remove the cooled tart from the fridge, and pop it out of the pan. Artistically sprinkle those chopped nuts and sea salt on the tart, however your pretty little heart desires. Garnish with some of that fresh whipped cream. Oh. My. Yum.

IMGhazelnut and chocolate ganache tart

so fancy! hazelnut and chocolate ganache tart

Go Pro Tip: Use a really sharp knife and run it under hot water between slices. This tart is insanely rich. Like Bill Gates rich. So a small sliver goes a long way. Top with whipped cream, serve, and try not to die of ecstasy.


Printer Friendly Directions (you know the drill; to copy and paste):

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafer cookies (about 30 cookies)
  • 6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, plus 1/2 cup if you want to make homemade whipped cream
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, plus 1 tsp for whipped cream
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 1/2 TBSP sugar, for whipped cream

Directions:

1. Heat your oven to 350°F and spread out the hazelnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast them in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally, until the skins are very dark, 10-20 minutes. Remove from oven when they are fragrant and the skins are dark. While still warm, rub the hazelnuts together in a towel to remove the skins.

2. In a food processor, grind 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts along with the chocolate cookies and melted butter until finely ground and fully combined.

3. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes. Use the back of a large metal spoon to repress if crust puffs up. Let cool on a wire rack.

4. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 1/2 cups of the heavy whipping cream. Do not boil; whisk frequently. Once hot, remove the pan from heat and add the chocolate plus 1/2 tsp of the vanilla, whisking constantly until well combined.

5. Pour into the cooled tart crust; transfer to the refrigerator to set, about an hour.

6. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add sugar and remaining vanilla. On high speed, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

7. Chop the remaining 1/4 cup nuts.

8. Remove the cooled tart from the pan. Garnish with chopped nuts. Just before serving, sprinkle each slice with sea salt and top with whipped cream.


I’ll have the salad, but grilled.

Oh my friends, so sorry I’ve been on hiatus. Work has been a circus. Filled with monkeys. Flying monkeys. And no net. And the elephant escaped. And the lion ate all the popcorn. (He’s a vegan lion, so progressive.)

(You think this is a metaphor, well… it is.)

Hopefully your 9-5 isn’t as much of a Ringling-Brothers-Show as mine is. (At least I’m never bored!)

Anyhow, tonight I invited my dear friend Stefanie over for what I like to call “Capresey Grilled Cheesey!” It’s like a caprese salad, but on bread, and grilled. One of my favorite ways to jazz up this american classic.

In Capri, they call it the Zoe Grilled Formaggioey. (Or at least they will.)

Anyhow, without further delay..

balsamic vinegar, fresh baked rye bread, homegrown tomatoes

Capresey Grilled Cheesey

(I adapted this from the classic we all know and love. No recipe on hand, just created it from the very fibers of my soul.)

Ingredients for two sandwiches:

  • 4 slices of your favorite bread (I used recently baked, homemade rye bread… That recipe to follow another day.)
  • 2 medium roma tomatoes (The ones you see here are fresh off the vine, homegrown baby!)
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella (As much or as little as you want, you’ll need enough to cover both sides.)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves (Dried just won’t do. We have basil growing in our herb garden. Best investment all summer!)
  • dash of Balsamic Vinegar (My absolute favorite is Pompeiian Balsamic Vinegar with Pomegranate, as pictured above.)
  • pinch of salt
  • softened butter (Preferably unsalted, but I accidentally grabbed the wrong kind when I went grocery shopping. Whoops. This is why Ben does the majority of our grocery-picking-upping. I love my man.)

Directions:

Start with slicing your tomatoes.

slice the tomatoes Go Pro Tip: Always use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut your tomatoes; you’ll be amazed at how easily it pierces the skin and glides right through. When you’re getting to the end, lay the tomato flat on the cutting board, and slice horizontally. Watch out for your thumb when you get to the edge of the tomato.

Now butter one side of each slice of bread. 

buttering the bread

(I remember the first time I tried my had at grilled cheese. I was somewhere in the grade-school-range… Third grade maybe? I was with two of my friends, at one of their homes, and we decided we wanted to make grilled cheese. I claimed to know how and went right to it. They got bored watching, and went on to more exciting things. Meanwhile, I couldn’t remember which side needed butter, so I buttered all sides, all the bread, all the butter. You know, butter safe than sorry, right? They were merciless. I’ve since learned, you only butter one side. The outside. Only.)

Put a medium to large (depends on the size of your bread) non-stick skillet on your stovetop, and set the heat a smidge above medium. Time to start assembling that sandwich!

cheese and tomato

added balsamic

First lay down two slices of bread, buttered side down.

Layer a generous heap of mozzarella cheese, then a single layer of tomatoes. Splash with balsamic, dash with salt, do the cha-cha.

Now add a conservative sprinkling of just a little more cheese to help the basil stick to the tomatoes. You don’t want your two halves winding up in divorce. This is a marriage of food, folks. What the chef has joined together, let no spatula slide apart.

lay on the basillast layer of cheese

Now take that deliciously fresh basil and lay it on! Finally, one more layer of cheese. (The left side has yet to be assembled. My bad. Ideally, you want to assemble these beloveds like a see-saw, equally balanced.)

Take your other slice of bread, and put it on top, buttered side up.

Now, the secret to  your prefect grilled cheese: put a lid on it! (It’s okay to peek.)

put a lid on itit's okay to peek

I’m a notorious peeker. And flipper. Just like the monkeys at my circus. Wait a few minutes, flip ’em. If they’re not perfectly grilled, that’s just fine. You can flip them again, better to flip too soon and have to flip again than to flip too late and have “reduced calorie” (read: scrape off the burnt parts) grilled cheese.

Once they’re done, slide these beauties onto a plate, cut in half, and try not to burn the roof of your mouth when you eager-beaver bite into it. Seriously. Burnt mouth-roof will totally detract from the amazingness of this masterpiece.

finished masterpiece

And the best way to really class it up? Enjoy it on the couch, at the lift-up-coffee-table (ours is identical to this one, and I absolutely love it – best garage-sale find ever), while watching the Muppets.

You won’t be disappointed.

Pumpkin ravioli is not for the faint of heart…

Posted on

One of my first big moments helping my mom in the kitchen was when we were living in Brussels, Belgium. I was about 12 or 13, and she and my dad had invited some of her friends from work over for a dinner party. She puts on the most scrumptious dinner parties! Well she had decided to make butternut squash ravioli, among a myriad of other delicacies. However, she was trying to rush rolling out the pasta dough,  and it kept tearing apart on her, so she asked me to come help. The lesson we both learned that day: you can’t rush pasta dough. You have to be tender with it, let it take its time.

(For the record, I finished cranking out the pasta dough for her while she worked on other things, and then she showed me how to make the ravioli. Best cooking lesson ever.)

