Scones: Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Orange 

Can we talk about scones for a minute? Actually, for many minutes. 

They are so good, right? Are they part of a good-for-you-balanced breakfast? Not a chance. But, are they delicious and the perfect treat with coffee at breakfast or brunch? Absolutely. 

Scones are sort of a cake-like biscuit, with baking powder as the leavening agent. They are light and airy and only slightly sweet. 

Scones originate from the UK and were originally large and flat, like a plate and baked on a griddle. Later, when baking powder became more available to everyone, scones were baked in the oven and the baking powder added to make them well-leavened. This is how we know them today.

Scones are usually lightly sweetened, but they can be found in savory varieties as well, incorporating cheese, onion, bacon, and even potatoes, which are commonly a fried type of scone and served as part of a full Scottish breakfast. 

You can add lots of different things to scones, like fruits and nuts. My favorite type of scone is cranberry-orange. When I was a barista many years ago, the coffeehouse I worked for had some really delicious cranberry-orange scones.

Up until now, I’d never made scones. I got a scone pan as a wedding present 7 years ago and I never used it. And after making these, I’ll probably still never use it. You don’t need one. Anyway, it’d been awhile since I brought in some treats to my office, so I thought I’d whip up some scones since I wanted to try them anyway. 

You guys, they are really easy! I did mess up a little bit in that I put too much liquid to my dry ingredients, but you live, you learn, right? I just added some more flour and it was fine.

This recipe is just a basic scone recipe that you can add to whatever you want. I made chocolate chip and, of course, cranberry-orange. 

You just need: 

3 cups all-purpous flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder

3/4 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 cup milk (or half and half)

whatever mix-ins you want

In a large bowl, mix together your flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. 

img_8669
Using a pastry cutter (or 2 knives if you don’t have one, but I suggest getting one to make it easier), cut in the butter. I ended up taking all this butter out and making smaller pieces to make it easier to cut in. Make sure your butter is cold. Don’t freak out at how much butter is in this picture; I doubled my recipe, so there isn’t really THIS much butter in one recipe!

  

  

In a separate bowl, mix together your egg and milk. Slowly add in a little at a time to your dry ingredients until the flour is moistened and the dough forms. This is where I made my biggest mistake. I added in all the wet ingredients at once and my dough was so wet! I had to add more flour to even it out. It ended up fine, but just remember to add little bits at a time. You may not even use all the milk and egg.
  

The basic dough is done. Now you can add whatever you want. For the chocolate chip scones, I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. For the Orange Cranberry, I added the zest of an orange, 1 tablespoon orange juice, and 1/2 cup-ish of dried cranberries. You can add more juice if you want a more robust orange flavor, but keep in mind you may have to compensate the extra liquid with a little bit more flour. 

  

img_8678

I kneeded the dough and then turned it out on a lightly floured board. Using your hands, shape the dough into a round disk about 1/2 inch thick. Caution: This will make really big scones. If you want them to be smaller, just divide the dough and make two disks.
  

Now cut the circle into 8 triangles, like a pizza and put on a parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

  
    
  
 

These turned out so light and delicious! Next time, I will make them a bit smaller because they were way too big, but this is a winner recipe!  

Mexican Lasagna 

A while back, I posted a recipe for Ropas Viejas which came from one of my favorite actresses Eva Longoria’s cookbook Eva’s Kitchen. (PS: Eva, I know you are busy being amazing, but when are you going to crank out another cookbook??) 

I actually met Eva once back in 2011 when she first published this book. She was doing a book signing at Willams-Sonoma, so my son, who was only 1 at the time, and I went to the mall to meet her. 

IMG_1735
She is teeny tiny. Like, pocket size. But she is just as beautiful as you would imagine she would be and she was very sweet. The more I read interviews with her, the more I like her. 

Over the past 5 years that I’ve had this book, I’ve made many of the recipes in it. The Mexican Lasagna is probably my husband’s favorite of the bunch. He requests it often and since it is so delicious, I have no problem adding it to my menu plan. 

There are many great things about this recipe: 1. it freezes really well, so make two and freeze one; 2. it passes the leftovers test; 3. it is completely adjustable to your preferences. Sometimes when I make it, I follow the recipe to the “T”. Other times, I wing it and change things up a bit. You can change the meat, you can change the cheeses, you can change the veggies. Do it how you want to and it will most likely be just as delicious as Eva intended. I would suggest doing it the way the book says first and then make your adjustments. 

