Cranberry Walnut Spice Scones


Oh, it’s been a while my lovelies. I don’t think I’ve made scones in a year.
Mainly it’s Himself’s sugar restrictions, that plus reining myself in. But Fall is coming. Pumpkin spice lattes are saturating the atmosphere. Made some pumpkin bread last week for our respective offices, but then my contrary nature just refused to make a pumpkin scone.

But, honestly, what is it about pumpkin pie, or pumpkin bread, or lattes – that orange bit itself is pretty tasteless. But the spice? Oh, yes. The spice. That’s where the magic is.

These scones are light and just barely sweet. Perfect for slathering in butter and honey or orange marmelade. Makes 16 minis or 8 standard.

1 ¾ c. AP flour
¼ c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ c. cold butter, cubed
¾ c. buttermilk
1 egg, separated –white lightly whisked.
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Sparkle sugar (or granulated sugar)

Preheat oven to 425*.
1. Line a standard size cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry. Cube the cold butter and drop it in the dry mix. Cut it in until it is after pea-sized but not yet coarse crumb.
3. Stir in the nuts and cranberries.
4. Whisk together the egg yolk, vanilla and buttermilk.
5. Flour your counter, barely stir the liquid in to the dry, then put it on your floured counter to barely, gently work the dough to a cohesive ball. With plenty of flour on your hands, gently, gently flatten the ball in to a disc about 8″ across and 1″ high. (or, divide the ball in two and flatten both those in to discs about 1″ high). Heavily flouring your board knife or a large chef’s knife, cut the circle in to 8 triangles. (Or you can make two 6” discs for 16 minis.)
**A Karen lazy step here is, I actually put my parchment on the counter and use it to help form the dough, then cut the scones directly on it, and slide it on to the cookie sheet.
6. Brush the tops and backs (not the sides) with the egg white, sprinkle with sparkle sugar.
7. Bake 425* 15-18 mins until golden brown.
8. Cool slightly, slather in butter and munch.

Herbed White Bean Tomato Stew

It finally happened. Stepping outside in the morning one day last week, I could feel it. The air was cool(er?). Summer is leaving. Then, we had a rainy day. And as Himself will tell you, I’ll use that as an excuse to make soup every time. Even if it’s 85*. But, c’mon – after 104*, the eighties are practically cold. It’s all relative, man.
Every time I start to make soup, two thoughts come to me. The first is Joan Cusak’s character Marcella in Grosse Pointe Blank, trying to explain a recipe to a friend on the phone, “No, I, it’s not going to be a boring soup! It just, that’s just the base! Carrots and celery are just a base of a soup!”
The other is that genius Beth over at Budget Bytes, who taught me whenever I’m making a mirepoix for a soup to double it and freeze half so the next time it’s like a little time-saving gift waiting for you in the freezer.

This was quick and yummy. Drizzle it with a little balsamic vinegar before serving.
Bon apétit.


Herbed White Bean Tomato Stew
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced for soup
½ white onion, diced
A fingerwidth of fresh thyme with a couple sprigs of parsley tied in a bouquet garni
1 28oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
2 cans drained low-sodium cannelini beans
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 quart chicken broth (or veg if you don’t do the meat stuff)
¼ c good olive oil
1 cup dry red wine

In a large soup pot, sweat the celery, onion, and carrots in the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients, plus half a tomato can of water. Raise heat to medium and simmer for half an hour. (Remove the garni before consuming.)

And, btw, the fresh thyme and the San Marzano’s are really essential. Spring for the toms, for this and your pasta sauce. You will be glad. Safeway has them under their house label, so they’re not insanely expensive. They really do make a difference.

Focaccia (Using a Poolish)

I used to just love that Tyler Florence focaccia recipe – it was easy and fast. But the last time I made it, I realized it was just…..white bread. Focaccia is chewy, and pillowy, and crisp from the olive oil, with big air holes.

I started to wonder if that poolish thing that works for baquettes would work for focaccia, and the interwebs said yes!!
focaccia1How the poolish looks the next morning.

Our Google overlords took me back to the absolute number one bread blog in the world (and one I thought had been taken down), Artisan Bread Baking. This recipe is a mix of that, and what I remember from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe from long ago.

I wanted to give some to the neighbors, and remembered the CI one used cake pans – so there we go.

