CHEESE SCONES: An Afternoon Pick-Me-Up!

cheese scones textWhat could be better when that late afternoon hunger hits than a nice cup of tea and a freshly baked scone?

You might think scones are time consuming and difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you have a food processor, then they’re even faster.

My favorite is a cheese scone. Traditionally, they’re circle-shaped, but you can also cut them into large wedges, if you prefer.

Note:  Due to my frugal nature (yes, I’m cheap), I use a 2½” diameter diced chilies can with the top and bottom removed, rather than buy a cutter.  scone6CHEESE SCONES – makes 10 circles or 6 large wedges

  • 1¾ cups (8 1/8 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 T butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cream or milk (the richer the milk, the richer the scone)

Preheat oven to 450º Fahrenheit, rack in center position.

Place metal blade in food processor. Add in flour sugar, salt, and baking powder. Pulse a couple of times to mix.

Cut butter (make sure it’s cold) into 1/2″ cubes (you don’t have to be exact) and add to work bowl. scone1Pulse 10 times to form a coarse texture. scone2(If you don’t have a food processor, then crosscut the butter into small bits using 2 knives.)

Into a measuring cup (use a 2 cup size so you don’t splatter), crack eggs. Beat with a fork to break them up. Add in cream to the 3/4 cup mark (you’ll need about 1/3 cup). Beat well with a fork to blend. scone3Empty flour mixture into a mixing bowl. Pour in all but 1 T egg mixture (you’re going to use the reserved liquid as a wash) and stir gently to blend. (You don’t want to overmix or the scone will be tough.) scone5Lightly flour a flat surface and dump dough onto it. With floured hands, pat the dough into an 8″x5″ rectangle if cutting circles, or a 6″ diameter circle if cutting wedges. scone7If you’re making circles, dip circle-mold in flour then press straight down into dough. Don’t twist. Dip into flour each time before cutting a circle. If making wedges, slice 3 lines, intersecting in middle to form 6 equal wedges.

Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. Place cut-outs, spacing them apart as much as possible. Brush on reserved egg wash. (If you forgot to save some of the egg mixture, then just use a little milk.) scone8Sprinkle on a few strands of cheese, if you like. scone9Place in preheated oven and bake until golden brown – about 12 minutes for circles, 13-15 minutes for wedges. Remove to a wire rack to cool a bit, then serve.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD – A Lovely Summer Salad!

farro asparagus salad textApparently, there’s yet another new-to-me ancient wheat grain called farro. It’s kind of similar to brown rice, but heartier with a nutty taste. As a gal who gets around (well, at least, is nearby) I figured I’d give it a try. After all, I’ve jumped on board the couscous, quinoa, barley, sorghum, and Israeli couscous bandwagons. May as well sample this.

Thank goodness for my adventurous spirit. Farro is FABULOUS! I randomly picked a brand of organic farro which, fortunately, was the right kind: Italian pearled farro. Other kinds need to be soaked overnight. Also, make sure the farro you purchase in NOT instant. Look at the ingredients – it should only contain farro. (organic or not – it’s up to you)farro salad 5Don’t follow the package directions for cooking. A better way is to cook it in a large pot of water, then drain it (like pasta). This alleviates the possibility (and, for me, the almost certainty) of burning when the water runs out.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD – makes 7 cups

  • 1½ T salt, divided
  • 1½ cups Italian pearled farro, raw
  • 6 oz asparagus (about 8 stalks), cut into 3/4″ pieces
  • 6 oz sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 2 T shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried dill, (or 3 T fresh)
  • 3 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 6 oz grape tomatoes, cut in half

Rinse farro. Boil 2 quarts of water. (It doesn’t have to be precise, but should be close due to the salt – if you have too little water, the farro will be too salty.) Add in 1 T of the salt and the farro. Uncovered, bring to back to a boil, then reduce flame to keep a low boil for 15-20 minutes (17 minutes works for me) – until the farro is cooked, but still has a bit of chew. Stir now and then – especially at the beginning.orange rice salad prep2While the farro is cooking, in another pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add in 1 tsp of the salt, the snap peas, and the asparagus. Boil for 2 minutes. Tip:  SET TIMER SO YOU DON’T OVERCOOK!!! – You want the veggies to have a crunch. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.

Note: If you don’t want to dirty the second pot, wait until the farro is done, and cook the asparagus and snap peas in that pot.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, Dijon, black pepper, and dill. Set aside.farro salad2Once the farro is done, drain in a sieve and then pour onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Spread out evenly in order to cool and dry the farro. This should take 15-20 minutes.farro salad1To assemble the salad, place the tomatoes, asparagus, snap peas, and Feta in a large bowl. Add the farro on top (this way the dressing will be absorbed into the farro). Whisk the vinaigrette briefly and drizzle on. Stir the ingredients to blend.  Let set about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to mix.

