Monday, August 30, 2010

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

What could be wrong with a pancake and a cinnamon roll combined?  If you said nothing at all, you are 100 percent correct!  Not only are these pancakes made using the best ever pancake mix ever, ever, ever, but now they are even better with a sweet, cinnamony (another one of my words) swirl made from the exact ingredients that go into a cinnamon roll filling.  Then, as if they weren't fabulous enough they are topped with, what else I ask you, cream cheese frosting.  Oh my. Oh my.  This recipe is far past breakfast fare it is now dessert at 8 in the morning.  Can it get any better? 
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
Recipe Source:  Big Red Kitchen

For the Cinnamon Filling...

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, mix until smooth:
1 stick softened butter, almost melty
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon

Using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides, pour this mixture into a large pastry bag or ziplock bag that had been opened and stood up in a tall tumbler or into a squeeze bottle. I prefer the squeeze bottle because it doesn't leak into the tall tumbler but either works well.

For the Cream Cheese Icing...

In the same bowl that you used for the cinnamon filling, mix together, using the hand mixer again:

2 cups powdered sugar
2 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
4 T. milk

Mix until smooth and set aside.

Prepare you favorite pancakes according to directions.  I used my favorite pancake mix found here
In a large non-stick skillet, over medium to medium-low heat, and using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, ladle pancakes. Snip the tip off the pastry bag containing the cinnamon filling so that the opening is a scant 1/2 inch wide.  Using the bag or a squeeze bottle swirl the cinnamon filling mixture over cooking pancakes in a circular motion (don't wait to long after ladling the batter or the cinnamon mixture will just roll off).
Continue to cook the pancakes until bubbles form evenly through each cake. Gently flip each pancake over and cook another 30-45 seconds, remove to a serving platter and serve immediately or keep warm covered in a warm oven. Continue with the rest of the batter.  Serve each person 2-3 pancakes drizzled with the cream cheese icing or dolloped like we did.  Add fruit, powdered sugar, or maple syrup if desired.
Note- Using a damp paper towel, wipe your skillet after each pancake is made. This will keep the next pancake from sticking to any of the cinnamon filling that has leaked onto your skillet or griddle.

Store any leftover icing in the refrigerator for future use.

Total Cost I'm not entirely sure.  I just discovered that I never did a cost break down for the pancake mix.  It isn't much considering none of the ingredients cost a whole lot.  Forgive me please...just this one time.

Cucumbers, Books, and a Sense of Community

Quote of the Day:  Let mutual love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  - Hebrews 13:1-3

Do you have a sense of belonging in your community? While you're taking a walk, do you stop and notice your neighbor's garden?  Do you have someone nearby who makes you feel like family?  I felt all those things this weekend, from teaching piano to kids in the area to attending a church service in the Pastor's backyard.

I drove up to a Book Arts Festival in Hackensack, MN with my friend's daughter, 13, who is an aspiring writer.  She seems like a niece to me because her mom and I are so close.  We talked with authors, bought some of their books, looked at the arts and crafts, tried on hand-made jewelry and ate kettle corn and ice cream. 

For our Sunday morning service, our little congregation, called Rejoice, met in the Pastor's backyard.  Carol, his wife, played the keyboard, with a little help, and hindrance, from the wind.  During the sermon, the piano book hit a note on the keyboard.  The Pastor paused, looked back at the phantom player and said, "That must have been a good point."

It was so relaxing to sit outside and sing together, listen the the message, and watch the runners go by.  Yes, today was a local triathlon and the route was along the street in front of the pastor's house.  You know, you can't just stare at the Pastor during the whole sermon.  Plus, the runners were interesting.

After the service, we pulled our lawn chairs over to the tables set up outside and enjoyed Carol's home-made cinnamon rolls, coffee, and great conversation.

In keeping with God's request that we share our bounty, one of the members brought in extra cucumbers to share with anyone who wants them.  Here they are, along with the books I bought at the book fair.

