Very Berry Scones

Very Berry Scones

I had been cleaning out the freezer and found some berries from last summer. I decided to use some of them to make these scones.  Even when the weather is chilly- berry scones make me think of warm summer days.

I used a combination of blueberries and  blackberries, but raspberries would work nicely, too. I was so pleased with how they came out. They were a little crisp on the outside, but crumbly and tender on the inside.

These scones aren’t too sweet. With scones, I think you can always sweeten them up by serving them with jam, if you like. I had one for breakfast this morning, and it was wonderful. Still warm from the oven.

They could also be used as a dessert- as the base for a shortcake. Split the scones, add some sweetened berries, sweetened whipped cream or ice cream as a filling. Top with whipped cream or more berries. A simple, classic dessert.

The secret to a tender scone is to be gentle with the dough. Do not mix it too much. As soon as the dough holds together, you are good to go. I used an ice cream scoop to portion them out. If you are rolling out scones, try to cut as many out at one time as possible. Each time you re-roll scraps of dough- the scones become a little tougher.

Since I have more frozen berries, I think I will use some of them to turn the rest of my scones into berry shortcakes for dessert later today.

Here is the recipe.

 

Very Berry Scones 

2 c. flour

1/4 c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

¾ t. salt

6 T. chilled butter

1 ½ c. berries, fresh or frozen- do not thaw berries – I used blackberries and blueberries

1 t. lemon or orange zest

2 large eggs

1/3 c. heavy cream

 

Mix dry ingredients together in bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Toss in blueberries and zest. Beat together eggs and cream and stir into flour mixture. Mix very gently to avoid bruising berries. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out batter and place on baking sheet. Place scoops about an inch apart. Press down slightly. Brush with a little cream and sprinkle with a little extra sugar. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20-22 minutes. Makes 15-18.

Homemade Spinach Pasta

Homemade Spinach Pasta

I do enjoy making homemade pasta. This spinach pasta is one of my favorites. The flavor and color is so fresh. I normally use frozen spinach, but since I had a big bag of fresh spinach, I used it for my pasta.I just cooked the spinach, drained it and chopped it up.

Any time you are making fresh pasta with vegetables in the dough, you have to allow for that added moisture. Be patient when kneading the dough. You will likely have to knead the dough longer than an egg based pasta dough. It is worth the effort.

 

Spinach Pasta

 

2 c. flour, plus extra for rolling

1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, cooked, drained, reserving some of the liquid, or 12 oz. fresh spinach, cooked and chopped

Combine flour and spinach, kneading until dough is smooth and elastic. Mix this dough as for other pastas, but don’t be too quick to add reserved liquid. While kneading you’ll get water out of the spinach. May require more kneading and rolling than other pasta dough. Be patient, it’s worth the work. The finer the spinach is chopped, the better the dough will come together.

Add a little spinach liquid, if needed, to hold dough together. You may wish to mix the dough in a mixer or food processor. Cover dough and let rest 15-20 minutes before rolling. Under kneading your dough will result in coarse, crumbly pasta. This batch makes just under a pound of fresh pasta. Serves 3-4.

Roll dough out on well floured board or with a pasta machine until desired thickness in reached. Add flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into strips or whatever shapes are desired. You might want to let the noodles dry 1-hour or more before cooking, but this is not necessary. Pasta can be hung to dry or separated and allowed to dry flat on a table. When pasta is not hanging to dry it must be turned occasionally to dry evenly.

Cooking time varies with which pasta shape you make and how thick you cut your pasta. Most fresh pasta is cooked very quickly- a couple of minutes at most.

Although you may hear otherwise, homemade pasta, even when dried, should be frozen for long term storage. Storing at room temperature can lead to spoilage. Fresh pasta can also be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.

 

 

 

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad

Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad

Whenever I make soba noodles, I wonder why I don’t eat them more often. I really love their flavor.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. They have a wonderful, almost nutty flavor. I picked these up at a recent visit to the Asian market. You can find soba noodles in some grocery stores, too.

I have enjoyed soba noodles in cold salads, hot soups and stir fries. This time, I decided to use them in a salad that fell somewhere between hot and cold. It made a great meal for a rainy evening.