Word to the wise: making homemade ravioli, start-to-finish-with-sauce-from-scratch, is not for the easily dissuaded, the faint of heart, or the “I have to have dinner on in 30 minutes or my family might EXPLODE!” You could certainly prep the veggies and filling the day before. You could probably even make and freeze the ravioli, though I’ve never tried it. That would certainly make it go much faster.

I knew we would be having a “European Dinner” when I decided I would make this on my way home from work yesterday. Ben made an alternative dinner for Milo to eat at 6:30; Ben and I didn’t sit down to eat until 8:30… I suppose if I hadn’t stopped to take pictures or kiss ow-ies or lick the spatula (once I was done using it of course), it probably could have been ready by 8. That’s when you just say “Opa!” and enjoy a glorious meal at 8:30 instead of 6:30.

Someday I hope you make this. If you have a friend to help you, all the better. I feel a little like Laverne & Shirley on an assembly line putting together these adorable, not-so-little ravioli, except Ben doesn’t want to be my Laverne, so I just play both parts.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sautéed Veggies and Butter Walnut Sauce

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Filling:

  • 1 can of 100% pumpkin (I just used what was left from when I made a half batch of pumpkin scones the other day, so it wasn’t a full can.)
  • 8 oz. sharp white cheddar, shredded (Parmesan would also work fine, even the stuff in the green tube, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (Again, leftovers from the scones I made – woohoo!)
  • 2 TBSP packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt & pepper to taste

Pasta Dough:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (You could substitute 1 cup all purpose flour, but this makes it so much healthier and way more filling.)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs

Butter Walnut Sauce

  • 2 sticks butter (You could use less, I actually used more. This goes really well with butter, but what doesn’t?)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (They don’t need to be finely chopped, just not whole.)
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 each of a medium to large red, green and yellow pepper, julienned (You could add zucchini in place of or addition to the green pepper, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup.)

Directions:

I forgot that the pasta dough is supposed to rest in the fridge for an hour before you roll it out, so that didn’t happen. I think it turned out fine, but if you want to make the dough first like you’re supposed to, you’ll need to skip ahead and come back, ’cause I documented this in the order that it happened in my kitchen.

First, I julienned my veggies for the butter walnut sauce. Julienned is this fancy-pants term that means to cut your food into thin strips, like matchsticks. So technically, thin fries are really julienned potatoes. Look at how fancy that just got! Put on some bling next time you eat fries.

Begin by cutting the carrot: slice the carrot lengthwise, then place the carrot cut side down. Cut into thirds, the slice each third lengthwise into thin strips. I cut the very edges off and eat them, because they’re a little too thin. Plus, raw carrots are so good for your eyes. Double plus, your forewarning included that this recipe will take some time and perseverance. We’re gonna need the sustenance for the long haul!

julienned carrot

 

After you’ve cut the carrot portion into slices, lay those slices flat, and slice those slices in half (read that photo left to right and you’ll see the progression.) Keep thinking “matchsticks” as your guide, though these will only be matchstick in comparison to the whole vegetable. (I don’t really want to tediously cut all my veggies to true matchstick proportions, do you?) And before you know it, you’ve just julienned! Look at you go!!!

Next the peppers:

Go Pro Tip: the easiest way to de-stem and de-vein a bell pepper is to cut in half, starting at the middle.

cut the pepper in halfIMG_0334

Now pretend that you’re visiting Brussels and eating mussels. Pull that pepper apart like it’s a shell, with the stem as a hinge. Go ahead and completely separate the two halves. You may need to help the stem pull apart from one of the halves.

Lay one half down, and holding the other half, use your free hand to simply pull out the veins and rip out the stem.

IMG_0335 I forgot to mentions that you don’t have to wash your peppers before you start, because it’s easiest to simply rinse out the seeds, and you can wash the outside at this time too.

Now cut off the rounded top, just below where it starts to curve. Cut what’s left of the halves into quarters.

 

Time to julienne that pepper!

julienned bell pepperGo Pro Tip: when cutting, chopping, dicing, etc, the safest way is to use your knuckles as a guide. A good knife is a sharp knife, and dull knives are actually move dangerous than sharp knives. But obviously, the risk with sharp knives is that if it can cut through peppers and steaks and chicken cartilage (barf), it can cut through your finger too. If you skin your knuckle, by golly, it’s going to hurt. A lot! But you’ll still have your knuckle, and the rest of your finger too. (I haven’t done it, but a friend of mine lost the very edge of her fingertip cutting lobster – case in point.) So, here’s what knuckle-cutting looks like (not actually cutting your knuckle, this ain’t no horror blog).

knuckle cuttingIMG_0340

This isn’t really necessary for larger items where you’re stabilizing the object and slicing and dicing is a few inches from your fingers. Once you start getting closer though, time to go claw-handed and pop out those knuckles. (I feel a hip-hop beat would be appropriate here.) If it’s a really small object, you can also use your thumb knuckle, as demonstrated on the yellow pepper.

I tend to go pretty slow once I’m cutting close to my fingers. For all my Go Pro Tips, I still get nervous about pain and blood, and I don’t do this all day every day, soooo…. take you’re time, folks, that’s A-Okay!

Once you’ve sliced the pepper quarters, halve those slices, and then slice up the curved top that we had lopped off earlier.

julienned veggies

Gorgeous!!!!

Okay, set those veggies aside and start making the filling. If your cheese is already shredded, you can skip the next few steps. We definitely buy shredded cheese when there’s a good sale on, but this time I used this glorious little block of cheese that my mom brought me when they came to visit not too long ago. (And really, block cheese is usually way more cost effective to turn into shredded than buying shredded.  What’s that? You HATE your cheese grater and spending 20 minutes just shredding cheese down to your fingertips? Bust out that Cuisinart with its shredder attachment, and toss your cheese grater. You’re welcome.)

Here’s why we don’t own a cheese grater, and I don’t even bother with my mandolin-grater when it comes to cheese (or anything else I want shredded, for that matter).

In less than 30 seconds, we went from this (that’s the entire 8 ounces of my fancy-pants white cheddar, minus a slight chunk that Ben and I wanted to try first)….

block cheese

shredded cheese

 

 

 

 

To  this! Shredded cheddar awesomeness!

Now all you have to do is nestle in the blade (you don’t even have to take the cheese out, because you’ll be adding the rest of the filling ingredients to blend them all together).

pumpkin filling

So here we have our shredded cheese, canned pumpkin, walnuts, spices, and brown sugar. Blend that all together until it’s relatively smooth. There’s no raw egg, so no raw risk; go ahead, take out a clean spoon, and taste a little. Put on your thinking cap and make sure it’s just right. I ended up adding a little more brown sugar and salt to mine. You might want more nutmeg, or maybe you think it needs a hint of ginger or cayenne? Go for it! Just remember, you can always add more spice, but taking out spice is not so easy. You either have to add more of all the other ingredients in order to compensate for over-spicing, or start all over (which would be horribly wasteful). So there’s your PSA about getting too shake-happy when adding more spice.

