Saturday, July 14, 2012

Chocolate Strawberry Almond Scones



This week I found myself in the mood for some baking.   Scones kept popping into my head as something fun to bake.   I've eaten scones before, but have never attempted making them.  Something to cross off my "cooking/baking bucket list."    After posting a call for help on Facebook, I gathered a couple different scone recipes for reference.   (Thanks, Rosemary!)  But did I stick to one particular recipe?  Of course not.    I followed the measurements and dry/wet ratios, but changed some of the ingredients.   

One such change was the addition of almond flour to the mix.   I have a bag of almond flour in my pantry, which I purchased about a month ago from Nuts.com, but haven't had the opportunity to use yet.   Scones seemed like a good recipe with which to experiment using almond flour.   Since I've never baked with almond flour, I decided to substitute only 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour with the almond flour.    It didn't seem to affect the texture of the dough or scones, but added an extra boost of almond flavor.  Maybe next time, I'll try increasing the amount of the almond flour in the dough.
The other changes I made from the original scone recipes were the use of almond milk as the liquid in the dough, because that was all I had on hand, and the mix-in ingredients (chocolate chips and dried strawberries).

But enough talking!! Time for the recipe....

  

Chocolate Strawberry Almond Scones

Ingredients

1/2 cup almond flour
1 & 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter - chilled
2 eggs
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely diced dried strawberries


Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter an insulated cookie sheet, or use a regular cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat liner.

In a large bowl, mix the flours, sugar, and baking powder. With a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.





In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, and vanilla extract. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork.   Fold in chocolate chips and dried strawberries.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead gently about 10 times, or until it forms a cohesive dough.  Form dough into a circle with approximately  1 inch thickness.   Using a knife or the side of a spatula, cut into 8 wedges.


Place scone wedges on the cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned, or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow scones to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing them with a spatula.
 

Top with glaze (see below), if desired.


Glaze

Mix a small amount of powdered sugar with 1/4 teaspoon almond milk to make a smooth consistency.  Drizzle glaze over cooled scones.  


For a fancier presentation, top scones with toasted slivered almonds or a dusting of powdered sugar.



I was very pleased with the result of these scones.   I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo below, but the outside was nicely browned and crisp, but the inside was light, soft yet flaky (that doesn't make much sense, but I don't quite have the foodie vocabulary to property describe it), and buttery.  The texture reminded me of a shortbread cookie. 



There was an overall flavor of almond to the scones, but it wasn't overpowering, with little bursts of flavor from the chocolate chips and strawberries.   The powdered sugar glaze added a nice final touch of sweetness.   The scones paired nicely with my morning cup of dark French Roast coffee!



I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ham and Cheddar Melts on Butternut Squash Quinoa Waffles

Happy National Waffle Iron Day!  Did you even know there was such a holiday?   Do we even need a reason to celebrate to eat waffles?

Today I decided to experiment with savory waffles for dinner, and ended up creating  Ham and Cheddar Melts on Butternut Squash Quinoa Waffles:

Not only are waffles delicious and make a good meal at any time of day, but the waffle maker won't heat up my kitchen too much in this 100+ degree heat wave!   In an effort to avoid grocery shopping in the heat, I made a mental inventory of all the ingredients in my fridge and freezer, then did some Google searching for existing waffle recipes that I could tweak.   The "winning" recipe I decided to follow was for Sweet Potato Quinoa Waffles by Sarah Lipoff.  Quinoa adds a lot of protein, so that seemed like a good dinner option, plus I had some already cooked in my fridge!   Once I had my recipe reference and my ingredients, it was time to start preparing dinner.

First step, make the waffles!

Butternut Squash Quinoa Waffles  (serves 2)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup frozen butternut squash chunks, steamed and mashed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon agave nectar 
1 large egg
1/4 cup almond milk
1/8 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour (I used half white and half whole wheat)

**Theresa's note:  I made some healthy substitutions for personal preference, but feel free to use all white flour, regular milk, and brown sugar (instead of the agave), per the original waffle recipe 

Directions:

1) Combine mashed butternut squash and quinoa in mixing bowl or food processor.   Blend together well, then add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, and agave nectar.
2) Add egg, milk, and oil, and continue mixing until fully incorporated.   Slowly add in flour until mixed and smooth, or as smooth as you can get it. 