Here’s my simplified take on Eva Longoria’s Mexican Lasagna: 

2 pounds ground beef (well, 2 packages. You know they aren’t always exactly 1 pound. I just got 2 packages so it’s probably somewhere between 1.5 & 2 pounds)

1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own: 2t garlic salt, 3t cumin,1.5T chile powder, 1.5t onion powder)

1/4 cup water

4oz cream cheese

1 can low-fat refried beans (or you can make a batch of my healthier slow-cooker beans)

1 jar of salsa (whatever you like, just not pico de gallo or similar style. It should be more of a picante style salsa)

2 cups of cheddar cheese (which is really an arbitrary number. Use a lot, use a little. I usually err on the side of more cheese)

2 tortillas

In a skillet, brown your beef. Add your taco seasoning and stir to combine. Add your water and bring to a boil, then to a simmer until the water evaporates. Add the cream cheese and stir until the cream cheese is melted into the beef and all combined. Adding the cream cheese just really takes this filling over the top. I sort of “stole” the idea from these Mexican Stuffed Shells that are another family favorite over here. The cream cheese makes this meat mixture dreamy.

img_7985
Now you can assemble:

Spray a round baking dish or pan with cooking spray. Start the first layer with one tortilla. Spread with a layer of the beans, then a layer of the meat mixture, then top with salsa and cheese. Top that with a second tortilla and repeat the layers ending with cheese. 

You could probably do less fillings per layer and do more layers, but I liked it this way. img_7986img_7987

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until all the cheese is melted and gooey.

  
  

This is a very easy dish, perfect for busy weeknights. You can make it ahead of time and even freeze it.

 

Minion Mania!

This past Wednesday, my first born turned 6. Six years old. It’s still so weird to say: I have a 6 year old.  I know it’s totally cliche and every says it, but it is so true that time just flies by so fast. It’s gone even faster since we had our second one 2-1/2 years ago.

I’m not going to lie: I’m having a bit of trouble letting him get older. I know it is inevitable, but he’s my baby. He’ll always be my baby. I love so much the little kid he’s becoming, but at the same time, I miss the little boy he used to be. But ah, such is life with children. They eventually grow up and you can only hope you’ve done a good enough job that they feel confident to spread their wings, but still know they can always come back to their roots.

Something I’ve always loved doing for my kids’ birthdays is making their yummy treats. For JJ’s 6th birthday, he decided on a Minions theme. I would personally like to thank whoever created the Minions because their design makes it very easy to create minions out of lots of different foods!

We started with cupcakes:

Get some Twinkies (probably the only time I will ever buy Twinkies. I’m not snobby about junk food, I’m just more of a Ding Dong girl, myself.)

Cut them in half.

Using black decorating icing and a basic round tip (can be found at any grocery or craft store) and candy eyes (also can be found at any grocery or craft store) make the little minion faces.
  

Make basic cupcakes using your favorite recipe or box mix. Frost with blue frosting and place the twinkie minions on top. Let them set in the icing. DONE!

Next, is the cake.

Make two 13×9 sheet cakes, again using your favorite recipe or box mix. Let the cakes cool and flip one layer upside on the serving tray. Spread a thin layer of frosting, then top with the second cake. See that little crack? Don’t worry about it, it will get covered up and you’ll never know it was there. Now you can cut around it a little bit to shape it how you want.

Next, using an off-set spatula, which I highly recommend getting because it really does make a huge difference when frosting cakes, apply the frosting where you want it to go: blue on the bottom for his pants, yellow on top for his body, with a large yellow circle in the middle for his eye. Seriously, this was all very easy to separate out because of the off-set spatula.

Finally, add the details. I just used the same black decorating icing I used on the Twinkies. and… DONE!

The last treat I made was candy coated Milanos. Get Milano cookies (whatever flavor you want. I know they can be expensive, but I got a 40 pack at Costco for $8.99, so totally a good deal!)

Get these colored candy melts at the store (grocery or craft), and melt them in a bowl over simmering water.  You can do this in the microwave too, but I like the double boiler method because it keeps the candy warm and melted for the whole process.

Dip the cookies in the candy.  For the bottom, I just dipped, for the yellow top, I used a spoon to help keep the colors in their right spots.
  

Finally, decorate the faces the same way you did the Twinkies above. And, again… DONE!
  

This may seem like a lot, but each treat was actually very easy. I did all three in one day, stopping for a workout with the hubby, lunch with the hubby, and stopping to pick up the kids from school.

Hopefully the kids enjoy them as much as I did making them!

Happy birthday, to my sweet, crazy, silly, wonderful son. You stole my heart 6 years ago and you can keep it. xoxo

Jerk Chicken (Jamaica)

If you remember, when I initially started this blog, it was for the purpose to explore food cultures from around the world. I think the culture and universality of food is so fascinating! Well, as I would have expected, my “Global Cuisine” project has taken a bit of a back seat to some of my other kitchen creations. That’s OK though. I’m still having so much fun with this blog, that the “Global” posts will just come as I get to them. This is the 19th dish in the Global project (the intial was 80. Like “Around the world in 80 days”) and I have another one in my drafts folder, so that means I’m a quarter of the way through, right?!

