RECIPE: Orange Pistachio Scones

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Weekends are perfect for breakfast baking, and today was a day for using up some oranges. So I decided to make some scones. I had cream for them, and plenty of butter. I did not have dried cranberries, which I wanted to throw in. SO in a moment of inspiration I used up some salted pistachios I had left over from a cupcake recipe a couple months ago. The combo was perfect.

 I made these gluten free for my daughter, but you can use regular flour. Either way, these are awesome!

Orange Pistachio Scones

Ingredients:
zest of 2 oranges
2 1/4 cups gluten free flour blend (or regular flour)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
12 Tbsp. cubed salted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup cold, heavy cream
1 cup salted, toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

Drizzle:
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup confectioners sugar, plus more to adjust consistency
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions:


Mix the flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter until mix resembles cornmeal. 

Preheat oven to 350˚.


In another bowl, mix the cream with the 2 eggs and vanilla until the eggs are lightly beaten and equally combined into the cream. mix the cream mixture into the dry mixture until dough forms. Add the chopped pistachios, and knead until well combined.



  Drop onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape into a large circle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the disc into wedges and separate the wedges. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden. Once done, let the scones sit on the baking sheet to set up and cool down. Once cool, use a a fork to drizzle the orange frosting.


Drizzle: Melt the butter in a bowl using a microwave, and mix with the vanilla and orange juice. Add the confectioners sugar until you have a runny milkshake consistency. Drizzle on the scones using fork tines.



RECIPE: Walnut Parsley Pesto with Chicken Sausage

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Summer begs for easy everything, right? And when you have been slaving in the yard for 8 hours straight in the summer sun, you don't want to slave over the stove to make dinner that evening, too.

This is a dish I whipped up last Sunday after a long, long day of back breaking, finger nail cracking, dirty, exhausting, glorious day in the garden. I adapted it from a magazine clipping I have saved for years. Parsley and chicken Italian sausage take a starring role here. Parsley is cheaper than basil, making this dish affordable. I did throw in some basil to sweeten things up a touch. I also added a toasting step for the garlic and walnuts to help meld and enhance flavors.

The left overs were great the next day. It holds up very nicely! Give it a try!



Walnut Parsley Pesto with Chicken Sausage 

Ingredients:
3/4 lb. of whole-grain pasta shells 
3 cups of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves 
1/2 cup of walnuts
2 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese (about a half a cup plus more for serving)
Kosher salt and black pepper 
6 Tbsp. of olive oil 
3/4 lb. of Italian chicken sausage, casings removed 
3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 
1/4 cup of basil leaves 

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and keep warm.

In a pan over medium heat, toast the chopped garlic until lightly browned and then place in the food processor. This will help to soften the bitterness of the garlic. In this same pan toast the walnuts over medium heat. It will pick up some of the garlic oils which will help richen the flavor of the walnuts. Once the walnuts are toasted throw them in the food processor with the garlic. 

Next, add 1/4 cup of basil leaves in with the walnuts and the garlic. Pulse a few times. Next add the parsley leaves, salt and black pepper and pulse some more until things are beginning to get finely chopped. Next add the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add 5 tablespoons of olive oil while pulsing until the pesto is smooth. 

Next in a large sauté pan with deep sides, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Take the chicken sausage with the casings removed and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon in the pan. Sauté the sausage until lightly brown, using the back of the spoon to continue to break up the sausage as it cooks. 

Next add the cooking water with the pesto and the pasta and toss to coat. Continue to add the cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve warm with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

RECIPE: Creamy Brown Rice, Chicken and Vegetable Casserole

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There is a huge debate at our house about left overs. My husband claims we hate leftovers, and complains to anyone who will hear him rant about our reticence towards left overs. I truly don't hate them, and I try to eat them for lunch the next day. I don't like waste and I like saving money. But of course, fresh is better. So what I like to do to keep the peace (and save a buck) is create new yummies based on left over ingredients. Casseroles are a great way to use up left over grains and proteins.

We have been brining and grilling a lot of chicken on the bone lately. Chicken is a cheaper protein as food costs rise. Since we discovered brining, we have been getting bulk chicken and prepping it in all kinds of ways-smoking, roasting, rotisserie, grilling. But we do always have leftovers. I used this recipe based on a Bon Appetit recipe I found, and adapted to fit our tastes and needs at our home, and especially to use up some chicken. I also used up some brown rice too. You could probably use up white rice in this recipe, or left over quinoa as well. Make it your own. The cheese sauce just brings it all together in a wonderful party in your mouth.