Now before we add that blended mixture to a sealable plastic bag, let me bombard you with two quick and easy Go Pro Tips:

Go Pro Tip 1: place your plastic bag in a large glass to hold it open (unless you do in fact have a Laverne helping you out).

filling the plastic bag

Go Pro Tip 2: When pouring ingredients from the bowl of your Cuisinart, use your ring finger (or pinkie or middle finger) to keep the blade from falling out, and the rest of your fingers and thumb to grip the bowl.

IMG_0349 Like so. I’m essentially using my ring finger and thumb like a clamp to pinch the bowl and keep the blade in place. Awesome-sauce!

Once that baggie looks full, you’ll start wondering to yourself, will I need another baggie, because there’s still filling in the bowl! To that I say, hold your horses! Now it’s time to take the bag out of the glass. With some of the filling inside, it will hold open on its own. Grab the bag by its sealable edges, and sort of drop/pull it on the counter, like when your college roommates forgot whose turn it was to take out the garbage, so it was nasty and overflowing, but you know there’s still room in the bag if you pull up the edges and shake the contents down.  Just like that. Except the contents in this plastic bag won’t make you want to barf. (Though it might slightly resemble baby food.)

filling in the bag

Now get the rest of the filling in that bag, start sealing it, but be sure to squeeze out any air at the top before you finish sealing. Resist all urges to ditch the ravioli completely; don’t eat all the filling straight from the bowl. Just don’t scrape it clean into the bag, and instead, enjoy the little bits leftover. Maybe give the spatula to someone you love, and let them taste-test it too.

We’re going to reuse the Cuisinart to make the pasta dough, so rinse it out well, but no need for a full wash. All these ingredients are going together, and again, no egg in the filling, so no real harm. (I’d like to point out that perhaps my “forgetting” to do the dough first was subconsciously intentional. If I had done the dough first, I would have needed to fully wash the food processor in order to safely taste the pumpkin filling, considering my current condition.)

On to the pasta! Get a large pot of water on the stove, add a ton of salt (I’ve heard time and time again on cooking shows that you want your pasta water to be like the ocean – extra salty), put a lid on it, and turn the heat on to medium-high. It will probably start boiling before you’re done making the ravioli. Just turn it down to medium-low and keep it hot while you finish these little beauties, but that way it’s ready when you are.

As I mentioned earlier, you will really want to use a pasta maker. I have the KitchenAid attachment that is much smaller to store and simply bolts into the front of the mixer, using the mixer’s motor and speed settings to roll out your pasta. When my mom and I first made pasta together, she had a hand crank version that requires a little more acrobatics when you’re cranking with one hand and feeding/pulling dough with the other. (If you don’t have a pasta maker, I found instructions for you here. You should probably put on some old italian music and pretend you’re in historic Italy if you’re making it this old-school.)

Back to your rinsed and dried Cuisinart, I use half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour (APF), but you can certainly use only APF… it just won’t be as whole-grain-wholesome for you. On top of that, add 3 eggs. (Did you use the egg trick at the bottom of my Scones to Start recipe? Good job!) Pulse until it forms a crumbly looking dough ball. If it looks too dry as you’re pulsing it, add water, 1 tsp at a time until it gets to an ever so barely stickiness.

making pasta doughadd water as needed

Carefully pull the dough out from around the blade onto a floured surface, and knead it a little until it’s not sticky. Separate it into two segments; wrap one segment in plastic wrap and put it into the fridge until you’re ready for it.

pasta dough

floured pasta dough

Make sure your pasta maker is set to level 1, and turn on your KitchenAid to the lowest speed setting. Carefully feed the dough into the pasta maker. It will come out looking stretched and torn and rather troubled at first, but just as beautiful as a woman’s stretch-marked belly after childbirth. That’s okay, just keep pushing that dough until it’s all the way through (more like the birthing part of childbirth?). Then fold it in half, and push it through again. Looks a little better this time, yeah? now fold that sheet of dough into half, but this time, folding down the top half and bringing up the bottom half so they ever so slightly overlap in the middle. This will give you smoother edges at the top and bottom.

feed the dough into the makerfold it into halffeed it through again

Put the dough through one more time, then change it to level 2 on the pasta maker. Put the dough through two times, then move to level 3 and repeat. Continue until you complete level 5 (I always get nervous at how thin it’s getting and stop after level 4, but then it always turns out thicker than it needed to be. And now I still have filling left over that if I had gone through level 5, it probably would have been just right.)

Lay the sheet down on a lightly floured counter, cutting into half or thirds as needed to fit on your counter. A rolling ravioli cutter certainly makes it easy and fun, but you can use a butter knife, too. Cut the pasta sheets into strips that are about 2 – 2.5 inches wide.

cut the dough into stripsNow cut a corner off of your bag of glorious pumpkin filling, and squeeze the filling onto each strip. You’ll want to place a dollop just below the middle-line of the strip of dough, making sure not to put too much down, as you’ll need to pinch around the edges. If there’s too much filling, it will squeeze out while you’re closing the ravioli, and there won’t be a good seal. Then you’ll end up with empty noodle shells in paltry pumpkin broth instead of pumpkin ravioli. You could certainly still consume it, and we all know there are people in this world who would be so very grateful for such a meal, but it would definitely be yummier if the ravioli turn out.

squeeze out the fillinglook at all those ravioli!

Get a small bowl of water and a pastry brush out, it’s finally time to see these ravioli come together!

Dip the pastry brush into the water, you don’t need a lot of water, but enough to wipe along all four edges of the ravioli. This acts like a glue to help seal it shut. Fold down the top half over the bottom have, lining up the edges as best you can (a little trickier if the ravioli is more triangular than square, but still doable). Start pressing the two edges together at the fold, and work your way around to the other fold. I like to press both folds first and then work my way around, but that’s just personal preference. If you have too much filling and it starts to squish out, use your finger to wipe if off the edges and add a dab more water to seal.

water = pasta gluepress the edges

pinch it againNow carefully pull the ravioli off the counter, and pinch around the edges one more time just for good measure. Once you’ve done a few, you’ll start to get the hang of it. As you complete each ravioli, dust it with flour and put it on a plate. If you don’t dust them, they’ll stick to each other, and you’ll have more of a ravioli loaf than individual little pasta-pumpkin-pockets, and I’m quite sure that won’t turn out. Once you’ve completed this set, cover the plate with plastic wrap, pop it in the fridge, and get out the remaining dough that was previously put aside.

dusted ravioli

Now is a good time to check on your once boiling water and get the butter sauce going.