3)  Heat the waffle maker.  I set mine a little higher than medium, since the batter is thick and I wanted to make sure they browned fully.
4)  Spoon half of the waffle batter into the waffle maker.  And then wait.  Waiting is the hardest part when you are excited about waffles.   Once the ready light signals their completion, check to make sure they are golden brown and release easily from the waffle maker.  Adjust the temperature dial for the next waffle, if you need to.

Mine came out perfectly browned.  Success!!!

Ahhhhhhhh doesn't that just look amazing!?!?   Are you drooling yet?

I couldn't resist diving into the waffles as soon as they came off the waffle maker, so I tore off one quarter to test.   The outside was golden brown and crispy; the middle was warm and soft.

These were somewhat dense waffles, compared to typical breakfast Belgian waffles.   The cinnamon & nutmeg helped tone down the butternut squash, and I could only detect a small hint of the quinoa.  If you hadn't known those ingredients were in the batter, you probably wouldn't recognize them, with the exception of their inner appearance. 

I probably could have stopped here and just eaten the waffles with a little butter and syrup. 

Instead, I wanted to take them a step further and make a whole meal out of them, as you can tell by the post title.  So I topped the remaining 3 quarters of the waffle with a little whole grain mustard, a slice of deli ham, and some crumbled cheddar cheese, then popped them into the toaster oven for a couple minutes until the cheese had melted.

As a side dish, I threw together a small salad of mixed greens, berry vinaigrette, sliced strawberries, and slivered almonds.  A meal like this needed a little sweetness and greenness to balance everything out.

Here is my final dinner:

As you can see, only two of the waffle melts made it to the table.  I ate one fresh out of the toaster oven before even snapping the photo.

I am pleased that my little savory waffle experiment worked.  It helped having a solid base recipe as a guideline.  At least I knew it was possible to add quinoa and savory ingredients into a waffle base.      I'll be keeping this recipe in my repertoire for future breakfast-for-dinner nights!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Food Media Forum

I now have an ulterior motive for getting this blog back up and running...  I just registered for the first ever St. Louis Food Media Forum!!   I learned about this event from Stefani over at Cupcake Project.  This 2-day workshop (July 28 & 29) covers such topics as food photography, food writing/blogging, ethics, and marketing/branding.   I am very amateur in all of these categories compared to some of the big food bloggers/photographers I've seen registered for the event, but I am excited to gather all of their knowledge and expertise.

Some of the speakers include Catherine Neville, publisher and editor of FEAST Magazine; Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food; and Jonathan Pollack, award-winning photographer and owner of J. Pollack Photography studio....just to name a few!

I'm excited about this event!!   And maybe, just maybe, I'll find the food blogger hibernating deep inside of me. 


If you are interested in joining this event, check here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sausage & Vegetable Medley Bowtie Pasta

It's me again!  Are you surprised to see 2 posts from me in the same month after such a longggggg hiatus??  I'm surprised to be posting.  But tonight's dinner was so DELICIOUS I just HAD to share it with you.

Yes, I'm still eating healthy as much as I can.  Mainly focusing on fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains, while dairy and animal proteins take a supporting role.    Tonight I reintroduced two "new" foods back into my diet: pasta and turkey.  BUT, I combined them in this amazing, colorful, pasta bowl:



Are you drooling yet?   Finding it hard to believe that that bowl of deliciousness could be healthy??   Well, it was!!

Sausage & Vegetable Medley Bowtie Pasta

 
Ingredients:
2 Sweet Italian ground turkey sausages (I used Perdue brand - all-natural, no MSG, no preservatives, gluten free, no hormones or growth steroids)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 small zucchini
1 ear sweet corn
1/2 jar julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 can white Cannellini (or Great Northern) beans, drained
1 cup organic crushed tomato sauce
1/2 bag (about 2 cups) of organic whole wheat pasta (I used farfalle, but use any cut you want)
1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:
1) Bring pot of water to boil.  Add salt & pasta, and cook per package instructions
2) In large skillet, heat olive oil.   Chop bell pepper and zucchini into uniform pieces, between 1/2 - 1 inch.  Clean ear of corn, and cut kernels from cob. 
3) Cut away casings from sausage, and add meat to skillet.  Crumble into smaller pieces with a spoon/spatula.  Sautee for about 6-8 minutes, or until browned
4)  Once sausage is browned, add pepper and zucchini, and cook for 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.   Add corn, sun-dried tomatoes, and beans, and stir.  Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, then add tomato sauce.  Stir and continue cooking on low.  Let the flavors develop and combine.  The beans will soften and help create a creamier sauce.
5) After pasta is cooked, take 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water and add to the skillet mixture.   Drain remainder of pasta water.   Add drained pasta to the skillet, and mix everything together for a couple minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly and the pasta is coated.
6) Serve up a large bowl of the pasta, sausage, and vegetable mixture.  Enjoy!

