Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Better Scone?

Probably not. A different scone? That's more like it :) I am a lover of scones - all kinds, especially those laced with apricots, blueberries, and dried cherries. What I don't love about them is...the calories. Usually laden with tons of butter and cream, scones may not be the best way to start your day if you are trying to walk the healthy road. Not to say that I don't eat them, because I definitely do, but sometimes, I try to find/create a recipe that might be a little lighter. These scones don't try to be what I consider to be a "regular" scone, but they are something different - with moist, cakey texture, not too sweet and similar to a muffin top.

The scone recipe was adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe that got great reviews . Again, I am using wild blueberries left over from my trip to Maine last week - I also made the muffins that I made last year when I came home with piles of wild blueberries. If you ever have a chance to get some, do it! They are wonderfully sweet and the color is amazing.

Wild Blueberry Scones (adapted from Tyler Florence)
2 cups AP flour, plus more for rolling berries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut in chunks
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1 egg
1 pint fresh wild blueberries**


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix until uniform.

3. Cut in butter using 2 forks or a pastry blender. A few reviewers noted that they used a food processor to make the dough - I may try that next time. The butter pieces should be coated with flour and resemble crumbs.

4. In another bowl, mix buttermilk (or milk + vinegar*) and egg together, and then add to the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate, don't overmix.

5. Roll blueberries in flour to coat to prevent berry sinkage. Fold the blueberries into batter, being careful not to bruise too many (it was impossible not to get a few of them juicy). Drop large tablespoons of batter on an ungreased cookie sheet.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly brown on top.

* No buttermilk in my house this I made my own using skim milk and vinegar (instructions found here). It works out just fine!

** Regular cultivated blueberries would also be fine; some reviews that I have read for different blueberry scones recipes (I hope you don't think I get lucky with recipes :), I considered about 10 different scone recipes before giving this one a go - my husband gets to come home from work and see me surrounded by cookbooks - I should have taken a picture of that!) indicate that the blueberries hold up better when used frozen. Maybe they don't burst or get as juicy as the fresh ones - I particularly like when they "blow-up" so I would go fresh, but I'm sure either way is just fine.

***I tried another recipe awhile back that was fairly nutritious for cranberry scones - it also used a reduced amount of butter and skim milk instead of whole milke & cream. The texture is similar and they were delicious as well.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back with a healthy recipe!

Back to blogging today after a few weeks of a crazy schedule plus a much-needed vacation. I figured that I would blog this super easy & healthy recipe since I could really use some healthy inspiration after a week of eating a bit less healthy than usual (New England vacations = lazy lobster, corn chowder, lots of good beer, ice get the drift). At least I did some hiking too! Hopefully that will balance it out :)

I made these muffins for my mom a few weeks back after she had surgery. She was stuck on the couch for some time and wanted something healthy to eat for breakfast without having to cook something each day - these totally did the trick. She loved them. There are many variations of these muffins around the web - these were full of healthy ingredients without being too dry, boring, or unappetizing. Give them a try!

Morning Glory Muffins (adapted from Cooking Light)

Note: The ingredients in this recipe are super flexible - feel free to swap out the apricots, cranberries, pineapple for whatever dried fruits you like. Add a bit more or less as well. More fruit lends towards a moister muffin, so keep that in mind.

Also, I always have bananas that are getting a bit too ripe in my kitchen. When that happens, I throw them in the freezer and save them for my banana bread. They also work perfectly in this recipe, allowing you to make it anytime without having to wait for your bananas to get ripe!

Cooking spray
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain fat-free or vanilla yogurt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
1 large egg
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.

3. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients and stir. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg and add to dry mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in fruits and walnuts.

4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with flaxseed prior to putting into the oven - this gives the muffins a nice crunchy top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

I'm going to post the nutrition facts from the Cooking Light website here so you can see what a great breakfast these make, especially when compared to other muffins. Note that the original recipe also calls for wheat bran, which enhances the nutritional content - I could not find any in my local store so I left it out, but intend to add it next time.

For one muffin (keep in mind that these are for the recipe that appears on their website, linked above): CALORIES 186(21% from fat); FAT 4.4g (sat 0.5g,mono 0.7g,poly 2.8g); IRON 1.2mg; CHOLESTEROL 12mg; CALCIUM 42mg; CARBOHYDRATE 35.2g; SODIUM 190mg; PROTEIN 4.2g; FIBER 3.4g

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cherry Crumble Tartlets

So, first it was Katie. She had to go and jump-start my fascination with cherry pie. Then, a few weeks later, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen tried her hand at it and that was the end of me. That afternoon, I was off to the store to get some cherries for baking only. I had to buy a bag of cherries with a specific purpose in mind, otherwise, I will eat and given myself a major stomachache. I have been known to sit with a giant bowl and eat them all until they are gone (at $3.99 a pound, we're talking about a serious investment too!).

Now, I'm talking about sweet bing cherries, not tart cherries, which I've actually never tried. Even though I love cherries, I've never made any cherry desserts - always ate them raw. So, after reading about everyone else's cherry exploits, I took the plunge. And....they were unbelievably delicious. Seriously, so good. You have to try them before cherry season is over - we're at the tail-end in my neck of the woods. This recipe is also ridiculously easy if you can believe that.

Cherry Crumble Tartlets
(the filling for this recipe was inspired by Deb's pie filling)

Prepared pie dough (now, you can go ahead and use your homemade dough, but for a weeknight or in a pinch, the prepared kind is just fine)
1-2 lbs of fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half (amount depends on how many tarts you are making)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
Dash of almond extract

Crumble topping
(this was extremely haphazard, feel free to add nuts or whatever you like - as long as it sticks together and becomes crumb-like, it will be fine :)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
~1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup oats
Pinch of salt

1. Stir together cherries, cornstarch, lemon, extract and sugar until will mixed. Put to the side.

2. Roll out dough. Cut rough circles of dough that will fit your tart pans. I used a mixture of 4.5-inch tart pans and a few larger ramekins. Line bottoms of pans/ramekins with dough. If using tart pans, use a rolling pin to remove excess dough.

3. Prepare crumble topping - mix all ingredients together. Its best to use your hands to make sure little crumbs are formed. I usually just stir it up and then use my fingers to mash the butter into the dry ingredients. Sounds good huh? :)

4. Add cherry mixture to pans. Make sure to leave excess juice in the bowl - no need to add that to the pans. Top with crumble.

5. Bake at 350-400 degrees or so until mixture is bubbling and crumble topping is starting to brown. I think mine were done in about 20 minutes - the timing will depend on your containers so just watch them.

6. Awesome served with a scoop of ice cream!

I'm planning on making these for our July 4th BBQ this Friday - I think they will be great as individual cupcake-size tarts - festive and super-easy to prep using a regular-sized cupcake pan. Plus, they are great at room temperature. Have a great 3-day weekend!