Appropriately Sized and Served on the Side: Lil’ Savory Cheddar Dill Scones

ina garten cheddar dill scones

Savory Smaller Cheddar Dill Scones

One of the things that drives me most crazy is the size of portions at restaurants. And, I’m not just talking about at The Cheesecake Factory. I’m not averse to the giant drinks at the bar there – but, that’s a different story.

The other night I was out to dinner at one of my fave Mexican restaurants in the West Village. I ordered the Baja (read ‘fried’) fish tacos. In a totally wrong way in my head, ordering the fish tacos vs the chicken chimichangas, would be ‘better’ for me. I realize that’s wrong.

mole fish taco

Giant Portion

When the tacos arrived, the plate – probably 10 inches in diameter – was completely covered. It was literally a portion that could serve a family of four if Melissa D’Arabian had anything to say about it. Seriously, there were no fewer than 8 big pieces of Baja fried fish smothered in tomatoes, onions, cilantro, topped with avocado slices and sitting atop 7, yes 7, soft tacos. Ridiculous. Delicious, but ridiculous.

It’s just too much. I mean, does the restaurant think that food for four should be served to just one? And, are they promoting eating that much just by serving it? Does the restaurant have a responsibility for controlling the portions they serve? I think so. And….Don’t get me started on giant sodas, because, sorry, I agree with the mayor here.

In a city where space is at a premium – and our kitchens are tiny – the giant restaurant portions amaze me.

sur la table nyc

It’s like crack for a cook

My niece and nephew sent me a gift certificate to Sur La Table for Christmas. Whenever I shop for kitchen stuff, I have to take into account my tiny kitchen. I have to make choices – I want, but don’t need, another 6qt Le Creuset pot, another All-Clad grill pan, 7 more spatulas, the pasta attachment to my KitchenAid mixer, more wine glasses etc etc etc, ….And, I sort of do want a Scone cutter….But, where would I put any of these things?

Bottom line, is there isn’t room. And, a scone cutter, cuts out big scones. As the boss of my test kitchen, I have a responsibility to serve reasonably sized portions. So instead of a scone cutter, I bought a set of biscuit cutters. Better choice for a few reasons:

  1. They nest like Russian Dolls – one inside the other
  2. You get 5 sizes, not just one – more versatile
  3. They’re a lot smaller than a single scone cutter – controlling your portions and saving you space
  4. They come with a ring that connects them to one another – don’t throw out the ring as it will help you keep them organized in your tiny kitchen

I’m a savory, not a sweet eater. I heart savory scones – rarely a breakfast entree like their sugary cousins, but rather a side dish, an accoutrement to the main course. So, why should we make giant ones?

Lil’ Savory Cheddar Dill Scones (makes 24 baby scones)

Ingredients

  • scones recipe ina garten

    Scone Mise En Place

    2 Cups + 1TBSP Gold Medal all purpose flour

  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 TBSP) unsalted COLD butter, diced – dice the butter, then put it in the freezer for :10mins
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream chilled – measure out the cream and then put it back in the fridge until you’re ready to add it
  • 1/4lb extra-sharp Irish Cheddar cheese – small dice
  • 1/2 Cup minced fresh Dill

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

1. In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer, combine 2 Cups of flour, the baking powder and salt

kitchenAid mixer scones

Use the Paddle Attachment – and just mix :05

2. Add the cold butter dices and mix on low until the butter is in pea sized pieces

3. In a separate bowl (or, I used a water glass, whatever works) mix together the eggs and heavy cream

4. Add the creamy-egg mix to the buttery flour mix and combine until just blended and a dough forms

cheddar dill scones

Don’t Over Mix!

5. In a separate bowl, toss the dill and cheddar dices with 1 TBSP of flour just to coat

cheddar dill scones

Tossed with Flour

6. Add the coated cheddar and dill to the dough and mix to combine

cheddar dill scones recipe

Mix for just :05 seconds

7. Put the dough on a well-floured surface and knead for about a minute to get all of the cheddar dices and dill-iness well incorporated

8. Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick – if you were making a traditional scone, you might want them thicker…but again, too much food!

cheddar dill scones

Don’t roll too thin…

9. Using the two inch biscuit cutter I just got from Sur La Table – cut into circles

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Nesting Biscuit Cutters

10. Place the savory scone circles onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper and brush them with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 TBSP water)

cheddar dill scones

Oven Ready Lil’ Scones

11. Into the oven for :16-:18 mins if you used the 2 inch biscuit cutter, :20 – :25 mins if you used a traditional scone cutter. Just watch the scones – when the outside is browned and crusty and the inside is fully baked, they’re done

scones ina garten recipe

Lil’ Cheddar Dill Scones

These scones are good. Like really good. And, my tiny apartment still smells a little like butter from the baking process. They are in no way low-cal….But, rather a more responsible way to give my guests a little savory delicious indulgence appropriately sized and served on the side.

