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English Tea Scones

I'm not sure exactly when my fascination with the British began.  I'm sure my mom and Jane Austen had something to do with it. There was a lot of Pride and Prejudice and Enchanted April in my upbringing , with a little Keeping Up Appearances thrown in for good measure.  There were also a lot of fake British accents, tea parties and, of course, scones.  Sometime in high school I taught myself to make scones and they remain one my absolute favorite things to bake.  Ever.

This was a plain batch -- plain, but ever so tasty

I really don't need a good excuse to bake scones.  Friends visiting? Time to bake scones.  Ladies' get together?  Must bake scones.  It's Saturday...scones!  So, for Gretta's bridal shower, what did I offer to bring?  Well, scones, of course!  I was delighted that they turned out to be such a hit, especially considering that I mindlessly left my favorite scone accompaniment,  my "faux Devonshire cream", at home in the refrigerator.  tsk, tsk, tsk...

How sweet!  I added dried tart cherries to the heart-shaped scones.  I only wish I had added more!

As an aside, I almost always make scones by hand.  A couple of times I have tried using the food processor to cut in the butter and combine the dough, but it's just not the same.  I don't mean the taste and texture aren't the same --  those don't really seem to suffer.  It the experience for me that changes.  When you make scones by hand, the smell of butter billows up as you're cutting it into the flour. Then, after folding in the liquid ingredients, I love to plunge my hands into it the bowl and gently knead the crumbly mess into a uniform dough.  A food processor just takes too much of the pleasure away...and far too much of the necessary mess.  While preparing the dough in the food processor will shave off a few minutes, you can still whip up a batch rather quickly, especially once you get the hang of it.

I love how these herbs serve double duty.
They are both a beautiful table decoration
and a very useful party favor!

The recipe below is a basic tea scone recipe.  It's wonderfully adaptable and I'll share some of the small ways I sometimes change it up. 

Wonky Formatting

It seems I've been fighting with Google all day. At work I was fighting with a Google Doc that just wouldn't cooperate and now my blog formatting is publishing all wonky. Sorry for the huge gaps in the scones post. I'm putting up the white flag and giving up.  Google wins.


Corn Chowder

I really wish this photo did the chowder justice.   The green bits are fresh jalapeno - for a spicy twist.  

My return to work has reminded me that summer is, sadly, drawing to an end.  While I won't miss the excessive heat and humidity, I am going to miss entire days of doing whatever I please and, of course, the wonderful array of gorgeous produce that only comes around during these months of sweat and bad hair days.  Oh the vibrant reds and greens of summer veggies and berries the color of gemstones! And then there is sweet summer corn.

A bundt cake pan is the perfect tool for slicing the corn off the cob!  Just position the corn cob on the middle tube thingy (so technical) and, as you slice off the kernels, they'll fall into the pan.  ...Well, most of them will.  Only a few cheeky ones will hop onto your floor.

Sweet and simple -- corn is one of my favorite summer crops.   Lucky for me it's one of the most abundant summer veggies and one of the easiest to prepare.  I usually just boil it for a couple of minutes and eat it on the cob - no butter, no salt.   Just pure, sweet and tender corn.  So good.

Once the kernels are removed, the cobs are boiled with a little s + p to make a broth for the chowder.
Once or twice each summer I go for something a little more decadent.  OK, a lot more decadent.  I make summer corn chowder. The flavors in this soup are so simple, but utterly delicious.   Oh, and the smell while it's cooking!!  The essence of summer fills your senses...without the icky heat and humidity.

I discovered this recipe a few years ago in what is now one of my favorite cookbooks, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. (He also wrote How to Cook Everything).  I usually only buy cookbooks that are chock full of glossy photos.  This book is certainly an exception.  There are no photos, but this 1000+ page book contains an amazing array of recipes and illustrated "how to" guides.  If I only could have one cookbook, this one just might be my pick.

