Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fresh Watermelon Cocktail/Agua Fresca

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."

 ~From a headstone in Ireland

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I'm still not feeling great from my car accident, but I did have enough energy to make this delicious drink. Watermelon just screams summer, doesn't it?

I wish it felt like summer here in Western Washington, not yet.  But just eating and drinking watermelon gives me hope that the sun will be coming out soon!

This drink is so refreshing. I think I'm going to make it all summer using whatever liquor I want. Today I used rum, later I will use tequila or vodka, or maybe even something like Midori. The possibilities are endless.

I came home the other day to find a chicken sitting waiting for me at the front door I think she missed me.

Watermelon Cocktail

Lately I've been making this without alcohol, without it, it's more of an agua fresca. Also, add whatever sweetner you like, lately I've been using honey.

makes 4 drinks


4 cups (1 liter) seedless watermelon, cubed

4 ounces (118 ml.) (4 shots) rum, or you can use vodka or tequila or any liquor that suits your fancy - optional

1/4 cup (84 ml.) lime juice

1/4 cup (50 g.) - 1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar - depending on your taste - or use whatever sweetner you like, I've been using honey lately

2 cups (500 ml)  ice cubes

4 lime slices (optional)


Place everything besides the lime slices in the blender and let 'er rip. It's best to put the watermelon and lime juice first, then sweetner, then ice.

Strain it to remove the small bits of seeds, then pour into glasses and garnish with a lime slice if you wish.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Cream Scones

"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship."

~Louisa May Alcott

I've had a bit of a hard time lately. Last week I was in a car accident. Not a big one, but it did cause me pain. So yesterday, Saturday afternoon, I told my husband (who works for the next week, so he's no help), "I want somebody to come over here tomorrow and make me French Breakfast Puffs for my breakfast with some coffee, and I want them to sit here in bed with me and watch the finale of Saturday Night Live that will be on the DVR." That doesn't seem so much to ask, does it?

When I'm not feeling well I feel like I need pastry for breakfast. Especially on a Sunday. So I thought about it, and I decided I could make scones. You make them the night before, and it barely takes 10 minutes, if that. I decided I had enough strength for scones.

Now it's Sunday, and all I needed to do is take them out of the freezer, preheat the oven, slice them up and put them on baking sheets. I'm so glad I could muster even that little effort. They are so light, and tender. I've never had a scone so light. It's remarkable. I just adore this recipe. It comes from the good folks over at Culinary Institute of America, so it figures it's a good recipe. They say freezing them overnight makes for a tender scone. They aren't kidding.

This time it was strawberry, last time it was blueberry. This recipe is quite versatile. You can use raisins, currants, dried cherries, dried cranberries, nuts, chocolate chips, the list goes on.

Another great thing about this recipe is you don't need to bake them all at once. You can cut up as many as you want, wrap them individually in plastic, and throw the rest in the freezer, so potentially, you could bake up fresh scones in the morning for days. Isn't that great?

With a recipe like this, I don't need someone to cook for me after all. Too bad the scones won't watch Saturday Night Live with me, I guess they will, but I doubt if they will laugh.

Want some more strawberry recipes?

Hawaiian Bread and Strawberry Butter

Strawberry Cheesecake Mousse

Strawberry Bread and Butter

The Hummingbird feeder outside my kitchen window

This is the only bird that uses it, I consider him part of the family now.

Strawberry Cream Scones

This recipe is adapted from the book,  Breakfast and Brunches, The Culinary Institute of America. A great book I highly recommend.


3 cups (450 g.) all purpose flour

3/4 cup (150 g.) granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups (500 ml.) heavy cream

1 1/2 cups (320 g.) fresh strawberries diced small, if you have just washed them, dry them with paper towels.

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.

You need a cake pan for this recipe, 10 inches preferably, I used a springform pan. I'm sure a 9 inch would be fine as well. Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper the size of your pan. (10 inches if using a 10 inch pan.)

Use one to line your pan. Set the other one aside.

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 diced strawberries and stir together.

