Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bacon and Blue Cheese Buttermilk Scones

This recipe was also posted on Christa's personal blog:

Oh bacon, my love.

Bacon is a staple of my diet.

When I'm cranky, Jesse makes me bacon/

These past few weeks we've been eating a lot of BLT's thanks to Jesse's father's tomato plants and Jesse's excellent homemade mayonnaise. Yum!

Bacon grease is my go-to fat/oil of choice. I love using it to make stove-top popcorn (so easy!).

So, it's not surprising that bacon would make its way into my scone adventures.

I usually make Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones. I've been working on this recipe all year, getting comfortable in the kitchen.

Today, though, I was ready to make my own scones.

When we visited Cannon Beach last month, that excellent little coffee shop also served Bacon and Blue Cheese Scones. How could I resist? It was, as one would expect, fabulous.

Today, I made my own.

Bacon and Blue Cheese Buttermilk Scones
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoon (1.5 sticks) cold butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 lb blue cheese (or to taste), chopped/crumbled
  • 3 strips cooked bacon (or to taste), chopped into 1/4" pieces
  • 1 tablespoon cold bacon fat (optional)
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk or sift to distribute evenly.
  2. Cut in butter until large lumps (pea to grape size) are evenly distributed. Do not overdo this step!
  3. Whisk egg yolks into buttermilk and add to dry ingredient. Combine until there are no more puddles.
  4. Add bacon, cheese, and fat. Combine until dough starts to come together (I use a hard plastic spatula for this).
  5. Turn dough out onto cool surface. Knead just until dough is uniformly moist and add-ins are evenly distributed.
  6. Press or roll flat until about 1/2" thick.
  7. Cut into squares approximately 1.5" by 1.5" (you may choose to make larger scones).
  8. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.

Have you tried this recipe? What did you think?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Raspberry Muffins

I know I've said over and over again that the kitchen is not the place for me. But, I have a confession:

I think I love baking. 

It started with Joy the Baker's orange dark chocolate scones and it just kind of got away from me. 

My dad recommended I pick up the book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. It breaks down baking and cooking into ratios of things like eggs, fat, and flour. I took the muffin recipe from here and made it my own. 

Below is the recipe for raspberry muffins. 

8 oz flour
4 oz sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
8 oz milk
2 large eggs
4 oz melted butter 
~1.5 cups frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 350° and grease muffin tin with butter. 
Set raspberries in a strainer over a bowl to defrost and drain a little. 
Combine dry ingredients and set aside. 
Combine wet ingredients and whisk until eggs are evenly distributed. 
Add dry ingredients and raspberries to wet and mix until just combined - there should still be lumps. 

Evenly divide into muffin tin and bake for ~30 minutes. Muffins are done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. 

What are your favorite muffin flavors?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Michael Pollan on food and politics today

"Food is definitely one of the defining issues for this generation."

Michael Pollan in Smithsonian Magazine, June 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Nutrition and your (future) children

Today's children are predicted to die at an earlier age than their parents.


The obesity epidemic has been a popular topic in recent years. Doctor Oz, Michelle Obama, Michael Bloomberg, your elementary school principal... everyone is getting behind the anti-obesity cause. With good reason, too.

The post-war technology revolution of the mid-twentieth century gave us things like computers, the internet, a chicken pox vaccine, and food that lasts forever. These innovations can be seen as life savers. There is a great benefit in being able to prevent hunger and starvation with food preservation. But that's just a band-aid on the wound of malnutrition. That wound becomes infected by first world diseases.

Raised on a diet of Pop-Tarts, Wendy's, and Lunchables, children today can look forward to:
  • Diabetes (1 in 3 will develop it)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
Chef Ann Cooper said it best:

"We are feeding our children to death." 

So, what do we do?

At home you can provide your loved ones with meals like the ones described on this blog. Jesse and I believe in consuming food in its most natural state possible. This means that when we buy food, our vegetables look like vegetables, our meat looks like meat, and our cheese is really delicious. We make what we can and buy the best that we can't. Jesse does a lot of cooking during the week to make sure we both can eat well all day. 