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Infinity is Still Bigger than Google: My Mom’s Christmas Cookies

mom's christmas cookies

Decorated, Baked and Ready for Gifting

Pre-Google, moms could just tell you stuff. Like make stuff up to answer your billions of questions. And we just believed her – because she was the mom. Sure, sometimes she might say ‘Let’s look that up in the encyclopedia’ or ‘I’m not sure, let’s ask your dad.’ But, in our house, there was a point at which with four kids bombarding mom with our questions, she just simply made it up.

google logo

The Google

Now, there’s the Google – a world where we can find anything out in the click of a mouse. The Google (I like to say ‘the Google’) has changed the way we learn and the way we argue. Now there’s no arguing, there’s only The Googling. I mean, why take a side when in just a nano-second you can be proven wrong…or right?

Pre-Google we were led to believe many things…One of the greatest and most delicious lies of my life was that the Christmas cookies we made and decorated every year (back in the day of suburban cookie exchanges…do they still do that?) were created from a recipe handed down for generations on my mother’s side.

A few years ago, when I decided to take a stab at the recipe in my apartment and treat my coworkers to a long-storied family holiday secret…I found out the truth.

I Googled ‘Christmas Cookies’. And ‘decorating Christmas cookies.’ And ‘holiday sugar cookies’….And, there it was. Right there on the screen of my Mac.

Did ‘Annie’s Mom’s Secret Christmas Cookies’ come up? No, no it did not.

As it turns out, what I believed were My Mom’s Secret Christmas Cookies…really belonged to someone named, Mary. Mary. They were Mary’s Sugar Cookies…But, still the best Christmas (or Chanukah or Festivas) cookies out there.

And, if you don’t believe me, you can Google it.

Mom and Mary’s Christmas Cookies (makes 5 dozen)

NOTE: There’s a chilling period of 3 hours … so plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • Christmas Sugar Cookies

    Decorating Mise En Place

    1 1/2 Cups sifted powdered/confectioners sugar – I sifted using a mesh strainer – but for the sugar, a real sifter would be easier…and quicker

  • 1 Cup softened butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TSP Vanilla
  • 1/2 TSP Almond Extract/Flavoring
  • 2 1/2 Cups Gold Medal Flour sifted – sifting flour through a mesh strainer is actually really easy and quick – much easier than sifting the confectioners sugar
  • 1 TSP Baking Soda – sift this in with the flour
  • Christmas cookies

    Sifting the Dry Stuff

    1 TSP Cream of Tartar – sift this in with the flour and baking soda

  • Colored Sugar Crystals for decorating – I bought India Tree Sugar Crystals, expensive but really fun colors!
  • Cookie Cutters – saved here by buying an assortment box at Bed Bath & Beyond
christmas cookie decorating with kids

Super 7-Year Old

And the most important of all ingredients…One super 7-year old girl – you can substitute any child of any cookie decorating age here. But, my 7-year old sous chef was the best!

1. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, mix together the Sugar and the Butter

holiday sugar cookies

I heart my Kitchen Aid

2. Add the egg, the vanilla extract and the almond extract

3. Mix in the Flour, Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar mixture 1/2 a cup at a time until smooth

Mary's Sugar Cookies

Add Flour in Stages – scrape down side of bowl

4. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, divide into same sized balls. Cover each with wax paper and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

holiday sugar cookies

I doubled the recipe

Go Christmas shopping. Sing carols. Decorate your home. Watch ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town’.

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

5. Remove one of the dough balls from the fridge and allow to warm a bit (about :10mins on the counter)

6. Roll out the ball on a heavily floured surface to about 3/16″ thick. I like them thin and crispy – but this is really your call

christmas cookies

Decorating!

christmas cookies cut out

Decorated and Oven Ready

7. Using cookie cutters – cut out holiday shapes

8. Decorate

9. Put into the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes depending upon thickness of cookies

christmas cookie cutters

This one is an angel..but, looks like MothMan…right?