FARRO-ASPARAGUS SALAD is best served the first day. It’s still tasty after that, but a bit drier since the dressing has been absorbed.

PAN PIZZA: Thick & Crispy Crust!

pan pizza textIt occurred to me that while I make pizza quite often, I’ve never written a blog about it. So I decided to start with one that’s easy to make and is actually one of my favorites: PAN PIZZA.

This recipe calls for mixing in a food processor, but you could use a heavy-duty mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid, or even knead by hand – although I have no idea how long that would take. And don’t worry – there’s no tossing the dough involved!

Plan 3 hours start to finish – most of that time is hands off.

Note:  You’ll see some measurements are underlined.  This is to indicate it’s a portion of the total amount called for.

PAN PIZZA – makes 2  9″ pizzas

  • 16¼ oz (3¾ cup) all-purpose flour – it’s best to weigh for accuracy
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 2¼ tsp sugar, divided
  • 2¼ tsp (1 packet) dry active yeast (any kind will do)
  • 1¼ cups water, room temperature
  • 9 T butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup onions, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, discard stem ends & chop tomatoes
  • 4 T fresh basil, chopped, divided
  • 5 T + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 T Parmesan cheese, grated

Melt 3 T butter. Also, set out 3 T butter to soften – cut it up to speed up the process. Set this aside for later.

Into the food processor put flour, tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, and yeast. Pulse a few times to mix.  Pour the 3 T melted butter into flour mixture and turn on machine. Then slowly add the water through the pour tube. Let processor run until the dough clumps together – about 45 seconds or so.

Put 1/2 tsp oil in a bowl and coat bottom and sides. Smash dough ball into bowl, then flip it and smash down again (this will coat both sides).pizza5 Cover with a plate and let rest about 30 minutes.

While dough is rising, prepare the marinara. Into a saucepan melt 2 T butter. Add in the onions, oregano, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until onions are golden. Add in garlic and cook 30 seconds more. pizza3Stir in the tomatoes and remaining 1/4 tsp sugar. Bring to simmer and cook uncovered over medium/low flame 25 minutes. pizza7The sauce will be thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 T basil and 1 T olive oil. Set aside. pizza8When the dough has risen for 30 minutes, roll it out on a NON-floured surface to a rectangle 15″ x 12″. Spread on the softened butter that you set aside earlier over dough to 1/2″ from edges. pizza12Starting at one of the short sides, roll up all the way into a cylinder. pizza11Roll cylinder into a rectangle 18″ x 4″. pizza15Cut in half (so now there are 2  9″ x 4″ pieces). pizza14Fold each piece in on itself in thirds – like a business letter, pinching ends to seal. pizza13Spread 1/2 tsp oil in bowl and place in the 2 dough balls. Cover with plate and place in refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit. Place rack about 2″ from bottom of oven.

Pour 2 T olive oil into each of 2  9″ cake pans (don’t use the kind where the bottom is separate, such as a springform – the oil will leak out). On NON floured surface, roll each dough ball into 13″ circles . Carefully, place each piece into a cake pan, pressing dough into corners and up the sides about 1″. Divide the mozzarella, sprinkling half onto each crust. Spread half the marinara over each pizza on top of cheese. Sprinkle with 2 T Parmesan each.  pizza9Place in oven and bake 20-30 minutes (rotating halfway through), until crust is well-browned. pizza10Sprinkle on remaining 2 T basil and let set in pan a couple of minutes, then remove to cutting board. Slice and serve immediately.

 

ORANGE RICE SALAD – A Savory Salad With A Touch Of Sweetness!

orange rice salad textThere are certain kitchen appliances I can’t live without – such as my food processor. But one-trick pony gadgets – like a rice maker – have literally no place in my kitchen.

For ORANGE RICE SALAD, the rice is cooked like pasta – in lots of water, then drained. So easy, and no need to worry about burning the rice. (Been there, done that!)

Even though there are oranges and dried cranberries involved, this is actually a savory salad. For the most part, this is a very easy to prepare salad. The only slight issue is removing the skin around each orange segment.

