Cherry Shortcake (plus Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits)

Sometimes in life, you should splurge a little bit. I decided one of those times is while I’m here in London, I should definitely buy the full fat creme fraiche. Why? Because it’s delicious, creamy, and I can’t get it easily back home. Here I can even get a store brand, and it’s fantastic.

But then I had to come up with something to eat it with.

Sure, there’s the usual “with fruit” option, and that’s wonderful and I have used part of my tub for that. But I wanted something that would be a little different. And I also felt like baking. However, I’m cooking for just one person here, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to make a whole pie.

I decided to make some biscuits. Originally, I was heading this direction because a) of this recipe and b) I knew I could freeze some of them and bake them next week when I’m ready for more biscuits. So I decided to divide the biscuit recipe in two and make half savory and half slightly sweet. Savory for eggs in the morning (ok, I’ll admit, I topped the eggs with creme fraiche too!), and the sweeter ones for shortcakes. I should say I’m usually more of a flaky biscuit gal, but these were pretty tasty. I decided since I was already baking in a kitchen other than my own, I didn’t need bust out a rolling pin.

And the cherries my produce man had looked delicious, so I bought “two handfuls” instead of one. Also, someone important to me doesn’t care for berries, so I considered this a test run of a recipe for us to eat this summer.

So first the the cherries, and then the recipe(s) for the biscuits. Please note the cherry recipe makes a terribly small amount since it’s just for me, but it’s easily doubled or tripled.

Mmm, cherry shortcake.

Cherries for Shortcakes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • about 1 c. whole, fresh cherries (or maybe 1 1/2 so you can eat some of them as you go)
  • 1/2-1 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your cherries are)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp water–the cherries don’t release that much juice, so I added a touch of water to get everything evenly coated and to have some juice to pour on the biscuits.
  1. Wash and de-stem the cherries. Cut them in half and remove the pits. Put them in a small bowl and combine with the other ingredients, adjusting the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of the cherries. (I used just a touch over 1/2 tsp.)
  2. Refrigerate for 30 min to a day before using.
  3. To make the shortcakes, split open a biscuit such as the sweet ones below or your own favorite recipe, top with half the cherry mixture and a generous dollop of creme fraiche or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Cheddar & Green Onion and Sweet Drop Biscuits

Servings: 6 savory and 6 sweet

Prep/Baking Time: 15-20 min prep, 15-18 min baking

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • scant 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp (1 tbsp) sugar, divided
  • 3 oz/6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (or vinegar)*
  • enough milk to make 1 c when added to the lime juice (or use buttermilk and omit the lime juice)
  1. Stir together the lime juice and milk. You can grate the cheese if you want, but I diced mine into small pieces. I think it was easier to mix that way. Whichever, prep your cheese and thinly slice the green onion, separating the rings of the white part. Cut the butter into 6-8 pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 tsp sugar. Add the butter pieces, and cut in with your fingers until you have small pieces throughout (slightly smaller than peas).
  3. Separate half of the flour mixture into another bowl. This will be just over 1 1/2 c of flour mixture. We’ll call this new bowl “bowl B.”
  4. To bowl A (the original one), add 1 tsp of sugar and mix thoroughly. Add half the soured milk. Blend quickly (dough should still be rough, not smooth). Dollop onto a greased baking sheet, about 1/3 c per biscuit. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp of sugar.**
  5. To bowl B, add the cheese and onions and mix thoroughly. Add the other half of the soured milk and blend quickly, noting the same as above for mixing. Divide dough onto a greased sheet in the same manner.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious.

*I happened to have purchased a lime earlier in the day, which was fortunate ’cause I couldn’t find an vinegar in the flat where I’m staying. The lime juice worked just as well as vinegar, and I didn’t notice any lime flavor (though I think that might have been tasty).

**You can also dollop the dough onto a cookie sheet and then freeze the sheet until the biscuits are set. Then move them to an airtight container and bake them when you want to, adding a couple minutes to the time. I baked three sweet and three savory and froze the other three of each. I even baked on the same pan and didn’t notice any flavor transfer.

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Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Strawberry (Ginger) Coulis

Fail. Wow. I haven’t posted since August. I had a pretty good excuse last semester with my exams, but not this one. Oh well.

I wish I could tell you how tasty this cake was, but I can only provide a second hand account. I made it for a friend’s birthday, but she doesn’t live in town any more, so some other friends brought it to her (ok, they were already planning on making the trip–my cake was a tag-a-long). But they said they loved it, so I’ll just take their word for it until I have the chance to make this again.