 

 

Warm Shrimp and Soba Noodle Salad

12 oz. soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 lb. raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 T. oil
2 cloves minced garlic
½ c. chopped sweet peppers
½ c. chopped green onions
Dressing:
¼ c. oil
2 T. Rice wine vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. soy sauce, or more to taste
1 t. hot sauce, or more to taste
1 t. ginger

In pot of boiling, salted water, cook noodles according to package directions. They only take a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook them. Drain and set aside. Heat a skillet and add the oil. Add the shrimp and garlic and stir fry until shrimp are just cooked through. Time will vary based on the size of the shrimp you are cooking. Place soba noodles in a bowl. Add the cooked shrimp and veggies. Make dressing by placing all dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until mixed well. Pour dressing over the noodle mixture and toss to coat evenly. Serve while still warm. Serves 4-5.

Asparagus Irene

Asparagus Irene

Asparagus will always be one of my favorite vegetables.  I just love it.

As I started writing out the recipe for this dish, I was thinking about my Mom and how much she loved asparagus. She always wanted the bigger asparagus spears- she said they had more flavor.

I remember her showing me how to break the bottom of the stalks off and how she would cook them until they were just done- but not mushy.

She wouldn’t consider eating canned asparagus- only fresh- so the season was short. It was something to be savored while it lasted.

Most times she just placed the cooked asparagus on a plate, topped with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt. One time, though, she made a white sauce and poured it over the asparagus. It was bliss.

Naming a recipe can be tricky. Sometimes, I just list the ingredients in the dish- like chicken with pineapple and honey. That works, but feels a little like cheating to me. I started out calling this Asparagus with Eggs, which was fine. Then I thought of how much my Mom loved asparagus. So in her memory- I named the dish after her.

For this version I used a white sauce, but topped the asparagus with 2 poached eggs, too. It was a lovely dish and made for a great dinner.

For those going meat-free on Fridays this time of year, it also makes a nice meat-free meal.

Here is the recipe.

Asparagus Irene

1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and stems trimmed

white sauce- recipe follows

fresh lemon, cut in wedges

2 eggs

vinegar- for the poaching water

salt and pepper to taste

Put the asparagus in a steamer and cook for about 5 minutes- or until almost done. Set aside. Make white sauce, but add some lemon juice to it. I just kept squeezing lemon wedges in until it tasted right to me. Set sauce aside. Boil some water in a shallow pan and add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. Drop the two eggs in and simmer, covered until the whites are opaque and the yolks are still runny. While the eggs are cooking return the asparagus to the heat and cook until just tender. Place asparagus on a serving dish. Sprinkle with a little salt. Gently place the eggs on top of the asparagus. Spoon some of the white sauce over the eggs. You will have more sauce than you need. Save it for another use. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley, if you like. Finish with some salt and fresh ground pepper. Serves 2.

Basic White Sauce (Bechamel)

The start of many a classic dish.

2 T. butter or oil
2 T. flour
1 1/4 c. warmed milk
salt and pepper to taste

In saucepan melt butter or heat oil and add flour, stirring until smooth. Slowly whisk in milk, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Turn heat down and continue to cook, stirring constantly for a couple minutes longer. Season to taste. If you are going to store the sauce for later use place a layer of wax paper on top, store in a container with a lid or pour a little milk over the top to prevent a skin from forming. Makes about 1 c.

Lemon: Add zest of a lemon, 2 T. lemon juice and 2 T. butter just before serving.

Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes with Strawberries

If you are looking for a special dessert for Valentine’s Day, you might want to make these chocolate crepes. I love crepes and this recipe is one of my favorites. The chocolate crepes pair nicely with fresh berries.

If you haven’t made crepes, this might be just the reason to start.

I often make a double batch of the crepes, then freeze some, between layers of wax paper. That way I can have crepes whenever I want.

Truth is, you can fill these crepes with all sorts of stuff. I had fresh strawberries, so that is what I used. Ice cream would make a nice filling, too. A mix of berries would also be fun.

I added some Kahlua to the batter for a little extra flavor and it worked out just great.

 

 

Here is the recipe.

Chocolate Crepes

1 c. flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
¼ c. cocoa
3 T. sugar
¼ c. Kahlua or other coffee flavored liqueur or ¼ c. strong coffee
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled

Mix all ingredients in blender (except butter) until smooth, scraping sides often. Add butter and blend well. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or batter can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Beat again, just before using.
Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 1 tablespoon of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side.)
Crepes can be made day ahead or even frozen between sheets of waxed paper and frozen. Makes 18.

Strawberry filling: I just sliced a couple of cups of strawberries and added a little sugar- about 1/4 cup, a teaspoon of vanilla plus a dash of cinnamon.
When filling the crepes, I spooned some berries down the center of the crepe and added some whipped cream. Folded over, topped with a few berries and another bit of whipped cream.

