Maple Oat Date Scones

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Despite knowing that it’s best to focus on what one is eating during a meal, I like to read while having my breakfast and lunch. (Hubby is home for supper, so we watch the news on tv.) I love to bake yummy things for our breakfasts, especially things like these scones, that makes a big batch. Half goes directly into the freezer, so Some Postman can have a quick but tasty meal before he is off to deliver the mail.

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Scones are so easy to make, and can be changed up simply by varying the add-ins. I found a basic scone recipe on AllRecipes.com and altered it to suit my tastes.

Maple Oat Date Scones

1 large egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp maple extract

2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup quick oats (not instant; can use old fashioned, tho)

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream or half-and-half

Coarse (turbinado) sugar

Heat oven to 425°F. If using metal baking sheet, line with parchment paper. (I use a well-seasoned stoneware 11×15 pan, so it doesn’t need any pre-treatment.)

In a 2-cup measure, stir together the egg, buttermilk, maple syrup and extracts. In large bowl, stir together flours, oats, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, salt, and sugar. Drop in chunks of butter; cut into flour mixture with a pastry blender. Add dates and pecans (if desired). Make a well in the center. Stir in liquid ingredients with a fork, just until all dry ingredients are incorporated. May need to add a tablespoon or two more buttermilk if the dough seems too dry.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to make the dough hold together. Divide in half. Pat each half into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel, cut each circle into six wedges. Place on baking sheet. Brush each scone with cream; sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Notes:  Instead of buttermilk, this time I used regular milk that had gone sour. It worked just as well, and made good use of icky milk. Also, Some Postman doesn’t like nuts in his pastries, so I make half with fruit only and add the nuts to the other half just before kneading it. And, of course, the measurements for the add-ins (dates, pecans, even the cinnamon) are approximate, since I just toss in however much looks good at the time.

You can easily change up the flavor of the scones by subbing out the dates with raisins, dried cherries, dried peaches, or chocolate chips. I like to make a tropical scone using dates, dried pineapple, and coconut (no coconut for Some Postman).

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

Yesterday, I spent some time making big messes in the kitchen. This is nothing new, of course, but I tried not one, but two new recipes, and I also made an old favorite. My husband commented that there sure were a LOT of dirty dishes as we cleaned up the kitchen together in the evening. That’s what happens when I cook!

The first mess I made was a little one. My friend MA told me that she’d made Lahmajun a couple days ago; these are little Armenian pizzas made by spreading a thin layer of a meat mixture over a thin round of dough, then baking them until crisp. Lahmajun are eaten fresh from the oven with soup, or chilled and eaten cold the next day. MA simplifies the process by using pre-made flour tortillas instead of rolling out dough. She uses ground turkey, minced onion and peppers, mint, parsley, and salt for her meat mixture. To make a vegan version, MA suggested I use hummus or refried beans in place of the meat. Thus, my version of Lahmajun was made of a whole wheat flour tortilla spread with pine nut hummus, minced green onion, minced red and green peppers, mint, parsley, sea salt and black pepper. I baked it in a 350°F oven on stoneware for about 12 minutes, then slid it off the stoneware and directly onto the oven rack to bake another 3-4 minutes. (I wanted it nice and crispy.) It turned out to be VERY good!

I’ll definitely make Lahmajun again; I was going to make it for my lunch again today, since I neglected to get a photo of yesterday’s results, but my body told me to eat an apple instead. So here’s a picture I found via Google of what a stack of Lahmajun looks like:

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The second new recipe I prepared was Tempeh with Sweet Peppers and Bourbon-Laced Barbecue Sauce. I’ve been trying to add variety to my vegetarian meals with different meat substitutes, to keep things from getting boring. Tempeh is a soy product originating from Indonesia that is made by a natural culturing and fermenting process that binds soybeans into a cake form. The recipe I prepared was one that seemed fairly simple, with flavors I already enjoy.

I am not going to share with you the details of this recipe, because, as it turns out, tempeh is yucky. Even the picture I took of my plate looks yucky. I managed to choke down about half of this stuff, then dumped it back in the skillet and took the whole thing out to the chickens.

Crossing tempeh off  my list of meat substitutes….

