Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cranberry Scones: Thankful For Leftovers

My husband really loves scones.  If left to his own devices in a Peet's or Starbuck's, he comes out with an enormous coffee and an equally enormous scone -- usually one with some sort of sugary glaze on top.  Too sweet for me. I like the scones I fell in love with during my college semester in the U.K.  A biscuity scone with just a touch of sweetness and absolutely no PopTarts-style frosting on top.  Those are the scones that make me want to sit down, immediately, with a cup of tea and the crossword puzzle.

So when I came across Molly Wizenberg's scone recipe this summer, I was determined to make the scones that I craved.  Of course, I am a mom of two little children, so I don't actually get to sit down for a "cuppa" (as my Scottish grandma says) and a puzzle.  Which explains why it is late November and I am just now getting around to trying that scone recipe that I've had my eye on since mid-summer.  C'est la vie.
There is a silver lining to my lack of free time, however.  Had I tried this recipe any earlier, I would not have had an overabundance of leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce on hand.  And so I would not have made this particular, amazing version of these scones. And, man, these babies were worth the wait!  They are nicely crumbly and the perfect balance of sweet and tart. 

If you don't have cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving, don't fret.  Just take the basic scone recipe and add fillings of your choice.  See the link to Molly's recipe, linked above, for lots of ideas. Or just think about the best scones you've had in your life . . . were they lemon? berry? almond? maple? raisin? ginger?  I've got some ground hazelnuts leftover from a pumpkin pie, so I might experiment with those, next!  One note:  Because my cranberry sauce is very sweet and very cinnamon-y, I did not otherwise flavor the dough.  So if you are not using cranberry sauce, you will likely need to add about 3 TBSP of sugar (based on Molly's recipe) and a bit of the spice of your choice.  (If you don't have cranberry sauce, I bet you could just use some frozen cranberries and add 1/4 c of sugar, cinnamon, and maybe a bit of orange zest.)

I ended up making three batches of these today and then followed the suggestion in Molly's book to freeze them for holiday gifts.  In a world of Christmas chocolates and cookies, I think my daughter's teachers will appreciate a box of scones.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veggies: Roast 'em if You Got 'em!

I don't think I've told you, yet, about my deep and abiding love for roasted vegetables. I love them. Adore, worship, glorify, treasure, cherish them. That may sound a little over the top, to you, but really, I'm mad about roasted veggies. Roasting turns a vegetable into a more perfect version of itself -- a little sweeter, a little nuttier, a little more like a celebration, rather than the portion of your dinner you choke down for health purposes.

And I never get tired of roasted vegetables, since there are so many veggies and so many preparations. In the summer, I roast eggplant to use in ratatouille and turn pounds and pounds of tomatoes into edible rubies thanks to Molly Wizenburg's recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomatoes. When fall hits, there are trays upon trays of roasted veggies: fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, green beans, turnips, and winter squashes of all kinds. And on nights when we're having the emergency dinner of choice in our house -- quesadillas -- I can make an effortless, cheap, side dish out of a bag of frozen, organic corn.

So here are just a few of my favorite roasted veggie recipes for fall. Despite the fact that I'm posting recipes, there is not a "wrong" way to roast your veggies. As long as you get them onto a pan with some oil (or at least some Pam) and get them in the oven, they will probably turn out yummy. So, e.g., if my recipe below calls for a 425 degree oven, but you're cooking a main dish at 375, no sweat! Just pop the veggies in with your main dish, at the lower temp. Just roast 'em if you got 'em.


Sources: adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters, and William-Sonoma Vegetable, Marlena Spieler
Serves: about 6
Time: 5 mins. prep, 45 mins. unattended baking, another 5 mins. assembling

