Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blueberry Cornmeal Scones

Photos by TSW

Cooking is about creating memories which is why it is so much more fun with friends. More important than the end result, is the process of cooking, being present in the moment, and creating a collection of memories. Everything about cooking, the camaraderie, scents, ingredients, instantly makes me nostalgic, mindful of the power of the past, and hopeful about the future. It's amazing how potent memories are.

I had forgotten how much fun it is to cook with others, especially with folks that know how to cook or at the very least, enjoy the process. With a new friend, we made blueberry cornmeal scones for the aforementioned brunch. It was his vision and he had really thought about it so I went with it. I'm kind of a rigid cook partly because I want everything to be super successful so I find myself in uncharted territory when I go out on a limb. But it's 2008, and with all the changes I've made in other aspects of my life, cooking should be no exception. Plus, since as the sous-chef, it was not my role to say anything but to really just follow along. The scones were fabulous and showed me how to have fun in changing things up.

We followed the recipe I used for blueberry scones, and made the following modifications:

-2 1/4 c flour and 3/4 c polenta
-2/3 cup full fat raw milk +1 tbs
-1/2 cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
-1/2 cup corn kernels

So I used a little more liquid than what is called for and the dough was more moist than usual because I used less flour (2 1/4 vs 3 c). Polenta does not absorb liquid as much so....but it turned out fine. You may want to start with 1/3 cup and add more in as you go.

See the corn kernels? Don't these look better than the ones I previously blogged about? These were as scones should be...crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Coffee would be the perfect mate I think.

Cook and create your own memories!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blueberry Lemon Cake

Photo by TSW

What do you when you're invited to a New Year's brunch where you know one person and no one else? You try to kick some cooking butt. It was a week in which I had too many things to do between work and social activities, three of which were on Saturday alone! Every day I was in bed no earlier than midnight and quite frankly, I wouldn't have had it any other way so I was forced to make something simple and delicious. Usually when I make things for potlucks, I really like to go over top. Thinking back to 2003 when I made baked goods for our monthly meetings I recall a blueberry lemon pound cake which everyone loved but then simultaneously complained about their diets being ruined (it was a femaled dominated work place). It's not my fault if they have no self control. I could not find that recipe but I found this slightly less heart-unfriendly recipe. You know that pound cake got it's name from the pound of butter that is required to make it.

I thought this recipe was awesome. I didn't alter it in any way and while some reviewers complained that it was too sweet I thought it was perfect. The lemon pops if you use enough and I think that's the key to reducing the sweetness. In addition to a solid recipe, I credit my new fabulous bake ware for the beautiful presentation. Williams-Sonoma Nonstick Goldtouch Loaf Pan, 1 lb. ($19) is the most highly rated loaf pan tested by America's Test Kitchen.

My only complaint, which is true of all sweet breads, is that the ends are cooked through before the center. Any solutions to this?

Since I followed this recipe to a T and it's available online, I dare not rewrite the recipe. Click on the title of this entry and you'll l have the recipe.

Simple is best!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Back Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

photo by TSW

I know, it's been FOREVER since I last updated my blog. At about the time I posted my last entry, I started a new job for which there was and still is a huge learning curve, and I just did not have the bandwidth to be creative in the kitchen. At the end of the day, all I did was eat cereal and crawl into bed which was nothing to write about. I cooked, just not new items. And my camera went MIA in March which left me more sad and defeated then I already was or would admit to. And while friends happily lent me cameras I couldn't impose anymore. Not that I got a new camera for this entry....But it's a new year, I'm in a better space at work, and I have the energy (almost too much some say) to blog about food again. Plus since I've doubled the number of miles I run a week, I'm constantly hungry and need to cook more to keep up with all my cravings. I can't keep enough food around anymore.

I've been wanting to write about this recipe for months. In October, Susie and I hosted our own hugely successful tea time in Chicago where these cookies were served to rave reviews. Joe, the man who rocks the shaved head look, Susie's husband, has a dairy allergy and this recipe met all of his allergy requirements with some substitutions. By their amazing taste you would never guess how healthy they really are. These are the truly guiltless cookie and they aren't fat or sugar free. So quick, so easy, so tasty, so not Chips Ahoy. And they freeze really well if one can manage not eat them all when they come out of the oven.

A lot of cooking is about making new memories and recreating old one's or at least capturing the sentiment behind the memory. For example, I remember that I both burned my left hand and sliced my left thumb for Chicago tea time. Was it worth it -- totally. Thank goodness I only remember the humor in it all. But in general, the scent of these cookies baking conjures images of autumns in all the great cities I've lived in, like walking into my warm home after a mid-afternoon walk through the leaves.


-1 c. pumpkin
-3/4 c. sugar (I reduced this to 1/2 cup -- think less is more)
-1/2 c. oil
-1 egg
-2 c. flour (I ground up 1 cup oatmeal to pack in more fiber -- think substance vs. fluff)
-2 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. baking soda
-1 tsp. milk
-1 c. chocolate chips (semi-sweet is always best)
-1 tsp. vanilla

-Nuts (optional)

Dissolve baking soda in milk; set aside. In large bowl add pumpkin, sugar, oil, and egg; stir. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda mixture. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Spoon onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 10 to 12 minutes or until done.

While these cookies "look" perfect. They aren't -- they're missing cinnamon which is absolutely necessary since it enhances the taste of the pumpkin.

Indulge; cook and create your own memories.