Cranberry Scones

In case you've been living under a rock, there's a wedding tomorrow.  A royal wedding.

So let's make scones, shall we?

I blame it on the Today Show.  I blame the fact that I know the names of  Kate Middleton's twice removed cousins and all about her humble beginnings on the Today Show.  There has been coverage on this wedding at least 20 minutes a day on the morning news for the last two months, and now I must watch the wedding.

And for some odd reason, most subjects or happenings I hear about always translate into food for me.  The minute I hear of an event like this, my mind goes straight to the food I can eat while watching such a spectacle.   Shepherd's Pie and Yorkshire Pudding came to mind but didn't appeal, and scones ultimately prevailed in the not-so-competitive field of English fare. 

I've always avoided most scones because there is such a fine line between a good scone, and a scone that is too dry.  They traditionally have a little bit of a dry taste, but this recipe will change your mind on what a scone should even taste like.  These are seriously addicting and a new favorite in my book. 
Here's the recipe scoop...
Scones seemed a little bit complicated to me so I did a step by step so you have no excuses.  Seriously, these are so good and they took me exactly 20 minutes to prep... exactly 20 minutes and that's with pictures and this being my first time so just come on, trust me and make these.  I bet you won't be sorry.  If you don't want to trust me alone, I will let you know that this recipe is adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  They do wonders with recipes and test them a thousand times to perfection.
So here we go...
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, mix dry ingredients. 
Cut chilled butter into 1/4 inch cubes.
 Scatter the butter evenly over the top of the dry ingredients.
Cut butter into the dry ingredients and continue to cut butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few slightly larger butter lumps. 
Add the cranberries and stir into mixture. 
 Stir in the cream with a rubber spatula until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the cream with a rubber spatula until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.  
Turn the dough and any floury bits out onto a floured counter.
Knead until it forms a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. 
 Press the dough into a 9-inch cake pan.  
Unmold the dough.
Cut into 8 or 12 wedges.  
Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.
 Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  (This was exactly 12 minutes for me and if you are not sure, check the bottoms of the scones to make sure they are not getting too brown).  Coll on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Cranberry Cream Scones
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 12 minutes
Recipe Notes
I made these the old fashion way with a pastry cutter.  If you don't want to deal with getting out a food processor, use my steps.  If you don't have a pastry cutter or want to use the food processor, follow the steps below the recipe.   Resist the urge to eat the straight from the oven.  Scones actually taste better when you lest them rest and set up a bit. 
2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup cranberries
1 cup heavy cream
Pastry Cutter or Food Processor
9 inch cake pan 
Step by Step
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, mix dry ingredients.  Cut chilled butter into 1/4 inch cubes and scatter the butter evenly over the top of the dry ingredients.  Cut butter into the dry ingredients and continue to cut butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few slightly larger butter lumps.  Add the cranberries and stir into mixture.  Stir in the cream with a rubber spatula until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.  Turn the dough and any floury bits out onto a floured counter and knead until it forms a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds.  Press the dough into a 9-inch cake pan.  Unmold the dough and cut into 8 or 12 wedges.  Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  (This was exactly 12 minutes for me and if you are not sure, check the bottoms of the scones to make sure they are not getting too brown).  Coll on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fit a food processor with a dough blade.  Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a food processor to combine, about 6 pulses.  Scatter the butter evenly over the top and pule until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few slightly larger butter lumps, about 12 pulses. Add the cranberries and quickly pulse once to combine.  Transfer the dough to a bowl and continue witht he steps above.    


Maple Roasted Bacon


Remember that breakfast pie from yesterday?

Meet its new best friend... maple roasted bacon.  He's sweet, salty and slightly crispy.  He's not exclusive though; he gets around and pretty much goes well with any breakfast/ brunch you could imagine.

I'm willing to bet he would cozy up nice to french toast, pancakes or anything else you fancy in the morning.   This bacon will rock your world.
Have you ever roasted bacon?  There's no turning, there's no grease popping in your face, and it comes out slightly chewy, slightly crispy.  It's pretty perfect.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Maple Roasted Bacon
Adapted from Ina Garten
Recipe Notes
I've tried roasting bacon before and it didn't work out.  The only thing I can attribute this to is the bacon. I used an extra-thick applewood smoked bacon.  The thickness helped it stay chewy, but crisp on the outside.   This recipe calls for a baking rack.  I used this pan that came with our oven that has a slotted pan over a a shallow pan.  If you have a metal baking rack, that will work too.  You just need something that allows the grease to drip down.
8 slices extra thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup
Baking rack
Step by Step
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place a baking rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet.  Arrange the bacon in a single layer on the rack.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is beginning to brown and crisp.  Carefully remove the pan from the oven (be careful because there will be a lot of hot grease on the lower level pan).  Brush each slice of bacon with maple syrup and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until bacon is browned and crisped, but not burned.  Place bacon on a paper towel to drain slightly.  Serve warm.

