Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Best Ever Maple Oat Nut Scones

I was looking for a way to duplicate the Starbuck's Maple Nut Scone at home, since it's long been one of my favorite breakfast treats, ever. The thick, sweet glaze and tasty, maple-y moist bread has always been a winner to me. We're also the kind of family that likes to laze about on Sunday, with our tea or hot chocolate or piping hot mochas, and this scone is always the perfect complement. Have I found a way to duplicate the recipe? I think so, for the most part, but with a few important modifications (see recipe below). The scones themselves are not as thick as I'm used to, but I don't care about that -- for me it's all about the deliciousness. And are they delicious? Why yes, yes they are. My grade: A

Best Ever Maple Oat Nut Scones


For The Scones
  • 1 cup oats (quick or old-fashioned)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons good maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter (small pieces)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Maple Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons good maple syrup
  • 5 teaspoons half and half
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Using a food processor or blender, finely grind oats.
  3. In a mixer, mix flour, oats, sugar (white and brown), salt and baking powder.
  4. Add maple syrup and butter and mix well.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the cream and maple extract.
  6. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix well.
  7. Add pecans and mix just to incorporate.
  8. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead and pat dough into a 8 to 10 inch circle and cut into 8 wedges.
  9. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place wedges on top and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until light brown.
  10. Remove scones from oven to wire rack. Let cool about 3 to 5 minutes.
  11. Mix glaze ingredients until smooth. Adjust the amount of water to get to the desired consistency. I like the glaze to be rather thick. Spread lots of glaze over each scone and dry about 15 minutes before serving.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 8

Best Ever Caramel Apple Crisp

As I've stated previously, I'm not the crisp or crumb person in the house -- my husband is. He could eat an entire crisp straight out of a dutch oven over a campfire if given the chance. I'm more a cake or pie person, but don't get me wrong, a good crisp is certainly hard to beat. But to me, crisps can tend to be a bit blah. Boring. Snore. I like something with a little oomph, which is what led me to do a world wide web innernets search for the best ever to-die for apple crisp, in order to please and wow my ever appreciative husband.

I may have found the recipe, folks. Granted I've adapted it a little, cutting out the evaporated milk and also processing the oats until they resembled bread crumbs more than whole oats, but either way, the end result sure comes close to what I was looking for. Who can turn away from ooey gooey caramel slathered over piping hot cinnamon apples? My grade: A

Best Ever Caramel Apple Crisp


Apple filling:

5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup butter, softened

Caramel Sauce

1 14 ounce package caramels, unwrapped
3 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, toss apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice and water; spread evenly in 9X13 pan.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the caramels with the milk. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the apples.

In another bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, oats and butter; spoon mixture evenly over caramel and apples.

Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes (apple mixture will bubble and topping will be golden brown).

Difficulty: Intermediate
Cooking time: 1 hr 40 minutes
Yield: 12 servings

Perfectly Juicy Meatballs in Rich, Sweet Marinara Sauce

I like my marinara sauces thick and on the sweet side, packed with dimension and flavor. Of course I make it myself, because making it yourself is so easy and plus in the end you get exactly what you want, according to your tastes. It's fresh. It's homemade. It's delightful.

Oh and I love meatballs, too. I typically make them the same every time, although I'll switch it up here and there, adding minced mushrooms or different cheeses to taste. They're as easy as pie which is another reason I make them at home instead of buying them frozen in bags. Why do that? Meatballs are meant to be juicy and delicious, not thawed out and bland. I'm telling you, these two recipes are fabulous and easy, and once you try them you'll be making your own sauce and balls from this day forward, forever. My grade for each: A+

Rich, Sweet Marinara Sauce


2 tablespoons olve oil
3 14 oz cans Italian peeled tomatoes (I like San Marzano), pureed
2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
5 cloves minced garlic
Half a yellow onion
7 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 ounces fresh basil, chopped, or to taste


In a saucepan, heat oil. Add onion and saute until transparent. When cooked, add garlic, peeled/pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, pepper flakes, salt, bay leaf and basil. Cook, uncovered, for twenty minutes. When done, remove bay leaf and use immersion blender to puree, or regular stand blender. Blend until desired consistency is reached.

Perfectly Juicy Meatballs


2 pounds ground chuck
2 ounces dried bread crumbs, as fresh as possible
3 large eggs
4 ounces grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 small yellow onion
2 ounces minced basil leaves
2 ounces minced Italian parsley leaves
5 - 7 minced garlic cloves


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If mixture seems too soft or loose, add bread crumbs. Roll meatballs about the size of a golfball or ice cream scoop. Cook for 35 - 40 minutes. When done, place in sauce and simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Difficulty: Easy
Yields: 8 servings

Paula Deen's Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake From Georgia

I love cake --- any kind of cake. Lemon, white, chocolate, and especially apple. Oh I've searched the internet round for the perfect apple cake recipe, and although I think I'll continue to try new things, I will say that Paula Deen's Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake From Georgia (omg mouthful) comes quite close to fitting the bill. The only thing I'll say is that the original recipe's 1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil is just too much, producing great moisture, sure, but also too much synthetic oil taste which I don't happen to love. Instead I replace the oil with two sticks of melted unsalted butter and a half cup of pure vegetable oil. Sometimes I don't even add the oil and just use apple sauce instead (a half cup with the two sticks of melted butter). The taste is always more dimensional and pleasing, which is why I recommend you make the same replacement when trying the recipe, too. My grade: B+

Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake From Georgia


Butter, for greasing pan
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pure vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups peeled and finely chopped apples
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a tube pan.