If you had turned down the boiling water, turn it back up again so it’s bubbling and boiling. Add more water so your stockpot is about 2/3 full. Meanwhile, get a large skillet out and add your two sticks of butter, along with the walnuts. Turn the heat on to medium or medium low and let the walnuts toast a little and the butter start to bubble. Once the butter is fully melted, throw in those gorgeous vegetables you cut up, like, an hour ago, and let them start to sauté. Stir occasionally as needed. Obviously this requires a bit of multi-tasking as you keep your eye on the walnut/butter/veggie sauce and start rolling out ravioli. I have faith in you.

walnut butter veggies

Having completed one set of ravioli, you should be feeling like a pasta/ravioli making machine. You’ll whip those babies out in no time! This time, though, you can simply pile them up on the counter, preferably/hopefully near your stovetop and stockpot of boiling water. Once they’re all pressed and sealed and dusted and pile, pull the plate of ravioli from the fridge. Get a slotted spoon out, and a clean platter or large serving dish for the cooked ravioli.

Starting with the counter-ravioli, drop them into the boiling water one by one, until they’re all in the pot (if they don’t all fit, you can do them in two batches). After about 5-10 minutes (depending on how thin you rolled your pasta) they will float to the top and be done. I like to fish one out and carefully punch off a corner of pasta (you don’t want hot pumpkin filling to jump out and burn you) to test and make sure. As they finish cooking, use your slotted spoon to get them out as they’re done. Did you remember to stir your butter sauce? Nice work!

drop in the raviolifinished ravioli

Once all your ravioli are on the platter, pour the sauce over them. Are you hungry yet? Call everyone to the table; it’s time to eat!

ravioli


Printer-Friendly version to copy and paste:

Pumpkin Ravioli with Satuéed Veggies and Butter Walnut Sauce

from myfoodlanguage.wordpress.com

Ingredients:

Pumpkin Filling:

  • 1 can of 100% pumpkin (I just used what was left from when I made a half batch of pumpkin scones the other day, so it wasn’t a full can.)
  • 8 oz. sharp white cheddar, shredded (Parmesan would also work fine, even the stuff in the green tube, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (Again, leftovers from the scones I made – woohoo!)
  • 2 TBSP packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt & pepper to taste

Pasta Dough:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (You could substitute 1 cup all purpose flour, but this makes it so much healthier and way more filling.)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs

Butter Walnut Sauce

  • 2 sticks butter (You could use less, I actually used more. This goes really well with butter, but what doesn’t?)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (They don’t need to be finely chopped, just not whole.)
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 each of a medium to large red, green and yellow pepper, julienned (You could add zucchini in place of or addition to the green pepper, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup.)

Directions:

1. Wash and cut veggies into thin strips, set aside.

2. Blend filling ingredients together in a food processor until well mixed. Pour into plastic, sealable bag and set aside. Rinse out food processor.

3. Blend pasta ingredients in food processor until it forms a ball; add water 1 tsp at a time if it’s too dry. Pour pasta dough onto floured surface; knead a few times until no longer sticky. Separate into two segments, wrap one segment in plastic wrap and store in fridge.

4. Fill a stock-pot 2/3 full with salted water; place on stove over medium heat to bring to low boil. Place butter and walnuts in a sauté pan on stove with heat turned off.

5. Roll dough through pasta maker, on the lowest speed, starting at level 1. Fold sheet in half and re-roll at level 1, one to two times. Roll pasta sheet though level 2 one to two times. Repeat up through level 5.

6. Place pasta sheet on floured counter, cut into 2 1/2 inch strips with pasta cutter. Use scissors to cut a corner off of filling bag. Squeeze pumpkin filling onto ravioli strips just below middle line, being careful not to overfill. Dip a pastry brush in water and wipe along edges of ravioli strips. Pinch edges of ravioli together to seal, making sure no filling squeezes out – thus weakening the seal.

7. Dust finished ravioli with flour and put on a plate. Once all ravioli from first segment of pasta dough are completed, cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge.

8. Turn on burner under sauté pan to medium-low.

9. Pull out remaining pasta dough and repeat process, starting with step 5, piling completed ravioli on counter top. Keep an eye on butter-walnut sauce; add veggies and stir, increase heat to medium.

10. Pull out plate of first set of completed ravioli. Starting with counter-ravioli, drop into boiling water one at a time until all ravioli are in the stockpot. Ravioli will float to the top when they are almost done, about 5-10 minutes. Stir butter-walnut-veggie sauce.

11. Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked ravioli and place on large serving dish. Pour butter-walnut sauce and sautéed veggies over ravioli. Serve and enjoy!

Sweet molasses! There’s orange peel in my cookies!

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Okay, this is a cheater post, because all the pictures are from 2008. Ben and I hadn’t even been married a year, and I decided to make cookies. Okay, I make a lot of cookies. More specifically, I decided to make cookies and document it. This was before “Foodie Blogs” were a thing (or maybe they were a thing, but I certainly hadn’t heard of them yet). This was definitely before Pinterest, but after Facebook.

So my artsy-fartsy little self had decided I would document the cookie baking process and make a facebook album. We lived in this adorable little walk-out basement apartment that we rented from Ben’s grandparents at the time. It was wonderfully outdated, with green shag carpet, and yellow-planter-patterned wallpaper in the kitchen.

So here ya go, since it’s #ThrowBackThursday, it just feels right to share my first baby step into the wide world of Making Food for the Interwebz.

Molasses Spice Cookies with Orange Peel

(When I first made this recipe, I followed it exactly as instructed in my America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It took MANY years before I felt comfortable adapting a recipe. I tend to be a rule-follower, but Ben has taught me the error of my ways when it comes to recipes. In the last few years I’ve gotten much more adventurous… Because I’m still very much a rule-follower, I don’t want to break any copyright laws, so I’ve adapted it ever so slightly to post here. Don’t worry, they’ll still be delicious – I promise! I’ve made these time and time again since my first strive-for-prefection days, and I know I’ve tinkered with it. They still tempt me to gluttony.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 2/3 cup reserved
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt (use 1/8 if you’re using salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses
  • 1 medium to large orange, washed well and peel grated (Then cut up the orange and eat it. You only need the rind for this recipe, but once you grate the rind off, the orange will dry out pretty fast.)

Personal Product Plug/Go Pro Tip: If you have never heard of grating/zesting an orange (also can be done to lemons, limes, even grapefruit I suppose?), or simply don’t know how, let me share with you this amazing technique of adding a burst of natural flavor to any dish that calls for it. You’ll need a grater, kind of like a cheese grater, but that won’t work. If you don’t have one, you can certainly omit the orange, but for the few times I do use mine, it’s so worth storing in my gadget drawer, and this is one of those recipes where the orange zest adds that little extra something that just makes this cookie. Anyhow, my grater looks something like this, but they do vary in length and width… I’ll keep it clean and leave out “the Office’s” running gag. Errr, too late?)