Thank goodness the Apple Crumble Pie I made for dessert turned out delicios, because that was the bulk of my dinner last night. Sure, the juices ran out of the pie plate in the oven, causing all of our smoke alarms to let everyone in a 2-mile radius know that THE PIE IS DONE!!!! But it tasted good, and made up for the lousy main dish.

Kitchen Creativity: Lemon Sheet Cake

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Lemon anything is perfect in summer, and this super-easy Lemon Sheet Cake makes a lovely light dessert on a hot August evening. It freezes well, also, which is good for Some Postman and me. A sheet cake lasts a LONG time for just two people!

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This recipe was snipped out of an old Taste of Home magazine ages ago; the exact recipe is written out below. Of course, a recipe is simply a spring-board, so I made a couple of changes. Canned pie filling tastes like…well…a can, so I either make it from scratch, a dry mix, or use jarred filling. This time, I used a jar of Private Selection premium lemon pie filling. It was a 22 oz jar, larger than the recipe calls for, and I forgot and dumped most of it in. So the cake turned out a little more dense than usual – and extra moist! The leftover pie filling got added to the frosting, along with some lemon extract, to make it a bit lemony.

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Lemon Sheet Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can (15.75 oz) lemon pie filling
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix and eggs until well blended. Fold in pie filling. Spread into a greased 15 in x 10 in x 1 in baking pan. Bake at 350° F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spread over cake. Store in the refrigerator.

A Week of Awesomeness

A Week of Awesomeness

This week is turning out to be super-fun! God’s mercies are new every morning, of course, for which I am so very thankful. But some days, you get to put something on your schedule that makes you smile every time you think about it. And each day this week has had or will have had an activity for me to enjoy and/or look forward to doing. (Thanks, God, for filling my week with happy faces!)

Sunday…

…was Church Day! Filled with singing, praise, worship, and fellowship, Sunday always starts off the week on the right foot. I’m really getting a lot out of the Bible study during Sunday School hour; we’re doing Rick Warren’s “Transformed” series. This week’s chapter was on emotional health. To me, it seems very closely related to last week’s mental health; both chapters emphasize keeping our minds focused on God, trusting Him with our futures, and not worrying. The peace that God gives is incredible! ‘Peace’ is my one-word study for this year, so I’m paying close attention.

Even though it’s rather frivolous in comparison to the important spiritual aspects, I was very happy with the outfit I put together to wear to church. I wanted to participate in this week’s Style Imitating Art challenge; it turned out quite nice, I think! The inspiration piece was Ansel Adams’ 1958 photograph “Aspens, Northern New Mexico”.

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My outfit interpretation:

Monday…

…I had a mammogram. Sure, I suppose most women wouldn’t say that was awesome. Or fun. And it wasn’t fun, exactly, but it wasn’t horrible. The fun part was supposed to be afterward; I had plans to meet a friend for lunch. But…she had to cancel. Still not great, huh? Well, since I wasn’t going to have some girlfriend time, I decided to shop at a couple of stores I rarely visit because they are on the opposite side of town I typically frequent. That was fun! At Marshall’s, I bought an organizer wallet with detachable cross-body strap on clearance for $10. My stroll through Target was almost a bust, until I wandered into the coffee appliance aisle. The Bella Single Serve Dual Brew coffee maker was on sale – and I’ve been wanting to replace my aging drip brewer for a while. The nice thing about the Bella is that it can use either Kcups (any kind!) or the included filter basket. While the Bella Dual Brew has mixed reviews online, I am finding it perfect for my needs and enjoy it very much.

Tuesday…

…We made plans to go out for a late lunch / early supper as soon as Some Postman got home from work. Tuesday is typically a lighter mail load day, so he gets home around 2:00 pm. We had a coupon to use at Pizza Ranch, only to discover it was closed when we arrived! Neither of us had eaten much since breakfast, so we were far too hungry to finish our other errands and just eat when we got back home. My being vegetarian seriously limits where we can go out to eat, but anyplace that serves Mexican food is usually a good option. And so we went to Carlos O’Kelly’s. We were the only patrons in the restaurant the entire time we were there! Kind of nice, actually. When our waiter learned my food restrictions, he produced a vegetarian menu, which I didn’t know they had. We enjoyed our meal, and while it probably won’t be a regular eating spot for us, it’s definitely on the “veg-friendly options” list.

