Orange-Apricot Scones

Apricot-Orange Scones

Apricot-Orange Scones

This post might also be called “How to be a Better Scone Baker”.  Have you always wanted to make scones, but thought they were too difficult or there was something tricky about making a perfect scone?  It’s time to get over all that and take the plunge.  With just a few simple tips, you too can be enjoying flaky tender scones.  The very first thing you must do, is stop expecting perfection.  A scone is not competing in a beauty contest 🙂   But it will be so lovely to bite into! IMG_9468 So today, let’s talk about 3 ways to be a better baker.  A few small nuggets of advice to help you build confidence in the kitchen whether you are baking scones or something else.

1.  Have a good understanding of your oven.  Not ovens in general, but YOUR oven.  Some ovens have hot spots, or areas that get hotter than the rest.  You may have noticed that a cake rises unevenly or becomes more browned on one side.  If this is happening, you need to rotate your items during baking.    The very best thing you can do is invest in an oven thermometer.  This tells you the actual temperature inside the oven, and you may find that it does not match up with what  you have set the dial to. If that is the case, you will need to adjust the length of baking time accordingly.

Perfectly baked:  firm to touch, lightly browned at the edges.

Perfectly baked: firm to touch, lightly browned at the edges.

2.  You need to follow directions. Yes, really!  It’s a must if you want good results.  Baking is a delicate balance between flour, moisture, leavening and heat.  Chemical reactions are involved that produce the finished baked item.  A recipe holds your hand as you go step by step through the process, so trust in the recipe.  Not all recipes are good ones, but most of them are,  so trust the process.

3.  Measure accurately.  To repeat my statement from above:  baking is a delicate balance between the ingredients.  If one of more is out of proportion, the whole thing ends up wrong, and there will be no way to fix it.  Flour and sugar should be spooned lightly into a measuring cup, then leveled with the flat side of a knife for an even measure.  Brown sugar is the exception.  It should be measured packed into the measuring cup, level across the top.  Liquids, likewise should be poured  exactly to the measurement line on a liquid measuring cup.  Measuring spoons should be filled, then leveled off with a knife for the same kind of precise measure as flour.  Cut sticks of butter according to the tablespoon markings on the wrapper, these are usually pretty accurate.

There are other tips for successful baking that I could share with you, but that’s enough for  today.  I’ll return to this subject another time.  Let’s make some delicious scones.  This recipe can be a master recipe for making just about any kind of scones, whether savory or sweet.  The ones I made are considered a sweet scone, but have just a touch of sweetness, relying on the dried apricots and hint of orange to add flavor.  At the end of the recipe, I list some other suggestions for add-ins that I think would made fantastic scones.  I’ll be trying them all out as time goes on…… IMG_9477

CLASSIC SCONES, MASTER RECIPE

Yield:   Makes 12 scones

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2 cups all-purpose flourIMG_9449
  • 1  1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar (sweet), or 1 Tbsp. sugar (savory)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • ADD-INS  (see below)
  • 1 cup milk, reduced fat, or buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Directions: 1.  Preheat the oven to 400*F.  Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2.  Whisk the flours, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter; or rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips.  Stir in the ADD-INS. IMG_9450 3.  Whisk together the milk (or buttermilk) and egg in a medium bowl, stir into the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix.  Note:  if using a flavor extract, add it to the milk-egg mixture.

Liquids meet dry.

Liquids meet dry.

4.  Sprinkle a work surface with 1 Tbsp. flour.  Turn the dough out and sprinkle with a little more flour.  Knead three to five times, or until dough just comes together.  Divide in half and pat each piece into a 5-inch circle.  Cut each circle into 6 wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

From each circle of dough, make 6 wedges.

From each circle of dough, make 6 wedges.

5.  Bake the scones until firm to the touch and lightly browned, 18 – 24 minutes. IMG_9454

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Glaze 'Em!

Glaze ‘Em!

ADD-INS Sweet:

  • Orange-Apricot:   1 cup chopped dried apricots,  2 Tbsp. grated orange or lemon rind,  1/2 tsp. orange or lemon extract.
  • Lemon-Poppy Seed:  2 Tbsp. lemon zest,  2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • Lemon-Ginger:  2 Tbsp. lemon zest,  1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
  • Chocolate-Cherry:   1/3 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped; 1/3 cup dark chocolate mini chips
  • To Glaze any of the above:  whisk 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice or milk in a small bowl until smooth.  Adjust consistency with a little more sugar or liquid as desired.  Drizzle over scones.