Not everyone has the time or the money for this, though. For parents, the National School Lunch Program provides a cheap and easy way to meet the federally required nutrition minimums for lunch and, in some cases, breakfast. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

A well-rounded meal, according to many schools, consists of reheated pizza, a thawed soft pretzel (often coated in salt and slathered with mustard to give it flavor), salty reheated corn, a cup of fruit in corn syrup, and a carton of chocolate milk. The government and the cafeteria see grains, protein, fruit, vegetables, and milk. I see sugar, sodium, and nutritionally deficient food products.

Is it any surprise that students are bouncing off the walls or slumped in their seats, borderline comatose after eating this?

Would you eat a meal like that every day?

When you trust your children's health to the lowest bidder, this is what you get. 

How Do We Fix This?

Schools and communities need to stop looking at lunch as a place to cut costs. Our children are suffering as a result of this mindset.

There are several organizations out there that are working to improve nutrition and nutrition education in schools. Nationally, organizations such as the Edible Schoolyard Project and Let's Move Salad Bars 2 Schools are bringing fresh produce into schools across the country. Here in New Jersey, City Green and the New Jersey Farm to School Network are doing the same.

These groups are bringing salad bars and gardens into school. Students are learning what real food tastes like and where it comes from. These students know milk isn't supposed to be pink, vegetables aren't supposed o be soggy, and meat comes in more forms than just patty and nugget. These students are learning to make healthier choices because they are given healthier options. Students are growing their own food and they are excited about carrots and green beans! Imagine a world where kids learn to love fresh, whole food. I imagine it's a world lacking many of the diseases and health complications listed above.

What Can You Do?

If you are connected to a school, whether as a parent, student, or staff member, you can help change the way we treat food in schools. By reaching out to organizations like the ones above or modeling their programs, you can bring fresh food into schools and change the way students view their diets. You can also establish a wellness committee, comprised of students, staff, and parents, that looks at health and nutrition in the school.

We cannot let students' diets be an afterthought in schools. We must nourish their bodies as well as their minds.

Have you had any experiences with school lunch or wellness committees? How do you feel about the way we feed our nation's students?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gluten-Free Brownies

I've been playing around quite a bit with a brownie recipe that I found online recently, as I pointed out in our last post about brownies.  The recipe is credited to Katherine Hepburn, who is perhaps one of the most prolific movie stars of all time.  Well, was one of the most prolific movie stars of all time.  She passed away about ten years ago at the impressive age of 96.  She won four academy awards for best actress (a record that is still unbroken), and probably led the way for the 'modern woman' by way of being a strong and independent individual who dominated the public spotlight without conforming to the Hollywood standard for how a lady should act while simultaneously retaining her femininity.  Surely you must have heard of her, and even more likely you've seen her in one of her many roles.  So, what does this all have to do with brownies?

Absolutely nothing.  I liked the framework of the recipe because it uses simple, whole ingredients for the most part.  Real chocolate, butter, eggs, and not much else aside from sweetener.  The sweetener doesn't have to be processed sugar, as I established in my Jaggery Brownie experiments, and even the flour isn't a necessary component of the recipe.  You'll need some sort of flour-like substance, but given how little of the body of these brownies depend on the actual flour (1/4 cup for the whole recipe), the door is really opened for trying substitutions.

The substitutions that I made use of this time were of a granulated unrefined sugar (sucanat) for the prescribed sugar, and coconut "flour" and cocoa powder to replace the wheat flour.  This would also make the brownies free from gluten, which isn't an enormous concern of mine but is a very trendy food component to avoid these days as well as being an actual dietary concern for a small portion of the population.  More appealing to myself is the reduction or elimination of processed flour from our food.  I've been doing most of my roux with fresh spelt flour, which has a nice body and good flavor for that, but I didn't want any of that flavor to come out in these brownies.  I do use the term "coconut flour" rather loosely, as aside from being a fairly dry powder it does not perform admirably in any other format that I have tried it in thus far (thickening sauces, creating a roux, etc..)  I had heard that it was pretty decent for baking some quickbreads that don't need much body, so it seemed like a good choice here. 