Serves 4


Spinach, Artichoke & Ricotta Pie

We did some serious brunching over the long weekend.

When I woke up all I wanted to do was remain in my pjs and come up with hearty new dishes to try; so that is exactly what I did.  I did it for you, I did it for me... I did it for us. 

No fuss, much frill;  from my little kitchen to yours... Happy Brunching.
pie ingredients
pie mix

pie with avocado
Spinach, Artichoke and Ricotta Pie
Adapted from The Kitchn
Recipe Notes
Make sure and add the avocado for serving.  It is optional, but pairs perfectly with the pie.  This dish also warms up really well in the oven the next day for leftover.  
1 cup canned artichokes, chopped
5 ounces spinach, roughly chopped (1/2 a small bag)
8 ounces ricotta cheese
4 ounces grated or shredded Parmesan
4 extra large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Vegetable oil or cooking spray to coat the cake pan
1 avocado, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Step by Step
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 inch cake pan lightly with olive oil. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and cheeses. Roughly chop the veggies and add to the cheese/egg mixture.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir until combined. Pour contents of bowl into the greased cake pan and cook until custard is set, about 40-50 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack for 5-10 minutes and serve with 3 slices of avocado per piece. 

Serves 4-6

I would have said this definitely serves 6, but I added 4-6 because this was all that was left after the two of us got ahold of it. 
pie eaten


Recipe Round Up: Easter Sides & Desserts

I'm sure none of you are in my boat.  I'm sure you've had your Easter meal planned out for awhile now, but I'm still trying to decide the two dishes I'll be taking to our family lunch tomorrow.  Just in case you wanted to squeeze in one more recipe or were still in a pickle like me, here are a few ideas...

Happy Easter.
Did you know pops of color are so in right now?

A perfect app... like little stuffed Easter Eggs.

Martha's Mac n Cheese
Such a classic.

So fresh.
lemony green beans

Easy to share. 
tartlet pic

You'll be such a star if you make these. 

These won't last long. 
Such savory little things.
thyme crackers


happy humpday.

brunch 2
I'm guest posting over here today with some of my favorite brunch recipes. 
Check it out!
p.s. sure wish this is where I was brunching.


Lemony Green Beans with Mushrooms

lgb 2
I have not always had the best relationship with green beans.  For the longest time, I thought of green beans in one way... short, a lifeless shade of green and extremely mushy, served along side mystery meat and mashed potatoes.  They only seemed to show up in cafeterias for me and they just seemed sad.  It really wasn't until I spotted this recipe in my favorite cookbook that I thought I should give them a shot.  Sure glad I was able to move on because this is a keeper.  Bright and crisp beans mixed with mushrooms in a light and lemony sauce is just wonderful.  Just a few ingredients, healthy and quick... what more could you ask for?

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.
Lemony Green Beans with Mushrooms
Adapted from Peace Meals, Junior League of Houston
Recipe Notes
Cremini mushrooms look a lot like white button mushrooms.  The outsides are just a little darker and they have a heartier taste.  I recommend using these, but if you can't find them, substitute white button mushrooms.  For the green beans, "trimmed" simply means to cut off both ends.  For a how to on blanching the beans, click here.  Remember, you want them to stay crisp so cook just until they turn bright green. 
3/4 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced about a 1/4 inch thick
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
zest and juice of one lemon
Step by Step
Blanch the beans in boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes until tender and bright green.  Cool the beans under cold running water, drain and set aside.  Heat the butter in a medium saute pan over medium- low heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.  Do not stir.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Mix in seasonings and continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Add beans, lemon zest and juice.  Cover pan and cook for 3 minutes.  Serve immediately. 


Thin Mints


The search for a homemade thin mint recipe started about 3 weeks ago when I ordered Mr. Hungry his favorite Girl Scout cookies and thought I was being quite generous with 4 boxes.  I assumed he would eat a few now and we would probably have a box a week in the freezer over the next month.  Six days later when all 4 boxes were gone, I decided it was time to find a homemade alternative.  I mean, I love supporting the Girl Scout's and all, but our grocery budget doesn't quite allow $20 a week to support a cookie habit.  Just a few days later, I found out these cookies were on someone else's mind as well.

