Cherry Almond Ricotta Drop Scones

Cherry Almond Ricotta Drop Scones

Cherry Almond Ricotta Drop Scones

Knowing what to eat for breakfast when you are dancing in a competition is difficult.  It’s important to eat foods for energy, but equally important  to avoid foods that will make you feel full or sluggish.  In any hotel a full breakfast is always available, but it is not my habit to partake of them.  Instead I usually bring along simple foods that I can eat quickly with some coffee while I am getting ready.

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These scones  were the ones I made to take along on my trip.  They met my requirements for easy to eat, nutritious, low in fat, and a good source of energy.

Most scones fall into one of two categories:  the English version which is very dry and crumbly, a platform for slathering on jam and clotted cream; or the Americanized version that folds the cream directly into the batter, along with a hefty measure of butter and sugar.  Either way you’re starting your day with about 500 calories, and that’s way too much for me.  So I was on the hunt for a recipe for a lightened up scone that would still provide a fruity, whole-grain, buttery  biscuit.   I found it in this recipe.

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The key is part-skim ricotta cheese.  It has a richness similar to that of whipping cream with a fraction of the fat.  Whole wheat pastry flour is worked in, and some of the butter is replaced by heart-healthy canola oil for scones that bake up light and fluffy.  Dried cherries are plumped up in orange juice for a flavor boost, and nutty almonds add crunch.  If you wish you can use half the ricotta, whipped with vanilla and citrus zest, to dollop on the freshly baked scones in place of clotted cream or butter.   I felt that having one of these crumbly, cake-like biscuits early in the day got me off to a good start.

CHERRY ALMOND RICOTTA DROP SCONES

Yield:  Makes about 10 sconesIMG_7912

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp. grated orange rind
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. fat-free buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4.5 ounces whole-grain pastry flour (about 1 cup)
  • 3.4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425*F.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Combine cherries and juice in a small microwave-safe bowl.   Microwave at HIGH 1 minute; let stand 5 minutes.  Drain;  discard liquid.  Finely chop cherries.

3.  Combine ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, rind, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture.  Add 1/3 cup buttermilk and canola oil to remaining ricotta mixture, stirring until smooth.

Combine vanilla and orange zest with ricotta cheese.

Combine sugar, vanilla and orange zest with ricotta cheese.

4.  Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups;  level with a knife.  Combine flours, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender.

Add cherries and almonds; toss.  Add buttermilk mixture; stir just until combined.

5.  Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls 3-inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet.  Combine egg and remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk, stirring with a whisk.  Gently brush top and sides of dough with egg mixture.

Brush tops with buttermilk-egg mixture.

Brush tops with buttermilk-egg mixture.

Bake at 425*F. for 15 to 16 minutes or until golden.  Remove from the pan and cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Bake till golden brown.

Bake till golden brown.

6.  Beat the reserved ricotta mixture at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy.  Serve with warm scones.

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As a finale to this recipe, I’m including here the photos I’ve been waiting for that show me dancing rhythm dances.  This costume has a lot of fringe that moves with the dancing, and shows the judges that you are using your hips correctly.  This will be the end of my show and tell about the competition,  I promise.

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SOURCE:  Cooking Light

Toffee Almond Shortbread Cookies

Toffee Almond Shortbread

Toffee Almond Shortbread

Shortbread is a traditional teatime cookie, native to Scotland, but loved by everyone.  You know when you have a fine one because they snap crisply,  the butter flavor is intense, and they melt in your mouth.  There’s no need for any extra ingredients, the bare minimum is what these cookies are all about, letting you experience that wonderful butter flavor.

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Ordinarily I don’t add anything to a shortbread cookie, but this recipe calls for finely diced toasted almonds, and toffee bits that have been crushed sightly.  The toffee is not readily apparent when the cookie is baked,  but it does intensify the butter flavor, and the almonds just add a little texture to an otherwise smooth dough. To finish them off I sprinkled the tops with multicolored pink-green sanding sugar.

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By using a cookie cutter that is no more than 2-inches, you will get about 30 cookies.  My square cutter is 1 1/2-inches and I got 37 cookies.  They are small bites, just right for a light finish to a meal, to put on a dessert table, or to go with a cup of tea or coffee.

TOFFEE ALMOND SHORTBREAD COOKIESIMG_6958

Yield:   about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup, (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons toffee pieces, slightly crushed  I used Heath Toffee Bits.
  • pink and green coarse decorating sugar

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 325*F.  Baking sheets may be lined with parchment paper, or use un-greased.

2.  Combine flour and brown sugar in a bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub the butter with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine crumbs, and starts to cling together.

3.  Stir in the almonds and toffee bits.

4.  Bring the mixture together into a ball ( with your hands is best), and gently knead until smooth.

5.  Turn out onto a floured surface, roll out to about 1/4-inch thick. Using your cookie cutter, stamp out as many as are possible.  Gather the trimmings, roll out again, and press out more cookies.  Repeat until all the dough has been used.

Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness, cut with cookie cutters.

Roll out to 1/4-inch thickness, cut with cookie cutters.

 

Transfer to parchment lined  baking sheet.

Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar.

6.  Put the shortbread on the prepared baking sheets, sprinkle with decorating sugar, and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until bottoms are starting to brown and the edges are firm.  Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Intensely butter flavored, they melt in your mouth.

Intensely butter flavored, they melt in your mouth.

SOURCE:  Better Homes and Gardens

 

Chocolate Almond Cherry Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Cherry Biscotti

Chocolate Almond Cherry Biscotti

Don’t try to resist these.  Just go with the flow and have one (or two) with  a warm cup of coffee, or hot cocoa.  Oh, my, they are beyond good.

Perfect with a cup of coffee or cocoa.

Perfect with a cup of coffee or cocoa.

If you have never made biscotti before, let me assure you they are not hard.  Yes, they bake twice.  That’s what gives them their crunch.  First you mix up the dough and shape it into a log on a baking sheet.  Then the log is baked and allowed to cool a bit.  Then you slice it crosswise, and bake it again.  These cookies are crunchy and chocolatey.  Chock full of chopped almonds and sweet dried cherries, then they’re dipped into melted semisweet chocolate for that extra special Valentine touch.  Ta-da!!

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These are perfect for dessert, teatime, with a cup of cappuccino, perfect for breakfast, perfect for packaging up and giving this Valentine’s Day.  Did I say they are perfect?       Ooooo-yeah!

CHOCOLATE ALMOND CHERRY BISCOTTI

YIELD:   16-18 pieces

Lots of good things go into these lovely biscotti.

Lots of good things go into these lovely biscotti.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1  3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1  1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup dried cherriesIMG_6461

For chocolate dip:

  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
  • 2 tsp. shortening

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.  With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar till fluffy.  Add in the eggs and extracts, beating till well combined.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, almond flour, baking powder and salt.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Mix dry ingredients together.

With the mixer on “Low”, add in the dry ingredients in several batches.  Stir in the almonds and cherries.

4.  Spoon the dough onto the baking sheet diagonally in a long line.  With lightly floured hands, shape the dough into a log that measures approx. 14″ x 3″.   Smooth the top with a rubber spatula if necessary.

Shape dough into a "log".

Shape dough into a “log”.

5.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes.

The log, after baking.

The log, after baking.

6.  Reduce oven temperature to 325*F.   Spritz log lightly with water just to slightly moisten the crust.  Cut crosswise into strips about  3/4-inch to 1-inch wide.  Stand upright.

Spritz the crust lightly, cut crosswise, and stand upright.

Spritz the crust lightly, cut crosswise, and stand slices upright.

7.  Return to the oven and bake an additional 25 – 30 minutes till dry.  Remove and let cool completely.

8.  To Dip:  Melt 2/3 cup chips and the shortening in a microwave safe dish ( about 45 seconds at 50% power).  Stir to smooth out, then stir in the remaining chips and stir again till smooth.  Dip bottoms of biscotti into the chocolate.  Let dry on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for 5 – 10 minutes to set.

Dip bottoms of biscotti into melted chocolate.

Dip bottoms of biscotti into melted chocolate.

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SOURCE:    Bake at 350

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

A salad of spinach, strawberries, goat cheese and almonds.

A salad of spinach, strawberries, goat cheese and almonds.

Some spring seasons have come and gone when I haven’t devoted much time to utilizing strawberries.  This year for some reason I feel as though I’m on a mission to use them in as many ways as possible.

When I was growing up we lived next door to a farm where every year one large field was planted with strawberries.  When they began to ripen,  several of us teen-agers were hired to help with picking and the berries were sold at a road-side farm stand.  Picking strawberries by hand is an experience not to be missed (or forgotten, either).  The work is hard on the knees and back,  but the opportunity to sample warm, sweet, juicy strawberries, right off the plant more than made up for the aches and pains in the back and knees.

Strawberry Field

Strawberry Field (Photo credit: timtak)

On most days when I got off work, I was sent home with a basket of berries for my folks.  As I recall the only ways my mother served strawberries was as a shortcake or fresh strawberry pie.

We did not have access to California grown strawberries in the supermarkets as we do now.  So when the berries were ripe (usually end of May through to July 4, if the weather was good)  we ate berries often, made jam, and froze some sliced and ready for recipes in the months ahead.  And since they are fruit they were designated as dessert.  Now-a-days we add fruits to main entrees, and salads, and I like the sweetness fruits add to a dish.   The recipe I have for you today is just such a combination;  a spinach salad with strawberries, goat cheese, or feta, and almonds.  The dressing is a balsamic vinaigrette, which really complements the strawberries and helps to bring out their sweetness.  This is very easy and quick to make, and goes with a variety of main dishes.  With all that spinach, its also healthy and good for you, so try this while berries are “in season” where ever you live.

A pretty salad on the plate.

A pretty salad on the plate.