And, this evening.  My nearest friend and neighbor, Lisa, called to ask if I had any lime juice.  I did, dated July 2007.  She said she'd take it (how bad could it be?), and invited me to join them for dinner.  After that, a walk, time with my boys, and a recap for you readers.

Journaling Prompt: What did you enjoy about your community this weekend/summer?  Did you plant a garden and share your harvest or enjoy the bounty of another's garden?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The reason "Why"

Every once in a while I have people ask me "why" I cook the way I do.  The short answer has just always been because I like to.  I have always felt more grounded and in touch with who I really am as I cook.  It is my stress reliever when times are hard and my enjoyment when life is good.  I cook when I am sad, when I am happy, when I am lonely, when I am surrounded by love, and when I just am simply bored.  I have never examined what drives me to try making something from scratch that I can easily by prepared or in a mix.  But now that I have more time to focus on food through this blog I wonder if my reasoning runs deeper than just liking to cook. 

There is a certain feeling that comes when I serve food to the people I care about in my life.  I don't know what that feeling is, I don't even know how to describe it. I do know that when people gather to eat a meal that I helped create I enjoy every moment of the process most especially the eating.  I truly believe that there is something that food does to a group of people who gather to eat; it unites us even if only for a few minutes, it creates memories and when the person who made the food did so with love, it just always tastes better. 

My memories run deeper than merely eating the food though.  Watching all the work that went into the end result was fascinating for me.  While my cousins played outside on Thanksgiving, I remember sitting on a stool watching my Grandma H. making Parker House rolls.  On quiet days my mom would make her family apple sauce cookie recipe that still to this day makes me think of her when I eat them.  Then there were the hot summer days at my Grandma VC's house when she would make homemade Roquefort dressing for the salads we were eating, or the big Sunday pot roast dinners with gravy and all the sides that Grandma W. made.  And let's not forget the breads and pies that my Dad made, he taught me so much ("you can always add flour Jenny, but you can never take it away.") Then there are all the countless hours of cooking shows I have watched in this lifetime that have added to the foundation of cooking knowledge passed to me by my loved ones.  All of these moments added something to who I am now; the memories I have, and the love I feel for everyone who nourished my body and my mind as I grew up, allow me to do the same now for people I care about.

So the answer to the "why" question is that I make food and go through the work because I like to, it has become a part of what makes me who I am.  I like to remember my loved ones who have passed on and make their food, I like to cook with my family and enjoy the end of a busy day, I like to see everyone smile (or grimace) when they try something new, I like to be surrounded by people I care about and enjoy the camaraderie that results, I like food, I like the process, I like sharing my experiences with others and taking in theirs, and most important I just simply like to cook.

Chicken Pinwheels

These little babies are simple, flexible, and delicious!  Don't repeat this but I ate three in one sitting. It was only because my family needed to eat their dinners that I didn't eat more.  The recipe idea came from a few different places.  The first from my friend and fellow book club member who brought a version made with crescent rolls, cream, cheese, onion and bacon...can you say mouth watering?!  They were sooooo good!  Then a few days later Mel at My Kitchen Cafe posted a similar recipe using ham and broccoli. 

Any combination of meat, cheese, veggies and seasoning can be used.  Next time I think I might do a Mexican style one with cream cheese, salsa, seasoned taco meat etc., or a chicken cordon bleu style with chicken, ham, and Swiss cheese.  I used the french roll recipe in mine because that is what Melanie used but try any favorite roll recipe you have or even refrigerated crescent rolls or the bread dough that can be found in the freezer section.
Chicken Broccoli Pinwheels
Recipe Source: Adaptations of Lisa and Mel's Recipes

1 recipe French Roll Dough, or your choice of dough will work too
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used Yogurt Cheese)
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups finely chopped broccoli
2 cups cheese (Use your favorite, anything works.  I used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella)
3/4 cup finely chopped green onions

Follow the recipe for your roll dough until the dough has risen. Punch down the dough and roll the dough out into a large rectangle (approximately 13x20 inches).

In a small bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Spread the rolled out dough with the butter/cream cheese mixture. Top with each of your fillings. 
Roll the dough up, like you would a batch of cinnamon rolls. Slice the roll into about 1-inch segments.
 Place the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.

