Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hot Out of the Oven... Who Could Ask for More?

These are my go-to recipe for scones.  Whipping the whipping cream makes them light; the toffee chips give them a bit of crunch.  Add toasted nuts for an additional crunch.  Mmmm....

Go ahead.  I'll give you a minute to drool.

Chocolate Chip Toffee Scones
(adapted slightly from Bon Appétit)

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate-covered English toffee bits (such as Heath)
2 cups chilled whipping cream
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
Additional sugar for sprinkling and sparkling

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a large baking sheet. Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt on a piece of wax paper. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits. Beat cream in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold dry ingredients carefully into whipped cream. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently until soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Form dough into ball; pat out to form 1 1/4-inch-thick round. Cut dough into 12 wedges.

Transfer wedges to prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Version of a 30 Minute Meal

Oregon isn’t very good at segues. One day we’re enjoying mild, sunny days, and the next the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees and rain is blowing sideways thanks to the 40 mph gusts.

Definitely a day for soup.

This is one of those meals I kind of throw together when the thought of spending a couple of hours in the kitchen is so much less appealing than grabbing a blanket and hunkering down on the couch with a glass of wine. I don’t really measure anything, so this is an approximation of the recipe. Like live theater, each time is a new experience with variations and nuances that weren’t there the last time.

Soup’s on…

Bacon, Potato and Leek Bisque

5 slices bacon, cut into ½” pieces
2 leeks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 ½ Tbs butter
1 tsp fresh tarragon or ½ tsp dried
2 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup white wine
1 carton chicken stock (low sodium)
Salt and pepper to taste
Half and half or milk to taste (about ¼ - ½ cup)

In a medium soup pot, sauté the bacon on medium heat until it begins to brown. Meanwhile, cut off the tender portion of the leeks, cut lengthwise and wash thoroughly. Cut into small slices (about ¼”) and add to bacon along with the crushed garlic. Add butter and stir thoroughly. Add tarragon and stir frequently until leeks are soft. Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes. The smaller the dice, the quicker they’ll cook. I’m more of an instant gratification kinda gal, so I cut mine pretty small (about a ½” dice). Add potatoes to pot and stir. Deglaze pan with wine, add the chicken stock and season to taste. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat so that it simmers.

About this time is when I open a bottle of vino...

If you’ve cut your potatoes small, they should be tender in about 10 minutes. Check the level of ‘doneness’ by mashing a couple of the potatoes against the side of the pot.

When the potatoes are done, transfer half of the soup to a blender (**This is fair warning. If you have a standard size blender and try to transfer the entire pot of soup and then turn it on, you are risking 3rd degree burns. What kind of instant gratification would it be if you’re sitting in the emergency room with your half blended soup all over your kitchen counter getting colder by the minute?  Consider yourself warned.  And use a towel or oven mitts as extra precaution.  I'm just looking out for ya.**). Using the pulse setting, blend until of desired consistency. Return soup to pot.

Add half and half or milk to the soup and blend thoroughly. Serve immediately.

*We like to drizzle a bit of white truffle oil on ours and garnish with some fresh parsley.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hello, Fall.

I think it’s safe to say that soon our crisp, cool mornings and sunny, warm afternoons will make way for long, dreary days of rain and more rain.  It’s the price we Oregonians pay for the spectacular Springs and early Falls that we have.

I honestly don’t mind the rain, mainly because it signals the return of one of mine and Offspring’s favorite dishes - risotto!

The making of risotto has become a mother-daughter bonding time for us.  While I run around the kitchen tossing ingredients into the pot and putting together other dishes, she stirs.  Sometimes the conversation focuses on serious matters.  Mostly we laugh and goof around.

This year we decided to usher in Fall with something a little different.  Something spicy.  Something… exotic.  We opted for Jerk Chicken and a Coconut Risotto.  It was definitely a hit.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

6 Spring onions
1 large ripe mango
2 Scotch bonnet (habeñero) peppers, seeded and chopped (use gloves!)
2 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp Thyme, chopped
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg, grated
2 tsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp oil

4lbs chicken pieces (use your favorite chicken pieces, thigh and legs work great)

Place the ingredients for the jerk seasoning into a blender and blend to a thick paste. Pour marinate into a shallow baking dish or sealable plastic bag. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate in jerk seasoning for between 4 hours to overnight.

Roast chicken in 2 large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans in upper and lower thirds of a 400°F oven, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, 40 to 45 minutes total. Crisp under broiler if needed.

Coconut Risotto

1 can coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock, homemade or low sodium in a carton
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1/2 stalk lemon grass
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, trimmed, washed, and sliced
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
½ cup sake
salt & pepper to taste

Combine the coconut milk, chicken stock, lemon grass and the piece of ginger in a pot. Bring to a simmer. Next, in a heavy bottomed skillet, add the olive oil and sauté the leeks and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes (medium heat). Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Continue to sauté for 1 minute and then deglaze with sake. Stir until sake evaporates. Begin to add the simmering liquid in 1/2 cup portions, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue until liquid is gone. Discard ginger and lemon grass from pot. Season rice with salt and pepper.

Garnish rice with chopped chives or cilantro. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just Don't Use the 'S' Word

Sometimes it’s ok to just accept the pink-frilly-bows-and-goo-gahs girly in you.  While I do enjoy girly things, I generally equate the WORD ‘girly’ with the word ‘sweet’.  And while I may be girly, well, sweet?  I mean... yeah, not so much.  I’m pretty certain that if 100 people in my circle of acquaintances were polled, the word ‘sweet’ would never be used to describe me.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that the word that would come up most often is the exact POLAR OPPOSITE of sweet.  J


I ran across this line of sodas the other day.  And while I don’t normally drink carbonated beverages, the lavender soda caught my eye, and I actually enjoyed it.  It was light, not cloyingly sweet, and had a pleasant lavender taste.  On a whim, I decided to add a splash of limoncello and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Kind of my big girl version of a root beer float.  And you know what?  It was just pretty tasty.