You want to make sure that orange peel is good and clean, even wash it with soap. and rinse and dry it well. Because who knows what that peel has touched from field to grocery store to checkout counter with raw-beef-drippings on the conveyor belt, and this is going in your food that you or someone else will eat. I’ll pass on the random shopping cart germs, thankyouverymuch. Anyhow, hold your orange in one hand and the grater in the other, simply slide the grater along the orange in one direction. This baby doesn’t work back and forth (just like a cheese grater in that regard). Also, watch your fingers. You won’t lose a digit, but you might alter your fingerprint if you’re not careful. Do this all over just until you start to see the white pith of the orange. That part is bitter and gross and we don’t want it in our cookies. Just the fragrant orange zest that tastes like summer feels.

Go Pro Tip: The night/morning/a few hours before you want to make cookies, just take out your butter and let it sit on the counter. We leave butter on the counter in a covered butter dish for God-only-knows how long. I’m not using His name in vain, it’s just that I really can’t remember how long it takes us to use up our counter-butter. We go through it quickly enough, but sometimes not so fast, and hey, we’re still fine. My point is, please don’t soften your butter in the microwave. It’s fine to sit out, and the risk with the microwave is that once it melts, it changes the properties of the butter, and it won’t work quite the same as butter that’s soft… Okay, okay, it’ll still work, but it won’t work the same. Remember, you’re dealing with a rule follower here.

Another Go Pro Tip: There’s this french term in the culinary world called “mise en place”(say it with me: meeehz awh(n) plahss – the “n” is almost silent, but not quite; it’s a french thing). It’s when you get all the ingredients measured out and ready in various-size prep bowls so that all you have to do is add the ingredients as needed, rather than waste time between steps measuring out your ingredients. I’m a huge fan…

meehz ash(n) plahssmise en place

Until I got spoiled by a dishwasher in Minnesota, and then we moved to Iowa. They have dishwashers here, but we just don’t have one. Hands down, that’s my most favorite of all the kitchen appliances (maybe make that third to a fridge/freezer and a stove/oven). But there are worse things in life than having to wash your dishes by hand, so… moving on!

If you want to mise en place, go for it. You should really try it at least once in your lifetime. But if now is not that time, I completely understand.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F, set a rack to the middle position, and line your cookie sheets or jellyroll pans with parchment paper. (I only have jelly roll pans and stoneware; multipurpose = yay!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, pepper and salt.

whisking dry ingredients

Add about 1 1/2 tsp of grated orange peel to the molasses and set aside.

orange peel in my molasses?!

In a food processor, pulse the remaining orange peel with the reserved sugar for about 10 seconds. Put the orange-sugar mixture in a bowl and try not to get sidetracked with all the wonderful ideas of how else you could use this wonderfully scented sugar. We’ll need it to roll the cookies in at the end.

Next, bust out your Kitchenaid or similar kitchen appliance – I suppose an electric hand mixer would work, but that gets tricky when you’re adding the flour later on, unless you’re an octopus. You could even go super old-school and mix it all with elbow grease and a spatula, but who has time for that when you’re washing mise en place bowls?

(I should have warned you, this isn’t a one-dish cookie. If that’s what you’re looking for, search Pinterest for those goofy microwave-cookie-things, make it in 5 minutes, and then cry when you realize it’s not nearly as good as these will be, and know that almost always, the extra effort really is worth it, because you can share these, and that’s the best part.)

Personal Product Plug: I’ve had my Kitchenaid mixer for 8+ years, and it’s my tried and true friend in the kitchen. While you certainly can use a hand mixer, or by your own strength and the sweat of your brow, having a standing mixer that can slowly mix while you use both your hands to carefully add in messy ingredients from large bowls really is like having a friend in the kitchen doing half the work for you. Except this friend won’t backseat-drive or deny you a taste of cookie dough. Not that I have any friends like that, do you?

 

Beat the butter, brown and white sugar (keeping the reserved sugar to the side, obviously, ’cause, y’know, that’s why it’s called “reserved” sugar) together until they look light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer on low, beat in the egg and vanilla until well-mixed. Scrape down the sides (you’ll hear that again). Next the orange-infused-molasses, again, making sure they’re all blended together in a glorious harmony of flavor. Also, don’t forget to scrape down the sides as needed (see? I told you…) to make sure no little bit of dough feels ostracized from the bunch. There are no bullies in cookie dough.

 

 

beat the butter and the sugarsbeat it good!keep the party going, nobody gets left out.

Now is the moment when you’ll be oh-so-glad you have a standing mixer (or if not, take pride in taking the harder route and tell yourself that you’re building character, because I’m sure in some regard, you are).

Slowly add in the flour mixture about a third at a time, and I’ll say it again, nobody gets left out at this cookie party, make sure to scrape down those sides!

add the flour

Once it’s all mixed up and you can’t tell who’s who, get out a cookie scoop (similar to an ice cream scoop but smaller) or a tablespoon (not a measuring tablespoon, but the big spoon you put next to your soup bowl). Scoop out a heaping 1 1/2 TBSP and roll into a ball, then roll that ball into the reserved-orange-sugar, and place it on your parchment paper.

ball rollingsugar coating

You’ll want to place the cookies about 2 inches apart, and as many as you can properly space on a pan, because you’ll need to bake these one pan at a time. If you have multiple baking pans, go ahead and get the second one ready with the raw cookies before you put this pan in the oven.

bake those cookies!

Bake for 6 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for about another 4-6 minutes. You’ll want to undercook them a smidgen – the edges should be set and the tops cracked, but you want the centers to still be soft. Once you pull your pan out of the oven, let the cookies rest on the pan for about another 10 minutes before eating or moving them to a cooling rack. Repeat until any remaining dough is baked or in your tummy (if you’re a not-pregnant, risk taker).

dough testingcool your cookies!

As usual, practice self-discipline, and don’t eat the entire batch by yourself in one sitting. If you decide to eat them all, okay fine. If you decide to share them with a friend or two, and then they’re gone after one sitting, well hey, we all have our days. But really, you and I both know you’re gonna have a nasty tummy ache if you eat all of them all at once all by yourself. (Cue Celine Dion.)

So pour yourself an ice cold glass of milk and savor one or two with your spouse, or special friend or bff, or cat (can they eat molasses cookies?) – whoever in your life also shares a love for orange and spices and molasses, and then see if you can get them to wash the dishes. (Just kidding, washing dishes is best done side-by-side, not alone… you know, if you don’t have a dishwasher.)

yummy cookies!

PS – I would like to give a huge once-again thank you to many special people who showered Ben and I with much love as we prepared to get married. I have quite a few hand-me-downs from my grandma Aloise (like the blue glass canisters) which I cherish dearly, but I also received the majority (I’m pretty sure it was around 99%) of our kitchen stock (appliances, cutlery, mixing bowls, etc.) as bridal shower or wedding presents (among other things). If you’re reading this, you might see something pictured and think, “hey, I got that for them!” I’ll be honest, I have a hard time remembering who all gave what (baby-brain really is obnoxious!), but I can assure you, it has been well used, well cared for, and still in circulation for a good number of my kitchen creations. This isn’t really a product plug, but more so a testament to how having the right tools for the job can make even tedious-seeming-tasks go so much more smoothly, and thus more enjoyable. Construction workers have construction tools, artists have artist tools, pastors even have special pastor tools, and bakers have baker tools. I still really love all my tools. So thanks again!