(For an extra nutritional boost, sprinkle the pasta with some nutritional yeast)


This pasta was loaded with vegetables.  The pasta was whole wheat and organic, so it was low-fat, high-fiber, and high protein.   My can of crushed tomato sauce was pretty much just tomato & herbs, without any added sugar, plus that is a good source of lycopene.  And the turkey sausage was leaner than regular pork sausage or ground beef.   This was pasta I can feel good about eating!!   I hope you enjoy it too!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quinoa with Roasted Beets, Broccoli, and Beans

I'm baaaaack!!   Well, sort of.   I'm not sure how frequently I'll be updating, so enjoy the posts when they appear.  :-)

In May, I completed a 21-day Ultimate Reset -- basically, a dietary cleanse program designed to clean out your body and reset it to "factory settings."   Some of my results were weight loss, inches lost in the waist, and a decrease in my allergy symptoms.   Part of this Ultimate Reset required me to follow a strict vegetarian/vegan menu plan.   I quickly discovered that I didn't need to rely on animal proteins to fill me up during meals.

Now don't get me wrong... I still LOVE my meat & cheese!  I have NO intention of converting to a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.   But I'm starting to look at my meal planning in a different light, trying to eat more fruits, vegetables, complete proteins, and grains.  I'll try to cut back on the amount of animal proteins I consume each week, and I'll try to eat clean/organic when possible.  

One of the foods I rediscovered during this Reset were beets.   The last time I had beets, I was a child, and the beets were out of a can.   I'll see them at salad bars, and snub my nose at them.   They never held much appeal.    Now I have learned how delicious fresh beets can be, particularly when they are roasted.  Yumm!   Even the beet greens taste pretty good when sauteed lightly with kale, a little coconut oil, and some herbs.  One of my favorite ways to eat beats are roasted in the oven.  They get carmelized and sweet, cooked on the outside but soft in the middle.  Delicious!

Rather than follow the same roasted beet recipe over and over, I wanted to find some variety.  So I created the following dish:



Quinoa with Roasted Beets, Broccoli, and Beans
(Serves 2)


Ingredients:
3 medium-to-large beets
1 medium yellow onion
1 tbsp olive oil (or safflower oil)
1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 head broccoli
1 cup beans of choice (I used a combination of chickpeas & kidney beans, which I had leftover in the fridge)
lemon juice, to taste
parsley (dried or fresh)
crushed black pepper
crumbled goat  cheese, optional

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 385 degrees. 

2) Cut off beet greens, but feel free to save them for another recipe - they can be cooked down like any leafy green.  Either peel the beets or scrub skins very very well, and then chop into 1-inch chunks.  Chop onion in half, then cut each half into 8 wedges.  
3) Put beets & onion wedges into mixing bowl, add 1 tbsp olive oil, and toss to coat. Spread on baking pan, and season with salt & pepper. Put into oven to roast for 30 minutes.
4) While vegetables are roasting, combine water and quinoa in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed.  Fluff with a fork, and set aside.
5) Cut the head of broccoli into florets. Cut large florets in half (or quarters), so you end up with pieces roughly the same size as your beet chunks.  Steam broccoli using your preferred method.

6) Heat beans of your choice in a small saucepan, and then drain liquids.
7) Once beets and onions are roasted to a nice carmelization, remove from oven.  Take a large serving of quinoa, top with the broccoli, beans, beets, and onion. Sprinkle with a little fresh lemon juice, parsley, and crushed black pepper. For a little extra richness, add some crumbled goat cheese.






This was amazingly delicious!  The sweetness of the roasted beets & onions paired nicely with the grainy quinoa.  The lemon juice added a tart brightness, the goat cheese added some creaminess, and all of these flavors worked so nicely together!  Best of all, it was healthy!!  Bonus :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

My failed blogging in 2012

Hello!  It's me.   I had every intention of blogging this year.   I have been mostly keeping up with my original plan of trying new recipes every week; a large stack of printed & tested recipes are accumulating on my desk, and the photos are cluttering my camera's memory card.    Somehow, I found myself lazy and forgetful about coming to the blog and actually writing about the meals!!  
Sorry!!

