Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Scones

Another great breakfast, brunch or snack recipe to share...  This was my very first scone baking experience and I must say they are surprisingly simple, fast, and delicious.  Scones are essentially lightly sweetened biscuits as far as how they are made.  You can jazz them up with your favorite flavors or mix-ins.  I particularly loved the tangy-sweet lemon glaze on these.  This is a Tyler Florence Recipe courtesy of 
Makes somewhere between 10 and 24 scones depending on your shape/size preference


2 cups flour (I used white-wheat)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, COLD, cut into small chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the cubed butter and work into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or two forks.  A pastry cutter makes this super easy- I highly reccomend you pick one up at Walmart for $3 if you don't have one.

Once the butter has been cut up into tiny pieces and incorporated- you're done.  The mixture should resemble course sand.  Next gently fold in the blueberries with a spoon- taking care not to mash them up much or you'll have purple scones. 

Lastly- make a well in the center and add the heavy cream.  Stir gently to combine.  Turn the dough out onto a clean countertop or cutting board dusted with flour and form the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick x 2-3 inches wide. 

At this point you can use a dough scraper or large knife to cut the scone into any shape you like.  I made 3 x 3 inch squares and then cut them in half at a diagonal to make mini triangles.  This is a bit tricky and I found I ended up slicing through the blueberries but as long as you use a large, sharp knife, its not too messy.

Note: You want to work fairly quickly- don't overhandle the dough. The key to super flaky scones is making sure the butter is still cold when they hit the oven.

Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with more heavy cream.  If you want to forego the glaze- a healthy dusting of raw or turninado sugar over the top would be a great alternative.

Bake the scones for 15-20 minues until lightly golden brown.  Meanwhile, you can prepare the glaze.

Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lemon, zest finely grated

I did the glaze in the microwave but a double boiler works too.. Combine the all ingredients in a glass bowl and stir to combine.  Microwave for 30 seconds- then whisk again until smooth.  The glaze will thicken as it sits.  I have found that the thicker it is when you coat the scones- the better.  It should almost be difficult to spread over the top so it barely slides over the edges to coat the scone.  If its too thin- you'll lose most of it as it drains right off the sides.
Let the scones cool completely - at least 20-30 minutes - before glazing.  I set them on a cooling rack over a foil lined baking sheet to catch the run off glaze.  Yon can either dunk the tops right into the glaze or spoon the glaze over the scones- whichever you prefer. 

Let the scones set for 45 minutes or so for the glaze to harden.  I think these are best served the day of while the edges are still crisp and the insides light and fluffy.  Placing them in an airtight container caused them to soften a bit under the glaze.
These would be delicous with any fresh summer berry or substitute dried fruit year round.  Spice them up with cinnamon, nuts or even chocolate chips.

Spinach, Chicken Sausage and Cheese Strata

Brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain.   It scales easily to feed any number of people, you can make it casual or fancy, you can prepare most items in advance and... its a great excuse to drink champagne early in the day.  I recently hosted a casual baby shower brunch for a group of ladies and the menu was as follows:

Spinach, Chicken Sausage and Gruyere Strata
Mini Brie, Almond, Apricot Tarts
Fresh Fruit
Lemon Blueberry Scones
Carrot Cake

I'll share some of the other recipes in subsequent posts however the main event was the strata which turned out great.  I love this strata recipe because you can make about a 100 different variations once you have the basic idea down and it can be assembled the night before.  You simply toss it in the oven an hour before your guests arrive.  This was inspired by  a recipe I found on a favorite food blog,

Ingredients:   serves 8

3  Chicken Italian Sausage links (I used sweet versus hot)
10-20 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I used closer to 20 I think)
3-4 cups of shredded cheese, I used a mix of Gruyere, Fontina and a bit of Parmesan
8 cups of cubed day old soft french bread
9  eggs
2 3/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon of dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon pf nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper

Remove the sausage from the casings and brown in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat until golden and cooked through.  I break it up as best I can while its cooking but I find its easier to crumble it up even more once its fully cooked and cooled.