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. If the mixture seems dry, go ahead and add a few tablespoons more cream. It's o.k. if the mixture is wet, but it's not o.k. if you over mix it. (This will depend on the fat content of the cream you use, if you use a cream that has less fat (in the 30 % range), it will be more liquidy, you won't need to add more, but this time I used the really thick stuff (40%) so I needed a little more cream.)

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.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pecan Sandies

"I am still convinced that a good, simple, homemade cookie is preferable to all the store-bought cookies one can find."

-James Beard

I've been going through my cookbooks lately. This recipe comes from a cookbook my sister Melanie bought me, called,  Retro Desserts. It is written by the pastry chef from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill and Bolo in New York City, Wayne Brachman.

It is a book that is witty and well written with a sense of humor. Beautiful pictures throughout as well.

These are called pecan sandies, but they could also just be called pecan shortbread. They are quite delicious and everything you want from a shortbread. Full of butter, with the toasted nuts adding great flavor. These cookies are just delightful. Perfect for afternoon tea.

I did make a few changes from the recipe in the book. For example, he says to use unsalted butter, but doesn't call for any salt. So naturally, I added salt. His recipe doesn't call for a nut on top, so I added it. I felt they would be plain without it, and I like people to know what they are eating. And lastly, he wants you to make the whole shebang in the food processor, only toward the end I started running out of room and the bottom of the dough wasn't getting incorporated with the top (I have a standard sized Kitchen Aid model.) So I threw it all in the stand mixer and all was good.

I really enjoyed his addition of rum in these cookies. It adds something wonderful, and a touch I wouldn't think of adding myself.

Pecan Sandies or Pecan Shortbread


1 cup (111 g.) pecan pieces, toasted
plus 1/2 cup (50 g.) pecan pieces for top of cookies

2 cups (300 g.) all purpose flour

1 cup (203 g.) granulated sugar (next time I'm going to try it with brown sugar)

1 cup (2 sticks) (230 g.) unsalted butter at room temperature- or use salted and a bit less salt

1/2 tsp. salt

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp. rum (optional, but recommended)

2 tsp. vanilla extract


Using a food processor, process the 1 cup pecans until they are fine crumbs. (But don't go too far, or else you will have pecan butter.)

If you have a large food processor, you can go ahead and add first the dry ingredients, flour, sugar, and salt. Then add the liquids, egg yolk, extract, rum and last add the butter in pieces. Mix until the dough comes together.

Or alternately, take your ground pecans, mix it with flour, sugar and salt, in a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer. Then add the egg yolk, extract, rum and butter and mix it until a dough forms.

The dough will be soft.

Roll half the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper or wax paper, (if you use parchment you can go ahead and use it to bake the cookies on also, but if you are using wax paper you can't, it will melt in the oven) to a thickness of 1/4 inch.  Repeat with the other half. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, 190 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 5.

Peel off the paper and cut into 2 inch circles. Place one of the reserved pecans on top by pushing it in to the cookie. Place them on cookie sheets lined with the parchment you just used, or Silpat liners.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the edges of cookies are tanned. Cool on wire racks, then transfer to airtight container when cool.

Makes about 40, 2 inch cookies

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shaved Asparagus Salad

 "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."

 -- Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, from Pavarotti, My Own Story

This is a recipe I can be passionate about. 1. It's easy 2. it's unique 3. It's very tasty.

I had never eaten raw asparagus before. Then I read this recipe over at Epicurious. It promised me that the raw asparagus would transform into silky strips when shaved with a peeler. They were correct. I am in love with raw asparagus when prepared this way. The flavor is a little different when raw, but delicious nonetheless.

The Parmesan cheese is a fabulous balance, of creamy and salty with the earthiness of the asparagus and salad greens.

On a side note, I am working on being a better blogger. I cook and I cook often. I wish I had the talent of actually blogging about said cooking. I've had dinners with company lately, and even though I always promise myself I am going to create enough time to actually take a good picture of such food before guests arrive, it seldom happens.

