Trickless Treats: Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Halloween used to be so easy. You scurried around all night, gorged on candy, felt not a twinge of guilt and moved on. Now, it’s more complicated. Candy is not so dandy the morning after. But still, we all want to walk on the wild side on Halloween. Enter healthy treats, for which we turn to our crafty Vegan friends.

Vegan cuisine is rife with creativity. That said, I have no patience for food creations that are called something they’re not. Cashews with nutritional yeast, while it can be tasty, is not queso.  And as my husband sternly pointed out, chickpeas mashed with tahini is NOT tuna salad (though I do love this one).

Along those lines, when it comes to healthy treats, don’t tell me that date paste rolled in peanuts is just like a Pay Day because it’s not. It’s just not. And tofu blended with chocolate chips taste just like, drumroll please…tofu blended with chocolate chips.

But then sometimes you find legit healthy alternatives for your treat fix. For Exhibit A I call up cocoa nutty balls; And Exhibit B: Heart of Darkness cups made here with pumpkin seed butter (because who doesn’t have some of that laying around) which gets extra Halloween points for ghoulish green insides.

This chocolate mousse/pudding is another win. It was borne of too many ripe avocados, an upcoming trip and that Yankee streak that hates to waste even one bit of a perfectly good fresh produce.

The sheer ease and speed of making it (hello food processor) would be enough to make this a win, but it’s also delish and not one bit bad for you. After all, healthy fats are a thing and maple syrup, in responsible amounts, is like mainlining nature.

If you do want to witness dates and peanuts trying their hardest to be a PayDay, check this out from Minimalist Baker:  

Go ahead—have a treat, or two, and feel damn good about it. Happy Halloween!

Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Total Time: 5 minutes (you’ve got that don’t you?)

Makes 4 servings

From Chocolate Covered Katie

Ingredients

  • flesh of 2 ripe avocados (240g)
  • 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3-4 tbsp milk of choice
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Method

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Pour in four little bowls or one big one, and refrigerate it if you want it thicken up. Dress up if you must and feel 100 percent totally good about yourself.

 

Triple Apple Muffins

Welcome to apple season. Yes, we have been here for a while, but last week’s windstorm that brought down all those high, out-of-reach apples has brought urgency to the situation.  That, and the King Arthur Flour Mother Ship has deemed it Apple Week so , let’s join in.

I’m not a huge muffin person. I like muffins enough, but most muffins are a thinly disguised excuse to eat cake in the morning. Nothing against cake, but I don’t need more reasons to eat it for breakfast. These muffins, however, are pretty healthy on the muffin meter. First, they’re packing  apple overload–in grated, chopped, and sauce form. They’re made with whole wheat flour, olive oil for the fat and maple syrup for the sweetener. They’re also easy to make, though they  do require chopping and grating, plus a little more effort if you channel your inner Laura Ingalls and make your own applesauce (I had to do it. See windstorm, above).

This recipe is good to have in your arsenal for apple season, and as advertised, do indeed get better after hanging out for a bit,

Triple Apple Muffins
From Cookie and Kate

From thought to table in half an hour. Maple syrup and a triple dose of apple makes these healthy muffins a bite of New England.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup grated apple
  • 1 cup apple diced into ¼” cubes
  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey*)
  • 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature (or 6 tbsp aquafaba**)
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (or non dairy yogurt of choice**)
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (also called raw sugar), for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or line all 12 cups on your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Blend well with a whisk. Add the grated apple (if it is dripping wet, gently squeeze it over the sink to release some extra moisture) and chopped apple. Stir to combine.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil and maple syrup and beat together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, then add the yogurt, applesauce and vanilla and mix well. (If the coconut oil solidifies in contact with cold ingredients, gently warm the mixture in the microwave in 30 second bursts.)
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a big spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). The batter will be thick, but don’t worry! Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with turbinado sugar. Bake muffins for 13 to 16 minutes, or until the muffins are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. If you have leftover muffins, store them, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Freeze leftover muffins for up to 3 months.

Notes

*If you are baking with honey: Honey tends to brown quickly, so to avoid overdone muffins, bake muffins at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 to 25 minutes.

