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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Honey Nut Scones

Finally! I made a proper batch of scones. After all of these times making scones, I've never actually had them be as flaky and delish as these ones turned out to be. They were so buttery and crumbly. Thank you, Dorie Greenspan! They have a hint of honey and have such a wholesome taste. As in all baked goods, the key is to not overmix the dough. I think I've finally mastered this art and the finished product is definitely thanking me for it.

I served these with some homemade cherry jam and homemade all-berry jam. (Recipe to follow.) Honestly, the best thing about Seattle right now is living in cherry town in cherry season. I'm going to turn into a cherry if I don't stop stuffing myself full of them! It's ridiculous how many cherries I eat on a daily basis. But I can't quit buying them at $1.99 a pound! When we left Minnesota, they were $11.99 a pound! The scones are so buttery that they don't need any extra butter. But Ron drizzled some extra honey on them for a bit of a sweet punch. They would taste amazing with anything though: jam, marmalade, fresh pumpkin butter... Next time you want a delicious breakfast or afternoon snack, whip these babies up and enjoy!
Honey-Nut Scones
from Dorie Greenspan: Baking: From My Home to Yours
Yield: 12 scones
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup cold whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the egg, honey and milk together.
  3. Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and cover the butter with the flour. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork, just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, comes together. Don't overdo it! Stir in the chopped nuts.
  5. Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, 8-10 times. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and divide into two halves. Pat each half into a rough circle that is about 5 inches in diameter. Cut into 6 wedges and place on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake the scones for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are deeply golden and firmish to the touch. Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Couscous Salad with Cinnamon Vinaigrette

I've been eating soup for lunch almost every day. Soup is my go to dish of choice when the weather is balmy and cool. And well, the weather is balmy and cool here. The other day, I woke up and had a cup of coffee with sliding glass door open and the fire going, draped in a blanket. (Yes, I could've kept the door shut but I wanted fresh air.) It's kind of funny: I read an article about how Seattle has only had 78 minutes of summer so far. Fortunately, Ron and I were here for all 78 minutes, but it's certainly taking time to get acclimated. I can't go for a walk without a sweatshirt! I'm not used to that during mid-July.
But here's the thing. I'd rather be wearing sweatshirts than sweating my a** off anywhere else. I feel terrible for the rest of the country. The other day I clicked on the Minneapolis weather report to see it read, "96 degrees. Feels like 120 degrees." WHAT? Ron's dad sent me an email from PA with the following, "It is absolutely miserable here. I can't remember the last time feeling like this. You go outside and take a breath and it's like you were sucking air on your exhaust pipe. It is starting to get on my nerves." Ron's dad is the most jovial individual I know. So if the heat is getting under his skin, I can't imagine what I'd be like. Honestly, if I was in Minnesota right now, I'd be livid. LIVID. I don't love hot weather. In fact, it makes me quite angry. The heat makes people do crazy things and I'm no exception. I'd be swearing at Mother Nature on my bike rides, if I could go out. I'd be swearing at Mother Nature on a run, if I could go out. And the cats would be panting and looking at me hopelessly. So, I'll be quiet and not complain about the weather we are having in this part of the country, because I'm well aware of the alternative. And I'm happy to be away from it.

The sun came out the other day and I knew I had to make something else. I hadn't made a grain salad in some time so I decided that the sunshine meant it was fate. I had bookmarked this recipe a few weeks ago and was intrigued by the cinnamon vinaigrette. So I decided to whip up the dish to see what it was all about. The recipe makes a ton of couscous, so cut it in half if you're only serving two people or using it as a side. But overall it was very good. The vinaigrette added such a unique flavor to the traditional texture of couscous. The mint and green onions added the necessary "earthy" component to couscous. And the raisins added a much needed tang. I would definitely make this was dried cranberries, or dried apricots, next time around. As per usual, I added nuts. I love couscous, but I need crunch. I guess I could've subbed in some chopped celery or sugar snap peas for crunch, but roasted peanuts were appealing so in they went. I rather enjoyed this couscous salad. And I'll be having lunch for quite a few days, so it's a good thing it was tasty.
Couscous Salad with Cinnamon Vinaigrette
from Cooking Books, from the Bon Appetit Cookbook
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/3 cups vegetable broth
  • 10 ounces couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, such as raisins
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts chopped (about 5-6 onions)
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • large handful fresh mint, chopped
  1. In a small heavy saucepan, heat the canola oil, the cinnamon, and the cumin until it just boils. Be careful not to burn the spices. Remove from the heat as soon as it bubbles and turns fragrant. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the couscous and the dried fruit. Cover, turn the heat off, and allow the couscous to absorb the liquid, about 10 minutes. Put the couscous in a large bowl and run a fork through it to break up the grains. Set aside to cool and prep the rest of the recipe.
  3. Whisk the vinegar and the shallot into the cooled oil mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the couscous. Fold in the onions, beans, and the mint. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