My friend is doing really well on Weight Watchers, and I didn’t want to throw her off, so in addition to the low fat nature of regular angel food cake, this one is also low sugar. My sister, a WW leader, estimated the cake at about 2 points for a tenth of it! But you’d need a little of this super easy sauce with it, which is probably another point. But still, that’s pretty good for a great dessert. Since this uses Splenda, you should know that it might dry out more quickly than a regular cake.

One thing that made this cake even easier than normal was that I bought a carton of egg whites from the grocery rather than cracking and separating 10-12 eggs. You’ll find this item near the Egg Beaters. What a great time saver! This recipe was adapted from one at Baking Bites plus some thoughts from my Better Homes and Gardens version, plus a coulis recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan.

Servings: 10-12

Prep time: 1 hour; Baking time: 50-55 minutes

For the cake:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. egg whites (10-12 eggs, or buy a carton), at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup Splenda
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Make sure your tube pan and your mixing bowls are spotlessly clean–any fat residue from previous baking projects could deflate your cake. Also, make sure the racks in your oven are separated enough to accommodate the tube pan–it’s taller than most bakeware.
  2. Sift together the Splenda, cake flour and cocoa powder, making sure the cocoa gets evenly distributed. (I sifted mine three times.) Set aside.
  3. If using a stand mixer, use the wire whisk or the regular beaters of a hand mixer will be fine. Pour the egg whites into the mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until they get frothy. Add the cream of tartar and salt. While mixing on medium to medium-high, slowly add the sugar to the egg whites, a few tablespoons at a time. Continue beating to the soft peak stage. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat for a few more seconds. You don’t want to go all the way to firm peaks, but a little past soft is ok. (When you pull out the beater, the tips of the egg whites should droop over a little, but not recede completely back into the rest of the whites.)
  4. Sift about 1/6 of the flour mixture over the top of the egg whites and gently fold the flour mix into them. (By folding, I mean putting a spatula down the side of the bowl to the bottom and then folding that over the top of the whites. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until mostly combined.) Repeat until all of the flour mixture has been added to the egg whites. Take your time here. If you hurry, you’ll deflate the egg whites and your cake won’t have a good texture.
  5. Dollop the batter into the tube pan, trying to distribute it evenly (it will probably be a little too thick to pour). Give the pan a good whack against the top of the counter to loosen any large air bubbles. Gently smooth out the top of the batter with your spatula. Bake for 50-55 minutes, rotating after 30 min if your oven heats unevenly. The cake is done when the top is dry and springs back when lightly touched (mine took 55).
  6. When the cake comes out of the oven, invert it onto a well-ventilated cooling rack. Or, you can invert it so the tube rests on top of a bottle, but I have yet to find a bottle that fits my pan. I’ve tried wine, beer, soda, vinegar and oil, all with no luck. But if it works for you, go ahead. My cake was fine resting upside down on the rack.
  7. When the cake is completely cool (4+ hours), run a knife along the outside edge, pressing against the pan so as not to tear the cake. Then repeat along the inner tube. The cake should release from the tube part of the pan still sealed to the removable bottom. Repeat the cutting technique on the cake bottom, and your beautiful angelfood cake will be free!

Strawberry (Ginger) Coulis

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries, mostly thawed (or fresh, but they’re not in season here yet)
  • 2 tbsp Splenda (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp water (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  1. Blend the strawberries, Splenda, sugar and water in a food processor until completely smooth. Yea, seriously, that’s it.
  2. If you’d like, take out half of the coulis and mix it with the ginger. It gives it a nice, bright, unexpected taste. Double the ginger if you want it in the whole batch, but some people don’t like ginger, so I thought it would be nice to have some with ginger and some without.
  3. Drizzle on cake slices.

*Note: The reason for the water in the coulis is that Splenda does not work the same way real sugar does to draw out fruits’ natural juices. If you are making this with all real sugar, omit the water.

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    Pasta alla Norma (review)

    A little ways east of town, there’s a “dented can” grocery called Central Discount. It’s always an adventure going there because it involves getting up really early to fight the crowds, and because you never know what sorts of things you’ll find. Last time I was there, I bought a can of anchovies packed in olive oil for 25 cents. At that price, I told myself I could work up the courage to use them in something. And then I got my summer issue of Cooks Illustrated.