For the cake: in a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, melted butter, oil, orange juice, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract; and mix well. Fold apples, coconut, and pecans into batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.

Shortly before the cake is done, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the sugar, buttermilk, and baking soda, and bring to a good rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the hot cake in the pan as soon as you remove it from the oven. Let stand 1 hour, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook time: 1 hr 30 minutes
Yield: 16 - 20 servings

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (That Everyone Will Love)

Me? I tend to like things spicy. Some of the other members in my family? Not so much. This creates quite the conundrum when I'm in the mood for Mexican food, because I like blazing hot salsa and burn-your-tongue hot sauce. But those things are typically added after the fact, which is what makes this Creamy Chicken Enchiladas recipe so great. There's lots of flavor, but it's mild flavor. Add all the spices you like, or keep it low-key and mellow. The resulting enchiladas are thick and juicy, slathered in a savory, tasty sauce that everyone will love. And for those of you hot-heads out there who like your food like I do, add the inferno salsa after the fact. My grade: B+

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas


8 - 10 8 inch flour tortillas
1 pound chicken breasts, diced (or Rotisserie chicken from market, skinned and diced)
1 medium onion
1 cup sour cream
4 oz cheddar cheese (or your preferred cheese)
Cilantro to taste, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 15 oz can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 10 oz can Rotel chopped tomatoes and chiles
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ancho chilli powder
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp salt
4 - 8 oz cheddar cheese


Take cooked, skinned and cubed chicken breasts/meat and place in bowl. To that add 1 cup sour cream, cilantro, garlic, minced onion and 4 oz cheddar cheese. Mix well.

Divide chicken mixture evenly between eight tortillas. Roll and place seem down in lightly greased/sprayed 9X13 baking dish.

Melt butter in pan. Stir in flour and make a roux, cook until bubbly. Once bubbling add chicken broth and bring to boiling. Once boiling remove from heat, adding chili, ancho chili, chicken bouillon, Rotel tomatoes and chiles and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (I often puree the Rotel tomatoes before adding, as certain members of my family don't like chunky tomatoes in their meals. This adds the flavor without any of the texture objections.)

Pour sauce liberally over rolled enchiladas, making sure to get sauce into every nook and cranny. Atop the sauce liberally spread 4 - 8 oz cheddar or Mexican blend cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are golden brown and bubbly.

Difficulty: Easy - Intermediate
Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 8

Perfectly Heavenly Potato Soup

I love potato soup, any time, anywhere, as long as it's warm and good. And if I'm making the soup myself, it not only has to be full of comfort and lots of flavor, but it has to be easy. Recently I threw together a wonderful soup that took about thirty minutes, tops, which, if you're like me and want your food and want it now, is a recipe made in heaven. And let me tell you, it was dee-lish. Next time I make it I'll probably add smoked ham chunks and corn. Oh my! My grade: A+

Perfectly Heavenly Potato Soup


7 medium potatoes
Half a cup of butter
4 cups milk
2 cups half and half
1 pound bacon, fried crisp and chopped into bits
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup parsley, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese


Peel potatoes, then slice or cube into small chunks. Place in pot and cover with water, plus one inch. Boil and cook until ready, when knife or fork slides through potato easily.

In separate pan, fry bacon until crisp (bacon can also be baked in the oven on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, or until crisp). Once bacon is done, remove from pan and chop into bits. Remove bacon grease from pan except for 1 tablespoon. To this add minced garlic, onion and green onion. Fry until onions are translucent and tender, about ten minutes. When cooked, add three fourths of the bacon bits and reserve entire mixture. The other fourth of the bacon bits can be put into a bowl or Ziploc bag for garnishing later.

In another pan, melt butter. Once melted, add flour to make a roux, mixing until lumps are gone, about one minute. Add two cups milk and one cup half and half to mixture, stirring continuously to make sure no lumps form. Set the burner on medium/high, adding rest of milk and half and half to mixture, plus chopped green onions, bacon, garlic and onion mixture. Heat until bubbling, making sure not to burn. After bubbling, turn heat off and add all remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, garnishing with more cheese, chopped green onions and bacon bits.

Difficulty: Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 5 - 6

Bobby Flay's Throw-down Winning Black Pepper Biscuits

Being a complete Food Network junkie, I just love the Bobby Flay throw-downs. Sometimes he gets a little wild and crazy for my tastes, transforming something simple and easy into something complicated and overly gourmand, but on average, I love what Flay creates. Every time I watch his throw down show I get hungry too, usually setting out within hours to duplicate the winning recipe and almost always being more than pleased. Next on my list are his chocolate chip cookies and meatloaf, but this weekend? This weekend it was biscuits, and boy were they good.

Is there anything more simple and delicious than a biscuit made right, slathered in butter or jam? I can't think of anything. Light and buttery with the perfect airiness, these biscuits won over the entire family. I prepared some regular style and others with Monterey Jack cheese (added at the last moment, with the buttermilk), and all of them were brilliant. My grade: A

Bobby Flay's Black Pepper Biscuits


4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus 4 tablespoons, melted
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, not super fine and not coarse, somewhere in between


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Using a dough cutter, combine until ingredients are incorporated. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top of the flour mixture and continue to combine until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the mixture just begins to come together.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly flour counter. Pat the dough into a 10 by 12-inch rectangle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out biscuits. Press together the scraps of dough, and repeat process. Place the biscuits on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper; brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with black pepper. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the tops with melted butter.

Difficulty: Super Easy
Prep/Cook Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 16 biscuits