No promises, but hopefully one day soon, I'll be back to blog about some of my top favorite new recipes of 2012.  :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chicken Vesuvio (2012 - Recipe #1)

One TV show that I highly enjoy is Rachael Ray's daytime talk show.   Since I work during the day, I rely heavily on my DVR to record her episodes until I get a chance to catch up on them.    Occasionally, I see a recipe on her show that I must try, so I run to my computer to print them out.  One such recipe was for Chicken Vesuvio, which aired last Friday, December 30th, 2011.

Here is how it turned out:

You start by cutting some large starchy potatoes into wedges and browning them in some olive oil.  Once they start turning golden-brown on both sides, you add crushed garlic, red chili peppers, oregano, and bay leaves:

(I couldn't find red Fresno chili peppers at my grocery store, so I substituted a can of roasted Italian red peppers plus a few shakes of dry crushed red pepper flakes)


Next, you remove the potatoes from the pan and brown chicken pieces on both sides (*see side note below).   Once browned, you deglaze the pan with white wine, then add chicken stock, plus the potatoes, chiles, and garlic from the previous step.   This gets transferred to a 375-degree oven and roasted for 35-40 minutes.   At the end of the cooking time, you add frozen peas and butter:
(After 40 minutes, my chicken wasn't cooked through, so I cranked up the temperature to 400 and roasted for an additional 15 minutes until the interior temperature of the chicken reached 165).


Here is my final plate of Chicken Vesuvio:

My chicken skin didn't get as brown and crispy as I would have liked, so next time I need to give it more time in the skillet.   Other than that, I really enjoyed this recipe.   The chicken meat was juicy and tender, and the potatoes melted in my mouth.    I loved the combination of the slightly spicy red pepper flakes against the herbal oregano and rich white wine.  It paired nicely with the chicken and potatoes.

I highly recommend this recipe!


*Side note:  The recipe called for chicken legs, thighs, and breasts.  Since buying a package of each would be costly, I took a cheaper route and bought a large package of "whole fryer" chicken, then cut them apart myself.  This way, I still had a combination of light & dark meat.  This also explains the somewhat ugly cuts of chicken in my photos - my butchering skills need work!

_____________________________________________________________________________

Since I live by myself, a lot of recipes make way too much food.   I often try to cut down the recipe into smaller quantities.  Other times, I look for ways to repurpose the leftovers into other meals later in the week, as shown below:



I cut the chicken breasts away from their bones and removed the skin.   These will be used later in the week for other recipes... in salads, sandwiches, fajitas, pasta, etc.
I separated out the potatoes into their own container, so they can easily be reheated
I put the peas and peppers into a 3rd container, plus cut all the chicken meat from the wings, legs, and bones.  This container will be turned into chicken soup tomorrow night.


Now I can get multiple meals from one recipe, so I really get a lot out of my time/money!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Changes for 2012

Happy New Year!

I've been putting some thought into my blog the past few days, trying to figure out what direction I want to take this blog during 2012 and into the future.  Last year's day-by-day account of my nightly dinners served its dual purpose as a photography Project 365 and my foray into the world of blogging.   However, I found it increasingly difficult to come up with fresh ideas for dinner every night and then blog about them in a timely manner.   Therefore, I am changing up my blog format.

Here are my hopes & expectations for 2012:
Once a week, I will prepare a new recipe from a variety of sources (cookbooks, magazines, websites, blogs, TV shows, etc), share photos of the dish, and write my thoughts/reviews.   This will serve as the bulk of my blog posts in 2012.

In addition to my weekly recipe posts, I will be blogging about special occasion meals (such as holidays or special events), restaurant reviews, interesting news articles about the culinary world, and various personal food musings (such as my blog post about brussels sprouts).

And depending upon how ambitious or creative I feel, I may have special giveaways, contests, or other "events" designed to get you, my blog readers, more involved!

I look forward to this new & improved blog, and I hope you will enjoy it as well!

As always, I want to hear from you.  So if you have any other suggestions for me, please leave me a comment or send me a message!

Bon appetit!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day #363 - New Years Eve


Happy New Year!!  By the time I am writing this blog post, the clock has already passed midnight, and we are officially into 2012.

Earlier this evening, I went over to my parents' house for dinner.   Mom made pork stir fry - pork, colorful peppers, carrots, water chestnuts, and pineapple in a sweet & sour sauce.  It was served atop a pile of white rice, with a cinnamon streusel muffin on the side.  

For New Years Eve, I hung out with my family.  We played games, watched movies, and nibbled on party pizzas, BBQ chicken wings, and Chex Mix. 


....and so that brings this blog to the end of my year-long experiment.  Thanks for following along with me!  See you in the new year :)