    I should pause here to say that while I grew up by the gulf coast, I’m not much of a fish fan. I had an allergic reaction to some sort of large fish, probably shark or swordfish, when I was a little girl, and had a great excuse not to eat it thereafter. There were some kinds of fish I’d eat. Tuna (mostly in salad form), salmon (mostly in croquette form), and fish sticks (with mac and cheese on the side). It really wasn’t until I got into college around the time the sushi craze was sweeping the country that I decided I’d try tasting a little more fish. I’m still not a huge fan, but there are some types I’ll eat (and watch out if there’s unagi around–I know, it’s not a fish, but still, it’s adventurous). but anchovies. Those have a certain reputation in the general public which makes them sound repulsive, but a general cache amongst foodies as a worthwhile canned food.

    One of the recipes in my CI was for an eggplant and tomato pasta sauce known as Pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish. I love eggplant and I enjoy looking for new ways to eat it. But as I read the recipe’s creation and looked over the ingredients, there it was. Anchovies. I decided to go for it–and I was rewarded.

    The recipe only calls for a tablespoon worth, finely minced, which when cooked into a sauce of at least five servings is barely noticable amongst the other rich flavors. In fact, even upon opening the can, the anchovies has very little fishy smell. The recipe creation says they were added to give the recipe some “backbone.” Well it worked. This dish was amazing and I’m really looking forward to eating the leftovers.

    One of the great things about this dish was how easily it went together. The only prep I had to do before I started cooking was to chop the eggplant. I was able to mince and measure everything else while the eggplant was in various stages of cooking. I even had time to go out to my porch to pick herbs without a delay in the cooking process.

    A couple other notes: I didn’t have 6 tablespoons worth of basil on my plant, so I substituted with some fresh oregano and a little dried basil. I thought it was great. The only thing I didn’t really like about this dish was the kind of cheese it called for, ricotta salata. Unlike ricotta, ricotta salata holds it shape so that it can be grated on top. I splurged an bought a small chunk at my local co-op. The cheese has a slightly ammonia undertone that I don’t care for, especially with this dish. There are already so many other flavors, it doesn’t really fit in. This is coming from a person who loves brie, so it’s not that ammonia note itself that I dislike. In the future, I think I’ll try one of CI’s other recommendations for this recipe, pecorino romano or cotija, both cheeses I already know I like.

    Overall, I think this recipe is definitely worth picking up a copy of the July/August CI on your local newstand. I still haven’t figured out if it’s a copyright infringement to post the recipe up here.

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    Super Veggie Hummus Wrap

    One of the coffeeshops I really like here has a great wrap on their menu called a super veggie hummus wrap. I love this sandwich, despite its odd ingredients. The only problem? It costs $9 and doesn’t even come with chips! I decided to take matters into my own hands and figure out how to make this delicious lunch at home–and for much less money.

    Now because of the broad range of ingredients in this sandwich, it will only be a reasonable price if you plan to use these items in other dishes. For example, you could use some grilled veggies for this wrap, and some on top of pasta, and some in a burrito. But as long as you use all the parts without letting them go to waste, it adds up to a pretty reasonable dish. I would estimate about $3/wrap.

    Feel free to adjust the insides based on what you like/have in the house, but be sure to keep the hummus, apple and salsa. I know the three sound a little odd together, but I promise, it’s awesome.

    Super Veggie Hummus Wrap

    Super Veggie Hummus Wrap

    Prep time: 15 minutes

    Servings: 1 (easy to turn into more)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 whole wheat tortilla, approx 10″ diameter
    • 3 tbsp hummus
    • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh spinach
    • 3 kalamata olives (optional)
    • 1/3 cup sauteed (or grilled) veggies–summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers and carrots are all wonderful
    • 1 thin slice red onion (several rings)–approx 2 tbsp when chopped
    • several thin apple (red or green) slices–approx 1/4 apple
    • 2 tbsp salsa
    • non-stick spray
    1. If you don’t have any sauteed veggies, chop up what you have around, spray a small skillet with non-stick spray and throw the veggies in the pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally. They’ll be cooked enough by the time you’re ready to add them into the wrap. Quarter the red onion rings and the olives (if using), and chop the apple pieces into pieces about an inch square.
    2. Spread the hummus in a 2-3 inch wide strip down the middle of the tortilla, leaving an inch-wide space from the edge of the tortilla. Press the spinach into the hummus, tearing any large leaves. Add the veggies, olives, onion and apple slices on top of the spinach. Top with the salsa.
    3. Heat a skillet to medium-low heat and spray with non-stick spray. Fold up the wrap: first fold in the 1-inch spaces you left on the edge of the hummus strip. While holding those edges folded in, fold over one side and then the other. Place the wrap seam-side down into the skillet. Heat about 4 minutes, or until light brown. Then flip over and heat the other side for about the same length of time. Enjoy!