Here's the recipe.  Try this summer soup before the last of the sweet corn escapes...


Yay for CSA!

Our most recent shipment contained eggplant, corn, tomatoes, nectarines, white peaches, small onions and a small nasturtium (the green plant in the top right)

I've mentioned our "CSA shipments" in a few posts already, so I thought I'd take some time to explain what in the world I'm talking about!  To start, CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture".  It's basically a way to support local farmers, eat more sustainably and keep agricultural profits in your area. You pay up front (usually) for the entire season.  By doing so, you're making an investment in a local farm - taking on both the risks and benefits.  I like this list of the 10 Reasons You Should Join a CSA.

Delivery Day!
This is actually a "full share" amount that arrived on our doorstep.
We were on vacation one week, so they held our  half-share shipment
during that week and sent us a full-share the week we returned.

As always before making a big purchase, I took to the Internet and did some serious research.  Local Harvest has a terrific directory of CSAs and farmers' markets.  Using this resourse, I narrowed the list down to a few good options in the area and ultimately decided upon Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia.  I chose this farm because they had several convenient delivery/pick up options and because the cost of membership includes weekly U-Pick bonuses and free wine tastings at Bluemont Vineyards.  Not a bad deal!

A peek inside the prize box: green beans, corn,  tomatoes, onions, a cantaloupe & white and yellow peaches

My hubby and I chose a "half share" membership, which is more than enough for the two of us.  Our membership began during the first week in June and will continue through mid-October, for a total of 20 weeks.  Each Tuesday  morning we get a 5-15 pound shipment of produce delivered to our door step.  It's one of my favorite parts of the week.  I love to open up the mystery box and see what prizes we've been sent!  Most of the items are familiar foods, but each week we'll get at least one fruit or veggie that we don't normally eat -- or have never tried.  It's a great opportunity to try eating and cooking new things.  It also forces us to eat seasonally and locally, which is so important.

Strawberry Picking at GCF -- made so many yummy treats with those berries!

There are a couple of downsides to membership that I've discovered.  The first was expected.  Each week there is the self-inflicted pressure to not waste a thing.  This is mostly good, I suppose, but it can become a slightly stressful ordeal during a busy week.  I have been found blanching broccoli or stirring up a ramp risotto at 11pm (or later) to ensure our precious produce does not spoil.  I guess you can call it grocery guilt.

We took some of our freshly picked strawberries across the street to Bluemont Vineyards.
I really love their Vidal Blanc...and warmed baguettes with regional cheese!

The second downside was not as anticipated.  I didn't realize how much I would miss shopping at farmers' markets and strolling down the produce aisle of a grocery store during the summer.   Not that I can't still do these things, but this is where the guilt comes back into play.  A trip to Whole Foods is sheer torture.  A few days ago I stared longingly at the beautiful rows of berries and tomatoes -- on SALE -- while a voice in my head nagged, "You've got all that produce at home that you can't let go to waste!"  Alas...

Look at these cuties hanging from the tree.  I couldn't believe how perfect they were!
I made the best sour cherry pie from them.  It's too bad they have such a short season.
Counting down the days for next year's crop...

All in all, we are very pleased with our decision to join a CSA.  I love knowing the name of our farmers, the Zurchmeides, and feeling like we are supporting local agriculture.  By eating more locally, our food choices are greener and more sustainable.  Food that doesn't have to be shipped hundred or thousands of miles is better for the planet and better for us, as the nutrients aren't diminished over time due to the long shipping process.  Prior to joining GCF, buying locally grown fruits and veggies had not yet become a strong habit or priority for us.  We now can't imagine not buying locally as much as possible.  We're even making more of an effort to buy local dairy products.

If you're not a person who likes to eat a lot of fruits and veggies, a CSA membership is definitely not for you.  Also, if you hate to cook or never have the time to eat at home, save your money.  For anyone who loves to cook with a lot of fresh produce, however, consider joining a CSA...or at least get yourself over to your local farmers' market once a week.