Printer Friendly Directions – you’ll have to copy and paste and print from whatever you paste it into… see the end of my very first post, Scones to Start!, for more details.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 2/3 cup reserved
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp salt (use 1/8 if you’re using salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup light or dark molasses
  • 1 medium to large orange, washed well and peel grated

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F, set a rack to the middle position, and line your cookie sheets or jellyroll pans with parchment paper. (I only have jelly roll pans and stoneware; multipurpose = yay!)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, pepper and salt.

Add about 1 1/2 tsp of grated orange peel to the molasses and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining orange peel with the reserved sugar for about 10 seconds. Put the orange-sugar mixture in a bowl and set aside.

With a standing or hand mixer, beat the butter, brown and 1/3 cup white sugar together until they look light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer on low, beat in the egg and vanilla until well-mixed. Next ad the orange-infused-molasses. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after adding ingredients.

Slowly add in the flour mixture about a third at a time until well incorporated, again, scraping the sides as needed.

Scoop out a heaping 1 1/2 TBSP and roll into a ball, then roll that ball into the reserved-orange-sugar, and place it on your parchment paper.

Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake one pan at a time for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

When done, the edges should be set, the tops cracked, and the centers should still be soft. Let the cookies rest on the pan for about another 10 minutes before eating or moving them to a cooling rack.

Easy-Peasy Fried-Egg Sandwich

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Okay friends, this is for anyone who mistakenly believes that all our meals are elaborately fancy. They’re not.

Sometimes I just want a simple fried egg sandwich. (Even for lunch, or dinner – who doesn’t love brunch or brinner??? Not this girl!) But I also can’t help myself; if we have the ingredients on hand, you bet’yer britches that I’m gonna’ jazz it up a bit.

So today after church, feeling that usual Sunday-afternoon-sleepy, I thought to myself, “hmmm… what can I make that’s quick and easy and satisfyingly delicious?” (Oh and healthy. Healthy is always on the back of my mind, but sometimes I forget to acknowledge it.)

Fried-egg sandwich!

(Obviously we’ve all heard of the Egg McMuffin. Well this is the much cheaper, Zoe-Baloney-ed, DIY version. Made with real, fresh ingredients, not mystery fast-food-what’s-really-in-it? ingredients, so you don’t even have to worry about how yummy it is, because you know exactly what’s in it!)

***Please be warned, if the mere thought of a runny egg makes you queasy, this post probably isn’t for you. Especially don’t look at the picture below, because it’s filled with golden-glory that you just can’t handle. I say this because I love you, and I don’t want to make you puke.***

Ingredients (makes 1 sandwich):

  • english muffin
  • 1 egg
  • 1-3 slices of tomato (depends on if you’re using the roma or beefsteak variety)
  • 1 slice of your favorite cheese (or a serving of shredded cheese, or cream cheese, yes, cream cheese, or even better yet, veggie-cream cheese! I have a home-made version that we love, but I’ll save that for another post.)
  • 1-2 TBSP butter (optional)
  • 1-2 bacon strips
  • salt, pepper, paprika to taste (Smoked paprika is extravagantly good, but can be hard to find.)

 

Directions: (this really doesn’t need instructions, but it wouldn’t be a food blog if I didn’t include them, right?)

Pop your english muffin in the toaster and toast to your liking (I like mine dark and crispy, so I tend to start it early. If you prefer yours light and just slightly warmed, then wait till a little further to actually start toasting it – but still go ahead and get it settled in its little muffin tanning bed now.)

If you’re cooking for one or two, grab your medium, non-stick frying pan. Three or more, you’ll want to break out the big guns. (And if you have a whole griddle, invite the whole family over. Also, I’m jealous.)

You may remember from my last post (Scones to start!) I prefer to bake my bacon, and save the surplus. So for this I just grabbed my ready-to-heat bacon. If you haven’t yet made it on the bake-your-bacon-bandwagon, start that sizzle! The only downside to baking your bacon is that previously (on special occasions) when we make bacon and eggs, we cook the bacon first, drain out some of the grease, but leave enough in to fry our eggs. Oh-so-bad for you, but oh-so-delicious! (Hence the “only on special occasions.”)

Anyhow, if you’re frying your bacon, do that, leave a little grease if you’re feeling indulgent and skip the butter. If you’re taking the quick-and-easy route, melt your butter in the pan, but try to keep a small portion of your pan butter free to heat up your bacon. (You could also use a microwave, but we chose to get rid of ours. We’re really going old-school, here.)

Place your bacon on the butter free part (it’s okay if it gets a little buttery, I’m just trying to pretend that maybe this is a healthy meal). Crack open your eggs into the hot butter and fry, again, to your liking.

I prefer mine with runny yokes (drool). No lie, I treat that over-flowing-yolk like a 5 star dressing, using my sandwich to wipe up every last drop. Ben and Milo like theirs fried hard. So I put their eggs in first, using the shell to break and gently scramble the yoke a little (a trick I learned in college from my dear friend Christina). Next, I gently drop my egg into the cooking butter and cook mine over easy (medium-easy to play it a little safer for baby-squirrel).

Using a plastic spatula (metal utensils will scratch and deteriorate the non-stick coating on your pan), I’ll push in and manipulate the size/shape of the frying egg so that it’ll fit nicely on the muffin, even with the egg-over-medium-easy. Carefully flip them after a few minutes, reshaping as needing.

Momma Kathy Food Safety Warning: Because this was so strictly enforced when I was growing up, I feel the need to remind you of the salmonella PSA. Raw/undercooked eggs carry a risk of salmonella, which could make you really, horribly, violently sick. There, I said it. You’re welcome, mom.

(I was never allowed to eat cookie dough, or try anything with raw egg in it… Though I would always sneak some when she wasn’t looking. I’m such a rebel. The days when my womb was free from human-building-responsibilities – as in, not currently, but worth the wait – I would make brownies just to lick the bowl. I love me some raw dough/batter/yum.)

Remove the bacon when it’s done (it’ll be ready sooner than the eggs), and in its place, drop your tomato slices. Trust me. (You could leave them raw, especially if they’re from-your-garden-vine-ripened-gloriously-red, but slightly “grilled” is really, really good, too!)

By now, your muffin should be nice and Florida-dark-tanned (or at least warm). Plate it, butter if you like. (Though with butter-fried eggs and bacon, I personally think that’s just too much butter, but then there’s my son who’ll eat it straight if you’re not careful.)