Savory:

  • Ham and Cheese:  1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup chopped ham, 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
  • Smoked Salmon and Dill:  1/3 cup chopped smoked salmon,  1/3 cup finely chopped red onion,  1/4 cup minced fresh dill.
  • Sun-Dried Tomato, Thyme and Asiago:   1/3 cup chopped soft sun-dried tomatoes,  1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese,  1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme

SOURCE:  Eating Well

Beefy Bolognese Sauce

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These are the days when I think a lot about comforts….and comfort foods.   Which brings me to the question:  just what is a comfort food?

If each of you were to give me an answer, I would probably get over 400 answers, so that means everyone has their own definition of what comfort food is to them.  For me, comfort foods take me back to my younger days, when Mom was doing the cooking.  There were so many dishes she made that I loved, so anything that reminds me of one of those meals is a comfort to me.  Comfort foods are tied up with memories….the family eating together around a big table with lots of talk and laughter going on, and enjoying favorite foods.

Bolognese Sauce with penne pasta

Bolognese Sauce with penne pasta

One of my most favorite memories is the meat sauce that Mom always made from scratch, and served over pasta with lots of grated cheese over the top.  I’m guessing that pasta in some form is considered a comfort food by many people all over the world.  Therefore a recipe for a good meat sauce (Bolognese Sauce) should be in every cook’s repertoire.  It’s so versatile, it can be served over anything;  rice, bread, potatoes, polenta, and pasta, of course.  It goes with any pasta shape.

So welcome to my kitchen today while I prepare my best Bolognese Sauce for you.  This is not a sauce that needs to cook slowly on the back burner for hours.  What helps to speed up the blending of flavors is cooking it in a Dutch oven.  The Dutch oven, even with the lid on, allows the sauce to reduce a little, thus concentrating the flavors.  This method of cooking it also lets the layers of flavor come through, as the bacon, ground meat and veggies all get browned in the same pot, which is then deglazed with the cooking liquid.

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For anyone who might want to cook it in a slow cooker….I have done it that way, and find that the sauce is a little more liquid than I like it, so I would recommend using a little less broth, or omit the wine.  The end result will still be very good, but my first choice is the Dutch oven.

Also, since making this is so easy, I like to make double the amount, and freeze half of it, so it’s ready for a quick meal anytime…

BEEFY BOLOGNESE SAUCE

Yield:  Makes about 4 cups, or enough for 1 pound of pasta

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices center cut bacon, choppedIMG_9024
  • 8 oz. 90% lean ground beef
  • 4 oz. ground, lean pork, or sausage, casings removed
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup red or white wine
  • 1 ( 14.5-oz) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

1.  Place bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté 5 minutes or until beacon begins to crisp.  Add beef and pork to pan;  cook 6 minutes or until partly browned, stirring to crumble.  Remove mixture from pan.

Browning all the meat.

Browning all the meat.

2.  Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes.

Sautéing the veggies.

Sautéing the veggies.

Add tomato paste; saute 1 minute until it starts to darken.

Add tomato paste.

Add tomato paste.

Add chicken broth and wine; bring to a boil.  Cook 1 minute, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return beef mixture to pan.

Add liquids, then return meats to the pan.

Add liquids, then return meats to the pan.

3.  Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cover; reduce heat to low, and cook about 1 hour, stirring several times to prevent sticking.  Taste before serving and add more salt, if needed.

Serve over your choice of pasta.  In the photos here, I used penne pasta.  Grate some fresh parmesan or Romano cheese over each serving and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.    DEEElish!

Oops, in my haste to take the photos, I forgot the cheese.  How could I ?

Oops, in my haste to take the photos, I forgot the cheese. How could I ?

Decorating Cookies: A Simple Glaze

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When this container appears in my kitchen, it means it’s time to get serious about cookie decorating.  After all, Christmas is only a week away, and the cookies I baked yesterday, must be finished today!

