Potato, Potahto

In the universe of unfairness, hovering right there near the top of the list is the fact that potato salad isn’t low in calories.

That injustice is right up there with the fact that I am only 5 feet, 2 inches, thereby being six inches too short for my weight; that Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’t going to do a total remodel of my house including, but not limited to, knocking down walls and installing a kitchen island and shiplap; that I don’t own a private jet that would take me on weekend excursions to Paris or Hawaii or to visit my grandchildren; or that I have 128 gigabytes of memory on my iPad Air, and not only will I never use that many gigabytes of memory, I don’t even know what a gigabyte is.

But potato salad. That’s the one that really hurts.

I mentioned yesterday that Bec made her delicious potato salad for Sunday’s Super Bowl party. It’s true that I had a spoonful of the potato salad with my burger. But anyone who has entertained a group of people – particularly if you’ve entertained a group of people after drinking two Bloody Mary’s – knows that you don’t really taste what you’re eating when you’re trying to figure out at the same time if there are enough brownies to feed everyone, and deciding to rely on the Jesus-And-The-Loaves-And-Fishes miracle.  That worked, by the way. The 9×9 pan of brownies not only fed everyone who wanted one, but there were 12 baskets to spare. Well, actually, three small brownies. Bec, by the way, also made the brownies. I really didn’t do anything except call it my party.

Yesterday at lunchtime, I scooped me up a spoonful of the potato salad that I had dutifully packaged up for Bec to take home but forgot to send with her (I’m blaming the Bloody Marys, though by the time she left, all that was left of the Bloodys was a bit of tomato juice in the corner of my mouth and the smell of the celery and bacon on my breath). My first bite confirmed what I already suspected: the potato salad was sublime. Because as good as potato salad is the first day, the second day is even better. So one scoop soon became two, and with it came the sad realization that I wasn’t going to lose weight by eating the entire remaining potato salad, even inasmuch as I would certainly have been ABLE to eat the whole bowl. You’ve heard of the grapefruit diet and the leek soup diet and the vinegar diet. You’ve never heard of the potato salad diet. BECAUSE IT DOESN’T EXIST, even in the minds of the most creative weight loss diet book authors.

Many years ago, I came across a recipe in a Bon Appetit magazine. I know. Like I actually ever read Bon Appetit. I must have been in the fancy waiting room of the place where I get my mammogram.  But, whatever. The recipe was for Roseanne Cash’s Potato Salad. Normally, I don’t think a potato salad recipe would catch my attention, as I think on the rare occasions that I ever made potato salad, I would have used my mother’s recipe. Mostly I think I let someone else bring the potato salad. But this one caught my eye because it contained diced-up dill pickles. Though this might not be an exceptionally rare ingredient for potato salad, in my world, it was. Because Mom’s potato salad had no pickles, dill or otherwise.

So I tore out the recipe, creating a big hole in the page where the next reader was about to learn the secret ingredient in Emeril Lagasse’s Banana Cream Pie.

Sometime (literally, several years) later, Bec was visiting us in Denver and had occasion to make potato salad. “I have a really good recipe,” she said. “Oh, I have a better recipe than yours,” I challenged her. “Nope, I’m sure mine is better,” she stated firmly, probably making a mental note to bring up my obstinance during the airing of grievances at our next Festivus celebration.

“Mine is from Roseanne Cash!” I said with great jubilation.

“Seriously?” she said. “So is mine.”

Further proof, don’t you know, that great minds think alike.

And just so that I don’t leave you all hanging, here is the recipe for potato salad….

potato-salad-2

Bec, Kris, and Roseanne Cash’s Potato Salad

Ingredients
3 lbs. red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-in pieces
8 dill pickle spears, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
5 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
¼ c. mayo
2 T. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Process
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well and cool. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Stir in dill pickles, celery, onion, eggs, mayo, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper.

Can (and frankly, SHOULD) be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature one hour before serving.

Cry Over Curdled Milk

For a brief period of time, I tried to write a cooking blog. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that before, maybe six or seven hundred times. I’m sure that I always added that it didn’t take me long to realize that 1) my cooking blog was competing against about a million other cooking blogs; and 2) I am really not an exceptional cook.

Here’s where I am supposed to say that despite my only being an average cook, I LOVE TO COOK. There was a time when I would have said that and would have been speaking the truth. Now I have to be completely honest and tell you that cooking is only fun some of the time. But the rest of the time, it’s just Bill and me, and he would prefer a sandwich to any kind of meal any day of the week. Unless, of course, I am frying a chicken. Then he’s all in. But have you ever fried a chicken? Enough said.

What I’m getting at is that it really isn’t that much fun to cook for only two people. And that’s why very often no matter how committed I am to eating at home, sometime around 4 o’clock I realize I don’t want to make that Chicken Florentine, or whatever it is I have planned. And so I begin making plans on where we can dine out. Sigh.

One way to combat this troubling phenomenon is to use a crock pot, as I have already mentioned in an earlier post. Because at 10 o’clock in the morning, I am still on the cooking-at-home bandwagon. And even if my Crock Pot Chicken Florentine doesn’t sound good anymore at 6 o’clock, I am cheap enough that I won’t throw it away and we will begrudgingly eat it.