Minty Cocoa Love Hearts

Minty Cocoa Hearts

If you are looking for a simple chocolate treat- that requires no cooking – try Minty Cocoa Love Hearts. They are tiny, but pack a lot of flavor.

This easy to make candy is made with just a few ingredients. The “dough” is mixed and rolled out. Then you just cut them out into little hearts.

They taste great and they are also a nice project for kids. There is no special equipment needed other than a tiny heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Once they have time to set up- they can be boxed up- or wrapped in individual foils.

So if time is short, and you really want to make something homemade this Valentine’s Day- these could be the answer.

 

 

 

Minty Cocoa Hearts

9 c. powdered sugar
1 c. cocoa
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. water
2 t. peppermint extract

In large bowl combine ingredients until well blended. You can add more water, if needed, 1 teaspoon at a time. Divide mixture into 2 pieces and shape in balls. Place each between sheets of wax paper and roll out to 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut out with tiny cutters and place on foil-lined tray. Chill several hours, then wrap up in colored foil or place in tiny candy bags. Makes 80 (1-inch) candies.

Cut out hearts

Chocolate Waffles

Chocolate Waffles

These waffles can make a great start to Valentine’s Day. Chocolate for breakfast? Why not? They also make a wonderful dessert.

The waffle batter has cocoa in it, for the chocolate flavor, but I added some cinnamon and nutmeg for a little spice. The flavor is wonderful.

Top them with whatever you like. For breakfast, warm maple syrup or a dusting of powdered sugar work well.

I enjoy topping them with whipped cream and berries. You can also top with a scoop of ice cream and hot fudge.  If you like, you can even add some chocolate chips to the batter for a stronger chocolate taste.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Waffles

 2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 t. vanilla

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. flour

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. cocoa

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 each baking powder and baking soda

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. nutmeg

Beat first three ingredients until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk. Beat in dry ingredients just until blended. Bake until waffles are cooked through. Makes 4 cups batter. Serve with whipped butter or sour cream and fresh fruit. I like them just dusted with powdered sugar, too.

Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake

If you are looking for a dessert for your Valentine, you might want to make this cake. The cake is made without any flour and trust me, you will never miss it.

This is a dessert everyone seems to love whenever I make it. This is  also a great dessert option for those who can’t tolerate gluten. The texture is dense, but not heavy. With only 5 ingredients, it is also pretty simple to make.  While it can be baked in any cake pan, I chose a heart shaped pan this time.

Once baked and cooled, the cake can be served as is, or garnished with any number of things. Fresh berries are always a nice touch, or a light dusting of powdered sugar. Sometimes I’ll pipe some whipped cream around the edges.

 

Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake

½ c. each sugar and water
1 stick butter
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate
6 eggs
¼ dark rum or other liqueur

Butter an eight inch cake pan and line with parchment. In saucepan heat together water and sugar until they boil. Stir in butter and bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Beat in eggs until smooth and stir in rum. Pour batter into prepared pan and place pan in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into roaster to come up sides of pan 1 inch. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool, invert onto plate.
Serve cake topped with whipped cream and decorate with raspberries, other fresh fruit or even toasted nuts. Dense and rich this cake serves 8-10.

Finished with powdered sugar and chocolate whipped cream

Finished with powdered sugar and chocolate whipped cream

King Cake

King Cake

If you are planning a Mardi Gras party, you will want a King Cake. King Cakes are a long-standing tradition in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. A small plastic baby is often hidden in the cake, although you can use a bean or even a whole pecan or almond.

Tradition has it that the guest who finds the “surprise” in their piece will host next year’s party. Be careful to warn guest so they don’t break a tooth or swallow the “prize”.  You can also use the whole nuts inside the cake and just set the baby on top of the cake when serving.

The “cake” is really a sweet cinnamon swirl bread.  The yeast dough is rolled out, spread with butter and cinnamon sugar, and rolled up. Then the dough is shaped into an oval shape.

After it is baked, the king cake is decorated with colorful frostings, sugars or both. Traditionally the colors used are yellow, green and purple, but, hey it’s your cake have fun with it.

If you want just the sugars, and no frosting, then brush the king cake with a beaten egg before baking and sprinkle with the sugar then. Otherwise, you’ll decorate the cake once baked and cooled.