This is how I begin:

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I set up my center island in the kitchen with an old tablecloth, pour myself another cup of coffee, and begin to lay out all the necessary supplies, equipment and other stuff I may or may not use. ( Nice to have it out and handy just in case inspiration strikes.)  It’s time to break out the tools and have some fun.

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If you’re like me you have the cookies all baked, cooled and stored in an airtight container, ready and waiting to be decorated.  This may have been done up to a week ahead.

Next I make the decorative icing.  I used to make royal icing, whipping it up like crazy, covering it with layers of damp paper towels or a cloth towel in an attempt to prevent it from drying out.  I still do make it if I want to get really fancy in my decorating, but for the most part, I get just as much bang for my buck, in a lot less time, with this Simple Cookie Glaze.

Here’s how to make it.   Put the following in a deep mixer bowl:

  • 2  1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1  1/2 to 2 Tbsp. milk, plus 1 teaspoon milk
Ingredients for glaze.

Ingredients for glaze.

Mix together the sugar and corn syrup.  Then add 1  1/2 tablespoons milk, and begin to mix.  As you mix it together you will get a thick, pasty blob forming in the center of the bowl.

Thick blob forms.

Thick blob forms.

Now add 1 more teaspoon milk.  Continue mixing until things begin to smooth out; but it you’re using all your might to draw the whisk (or spoon) through the mixture, or you electric mixer overheats and stops working, (just kidding), you’re allowed to add 1 additional teaspoon milk.

This is what the texture looks like:

Smooth and thinned out.

Smooth and thinned out.

The frosting falls in a ribbon, but disappears back into the pool of frosting in the bowl within a few seconds.

Perfect consistency.

Perfect consistency.

I bring out a few of my re-purposed “to-go” containers with lids.  This glaze can’t be left uncovered for more than a few minutes before it begins to thicken up, dry out, and develop a crust.  So I divide it up into several containers with lids, so that I can tint smaller portions in the colors I plan to use.

Coloring small amount of the glaze.

Coloring small amount of the glaze.

Also, if I know that I will be using this icing again in a day or so, these containers are just right for keeping it moist and ready to go when I need it.  An additional drop or two of milk will loosed it up if it should get a little too thick.

I put some plain glaze in a container, give it a healthy blob of gel paste food coloring, then mix it up.  Dip your cookie into the glaze, or spread it on the cookie with an off-set spatula.  If you want them to be sparkly, sprinkle on some fine decorating sugar, or sprinkles.  If not, just let the glaze dry.  Then you can draw or write on it with food-safe colored pens.  These are great for drawing on faces or accenting details of the cookie mold.

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I like to use squeeze bottles with decorating tips on them to write on cookies or make details.  Just spoon white or colored frosting of choice into the bottle, screw on the cover with tip attached, and gently squeeze the bottle.

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That’s how I made these. Trees with snow on them. Aren’t they cute?

 

With the batch of Swedish Ginger Cookies that I made yesterday, and only 1 batch of the Simple Glaze, I was able to get this variety of cookies.

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It’s easy to make an impressive and colorful assortment of cookies that look like they required more work than they actually did, using this decorating method.

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Now, go……bake,……decorate,……have fun!   🙂

 

Coconut Oil…the next best thing?

Coconut Smoothie

Coconut Smoothie

It seems as if coconut oil is taking the grocery stores by storm.  It’s so rich, versatile, and vegan.  Has it become one of your kitchen staples yet?

It’s popularity seems to be well-deserved–after all, it’s as rich as butter (without the cholesterol) and as versatile as vegetable oil.  And now we can find the good stuff in our grocery stores:  organic, non-hydrogenated varieties.  It’s pressed from the raw coconut, so the oil has a subtle nutty flavor, and it’s a wonderful substitute for butter in baked goods.  You can also use it in cooking for a flavor boost in savory dishes as well.

Did you know that coconut oil turns to liquid between 75 and 81 degrees F., so its consistency may change from day to day. To maintain its solid, spreadable state and keep it from turning rancid, store it in a cool, dark cupboard.

This natural moisturizer is going gangbusters in beauty products as well.  Organic sugar mixes with organic coconut oil to make a wonderful exfoliating body scrub.  Try putting a small amount of coconut oil into the palm of your hand, let it melt, then add a few grains of sugar and mix in.  Use as a facial scrub.  After rinsing well, your face will feel very soft and smooth.