**Veganize these by using flax eggs or aquafaba, and non dairy yogurt

 

Just Peachy Caprese Salad

I figured it was over…summer, patio nights, ice cream stands—the whole thing. But when I walked in the store earlier this week I saw them—peaches. In fact, we officially have a few more days of summer. So, hold your apples and squash. We’ll get to those soon enough. For now, we have, well, not really recipes, but inspiration for how to fully exploit the last of the summer produce. I’m looking at you, peaches. And corn, you’re next.

Wayyy earlier this summer a very stylish friend introduced me to the most gorgeous take on a caprese salad, substituting ripe peaches, nectarines and plums for tomatoes. Brilliant! It was so good and so perfect (so long ago) I figured I’d missed the peach train. But she was wily that friend, and must have had some inside track on perfect pre season peaches. Flash forward to a few weeks later in California, when another friend brought massive, juicy white peaches to the party. Still later back in the northeast another friend gave me a bag of the most insanely sweet pluots. I vowed, a: to keep these friends close, and b: to buy peaches, plums and related stone fruits like it was my job until they were gone.

If they weren’t ripe I shoved them into a paper bag and waited until they were. If they were ripe they were lucky to get home before getting cut up immediately. I made peach salsa, a simple concoction of peaches and all the usual salsa suspects: jalapeno, lime, red onion, cilantro. That morphed easily into a peach bruschetta by spooning it atop toasts spread with mascarpone cheese. I even made a sugarless, no oil or fat added super virtuous peach tart which was delicious but was also the least photogenic thing on the planet. I urge you to try it, and focus on its inner beauty. Then, there was the brilliant blogger who suggested freezing leftover white wine (what’s that anyway?) and blending it up with fresh peaches for an instant Happy Hour Slurpee.

So there we have it—a few ways to enjoy your peaches and stone fruits, even though they are perfect as is. If you need an actual recipe, here is one from Real Life Delicious (which never disappoints). If you’re good with freelancing it, here is a loose guide for making Peach Caprese Salad. If you are so moved to add a sprinkling of fresh corn, you might start a trend.

Just Peachy Caprese Salad

Ingredients:

  • Greens of choice
  • Ripe peaches, nectarines, plums or pluots in any combo
  • Fresh Burrata or Mozzarella or a bit of both
  • Avocado (optional, but kind of not optional for Vegans)
  • Pesto or torn basil leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze or good balsamic vinegar (extra credit to mix the vinegar with some maple syrup if you don’t have the glaze)
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Arrange greens in a layer on a platter.

Top with fruit slices.

Cover with slices or shreds of cheese, and/or slices of avocado.

Drizzle with pesto or scatter basil leaves on top.

Drizzle with just enough olive oil so all your ingredients feel a little love.

Drizzle (because you are so good at it now) with balsamic glaze, balsamic vinegar or balsamic/maple concoction.

Give the whole shebang a shake of salt and pepper.

Bringing it:

This is a total make on site thing. Bust out the fresh produce and get your friends to help, or let them drink their peach slurpees and watch you create the masterpiece. It’s all good.

 

Chile Crisp, Condiment of the Year

And now, in time for your Labor Day entertaining, I present the third of three condiments, and by far the best. I discovered this recipe way back in early summer, nestled in the margin of “The Simple Issue”  of Bon Appetit. Within a week the page was permanently folded back, stained and a little greasy, and since then my fridge has never NOT had a jar of chile crisp in residence.

The catch on this spicy, sassy, savory creation is that it takes some effort to make. You can cut yourself some slack by buying pre-peeled garlic cloves. Even with those, you’re still going to have to do a lot of thin slicing. Soooo, dig deep! It’s the last weekend of summer, people. Get yourself a sharp knife and a good playlist and get going. There’s still time to make yourself the MVP by bringing this to the party, or spicing up your own patio fare.

But first, a couple of things: I’ve now made this several times , and each time I’ve overdone it on the volume of shallots. Only once did they really crisp up—which was tremendous and worth cranking up the heat a bit and then babysitting the pot until they were evenly brown. That said, it was pretty tremendous all the other times too. Just make sure you brown the shallots and garlic without burning them. I now use a bigger pot than seems necessary, which allows the shallots to really relax in their hot oil bath.

It’s worth going to the original Bon Appetit recipe and reading the comments. I think “off the hook” is the best reader description. We’ve put it on burgers, quesadillas, sandwiches, pizza, baked sweet potatoes and eggs; into salads and on bruschetta and burratta and toast. It’s so going to get stirred into soups this fall. I may draw the line at using it as an ice cream topper, but…no promises.