This turned out fairly well. Light. Beautiful olive oil crust. The only thing I’d do differently next time is split the dough between four pans – in three, it was just a smidge too thick for our tastes.

I hope you try this – this is a very kid-friendly recipe. You get to smoosh the dough out in the pan using your hands, place toppings on it, and poke it with your fingers before baking. Tactile play that is deliciously edible! Good times!!

Make this next weekend. For reals – you’re home on a Saturday morning anyway, right? Give it a try.


The night before, make the poolish and some rosemary water:
9oz water
9oz AP flour
2 tsp yeast
Stir it up (it will be a thick sticky batter). Cover it with wax paper or saran and leave it on the counter overnight.
Boil 6 oz water. Put it in a heat-safe cup or bowl, drop in a 3″ sprig or rosemary or a tablespoon of dried, cover it with saran and leave it on the counter next to the poolish overnight.

The next morning, in your KitchenAide bowl or a big mixing bowl, add:
14 oz AP or bread flour
6 oz rosemary water
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herb mix
and the poolish.
Mix it up (with a dough hook or a wooden spoon) til it comes together, cover and let it rest 20 minutes.
Add the salt, knead it for six minutes. This dough is sticky. Cover and rest 30 minutes.
*Gently* fold the dough(Good Dave Johnson vid after the jump). Cover and rest 30 minutes.
Again, *gently* fold the dough. Cover and rest 30 minutes.
Finally, *gently* fold the dough. Cover and rest 20 minutes.

Line a sheet pan (or 3-4 8″ round cake pans) with parchment, generously grease the bottom and sides with olive oil. (For the smaller pans, cut the dough into thirds or fourths with your bench scraper.) Put the dough in the pan, and *gently* push it out to the edges of the pan using your fingers. Place your toppings (onion, olive, tomato – anything thick and moist – the light herby-type stuff comes later). Drizzle with olive oil. Loosely top with waxed paper and a tea towel and let it rise for at least an hour.

Heat the oven to 500*. If you have a baking stone, get that mofo in there. While it is pre-heating, poke the risen dough with your finger to make those focaccia indentations. Drizzle with more olive oil, and sprinkle with the herbs of your choice. (I like fresh rosemary.) Let this sit for 15 minutes, then pop in the hot oven. Reduce the temp to 450* and bake about 25 minutes or so until golden. Interior temp s/b at least 200*. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with some flaked kosher salt and coarse black pepper.

Cool, and eat. This makes amazing sammiches with some pesto. If you don’t eat it the same day, warm it a little in the oven to bring the crust back before serving.

Crunchy Green Bean Salad

Originally I was calling this post: Blanched Green Bean Salad; or, that didn’t exactly turn out….

We went to Willcox yesterday, in our annual pilgrimage to farm country. Loaded up on fresh peaches, squash, eggplant, roasted green chile and of course the green beans. I was blanching them this morning, munching on one and thought – hey, this would be yummy in a salad besides salade niçoise.

I was extremely disappointed when I first put it together – even himself was not enthused. It just tasted like raw green beans and dijon mustard. Yuck. I was so sad – I mean, come on! Green beans, bacon, onion, almonds – what could possibly go wrong??

But the next day? It was pretty yummy. Only thing is, leave green beans in a acidic solution like that vinaigrette and they lose that pretty green in the pictures and become a more olive green, less fresh, appetizing color so I feel as if my pictures are false advertising now.

So…..make this the day before you intend to eat it; perhaps if your garden is drowning you in green beans.

Whisk together:
1 tsp. bacon fat
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp canola oil
½ tsp celery seed
2 Tbsp. sugar
¼ c. rice vinegar
Stir in:
2 c. freshly blanched green beans, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 celery stalk, thinly chopped
2 Tbps. thin sliced white or red onion
1/4 c. almond slivers
1/4 c. minced parsley
1 slice cooked bacon, chopped

Make the day before. Serves 2-4.
Bon apétit!