 Let the rolls rise until nearly doubled and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly.  Enjoy with a nice salad and great friends!

***These freeze beautifully.  After slicing the pinwheels, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze.  Once frozen, wrap the pinwheels, label and return to the freezer.  On the day you want to serve them, set them on a cookie sheet lightly covered.  They will raise as the they thaw.  Place in the oven and bake as directed above. 

Total Cost $5.72 for the whole batch (This made 20 pinwheels, I baked half and froze half for dinner another night so each dinner cost is $2.86!)

French Roll Dough $.51
Yogurt Cheese $1.11
Butter $.31
Broccoli $.77
Chicken $.98 (I found a killer deal on Chicken Breasts)
Cheese $1.24
Green Onion $.80

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Quote of the Day:  There is a spirit in all music, the spirit has the ability to conjure up thoughts even pictures of something that happened or you wished would happen or you anticipate happening. Music has the ability to create ideas in you and me. It has the ability to encourage us to be creative.  Maya Angelou

I saw my aunt Sharon this summer.  We sat down at Mom & Dad's out of tune piano to pose for this picture.  Aunt Sharon inspired me to be a musician.

Music might inspire you to put on a funny hat and dance at the camp talent show.

You might be inspired to write your own song like my cousin Angie did.

You might learn how to toot your own horn.

Sometimes you need a little help reading the music...

While I'm giving piano lessons, I sometimes get ideas for stories.  When I look at my friend's art, I think of ways I want to teach music and drama.  As I write my play, I think of songs that will go with it.  Open yourself up to creative energy when you surround yourself with art and artists, listen to music, especially live music, like your sister singing, or your son picking out a tune on the piano by ear, or your friend playing around with guitar chords. 

Listen, feel, create, dream on!
Journaling Prompt:  Describe a work of art that you admire.  What song or type of music would capture the mood of that piece?

Chewy, Gooey, Sweet & Sticky S'more Cookie Bars . . .


Buzz Lightyear:  " . . . in just a few hours you'll be sitting around a campfire with Andy making nice hot shmoes." 
Woody:  "They're called s'mores, Buzz."     
  -- Toy Story

So, now that it's winding down, let's do a little recap of our summer, shall we? Have a seat and we'll begin.
Did you go to the beach? Yes? Okay, good, check that one off.
Did you watch fireworks for the Fourth of July? Great, check that one too.
Did you eat watermelon outside and spit out the seeds? Check.
Did you pick fresh fruit or veggies at a farm, or from a garden? Check.
Did you take a lot of nice walks? Check.
Did you read at least a couple frivolous and/or trashy novels? Check. Check. Check.
Did you take about a zillion photos of your family and/or kids frolicking in the sun? Check.
Did you assemble and  enjoy your fair share of nice hot shmoes this summer?  . . . What?! You didn't??

Well, don't despair--all is not lost. The fact is, you don't need a campfire or a flaming grill to achieve a reasonable facsimile of the s'mores experience, and you don't even need summertime, truth be told. You can get that ooey, gooey, sticky, chewy vibe any time of year with cookie bars like these. All the requisite ingredients are in there to help replicate the total s'mores taste experience--milk chocolate Hershey bars, graham cracker crumbs, and marshmallow creme.

Just close your eyes as you bite into one of these bars and you'll see what I mean. Wiggle your toes in the imaginary sand while you're munching and listen to the gentle waves lapping the pretend shore . . . just ignore those nonexistent kids who keep whining over there by the invisible picnic table. (Ahh, yes . . .  isn't creative visualization fun?) While it's true s'mores are a critical component of a well rounded summer, it's comforting to know that they can be enjoyed--albeit in a slightly altered incarnation--all year long.

About this recipe . . . 

Of course, if s'mores were never really your thing, you might want to fiddle around with this recipe and do some tweaking. I love s'mores, but I fiddled just a little bit anyway. My main tweak involved the addition of a small amount of coarsely chopped honey-roasted peanuts, and a reduction in the amount of marshmallow creme. But, tweaked or untweaked, these are pretty darn good. Were I to make them again, I think I might ponder using dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate to dial down the sweetness factor just a smidgen.