Finally, there is apparently an excellent version of this at Trader Joe’s called chile onion crunch. Add that to the pain of not having a TJ’s near me. For now, I chop.

PS This one goes out to Sister B, who hates bread and butter pickles and cilantro (see quick, easy, cheap salsa), but hung in there for this. Three’s the charm, baby.

Chile Crisp

Ingredients

  • 4 small shallots, thinly sliced (I end up with 1 1/2 cups or so, which is probably wayyyy too much, but I’m greedy and my shallots are apparently jumbo)
  • 2 heads of garlic (HEADS, not cloves), separated into cloves, sliced. (Google says that’s about 24 cloves)
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 3″ cinnamon sticks
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped
  • ¼ cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar

Method:

  • Bring shallots, garlic, oil, cinnamon, and star anise to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer and swirling pot occasionally, until garlic and shallots are browned and crisp, 20–25 minutes.

    Shallots prepping for the spa

    (Take your time—you want to drive all the moisture out before they brown.)

  • Mix ginger, red pepper, soy sauce, and sugar in a medium bowl. Strain shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over ginger mixture. Let garlic and shallot cool in sieve (this will allow them to crisp further) before stirring back into chile oil. This is the time to take out the cinnamon and star anise too.
  • Do Ahead: Crisp can be made 1 month ahead. Cover and chill.

Bringing It:

Divide the goods into one big jar or smaller jars that you can fit a spoon into. Put the lids on tight and prepare to make a lot of friends. If you pour off a bunch of the oil you can then use it to make a sassy version of aquafaba mayo.

A shortcut worth every penny

Quick, Easy, Cheap Salsa

I know, it’s summer and we should be all about fresh tomatoes (and corn of course). That said, when it comes to salsa, you can really never have enough. So, when there is a quick, easy and cheap way to make a boatload of salsa yourself, bring on the can opener. (For further proof of canned tomato greatness, see Funitella Bruschetta.)

No need to belabor the intro here. I love a chunky fresh salsa with all kinds or weirdness in it: beans, corn, mango, etc. I also love a straight up tomato salsa with fresh jalapeno, lime and cilantro. This is that salsa, AKA Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Salsa (she even gives you a video in case pushing buttons is a challenge). It makes a TON, so get a few jars ready, fire up your food processor and be ready for the weekend.

Coming up next: The third of three must-have condiments. Get a playlist and a sharp knife and prepare for some chopping. I promise it’s worth it!

Quick, Easy, Cheap Salsa

Ingredients

Two 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Rotel
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice 
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin, with seeds and membrane (2 is perfectly reasonable)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 whole lime, juiced

Method

This is a very large batch. you’re totally safe with a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

  • Combine the cilantro, onions, garlic and jalapeno in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to get them in the same zone size wise, not too pulverized. (If you do this step you can be a little lazier with your chopping). Add the diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice.
  • Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like. I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed. 
  • Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving.

Bringing it:

Divide the batch into as many jars as you like and you are ready to take your show on the road. This is NOT shelf stable, so keep it in the fridge.

 

Bread and Butter Pickles, the easy way

Got an update for you: It’s blueberry season. So why are you looking at pickles? Let me ‘splain. To be sure, every day that passes without me getting out to the amazingly awesome Super Acres to pick blueberries, reminds me summer is ticking by too fast. But, sadly, that ticking isn’t enough to get me out there…yet. Those of you who are more industrious can get busy with your blueberries by making Blueberry Dutch Bunnyovernight blueberry muffins or blueberry mint lemonade .

For the rest of you, here is a tasty consolation prize. I’m about to hit you with three straight posts on condiments. Sure, summer is all about grilling, and picnics, but both beg for condiments. Great condiments can elevate anything on a bun or a bed of greens. This summer (while not at the blueberry patch), I’ve been making three excellent condiments that now have permanent residence in my fridge.

First off, bread and butter pickles, for a lot of good reasons:

  1. They’re just so darned unsophisticatedly delicious.
  2. They add that little streak of brilliance to egg salad, tuna salad, sandwiches, burgers, the end of your fork, etc.
  3. For guilty pleasures, they are pretty low-consequence. Yes they’ve got sugar, but unless you are drinking the brine it can’t be THAT much, right?
  4. Pickles, even when not made by the super responsible canning process, keep fresh in the fridge for a long while.
  5. And finally, pickles because in fact you CAN have too many cucumbers.

