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Oatmeal Scones

Oatmeal Scone

Oatmeal Scone

When life breaks your furnace and it’s cold, bake something!  At least that’s what I’ve been doing…

I was looking through a copy of the Joy Of Cooking for inspiration  – I wanted something fast, easy and perfect for my breakfast the next morning.  I was tired after a long day of work (until 9:30pm), had to be back at 9:30 the following morning, so I  needed something requiring minimal effort.  This recipe is one I would have normally skipped over, as I don’t particularly like American style scones, but it was worth a shot!  They turned out toasty, nutty and a little sweet – I liked them so much, I made them again!  (Yes, I froze the leftover ones.  Did you even need to ask?)

OATMEAL SCONES

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used raw sugar – brown sugar would also be nice!)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned or quick cooking)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants, or other dried fruit
  • 1 large egg
  • 10 Tablespoons butter (1 1/4 sticks)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Sugar, for sprinkling on top ( I used Sugar in the Raw for big crystals)

Preheat the oven to 450F.   Melt the butter  (I melt it in a stainless bowl in the preheating oven – just remember to use oven mitts to get the bowl out & when pouring)  Meanwhile, get out a large baking sheet and set within easy reach (but not on the stove to heat up – the sheet needs to be room temp or colder).  Lightly flour your work surface to prepare for the dough.  The faster scones and biscuits get into the oven after mixing, the better they turn out!  Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through oats).  When they are mixed, stir in the dried fruit.  In a separate bowl, mix together the milk and egg, then stir in the melted butter.  Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, and stir just until moistened.  The dough will be sticky.  Transfer the dough to the lightly floured work surface, and pat into a 3/4″ round or square.  Either cut the round into 8 wedges, or the square into 9 smaller squares.  Place cut scones onto baking sheet at least 1/2″ apart.  If the dough seems too sticky to move, wait one minute for the oats to absorb more moisture – do not add more flour!  Sprinkle the tops of the scones with sugar and place the tray in the oven.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch.  Makes about 8 large scones.  These freeze beautifully and take just a few minutes to thaw at room temperature.  (Recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Roasted Chicken with Kennebec Potatoes

Roasted Chicken with Kennebec Potatoes

This is the easiest meal!  Even a novice cook can make a great roast chicken.  The best part is that it always impresses people!  Not to mention the great uses you can use the leftover meat for ( You could always roast 2 just for the leftover meat) .  I always save the bones (I put them in a bag in the freezer) for chicken stock.  (Yes, I will pretty much freeze anything.  It is a standing joke among my friends.)

You can just roast the chicken, or you can roast potatoes and/or vegetables under the chicken for a complete meal.  If you want to make gravy, you need to roast the chicken by itself.  Roasting vegetables soak up all the juices you need to make gravy, but in turn it makes them taste fantastic!  This recipe uses a French technique for keeping the breast meat moist.  Because the dark meat takes longer to cook, there is always a danger of overcooking the white meat in the breast.  The French start cooking the bird upside down, so all the juices flow into the breast and the dark meat is more exposed to the oven’s heat.  Halfway through cooking, the chicken is turned right side up to brown the skin and make it crispy.  A really fail-proof method for a juicy chicken. (It is also great for roasting turkeys – it will just be more awkward to wrestle around.  For turkeys I usually roast on one side, then the other, then roast breast side up. You can use balls of aluminum foil to prop the turkey in place)  Once you make this, you won’t want to buy one of those saline injected rotisserie chickens at the store!

Perfect Roasted Chicken

  • 1 Whole Chicken, about 4lbs
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil
  • Salt & pepper or a spice rub of your choosing, to taste
  • Optional:  Fresh herbs (especially thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley or bay leaves – any combination you like) , garlic cloves, a halved lemon, whatever strikes your fancy!

Preheat oven to 400F.  Have ready a shallow sided roasting pan (at least 8’x10″).  Remove chicken from wrapping and make sure to remove any packets of giblets that may be in the cavity.  Check the cavity for any remaining organs – sometimes the liver or lungs are still left in- and remove.  It won’t wreck the chicken completely, if you are reluctant to pull them out, unless you are planning on saving the bones for stock.  Liver makes the stock really funky tasting.  There is no need to rinse the chicken off.  Doing so usually just spreads bacteria around your kitchen.  (On that note – make sure you wash your hands after touching the raw meat.  Salmonella -amongst other bacteria- is pretty unavoidable in US chickens thanks to widespread overuse of antibiotics and crowded breeding/growing conditions.  This applies even to free range and organic chicken as it can be passed through breeding stock/soil/water) Best practice is to portion out what you want to rub on or stuff in chicken before you touch the meat.  Then all you touch with your germy hands will be what is going on the meat anyway!  If you want to be very basic, just sprinkle the cavity and the skin of the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and then rub on the olive oil or butter.  If you are feeling creative, fill the cavity with a halved lemon, sprigs of herbs, garlic cloves, etc.  You can also rub on spice rubs instead of salt and pepper.  If you want to be really fancy, you can loosen the skin over the breast meat with your hand (slide your hand under it very gently, starting at the neck) and place whole herb leaves, butter, etc right on top of the meat.  Get creative – there is no right or wrong!