This quick recipe came from the latest issue (September 2010) of Disney Family Fun magazine. Though my kids are not so young anymore, whenever I happen to get my hands on a copy of this, I still flip through it prowling for ideas, and I always look for the recipes. I liked the looks of these bars right away. S'more cookie bars aren't an original concept by any means, but not all formulas are created equal and this was the first one I've seen that I was motivated to make.

I decided to double the recipe and, as I mentioned above, I added in chopped honey-roasted peanuts, sprinkling them over the chocolate layer (just a half cup). I also halved the amount of marshmallow creme indicated, but if you're a maniacal marshmallow lover, go to town and double what I've written in the recipe below; your bars will be insanely gooey, in a good way. I increased the amount of salt slightly (I used kosher salt). I used a 9" x 13" pan, which probably made the bars a little thicker than the original recipe. My batter was too soft to handle in the way that the original recipe indicated (it was a hot day and the butter I used was awfully soft), so I had to adjust accordingly. As usual, I reworded most of the directions.

All in all, these babies were a hit in my house. And, unlike genuine "nice hot shmoes," these can travel quite safely in a lunchbox. (As Buzz Lightyear would say, "To infinity, and beyond!")

S'more Cookie Bars

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 egg, large
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (I used plain honey grahams)
1 and 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
3/4 tsp. salt (I recommend kosher)
2 tsp. baking powder
6 - 1.55 oz. Hershey milk chocolate bars (this is six standard size bars)
1 (7 oz.) jar of marshmallow creme (I used Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme, what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" baking pan.

In a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour all of this into the butter mixture and beat until well mixed.

Spread two-thirds of the batter into the bottom of the pan. If the batter is quite soft, wet your hands with cold water, shake off the excess water, and pat the batter into place. Over this layer, break up the chocolate bars into small pieces and scatter them evenly. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the chocolate. Spread all of the marshmallow creme on top of this, again using wet hands to urge the creme into place as best you can. (Overall, this will be a messy procedure, but don't worry about it. It doesn't have to look neat.) Spoon dabs of the remaining batter over the top, and spread them out as best you can to cover as much of the marshmallow as possible. Don't worry about gaps.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and the sides of the bars start to pull away from the pan. Let the bars cool in the pan, on a rack, for at least 20 minutes before you attempt to cut into them.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Scout Camp

Quote of the Day:  Scout Oath (or Promise)

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

I went to scout camp this year with my twin sons.  It was my first time at scout camp.  The past couple years they've gone with their dad.  When they went with him, they slept in a tent and hauled their stuff a long ways.  I got to go the year that we stayed in the castle!

A courteous young man carried my bags.

Inside is a great hall, a large bathroom for the boys, a large baracks style room for the boys, a couple smaller rooms for the adults (the moms got the smaller rooms with just two sets of bunks and our own bathroom), and another big baracks style room in the dungeon for the dads.  Our den dad said, "That's a whole lotta snoring!"

We learned firearm safety.

Don't I look strong?

We learned to work as a team to build things.
This is a catapult.  And, yes, they got to try it when it was done!

We have a great den leader, Kyle.  His super organizational skills got us into the castle and helped us all have a terrific time at camp.
Thanks, Kyle!

Older Boy Scouts were the leaders.  The guy who's wrapped up like a mummy was in a motorcycle accident just a few days before our camp.  His assistent, in the purple costume, took over some of his duties, but he was with the boys most of the time.  They learned much from this young man who might not have been there but for quick thinking and a good helmet!  The boys were very gentle around him as he patiently explained to them how to do things.

After the bon fire and crazy skits, we walked back to the castle by the light of the full moon.

A couple of tired guys counting stars.

Scout camp is a place where you get lots of exercise walking from activity to campsite to the chow line.  It's a place to try new things and make new friends.  It's a time to see moms and dads stepping up and doing good things with and for their sons. Thanks for the memories, guys!

