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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cashew Scones with Maple Butter

For some reason, this morning I decided to get up a little early and make some scones for the hubby (yeah, like I wasn't going to have one) before church.

I didn't allow tons of extra time, so I used butterscotch chips instead of the chopped white chocolate I normally use. And I didn't take the time to brush the tops with an egg wash or garnish them.

They were still yummy, just not their usual perfection.

This recipe is from Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright. (I love their little cookbooks. Together or separately they wrote Completely Cookies, Mostly Muffins, More Muffins and Totally Teabreads.)

Cashew Scones

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup. (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup salted, roasted cashews, chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or use 1/2 cup white, butterscotch or chocolate baking chips)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1/2 tsp. water for glaze
1/4 cup whole or chopped cashews for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and distribute over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Work in cashews.

In a small bowl, stir together milk, egg and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and stir to combine. It will be thick. Stir in chocolate pieces or chips.

With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into eight equal-sized pieces. Shape into balls and pat into circles on baking sheet a few inches apart (I didn't pat mine into circles this time). Brush tops with egg wash and top with cashew garnish, if using. Press nuts lightly into dough.

Bake for 15 to 22 minutes (check at 12) or until a cake tester/toothpick inserted into center of one scone comes out clean.

Remove baking sheet to wire rack and cool for five minutes. Serve warm with or without Maple Butter or remove to wire rack to cool. Store in airtight container.

Maple Butter

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 to 2 drops maple extract (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together butter, syrup and extract until combined.
Serve immediately or refrigerate till serving time (let stand at room temperature 15 minutes to soften).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sweet and Sour Chicken (not fried, not dyed)

Doesn't look like your typical restaurant sweet and sour chicken, does it?

No red dye; no out-of-place, overly sweet maraschinos; no breading; no deep frying. There's just flavor, and it's fairly healthful, too.

If we ate green pepper at our house, it would be a little prettier. I substituted yellow pepper, and a glance at the picture tells me red might have looked better.

The recipe is from Low-Fat Chicken Breasts by Diane Rozas, who also wrote Chicken Breasts and More Chicken Breasts, all of them affordable and stuffed with recipes.

I modified this recipe just a little, and have added those adjustments. It speeds up the cooking a good deal if you do the chopping and sauce-mixing ahead of time.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir-Fry

1 tbsp. light (as opposed to dark) sesame oil
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts (4 pieces), cut into bite-size strips
1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 heaping tbsp. brown sugar (dark or light)
1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple, juice reserved
3 tbsp. reserved juice
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
4 tbsp. sherry
1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger*
1 chopped bell pepper, your choice color
1/2 cup celery (I didn't have any, so I increased carrots)
1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup chopped green onion, white and green parts
1 tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp. soy sauce

In a wok, heat the oil. Add the chicken and stir-fry until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, pineapple juice, vinegar, sherry and ginger and stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.

Add chopped pepper, celery, carrots and green onion to the work and stir-fry for a minute. Add the soy sauce and stir-fry just a little longer, till beginning to get tender.

Stir in chicken, pineapple, sauce and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil. Stir constantly for two minutes or till sauce thickens and everything is done.

Serve immediately on rice.

*Fresh Ginger: I don't remember where I learned to do this, but I like to buy a chunk of fresh ginger, peel it, thinly slice and toss it in a jar with a lid. Pour in enough sherry to cover and close the lid. This keeps a long time in the fridge and I always have ginger on hand. Just dip out what you need. The sherry takes on the ginger flavor and is a good addition to other recipes, like Sesame Chicken, which I will post someday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Importance of Reading Comprehension

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you left an instant-read thermometer stuck in your roast (or whatever) in the oven? The kind that has clear package instructions that read, "Do not leave in oven; not intended for prolonged use at that kind of heat, you idiot?"

Here is what happens:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Potato, Spinach and Feta Gratin (and green bean side)

Holy cow. I can't believe I haven't posted in more than five months. What the heck have I been doing?

I hope my energy for such things has returned, as I am trying to wrest back control of my life from the forces of, well, not evil exactly. But I digress.

Here are a tasty vegetable casserole and a nutty green bean dish that I made this week. You could also use Yukon Gold potatoes. I sometimes substitute thyme for the parsley in the beans, which would be even better piled on a plate next to a roasted or grilled meat or fish. But Joe was content with the high vegetable count. I again rejoice that I married a man who will try anything I feel like cooking.


2 lbs. baking potatoes, about 3 large (or 6 medium red-skinned potatoes)
2 10-oz. boxes chopped, frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6 to 8 oz. feta cheese
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (low-fat is fine)
3 large eggs (or equivalent amount egg substitute)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 2-quart baking dish, line it with wax paper, and spray the paper lightly.
Peel the potatoes (or not) and thinly slice them crosswise with a food processor fitted with a 2-mm slicing disk or with a mandolin (not the musical kind).
In a kettle of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes for 7 minutes or until just tender and drain in a colander.

Place spinach and feta in food processor. In a bowl whisk together half-and-half, eggs, salt and pepper. Add half the custard to the spinach mixture, and pulse the motor of the processor until the mixture is coarse.
Spread potatoes evenly in baking dish to make a thick layer. Pour the remaining custard over the potatoes, tilting dish slightly and pushing down on the potatoes to distribute the custard. Top with the spinach mixture, smoothing the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until it is set in the middle (no runny custard).
Let cool on a rack for 2o to 30 minutes (Don't worry, it will still be hot). Run a knife around the side of the dish, invert the gratin onto a flameproof plate, and peel off the wax paper. Broil the gratin under a preheated broiler about 4 inches from the heat for about 5 minutes, or until top is golden brown, and cut into servings.
Serves 6 to 8.
For a treat, top leftover servings with additional cheese such as Havarti or white cheddar before nuking.
Green Beans with Pecans, Lemon and Parsley

also adapted from
2 lbs. green beans, trimmed, halved crosswise, or whole haricots verts*
5 tbsp. butter
3/4 to 1 cup chopped pecans
4 tsp. minced lemon peel (yellow part only)
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves)

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and pat dry. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Melt butter in large deep skillet or wok over medium heat. Add pecans; sauté until nuts are crisp and butter is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add beans; toss to heat through, about 5 minutes. Mix in lemon peel and parsley; cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl.
Serves 6 to 8.

* Skinny green beans with French accent