Cold Steak and Ramen Salad

This all started when I saw gluten-free ramen at Costco. You know, that den of the budget-killing impulse buy. It’s freakin’ hot, but I thought they might make a nice cold salad – you know how you have cold soba noodles? Then of course I Google to see if this an original idea, and nope. It’s called Hiyashi Chuka, but looks like there has to be corn and slivered egg to be called that. Or, I could be wrong. But man there are some tasty-sounding options out there!
This is really best with these noodles just cooled to room temp (since they’re rice-based. You know how rice noodles get hard when they’re ice cold), and all the other ingredients icy cold.
Cook, rinse and cool the noodles according to package directions.
While that is happening, slice up:
green onion
leftover steak (or shrimp, or tofu)
In a small dish, mix together:
1T soy sauce or tamari
1 T rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Serve hot chili oil on the side
Mix it.
Eat it.
The end.

Share if you try it!

Melon Cucumber Basil Salad

Oh, that you could taste this right now. Icy cold, crisp, slightly sweet – with accent of fresh basil leaves and lemon and the slightest drizzle of honey. I am in heaven.

I absolutely love those yellow melons at Costco – I think they’re called sunshine? They’re amazing – the flesh is mostly like a honeydew. If they are not super ripe, they are crisp and still sweet. When they are ripe, they are a dripping juicy mass of honey sweetness. It’s a win/win.
Dammit, I love summer. Make this – you will be so happy.
There isn’t really a recipe, per se. Just this:
Cube or ball as much melon as you’ d like to use.
Peel and dice an equal volume of English cucumber. (If you use the normal kind, I’d seed it.)
Toss in a bowl.
Rinse and chiffonade a couple of basil leaves (more or less to your taste).
Zest some lemon on to the mix, and then squeeze in a little lemon juice.
Drizzle with some honey.
Toss and eat.

Irish Soda Bread, er, Tea Cake

I tried a new ciambella recipe a while back, and found myself thinking, “hey, ciambella is like Italian Irish soda bread!” Which of course planted that seed and here we are. I’d never actually eaten or made Irish soda bread until a couple of years ago. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the actual loaf was nothing like I’d envisioned. Imagine a giant, moist scone. With currants and orange zest. (Unless of course you are a soda bread purist, in which case you will insist that including fruits actually make it a tea cake. ) Regardless of nomenclature, let’s settle on delicious. This freezes great. It’s easy to make, and even more fun to give to the neighbors. No one cooks anymore, so home made things always elicit the most enthusiastic responses in my experience. And this is easy-peasy!
I like to use currants instead of raisins simply because they’re smaller, so you get lots of little raisin bites instead of big blobs of raisin. I also like to soak my currants in hot water with a little vanilla before I start to bake with them. It adds a nice dimension and texture to the flavor profile. So, you’ll need some almost speciality ingredients for this – currants, buttermilk, real sweet cream butter. Because those ARE the flavor of the bread, using the real deal will make a significant difference. I will even go so far as to say if you don’t plan to use real butter, you shouldn’t plan on making this. It is that important.
This is roughly fifteen minutes to get in the oven, then you just have to wait. Oh, and have a house that smells awesome. Once it’s cool, slice yourself a big chunk and enjoy it with even more butter slathered on it, along with some orange marmelade or honey and lovely strong cup of Irish breakfast tea with milk and sugar. MMMMM. Heaven!

Irish Soda Bread
In a heat-safe bowl, stir together and set aside:
1 c. currants
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water
Preheat the oven to 375*. Line the base of an 8” round cake pan with parchment.
In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix to combine:
4 c. AP flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. table salt

Slice ½ a stick of butter in to its 4 tablespoons, and toss it in the dry. (Yes, cold.) mix on medium until it looks like bread crumbs.
In a another bowl or 2-4 c. pyrex measuring cup (because spouts! yeah!) , whisk together:
1 large egg
1 ¾ c. buttermilk
Zest of one orange (about 2 Tbsp.)

Drain the currants. Toss them and the liquid in to the flour and just barely mix it together.
Flour your board (counter) and dump the dough mixture out. Just barely work it until you have a nice ball.
Set the ball in the lined pan. With a sharp knife, mark a deep (like a ½” deep cut) cross or X on the top of the ball.
Bake around 50 minutes. It should be a deep dark brown and sound hollow when you thunk it.
Definitely let this cool all the way before slicing it, or you will have a big pile of chunky crumbs. And, when you do slice it, make them thick ¾” – 1” slices; slices too thin will just fall apart. Or, you could just make wedge slices.
This is truly a delight – not too sweet, full of buttery orangey goodness with lots of little currants. YUM!