I discovered this after a chance evening encounter with a neighbor who kindly gave me an armful of cukes. I’m always grateful for fresh produce, but cucumbers straight up can be a tough sell in my house. They are not easily disguised, either by grating into a burger or a stir fry, and they don’t freeze well, unless your end game is to weaponize them.

If you end up with a stash of cucumbers, or if you are a pickle lover with no patience for the canning process, these babies are for you. Just a few ingredients and zero talent required. All you need is a little time for them to hang out in the fridge. Basically you can go from evening neighbor garden encounter to proud pickle producer by the time you settle in to Netflix, or bed, or whatever makes you happy.

Just add…anything really. Get your pic-nic on!

Bread and Butter Pickles, the Easy Way

From Brown Eyed Baker

Prep 15 minutes; Cook 5 minutes
Resting 2 hours 40 minutes; Total 3 hours

Makes 4 cups of pickles

Ingredients

  • 5½ cups about 1½ pounds thinly sliced (about ¼-inch) pickling cucumbers
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Directions

  1. Combine cucumbers and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1½ hours. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl and toss with the cucumbers.
  2. Combine the granulated sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and ground turmeric in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 month.

Recipe Notes

As made here these are not shelf stable. Store them in the fridge. If you’re looking for proper canning instruction, get back on your google and good luck—I’ll be cheering you on!

 

Nina’s Margarita Pie

It’s 5 pm somewhere. Wait a sec…it’s 5 pm here! That means it’s a perfect time to eat your margarita. It is Sunday after all, and time to reel it in from the weekend.

Today is my mother’s birthday, and she would have turned 85. In her honor, I am posting one of the recipes that makes me think of her. Nina was not a cook by any stretch, but she had some go-tos. This was one of them, for some obvious reasons, of equal import. First, it is easy. Second, it involves margaritas. Third, it is delicious.

This is similar to luscious Lemon Beach Pie, a cold, lemony affair with a saltine crust. On a really hot day, however, this is even better because it involves zero cooking. For those of you techies who own a working microwave, you can melt the butter in that and have no relationship whatsoever with the stove.

There are many versions of this, all good I am sure, including some imposters with a hybrid graham cracker/pretzel crust. They are probably delicious as well, but when it comes to Margarita Pie I’m a purist. It has to be all pretzel. The recipe gives you the option to use Cool Whip or whipped cream. No judgment, but know that it will then be sweeter and, well, Cool Whippy. If that’s your thing, enjoy the convenience.

See notes below for bringing it, and don’t be afraid to say you’ll bring dessert to the next weekend away, IF you have enough time at your destination for it to freeze. When you’re enjoying your pie, give a little smile for Nina and it’ll taste even better.

*Special thanks to my fabulous niece Maddie for these pics of actually beautiful pies. That is something I have yet to master (see below, but points for creative styling).

Quite possibly the perfect Sunday supper?

Nina’s Margarita Pie

READY IN: 15mins, plus freezing time.

SERVES: 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 2 -3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 1/4 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 13 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon tequila
  • 1 Tablespoon triple sec
  • 4 drops green food coloring, green (optional. I say bag it)
  • 1 cup whipped cream (or more. I say more). Cool Whip is also, well, cool, especially if on-site prep space is a challenge.
  • Topping
  • additional whipped cream

Method

Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9 inch pie pan.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, lime juice, alcohol and food coloring, if using.
Fold in whipped cream.
Pour into pie crust and freeze for 4 hours.

Bringing it:

Traveling any distance with this is tough in the heat, but low impact assembly on site is easy as long as you can melt butter, whip cream, and get some freezer space on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients—limes, cream, stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that has been in your cupboard since the moon landing (don’t tell!). Make the pie right away so it has time to freeze and then get yourself a real margarita to celebrate.

The “I want to go to your parties” shot.

Stupid Easy Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

Ok, so here’s a little summer quiz: What did we learn last week, other than the fact that 3-day work weeks rock? Well, careful readers, we learned that this year’s strawberry season was late to arrive but is awesome. We are, in mid-July, only halfway through the heart of strawberry season, which means we will have zero downtime before it’s blueberry season. And all this is overlapping with the greater “ice cream season” (a subset of maple creemee season, which  some people believe should last all year.)