Lavender Vanilla Float

One scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream or gelato
1 jigger Limoncello
Lavender soda (I used DRY brand)

Scoop ice cream into glass.  Pour limoncello over the top.  Fill with soda.  Enjoy while lounging in your wicker chaise amid your perfectly manicured French country garden while reading your latest copy of Victoria.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Winenlightening

I like to think I have a fairly rounded palate.  I love trying new things both in the kitchen and when I’m at a restaurant.  That said, I have some very pronounced dislikes.  Cilantro and those mushy beans they serve at Mexican restaurants make me gag (No seriously.  My world comes to an end if I forget to tell them to leave the beans off the plate).  In my little universe, carrots are only edible when cooked down and used as a base for stew.  And I have never met a plate of lamb that I liked.  If that means I’ll get my food blogging credentials removed, so be it.

Additionally, I do not have a well-rounded wine palate.  I drink red.  That’s it.  Give me a Bordeaux, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Syrah or Zin.  Just don’t put anything in front of me that happily espouses its citrus notes.  To me, white wine is solely used for cooking.  Mostly risotto.  I’m not apologizing.

But one day I ran across someone waxing poetic about the joys of a really good, buttery Chardonnay.  Buttery.  Like popcorn.  I like popcorn.  Especially with butter.  Hell, you can even leave out the popcorn.  And so I thought, it is time to expand my horizons.  I will actually pick up a bottle of white wine that I intend to consume with a meal.

I hit a wine shop on the way home with two criteria in mind:  The wine had to be described as ‘buttery’, and it had to be under $20.  I mean, I can find a decent red wine for that much.  Why would I pay more for WHITE??

So setting aside my usual method of shopping for wine (by wine label design), I browsed the selection until I came across one that fit my very practical, if not scientific, specifications.  I took it home and started chilling it.

Dinner that night was a butternut squash risotto with pan fried sage leaves and a basic chicken piccata (sorry, no pix - I struggle with a short attention span).  I used my newly acquired wine in the risotto and stirred it to perfection (making risotto to me is roughly the equivalent of meditation) and then eagerly took my first bite, followed by a sip of the Chardonnay and waited for these completely harmonious flavors to wash over me.  I closed my eyes, leaned back in my chair and…  Eh.  It was… fine.  Fine in the way that a perfectly sensible pair of shoes is fine.  They work, but they don’t exactly stir your passions like those horribly impractical but oh-so-fabulous pair of strappy platforms do.

And so the Chardonnay has been relegated to the fridge, waiting for another batch of risotto.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Browniedoodle

<cue ocean sounds> It was a hot, steamy night in the tropical oasis.  Their eyes met across the crowded tiki bar, the brownie and the snickerdoodle.  They shared one night of unbridled passion, never to be spoken of again.

This was the result.

Adapted from Crepes of Wrath recipe

Snickerdoodle Blondies 
(more affectionately referred to as 'Browniedoodles'

2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat until well blended.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine the white sugar and cinnamon.   Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the batter in the baking pan.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the surface springs back when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let cool slightly on a wire rack. While still warm, cut into squares with a sharp knife...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tacos al Cambra

Tonight it was make the 25 minute commute home, tear through the grocery store and try to get dinner on the table by 6:30.  My version of the 30 minute meal…

Tacos al Cambra

Heat oven to 425º.  Cover cookie sheet with foil.  Chop:

1 onion (large chunks)
1 Anaheim pepper (or other pepper of your choosing)
2 cloves garlic (slice or rough cube)

Mound everything on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Put in oven.  When veggies start to brown, distribute them evenly over the pan and finish roasting to desired doneness (roughly 20 – 30 mins).


In a shallow dish, combine:

½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. Ancho chili powder
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. cocoa powder

Dredge steak (I used a couple of petite sirloins) completely in mixture and let sit for about 10 mins.

Heat a cast iron skillet until it’s HOT.  Lightly coat bottom with oil and heat corn tortillas (I made 4) until they’re slightly browned on each side.  Set aside (tent with foil to keep warm if desired).

Add a bit more oil (just enough to coat pan) and add steaks.  Cook on each side to desired doneness (finish in oven if desired), then let rest for 5 mins or so.  Slice into chunks.

Assemble tacos (I also added homemade guacamole and sour cream).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Patience is a Hot Cinnamon Roll

Ok, don't think you're just going to whip up a batch of these some Saturday before the kiddos get out of bed (although if you have a teen, you have a fighting chance).  This is NOT a quick recipe for cinnamon rolls.  But it is OH SO GOOD.  And I even conquered my short attention span and took pix along the way!

Cinnamon Rolls with Almonds and Cream Cheese Glaze


1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray


3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cloves
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature


4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ - 1 cup toasted sliced almonds

For dough:

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Don't peek!

For filling:

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15x11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For glaze:

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Sprinkle tops with toasted almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday at Last

Just wanted to share the most perfect drink...  Happy Friday!

Pear Blossom Martini

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Because It's What I Do

Neither of my kids are big fans of chocolate.  Seriously.  I chalk this up to a faulty sperm donor (which may be a highly inappropriate thing to mention when discussing baked goods).

Anyway, I have a very appreciative audience for my baked goods at work, which keeps me from scarfing an entire batch of these all by myself.  But just barely...

Giant Chocolate-Toffee Cookies

Adapted slightly from Bon Appétit magazine

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, then toffee. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)