Wednesday (today)…

…turns out to be National Chocolate Cake Day! There’s a day for everything, you know! In honor of this most delicious observance, I baked an Old Fashioned Hershey’s Chocolate Cake with One Bowl Buttercream Frosting, all from scratch. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to use my recently purchased aluminum round cake pans, and I am very happy with the results. After all these years wondering why my round cakes had a tendency to come out dry on the outer rim and sink in the middle, I learned that my dark, non-stick cake pans were the culprit! Get some heavy-grade aluminum cake pans, people. They aren’t very expensive and are totally worthwhile.

Thursday (tomorrow)…

…has three fun things on the agenda. First, Pilates. While sorting out workout DVDs I can no longer use due to my bum foot, I found a Leslie Sansone Pilates DVD that I forgot I had. It’s terrific! It’s so nice to have something other than riding Marcy (stationary bike) or practicing yoga, as much as I love them both. Variety is good! The second fun thing to do tomorrow is running errands in Little Town, including a visit to the library and a pop-in at the thrift store. The third item on the list is the funnest – it’s Book Club night! We had to postpone book club due to the snow last Thursday, but the snow has mostly melted now. Our hostess requested that we read a non-fiction book from the 500 section of the library; I read a fascinating book about snails – “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating”, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Book Club is a highlight of my month. We are a close group of friends and always have a grand time together!

Friday…

…a neighbor friend (who is also in book club) is hosting a Girls’ Night at her house. It will be like Round Two of book club, I’m sure, except we probably won’t talk about books! Friday is also my daughter’s 25th birthday, but I’ll celebrate that with her on…

…Saturday.

Min has requested Grandma’s Chicken Casserole and my Bread Pudding as her birthday meal, so I will prepare both dishes and take them to her house in the morning. The casserole must sit in the fridge all day, so she can bake it fresh for supper in the evening. I think she and I might go out for coffee, if Baby Miss Pie is cooperative.

Finally, next Sunday…

…We will make our annual visit to our Hometown, go to worship service at the church Some Postman grew up in, and peruse the local antique shops. I’m hoping to score a piece or two of Frankoma pottery; Some Postman might find a crock to add to his collection. In the evening, we’ll go back to the church for their soup supper and catch up with some old friends.

Not all of my arrangements this week turned out exactly the way I’d expected, and it’s likely that the days to come might change a bit from how I’ve planned them out. But that’s OK! Sometimes the unexpected things are the best things. Enjoy life! Each day is an adventure!

Cooking Adventures:  Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata with Goat Cheese

Cooking Adventures: Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata with Goat Cheese

One of my goals this year is to try new recipes, both vegetarian for myself and meaty for Some Postman. I did one of each this past week, and they both turned out pretty good! Of course, I didn’t actually sample the Chicken Parmigiana I made for SP, but he said it was tasty and he won’t mind if I make it again.

The vegetarian recipe I made last week was Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata with Goat Cheese, which was printed in the December 2015 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine. My friend and neighbor, T, gave me a year’s subscription to Veg Times as a gift and I have a LONG list of recipes among those pages that I plan to try!

Rather than type out the recipe here, I’m including a link to the Vegetarian Times website:

Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata with Goat Cheese

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My frittata turned out delicious! I did make a couple of changes from the original recipe, but they are minor. First of all, I could not figure out why the Dijon mustard should be divided (and apparently other people noticed the goof, too – no one knows why it says “divided”!), and I didn’t have Dijon, so I substituted brown mustard. I didn’t measure it, either, but that’s nothing new. Ha ha!

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Kale is not appealing to me. When I was a waitress at the local steak house way back when, kale was used to decorate the salad bar; people didn’t eat it! I’ve tried to like the stuff, since it’s now considered a “super food”, but I simply can’t get past the fact it’s tough and tastes like leaves. Thick, fibrous leaves. Bleh! Even in soup, it’s tough and stringy. So I considered subbing the kale in this recipe for spinach. But you know how spinach gets all limp and slimy when it’s cooked? Yeah, that didn’t seem appealing. Instead, I decided to try baby kale. Which turned out to be a great idea! Baby kale is tender without being slimy after being cooked. Adult kale is just yucky.