So, we've been in Seattle for 19 days now. (Well, 17 days actually. We took a weekend to head up to Whistler, British Columbia.) So far, the time is going. . . okay. I can't be ecstatic about the "adventure" so far because I'm still muddling around  feeling completely and utterly displaced. It's almost like I keep wondering when we are going to return to Minnesota and be done with this vacation. For some reason, I had this false sense of security when we planned the move; almost like I was going to settle in instantly as soon as we arrived. I'm certainly not a nomad by any means, but I have lived in so many different places and apartments/houses (16 different houses, 4 different states, 7 different cities or towns) in my 28 years of life that I just assumed that I would saunter right in to warmth. But this is false.
I vaguely remembered - and my mom reminded me of - how I felt when we moved in Minnesota. During first semester, I used to park outside William Mitchell, on Summit Avenue, and just cry in my car! I had no idea if I'd made a smart decision and I barely ever saw Ron. Law school was hard and confusing. We'd both left our childhoods behind with our family and friends for this journey and school scared the pants off of me. I remember driving away from Pittsburgh with the city skyline in my rearview mirror. I had no idea what was in store and on those nights when I would leave Mitchell feeling so defeated, I was certain that I had made the worst decision ever.

But, it turned out I didn't. I grew to love Minnesota. I grew to love Mitchell. I fell into a role in the admissions office with coworkers who I absolutely love. My passion for recreation soared and biking, not running, became my favorite thing to do. I could hope on my bike and explore the area for miles and never have to share the road with a car! I taught myself how to cook, and bake, and frequented farmer's markets for the best ingredients. Our desire to eat better turned us into mini-foodies and we spent a lot of time enjoying some of the best dining in the city. And I can't discard the opportunities that Minnesota presented to us. I was an underdog entering Mitchell, but I did well. I surprised myself. And I grew confident. And law school did to me what I had been desperately craving in my life. And Ron? Let's just say that Ron is turning into the next Bill Gates.

So, I need to keep these things in mind as I sit around miserable and mopey. Sure, it's a bit cloudy and cold out right now and I miss Minnesota sun. But I need to remember that the only place as humid as Minnesota is right now is the Amazon rain forest and I'd be complaining my butt off if I was there. Sure, the hills are pretty effing ginormous around here. But my backside doesn't mind; no squats or lunges could equal the workout I've been getting! And sure, I still have no idea what's going on with school or my graduation, but at least I know it's going to happen. Three years ago, when I was sitting in my car crying on Summit Avenue, I was convinced I was going to fail.

Change is good. It's good for progress and growth. But I am glad to have some consistencies to keep me sane. And one of those consistencies is my love for food. We've been doing a ton of shopping at farmer's markets, but I finally found my go-to grocery store. For the first few days, I spent a lot of time just walking around the aisles. I think it's because I felt a sense of comfort to be back in an area I'm familiar. The other day, I was picking up ingredients for these amazing black bean burgers and I kept entering the same aisle as a worker who was taking inventory. He asked, multiple times, if I needed help finding anything. At first I said no thank you. But after the 6th aisle and 6th question, I kindly replied, "I'm just trying to get inspired so I tend to stare at the products. I enjoy spending time in grocery stores. You'll probably see me in here a lot." He smiled and replied, "We like customers like you. Welcome to our kitchen." It made me happy.