Anyway, we eat a lot of chicken in our house and my husband really likes spicy food, so I figured this would be a great option for us. Here is a little bit of info about Jerk: 

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica where meat, usually chicken or pork, is rubbed or marinated with a hot spice mixture called jerk spice. This is usually a combo of all-spice, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and salt. There is a slight sweetness to the mix from the sugar and cinnamon, but don’t let that fool you, it is definitely spicy! 

One common theory of how Jerk began goes back to the 1600’s African slaves. When the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish colonists fled, leaving behind their African slaves. The Africans did not want to be re-enslaved by the British, so the ran to the mountains and hid out with the indigenous people of the island. So, while the jerk sauce/seasoning does have African roots, because of their new living situation, the recipe had to be manipulated a bit based on the ingredients available to them. The scotch bonnet pepper, for example, was one of the new additions.

The jerk cooking method, which comes from the term jerking which means poking holes in the meat so it absorbs the rub or marinade, could be considered a type of bbq. The meat is generally cooked over a flame or on a grill. It is often served with bread or fried dumplings, but can also be served with vegetables and fried plantains (which I wish I had done because those are really so, so good!). 

Now, I took the lazy-girl way out of this dish. McCormick makes a Caribbean Jerk Spice, already mixed up for you. I bought it, put it on some chicken and let it marinade for a couple hours. Then, since it was raining, took out my Griddler and grilled them up inside.

Looking back on it, it is a bit funny that I bought the Jerk Spice because I have all the ingredients on hand that I would need to make my own jerk spice. Oh well. It was still delicious and very spicy.

  

I grilled up some pineapple as well, which made a deliciously sweet accompaniment to the spicy chicken. Next time I will do the plantains, because just thinking about them makes me want to make some again.
    
 

I’ve never had jerk seasoning before but I really did like it. There is a new restaurant in my town that serves authentic Jamaican food and now I really want to try it. Funny story, though: It is called The Jerk Spot and every time I drive past it, all I can think of is this:  

Jalapeno Popper Crescent Rolls

Once upon a time, there was a girl (me) who really couldn’t care less about football. It was fun to go the games on Friday nights in high school, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t watching the game. Well, maybe the tight ends… (Get it? See what I did there?) I have also been to a number of Super Bowl parties, but it was all about the food, the commercials, and the halftime show. And maybe those tight ends again.

Then I met the man who would become my husband. He was a big football fan, specifically the San Francisco 49ers. Being the good girlfriend I was, I learned a thing or two about the sport. It was likely just that: 1 or 2 things. Not necessarily important things either.

Then, in 2013, everything changed: I found myself with a team in my husband’s fantasy football league. How did I, someone who knows so very little about the sport, end up involved in this gridiron gang? I volunteered. The league was short two teams so I said I’d take one spot. You’re welcome, League.  I figured, what the heck, why not? I’ll draft some players (dibs on Peyton Manning!!) and just see where the season takes me. Now I’m the cool wife, right?

What I didn’t realize was how involved the whole thing would be! I only had a week from the time I joined to draft day, and there is prep time. Serious prep time.  My husband bought me a fantasy football magazine. Yes, there are whole magazines devoted to stats and analysis and mock drafts and lots and lots of contradictory opinions. He also gave me a list of all the players, ranked in order with potential scores and snippets of information about each one. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
In the days leading up to the draft, my dear husband tried to give me advice. I think it sunk in mostly, but I’m sure the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face never fully disappeared. I’m the sort of football fan that likes players, not necessarily teams (except the 49ers, which is pretty much a requirement to live in our house) so my husband had to make sure I knew not to draft players just because I like them. Cool dude does not always equal a good player.  I made my list of players I wanted and it looked something like this: Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, Arian Foster.  If you aren’t familiar with the game, these guys are all like, the number 1 picks. The hubby looked at, tried to hold back his laugh and politely said, “You aren’t going to get all those players.”  I would like to point out now, after the fact, that that year, I did end up getting both Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson.  I also finished that first season in 3rd place. I got first place the next year! I don’t want to talk about last year…
After that point, I was all in. I wasn’t about to just dip my toe in the Gatorade. No, sir. I dove right in. And inevitably, the football bug got me. I still don’t know nearly as much as my husband, but I must say, I hardly recognize myself sometimes when I talk about things like “waiver wire” and “down by contact” knowing the difference between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense.
92f89a9c6b753ad20cbf81df91e4b147

This is my life now.