GCF provides so much more than produce!
They offer beautiful scenery, tons of animals to see, pet and feed, as well as lots of  outdoor fun for families.

This rugged rooster greets you upon arrival at GCF
I think next year we may reconsider our membership.  Instead we'll make it a priority to eat locally by shopping regularly at farmers' markets. Although, I'm confident that we'll still make visits Great Country Farms (and, of course, Bluemont Vineyards!) a regular weekend affair.  It will be nice to splurge at a farmers' market without all the nagging "grocery guilt"!


Summer Berry Cobbler

Not long after first meeting, my good friend, Ali, and I discovered that we both love to be in the kitchen. We'd talk excitedly about the great meals and desserts we planned to make and then would hash out all the "shoulda, coulda, wouldas" afterwards. At some point, it came about that we should (one day) open up a store front together. The exact contents of this hypothetical store have changed over the years. Sometimes we plan to make it a bakery, or perhaps a bookstore / bakery (so I can have story time) and other times it's a cupcakery. Lately, though, I've thought it should be a tea house so I can spend my days baking scones and pretending to be British.

This grand scheme of ours has taken a bit of a set back, now that Ali has recently moved 2,881 miles away (but who's counting?). Regardless, we still chat regularly about our latest kitchen adventures and baked goodies. Last week Ali told me about the berry cobbler she made, using berries from a local farmers' market. It sounded fabulous and so I asked her to share it here on my blog.

I can't wait to try it myself...

I am so excited to make my first contribution to Leslie's blog! Having a food blog is always something I have wanted and she so graciously has let me contribute to hers. I thought that I would post one of my favorite summer desserts, Summer Berry Cobbler. I love farmers markets and getting fresh produce, so when we went to the one at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, I found this gorgeous flat of summer berries. This recipe is an easy way to include all of these wonderful berries (plus the blueberries I already had in the fridge). I couldn't wait to get home and get started!

What is not to like about some freshly cut berries, cinnamon, lemon juice, and zest all mixed together?

Then to add more yumminess, (I hope that is a word) you dollop the berries with homemade scone mix. The original recipe has you put blueberries in the scone mix, but I liked it better without them.

Right before it gets ready to go in the oven... it already looks so good! The cook time says 25-35 minutes. I would go closer to the 35, since the scone mix can take a little longer to cook. When I've cooked it in less time, it has come out a little doughy, so just make sure that you cook it long enough!

All done and ready to eat! I like to make a little fresh whipped cream to top mine off. What a great addition to a summer day!

My daughter thought it was pretty tasty too! Here is the recipe, enjoy!


Marshmallows - Happy S'mores Day

Who doesn't love s'mores?  Gooey marshmallow, crunchy graham crackers and warm, melted chocolate...I'm sold! A few years ago I was on a real s'mores kick after caving to some sneaky marketing at Trader Joe's. They had marshmallows, cinnamon grahams and chocolate cleverly shelved together. I then proceeded to make s'mores in the toaster oven as a daily snack...until I ran out of the necessary ingredients. 

A couple of weeks ago I read in a magazine that August 10 is "National S'mores Day".  That little bit of trivia was all I needed to reignite my craving for these campfire delights.  Fortunately, thanks to my trusty toaster oven, no campfire is required.

To make these s'mores extra special, I made my own marshmallows and graham crackers using a recipe in my new favorite cook book: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects by Karen Solomon.  (I'm not going to include the graham cracker recipe here, but let me know if you want it.)  The marshmallows take the most time, about 2 hours from start to finish, and you will need a candy thermometer.  There is a lot of "down" time involved, though, as you wait for the syrup to boil on the stove and later when the stand mixer miraculously turns the gelatin and syrup into bright white marshmallow fluff. These down times provided the perfect opportunity to work on the grahams, which take about an hour from start to finish.