ORANGE RICE SALAD – makes about 8 cups

  • 1½ cups basmati rice, raw
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1¼ tsp salt, divided
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1½ T sherry vinegar
  • 2½ T orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp orange zest, packed
  • 3/4 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 T fresh)
  • 2 oranges
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Place just the rice in a large pot on medium/high flame. Stir often for 3 minutes to toast the kernels – this will give the salad a toastier flavor. orange rice salad prep4Add in the 2 quarts of water and bring to boil. Cook for 15 minutes – until rice still has a little chew. orange rice salad prep2Immediately drain in a sieve and spread out onto a parchment lined, rimmed cookie sheet to dry and cool.orange rice salad prep3In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, orange juice, black pepper, zest, garlic, and oregano. Set aside. (Yes, I know it’s not pretty – but, it’s delicious!)orange rice salad prep5Now it’s time to peel the oranges. TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS SO YOU DON’T CUT YOURSELF! Slice off the tops and bottoms of oranges – this will stabilize the orange so it doesn’t roll. Using a sharp knife, remove peel down past the wedge skin. Try to remove all the bitter white parts. orange rice salad prep6 Hold the orange in one hand or lay it on a cutting board, and carefully slice along the inside of the skin that encases each segment down to the core. Do this on both sides of each segment. Removing the skin will allow the juice to blend into the rice. Cut segments in half widthwise, and set aside.orange rice salad prep9 To assemble, put rice into a large serving bowl. I would suggest transferring the bulk of the rice via a spatula – the parchment will be wet and may tear if you lift it with all of the rice. Add in the oranges, feta, cranberries, and dressing. orange rice salad prep1Gently mix well. Let set for, at least, 20 minutes to blend flavors. Add in almonds at serving time to keep them crunchy.

CHEESE LASAGNA – So Good, It’s Hard To Stop!!!

lasagna1 textLasagna is one of those dishes that’s good on many levels: it’s easy to put together, it’s a potluck favorite, it can be made ahead of time, and it’s fabulous leftover.

Queen Of Freeze Tip #1 – I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the marinara sauce can be doubled, tripled, or more, then frozen in portions for future use. I was recently able to extra-quickly make Cheese Lasagna because I already had some marinara in the freezer. However, try the sauce first before increasing the amount – to be sure you like it.

Queen Of Freeze Tip #2 – Save the extra tomato paste in mounds of 1 tablespoons on waxed paper, and place in freezer.  When frozen, store in freezer container for future use.

CHEESE LASAGNA – makes one 9″x13″ casserole

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 onion (about 1½ cups), chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 42 oz canned whole tomatoes (1 28 oz can, & 1  14 oz can)
  • 6 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded, divided
  • 8 oz whole milk cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/8 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 14 curly edged dried lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups Italian Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

To make the marinara, put the olive oil, sugar, onion, red pepper flakes, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large saucepan (so it doesn’t splatter).  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.lasagna prep8Remove and discard the stem ends, peels, and any imperfections from canned tomatoes. Pulse in food processor or chop by hand. Add to onion mixture along with tomato paste, and 1/2 cup Pecorino (1 1/4 oz). Bring to boil, then lower flame to keep a simmer for 20 minutes UNcovered.lasagna prep15Boil at least 4 cups of water. Place dried noodles in 9″x13″ casserole dish. When water is boiling, pour over noodles so they’re immersed. Gyrate them so they don’t stick. Let set 15 minutes to parcook.lasagna prep10While the noodles are softening and the sauce is cooking, mix together cottage cheese, 4 oz (1½ cups) Pecorino, cream, garlic, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Set aside.lasagna prep16When 15 minutes for the noodles is up, place them on tea towels in a single layer. Pat tops to dry. Cut 2 of them in half widthwise (so they’re each about 5″ long).  Empty and dry casserole dish.lasagna prep11Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

To assemble lasagna:

LAYER ONE: Spread 1½ cups marinara sauce on bottom. lasagna prep4Lay 3 long noodles, all touching the same short side of casserole. Take one of the short noodles and lay it along the opposite short side. (This will fill in the gap.) lasagna prep5Carefully spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over noodles. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep6LAYER TWO: Place 3 long noodles on top, this time touching the opposite short side. Take 1 short noodle and place it along the other short side of casserole. lasagna prep3Pour and spread 1½ cups sauce. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep13LAYER THREE: Place 3 long noodles on top, touching the same side as layer one, followed by (you guessed it) 1 short noodle on the opposite side. lasagna prep14Spread on the remaining cottage cheese mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep2TOP LAYER: Place 3 long noodles touching the same side as layer two, and the remaining short piece on opposite side. lasagna prep7Pour on remaining marinara sauce. With your fingers, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup Fontina with 1/8 tsp cornstarch. Sprinkle on top of sauce. Finally, sprinkle on remaining Pecorino.lasagna prep17Cover with foil and bake at 375ºF for 35 minutes. Increase oven to 500ºF and remove foil. Bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let lasagna rest on stovetop at least 20 minutes to set. Sprinkle on basil.lasagna prep1

 

BORSCHT – Pretty In Pink!

borscht2 textWith the weather heating up and bulky clothes coming off, I’m always looking for ways to appease my hunger but shred the pounds. Soups are generally my go-to diet food since they fill you up without a lot of calories. But hot soup in hot weather doesn’t really appeal to me, so I look to chilled soups.