Let me connect the dots here. It’s time to bust out the ice cream maker in your basement. This recipe came to me via Sister B, who lives amidst California’s produce  bonanza. It is, as promised, ridiculously easy, and kind of healthy, or at least not that unhealthy thanks to the buttermilk. It is for sure best with organic strawberries, buttermilk and cream, but also awesome with items from the standard fare at the air-conditioned Nirvana of your grocery store. No need to pre-make and pre-chill the mix, and, if you are feeling very Laura Ingalls, it can be made without an ice cream maker.

It’s summer—no need to prolong this. There are places to go, things to eat. Have a great weekend!

Stupid Easy Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

This recipe is adapted from How To Eat A Peach, by Diana Henry. Our friends like Diana, in Mother England, know a thing or two about strawberries and cream.

Ingredients

  • 18 oz strawberries
  • 1 cup superfine sugar, divided
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, or 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 pinch sea salt flakes

Method

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Put them into a bowl with half the sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod (scrape out the seeds using the tip of a knife. or…dump in the vanilla.
  2. Leave this to sit for about 30 minutes. The strawberries will become soft and exude some juice.
  3. Transfer the fruit with all the juice and the rest of the sugar to a food processor and whizz (God I love the Brits) to a purée.
  4. Push the purée through a nylon sieve (or whatever you’ve got) to get rid of the seeds. Mix with the buttermilk, sour cream and salt.
  5. Churn in an ice cream machine, or transfer to a shallow container and put in the freezer.
  6. If you’re using the manual method, take the ice cream out and churn it – either using electric beaters or by putting the mixture in a food processor – 3 times during the freezing process. Do this first after about 1 hour, when the mixture is setting round the edges, then at 2-hour intervals. (Extra points for wearing a gingham dress during this escapade). Cover with a lid, or with cling film or greaseproof paper, between each churning, and when you store it. Freeze for around 8 hours or until completely firm.
  7. Take the ice cream out of the freezer about 10 minutes before you want to serve it, to allow it to soften slightly.

Strawberries, blueberries, ice cream. What is wrong with this picture? Nothing!

 

If you need something else cold, refreshing and summery to bring to the party might I suggest:

watermelon gazpacho

watermelon sangria

Frose or Frosecco

Lemon Beach Pie

 

Summer Strawberry Chopped Salad

Welcome to the steamy hot heart of summer! I was feeling like a slacker for being a solid month late in posting this strawberry salad. As with all the rhubarb recipes I meant to post, I thought I’d missed my window. BUT it seems fate and Mother Nature have conspired to make the timing downright perfect. Strawberry season is three weeks late here, thanks to all that June rain (that I missed in CA…#notsorry).

This recipe comes from the fabulous Bevin Wallace’s Real Life Delicious blog and is based on a salad at Vail’s Chophouse. If you can get away with a DIY version of anything in Vail you’re usually $100 ahead of a game, even when it comes to salad. Considering the other revelation that this year is serving up a bumper crop of strawberries, I’d highly encourage you to try this salad. The dressing alone is worth having on hand, and the whole shebang is a great addition to any gathering.

The only slightly labor intensive thing here are the candied pecans. You could of course use some fancy packaged pecans, or simply sub toasted pecans but, c’mon, live a little. It’s salad and it’s summer and as the strawberries will tell you, it’s been a gloomy spring. Time to celebrate!

Nothing says summahhhh like fresh strawberries

Summer Strawberry Chopped Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. pecan pieces (you won’t need a half pound of pecans for the salad, but nobody every complained about having too many candied pecans on hand)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

For the dressing

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon)
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method:

Make the candied pecans: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Whisk egg white and 1 tbs. water together in a separate bowl until frothy. Toss pecans into the egg white mixture. Mix sugar mixture into pecan mixture until pecans are evenly coated. Spread coated pecans onto a baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until pecans are evenly browned, about 25 mins. Allow to cool. In the meantime…

Make the dressing: Whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt & pepper in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified.

Make the salad: Tear the lettuce and place in a large (larger than you think you need) bowl. Add the strawberries, avocado, goat cheese, and about 4 oz. of the pecans. Drizzle on the dressing and toss gently.

Want more reason to get fresh berries? Check out these strawberry all stars.

 

Game of Scones: The Iron Scone

You knew it was coming: the crowning glory of all the build-up, the driving force of this obsession—the Iron Scone. Until last week, I thought this culminating creation might need to be something with dragon fruit. But after Dani Girl’s  Ring of Fire joyride, methinks there will be no dragons or dragon queens ruling the Seven Kingdoms.