Butter/spray a 3 quart baking dish.  I like mine a bit thicker so I use a smaller/deeper dish.  Layer the bread, sausage, spinach and cheese in that order.  You'll have two layers of each and you'll end with a layer of toasty bubbly cheese on the top.

Next, whisk the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and pour evenly over the layers into the baking dish.  You can cover and refrigerate overnight at this point.  Its best to let it set for at least one hour before baking to ensure the bread soaks up all of the custard.

When ready to bake- leave the strata at room temperature for 30 minutes and then bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes until puffy and golden brown on top.  Stick a knife in the center to ensure there is no liquid- this means its cooked all the way through.

Serve hot.  Can be reheated if need be but its best served immediately.

A few other flavor combinations:

- Andouille sausage, bell peppers and goat cheese
- Leeks, asparagus and wild mushrooms
- Bacon/lardons and gruyere
- Chorizo, roasted poblano peppers and cherry tomatoes and monterey jack
- Sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (could add pancetta as well)
Consider adding your favorite fresh herbs to kick things up as well...

You can also make mini versions of this in larger ramekins/mini souffle dishes for a different spin on the presentation or if you have a need to bake them off at different times.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Scallops and Tomatoes with Lemon Herb Butter Sauce

SIMPLE, summer-y and delicious, this impressive scallop dish was the first course of our five year Anniversary dinner at home this year.  The real celebration was a week on the beach in Charleston with family- where we were married- the week prior but we were home Sunday evening May 20th for our actual anniversary.  We enjoyed a toast of our favorite champagne and made dinner together, it was perfect...

Serves 2

6-8 large sea scallops
1 cup assorted cherry/grape/colorful tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup white wine
juice and zest of 1large lemon- meyer if you can get it
2 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (dill, thyme, parsley, chives, etc.)
2 generous handfuls of baby arugula

Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear the scallops until golden brown, roughly 2 minutes per side.  Do not disturb the scallops once you place them in the pan.  Moving them around prevents the caramelizing sugar from forming the golden crust on the scallops.

Cut one scallop in half to ensure they are cooked though (should not be translucent in the center).  When done- remove the scallops from the pan and set aside.

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and add another small drizzle of olive oil and the shallots.  Cook over medium-high heat until tender but not yet brown- 2 minutes.  Add the white wine.  Zest the lemon into the pan and squeeze most but not all of the juice in as well.  Save a squeeze or so of lemon juice to dress the greens. 

Cook the sauce for 1 minute until reduced a bit and then add the tomatoes- cooking another 2 minutes longer.  Remove from the heat and add the butter, herbs, a pinch of salt and some black pepper- swirling the pan to melt the butter into the sauce.

Toss the arugula in a separate bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, the remaining meyer lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Plate the scallops next to the greens- spoon the tomatoes and sauce over top of the scallops.  Serve warm (doesn't have to be piping hot) with a crisp white wine or champagne.

Looks even better on our beautiful wedding china!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese (and baby kale salad)

While we're on the theme of grown-up-versions-of-kid-favorites... I just finished my second meal of this grilled cheese in two days so I thought I'd share.  This one was actually inspired by a recent episode of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on Food TV.  Someone was raving about a bacon sandwich and orange marmalade on pumpernickel bread from Prune restaurant in NYC.  The sweet+salty combo sounded fantastic (and right up a pregnant girl's alley.)  I added a few other ingredients to make this a truly dinner-worthy sandwich...

Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices of pumpernickel bread
2 slices of gruyere cheese
2 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy and broken in half
2 super thin slices of pink lady/fuji/gala apple
dijon mustard
orange Marmalade
butter for the bread

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Butter the bread slices and put them butter side down in the skillet.  Spread marmalade on the inside of one slice and dijon mustard on the inside of the other. 

Place a slice of cheese on each piece of bread.  Toast until the cheese is melty and bread is golden brown (a bit hard to see on the pumpernickle so watch closely). 