King Cake

1/4 c. butter

16 oz. container sour cream

1/3 c. sugar

1 t. salt

2 packages active dry yeast

1 T. sugar

1/2 c. warm water

2 eggs

6 /2 c. flour

1/2 c. white sugar

1 1/2 t. cinnamon

1/3 c. butter, softened

Colored sugars and frostings (recipes follow)

Heat together the first 4 ingredient to about 100 degrees. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in large bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Add butter mixture, eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed and gradually work in enough flour to form a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top and cover. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Stir together 1/2 c. sugar with cinnamon and set aside. Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll out one piece of dough into a 28×10-inch rectangle. Spread dough with half of the butter and sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture. Starting at long end roll up jelly roll fashion and pinch seam to seal. Shape dough into an oval shape and pinch ends together. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining piece of dough except remember to add the toy baby, nut or bean if you want the “surprise”. Cover and let rise about 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool before decorating with tinted frostings and colored sugars. Makes 2, serving 24.

Frostings

3 c. powdered sugar

3 T. melted butter

3 t. milk

1/2 t. vanilla

Green, yellow, red and blue food coloring

Combine sugar and butter and add enough milk to make the glaze a drizzling consistency. Add vanilla and divide mixture in three small bowls. Tint one bowl yellow, one green and one purple, using both the red and blue food coloring. I often don’t bother to tint the frostings, but rely on the tinted sugars for color.

 

Tinted sugars

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

Food coloring

Place 1/2 c. sugar in each of three small bags and add a couple of drops of food coloring to each. One use yellow, one green and one both the red and blue for purple. Shake the bags to distribute the color. You should only need a couple of drops of each.

 

Decorate the cake by making bands of the colored frostings and then sprinkling on the sugars.

Giant Peanut Butter Cup

Giant Peanut Butter Cup

If you are looking to make something special for Valentine’s Day this year, you might want to try your hand at making a giant peanut butter cup. It takes a bit of effort, but is not really hard to make.

I’ve made small ones in the past, so I knew the basic structure. Using a 10-inch tart pan offered different challenges, but I went ahead and gave it a try. I wasn’t worried about the components. I had good quality dark chocolate and peanut butter. I knew it would taste good. I wasn’t sure it would stay in one piece.

It worked, and here is the result. I used a pretty good amount of chocolate. You could probably use less, but I wanted the chocolate thick enough on the bottom the make it sturdy. I also used a slightly altered version of the filling I use when I make buckeyes. I am pleased with how it came out.

Here is how I did it.

 

 Giant Peanut Butter Cup

 

1- 1½ lbs. chocolate – I used a nice quality dark chocolate

1½ c. peanut butter

1 stick (½ cup )  butter, softened

2 ½ c. powdered sugar

2 t. vanilla

 

You will need a tart pan with a removable bottom. I used a 10-inch pan, but a 9- inch pan would work, too. Cover the removable bottom of the tart pan with wax paper. It will make it easier to get the thing out in one piece later. I cut out a square and just folded the extra wax paper under the pan and taped it down. Melt the chocolate and pour enough of it into the bottom of the tart pan that you can cover the bottom generously. Use a small spoon to push chocolate up the sides of the pan.

 

Now at this point you could just keep tipping the pan to get the chocolate evenly coated inside. I know my limitations. I just pictured myself dropping the pan of melted chocolate, so I used the spoon method instead. The important thing is that the entire inside gets a coating of chocolate. Place pan in fridge to cool and chocolate to set up. Meanwhile, in medium bowl mix peanut butter and butter together until well mixed. Stir in sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth. Spread this mixture over the chocolate shell. Don’t press too hard. You don’t want to break the shell. I will confess that before I added the peanut butter, I played around with loosening the chocolate shell. I was worried it would not come out later. After I added the peanut butter mixture, I put it back in the fridge to firm up. Once the peanut butter mixture was chilled, I melted the rest of the chocolate and poured it over the top.

 

I used a lot of chocolate in the base and needed to melt more chocolate than I originally planned on. I do think the thicker shell helped when it came time to get it out of the tart pan.

 

To remove the peanut butter cup- make sure it is completely hardened. I gently pulled at the sides all around the edges of the tart pan, to loosen it. Then I pushed up on the removable bottom of the pan. After a few gentle pushes, it came out. I had to trim a little chocolate off the bottom when removing the wax paper, but it helped in getting the peanut butter cup out in one piece.

Spread peanut butter mixture over chocolate shell

Spread peanut butter mixture over chocolate shell

Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter filling

Spread melted chocolate over peanut butter filling

 

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