Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Couple of Scones

I've been making a lot of scones lately. I guess I've been missing my days in Scotland! These aren't exactly traditional flavors, but they are really delicious. I'm a big fan of a scone for breakfast or as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea. Sometimes I could swear I was born in the wrong country! I can't tell you how excited I was when travelling in the UK, to see that the hotel rooms are set up for tea drinkers rather than coffee drinkers, as they are here is the US. I was in heaven!

Anyways, back to the scones. For me, a perfect scone has a nice crunch on the outside, but is still tender on the inside. That is usually a pretty easy texture to achieve if you're eating the scones right out of the oven, but it can be difficult to maintain when saving a few for another day. After trying several different recipes, I've come to realize that one way to maintain that crisp exterior is to not skip the step that has you brush half-and-half/buttermilk/cream, etc. on top of the scones and then sprinkle with sanding sugar/turbinado sugar/cinnamon sugar, etc. This really does help keep the outside nice and crunchy and it also adds another layer of flavor.

As for the recipes, first we have Strawberry Lemonade Scones from Munchkin Munchies. I skipped the sanding sugar on this one and it was not my best idea. This recipe makes a delicious, not-too-sweet scone, but I was missing that crunch as I was eating the extras over several days. Luckily, there's a simple solution for that: I won't skip it next time!

Next, we have Whole Grain Cranberry Apple Scones from Susan Reid & Bon Appetit on Epicurious. These were SO good and I will definitely be making them again. I was skeptical about a whole grain scone, but these were incredibly tasty. Which is good because if I didn't want to make them again, I'm not sure what I'd do with the rest of the apple juice concentrate I bought specifically for this recipe! I forgot to take a picture of these ones, but I can tell you that even without a visual aide, the flavor was out of this world!

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Truffles

I've been meaning to share the link to this recipe forever. I made these several weeks ago and brought a couple for my cousin Jen to try when I visited her. They're really tasty and super easy to make. I like to call them truffles, even though there is no ganache involved and I'm sure that's not technically correct. Whatever you'd like to call them, you can find the recipe here on Baby Gizmo Blog.

I mostly followed the recipe as written, but skipped dipping them in the mini chocolate chips because I couldn't be bothered. I also melted about 2 cups of chocolate chips (one whole bag) which is a little more than the recipe calls for, just to make dipping a little easier. I used half natural peanut butter and half "traditional" peanut butter because I was cleaning out jars to scrape this recipe together, but I'm sure either one would work just fine on its own. I specifically made this recipe to use up a sleeve of graham crackers, but I would happily make it again!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Printable Recipes

I just learned a nifty little trick to make my blog recipes printable! If anyone has any interest in printing out any of the (few) recipes I've shared on this blog to try for yourself, it's now super-easy! Just click on a recipe below to go to the original post. Once there, you'll see a "Print Recipe" link directly under the recipe title that you can click. That's it!

Of course I love them all, but if I had to pick favorites, I'd go with the Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake (Sweet) and the Smoked Caprese Quesadillas (Savory) -- I highly recommend them both!

Cinnamon Rolls
Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake
Cranberry-Orange Tea Loaf
Cherry-Almond Clusters
Homemade Vanilla (or Chocolate) Frosting
Split Second Cookies
Apricot Squares

Smoked Caprese Quesadillas
Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce
Spaghetti with Roasted Eggplant
Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad
Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays: (Food) Books That Made Me Think

Yesterday, I participated in a book blogger's weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish on my other blog, Buckling Bookshelves. This week's theme was the Top Ten Books That Made Me Think. The list I came up with consisted of novels and a few non-fiction memoirs. I tend to divide my books in my head and think of them as totally separate: on one side I have my "reading" books and on the other side I have my "food & cooking" books. While I didn't put any food books on my original list, I think they deserve their own list. This list is a bit shorter, so I'm calling it my The Top Five Food Books That Made Me Think + Five More I Hope Will, (but I haven't gotten around to reading yet!)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle   The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love   French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure
Real Food: What to Eat and Why   The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver -- I was working full-time at a really stressful job when I read this one and each day as it neared 5 o'clock, all I wanted to do was rush home and read the next chapter. This book introduced me to the idea of "local food," a concept that I hadn't really considered before then. It drove home the idea that locally grown is the freshest you can find and that there is tremendous value in supporting the people who produce food in and around your own community.

2. The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball -- For anyone who ever harbored a secret dream of an idyllic life on a farm, this book drives home just how hard farmers work. If you've ever scoffed at the cost of organic produce at the farmers' market, read this book and you will happily pay these hard-working people and then make extra sure none of your bounty spoils before you make something with it.

3. French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano -- I'm thankful I've never had a weight problem, but there was so much hype around this book when it was first published that I decided to read it anyway. It introduced me to the French culture of food & eating and I found it quite fascinating. Rather than encouraging "dieting" as so many American books do, this book presents a healthy (& deliciously satisfying!) way of life.

4. Real Food, by Nina Planck -- This one was a real eye-opener. Growing up, I was taught the mantra "too much fat is bad for your heart" and with a family history of heart disease, it was good that I learned about nutrition from an early age. However, this book caused a bit of a shift in my thinking. It really solidified my food philosophy that you can really eat anything in moderation as long as it's real food. I'm no dietitian, but I truly believe industrialized fake foods, processed foods, and fat substitutes (trans-fat laden margarine? no thank you!) are a thousand times worse for you than baking or cooking from scratch using butter and fresh ingredients. This book taught me that it's important to seek out quality foods that are raised or grown using traditional methods - dairy products, eggs, and meats from pastured/grass-fed/free-range animals and produce grown without toxic chemicals. They are worth the extra expense, in my opinion, and much of that thinking came from this book.

5. The Art of Eating In, by Cathy Erway -- This was a fun read that made me realize that you really can eat well by cooking at home all the time if you want. Don't get me wrong, I love a good restaurant, but following along on Cathy's journey reinforced the idea that homemade is usually better and that I have unlimited options for experimenting and trying new foods, all in my own kitchen (heaven knows I have enough cookbooks to draw inspiration from!) She also tries a few alternative means to eating out, that aren't really for me, but were interesting to read about.

And the Five on my To-Read List, that I hope will be just as eye-opening and thought-provoking:

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals   French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters   An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table   American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

1. Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan -- I really can't believe I haven't read this one yet!

2. French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon -- Similar to my situation with French Women Don't Get Fat, I don't actually have kids, but this idea (and again the French food culture) fascinates me.

3. An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler -- I've heard very good things about this one. It has been said to be an "elegant testimony to the value of cooking."

4. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table, by Tracie McMillan -- The title pretty much explains it. I expect this to be an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at some sectors of America's food system.

5. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Half of Its Food and What We Can Do About It), by Jonathan Bloom -- In a time of high levels of both obesity and poverty, I think this is an important topic and I'm hoping this book has a lot of food for thought.

There are many others I'd love to read, but these ones made the top of the list!