10. Remove from the oven, transfer cookies to a rack and allow to cool for a few moments

11. Carefully place the cookies into a holiday themed box or cookie tin.

12. You can eat them, gift them, or take to one of those suburban cookie exchanges!

holiday themed cookie box

Boxed and Ready for Gifting

I love the Google. But, ever since its introduction, we’ve all probably been forced to realize the little lies and deceptions our mothers may have told us.

holiday christmas cookies

More Love than Infinity

There are still some things that are immune to the Google. The other day, my 7-year old sous chef asked her mom: ‘What’s bigger…Google or Infinity?’

Her mom didn’t have to Google that one and she didn’t have to lie…She honestly replied: ‘Infinity’…

And, that super 7-year old didn’t miss a beat and said: ‘Well then, Mommy, I love you more than Infinity.’

I don’t know who this cookie baking chick Mary is or was…But, I do know that the cookie recipe is just part of the equation in creating the perfect Christmas cookie. The magic, intangible ingredients come from the family tradition of making the cookies, decorating the cookies, sneaking a slice of the chilled dough from the fridge as a snack. The magic is in the super sous chefs and little helpers who carry more love than infinity. Because Infinity is still bigger than Google.

If At First You Don’t Succeed: Pie Pie Again

grey goose pie crust

Vodka Infused Pie Crust

Perhaps the only thing uglier than my handwriting, is my pie crust. So, don’t expect a lot of pictures in this one…

I watch a good number of cooking programs and am always in awe of the ease with which Ina or Giada or Melissa D’Arabian rolls out a perfect pie crust. ‘How Easy Is That?’ Ina always says as she places the perfect crust into the pie pan. Each of them assured me that making my own pie crust would be a much better option than buying a store bought one in my grocer’s freezer.

Challenge really is that I don’t like pie. I’m not a baker. I’m not a sweets eater or much of a fruit eater. I do, however, enjoy a good pie crust – it’s like bread, my favorite food group. During the holidays, I’m the person who picks around the apples in the apple pie and dips pieces of crust into the gooey filling. I’m the person who sneaks into the kitchen and pulls a piece of the crust off of a cooling pie.

But, I’m up for the challenge. And, so I spent some time researching the perfect pie crust recipes.

This is a combination of a few recipes that I found online. And, it really wasn’t hard…until I had to roll it out and carefully place it into my makeshift pie pan – this is where I had to Pie Pie again.

Perfect Pie Crust (makes 2 crusts – theoretically for the top and bottom of a pie…or, in my case, one for the bottom of an open-faced pie, one for ‘practice’)

Ingredients:

  • Grey Goose Vodka infused pie crust

    Yay! Vodka!

    2 1/2 Cups Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour

  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 2 TBSP Sugar
  • 12 TBSPs Cold Butter – cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Vegetable Shortening – cut into 4-6 pieces
  • 1/4 Cup Cold Vodka (Yay! Vodka! I don’t drink it anymore – that’s another story –  and it evaporates – so this is AOK for all)
  • 1/2 Cup cold water
vodka infused pie crust

Butter Makes it Better

1. Take the butter and cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Cover and put into the freezer for :10mins or into the fridge for :30 mins

2. Measure out the food shortening (I used Crisco…is there another kind?). And place into the freezer for :10mins or the fridge for :30 mins

3. In the bowl of a food processor, Pulse 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt and all of the sugar until combined – about two quick pulses

vodka infused pie crust

I heart my Cuisinart

4. Add the butter and shortening and process until a dough begins to form and cottage cheese looking curds appear

vodka infused pie crust

Food Shortening Kinda Grosses Me Out

5. Scrape down the bowl and add the remaining flour – pulse just until the mass of dough has been broken up

6. Empty the mixture into a bowl

7. Sprinkle the water and the vodka – I used Grey Goose, cuz that’s what someone recently brought over

vodka infused pie crust

Pie Crust Gets Drunk

8. Use a spatula to carefully fold the water and vodka into the dough until both are completely absorbed. Don’t over mix!

vodka infused pie crust

Carefully fold in the booze and water

9. It’ll be super tacky…Divide the drunken dough in two, make two balls of dough, flatten each and wrap each in plastic

10. Put the flattened balls of drunken dough into the fridge for at least an hour and up to 2 days

Baking the Pie Crust for an open faced savory pie:

Here’s where my creative abilities were truly challenged…and, I lost.

OK, I don’t like sweet pie, so decided to make an open-faced veggie filled pie for my vegetarian friends who came to dinner last night. Luckily, that meant I only needed one of the pie balls. Good news, because I failed the first time I tried the following:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees (that part I did perfectly!)