    Note: Packing a lunch to eat later? This will work! Make it ahead of time at home, leaving out the salsa and bringing it with you in a small container. Add it to the wrap when you’re ready to eat. If you have access to a microwave, heat the wrap for 1 minute on 70% power.

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    Eating well on a Budget

    A few of my friends and I were recently discussing our need to keep our food budgets down in the coming months. We all share the two problems: we’re usually cooking just for ourselves, maybe one other person, and we don’t like to eat the same things over and over. We have a few ideas in mind, key among them is planning meals for a week (or two) so that one makes fewer trips to the grocery store with only a list of ingredients for those meals in hand (thereby making fewer impulse purchases). The other good thing about planning ahead is you can plan leftovers to be turned into other meals.

    We’re also going to share a few recipes with each other that are cheap to make, but are good for a few meals. With that in mind, I’m going to start a new category: Budget-friendly. I’ll go through and mark those recipes already on the site today, and I have a couple posts ready to put up in the next few days.

    What’s your favorite dish to make on a budget?

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    Spicy Tomato-Basil-Oregano Pesto

    A week or so ago, I shared a delicious pizza with someone special. It was topped with with tomato-basil pesto and mushrooms. Mmm, I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I’ve been wanting to make a homemade pizza with some of the produce coming into the garden now, and I decided it would go well with some of this pesto. Fortunately, Cooks Illustrated provided me with a road map for what I wanted.

    My basil plant is doing pretty well, but it’s my oregano that’s just exploding. And really, no good pizza is without oregano. I decided to throw it in the pesto instead of sprinkling it on it’s own.

    This lovely pink pesto was great on my pizza (topped with zucchini and cheese), and it would also be great over pasta, which I’ll be trying soon. Like a basil pesto, this one will freeze well. I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays, and then popping out the pesto cubes into a freezer bag. That way, you can take out however much pesto you need without defrosting all of it.

    Servings: Makes about 2 1/2 cups pesto

    Cooking time: less than 20 minutes

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup pine nuts
    • 12 oz cherry tomatoes
    • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
    • enough fresh oregano leaves to equal 1/2 cup when combined with the basil (scant 1/4 cup)
    • 1 medium-large garlic clove, peeled
    • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    • 3/4 tsp wine vinegar (red or white)
    • 1/2 tsp table salt
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast for a few minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent scorching. Set the pan aside to cool.
    2. Roughly dice the garlic clove. Add the garlic, tomatoes, herbs, pepper vinegar and salt to a food processor. Add the nuts when cool. Process until smooth, less than 1 minute. Scrap down the sides. Add the olive oil and continue to process for another minute, or if you have a feeder shoot on your processor (I do not), add the olive oil while its running.
    3. Use on anything you like: pasta, pizza, bruschetta…

    Note: I only have a 2 cup food processor, so I had to do this in two batches. I just mixed the batches together in a bowl afterwards to make sure it was evenly distributed. For a less spicy pesto, use fewer pepper flakes.

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    Creamy Kalamata Spread

    I’m back! After a crazy year of school, I’m hoping to get this blog going again, starting with this easy spread perfect for summer picnics and potlucks. It’s based off of something sold at my local co-op, except that has feta cheese and roasted red peppers in it as well. I would encourage the enclusion of 2 tbsp of chopped roasted red pepper if you have some around, but I didn’t. I included something else to make up for feta’s saltiness that keeps the price down: some of the brine from my olives.

    I brought this to a picnic today and served it with slices of baguette. It would also be great with crackers or sliced fresh vegetables. This would also be a really easy recipe to double for a larger crowd. You can also use vegan “cream cheese” to serve friends who don’t eat dairy.

    Prep time: 20 min, plus some chilling time.

    Servings: 4-6 as an appetizer

    Ingredients:

    • 4 oz neufchatel (low fat cream cheese)
    • 10-14 pitted Kalamata olives in brine, about 1/4 cup diced
    • 2 green onions
    • 1 large garlic clove
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • pepper
    1. Put the cheese in a small bowl and set aside on the counter to warm slightly. Finely dice the olives and green onion, discarding the root end of the onions. Mince the garlic.
    2. Combine all ingredients in the bowl with cheese mixing thoroughly with a fork. Add 1/4 tsp olive brine and taste. Add more brine and pepper to taste. Alternatively, for a smoother dip, combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. (I like chunks of olives, but you may not.)

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