Journaling Prompt:  Write about a camp or camping experience  - a memory from your youth, or a time with children.

Yogurt Cheese

I have heard of people making cheese from yogurt but I never thought of trying it. The official name is Labneh and it is a traditional Lebanese soft cheese.  After making the mascarpone, go ahead say it to yourself I will wait...MASK-ARE-PONE-AY, I decided that I wanted to try other cheeses too.  Yogurt cheese is very much like cream cheese, but not really.  Cream cheese is made with cow's milk and rennet while yogurt cheese is made from, well, yogurt.  There is no cooking, heating or mixing involved.  Just a strainer, some cheese cloth and time. 

You see most dairy products are full of water.  When the water is removed cheese is very often the result.  So by allowing the water to drain off the yogurt the end result is a smooth, dense creamy cheese that is a bit tangier than the traditional cream cheese that most Americans are used to but can be used in the same way. 

If you want a traditional way to serve it, pat it into a round with a dip in the center.  Pour olive oil all over it with fresh mint and eat with pitas and olives.  Or add herbs, fruit etc. and eat it on a bagel, on bread in a wrap....the options are endless!

Yogurt Cheese (Lebneh)

24 oz. plain Yogurt-preferably all natural with no gelatin added
1 tsp salt
Cheese Cloth

Line a strainer with cheese cloth, about 4-5 layers depending on the weave, or you can use a linen kitchen towel.  Add the yogurt and bring the ends up securing them with a rubber band.  Place in the strainer over a bowl and leave for 12-24 hours depending on the consistency you want and how much water is in the yogurt. 
I had to put a weight on mine to get the excess water out.  Don't be jealous of my fancy equipment, if you don't have an old corning ware dish and a cantaloupe to weigh your cheese down, just use whatever you have a around to get that last bit of moisture out.

Remove from the cheese cloth, cover and refrigerate up to seven days.  Use like you would traditional cream cheese.
Total Cost $2.23 for about 15 ounces

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bowtie Pasta with Chicken in Cream Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes

I was able to restrain myself long enough to make a recipe with the wonderful roasted tomatoes that I posted a few days ago.  These little beauties add quite the punch of flavor and brightness to anything.  I love tomatoes in cream sauce, I love cream sauce with pasta, and of course they all go well with chicken so I threw this little dish together for dinner, spending more than I normally would but we all wanted something delicious and homey after eating restaraunt food all week. It was a perfect meal for all of us.
 Bowtie Pasta with Chicken in Cream Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes
Recipe Source: A Cook's Quest

12 ounces bow tie pasta
2 chicken breasts grilled
2 cups heavy cream
Roasted Tomatoes (about 1/2 cup chopped)
Parmesan Cheese--the real stuff (about 2 cups grated)
Parsley for garnish if desired

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta.  While the pasta is cooking chop the chicken that has already been cooked into bite sized pieces.  When the pasta is cooked to your liking drain it and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

In the same pot that you boiled the pasta, combine the cream and Parmesan cheese.  Bring the cream to a boil stirring until it starts to thicken.  Don't leave this unattended, it could burn which would be no good.  Add the pasta into the cream along with the chicken and parsley.  Stir to coat everything evenly, if needed add a bit of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

Total Cost: $8.86 (this can definitely be made for less when item are on sale but I didn't care this time)
Pasta $.50
Chicken $3.77
Cream $2.26 (not on sale)
Parmesan Cheese $2.33
Tomatoes Free

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Power of the Purse

Quote of the Day:  Know what you have and where it is. Laurie Fitterer, my financial advisor

I write for our local women's magazine, called Her Voice.  I love that title.  I found my voice by getting published in Her Voice.  In my most recent article, The Power of the Purse, I encourage women to fully understand their financial status.  If you'd like to read the article, click here.  It is on p. 32 & 33.  Click on the text to enlarge it.

I feel especially proud of this article because I used to be one of those women who gave away her power over money.  My husband earned the money, had control over the money, and worked at a bank.  In part, I believed he had better knowledge of where to invest it.  In part, he liked having the control.  When we got divorced, I had anxiety about figuring out what I had and where it was, and needing to do it under great emotional strain.  I went from knowing very little, to understanding my investments.