So, now you know a bit of my football story. I never really got it before, but I love it now. So, on that note, let’s get to something I bringing to my brother-in-law’s Super Bowl party, because the food is still a huge part of the game!I made something with jalapenos earlier in the week and since I bought them at Trader Joe’s, I had to get a package of them since they don’t sell them individually. I figured out the perfect way to use them. These jalapeno popper-inspired crescent rolls:

3 medium sized jalapenos
2 strips of bacon
1 8oz tub or block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese2 tubes of crescent rolls

Over the flame on your stove, carefully char up the outsides of your jalapenos. Then add them to a ziplock bag and seal it, letting them steam for a few minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, take them out and rub the skins off.

img_8440img_8441img_8442
Open up the peppers and clear out the seeds. Dice the jalapenos up very small.

Chop up the bacon and crisp it up in a small skillet.

img_8443
In a bowl, add the jalapenos, bacon, cheese, and cream cheese. Mix until well combined.

img_8446
Roll out the crescent rolls and add a heaping spoonful of the mixture to the dough.  This is a tough balancing act, because you want enough filling to make them good, but you also want to make sure you don’t fill them too much or the filling will ooze out when you bake them.

img_8448

Roll up the rolls and place them on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray (or lined with parchement, I was out of parchment).img_8449

Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.

img_8454img_8455-1
Enjoy them rooting for your favorite team!

PS For the record, I think Cam Newton and the Panthers are going to pull this on off (I really like them all as a team), but I think it would be great to see Peyton Manning end his career with a Super Bowl win. Looks like I’ll be happy with either team winning which makes for a much less stressful watching experience! Here’s to a good game, gentlemen!

Perfect Chocolate Brownies 

I posted this recipe back in September and I was so happy with how they turned out. If you remember, it was my first baking recipe that I created on my own. (Click on the link at the end of the post to see the original recipe)

I wanted to make them again for today’s Super Bowl party, but I made a few tweaks and I think they turned out even better!

1. I added an extra 1/4 cup of flour
2. I added 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips
3. Instead of swirling the Nutella in the batter, I baked the brownies and spread the Nutella on top like a frosting. While the brownies are still hot, drop the Nutella on brownies and let it melt a little bit, then just spread it out. I used about 1/2 a jar of Nutella.


  
 These turned out so good! I hope the plate lasts until I get to the party….

Food on the Table

I have been having so much fun making up recipes for this blog! It feel creative and I love the idea of a recipe being my own. I’ve found that creating cooking recipes isn’t as difficult because most dishes are very forgiving as long as you know what flavors go well together and what flavors will or will not overpower the others.
Baking is a totally different story. Baking is very precise. Baking requires an exact amount of each ingredient in order for the whole thing to turn out right. I’ve always followed baking recipes to the letter (of course some additions like nuts to cookies and brownies are fine).
Recently, I’ve been trying to teach myself Ratio Baking which is pretty much just how it sounds. There are basic ratios of fat to flour to liquid for most baking recipes. For example, the ratio for a basic muffin batter…

View original post 602 more words

No Recipe Donuts

I’ve seen this non-recipe for donuts going around for awhile now and I’ve always been curious.  I love donuts, so I was a bit skeptical about how they would turn. I mean, there is no way using biscuit dough would be as delicious as a donut.

Oh, I was so wrong, and I wish I had made this sooner so they could have been a part of my life for longer.

They are so super easy and, except for the frying in hot oil part, could be a fun project for the kids. It’d be a cool breakfast treat after a sleep over or even just a Saturday morning.

I took these to work with me and they were a way bigger hit than I even imagined they would be. They were obviously best right after I made them, with the crispy outside and soft, warm inside. But even the next day, they were still really good.

All you need is a pop can of biscuits, a small round biscuit or cookie cutter, and vegetable oil. I used just the regular buttermilk biscuits, so I don’t know what the result would be if you used some of the other varieties like extra butter or extra flaky.

Separate the biscuits and cut the hole out of the middle. Set each aside. You can fry up the donut holes too.

img_8349

Carefully, add the dough to the hot oil. It only takes about a minute or so on each side to get them cooked through and golden brown, so I would recommend having all the biscuits cut out ahead of time so you are ready to go for each batch. Place each donut on a wire rack to cool.

img_8351

I made two kinds: chocolate frosted and cinnamon-sugar. For the cinnamon-sugar, you have to work fast and carefully, because you need the donuts to be hot when you put on the cinnamon-sugar. I did them right after they came out of the oil (hence why you need to work fast and carefully).

img_8352

For the chocolate frosted, you can wait until they are cooled enough to handle. I just used regular canned chocolate frosting and put it in a bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until the frosting is melted. Dip the donuts into the frosting and place back on the rack. Add the sprinkles and let the frosting set.

img_8356img_8357img_8358

You can do all these same steps to make the donut holes too.  You can also top the donuts however you want. I see endless possiblities here!

img_8360