Homemade s'mores make for a fun (and sticky!) afternoon cooking project.  The grahams have such a comforting, homey quality -- just make sure not to make them too thick -- and the marshmallows are so soft and fluffy that you'll never want those dry tubes from a bag again!

Happy National S'mores Day -- why not celebrate by making your own?


Fresh Tomato and Brie Sauce


Before marrying my roomie for life, I shared an apartment with my good friend, Gretta.  Let me take a moment to tell you just a few reasons why Gretta is so great.  First of all, she's very considerate and tidy, which are two of the best possible qualities in a roommate.  Second, she would eagerly watch Project Runway with me...and then be able to sketch and sew her own gorgeous dresses.  (She's designing and sewing her own wedding dress, for Pete's sake!!) Thirdly, Gretta used to make this tomato sauce...  

Oh, this sauce.  Tomato, garlic, basil and brie.  What's not to love?  


Super quick and easy, this sauce is a perfect summer meal. Seriously, you can have it on the table in about 15 minutes...20 tops.  The beauty of this sauce is that it requires no stove top cooking...apart from boiling some water for the pasta.  You simply whizz all the ingredients in a food processor and spoon it over hot pasta.  The pasta warms the sauce and slightly melts the brie.  Simple and delicious.

When we received 4 tomatoes in our CSA shipment on Tuesday, I looked at those summer beauties and thought to myself...Gretta's sauce!!  This recipe will give you yet another reason to love summer tomatoes, food processors and good roommates.

Disclaimer: I have to admit, I learned how to make this dish by snooping over Gretta's shoulder in the kitchen. Fortunately, she made it pretty often, so I had many opportunities to master the steps by watching.  I don't have an exact recipe or set of directions, but I'm going to try to quantify my "usual" steps for making the dish.  Rest assured, though, it has always turned out just fine no matter the exact proportions I use...so make it your own!

Here ya go...

Tag Clouds

This post is completely off topic, and probably no one besides me will care, but I am so excited that I have to share it anyway.  In my "real" life, I'm an instructional technology specialist. This is the end of my first week back at work and the reason why there haven't been any new blog posts lately. ( I have been busy making lots of yumminess this week...posts will soon come.)  I'm actually (gasp) typing this at work now. 

While reading through my professional learning network (PLN) on Twitter, I came across a tweet about tagxedo.com and it's now my new favorite thing.  It takes Wordle.net to a whole new level.  Can't wait to brainstorm ideas for using this in the classroom, although this link has already given me 101 ideas.

For now, here's my first Tagxedo -- a tag cloud of words taken from my blog posts thus far.  Just by looking at the cloud, you can see what the majority of my posts have already been about... 


Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

To me, zucchini bread is a comfort food.  It's like a plane ticket home in a pan.  I remember eating it a lot as a child and have always loved this slightly sweet, spiced bread with crunches of pecan tucked inside.  When I went away to college, I remember calling home for just a  few recipes -- and my mom's zucchini bread was one of them.

Last week we received several summer squash in our CSA shipment.  Since I was home alone for most of the week, I needed a quick and easy way to use up a lot of zucchini.  Zucchini bread was a great option.  It's super easy and doesn't even require you to plug in a mixer!

Lots of people joke that zucchini bread is a "healthy" snack -- after all, it has vegetables, right?!  Of course, no quick bread that I've ever seen is exactly a poster child for nutrition, but my version of zucchini bread does a lot to beef up the nutritional value.  I've included the regular version below with notes about how I often adapt it so that I can eat my favorite quick bread with a clearer conscious.

One last thing -- the hardest part of this very easy recipe is grating the zucchini.  You can do this in a snap if you have a food processor with a grater attachment. You'll have perfectly grated zucchini in...oh, about 5 seconds.  Funny thing is, I actually enjoy grating the zucchini by hand for this recipe.  I guess it just adds to the nostalgia...and the healthiness factor, since it gives my arm a nice workout!

Here ya go...