Creamy Brown RIce, Chicken and Vegetable Casserole

Ingredients:

CHICKEN

Meat off of half a grilled or roasted, seasoned chicken (roughly 1 lb. of meat)

Vegetable FILLING

1 bag (12 oz.) of broccoli florets

1 bag (10-12 oz.) of cauliflower florets
1 bag (10 oz.) of baby spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, cut into small dice
2 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups cooked brown rice (1 cup simmered in 2 cups of chicken broth)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
·     

CHEESY SAUCE AND ASSEMBLY

 ½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups cold milk plus 1 ½ cups milk, room temperature
8 oz. coarsely grated sharp white cheddar
1 ½ cup coarsely grated/ripped up/chopped up Havarti cheese
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ cup sour cream
Kosher salt
Cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
·        
Directions


Cook rice in hot, simmering chicken broth in a covered pot, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Set side. This can be done in advance, or you can use left over rice from a previous dinner. Also, pull the meat off the chicken bones, and chop it up. I use left over grilled chicken from the night before. You can also use rotisserie chicken from the store. Set that aside. Meanwhile prepare the vegetables.




Working in batches, cook broccoli and cauliflower in boiling salted water until just tender, about 1 minute; drain and immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Meanwhile, chop up the onion, shallot and crush the garlic.

Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat; add butter, onions, shallot, and garlic and cook until lightly golden and very tender, 10–12 minutes. Add blanched vegetables and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and heat through, coating the chicken with the flavor in the pan. Add the cooked rice; toss to combine. Rip up the baby spinach in your hand, and add it to the pan. Mix it all up, season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Now move to the most amazing cheese sauce ever. Grab a large saucepan and melt the stick of butter. Have your grated/chopped/ripped cheeses waiting.



Once butter is melted, whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until frothy, about 1 minute. Whisk in 1 ½ cups cold milk and cook, whisking constantly, until roux thickens, about 5 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups room-temperature milk and cook, whisking, for 10 minutes. Whisk in cheeses and continue whisking until completely melted, about 5 minutes; add vinegar and lime juice and cook for 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and season to taste with salt and cayenne.


Mix the cheese sauce into the pan with all the ingredients. Stir well.





Spray a large casserole pan or Pyrex pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the giant batch of cheesy deliciousness into the pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the top evenly with the bread crumbs. Bake until breadcrumbs are brown and sides of casseroles are bubbling, about 35 minutes.

Serve hot in large spoonfuls! Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

RECIPE: Chocolate Oatmeal

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We are at the long slog to the end of the school year. With winter being as brutal as it was, and the weather still being pretty unpredictable, mornings for us seem to be getting crankier and moodier. I know my kid is pretty much over the school thing, and needs a summer break. Can't say I blame her. So she is bored with her lunches, bored with her breakfast choices, bored with everything.
Sound familiar?

So one morning this week, I decided to cheer her up.
Oatmeal simmered in vanilla and cocoa, then sprinkled with chocolate chips?
If that doesn't get a moody 11 year old moving in the morning with a smile on her face, then I might as well turn in my mom club card now.

Chocolate oatmeal, tamer of all tweeners.

Chocolate Oatmeal for One

Ingredients:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk (we use 2%)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. ground cocoa
2 Tbsp. sugar
healthy dash of salt
chocolate chips to sprinkle on top

Directions:

Heat up the milk, salt, sugar, cocoa and vanilla extract over medium heat. Once it gets close to simmer, add the oatmeal and stir. Lower the heat a little and cook the oatmeal. It will thicken up as it cooks. Cook to your desired consistency (thick and gooey or runny? Your choice.)

Pour into a bowl, sprinkle with a handful of chocolate chips and serve. Watch the fleeting smile on your sleepy, cranky, bed-headed kid, and enjoy.


Brewing Spring Traditions #3: Top 10 Wishes for my Perfect Mothers Day

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Mothers day comes once a year, and I know some people have a real beef with it. Many claim it's a made up holiday so that we all go and spend money feeling guilty that we don't appreciate our mothers enough. The sentiment is that we should appreciate our moms not once a year-but all year.

I can totally understand that. However, life today is so, so busy. There are many contributing factors to the harried days we live, technology being one of them. Careers are another factor. Many of use move away from home based on jobs and life changes. Our jobs get busier and busier, school years get busier and busier. Many of us don't even make enough time out for our partners, let alone our friends and parents. So if our culture has carved out a day to make our moms feel special and appreciated, forcing us to STOP EVERYTHING and do the same, than I say, HURRAY!

But now, about me. After all, it's Mothers Day, and I am a mom of a spitfire, quirky, creative little girl. But what do I want today? What makes a mom feel special in my book? 

Here are my wishes, and so far we are doing pretty well. Though not sure about #8, but I'm gonna try!

#1: Someone else makes the coffee this morning, and preferably Starbucks Spring Blend which is my favorite brew lately. It's light and smooth, matching fresh spring days.

#2: I get to read a book in my PJs with my giant cup of coffee while someone else makes breakfast, preferably crepes.

#3: A card from my uber-creative daughter, hopefully with some of her drawn characters in the card, just for me-after which we snuggle.