Crack the coconut trend, and keep an eye out in stores where beauty products are sold.  I’ve seen a nourishing coconut oil body mist that you can spritz on after a shower, or add some to your bath for a rich soak.  Coconut water can also be found in body cleansers; and coconut oil and shea butter make a soothing, smoothing skin softener.

I have been using coconut oil at night as a hand moisturizer.  At the first sign of cool weather my hands become very dry, and the skin around my nails develops painful cracks.  As I prepare for bed, I rub coconut oil generously on my hands and nails, then put on cotton gloves to sleep in.  In the morning my hands are soft, and in repeating this ritual, I believe my hands are improving and are less dry and cracked.

I came across this recipe for a smoothie that incorporates coconut oil… you might want to try it.   The ingredients are nourishing and filling.  I made it this weekend for lunch with some fresh fruit.  Easy, and delicious!!

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COCONUT-OAT SMOOTHIE

Yield:   Makes 1 servingIMG_8557

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats ( or quick oats)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup ice

Directions:

1.  In a blender container, combine banana, oats, yogurt, coconut oil, honey, orange juice, and ice.   Puree until smooth.  Transfer to a tall glass and drink immediately.

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SOURCE:   M.Stewart Living

 

Back-porch Herb Garden

Potted Basil Garden

Potted Basil Garden

I think that one of the things I love best about summer is having pots of fresh herbs growing on my back porch.  Two that I absolutely must have are basil and parsley.  Basil appears in any dish that has tomatoes in it, and parsley makes its appearance in salads, in cooked dishes and as a garnish.  Both provide a bright spot of green and color contrast with most foods.

Italian Flat-leaf Parsley

Italian Flat-leaf Parsley

In the past I’ve pretty much stuck with Italian sweet basil and Italian flat-leaf parsley.  This year I was a little late getting to the garden center for my plants, and on the day I arrived, a sale was in progress whereby if you bought two of one kind, you got one free.  The display of basil(s) was awesome.  So of course, I got three;  one of my usual kind, and two varieties that were new to me.  At such a bargain, I thought it would be fun to experiment with some different kinds.

When a recipe calls for some chopped basil can you use any kind?  I think not.  A quarter of a cup of one kind is not the same as a quarter cup of  another kind.  One might be minty, another might be cinnamony, yet another could be lemony.  Use the wrong kind and you could wind up spoiling a dish you’ve worked so hard to create.  So knowing that there are many (did you know, over sixty?) kinds of basil, I set out to learn about what I had purchased.

Classic Sweet Basil

Classic Sweet Basil

The most well-known of the basil(s) that are available here are the sweet basils like Italiano Classico.  These are the ones that work best in Italian dishes.  Take, for example, Caprese Salad.  All it needs is olive oil, sweet basil and tomatoes, plus a dash of salt and pepper.   Or…Classic pesto:  olive oil, salt and pepper, sweet basil, pine nuts, garlic, and grated Romano cheese.   Sweet basil is the most common type of basil carried by large retailers and garden centers.  It you know basil at all, it’s probably through your experience with sweet basil.

Ruffled Purple Basil

Ruffled Purple Basil

My second type of basil is a purple basil.  It has large dark, ruffled leaves.   It has the aroma of basil, but a much stronger licorice or anise flavor than sweet basil.  This is a very attractive and unusual ornamental basil whose leaves are maroon in color and flowers are pale pink.  In addition to its use in recipes, it is also frequently used when making infused vinegars and oils.  It makes an attractive garnish because of the dark purple leaves.  If this plant grows well, I may attempt making some infused vinegar.

Bush Basil

Green Goddess Basil

The third kind I bought is a short dwarf variety that has tiny little leaves.  It is called Goddess Basil or Spicy Globe Basil because of its small compact form.  It’s leaves are much smaller than most varieties.  The flavor is typical for basil, sweet and slightly peppery, but it is very strong. It can be used in most recipes calling for sweet basil.

I planted all three types together in a large pot.  I love the look of a large planter on the step, and usually make up several with flowers in them.  I hope the basils will grow nicely, and get along together, providing me with some interesting flavor variations in my cooking.