So, gather up your ingredients.  The sucanat was a first for me.  It's not crystallized, but rather coarsely ground:
Much drier than jaggery, but still with a strong flavor of molasses.

 The chocolate was still some leftovers from my stash of unsweetened amazing chocolate brick, and the butter is grass fed from pastured cows milked during the summer months.
If I had a personal logo, this might be it.
The eggs, as always, are also pasture raised.  Let's just take a quick look at these gorgeous eggs.
Approaching the boundaries of food porn...I love it.
OK, enough with the somewhat unnecessary and almost completely gratuitous photos of my favorite ingredients.  Start off like before, by melting the chocolate with the butter (actual recipe is at the bottom of the page) and stirring the eggs, sucanat, and vanilla together.
Ingredient megaphoto...because I wasted all of that space earlier on egg pictures.

Also, be sure to preheat the oven and butter/flour your baking dish.  Ah, but these are gluten/flour free, so we don't want to actually flour the dish.  Coconut flour, right?  Heck no - I don't want the outside of these brownies to be covered in a chalky coating of dried out powdered coconut.  A much better idea is to dust the pan with some cocoa.
It's brilliant, really...more chocolate!
  Now, melt combine all of the ingredients (melted chocolate and butter, eggs/sucunat/vanilla, and coconut flour with a bit of sea salt) into a smooth velvety batter.  Again, use a small amount of the warm chocolate mixture to temper the eggs before combing completely to prevent a chocolate egg scramble.  (One of these days I'm just going to have to make chocolate scrambled eggs to see if they're even better than the brownies, and whether or not it pays to avoid making them at all.)
It's not completely melted yet if there's a chocolate island in your pan.
Chocolate mind began to wander.  So, pour it into the prepared baking dish, bake it, and then let cool completely before cutting up the brownies for service.  Service, and lots of brownie photos.
Milk is a natural addition to this party.

Gluten-Free Brownies

  • 1 cup Sucanat
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 ounces of butter
  • 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (fine dry)
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  1. Melt chocolate and butter in saucepan that is large enough for all ingredients.  Remove from heat.
  2. Combine eggs, jaggery, and vanilla.  Temper and then incorporate into the chocolate and butter pan.  Whisk in the coconut flour and salt.  Stir thoroughly to combine all ingredients.
  3. Pour into a buttered and cocoa-ed 8" x 8" baking dish and bake at 325F for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before serving.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Everyday Meals: Liver and Eggs

To begin by stating the obvious, it seems as though liver and other organ meats are no longer popular least not in the circles that I frequent.  I guess that's because something like liver is a serious piece of meat.  That is, it tastes like meat, and not like some bland carrier component for the other flavors in a dish (ahem, boneless chicken breasts).  It doesn't respond well to cooking for too long.  It can be a bit more temperamental than a roast or hamburger, and it certainly doesn't stay fresh nearly as long nor does it make particularly good leftovers.

It is extremely easy to cook, though, and it cooks up very fast.  It stores well frozen, it's less expensive than most other muscular meats (even 'ground meat'), and if you take the time to look at the vitamin content of even a meager 4 ounce piece of beef liver, it might just blow your mind.  This is a serious superfood.

The trick to thinking about liver preparation, if there is in fact a trick at all, is that you really have to accept the liver as the key player...the primary ingredient.  Even a small amount added to a sauce and served over pasta will make the flavor of the sauce liver-dominant.  That's fine - liver is also delicious if prepared well and served hot. 

My favorite preparation is to simply pan-sear the liver in some butter or tallow, plate over whatever greens we happen to have handy, and top with a pasture raised egg or two.  The egg yolk provides extra healthy fats to aid in the assimilation of the fat soluble vitamins from the liver (and also adds protein and nutrients of its own).