Spicy Chocolate Loaf Cake

ChocolateSpiceCake03I came across a really intriguing recipe on Pinterest a few months back, it said for a Starbuck’s Chocolate Cinnamon Bread. Thing is, I have never seen this chez Star Chuck’s. Maybe it was a regional release, maybe it was a long time ago, I don’t know. But, I made it and we loved it. It was delicious, but I decided if I made it again I wanted more spice. And more chocolate.
ChocolateSpiceCake 1
Then I forgot about it. Until last week. I was out of cocoa powder. (What?!? I know, right?) After some browsing on the interwebs, I decided to take a chance on Valrhona alkali processed cocoa powder. I’d always been a loyal Droste girl. Ever baked with Dutch processed cocoa instead of regular cocoa? It’s a huge difference – you know how some cakes and brownies have that deep, dark, almost black color and rich chocolate taste? That’s from the alkalized cocoa; that cocoa is essential for this cake. Go nuts and use Valrhona or just buy some Hershey’s Special dark cocoa powder at the grocery.

This is a lovely, densely chocolate indulgence. The spice adds a lovely warmth without outshining the chocolate or being obvious. The chocolate chips make it decadent. The sugar spice on top lends a wonderful, crunchy top layer that is a fantastic contrast to the rich chocolate interior. Have a slice with afternoon coffee. If you want to go over the top, warm it up ever so slightly so the chocolate chips are a bit melty. Or, you can make it dinner party dessert-worthy and dress it up with some spiced whipped cream* and a salted caramel sauce.

Ok. Chocolate cake. Let’s do this:

Double Chocolate Spice Cake
Makes two 9” loaves
Based on this recipe I found through Pinterest –

for the cake:
1.5 c. butter
3 c. sugar
2 c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp salt
1 c. dutch process cocoa powder
¼ c. warm water
1 c. buttermilk
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

for the topping:
¼ c sugar
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp turbinado or sparkle sugar, if you have it.

Grease and flour the pans then line each loaf pan with parchment. Preheat oven to 350*. Mix together the topping.
In the mixer bowl with the paddle, mix the flour, sugar, spices salt, leavening and butter. Mix on low until it resembles moist, clumpy crumbs. While that is mixing, in a medium sized bowl, whisk together first the chocolate and water, then the eggs, vanilla and buttemilk. Add the wet to the dry and mix on high for about 30 seconds. Add in the chocolate chips and give it a quick whirl.
Divide the batter between the pans, smooth the top. Sprinkle evenly and generously with all the spiced sugar topping.
Bake 50-60m. until a tester comes out clean. Cool to just warm, then remove from the pans to finish cooling.

Cool complete before slicing. Seriously. Or it will look like raccoons tried to eat your baking. Unless you live by yourself, in which case have at ‘cuz this is luscious warm.

**Now, to make that whipped cream… You can even do this a day or two ahead and keep it in the fridge. Just don’t eat all of it, because it’s amazing. You need heavy whipping cream for this. Commit to the indulgence – nothing else will do. For each 8oz of heavy whipping cream, in a glass measuring cup or small saucepan mix 1 tsp of unflavored gelatin with 4 tsp of water. When the gelatin is thickened, heat the mixture on low while stirring until it is clear (or 20 seconds at a time in the nuker), and cool it to room temp. You want it pourable, not set up. In a chilled mixing bowl, whip the 8oz of heavy cream with about 1/4c powdered sugar and the spice (1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice, or Chinese five-spice powder). When it starts to thicken a little, slowly drizzle in the liquid gelatin while mixing. Keep whipping it on high until it becomes dull instead of shiny, and looks like, well, thick whipped cream. If you take this too far, you will wind up with butter so don’t go nuts. This stuff is so stable you can frost cakes with it, and it will keep for DAYS in the fridge. Just one caution – cover it tightly, you don’t want it to absorb the flavor of whatever’s next to it on the shelf. And! do not.stir it when you take it out of the fridge. Just scoop and go. Stirring will pop all those tiny bubbles you worked so hard to incorporate to make it fluffly. Whenever I make the pumpkin pie spice one. people seriously just start shamelessly eating it out of the bowl with a spoon. It’s that yummy.