The most important thing to keep in mind when using difference types of basils is to use the variety that best matches the flavors in the dish you are preparing.

Play nice, you guys :)

Play nice, you guys 🙂

 

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Potted Basil Garden

Potted Basil Garden

The Ultimate Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade Mayonnaise

Today we are making mayonnaise.  I had never tried to make my own mayo before this, but when I came across the recipe it looked so easy I just had to try it.

Mayonnaise is a condiment that I think we all take for granted.  It’s always there in the refrigerator when we need/want it.  But have you ever given any thought to what goes into mayonnaise?  It’s basically egg yolks and oil blended together to form an emulsion plus a little vinegar, salt and pepper.  Commercially prepared mayonnaise contains stabilizers and other additives to extend its shelf life, but we don’t need all those extra things.

Let’s face it mayonnaise contains a lot of fat.   My guy, Mr. D. loves mayonnaise slathered on his sandwiches.  No matter that I try to reduce the amount of fats (and calories) in the foods I prepare, he often overturns my best efforts by (over)using mayonnaise.  I’m just wondering,  is that a guy thing?  Because I know several other guys who love mayonnaise, but I don’t see that in my women friends.  Any comments along those lines?   Hmmm?

Back to the task-at-hand:  making mayonnaise.  I like the fact that I can make a small amount.  I’ve had the experience where I’ve purchased a large jar of mayonnaise and after a while, even though it’s refrigerated, it starts to have an “off ” taste, as the oils get old.  By making your own, you can make variations in flavor too, thus saving the cost of buying all those name-brand items like chipotle, smoky ranch, wasabi, or Dijon mayonnaise.  These lively flavored spreads can really change a sandwich from ho-hum, to WOW!    So let’s make our own.  It’s cost-saving, you control what’s in it, and you can have a variety of flavors in small amounts.

HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE

Yield:    Makes 3/4 cup

All it takes is canola oil, egg yolks, white vinegar, and salt and pepper.

All it takes is canola oil, egg yolks, white vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup canola oil ( or olive oil, if you prefer)
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)

Directions:

1.  Place a medium bowl on a non-slip surface, such as a silicone baking sheet or a damp dish towel.  In the bowl, whisk egg yolks until light and frothy.

Beat the egg yolks till light and frothy.

Beat the egg yolks till light and frothy.

Slowly drizzle in 2  1/2 teaspoons oil, continuing to whisk until yolks become paler and thicken, about 40 seconds.  If oil begins to pool rather than emulsify, stop drizzling and whisk yolks vigorously before adding any more oil.  Then add remaining oil in a slow drizzle, continuing to whisk.

Start to drizzle in the oil while beating the yolks.

Start to drizzle in the oil while beating the yolks.

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Continue beating while slowly adding the rest of the oil.

Continue beating while slowly adding the rest of the oil.

IMG_6757IMG_6758      The mixture will become quite thick.

2.  Whisk in the white vinegar and salt.   Add white pepper if desired.

Transfer mayonnaise to a clean container with screw top, or cover with plastic wrap, and keep refrigerated.

I just made about 3/4 cup mayonnaise.  It was Fun!!

I just made about 3/4 cup mayonnaise. It was Fun!!

Hint:  Try adding some Dijon mustard, about 1 – 2 teaspoons to the above recipe, and use in egg salad.  So good!!

FLAVOR VARIATIONS:

1.  HORSERADISH:  Stir in 1/4 cup drained, prepared horseradish, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

2.  CAPER-DIJON:  Add 1/4 cup drained, chopped capers and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.

3.  FRESH HERB:  Fold in 1  1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons chopped tarragon, and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme.

4,  CHILI-LIME:  Mix in 1  1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon lime zest, and 2 teaspoons each of honey and chili sauce.

5.  BACON – CHIVE:  Combine with 3 slices finely chopped cooked bacon and 1  1/2 tablespoons chopped chives.

6.  BARBECUE-BACON:  add freshly cooked and crumbled bacon plus 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce for a unique dipping sauce.

SOURCE:   Adapted from Country Living

Whole Grain Pancake Mix

Whole grain pancake mix makes delicious pancakes.

Whole grain pancake mix makes delicious pancakes.