If you think you aren't a fan of beets because you've mostly had the canned variety that turns up on salad bars, then it's time to think again. Try this method and you'll end up like me: thinking about beets in the middle of the night, wondering whether your husband ate the leftover beet salad or whether you will get it for lunch tomorrow . . . Roasting beets, rather than boiling them, preserves the sugar in the beet -- it isn't lost into the boiling liquid. If you buy your beets with the greens still on and don't plan on preparing them for a few days, then cut the greens off a little above the root. The beet root will keep a week or so, without their tops, loosely wrapped in the fridge. (P.S. You can eat the greens, too!)
  • Beets
  • vinegar (Balsamic, red wine, white wine, sherry)
  • salt & pepper
  • sugar
  • olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the beet greens off, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem. Wash the beets well and put them in a baking dish with a big splash of water (about 1/2 inch of water). Cover tightly (either with a lid or foil) and bake for about 40 mins (for small beets) to 1 1/2 hrs. (for large beets) -- until a sharp knife easily pierces through the center of the biggest beet.
  2. After the beets have cooled a bit, peel them. I just slide the skins right off, using a small knife in any spots where it sticks. Cut them into quarters and place in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the beets with vinegar, salt and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Let them sit for as long as you can -- at least 15 mins. (The beets need a chance to absorb the vinegar to be truly, truly delicious!)
  4. Add a little olive oil -- not too much!

The beets are delicious just plain like this, but here are my favorite ways to finish them:

1. Add some crumbled goat cheese and dill.

2. Prep some baby greens with salt, pepper, juice from half a lemon, and olive oil. Put the beets on top. Bonus points: add goat cheese and toasted walnuts. (And grilled chicken is yummy, too!)
3. Toss some sections of blood oranges (or whatever oranges you have on hand) with the beets. Also good over the greens described above.


Source: adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Serves: about 4
Time: about 7 mins. prep, 20 mins. mostly unattended cooking time, and 5 more mins. assembling

This is my kids' favorite vegetable. We call it "Popcorn Cauliflower" in our house, as the little florets resemble popcorn -- and are coated with butter and crunchy salt.
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • cooking spray (or olive oil)
  • coarse salt
  • about 1-3 tsp. butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Prep the cauliflower: cut out the stem and separate the florets into small, bite-size pieces. Spray a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) with Pam and spread the cauliflower onto it. Roast the cauliflower for about 20 mins, until it is nicely browned. Stir the florets once or twice while roasting.
  2. Meanwhile, put a bit of butter in a small frying pan and let it brown. (If you're rushed for time, use high heat and it will brown fast.)
  3. When the cauliflower is done, put it in a serving bowl and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle the browned butter on and toss.

Note: My neighbor adds mushrooms to the roasting pan, which sounds delicious, but I haven't tried it, yet!

Source: Adapted, barely, from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Serves: 4-6
Time: 15 mins. prep, 40 mins. mostly unattended roasting time
  • 1 winter squash of your choice (butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin, etc.)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • parsley or thyme
  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Peel your squash with a sharp vegetable peeler (and a knife, if necessary). Scoop out any seeds/strings. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Toss with a few whole cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) and roast for about 40 mins., until tender and nicely browned. Stir every now and again to prevent burning.
  3. Toss roasted squash with some freshly chopped parsley or thyme.
Source: Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters
Serves: 4 (or just me, alone)
Time: 7 mins. prep and about 20-30 mins. mostly unattended roasting time

I'm not much of a carrot fan, in general. I don't mind those ubiquitous baby carrots, but I don't exactly crave them. But find me a gorgeous bunch of carrots at the farmer's market and roast them up, and suddenly I'm sneaking the little gems off the baking sheet so fast that there are barely any left at the dinner table . . .
  • carrots
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Peel and trim the carrots and then cut them on the diagonal into thin slices. Toss the slices with a lot of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread the carrots into a single layer on a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) and roast for about 20-30 mins. Definitely stir and toss them a few times, especially near the end. I like them pretty browned, but it's up to you.

Note: Alice Waters' recipe adds turnips to this, which sounds awesome. I've added wedges of onion and enjoyed that, too.

Source: Barely adapted from Cheap. Fast. Good., Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross
Serves: 4-6 (or just me, alone . . . again)
Time: 2 mins. prep and 10-15 mins. unattended cooking time

You won't believe how roasting can turn that bag of corn you always have stashed in your freezer into an exciting, craveable side dish. We make this any time we're having a Mexican main dish.
  • 1 lb. bag frozen corn (organic and extra-sweet recommended!)
  • 1 TBSP canola oil
  • Coarse salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Dump the corn into a colander and rinse with cool water, to defrost somewhat. Drain well. (I pat it with paper towels, too.)
  3. Spread the corn on a baking sheet (jelly-roll pan). Drizzle with the oil. Stir to coat and then redistribute in a single layer. Roast until the kernels start to brown -- the original recipe calls for 10 mins, but I like them pretty browned, so I go closer to 15-20 mins. I stir at 10 mins., though. (If I can remember!)
  4. Season with coarse salt to taste.