Put your slice of cheese (or sprinkle some of the shredded cheese, or schmear on that cream cheese) on the bottom, sprinkle with paprika, layer on your fried egg, more paprika then your bacon, then your tomato (salt and pepper if desired). And hey, while we’re add it, let’s add some more cheese on top, because dairy is good for you! (Unless you’re lactose-intolerant, in which case, I’m sorry, we eat a lot of dairy in this household; probably with every meal. Here’s hoping you have an equally tasty alternative!)

Now cut that sandwich in half and squeal in delight as the yolk starts oozing out. (For all you yolk-haters, sorry to you as well… I’m sure that doesn’t make you love it any more.)

fried egg sandwichThere! Now you know you’ll never get an Egg McMuffin that looks that good (or tastes that fresh), and it only took 15 minutes!

 

Scones to start!

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Scones to start!

Welcome to my food blog! I’m one of those annoying facebook friends who likes to post pictures of all her (successful) culinary creations (though there have been plenty of flops as well). I’ve certainly had requests for recipes over the years, and was happy to share.  However, typing out a full recipe with instructions in a facebook comment is tedious, to say the least.

Just this morning, I decided to try my hand at two new scones: Cherry Walnut Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin Maple Bacon. (Please note, I only made a half batch of each, but recipes below are for a full batch.) Of course I posted about it on facebook, and the recipe requests came in.  Filled with ambition after a full night’s sleep, I decided to start this blog. So here we go. In case you stumbled here randomly, and have no clue who I am, check out my “About” page – it probably has more than you need to know. (Sorry folks, I’m a rambler.)

Sooooo, here we go!

Cherry Walnut Chocolate Chip Scones

(Adapted from my mom’s recipe in her self-published cookbook.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick frozen butter
  • 1/3 cup milk or cream
  • 1 egg, (optional: plus 1 egg mixed with 1/2 tsp water for an egg wash)
  • 2/3 cup freshly pitted, chopped and drained cherries (could substitute with 1/3 cup dried cherries)
  • 1/2 cup chopped and toasted walnuts (optional)
  • 2 TBSP chocolate chips (You could add up to 1/4 cup, but we liked it better with less… we’re crazy, I know.)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400˚F and gather your ingredients, including the frozen butter (you’ll want it to sit for a moment before you try to cut it).

Prep a cookie sheet or stoneware with parchment paper. (I always use parchment paper when baking cookies or scones, and I never ever have to worry about them sticking/burning to the pan.)

pitting cherriesWash, pit, chop and press out the juice from your summer-fresh cherries (or skip the extra work here and use dried, especially if it’s winter-time).

Go Pro Tip: I found it was easiest to make a small slice with a paring knife, using the pit as a guide, then use your thumbs to tear apart the cherry at the cut, and pull out the pit. It feels a little violent for these poor sweet cherries, and the juice will stain your hands (just until you wash them – clothes might not be so lucky, so skip the pristine, white, lace apron for this one), but the messiness is kind of fun too.

For chopping these slippery little buggers, pile them close together on your chopping board. My favorite knife for chopping anything is the santoku knife.

Personal Product Plug: we still have the J.A. Henckels knife set that we received from our wedding registry at Bed, Bath & Beyond. With one sharpening per year, they are great knives. Even better, we accidentally broke one a few years back; it just cracked right in half. J.A. Henckels has a lifetime warranty, so I took the broken pieces back to Bed, Bath & Beyond, explained what happened and that it was on my bridal registry. They simply handed me a brand new replacement, and treated it as an equal exchange. Because of this, I will forever recommend this knife brand as well as Bed, Bath & Beyond to any newly engaged couple wondering where they should register.

Go Pro Tip: Back to chopping: if you want to see a decent introductory lesson (and a fabulous movie about cooking in Paris), watch Pixar’s “Ratatouille” – seriously. Meanwhile, here’s how I do it. Gather the pitted cherries in a close pile. For loose items (like nuts and berries, not things like carrots or celery), I like to start in the center and, keeping the tip of the knife on the cutting board as if it were attached, I simply “rock” (think of a rocking chair) the blade up and down while pivoting the handle left to right until all the cherries are chopped. I use my spare hand to occasionally regroup the cherries, and to hold the cutting board in place.

chopping part 1chopping part 2

In a food processor (my trusty Cuisinart has been a most helpful companion in many of my kitchen endeavors – 7 years and still strong!), pulse the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.

Cut the butter, adding it to the flour mixture, and pulse a few times. Be careful not to over-pulse! You want the mixture to resemble coarse meal. The butter should be in about pea-sized pieces; carefully (that blade is painfully sharp, and nobody wants your blood in their scones… gross!) use your fingers to feel for and break apart larger pieces of butter.

adding the buttercoarse meal

Next, add the milk and 1 egg, and pulse until it forms a ball. (There’s a pictorial example in the second recipe below.) (Also, at the end of this post is a Go Pro Tip on how to easily crack an egg open with just one hand and minimal mess – though the “easily” and “minimal mess” parts do take some practice, and I still end up with egg on my face… err… all over, from time to time.)

Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface; if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour as you gently press it out.  Cover with the fruit, nuts and chips, and knead in. The most important part here is that you want to manhandle the dough as little as possible, but knead it just enough so that all the add-ins are well incorporated. Near the end of that kneading process, also press the dough out to about 1/2 an inch thick. (You can certainly make them thicker if you want, but I wouldn’t go any thinner; scones were not made to be the anorexic model of the food industry. That’s the julienned carrot stick’s turf.)

fold it in

cut it up

Because handling the dough less improves the scone-like texture, I prefer to simply cut my scones into rectangles or triangles, but I will occasionally use round cookie/scone cutters. (A small-mouth jar or butter knife work just fine if you don’t have a round cookie/scone cutter, or a ravioli cutter – like the one pictured here.)

Put the scones onto your parchment covered stoneware, and use a pastry brush to lightly “paint” some of the egg wash over each scone. This step is not essential, but does add a nice sheen to the finished scone.

egg wash

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Depending on the thickness (and your oven) they may take longer. They’ll be golden when they’re done; you can also check the bottoms, which will be dark, but hopefully not too dark. (I prefer to err on the side of underbaking; you can always put them back in for longer, but once they’re burned they’re no good.) If you’re really worried about them not being fully cooked, you could always cut the largest one open – you want it mostly dry and flakey.

Let them cool just enough so you can pick them up (or use a spatula) to transfer them to a plate or cooling rack. You don’t have to let them cool completely before devouring (they’re so good when they’re warm), but don’t leave them on the pan.

Ta-daaaa!!!  IMG_1014 Eat plain, or with butter, or fresh whipped cream (whatever you fancy, really). Pour yourself a cup of tea, and stick out your pinkie while you sip away and nibble on your delightful little treat.