For some reason I’ve always been leery of beets. It’s not that I didn’t like them – I’d never even eaten one. When they came in a salad, I let these deep red strips remain untouched…until my husband inevitably asked if he could have them.

I’ve been hearing about how nutritious beets are so I finally decided it was time to face my fear and actually try them. Since my husband mentioned recently that he loved borscht (beet soup),  I figured I’d start there. Not only was the soup super easy, but superb (I’m in an alliterative mood).

Note: Beets stain, so take care handling them. I got a drop on some fabric, but used OxyClean immediately and it came right out.

BORSCHT – makes 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs beets with 1″ of stem remaining
  • 4 2/3 cups water
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 T + 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 T + 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp dried dill or 2 T fresh

Scrub beets clean and leave unpeeled. Into a saucepan place the whole beets, 4 2/3 cups water, onion, sugar, vinegar, and salt. Bring to boil, cover, lower flame, and let simmer until beets are easily pierced with a skewer (about 45 minutes). Remove beets to a cutting board to cool enough to handle.

Line a strainer with a paper towel and place over a bowl. Remove and discard onion from saucepan, then carefully (so you don’t splatter) pour liquid into strainer (DON’T FORGET THE BOWL UNDERNEATH TO CATCH THE LIQUID!). Set bowl aside.

Using the wet paper towel, rub the beets to remove skin. Remove and discard the top and bottom of beet. Take half the beets and shred them (a food processor makes quick and clean work of this). Place in a small bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Take the remainder of the beets and cut into 1/2″ chunks (exact size doesn’t matter). Place in a blender and top with some of the saved beet liquid so that they’re submerged about 1″. Blend until pureed – at least 1 minute. Add in remainder of the liquid and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Into a serving bowl place the shredded beets, pureed beets, lemon juice, and dill. Combine the sour cream and heavy cream. Whisk into the soup. Season as needed. (I added a little more lemon juice.)

 

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY: Filling, Flavorful, & Low In Calories!!!

tofu veg curry1 text

I love vegetarian curry dishes! The warm spices wake up your mouth, it fills you up, and – best of all – they’re low in calories! Without the rice, TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY is about 200 calories per cup. Yay!

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY also has the benefit of being easy and fairly quick to prepare – about 40 minutes total (and the last 15 minutes are hands off simmering).

If you’ve already glanced at the recipe below, you may be leery of making it due to the long list of ingredients. Fear not! Notice that most of them are spices. If you’ve been cooking for awhile then you may already have many, if not all – they’re very common in cooking.

Note:  If you prefer, you can substitute 2 T garam masala spice blend for the first 10 ingredients.  Then start with the chili powder.

Additional Note: Don’t skip the cream – it truly makes all the difference in the world. (There’s only 1/4 cup in the whole batch anyway.)

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY – makes about 8 cups

  • 1 T coriander
  • 1¼ tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 4 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 cups  onions, chopped
  • 1 cup red potatoes (or Yukon gold), unpeeled and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 serrano chili, minced
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 14 oz canned whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Have all ingredients prepped, in order to speed things up.

Place a small bowl near the stove. Into a dry Dutch oven add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and chili powder. Turn flame on to medium/high. Stir constantly for 1 minute – you’re toasting the spices. You’ll notice a puff of smoke at about the 1 minute mark. Immediately empty the spices into the bowl and set aside.

Into the now empty Dutch oven add 3 T oil, onions, and potatoes. Sauté over medium/high until browned – about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.

Shove the onions and potatoes to the edge of the pot. Into the center place the remaining 1 T oil, garlic, serrano, and tomato paste. Over medium flame stir just the tomato paste mixture for 1 minute to bloom them. Then stir the onions/potatoes and tomato paste mixture together, cooking an additional 2 minutes.

Add in the cauliflower and spices (from bowl),  and cook 2 more minutes, stirring often.

Pour in the canned tomatoes, water, chickpeas, sugar, tofu, and salt. Bring to boil, cover, then turn down heat to keep a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in the peas and cream. Serve as is, or over rice with NAAN BREAD (which I prefer!).