Roast 'em if you got 'em! And let me know if you have a favorite roasted veggie I should try!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Quickie Sheperd's Pie: Now With Ghosts!

I love Halloween. It's always been one of my favorite holidays -- dressing up in something that makes you feel fabulous, staying out "late," eating too many sweet things, feeling that little jolt of adrenaline when you get spooked . . . What's not to like here, folks?

On Halloween night, I always try to feed my kids an early and hearty dinner, aiming to stuff them full of something healthy before the candy binge starts. In the past, I've made a big pot of meatball minestrone, but my stash of frozen homemade meatballs was depleted this year. I wasn't sure what to make until I saw a picture of a mashed potato ghost sitting atop a bed of Sheperd's Pie in Better Homes & Gardens' special Halloween issue. Since I have a "quickie" (30-min) version of Sheperd's Pie in my repetoire, I had to try it with the ghosts on top!

It turned out really cute and both kids were delighted with their plates. (I added some "ghost toast" and "bat bread" to extend the spooky theme -- just buttered toast cut with a cookie cutter.) Ruby ate her mashed potato ghost immediately (and happily!), but Billy is still sticking to his anti-potato position. He ended up eating three pieces of "bat bread." Oh, well. Win some, lose some.
Here is my recipe for "Quickie" Sheperd's Pie, based on one I found years ago in my trusty Desperation Dinners cookbook. My main adaptation has been to use my own leftover mashed potatoes and to hide some extra veggies in the meat. (My kids are not great veggie-lovers, so I run a carrot and a red pepper in the food processor and add them.) This is a great post-Thanksgiving meal, as it uses up extra mashed potatoes!


Source: Adapted from Desperation Dinners, Beverly Mills & Alicia Ross
Serves: 4-6
Time: less than 30 mins
  • 1 lb ground beef

  • 2 tsp canola oil

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 TBSP ketchup

  • 1 TBSP Worchestershire sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 c frozen peas

  • 1 c frozen corn

  • other veggies as desired (canned, frozen, steamed & pureed, or just fresh veggies chopped finely in the food processor)

  • 1 tsp beef "Better Than Bouillon" (or 1 beef bouillon cube)

  • 1/2 c water

  • 1 TBSP cornstarch (might need more if you use a lot of pureed or minced veggies)

  • leftover mashed potatoes OR 20 oz. package of refrigerated mashed potatoes OR large container of mashed potatoes from deli section of your grocery store

  • 1/2 c sour cream

  • 1 c shredded sharp Cheddar
  1. Turn on your broiler.

  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Peel and chop the onion and add it to the skillet. Add the beef and raise the heat to high. Cook, breaking up the beef, about 5 mins. or until the beef is browned.

  3. Stir in the ketchup, Worchestershire, and garlic. Then stir in any veggies you are using (frozen peas, corn, purees, whatever you've got). Reduce the heat and let simmer.

  4. Meanwhile, combine the "Better Than Bouillon" with the 1/2 c water and heat in a microwave. Stir to fully dissolve. Next, make a slurry to thicken the beef mixture: stir the cornstarch into the bouillon to dissolve. Pour the slurry over the skillet and stir well. Continue to simmer, letting it thicken. If it doesn't thicken enough, make another little slurry (1 TBSP cornstarch in 2-3 TBSP water) and add.

  5. Meanwhile, heat up your potatoes (either according to package directions or just in the microwave for a minute or so).

  6. Add the sour cream to the beef mixture once it is thickened. Then pour the mixture into a casserole dish (11x9 works well, but it's up to you). Plop the potatoes all over the top of the beef mixture and spread them out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and pop it under the broiler until the cheese in melted and brown in spots.

TO MAKE GHOSTS: Save some of your mashed potatoes. Spoon them into a plastic baggie and snip off one corner. Squeeze the potatoes out of the open corner into a ghost shape. I did one blob for the body and another, smaller one for the head, with a little tail on top. Add eyes. (I used two black, disc-shaped sprinkles we happened to have around, but chocolate sprinkles or raisins would work. Better Homes & Gardens suggested capers, but my kids would freak out over that.)

Hope you all had a wonderful, fun Halloween!