Laurie advises us to know who is on our professional team, attorney, accountant, banker, etc.  Don't wait until a crisis occurs to find out who they are and try to figure out what you have.  If you're single, find out the best way to use your money.  Develop a relationship with these professionals, and never believe that you need to talk yourself into trusting someone.  If you have a bad feeling about someone, find a different person to help you.  You always have options.

Money and finances are important for all adults to understand.  I don't think any of us got enough education on this as we were pushed out into the world.  Laurie said that most college students get bombarded with credit card offers and quickly get into trouble.  Be money smart, and never give away all the power over your purse.

Journaling Prompt:  Write about money.

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones . . .

I can hardly believe that the new school year begins in just over two weeks. My younger son, the 14 year old, prefers that I refrain from even bringing up this topic. Whenever I happen to do so, he glares at me as if I've just suggested it might be fun to tour a maximum security prison.

He's going to be in the 9th grade, just entering high school, and the scuttlebutt he's heard regarding the increased homework load has him a little less than enthusiastic about the whole scenario. I suppose it's fear of the unknown that's driving his mood, and you know what they say  about that--our imagined fears are almost always far, far worse than any reality.  Luckily, he's a highly capable, intelligent kid and I know he'll be just fine but, in light of his frame of mind, I've decided to try and lay off the school-related comments for now. We'll let the illusion of endless summer continue on the home-front for a few more days. I figure it can't hurt.

So, in that spirit, and probably up until summer's officially packed it in, I'm going to keep on baking summery foods, like today's blueberry buttermilk scones. These are tender and mellow, just like a lazy summer afternoon.

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 and 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (if using kosher salt, add in a pinch extra)
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
1 egg, large
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen Maine blueberries; they're small and sweet)

3 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter, for brushing on the scones
3 Tbsp. coarse/sanding sugar, for sprinkling

In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, whipping cream, and lemon juice.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the large bowl of a food processor, blend the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda by pulsing quickly a few times. Add in the butter chunks, and pulse to form a coarse textured mixture. (Or, if you prefer not to use a food processor, do these two steps by hand, cutting in the butter with a pastry blender.) Dump all of this into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Into the well add the egg, the extracts, and the buttermilk mixture. Stir to make a soft dough. Fold in the blueberries and stir just to combine.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough gently a few times, incorporating more flour as needed until the dough is firm and no longer sticky.

Pat the dough out into a circle that's 1" thick all over. Using a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 to 12 wedges, like a pie. Place the pieces on the parchment covered baking sheet. Brush melted butter over the top of each piece and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Definitely best the first day, when they're very fresh. 

Recipe full disclosure! This recipe was adapted from one in Marcy Goldman's book, A Passion for Baking (2007, Oxmoor House). Her original recipe is for a blackberry-blueberry scone made largely with heavy cream, and topped with a honey and butter glaze. I changed the formula by using only blueberries, by reducing the amount of heavy cream and adding in buttermilk instead, by adjusting the extracts used, and by omitting the honey-butter glaze and opting for melted butter and coarse sugar on the top of the scones.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)

Homestyle Ranch Dressing Mix

Since I was a young girl I have always loved salad.  I grew up on the standard iceberg dinner salad and never experienced a different type of green until I was an adult.  Nowadays my husband and I much prefer a mix of baby greens with any variety of toppings which include fruit, nuts, cheeses and grilled meat. But, there is still an occasion that I go back to my roots and want just a simple green salad made of iceberg lettuce and carrots.  To top the salad off I want ranch dressing, the good kind from a "valley" that makes every vegetable in its presence bow down for the ceremonious dipping before consumption.  It is creamy and delicious and exactly what I would describe as food from my childhood, only now I know how expensive it is and how not so good it really is for you.