As far as I knew Bisquick was the only game in town.  Bisquick reminds me of weekend mornings, in the kitchen with my Mom, making pancakes, waffles, or shortcake biscuits.  While the ingredients of that well-known mix leave much to be desired  (hydrogenated oils, UGH!), I don’t have any hard feelings against it, as nothing beat the ease of having a mix already to go.

Now-a-days, however, I make most everything from scratch, but it is so convenient to have a mix on hand to speed things up.  So periodically I make up a batch of pancake mix, and I also use it for waffles.  I keep it in an air-tight jar in my cupboard.  Up until recently, the extent to which I included whole grains in my redi-mix had been limited to whole wheat flour as part of the flour total.  Now I have extended myself to include other whole grains, and I’m finding that I really like that hearty, toothsome quality they provide.  If you prefer a more uniform, smooth pancake, you can grind oats down in a processor before adding them, but I encourage you to try this mixture of flour and whole grains as a ready-to-go mix, for a new taste in your morning pancakes (or waffles).  I love this mix so much, I don’t think I’ll ever make pancakes any other way again.

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WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKE OR WAFFLE MIX

Yield:   Makes about 4 cups; enough for 4 batches of pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup /120 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup / 120g white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup/ 100 g oat  flour
  • 1/2 cup / 60 g spelt flour
  • 3/4 cup /75 g rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons natural cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1.  In a large bowl, stir together all the ingredients.  Scoop into a large resealable plastic bag or large glass jar and store for 6 to 8 weeks.  Refrigerate for longer shelf life ( 3 – 4 months).  Give the mix a good stir before using it to integrate any ingredients that may have settled.

Use this mix to make pancakes or waffles.

Use this mix to make pancakes or waffles.

Stop back again tomorrow when I’ll have a recipe for whole-grain buttermilk waffles (or pancakes).

SOURCE:   adapted from Whole Grain Mornings

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Can we talk for a few minutes about pickles?   Dill pickles, that is.  Many people that I know love anything pickled, but I’m not one of them.  I like pickled beets well enough, but I love dill pickles!!   Years ago I remember helping my mother make pickles and it seemed like a lot of work.  I know there was some cooking involved, the hot vinegar bath, I think.  And I remember those little round dill seeds and black peppercorns.  It has always seemed lots easier to just buy the kind I like at the grocery store.

So I’m very proud of myself when I say I made refrigerator dill pickles, and they were so easy.  Nothing at all like what I remember. This recipe is so ridiculously simple, I wonder why I never heard of it until just this year.   I can’t believe I got these fantastically crisp and fresh pickles with only a few ingredients.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles.

You can use traditional cucumbers or pickling cucumbers for this–whatever you like.   Some of the pickling cucumbers end up being quite fat and round, so I used regular cucumbers because I wanted long spears.   If you have 10 minutes you can make these pickles.  Just watch me!

REFRIGERATOR DILL PICKLES

Yield:   about 3 – 4  16.oz. jars of pickles

About the jars:  They can be any jars saved from other products and repurposed,  just be sure they are really clean with no lingering odors.  It’s wise to wash them in the dishwasher prior to using again.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 – 4 medium-large cucumbers, washed well
  • 3 cups water
  • 6 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons kosher salt

Directions:

1.  Add 1 minced or pressed clove of garlic and a few sprigs of dill to the bottom of each jar.  Don’t stress over exact amounts.  They will be great.

Place sprigs of dill in bottom of jars.  Add a clove of garlic.

Place sprigs of dill in bottom of jars. Add a clove of garlic.

2.  Cut the cucumbers into spears or whatever shape you like.  Add the spears to the jars, packing in as many as  you can without having to force them in.

Pack the  jars with cucumbers.

Pack the jars with cucumbers.

3.  In a large liquid measuring cup or pitcher, combine the water, vinegar, and salt.  Stir well until the salt is dissolved.  Pour the mixture into each jar over the cucumber spears so they are completely covered.  Top with an additional few sprigs of dill, if desired.

Add vinegar brine, then more dill on top.

Add vinegar brine, then more dill on top.

4.  Screw on the lids of the jars.  Repeat with remaining cucumbers, making additional brine as needed  (it only take a few seconds.)