I’m betting on tradition and some sense of justice to win out, so I went with a classic currant scone. Currants happen to be an excellent source of iron, and to bring the theme home I made these scones in a cast iron pan. Instead of making familiar wedges, I made these as a more British version of scones, by cutting them in circles and nestling them together in the pan.

To find the perfect starter recipe for this grand finale, I deferred to royalty, and consulted with King Arthur Flour’s legendary baker and blogger PJ Hamel. She pointed me to her go-to basic scone recipe that lives on the KAF website. The recipe itself is excellent, and is essential scone reading. In addition to the many tips at the end of the recipe, PJ added this bit of scone wisdom:

“Don’t overbake. You want them just barely light brown. Otherwise they’ll be dry. And they’re like biscuits: the more you handle the dough, the more you risk making the scones tough. So, once you bring the dough together (after adding the liquid), don’t keep stirring; turn it out of the bowl, shaggy mess that it may be, divide it in half (a scale helps), and gently pat the two pieces into 3/4″ to 1″-thick rounds. And do refrigerate (or place in the freezer) for 30 minutes before baking; this helps their texture.”

So there you have it. The beauty of this scone is that it can be adapted to any flavors and ingredients, to accommodate whomever lands in that throne: White Hot Jon Snow; Sassy Sansa; Bittersweet Tyrion; and even the ghosts of the Loving Lannisters. Indeed, we could have started this whole Game of Scones journey with this master recipe and tweaked it accordingly, but what would be the fun in that?

The Iron Throne, which, quite honestly, does not look very comfy.

The Iron Scone

From King Arthur Flour’s Basic Scone Recipe

I pared down the recipe to the necessities, and included my own adaptation for the cast iron pan version (in bold), but I highly recommend going to the KAF site for their Baker’s tips at the end of the recipe. Another very cool feature of the recipes on the KAF site it being able to toggle between measuring by volume, ounces or grams. I like to weigh my flour and but not necessarily the rest of the ingredients. So, go King Arthur…way to support the new ruler!

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup to 2 cups dried currants (or add ins of choice)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extractor the flavoring of your choice
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup half-and-half or milk. (see tips in KAF recipe, but basically you’ll need more liquid in cold dry weather and less in hot humid weather.

Topping

  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 2 tablespoon sugar, turbinado sugar or cinnamon sugar, optional

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated.
  3. Stir in the fruit, nuts and/or other mix-ins if using.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla or other flavor, and half and half or milk.
  5. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don’t have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan. If using a cast iron pan or skillet, line it with parchment paper. Wing it or check out this slick trick.
  7. Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 5″ circle (if you haven’t incorporated any add-ins); or a 6″ circle (if you’ve added fruit, nuts, etc.). The circles should be about 3/4″ thick. (If using a cast iron pan or other skillet, use a biscuit cutter or the top of a can or drinking glass to cut each circle into rounds of whatever size makes you happy. Arrange them in the lined pan so there is about ½” of space in between them. Mush scraps into scone-like shapes. They too will be delicious.

    Unbaked, lightly frozen scone pucks in their iron home

  8. Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired.
  9. If making wedge shaped scones: slice each circle into 6 wedges, using a knife or bench knife that you’ve run under cold water. Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2″ space between them, at their outer edges.
  10. For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones (on just the parchment if that is easier to fit) in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Chilling the scones relaxes the gluten in the flour, which makes the scones more tender and allows them to rise higher. It also chills the fat, which will make the scones a bit flakier. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  11. Bake the scones for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown (mine were smaller, and done in 20). When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.
  12. Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. They’re delicious as is, but add butter and/or jam, if you like.
  13. When the scones are completely cool, wrap them in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days. To reheat room-temperature scones, place on a baking sheet, tent lightly with foil, and warm in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Make ahead: This is straight from the KAF Bakers Tips, but I had to include it here too because it was a revelation: “Want to make scones well ahead of time? Simple. After the unbaked scones’ 30 minutes in the freezer (or whenever they’re frozen solid), place them in a zip-top plastic bag. Return to the freezer, and store for up to a month. Bake as directed (without thawing), adding a couple of extra minutes if needed.”

To bake up just a few scones at a time, any size oven-proof skillet will do.