Lay the apples and bacon on top of one bread slice and top with the other.  Remove from the skillet, slice in half and ENJOY IMMEDIATELY.  The melty cheese, toasty bread, crispy apples, sweet marmalade and salty bacon is scrumptious. 

I enjoyed my sandwich with a new favorite baby kale salad inspired by a local restaurant.   You can find baby kale in the salad section of some specialty groceries (or your local farmer's market).  It has a heartier texture than most salad greens so I actually like to slice it up so its easier to eat.  (I stole this idea from the restaurant.)  I take a handful and roll it up and then slice it chiffonade style with a large knife.

Toss the baby kale with dried berries (I like cherries and blueberries) and grated parmesan cheese.  Dress with a simple lemon vinaigrette and toss together.  Its another great sweet-salty-tangy combination.. AND the baby kale packs a powerful nutritional punch.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grown-Up Smokey Joes

As I've mentioned before, my mom is an amazing cook.  I grew up with homemade-all-the-way breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week.  (We actually got to go home for lunch all the way through 9th grade.)  I'm not exactly sure where I'd tried them- but I got on a Manwich kick somewhere along the line.  In middle school- I used to sneak cans of it into the grocery cart at the store with mom.  Its not that she would have had a problem with the Manwich mix per se, but semi-home-made cooking-from-a-can wasn't really her style.  Thus it was one of the dishes I mastered for myself early on.

I recently saw Iron Chef Michael Symon make a grown-up version of a sloppy joe slider (sans canned mix) on the Cooking Channel and it brought back some memories.  This Southwest-style version kicked up with savory veggies and smokey chipotle peppers resembled a hearty chili in a way.  The sandwiches were delicious served with easy chile baked sweet potato chips on the side.

Makes 6 sandwichess

1 1/2 pounds ground beef  (I used ground round, Chef Symon used pork, turkey would be great too)
1 bell pepper
1 medium sweet onion
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 13 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon corriander
1/3 cup water
salt and pepper

fresh cilantro and avocado slices for garnish
6- soft sesame rolls or hamburger buns (or slider size rolls if you prefer)

Start by browning the ground beef/pork/turkey over medium high heat in a large skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. 

Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion, bell pepper and garlic and place in a food processor.  Pulse until everything resembles a fine dice. (Or finely dice everything by hand if you prefer.)

Saute the veggies in another drizzle of olive oil in a second skillet over medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until everything is tender.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Once the meat is golden brown, spoon off any unwanted grease in the bottom of the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the vegetable saute, the chipotle peppers, cumin, corriander, tomato sauce and water to the large skillet with the meat.  Season with more kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Cook everything together for 8-10 minutes to let all of the flavors marry together.  If it gets too thick, add more water to loosen it up.  Serve a generous scoop of the filling on slightly toasted buns. (You still want the bread to be very soft to avoid losing all of your filling out one side when you take a bite.)  Garnish with fresh cilantro and avocado slices if desired.

If you're interested to make the oven chips- I would actually get them in the oven before you start on the smokey joe filling because they take 30 minutes or so to bake...

Baked Sweet Potato Chips:   NOTE: this recipe serves 2 people generously

1 large sweet potato, peeled thinly sliced**
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

**To slice the potatoes: I used my food processor's slicing blade since it was already out, a mandolin or slicing with a super sharp knife by hand would work too.  You want the slices to be no thicker than 1/8 inch in order to get them crispy.

Toss the potato slices in a bowl with olive oil, spices, salt and pepper so that they are evenly coated.  Then spread them into a single layer on two cookie sheets (lined with foil for easy clean up).  Use some non stick spray on either the pan or foil to ensure you can easily peel the chips off later.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans half way through to ensure they bake evenly.  They should be crispy with a few brown spots.  Watch closely toward the end, they can get too brown rather quickly. Taste to be sure you have enough salt.  Serve immediately.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Penne with Chicken Sausage, Broccoli and Arugula

I'm back!  For those of you paying attention- I took a brief hiatus from the blogosphere, from the kitchen in general for the most part.  The bad news is that I haven't been feeling much like cooking (or eating much other than cereal, toast and baked potatoes)... the good news is that it's because we're expecting a Baby Lacy October 8!!

