Friday, January 28, 2011

Easy Blueberry Cream Scones

" A man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child."
-Order of the Knights of Pythagoras
I just returned from my trip to California, where I met my new nephew. I just love babies, he was such a delight! Why do babies smell so good? I love newborn baby smell.

I went to visit my sister to meet the baby of course, but also to help her with the baby, to help around the house, and also help with the cooking. These scones were one of the baked goods I made. They are incredible.

They taste fantastic, they are quite light, flaky, tender, and quite delicious. My favorite thing about them is that you make them the night before, stick them in the freezer, and slice them and bake them up the next day. You could even only slice up a few, at a time, which means you could have a few fresh scones every day for breakfast with little effort.

I baked them all at once, then wrapped up what we didn't eat in the first day, individually, placed them in a ziplock bag, and defrosted them on the counter when I wanted one.

I made them with frozen blueberries, because I like them and my sister had them in her freezer, but you could also use any dried fruit, like raisins, or currants, or dried cranberries, etc.
Easy Blueberry Cream Scones
adapted from this recipe from The Culinary Institute of America
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want them, I used 3/4 cup)
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream-don't substitute, (there is no butter here, so this is where the fat comes from)
1 cup blueberries-if you are using frozen there is no need to defrost them-or substitute any dried fruit of you preference
zest from one lemon-optional
2 Tablespoons milk-for brushing the tops
2 Tablespoons coarse sugar, if you don't have coarse sugar use regular granulated sugar
Keep in mind this recipe needs to be made the night before you need them.
Get a cake pan ready, or tart pan. I used a tart pan with a removable bottom, just because it was handy, 10 inches in size, preferably, but 9 inches or even 8 would work, they would just be a little taller, and possibly need a touch more baking time.
Cut two parchment paper rounds the size of the pan, if your pan is 10 inches, then you would need two 10 inch parchment rounds.
Use one to line your pan. Reserve the other one for later.
Place all of the dry ingredients, (the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt) in a large bowl. Whisk it all to blend it well. Add the blueberries and zest, (if using.) And stir.
Make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the cream and stir just until blended. Be gentle. Don't over mix this or your scones will be heavy.
Pour this mixture in the prepared lined pan. It will be quite wet. Don't worry, it will freeze solid.
On top of the mixture place the other parchment round and place in the freezer overnight. Or 10 hours, till frozen solid.
The next morning, take the scones out of the freezer and place on the counter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease them.
Turn the scones out of the pan onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper. Slice them using a sharp knife into 10 equal size wedges. I cut them in half first, then cut 5 slices from each. If you don't want to bake them all now, you can wrap the ones you aren't going to bake in saran wrap then freeze to bake another day.
Brush the tops of the scones with milk and dip or sprinkle them in the sugar. Place them on the prepared baking sheets and bake them for 30-40 minutes until golden and fully cooked on the inside. Cool them on the baking sheets for a few minutes then transfer to cooling racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serve the day they are made, or freeze them, individually wrapped in saran wrap them placed in a ziplock bag.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pasta with Peas and Parmesan

"Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt. That's why I love vegetables, you know what they're about!"
-Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt

This post is part of a series, Healthy Vegetarian Mains.

This recipe comes from the January 2001 edition of O magazine. How do I know that, you ask? I cut recipes out of magazines I like, and put them in plastic sleeves in a binder to keep them intact. This is one I have gone back to again and again over the years, (10 years to be exact. Yikes.) You couldn't ask for it to be any easier, I usually have the ingredients on hand, and it's creamy, satisfying and delicious.

Is it healthy? Well that depends on how you see it. I use Dreamfields pasta when I'm the only one eating it (over a period of days, mind you.) (I don't think anyone else would mind or be able to tell for that matter if I did serve it to them.) I eat it because it is low in carbs. One could use whole wheat pasta, or rice pasta if you are gluten free. If it were summertime I would make zucchini ribbons to use like pasta, (since I grow it and usually have an abundance) or sometimes I use spaghetti squash like it were pasta. If you did that, this dish would be solid vegetables. Now that, I say, would certainly be good for you!

The original recipe comes from Manhattans Po restaurant. The chef, (in 2001) John Baron says, "it's the perfect dish for a January night. The sauce has a bright, straightforward flavor. It is a simple recipe that relies on the quality of the ingredients. So keep in mind that all olive oil is not created equal and walk that extra block for the grainy, buttery, sharp tang of true Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The result will be a bowl full of pasta that's nothing short of bliss."

I couldn't agree more. And if the great taste isn't enough to make it a fabulous recipe, or the fact that it only has 5 ingredients, get a load of this. You can whip up this sauce in less time it takes than to cook the pasta. No joke, this recipe seriously rules.

I've changed the recipe a bit over the years, one being the original calls for 1/3 cup olive oil. I don't think it needs that much, just a few tablespoons is plenty for me. I also add a bit more peas, to use up a whole 1 lb package. For convienience and I like my pasta to have plenty of sauce.

Pasta With Peas and Parmesan

1 lb pasta your choice. Fettuccine or Pappardelle are good choices, or use whatever you like, I used Dreamfields spaghetti this time

1 lb bag frozen peas (divided)
1 cup chopped onion (one small onion) red is good, tonight I only had a white one, that was good as well
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil (divided)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or if I don't have that (like today), I use a good quality Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup water

Put a pot of water on the stove to cook the pasta. When it boils cook the pasta, and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
Use one tablespoon of the olive oil and cook the onion, salt, sugar and pepper in a skillet over medium heat. When onion is soft, add 2 1/2 cups of the frozen peas. (frozen or defrosted, it doesn't matter.) Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the peas are hot. Heat up the remaining peas, and set aside.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water along with 2 tablespoons olive oil. (you can add more oil if you'd like a silkier sauce, up to 1/3 cup.) Taste it and see if it needs more salt.
Add the pea puree to the cooked pasta and toss. Add a little pasta water if you think it needs it. Use the remaining whole peas for garnish or stir them in the pasta.
Top and serve with lots of freshly grated cheese.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Caribbean Coconut Black Beans and Vegetables Over Rice

"One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things."