5.  Refrigerate for two days.  Enjoy!   Continue to store in the refrigerator….presuming there are leftovers, of course.

Oh my gosh–these are fantastic.  As soon as you finish one your mouth wants another.  We couldn’t stop eating them.  Mr. D. says they are better than “real pickles”.   What ever that means, I think it’s a compliment.

A great sandwich deserves a great pickle!

A great sandwich deserves a great pickle!

I will be starting my next batch before the first batch is gone, because I won’t be able to wait the two days for a second batch to “cure”.    Ya gotta plan ahead when you love something this much!!!

SOURCE:   Adapted from Delicious Meliscious via Annie’s Eats

Kitchen Basics: Making Blueberry Sauce

Blueberry Sauce

Blueberry Sauce

We eat lots of blueberries in the summertime when we can get them at the “pick-your-own” farm.  They are such delightful little blue orbs; sweet, juicy, and so healthy for us with their antioxidants.  They make a fabulous snack right out of your hand–I do that while I pick, but I know you won’t tell on me.   Good as they are in their natural state, something magical happens when you cook with them.  The flavor changes completely and they release a vivid pink-purple juice.   I just love the color.

IMG_4677

As beautiful as this looks, it tastes even better!

If you’ve ever eaten a blueberry pie, you know what I mean.   But when you have blueberry sauce on hand, you have dozens of uses for it, all of them so delicious.

So tag along with me while I make some blueberry sauce.  The berries can be frozen or fresh.  Isn’t that great?  because when you run out in the middle of winter, you can make more with frozen berries.  However, since this is prime time for fresh blueberries,  I’m making it now.   Be sure to make plenty, store it in sealed jars or well-sealed containers, and use it any of these ways:

  • pour over vanilla ice creamIMG_4674
  • use on waffles or pancakes
  • swirl into yogurt
  • top a cheesecake
  • use as the filling in a layer cake
  • spoon over fresh sliced peaches
  •  your own ideas…..

Recipe:  FRESH BLUEBERRY SAUCE

Yield:  makes about 2  1/2 – 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries

    Blueberries and lemon, so good together.

    Blueberries and lemon, so good together.

  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup orange or lemon juice

1.  Combine the blueberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

2.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange or lemon juice in a small bowl, and whisk until smooth.

3.  Cook the blueberry mixture, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to release their juices.

4.  Stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberry mixture.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 minute more.  The mixture should thicken and bubble.  Do not over cook.

5.  Remove from the heat.  Cover and chill.  Store in tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

We love it over lemon frozen yogurt.

We love it over lemon frozen yogurt.

SOURCE:   Preserving the Abundance,  Hometown Cooking

When Life Hands You Lemons

Citrusy, smooth lemon curd.

Citrusy, smooth lemon curd.

When life hands you lemons, don’t just make lemonade, make lemon curd!….  Fresh lemons are a must in this recipe and they give it unbeatable flavor. When lemons are so plentiful in the marketplace, this is the time of year to make it.   For a lime-curd variation, substitute lime rind and juice.

Curd is a common tea-time treat, usually slathered on toast or scones.  It is so versatile.  British cooks also use it as a filling in trifles, tarts and cakes.   Lemon meringue pie is, essentially, lemon curd wearing a crown of meringue.

Traditionally curds are made with egg yolks and plenty of butter.  This recipe uses whole eggs and cornstarch, then you stir in a couple of tablespoons of butter at the end to achieve the velvety texture expected from curd, but with less fat and fewer calories.  Homemade curd will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, you also can freeze it in a lidded container or zip-lock bag.  Thaw frozen curd in the refrigerator and use it within one week of thawing.

LEMON CURD

YIELD:   2 1/2 cups

Few ingredients, but big flavor!

Few ingredients, but big flavor!

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 5 medium lemons
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1.  Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring with a whisk.  Stir in juice and eggs;  bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat;  add butter and lemon rind, stirring gently until butter melts.

2.  Spoon mixture into a medium bowl to cool.  Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight (mixture will thicken as it cools).

I wish you could scratch and taste this picture!

I wish you could scratch and taste this picture!

I had a plan in mind when I made this curd.  Be sure to stop back next week to see what I did with it…….

Serving size:   1 Tablespoon      Calories, 35;  Fat, 1 g.  Carb., 6.4 g.

SOURCE:    Cooking Light Annual Recipes, 2007