Now 17 weeks along and cruising nicely into the second trimester, I'm feeling much better, my appetite is back and the Accidental Syrup kitchen has reopened for business.

I'm trying when possible to pack lots of nutrient rich foods into my diet to be sure the little one is getting everything she needs.  (Don't get me wrong, there has been plenty of mint chocolate chip ice crem and many a powdered sugar donut as well.)  This recipe offers whole grains from the pasta, low fat protein in the form of chicken Italian sausage and broccoli- a pregnancy super food- is a good source Calcium, Iron, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, and Potassium.

Serves 2.5 people with left overs

2-3 chicken Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1 small broccoli crown- cut into bite size pieces (approx 2 cups)
3-4 cups of baby arugula
1 large shallot, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced/grated
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
zest and juice of one lemon
Parmesan cheese for garnish

First I put a pot of water seasoned generously with kosher salt on to boil for the pasta.  Next I browned the sausage in a skillet over medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil until it was brown and cooked through.  (Breaking it up with a wooden spoon into as it cooked.) I transfered the sausage to a bowl lined with a papertowel to drain.  The chicken sausage doesn't have much fat yet the juices left in the pan have lots of flavor so I reserved the same skillet for the sauce.

Once the pasta water was boiling- I first blanched the broccoli for 2 minutes. (It was tender but still had a little crunch to it.)  When done, I fished it out with a slotted spoon into a colander tucked into a bowl of ice water.  The cold water stops the broccoli from cooking any further and locks in the bright green color- the colander makes it easy to pull the broccoli out and drain it before adding it to the pasta.

I cooked the pasta in the same pot of boiling water per the package instructions and then strained it- reserving 1 cup of the pasta water for later- and put the pasta back in the empty pot, adding the broccoli and the sausage.

Lastly, I made a quick pan sauce to tie it all together.  I gently sauteed the shallot and garlic in the skillet (over medium heat) until softened- 3-4 minutes max.  I added the wine, stock, lemon juice, zest and some salt and pepper before increasing the heat to medium-high.  After about 5 minutes at a gentle boil, the sauce had reduced and thickened nicely.

I tossed the arugula into the pot with the pasta and then poured the sauce over top. As I tossed it all together, I found I needed a bit more liquid to make a silky sauce so I added 1/3 cup or so of the pasta cooking liquid as well.  The heat of the sauce gently wilts the arugula and its ready to serve!

Of course no pasta is complete withouth a healthy sprinkle of good parmesan cheese over the top...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tropical Fruit Smoothie

One of my favorite healthy weekday snacks is a yogurt-fruit smoothie.  Smoothies are a great way to pack a bunch of nutrition into a one-cup, portable package.  I use Greek yogurt as a base to maximize protein and then jazz it up with whatever combination of fruits or juices that I have on hand.  Whenever I have berries or bananas that are on the verge of super ripe-about-to-go-bad, I throw them in the "smoothie drawer" of the freezer for later.  (Peel the bananas and slice into chunks before freezing.)

Tropical Fruit Smoothie- serves 1-2

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt- I like Fage, fat free
half of a banana- in this case I used frozen pieces
1/3 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup frozen mango (I buy this already frozen- they make great popsicle-like snacks)
1/3 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup orange juice (almond milk works well too)

Combine all ingredients in the blender and process until smooth and pourable. 

You might need to adjust the liquid amount to get the right consistency.  If its too thick, add more juice/milk.  If its too thin, add a few ice cubes or more frozen fruit.

In my experience, you can keep the smoothie in the fridge for a day.  It melts down and/or starts to separate a bit but you can reblend with some ice before serving to revive it.

You can experiment with all kinds of fresh or frozen fruits, juices or even veggies.   You can throw fresh spinach or kale in for a huge boost of healthy without altering the flavor.  (You will end up with a green beverage though.)  Peanut-butter, banana and almond milk is also a stellar combo.