#4: Un-interrupted garden time. Hubby helps dig some holes.

#5: A hot bath to wash off the dirt from my garden time, with no one banging on the door asking what I am doing in there.

#6: Dinner with my mom and sister (as well as the larger family), honoring them and hanging out with them, preferably with some gut-busting Italian food, lots of wine and followed by another cup of coffee.

#7: Blog writing time, which I am doing RIGHT NOW!

#8: Paint my nails, and try to fit in a facial.

#9: Game of Thrones time with hubby

#10: Nutella. Just, Nutella.

May all your top 10 Mothers Day wishes come true. Have a wonderful day!


RECIPE: Neighborly Nutella Braided Star Bread

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We finally got new neighbors in our hood and my husband and I were excited to "pay a welcome forward" so to speak. When we moved into our house, we were overwhelmed by how nice our neighbors were. Every day of our first week we were greeted with small gifts, bottles of wine and craft beer or baked goods. One of our neighbors included some of their favorite take out menus and dry cleaner information with cupcakes from a chic bakery.

We always thought it would be nice to do that for someone else some day, and we finally got the chance. I decided to bake a Nutella bread as a gift. We included a bottle of our favorite wine, and a list of our favorite neighborhood stores and restaurants to help the family get acquainted with the neighborhood.

There are plenty of Nutella breads floating around the Internet. I took this "star braid" from a blogger I found on Pinterest (goodhomedesign.com). I used a couple other recipes for the bread part, because I wanted a richer, sweeter bread. So I kind of made it my own, and made them so I could make two smaller loaves versus one giant one. That way, my family could enjoy one for breakfast the next day. 

Now you go do something neighborly, too! It makes you feel really nice to do something kind and welcoming for others, and it's great making new friends.

Neighborly Nutella Braided Star Bread

Ingredients:
1 stick butter
1 packet of yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1 cup Nutella, divided

Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. milk

Directions:

In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk, water and butter until the butter is half melted. Take off the heat, swirl the pan, until the rest of the butter is melted. Cool down slightly, and add the yeast. Let the yeast sit in the liquid for 10-15 minutes, or until it begins to foam up.



Mix the dry ingredients with a kneading hook on a stand mixer. Add in the liquid ingredients and mix part way. Add the egg, and finish mixing until dough forms and all the flour in incorporated. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and plop the dough in there. Cover with a lint-free towel and store in a dark, dry place for a few hours-or until the dough has doubled in size. 


 With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 4 equal parts to make 2 medium sized loaves.


Shape the first piece of dough into a circle on some plastic wrap. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top.
Roll out a circle between the plastic wrap. Peel top off and flip over the dough, releasing it from the bottom as it falls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Gently spread 1/2 cup Nutella on top, stopping just short of 1/2 inch from the edges.



Do the same with the second piece, but plop the dough from the plastic wrap onto the top of the Nutella covered dough. Move it so it lines up the best you can. Crimp and fold the edges over. Cut slices, like a pie, but starting an inch or so from the center. Cut an even amount of pieces, so you have "pairings" of slices.
Take one of a pair, and turn it outward from the center twice, then lay it flat. Take it's pair, and turn that around from the center out, twice, then lay it flat next to it's pair. This will create the braid look. Continue until all the slices have been twisted and paired together. Do it again with the second loaf. Cover with a lint free towel and let sit for 20 minutes or so while you preheat the oven to 375˚


Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and puffy. Let cool on the sheets. Once cooled, mix the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the bread using fork tines. Store covered for a couple days, but it will be devoured in SECONDS.



Orange Scented Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten free, optional)

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Having your 11 year old daughter on a gluten free diet most of the time is challenging, especially when packing school lunches. Though most food companies are getting on the gluten free train, and I can find some good things at retailers, it is all hit or miss. Most of the gluten free products are packed with white carbohydrates like potato starch and white rice flour. Nutritionally, this is not good for a growing girl. A lot of the baked goods are dry as sand paper, with little flavor and grainy texture.

So I decided to make my little boo (who's not so little these days) a batch of chocolate chips for her lunches. These went over really well. I added some sea salt, similar to some other chocolate chips I made last year. I also wanted to use up some tangerines that have been lingering in the fruit bowl since Easter. So I gave these cookies a bit of an orange kick, and I think it made these yummies extra special.

Orange Infused Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten free, optional)

Ingredients:

Zest of an orange or tangerine
3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
2 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (or regular flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. large grain Grey Sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, set out for 10 minutes to take the chill out
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375˚. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the flour blend with baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With a stand mixer, whip the butter until creamy. Whip the sugar into the butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, eggs, orange juice and zest and mix until well combined. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand. 

Drop the batter in tablespoons 2" apart. The cookies do spread out quite a bit. Bake until golden and set, about 8 minutes. I flip the sheets in the oven halfway through.

Let cookies sit on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooking racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for a week.

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