1. Remove one of the drunken pie balls (sounds dirty, isn’t) from the fridge and allow to warm up for a few minutes – not too long, just until the dough can be safely rolled out

2. Place one ball on a large piece of Saran wrap dusted generously with flour

grey goose infused pie crust

Still Hopeful At this Point

3. Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of the pie dough

4. Roll the pie dough through the parchment paper into a circle large enough to line the pie pan. I don’t have a pie pan…and really don’t need one…so I improvised with my round glass baking dish.

5. Try to carefully place the rolled dough into the makeshift pie pan. FAIL horribly. Mold that dough back into a ball, cover in Saran Wrap and put back in the fridge

6. Pie Pie again….Remove ball #2 from the fridge and repeat steps 1 – 4: This time, carefully roll the rolled out dough onto a heavily floured rolling pin and unfurl the dough from the rolling pin gently into the makeshift baking dish – much better

7. Cover the baking dish (or pie pan) with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour

Shop online, clean the apartment…whatever

8. Remove from the fridge, cover the dough completely with parchment paper

Ceramic pie weights

I bought pie weights!

9. Place pie weights into the base of the pie dough and ‘blind bake’ for :20 minutes. You can apparently also use dried beans as pie weights…but, I don’t have a giant bag of dried beans (small apartment, remember?)

9. After :20 minutes in the oven, remove the pie weights and parchment paper, pierce the bottom of the pie crust with a fork – like a whole bunch of times to keep the pie crust from puffing – and bake for another :05 – :10 minutes until the crust is a light golden brown

reynold's wrap drunken pie crust

Not Pretty, But Delicious!

10. In the second baking, I foil wrapped the edges of the pie crust to keep them from burning

And….your drunken crust is prepared for filling!

I gotta say, the pie crust was delicious – light, flaky, no vodka taste. It provided the perfect vessel for an open-faced veggie pie. (recipe tomorrow)

Of course it wasn’t as easy as Ina had assured me. But, thank goodness for a do-over…Cuz, in this case, after a first fail, I had to Pie Pie again…

Thinking Inside The Box: PopOver-PopIns

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

Popover-PopIns With Cheddar Cheese

For years I have been intrigued by the catch phrases and words that come in and out of vogue in business speak.

Sarah Palin and John McCain

Failure to Vet

For a while, it was very important that we ‘vet’ everything. Like ‘do you think we’ve appropriately vetted that idea/brand/event?’ I blame the overuse of ‘vet’, ‘vetting’ and ‘vetted’ on John McCain’s team who apparently failed to properly ‘vet’ his running mate, Sarah Palin.

We used to ‘think’. Then we learned to ‘brainstorm’. After that we were encouraged to ‘ideate’.

We have ‘balls in the air’. We ‘dance on the head of a pin’.

We wanted to be members of functional teams. And, now we need to be members of high performing teams – this one we like to abbreviate to just HPT.

It was once considered exceptional to give the job/project 100%. Until someone asked for 110%. And now I think the going give rate is 1000% Wow! That’s a lot!

We also have been accused of not being able to ‘get out of our own way.’ At times we ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ We have to always be ‘innovative.’ There are all those people who are ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’ Etc.

Thinking outside of the box

Brilliance

But perhaps the most overused of all marketing catch phrases is ‘thinking out of the box’. It’s so very important that we think ‘out of the box.’ With its overuse, thinking out of the box has literally become inside of the box thinking.

In cooking, sometimes the best ideas are inside the box. Especially when the box is a light, eggy, airy popover and inside is a delicious secret of sharp cheddar cheese.

PopOver-PopIns (makes 12)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

1. Mise En Place

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • Butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Popover mise en place

Mise En Place – Tres Important!

2. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT THE CHEESE in a bowl with a whisk. The mix will be thin.

williams-sonoma

Everybody in the bowl

Cheddar Cheese Popovers

Whisk it!

3. Butter two Williams-Sonoma non-stick Texas Tins and put into the heated oven for :02mins.

Popover pans

Buttered PopOver-PopIn Pans

4. Take the pans out of the oven and pour batter into each cup about 1/2 way up

texas tins williams-sonoma

Pour Into the Pans

5. Pop a pinch of the shredded cheddar cheese into the center of each cup

PopOver-PopIns

Place the Cheddar Cheese

6. Bake for :25-:27 mins – You’ll know they are ready when the edges are a rich golden brown. Because of the cheese well, they will pop over and pop in.