Shaved Squash Salad with Lemon Shallot Vinagrette

I’m ready for something light. The comfort foods of cooler weather just seem heavy and unappetizing now that the days are longer and the sun is shining. Well, that plus the candy fest that seems to run from St. Valentine’s day through Easter. Ugh. No more sugar. Please.
Shaved squash is all the foodie rage of late, and at first I thought, “uh – no.” But then I tried it. I must confess, it’s tasty. It is actually tender-crisp, mild, and ever so slightly sweet. And with some lemon? YUM! So today’s salad is a super light, marvelously crunchy concoction – it would be great as a big lunch salad, or as a side to some grilled chicken, fish, or tofu.
There is so much crunchiness going on – the tender crisp of the squash, the moist snap of the celery, the toasted earthy crunch of the toasted walnuts. Combined with the freshness of parsley and lemon, and the tangy creaminess of some fresh goat cheese and you are going to be so happy you made this!

Shaved Squash Salad with Lemon Shallot Vinagrette
Serves 2 as a side, or one for lunch
1 c. walnuts, toasted
1 thin zucchini, shaved in to strips.
2 stalks celery, sliced thin at an angle
½ shallot, minced
2 oz. chèvre
¼ c parsley, minced
Zest & juice of half lemon (about 2 Tbsp. juice)
¼ c. (or so) good olive oil
salt & pepper
For the walnuts:
These must be toasted. Heat the oven to 400*. Put the walnut halves on a baking sheet. Put it in the hot oven, and turn the heat off. Remove from the oven after 5 minutes (you should smell toasty nuts.) If they don’t smell toasty, leave them a few minutes more. Let them cool.
For the dressing:
Combine lemon juice, zest, mustard and shallot in a bowl. Whisk these with some salt & pepper until homogenous. Then, whisk in the olive oil just until it emulsifies.
For the salad:
Plate this just before eating it. Arrange the celery, then the squash, parsley,nuts and use a spoon to make little dollops of goat cheese. This might look pretty done Cobb-style with each ingredient in its own row, but I haven’t tried that. Drizzle with the dressing and enjoy!

Green Tamale Soup

Pretty simple set of ingredients
Pretty simple set of ingredients

We took a staycation the last week of the year, and I got a wild hair to make our own corn tortillas. “How hard could it be,” I thought. Turns out, fairly hard. As in, what are these? Frisbees? This left us with a five pound bag of masa in the pantry. What to do, what to do. Turns out it makes totally delicious corn bread, which is almost cakey in texture. It is also what is often used to thicken chicken tortilla soup – that ubiquitious, obstenisibly Mexican but really more of a gringo dish. Then I saw the bags of frozen roasted and peeled Hatch green chili in the freezer at Trader Joe’s , and a diabolical plot was born.
I made a pot of this, and took some to work. A co-worker took a taste and said, “Hey! That tastes like green corn tamales!” Yeah, my work here is done.

Put some cubes of colby or mild cheddar in the bottom of the bowl and ladle this on top, and you will be in heaven. Even better, serve it with a cheese crisp. Just remember to taste your chiles – hot chiles mean spicy soup. If you are lucky enough to live near a Mexican supermarket that roasts green chiles in the late summer, they would be even better. I’d avoid the canned variety for this – the central flavor of this soup is the chile, and the canned varieties are so mild they would render a pot of tastelessness.
This is super fast – start to slurp in under 40 minutes. Give it a try, you ‘ll be glad you did.

Green Tamale Soup
Serves: 4
2 quarts chicken (or vegetable) broth
¾ c. masa harina (instant corn masa)
3 celery stalks, chopped for soup
3 carrots, peeled & chopped for soup
1 fat zucchini, chopped for soup
½ medium white onion, diced
1 c. roasted and peeled Hatch green chili (fresh or frozen. NOT canned.)
1 c. frozen corn.
1 tsp. sugar (optional)

In a bowl, mix the masa with about a cup and half of the stock to make a paste (or a thick slurry.)
In a large soup pot, dump all the other ingredients. Turn the stove on high. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat to medium low and whisk in the masa slurry.
Simmer about 20-30 minutes, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Don’t put the heat too high or the masa will burn on the bottom of the pan. The longer cook time just means softer veg.
This is even better the next day. And, you could absolutely add some diced cooked chicken breast to this, if you wanted to boost the protein quotient.
serves 4
calories 189
fat 1.1g
cholesterol 0mg
sodium 1214mg
carbs 34.9g
-fiber 4.6g
-sugars 7.3g
protein 11.5g