This salad is the exception. I made it, rushed it to the table snapped 2 pictures of it, and got back to working on the rest of dinner. But I am happy I was able to do that much. Sadly, I can't say as much for the rest of dinner.


Shaved Asparagus Salad

adapted from this recipe

makes enough for 4 first course servings


1/2 lb. salad greens (about equal to the amount of asparagus) after you trim the asparagus it will be less than one lb.

1 lb.(454 mg.) large asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled

1/3 cup (a small handful) (sorry I didn't weigh it.) finely grated Parmesan plus a piece for shaving on top of the salads

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Working with 1 asparagus spear at a time, use a vegetable peeler to shave spears into long, thin shavings. When you get to the tips they will snap off, no big deal, just add the shavings and the tips to a large bowl.

Combine grated Parmesan and lemon juice in a small bowl and slowly whisk in oil until well blended. Season vinaigrette generously with salt and pepper. Add salad greens to shaved asparagus and mix. Add  enough vinaigrette to lightly cover salad. Toss together. Arrange salad on individual serving plates. Use peeler to shave more Parmesan over salad.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Swedish Pancakes

"Who is getting more pleasure from this rocking, the baby or me?"

-Nancy Thayer, author
Happy Mothers Day to all mothers! I wish you a day of rest, relaxation and joy. Or if you have a small child, like my sister, who has a sweet little baby, maybe just a day of happiness, since the rest and relaxation part is quite a tall order.

Speaking of my sister, Melanie, she is the kind of mother I like to celebrate on this day. She loves her children so much and it shows. She's a great listener to them. They can talk to her about anything. Her first two are teenagers now, and in college. I just think she's done a great job in raising 2 young men. Happy Mothers Day to my sisters, who are all great mothers, Mel, Mendy and Mary!

These pancakes are a simple pleasure. Simple ingredients, the basics, really. Eggs, flour, milk, a touch of sugar, that's all. Yet they are quite delicious, and very easy to make. It's the kind of thing you can decide to make right when you wake up, and be sitting down to eat it in about 15 minutes. Better still, it's preferable to make the batter the night before, making morning prep time even faster.

The recipe comes from an old cookbook called, Seattle's Celebrity Chefs. It was a book made for charity. They aren't all celebrity chefs really. The recipes mostly come from business owners. One from the Seattle Times, one from the Seattle Supersonics, one from the University of Washington, that sort of thing. But there are a few recipes from restaurants. Including a recipe for Canlis salad from the famed restaurant of the same name.

I do like cookbooks like this. My theory is that if you are asked what is your one favorite recipe of all time, it's got to be a good one right? My experience with books like this is regrettably hit or miss. The reason for the misses in my opinion are coming from people who don't cook but sometimes throw a few things together if they are hungry enough, and call it their favorite recipe.

But when the recipe is coming from someone who likes to cook, (or from a restaurant, of course) it can be wonderful. So I continue to read such books.

This one is definitely a hit. It comes from The Petra Corporation. Marv Harshman, the man who submitted it, says, this is his favorite recipe. His wife's grandmother brought it from Sweden almost 100 years ago. She doesn't use measurements when she makes them. They had to ask her to sit down and measure to create this recipe.

I love a recipe with a story, don't you?

Swedish Pancakes

 adapted from Seattle's Celebrity Chefs, and Marv Harshman from the Petra Corporation

this amount feeds a family of 4. I halved this to make enough for 2. (I used 2 eggs.)

Marv says they are even better if you make the batter the night before. I personally didn't because of poor planning. I still thought they were great.


2 cups (300 g.) flour
3 cups (750 ml) milk
4 Tablespoons Sugar
Pinch of salt
5 eggs

In a large bowl add all ingredients except for the eggs. Whisk them all together until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk well again.

Heat a skillet on medium high heat, or use an electric griddle on 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 6.

Pour batter into thin pancakes onto hot buttered skillet. When one side is lightly browned, flip it, and cook the other side. (It only takes a minute or 2 per side.)

Roll them up like a crepe filled with jam, or stack them up like regular pancakes and serve with butter and syrup.