These were great and especially when frozen, taste just like the real thing.  From your house filled with mint aromas from the baking process to the delight of having these stocked in the freezer even when it's not Girl Scout cookie season, this one is a keeper. 

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy. 



Thin Mints
Adapted from Baking Bites
Recipe Notes
It's best to use a high quality chocolate for this recipe.  I used Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips and they worked great.  If your chocolate is not quite thin enough, you can add a little extra butter, but beware, if you add too much butter, your chocolate will not harden as well.   For the cooking time, make sure you take cookies out when edges are firm, but before the whole cookie is very firm.  My friend Allison said hers turned out "beyond crisp."  Every oven is a little different, so test the edges at 11 or 12 minutes and adjust accordingly.
for the cookies:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
for the coating:
12 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
parchment paper
Step by Step
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  With mixer on low speed, add the milk and the extracts.  The mixture will resemble curdled milk. Slowly add the flour mixture until well incorporated and fluffy.

Shape dough into two long logs, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (4 cm).  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, until very firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, slice dough into round no more than 1/4 inch thick. Slice carefully so they are as close to the same thickness as possible.  You will have some very soft and others very hard if they differ too much in thickness.  Make sure they are no more than 1/4 inch thick or they won't be crispy.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cookies can be very close together because they will not spread much at all.

Bake for 13 minutes (see recipe notes); until the edges of the cookie are firm.  Allow cookies to cool completely.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Microwave on high power for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir; continue microwaving in 30 second increments, stirring between each, until chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. 

Dip each cookie in melted chocolate and rotate to cover whole cookie.  Using a fork, scrape off extra chocolate so there is a thin coating.  Place cookies on parchment paper or wax paper to allow to cool and set; at least 45 minutes.  Reheat chocolate as necessary to keep is smooth and easy to dip into.

Best served frozen. 

Makes 4 dozen cookies.


Kitchen Registry 101: any questions or advice?

I get quite a few emails and questions about wedding registries pertaining to the kitchen.  And after my experience, I love nothing more than trying to share the little info I know on the subject because let me tell you, it was a train wreck at times for me.  Whether you are really into cooking or not, let's face it, you will most likely get more stuff for your kitchen when you are getting married than any other time in your life and if you do it right, you will have things that last you a life time.  So I am going to put together a few posts about things I'm glad I knew when registering and things I wish I had known.  If you have any questions or things you would like me to cover, leave a comment or send me an email.    I am by no means am an expert so if you have any tips you learned along the way, I'd love to include them so shoot me an email.

This is where my registering story began, three years ago... 

When you get engaged, some girls start dreaming about the dress they will wear and the flowers they will carry.  Me?  I started having dreams of Le Creuset dutch ovens and 12 cup food processors.  Getting to pick out shiny new kitchen gear and then receive these gifts at parties and in the mail from dear friends and family seemed magical.  Am I alone here?

Mr. Hungry and I took off for the registry event at Williams Sonoma that takes place every Sunday before the store opens because in my mind, this store was a must.  This is where I almost lost my mind.  I quickly realized that the endless types of fry pans to the 6 options for zesters was more than I had expected.  I mean, I liked to cook, but when it came to brands and materials, I didn't really have a clue.

And then I had to deal with what I had not even thought about... Mr. Hungry having his own ideas as to what we needed in the kitchen.  As I am stressing over trying to educate myself on nonstick pans vs. stainless steel pans, I start to hear this little beep beep... beep beep.  I realized this was the sound of the scanning gun we had been given and quickly put it together that I could not see Mr. Hungry who was armed with the gun.  I turn the corner to see him scanning some drinking glasses.  I thought no, no you don't just pick random glasses.    I wrestled the gun away and went back to trying to find a normal cheese grater instead of this gourmet one that cost $40.00.  Apparently I had set the gun down while looking at different options because before I knew it, I was hearing those beeps again.  I go searching for him again and found him crouched down in front of an industrial size meat slicer. Yes, apparently Williams Sonoma sells these and apparently Mr. Hungry thought it was a must have.  I laughed until I realized he was serious.  He said, "Ash, of course we need this... I will cut fresh meat for sandwiches all the time."  Besides the fact that the actual machine would take up a whole counter, I said... REALLY?? You think we are going to keep slabs of meat around that could feed an entire army??  We left.

