Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Almond Scones

Baby, it's cold outside! Even though Christmas is over, this song is still swirling around in my head.  Not just because it's a catchy tune (the Dean Martin version, naturally), but because it's dang cold! The window panes have what seems like permanent frost on them, and my tea kettle has been working overtime.  As soon as I enter the house, day or night, I go straight to the stove and turn it on.  Tea time is all the time in January.

My skin is dry and I am on a constant rotation of various hand and body lotions.  I stocked up all summer for days like these.  Yes, I am flaky, but at least I smell nice.  Thank you Bath & Body Works.  You are lifesavers.  Also thank you Burt's Bees tinted lip balm (love!) for making my lips happy in the cold winter wind. I would be so cranky without you. My scarf and gloves are permanently attached to my body (I'm actually wearing a scarf right now...not really...yes totally!) and I'm getting sick of looking at my winter wardrobe.  That same sweater again?  Ugh.  I'm looking forward to changing over the closet. 

We are in full hibernation mode here.  We are talking blankets, Netflix, snacks for days, naps, candles, french onion soup, and board games.  It's too cold to do anything else, so we have created a warm haven at home. And you know what, it's not that bad.  In fact, it's pretty wonderful.  I think I like winter after all. I like hot chicken stock bubbling on the stove on a Sunday morning while I watch the birds on their feeder, scurrying, trying to keep fat. I love grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for Friday night dinner - in our jammies. And that first cup of tea on a dark winter morning....ahhh.  I keep my slippers by the heater so they will be warm when my feet hit the cold floor at 6 am. Once the sun comes up it's so bright because of the reflections of ice and snow.  It gives me hope that Spring will be here soon. My one regret is that I don't have a fireplace.  If I did, you can be sure there would be a fire burning and cinnamon sticks would be thrown in for ambiance : ) That much I can guarantee.

Even as I write this post, there are tiny snowflakes blowing around outside.  They are pretty and look sparkly through the window.  I love baking in the winter because it warms the house.  The smells are comforting and keep the kitchen cozy for hours.  I had a few hours to myself Monday morning while my little one was at school, so I baked these delicious scones.  It had snowed the night before so there was a perfect blanket of white outside.  Tea and scones on a wintery Monday morning.  Yes, I really do love winter after all....

recipe from joy the baker

3 cups flour
2 tbs sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs buttermilk
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place coconut and almonds on a baking sheet (lined with foil) and toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes.  Keep a close eye on the coconut.  It browns quickly. Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Toss the cold butter cubes into the flour mixture. Using your hands quickly work the butter into the flour mixture, breaking it up with your fingers.  (Some butter bits will be the size of small pebbles and some will be the size of oat flakes.)  Set in the fridge for a few minutes.

Whisk together the buttermilk and egg.

Remove the flour and butter mixture from the fridge and add coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips.  Whisk together and create a well in the center of the mixture.  Add the buttermilk mixture all at once.  Use a fork to bring the wet and dry ingredients together. Lightly flour a work surface and dump the dough onto the counter.  Bring together the dough with your hands into a 1 1/2 inch thick disk.  Use a 2 1/2 inch round biscuit cutter to cut out 12 rounds.  Note: dough will be sticky, so keep your hands and biscuit cutter floured to prevent sticking.

Place biscuits about 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet.  Brush with a bit of buttermilk and a few pinches of sugar.  Bake for 14-18 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. 

Serve warm or cool, with jam is nice too : )  

This was a perfect start to the day.  So delicious! (ps thank you joy the baker! )

Thursday is my hubby's birthday so I get to bake a birthday cake! Yay! Another reason to love winter!

But much longer until Spring?  I really am so sick of that sweater! : - )

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Here are some things that I love about January.  I love that January is a starting point.  A place where I can set goals and start something new - a new morning routine, new blogging habits, new rules.  I feel revived and ready to take on the world.  The decorations are down and I finally feel organized again.

And speaking of new blogging habits, do you like my new layout?  I decided to change things up for this year.  My blog has always been about cooking and my old background (the lemons : )  reminded me of 1950's style kitchen wallpaper - which I love!  For the upcoming year I see my blog as evolving and changing a bit, to not just cooking but other elements as well.  Food will always be my first love and the main focus of this blog, but I would like to include more decorating and beauty/fashion into the mix.  I decided to stray away from the kitchen theme to a more classic style.  I read somewhere that white backgrounds showcase your photos better, so that's why I chose white.  Keeping it simple is my mantra lately.

Here is a recipe for Vanilla Bean Pound Cake that is so simple, yet amazingly satisfying!  If you love vanilla like I do then you will love this.  I used real vanilla beans in the batter.  I don't know why I found it so exciting scraping those seeds out, but I could do that all day!  Am I the only one?

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk to break up any lumps; set aside.

With an electric mixer blend the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the vanilla seeds and continue beating until light and fluffy - about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing each until just incorporated. (Do not over mix or your cake will be tough.)

Spread the batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and bake until top of cake is puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean - about 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert it to remove from the pan. Let cool completely before serving.

You can't really tell from this photo, but you can actually see the little specs of vanilla in each slice.

Enjoy a quiet moment with a piece of this cake and a cup of tea. Perfect on a cold January afternoon when eveyone in the house is napping except you : - )

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Halfway Cookie Bars

Hello and welcome to 2013! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  I've spent the last week at home on vacation, playing with new toys, eating leftovers, and nursing my sick family back to health.
2012 ended with all of us suffering from the flu. The house is still a mess, but we are finally feeling better and ready to get back into our usual routines. 

Christmas day we spent at my parent's house.  This is the view off the back deck.  We got the surprise of our lives and had a white Christmas.  It looked magical!

It was cold and frosty outside, but warm and cozy inside.  All of the preparations and anticipations paid off.  We had a lovely day!

Some of us enjoyed it more than others! : )

Once the holiday was over it was time to decompress and catch up on some rest.  One of my favorite gifts from Santa is this new chenille polka-dot robe. It's soft and warm and just what I needed when I was sick.  I've spent the last three days wrapped up in it, catching up on podcasts and diving into a new book - Gone Girl. 

I'm also loving this hand lotion from Williams-Sonoma.  The scent is "Vert Frais".

Fresh Green with lime and mandarin.  It's sooooo nice!  The perfect winter scent.  I'm obsessed with it!

As soon as I felt better it was time to get back to baking.  I needed something comforting in the house, so I decided to make these Halfway Cookie Bars.  The recipe comes from my sister Kim's recipe box.  I can picture a pan of these cookies cooling on her stove top many years ago when her boys were small.  Mine aren't as good as hers, but they still make me feel good inside.  So do the memories.


1 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbs water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 bag chocolate chips
2 egg whites & 1 cup brown sugar for top

Cream shortening and sugars.  Add egg yolks, water, and vanilla.  Blend.

Mix in dry ingredients.

Spread batter evenly into a 9x13 ungreased pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. 

Beat egg whites and brown sugar until stiff.  Spread on top.

Bake @ 350 degrees 25 - 30 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.

The egg white and brown sugar topping make a light crust on top and inside is an ooey-gooey chocolaty-chip cookie bar.  They are amazing!!! 

Happy and Healthy 2013 to all of my friends!  Let's make this a great year.  Good things to come!!!!

Danielle xo