Pumpkin Maple Bacon Scones with Maple Glaze

(I adapted this recipe from one I found via Pinterest on a blog called Table for Seven.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 + 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice OR the following spices (I prefer to blend my own)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 6 TBSP frozen butter
  • 1 egg, (optional: plus 1 egg mixed with 1/2 tsp water for an egg wash)
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (If you grow your own – way to go! I just use canned pumpkin, making sure it’s 100% pumpkin, nothing else.)
  • 4 sticks of bacon, baked crispy and dark, but not burnt (If you like your bacon chewy, you’re weird. Okay, not really, Ben likes his chewy, too, but I just don’t get it.)
  • For the Maple Glaze: (roughly) 3 TBSP powdered sugar plus 1 + 1/2 TBSP maple syrup

 

Go Pro Tip: Bacon! Perfectly crispy, beautifully flat bacon!

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Prior to making the scones (don’t even bother getting the ingredients out yet), you’ll want to bake your bacon so it has time to cool completely for when you need to chop it. Notice, I said bake.

Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Line a large jellyroll pan with parchment paper (you could also use stoneware, but it has to have edges to catch the grease, the parchment paper helps with cleanup). On a large jellyroll pan, you can bake an entire package of bacon (it’s okay to overlap a little). Cooked bacon will keep for about 5 days in the fridge, and reheats quite nicely.

Bake for 10 minutes, then using tongs, flip and reposition the bacon strips so they no longer overlap. Bake for another 20-30 minutes until you reach your desired doneness. (Not burnt, but please not chewy. Ew.) When done, place onto paper towel-lined plate and let cool completely. Let grease cool in pan while you go make those scones!

Go Pro Tip: When chopping the bacon, keep in mind that crispy bacon has the ability to go flying when chopping in a large pile or too quickly. (Pigs can fly!) For efficiency, I still like to fold the strips in half and gather in a pile. I then hover my hand over the knife while I chop away, but watch those fingers!

 

Directions: scones are pretty much made all the same, with the exceptions of your add ins/flavorings, so don’t mind me while I copy and paste.

Preheat oven to 400˚F and gather your ingredients, including the frozen butter (you’ll want it to sit for a moment before you try to cut it).

Prep a cookie sheet or stoneware with parchment paper.

In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices. (Sometimes I forget things, but the Good Lord reminds me partway though, and so with these, the spices didn’t get added until after the butter. I literally did a 3 second pulse, and it was still good.) Also, I’m not great at measuring out my spices; I tend to simply shake them out until it just feels right. So the spice measurements listed are to my best guestimation. Feel free to adjust spice type/quantity as you see fit.

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Cut the butter, adding it to the flour mixture, and pulse a few times. Be careful not to over-pulse! You want the mixture to resemble coarse meal. The butter should be in about pea-sized pieces; carefully use your fingers to feel for and break apart larger pieces of butter.

Next, add wet ingredients (everything left except the reserved egg wash, bacon and the glaze ingredients), and pulse until it forms a ball.

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Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface; if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour as you gently press it out.  Cover with the bacon bits and knead in. Remember, nobody likes to be manhandled, including scones! Near the end of that kneading process, also press the dough out to desired thickness (1/2 inch – 3/4 inch, roughly).

Cut scones into rectangles or triangles, or use round cookie/scone cutters.

Put the scones onto your parchment lined pan/stoneware, and use a pastry brush to lightly “paint” some of the egg wash over each scone.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Depending on the thickness (and your oven) they may take longer.

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Once done, let cool on the pan/stoneware while you mix the powdered sugar and maple syrup to make a glaze (this is another one I eyeballed, so you may need to adjust the sugar to syrup ratio). Brush onto scones with a pastry brush, and move them to a plate or cooling rack. Or just eat them all at once, still standing at the hot oven; they’re that good.

(Literally, that first bite of sweet maple, savory pumpkin and salty, crispy, dark bacon brought tears to my eyes, and Ben can vouch for me on that one. Granted, being pregnant, I cry super easy these days, but food and I have always had a very emotional connection.)

I drool just looking at this picture: IMG_1012

These would go really well with a strong cup of coffee. Keep your pinky tucked in for that one.

 


 

Printer Friendly Directions: (I don’t have a fancy “turn my recipe into a printer-ready page” button, so you’ll have to copy and paste into Pages or Word. I have faith in you; you can do it! Once you’re done using modern technology so successfully, go old-school and write down my blog-name near the top in pretty cursive so you remember where you got the recipe, and that you are loved. Grandmas always send you their recipes in pretty cursive because they love you. I’m not a grandma yet – way too soon! But my kids and grandkids will know cursive, because I love them, too.)

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and gather ingredients.
  2. Line a cookie sheet/stoneware with parchment paper.
  3. Pulse dry ingredients (excluding add-ins: fruit/nuts/chips) 2-3 times in food processor.
  4. Add cut butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 4-5 times.
  5. Add wet ingredients and pulse until dough forms into a ball.
  6. Turn out dough onto floured surface, gently fold in fruit/nuts/chips until just incorporated. Do not over-knead; press dough to roughly 1/2 inch thickness.
  7. Cut scones into desired shape/size, place on parchment lined pan.
  8. Brush with reserved egg wash.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until done.
  10. (Optional) Prepare glaze while scones cool on the pan, brush glaze onto scones.
  11. Move scones to a plate or cooling rack to finish cooling.
  12. Once fully cooled, store in a covered container (plastic wrap on a plate works, too).

Makes about 18 scones, lasts 3 days maybe? (We usually eat them all/give them away within that timeframe. I’m sure they keep longer, but we really wouldn’t know.)


 

As promised:

Go Pro Tip: How to crack open an egg using only one hand. (With practice, it’s quicker, easier, and less messy than two hands. Also, with this method, I very rarely have stray pieces of shell falling into my bowl.)

Hold the egg in your hand like so: pointer finger on top, thumb and middle finger at the middle, ring and pinkie finger sort of cradling the side/bottom.

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Crack the egg on a flat surface (the countertop is perfect); NOT the edge of anything ever.

Using your thumb and middle finger, gently squeeze the egg over your measuring cup/small bowl.

(Most people know this, but just in case you don’t: never empty your egg into whatever you’ll be adding the egg to, as you don’t want to have to fish out a small piece of egg shell out of dough/batter/a hot pan/etc.; that’s just obnoxious. It’s much easier to get a piece of eggshell out of a small bowl of unmixed egg, using a larger piece of eggshell to scoop it out – they’re almost like magnets for each other.)

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Then, you know that hand motion people make (not the rude one) to signify money, or that something is expensive? You know the one, kind of rubbing your thumb back and forth along your finger tips. Well pretend you’re doing an exaggerated version of that but with an egg in your hand. Use your middle finger and thumb to apply just enough pressure while pushing away from each other to open up the egg shell and let the egg inside fall into your bowl or measuring cup.

(Normally you would do this palm down over your bowl, but I wanted you to see the position of my hand while doing so – hence palm up, and completely messier.)

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Now do this every. single. time. you need to break open an egg, and soon enough, you’ll have a cool trick to show your friends when you invite them over for some amazing scones.

(Please note, if you try this on a boiled egg, you’ll be sorely disappointed.)