SPINACH AND STRAWBERRY SALAD

SERVINGS:     4

Ingredients:

  • 1  ( 5 – 7 oz. pkg.) Baby Spinach 
  • 2  cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 / 2 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper

1.  Combine spinach and strawberries in a large bowl.

2.  Whisk together the vinegar and oil in a small bowl.  Add the basil and season with salt and pepper.

3.  Add vinaigrette to salad and toss gently to evenly coat.  Divide salad among four plates.  Sprinkle each salad with cheese and almonds.

SOURCE:   TASTE OF HOME

Mandelbrot

The Elf on the Shelf!

The Elf on the Shelf!

Before telling you about today’s cookies, I thought I would introduce you to one of our elves.  I have several of these little guys and every year I bring them out and “Hide” them on shelves and other places where they can get into mischief.  Occasionally they get moved from one spot to another so I find them in unexpected places.  They add a little fun to our Christmas preparations.

Today’s cookie recipe is for Mandelbrot.  They are crunchy cookies very similar to biscotti and so I include them in that general category of cookies.    They always contain almonds  as “mandelbrot ” is the German word for “almond bread”.

Mandelbrot

Mandelbrot

I have tried a variety of recipes for mandelbrot but I always come back to this one.  It has very few ingredients, is so easy to put together and is dependable in that the cookies never fail to come out good.  Everyone to whom I’ve given them loves them and asks for the recipe.  This is one example where simple is always better.  If you really want to dress them up a little a drizzle of dark chocolate over the top makes them especially appealing.  Biscotti-type cookies go great with a cup of coffee, and it’s OK to dunk!

MANDELBROT

YIELD:   3 1/2 — 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup salad oil
  • 3  eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds, crushed
  • OR  1/2 teaspoon almond  flavoring
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

2.  In a large mixer bowl, mix at medium speed, the sugar, oil, and eggs until well blended and aerated .

3.  Add flour, salt and anise seeds, OR almond flavoring and continue beating until well mixed.  If  the dough becomes too stiff, stir in the remaining flour by hand.

4.  Stir in the almonds.

5.  Divide the dough in half.  With floured hands, on the prepared baking sheet, shape each half into a 12 x 3-inch loaf about 3 inches apart.

Form dough into two long loaves on lined baking sheet.

Form dough into two long loaves on lined baking sheet.

6.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until light brown.  Remove from the oven and immediately cut each loaf crosswise into 1/2 inch diagonal slices.

Slice baked loaves into diagonal slices.

Slice baked loaves into diagonal slices.

7.  Turn each slice on its side.  Return to oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, turning the slices over at the half-way point to insure even browning.

Lay slices flat and bake again, turning over once until crisp.

Lay slices flat and bake again, turning over once until crisp.

They should be crisp and toasted, pleasantly crunchy, but not too hard.  Adjust baking time to your liking.

Mandelbrot. a welcome gift.

Mandelbrot. a welcome gift.

SOURCE:   Cooking Light,  2009

Mounds Brownie Bars

The recipe for these rich and chewy bar cookies came about as a result of a challenge given to me by a dear friend whose  favorite candy bar is a Mounds bar.  If I remember correctly it went like this:  “I wonder if you can make a bar cookie that tastes like a Mounds bar! ” Always up for a challenge,  I replied ” Oh, of course I can!”

The first thing I did was treat myself to a Mounds candy bar in order to examine how it is made, and savor the flavors that go into the total experience of eating one.  I must say this was really hard work, but I had to do it.  What I discovered was that it had a chocolate, chewy base, a coconut layer, chocolate covering and an almond underneath the chocolate.   This will be a piece of cake, I told myself.

And so I began the process of development, which included several attempts at getting the base just right.  Mr. D. was so good about eating my experiments;  he never complained about taste testing several kinds of brownies.  Finally I was satisfied that I had the right texture for the base.  The rest was the easy part:  the coconut layer with a hint of almond flavoring, and a chocolate frosting to cover.   I decided to top each bar with an almond, instead of placing them under the frosting, so each bar would have one,  and for folks allergic to nuts, it could be easily removed.

Here then, is my interpretation of  Mounds candy in cookie bar form.

Ingredients List

Brownie Layer:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Coconut Layer:

  • 2 cups flaked coconut
  • 14 0z. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond flavoring

Frosting:

  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 20-24 whole almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  In a saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and chocolate; cool slightly.  Add sugar.  Stir in eggs, flour and vanilla.
  2. Pour into a greased  pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Center will not be firm.  Remove from the oven.
  3. Meanwhile, combine coconut with condensed milk and almond flavoring.  Gently spoon and spread over partially baked base.  Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Cool slightly.
  4. Blend frosting ingredients; beating 2 minutes until fluffy.  Spread over warm bars.  Top each bar with a whole almond.
  5. Taste tested and approved!  Oh, and by the way—-I successfully met the challenge.  My friend was duly impressed.   
SOURCE:  A Carolyn Original