If you have a roasting rack, place it in the roasting pan, but it is not necessary.  ( I generally don’t use one, but it does help airflow around the chicken and crisp the skin more.)  Place the chicken breast side down.  You can truss the bird for a neater presentation, but I just usually tuck the wings back and let the legs settle wherever they want ( the chicken will cook slightly faster untrussed, as well).  Place pan in preheated oven and roast for 35 minutes.  After 35 minutes, remove the pan from the oven.  Using paper towels as disposable hot pads, grip the chicken and turn it over so it is breast side up in the pan.  You could also use a pair of tongs instead, just be careful not to tear the skin.  Roast for another 20-25 minutes, adding an additional 3 minutes for every pound (and fraction of) above 4 pounds, until the skin is nicely browned and the meat is fully cooked.  To check for doneness: 1. Use an instant read or meat thermometer and poke it in the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone.  It needs to be at 170F or above.  2.  Prick the thickest part of the thigh – juices should run clear (signifying all blood has been cooked and solidified) and the leg should move freely, meat almost falling from the bone.  Using a thermometer is the most reliable and safest method.  Once fully cooked, remove chicken to a platter and cover loosely with foil to let the meat rest and juices flow back into the meat.  Let rest about 10 minutes.  Serves 4-6.

To make gravy:  Pour off all but about 2 Tablespoons of the fat/juices from the bottom of the pan and discard.  Toss 2 Tablespoons of flour in the pan, along with a little salt and pepper.  Stir this around until the flour absorbs the fat.  Heat this pan over medium heat and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture is bubbly and golden.  You are trying to cook off the floury taste.  Pour in a little  wine, hard cider, lager beer or chicken stock to deglaze the pan – enough to make the mixture liquidy enough to stir and to dissolve the brown bits at the bottom of the pan (these hold a lot of concentrated flavor), about 1/2 cup to start.  Once the liquid has mostly evaporated, add in a cup or so of chicken stock and stir pretty constantly as you bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil about a minute, then taste and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.  If the mixture is too thick, thin it out with a little stock or water and bring back to a boil.  It is better to have it too thick than too thin, as you can always add a little stock or water.  Strain the gravy into a serving vessel and serve alongside the meat.

To roast vegetables with the chicken:  You can roast just potatoes, or a mixture of root vegetables with the chicken.  Potatoes can be peeled, if desired.  Carrots, Celeriac/Celery Root, Turnips, Rutabagas, Kohlrabi, Parsnips, Salsify, Sweet potatoes and onions can all be used, but they need to be peeled.  Chop desired vegetables into 1″ chunks.  Place in the bottom of roasting pan before the chicken.  Toss with a little drizzle of olive oil or melted butter and season with salt, pepper, and herbs as desired.  The vegetables will absorb the juices and some fat from the chicken, so only a tiny bit of oil is needed to get the veggies started – just barely enough to coat!  You can roast heads of garlic in the pan too – just slice a little off the top and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Place the chicken, breast side down, on the vegetables, or place the vegetables around the roasting rack, if you are using one. When you flip the chicken, give the veggies a stir.  If they are not quite done when the chicken is, place back in the oven while the chicken rests.  Voila!  Complete meal in one pan!  You can use a little wine or chicken stock to deglaze the pan after the veggies are removed, scraping up any browned bits.  Bring to a boil and check for seasoning.  Serve pan jus over the chicken like you would gravy – it will have a much thinner consistency and be almost absorbed by the meat.

Easy Peasy and Tasty!

Brown Sugar and Cardamom Peach Pie

Brown Sugar & Cardamom Peach Pie

Pie is the new cupcake – mark my words!  It’s classic Americana –  comforting and easy.  Now that Colorado Peach Season is in full swing,  celebrate with this yummy pie!  (sorry Georgia, but your peaches don’t even come close to the ones we get from the Western Slope!) The caramel richness of brown sugar and the bright tones of cardamom really accent peaches nicely.  I feel that pie filling should really highlight the taste of the fruit, so very little spice is added.  Taste a peach first and adjust the sugar accordingly – you want to enhance the sweet-tart fruitiness, not cover it up!  Using cornstarch as a thickener gives a pretty and clear filling.  Just remember to let it cool before cutting, or the filling will run out and make for a not so pretty presentation.