This began our troubles with registering.  Between being overwhelmed and coming to the realization that there would be two of us doing this, we left.  I needed to figure a lot out before we even thought about going to another store.

Looking back it was comical, but at the time, I was just stressed.  So, from picking out everyday dishes to what types of pans to invest in I will share the world of registering according to me, which like I said, I'm no expert, but I feel like I've learned a lot along the way.

Leave a comment or email me, ashleaktaylor@gmail.com with questions you would like me to cover or advice you have to share.

Stay tuned...


A great make ahead meal... Lightened Up Chicken Parmesan

chicken parm

After this post, I've been trying to deliver on my promise for fast and healthy recipes.  Combining that with this post and the picture disaster, I found it appropriate to re-post this recipe.  I also made it oh-so practical by subbing my favorite canned tomato sauce for the homemade one.
{however the homemade one is still amazing and the recipe is here}

Now on to why this is such a great make ahead meal.  You can basically do all the cooking and prepping before, refrigerate and pop it in the oven for broiling whenever you are ready to eat.  Makes it pretty perfect to put together right before dinner time.  The total prep is not hard either so if you have about 30 minutes, you can put this altogether at one time.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

pasta sauce

p.s. This is my favorite pasta sauce for absolutely everything...  Bertolli Olive Oil and Garlic


Lightened Up Chicken ParmesanRecipe Notes
If your broil browns things extremely quickly, you can put the setting on 500 degrees F to let the cheese melt instead of putting it on broil.  If you have a great french skillet and are making 4 or less chicken breasts, follow the instructions about putting the pan in the oven.  If you don't have a great pan, you  have more than 4 portions, or if you are making it ahead of time and are going to be refrigerating, cook all of the chicken as directed and then transfer chicken to a glass casserole dish before adding sauce and cheese.
For the chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano or thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken cutlets (or if they are really thin and small, use 8)
Thin slices of fresh mozzarella (1 or 2 per piece of chicken) OR 1/2 shredded mozzarella
4 teaspoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups favorite jarred marinara sauce (see my favorite above)
Step by Step
Preheat the oven to broil.

In small bowl, stir the oil and herbs to blend.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip each chicken cutlet in the olive oil herb mixture until well coated.  Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat.  Add the cutlets and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the skillet from heat.  (see recipe note if you are not using a high quality, heavy duty pan or if you are making this for later).

Spoon the marinara sauce over and around the chicken.  Lay a slice of mozzarella on each piece of chicken or place a small amount of shredded mozzarella on each.  Top with a teaspoon of parmesan on each piece.
Broil until the cheese melts and sauce is bubbling, about 1 minute.


The tale of a chicken cutlet.

Are you familiar with the term chicken cutlet?  If not, let me put it in these terms.  You go to the store and buy a boneless skinless chicken breast.  It's this thick and chunky piece of meat that sometimes even has a little bit of fat on it.  Now you go to a restaurant and order some fabulous chicken dish and you get this tender, very thin and juicy piece of meat.

Maybe it's just me, but for a long time I just could not figure out how to get that kind of chicken at home.  Enter the term chicken cutlet.  This is that sweet thin piece of chicken that soaks up any kind sauce wonderfully.  So this is a quick how to on how to get yourself one of those.

Now there is nothing glamorous about a fledgling piece of meat or the fact that I only had my iphone to photograph with, so I chose the dramatic black and white photos to tell the story of the chicken cutlet.

Take a chunky, straight from the super market, boneless, skinless chicken breast.  Place it on parchment paper on a sturdy counter top.
chicken 1
Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken in half horizontally.  If your chicken is not too thick, you can skip this step, but I have never met a piece that didn't need a slice. Cut off any pieces of white fat.
chicken 2

chicken 3
The preferred tool would be a meat tenderizer so if you have one, pound out the chicken until it's extremely thin.  If you do not have one of these, lay a piece of parchment paper on top of the chicken and use the bottom of a very sturdy, thick glass and pound it out really thin.  You could use a rolling pin to pound it too.
chicken 4
In summary, the step I found the most important is cutting it in half horizontally.  This leaves only a little pounding left to do.  I'll be back soon with a couple of my favorite recipes using chicken cutlets.  If you take my word for it, try this one or this one.  They were part of my picture debacle so there are not photos of the finished product, but they sure are tasty.