I've posted a recipe for black bean burgers on my blog before. But these ones are 100 times better. Ron went out with a buddy the other night and ate dinner out. So, I had free reign to go balls out with vegetables and whatever else I wanted to do! (Ron never restricts me in my eating, but he does tend to make funny faces when I present him with a solely vegetarian or vegan dish.) I settled on these healthy and flavorful black bean burgers because I wanted a quick and lite dinner. These burgers are so good and so easy to mix up. I didn't pan-fry them like the original recipe suggested, but I did bake them in the oven for 20 minutes. I also used an egg instead of the vegan substitute (1 T ground flax + 3 T water) but would easily try out the flax if it was in the pantry. I mixed up a quick broccoli salad to go along the side but any vegetable or starch accompaniment would do. Enjoy!
Black Bean Burgers
from Eat, Live, Run
Yield: 8 burgers
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (or less)
  • 1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
  • avocado, ketchup, mustard, etc. for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees if deciding to use oven for burgers. See alternative directions in #5.
  2. Seed and roughly chop jalapeno. Add it and the garlic cloves to a food processor and mince finely.
  3. Add one can of beans to the jalapeno/garlic mixture and pulse to combine. Add cumin and salt and pulse until mixture resembles chunky black bean dip.
  4. Transfer the mixture in the food processor to a large bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, tomato sauce, egg and corn. Stir well until everything is combined. Add remaining black beans.
  5. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Form black bean mixture into patties and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, carefully turning once. (Alternatively, you can add olive oil to a skillet and fry burgers over medium high heat for about 4 minutes per side.)
  6. Serve burgers with desired toppings of choice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Butterbeer Cupcakes

Ron and I have arrived in Seattle, Washington. After what seemed like 7 months of pure hell, for various reasons, we are "settled" in our new surroundings. We're slowly acclimating to our new house and state. I love the beauty and diversity that is Seattle. It will be exciting to explore its nature and culture. I'm currently not loving its topography. Seattle appears to be built on a mountain. Every workout has kicked my butt! (No pun intended.) I keep rounding these bends and my two wheels or legs are faced with a mega-climb. I'm also getting mixed up with the time difference. And I need to remember that 70 degree summers are a lot different than 100 degree summers, especially by water. Shorts and tank tops just don't seem to cut it on a walk around town in Seattle.
I thought about starting a blog to document our experiences in Seattle but quickly nixed the idea. Blogging is hard. There is a nagging pressure that occurs when I don't blog for a few days. The disappointment of losing so many blog postings frustrated me so badly that I was having a difficult time starting back up again. But I decided to return, if only for just a once or twice a week posting. And with my return posting, I've decided to celebrate the event of the year: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two. The end is here; the end of the Harry Potter series. Granted, there are still things to look forward to: rereading the series, visiting the Wizarding World, visiting Leavesden Studios, watching the movies, and of course, Pottermore! But it's still sad. Quite depressing actually. I spent the entire duration of the live London premiere in tears. I still don't know if I'm happy, relieved, angry, or sad. I can't imagine how Jo felt. Or the editors. Or the actors. Or directors. Or producers. Or crew. Or anyone involved!

I was fortunate enough to once again win tickets to the advanced screening of the Harry Potter movie and was able to view the movie 4 days before everyone else. We got in line with about 500 other people eager to view the screening and still landed great seats! We watched it last night, so Harry has ended for me. I won't disclose any details about the film, but it was incredible. It was everything I imagined it would be - very intense - and by far the best film of the series. I sobbed uncontrollably for a large chunk of the film. Jo Rowling's world has been a part of my world for a very long time now. It's hard to say goodbye to the big screen, but as Jo said at the premiere: Whether you return by page or big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

These cupcakes were a lovely way to celebrate the end of Harry Potter. I saw them posted several months ago when the first part of DH was released and I've been eager to make them. They are very, very good. There are a few steps involved but they come together pretty easily. The ganache can be pretty messy so make it thicker if you prefer. Harry Potter fan or not, these cupcakes are divine and will be enjoyed.
Butterbeer Cupcakes
from Amy Bites
Yield: 18 cupcakes
For the Cupcakes
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp butter flavoring
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup cream soda (regular, not diet)
For the Ganache
  • 1 11-oz. package butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
For the Buttercream Frosting
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp butter flavoring
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 16-oz package powdered sugar
  • splash of milk or cream, as needed
For the Cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. Combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugars and beat until well-combined.
  4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then beat in vanilla and butter flavoring.
  5. Alternate adding buttermilk, cream soda, and dry ingredients in batches until all are well incorporated. 
  6. Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full, then bake for 15-17 minutes until tops spring back and cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks.
For the Ganache
  1. In a double boiler, combine butterscotch chips and heavy cream; stir until completely combined and smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Fill a squeeze bottle with ganache and insert into the center of each cupcakes, squeezing until filling begins to overflow.
For the Buttercream Frosting
  1. Cream butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt and mix until well combined. 
  2. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until reaching desired consistency. Add milk or cream by the Tbsp as needed.
  3. Frost cupcakes and top with a drizzle of butterscotch ganache.