Another change I made is to use a regular skillet. I despise non-stick pans, so I just sprayed my RevereWare skillet with plenty of olive oil and the frittata came out of it just fine, thankfully. I did have to leave mine in the oven longer than 10 minutes, but I do prefer my eggs cooked more firmly than most folks.

Not only was the frittata delicious when I first made it, but the leftovers have been just as delightful! This one is a keeper!

You Bet Your Biscuits!

You Bet Your Biscuits!

Remember those sad hockey-puck looking biscuits from a few weeks ago? The ones made with coconut oil?

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I suppose it was worth the experimentation to draw the conclusion that no further tweaking of the recipe is necessary.

This, my friends, is what biscuits should look like:

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Some Postman had sausage gravy over his biscuits for breakfast this morning; I had mine with butter and honey. So, so tasty!

I’ve baked biscuits from scratch for so long that I no longer refer to a recipe, and I don’t even remember where I found the original recipe. This is approximately how I made today’s batch:

2 cups all purpose flour, unbleached

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 Tbsp real butter, no substitutions

1/4 – 1/3 cup wheat bran

1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 450° F. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter, using a pastry blender. Add wheat bran; stir. Mix in buttermilk just until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead a few times to get the gluten activated. Pat out into a circle about 3/4 inch thick; cut out biscuits and place on stoneware. Bake about 12 minutes or until golden brown.

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with this basic recipe over the years, using whole wheat flour, trying various fats, substituting almond milk. Whole wheat flour tends to make them heavy; adding wheat bran to regular white flour adds the heartiness of wheat without the weight. Butter is far superior to any fat I’ve tried (shortening, margarine, coconut oil). Almond milk was…okay…but the biscuits didn’t get nice and fluffy the way I like them. No more changes! The recipe is perfect just the way it is.

I think I’m going to go nibble on another biscuit now….

Summer Supper

Summer Supper

For several days after we returned home from our vacation to Michigan, the weather in the Flint Hills was remarkably cool and comfortable. There was no need to fire up the air conditioning; we slept with the windows open and I took the opportunity to do some baking. Cookies, cinnamon rolls, and muffins went into the freezer. They are all gone now, but I don’t think we’ll get cool weather like that again until September.

I also made myself a quiche. Yep, it’s ALL mine! Some Postman doesn’t care for it, especially if it contains mushrooms, so I can make it however the mood strikes me. At the time, the vegetables available were broccoli and mushrooms, and I had a few slices of Swiss cheese. Somehow, my tummy is fine with Swiss, sharp cheddar, Parmesan, and feta cheeses. I am very thankful for this! But it’s not happy with half-and-half or cream. I’ve tried using almond milk in quiche, but it just doesn’t work too well (too thin). After some experimentation, I discovered that using canned evaporated milk in cooking and baking usually doesn’t cause me any problems. The flavor is pretty close to half-and-half, and it’s easy to keep on hand.

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Oh, yeah…I made biscuits, too! During our long drive to Michigan, I kept seeing billboards for Cracker Barrel with a giant, fluffy, steaming biscuit. One hotel had biscuits as part of their breakfast offering, but they weren’t all that satisfying. Fresh biscuits from scratch just can’t be beat! I experimented with using coconut oil instead of butter with this batch. Can’t say I was thrilled with the results. The biscuits didn’t get very fluffy. But they did taste good – better than the hotel biscuits!

Lest you think I neglected Some Postman, forcing him to eat cold cereal while I savored my quiche and biscuits….I fixed him a tasty supper as well! His supper was a summer time stand-by at our house; squash and sausage. (Now that I’m vegetarian, I make a sausage-less portion if this is supper for both of us.) Our garden is finally producing zucchini, but the yellow summer squash plants didn’t make it. Not a problem – the farmer’s market has a good supply. Fresh basil and onions also go in the skillet, and sometimes I’ll add a chopped tomato. Our garden has yet to give us a red tomato without a black bottom, though.

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Oh boy…writing about all this yummy food is making me hungry! It’s past noon, but I’m not going to raid the fridge because as soon as Some Postman gets home from delivering the mail, he’s taking us out for a late lunch at our favorite Mongolian barbecue, HuHot. Our mail lady came by here early today, so I’m hoping that means my hubby will finish his route on the other side of the river early, too.

Mmm….it’s gonna be so GOOD! 🙂