 

Brown Sugar Cardamom Peach Pie

For a 9” Pie:         

  • 6 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced ( 8 – 10 peaches)
  • 2/3 to 1 cup brown sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
  • 2Tbs cornstarch (preferred)  or ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, if needed
  • Pie crust for a double crust 9″ pie

 Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Let the mix sit 15 minutes to let the juices run. Taste and correct the sweeteness.  If filling is bland, add up to one tablespoon of lemon juice.  Pour filling into a pie plate lined with one crust and cover with a top crust.  Crimp the edges and make sure to vent the top.  Bake at 400F until filling is bubbling out of the crust vents and crust is golden, about 1 hour.  If pastry edges start to get to dark, cover them with foil.  Let cool at least 1 hour before cutting.  Serves 8.  (Or 4 serious pie lovers.)

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

This has been my go-to meal all summer!  Fresh veggies from the garden, hearty chickpeas and crumbly creamy feta – what’s not to love?

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

  • 2 Tablespoons  good quality extra virgin olive oil – something fresh and herbaceous!  (I frequently use O&Co’s Mint Olive Oil)
  • 1 Tablespoon O&Co White Balsamic with Oregano (my preference), or any good quality white balsamic/wine vinegar handy
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 1 large cucumber, (peeled if waxed) chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or 1-2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch radishes, sliced thinly
  • 3 scallions/green onions, sliced (include the deep green part) or 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs (or more!) chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 oz Feta, crumbled
  • 1 Tbs  basil or mint, sliced thinly (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar.  Normally, you would season the vinaigrette at this point, but since the feta and chickpeas will vary in saltiness, wait until the end.  Add remaining ingredients to bowl (except salt and pepper) and toss to combine.  Taste the salad, then season with salt and pepper as needed.  Don’t be afraid to toss in a little more olive oil or vinegar if the chickpeas or veggies are blah tasting!  Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side or starter.  Keeps up to 2 days, refrigerated (will get more liquidy the longer it sits).

Variations:

This salad is great for improvising – add different herbs, use different beans, add cooked shrimp or chicken, even croutons, to make it heartier.  It’s also a great filling for pitas.

Oatmeal Biscuit

Oatmeal Biscuit

I am ashamed to admit, quite some time ago I received a request for this recipe from my old housemate, Vicki, and haven’t quite gotten around to adapting it until now! (Sorry Vicki!)

When I was in Ireland and going to school at Ballymaloe, I had a hankering to make American style cookies after class one day, but had no recipes at hand.  Specifically, I wanted to make the oatmeal cookies I grew up making on Saturday afternoons.  Now, the cookies I grew up with used vegetable shortening (unheard of in the British Isles) and I only had butter – salted Kerrygold butter.  The oatmeal I had was Macroom Oats, a toasted and ground oat from the little town of Macroom, Ireland.  The toastiness and small size of the oats I thought would make for a more delicate cookie. So I  just started mixing things in until the dough seemed the right consistency and taste( I am very fond of eating cookie dough – a quirk that really helped me here!)  then baked them off.  I noticed the butter gave them a richer flavor and crisper crumb than shortening.  These are really more a cross between the traditional American cookie and an English biscuit.  My housemates and I polished them off within  minutes of them being out of the oven (Hey, there were 12 of us!)  I made them a few times after that, whenever anyone asked – they are quite easy!

Not long ago, another of my old housemates, Alex, emailed me and told me she made my cookies.  This made me think I had actually emailed the recipe to Vicki, but Alex set me straight!  So, since it was cool tonight, I thought I should work on getting the measurements down and produce a real recipe!

Oatmeal Biscuits

  • 1 cup / 8oz / 225g  butter, softened
  • 1 cup / 7.5 oz / 200g brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup / 3 oz / 80g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups  / 6.75oz / 300g all purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 3 cups  / 10 1/2 oz / 300g quick cooking oats*
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • (1/2 tsp salt – if using unsalted butter)

Preheat oven to 350F/ 175C.  Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy.  Stir in vanilla and egg; mix well.  Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix until just combined.  Place walnut sized balls of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until lightly gold and slightly puffy.  Let cool on baking sheet a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack.  Makes about 3 dozen.  These will keep a week in an airtight container, or 3 months frozen.  Enjoy!

*Macroom, or Bob’s Red Mill’s Scottish Oatmeal (here in the States) – if you can find them.  Standard US quick cooking oats are what I had and they worked, they just weren’t as delicate textured or as toasty flavored as the others would be!

In the garden…

Noir Des Carmes Melon

Noir Des Carmes Melon

Look at this delicious beauty!  This is a French heirloom melon, grown by Carmelite nuns in France.  While growing it is so dark green, it is almost black – this is where it gets its name.  “Noir Des Carmes” means Black Carmelite.  It is supposed to turn a lovely golden hue when ripe,  and when it (and its siblings) ripen, you’ll hear all about it!   At this point, it was too adorable not to share…

Pull up a chair, and dig in!