Quite by accident I stumbled onto this recipe and was intrigued by how simple it was.  There was nothing in it that I couldn't pronounce and even better nothing that I wouldn't normally have in my kitchen.  I quickly mixed up a batch and then proceeded to mix up the dressing.  It is full of flavor from the onion and garlic, with a nice tang from the buttermilk and a fresh herbyness (sorry that's my word) from the parsley.  I plan on using it in many forms, all of which I will share with you, but for now it is salad dressing on my crisp cool iceberg lettuce.  Enjoy!
Ranch Dressing Mix
Recipe Source: Modified slightly from Heavenly Homemakers

**Cook's note-this recipe is easily modified!  I love to add salsa to it for taco salads and roasted garlic for a delicious dip**

**edited 12/29/11--I have found that the flavor of the dressing is best with 1/2 cup of mayo and 1/2 of sour cream and 1 cup of buttermilk.  I have changed the directions below to include this information**

4 Tablespoons dried minced onions
8 teaspoon parsley flakes
3 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika

Mix together and store in an air tight container. I used a baggie, but next time will use a large mason jar.  You can also place all the ingredients into a food processor to make a finer powder if you wish.  Mine isn't completely smooth because of the onion but we don't mind it like that.
For dressing: Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup of mayo, 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1 cup of buttermilk (the second is my favorite).

For dip: Mix 2 Tablespoons dry mix with 2 cups sour cream
Mix up a few hours before serving, so the flavors all blend nicely.

Total Cost: $.89 (approximately $.19 per batch using 2 tablespoons of mix)
onions $.65
parsley $.21
salt $.01
garlic powder $.02

**Dressing Total Cost: $1.52 
2 T Ranch Mix $.19
Mayo $.45
Buttermilk $.88

**I know that some of you  (my couponing/thrifty friends) will ask why I bother when I can just get the dressings when they are free.  Well my family just really doesn't care for the brands that normally go on sale.We are opting instead for this version knowing that we will use it not look at it on a shelf in the pantry.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Finals are over, and after a week of vacation I am back in the kitchen.  I have reacquainted myself with my old friends, kitchen aide, oven, utensils (specifically whisk and bowl scrapers) and of course the pots and pans.  I am ready to make all the recipes I have been looking at for the past three months, but just couldn't make time for. 

These beautiful veggies came from our little garden so the first recipe I am making are these oven roasted tomatoes from one of my favorite sites, Our Best Bites
 These girls know how to make real food, in real kitchens for regular on the go families.  When I first started blogging I posted about making my own dried tomatoes as a way to save money.  I LOVE sun dried tomatoes but lets face it, they can be kind of spendy.  Then a few months ago I stumbled on to this recipe and let me tell you I don't know if I will return to my dehydrator or not. 

I'm not a raw tomato eater, it's one of those early childhood things that just won't go away. I can eat a sun dried tomato like it's a piece of candy but if you gave me a simple sliced tomato I will turn up my nose.  So needless to say, I have to find "something" to do with all the beautiful little red gems that are growing in my back yard. This recipe is just the thing.  After roasting slowly in the oven for 2-3 hours the tomatoes are caramelized, and sweet lending a whole new level of flavor to anything you add them to.  Add them to any Italian dish, blend them into a puree for the base of a pasta sauce, make a bread topping with roasted garlic, olive oil and fresh get the idea. 

P.S. I apologize for the photo quality, I was in a hurry trying to pack for our trip when I took them.  I plan to update them as soon as my next batch is done.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Recipe Source: Our Best Bites

A bunch of tomatoes, any variety
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
a bunch of garlic cloves

Wash and cut your tomatoes.  I halved the smaller ones (I'm using Romas) and the larger ones I quartered.  Toss with a little bit of olive oil in a bowl.  Spread out on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and finely chopped garlic. Now I like my garlic in slivers and use this handy little garlic slicer from a certain company that does home parties for kitchen/cooking supplies but, none of this is exact, do what looks and tastes good to you and your style of cooking.

Place in an oven that has been preheated to 325 F.  Bake 2-3 hours.  The length of time will vary depending on the type of tomato you are using.  When they tomatoes are soft, slightly brown on the edges and making your house smell like an Italian Grandmother's they are done.  Allow them cool and then use right away or freeze for later use.