-John Burroughs
This post is first in a series, Healthy Vegetarian Mains.
Here we are, January 4th. Holidays over. Resolutions started. I don't know about you, but I can't help but want to eat healthy this time of year. I think it's natural for us to want to cut back after the heavy eating most of us do over the holidays.
I'm not going to call it a resolution, but I am focusing on eating well and eating healthy. Eating what my body is truly craving, that's what I'm working on. Right now I've been craving vegetables, so I've made this delicious concoction of beans, veggies and brown rice to start things off right.

sauteing the veggies

Eating healthy means different things to different people. For me it means lots of vegetables, legumes, healthy grains and proteins and less starch. Basically I'd like to make every bite count, to get the most nutrition out of everything that goes in my mouth.
This is why this post is the beginning of a new series I'm calling, "Vegetarian Mains". Once a week or so, (sometimes more perhaps) I'm going to post a healthy vegetarian main dish. I am not a vegetarian by any means, (although I have been one in the past) it's just that since I don't eat meat every day anyway, I want to jazz things up for the days I don't. If I cook something I want to eat for dinner, (like this dish for example) I won't eat stuff I don't want to really eat but sounds yummy sort of (like a bag of chocolate chips for example.) I will still post meat based dishes, and I will still post baked goods since I often bake for others.

after adding the coconut milk

This dish is really up my alley. Flavorful, a little sweet, and as spicy as you want it to be. For me, that's not so much, but I like it to have a little kick. I used a half of a pumpkin in this for the winter squash, because I still have a few left from my garden, but you can use butternut squash, or any winter variety, or instead of squash, use yams, sweet potatoes, or even white potatoes.
And it all comes together in about 30 minutes. Isn't that awesome?

I served this over brown rice, but you can use any rice. Or none at all. It's perfect to serve with rice because it has enough liquid to flavor the rice from the coconut milk, so just know that if you don't serve it with rice it will be quite saucy.

Caribbean Coconut Black Beans and Vegetables Over Rice
2, 14 oz cans black beans drained and rinsed
1, 14 or 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1, 14 oz can coconut milk, I used regular, you can use light if you prefer
2 tablespoons olive oil (or another neutral oil of your choice)
one large onion cut in medium chunks
4 garlic cloves, minced
one large red bell pepper cut in medium chunks
2 cups peeled and diced winter squash such as, pumpkin, butternut squash, etc. Or you can substitute diced yams, sweet potatoes or yellow potatoes
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tsp-2 tsp.(depending on how spicy you like it) cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional) for heat if you like it spicy (I don't add these at all)
salt to taste
Cook some rice on the stove, as it's simmering on the stove, start the rest, when the rice is done set aside.
In a large skillet on medium high heat, add the oil and saute the onion and bell pepper and until they soften a bit, 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, the spices, the brown sugar and the squash or potatoes, and add some salt. Turn the heat down to medium, cover and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the squash or potatoes are almost done, (tender, but still have a bite to them). When doing this, the pumpkin I was using let out some moisture, so the moisture from the tomatoes and the pumpkin, was enough moisture in the pan for them to cook sufficiently. If you are using potatoes, you may need to add a small amount of water, 1/2 cup ish.
Uncover and add the beans and the coconut milk. Turn up the heat to medium high, warm the whole thing up, taste for seasonings, add more cayenne or red pepper flakes if you want it spicier, and add salt if you need to, make sure the vegetables are cooked enough for your liking and serve over rice.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Black Eyed Pea Stew

" We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and it's first chapter is New Year's Day."
-Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Happy New Year everyone! Like most of you know, eating black eyed peas on New Year's day is supposed to bring good luck. We had some ham and the bone left from Christmas, so I put it to use in this easy, and flexible stew. If you don't have black eyed peas, no big deal, use another bean, like navy, or even kidney beans. I used a bag of dried beans but you could use a few cans of beans instead.
This recipe makes quite a bit, but it freezes nicely.

Black Eyed Pea Stew


one bag (16 oz.) dried black eyed peas, or 3 cans
one ham bone with 3 cups diced ham
3 carrots chopped into bite sized pieces
3 ribs of celery chopped into bite sized pieces
1 onion chopped
2, 15 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

if you like some heat, you can add some dried chipotle pepper, or even a tablespoon or so from a small can of chopped chipotle peppers, (the smokiness works well with the smokiness of the ham) if you are using the canned peppers, and aren't familiar with using them, start with a small amount first, (they can get spicy), and adjust to your taste.


Cook the black eyed peas if using dried. I used a crockpot. (I think this is the best way to cook them, because all of the ham flavor gets infused into the black eyed peas.) Add the peas, a tsp of salt, the bay leaves, the ham, the bone and the chopped onion to the crockpot and fill the crockpot almost to the top with water. (I used a 4 quart crockpot.) If using a larger crockpot, I'd start with 8 cups water, add more later if needed.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the peas are soft. If you are using a larger crockpot and have the time, you can add everything else and cook until the carrots and celery are soft. (an additional 3 hours or so.)

I poured it all into an 8 quart pot on the stove and added everything else and cooked for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables were tender.

If you are using canned black eyed peas, drain the peas and rinse, throw it all in a large pot on the stove, add 4-6 cups water or broth, cook on medium heat for an hour or so, until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have blended. If needed, add water or broth to get the consistency you like.