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

PopOver-PopIns Popped Out of the Oven

7. Pop them onto a plate….And put a perfect pat of butter into the steaming center

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

Pop Butter Into the PopOver-PopIns

One of the best things about the popover-popins is that they freeze beautifully. So, if you can’t eat all 12 at once, pop the leftovers into a freezer bag and into the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, wrap them in tinfoil and pop into a 350 degree oven for :10 mins to heat through.

Thinking differently is key in many situations – creating newness and partnerships that are unexpected can catapult a brand into the forefront of the consumer’s mind. Just think about what the unexpected male spokesperson (Brad Pitt) has done for one of the world’s most iconic fragrances.

In popovers, though…with very few balls in the air and without dancing on the head of a pin – You can create a yummy goodness that’s all on the inside of the box. No need to vet that.

When You’re Only 24-Cookies Sad…And Have To Say Bye Bye Bye

Some people starve their way through heartbreak…Others eat their way through.

I’ve been eating my way through the pain of knowing that Justin Timberlake will never be mine.

I have loved Justin Timberlake ever since he graduated from Disney and burst onto the boy-band-teen-idol-music scene with his frosted tipped curly hair. Fresh faced with instant allure and breathtaking adorability he was the 14-year old baby front boy in N’Sync. You couldn’t really put your finger on it, but you just knew he was going to be a big deal.

Justin Timberlake N'Sync

JT Dirty Popped Onto the Scene

I was among a select group of the world’s oldest N’Sync fans. It was a small club (or a secret society maybe) composed of gay men and pop music loving 30-something women. My college roommate was a member as well and we had several conversations debating which was the cuter band member – She liked JC…I always liked Justin.

I was a quasi grown up with a pretty demanding job at the time. She was a new mother. We had no business spending our time talking boy bands.

But we didn’t care.

Justin Timberlake Secret Wedding

I Should Be His Girlfriend

I boldly braved the ridicule of friends and professional colleagues when I announced proudly that I was going to see N’Sync’s ‘No Strings Attached’ show.

I even bought the DVD afterwards so that I could watch the show over and over and over again in the comfort of my own home.

When the ‘band’ broke up – I avoided separation anxiety because JT immediately released his solo album crying himself a river after his split from Britney.

What he really cried was a river of solo success.

  • He brought sexy back…in a big way.
  • He crafted one of the most watched SNL skits of all time.
  • He became an actor and garnered kudos from Hollywood’s toughest critics for his role in The Social Network
  • Oh, and he’s a scratch golfer.

His talent knows no end.

With each addition to his resume, my infatuation intensified. (In the OK way).

I did meet Justin once…Some of my colleagues might say that I accosted him. Whatever, we met.

I spotted him leaving the Governors’ Ball after the 2011 Academy Awards. I looked at one of my friends and said, ‘you know I have to..’ She nodded knowingly, with a little bit of ‘you’re pathetic’ in her eyes.

But he was getting away…I had to hurry. I jogged after him in my 5 inch heels, stopped right in front of him and introduced myself. He was gracious. We shook hands.

I        touched          Justin Timberlake

At that moment I understood how Marcia Brady felt when after receiving her first kiss from Desi Arnaz Jr, as she declared ‘I’ll never wash this cheek again.’ Obviously, I would have to wash…but right then I considered my options.

Justin Timberlake Weds in Italy

It’s Tearin’ Up My Heart

So, News of Justin and Jessica Biels’ nuptials are tearin’ up my heart.

And no matter what I do I feel the pain.

So, I bake.

And, I’ve been baking ever since I heard.

Friday I made Nestle Toll House Chocolate Cookies. I won’t bore you with the details – because I pretty much follow the directions on the package…

Semi-Sweet chocolate Chips Nestle

Semi-Sweet for a Bitter-Sweet Day

Except…

  • I cut the recipe in half  – Let’s be honest: I wasn’t 48 cookie sad, I was more like 24 cookie sad.
  • Half of the directed flour would have been 1 1/8 cups…but, I used just shy of 1 cup. That way the cookies are crispier and less cakey. You also really get the buttery flavor by cutting the flour down a bit.
  • I gave the majority of the cookies away – Sometimes just the baking is therapeutic enough…And, let’s face it: Fat and sad is no way to go through life.
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie

No Coincidence that the Chips are Tear Shaped

I know that my adoration of Justin isn’t really normal. And, down deep I have always accepted that becoming Mrs. Timberlake just wasn’t in the cards.

Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to say ‘bye bye bye’.