This is the point where I should share a Chicken Florentine recipe. Like I would really make chicken Florentine. Ha.

But lately I have been in the mood to try making a few unusal things at home. I’m considering oxtail stew. I’ve looked up recipes for pierogis. I keep saying I’m going to try and make pho from scratch.

But I decided to start small, because a recipe for homemade ricotta cheese came across my desktop, something from the Pioneer Woman (who isn’t a real pioneer woman at all because real pioneer women churned butter and baked bread and pounded the dust from rugs. They didn’t make ricotta cheese.)

But I did. Because it looked very easy. So easy, in fact, that I didn’t even study the recipe very carefully. I just saw the words I like a four-to-one ratio when it comes to my milk and cream.

And without thinking much about it, I poured in four cups of cream and one cup of milk (because who wouldn’t want more cream than milk?), brought it to a boil, removed it from the heat, added the salt and the lemon juice, and waited for it to commence curdling. And waited. And waited some more. And then began cussing and waiting. Something I’ll bet the Pioneer Woman doesn’t do.

But it never curdled. And I began chastising myself. You are a terrible cook, I said to myself. You can’t even curdle milk properly unless you’re trying NOT to curdle it in which case it would probably CURDLE. And then I dumped it down the drain.

(While my cooking skills are questionable, I am VERY good at being hard on myself.)

At some point later in the morning, I took another gander at the recipe for making ricotta cheese. This time I actually READ the recipe from beginning to end. Oh-oh. The ratio is in fact four-to-one, but it is four cups of MILK to one cup of CREAM. Oops.

So, having inherited the stubbornness of both my mother and my father, I went to the store and bought more milk and cream, bringing the total cost to my two cups of ricotta cheese to about $15. But this time, it worked. The milk mixture curdled, and I had myself some fresh, homemade ricotta cheese….

ricotta

Which I used in my baked ziti that I made for my sister Bec’s birthday dinner last night, along with red sauce made from scratch by my sister-in-law Sami, who included – wait for it – the leftover prime rib from a recent meal. Let’s just say, as long as I have a great deal of help from others, maybe I CAN cook…..

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients
1 c. heavy cream
4 c. whole milk
½ t. salt
2 T. white vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Process
Line a strainer with a couple layers of damp paper towel or cheesecloth, and set aside in a large bowl.

In a large pan, mix cream, milk and salt. Bring liquid to a boil over medium high hieat, and remove from heat. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice. Let mixture sit for a few minutes, and then pour into the strainer lined with the paper towel or cheesecloth. Let it drain until it is as dry as you want it, at least 20 minutes.

Makes approximately 2 cups of cheese.

Wonderful Life

As I have been madly crocheting this holiday season in preparation for gift-giving, I have watched all manner of Christmas movies. I have seen Miracle on 34th Street (the newer version), White Christmas (in which Rosemary Clooney makes being distraught an art form), Love, Actually (yes, yet again), A Christmas Story (which is now and will be forever more be my favorite Christmas movie), Holiday (in which Jack Black is an odd love interest for Kate Winslet), Last Holiday (there’s probably not another Christmas movie that leaves me feeling happier than this), and Holiday Inn (I could watch Fred Astaire’s Fourth of July solo dance a million times).

And Sunday, when I decided I couldn’t stomach watching the Broncos not have an offense any longer, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Shockingly, it was the first time I had ever seen this movie.

imgres

Whaaaaaat?

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have seen bits and pieces of the movie throughout my life. Really, how could I not have ever seen the ending where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are embracing and all of the people are dumping cashola on the table to save his butt and the bell rings, indicating that Clarence had finally gotten his wings? I feel comfortable not having indicated SPOILER ALERT because I’m pretty sure I’m the only living person of reading age who hadn’t seen the movie.

But I had never sat down and watched the entire film from beginning to end. I had never, in fact, seen the beginning of the movie, which of course sets the stage for the whole point of the film – that George Bailey had wanted and planned on a much more exciting life than the one he ended up having. That’s pretty important context to have known about for the ending to make any sense. But Christmas movies really don’t need to make sense. Is there any universe in which Jack Black would be a love interest for Kate Winslet except in a Christmas movie?

However, it’s true that hardly anyone’s life turns out exactly as planned, mostly because as of yet, we aren’t able to see into the future. What’s that old Yiddish adage? Man plans and God laughs. Ain’t it the truth? It’s interesting to think about how I would have imagined my life in 50 years if asked to predict when I was 10 years old. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would live in Denver, Colorado and have a second house in Mesa, Arizona. Since at that point I hadn’t been any further than Omaha, I undoubtedly wouldn’t have guessed that I would have been on two transatlantic cruises and seen such things as the Parthenon in Greece, the pyramids in Egypt, climbed to the top of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, and sat on the grass at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact, I would have been expecting and frankly, wanting, a life just like the life of ol’ George Bailey.

We all get caught up in the preparations for Christmas. I have awakened at 3:45 a.m. on a couple of recent mornings unable to go back to sleep because I’m mentally counting the gifts I have purchased so that I don’t make that fateful mistake of having one more present for one grandchild than I have for the rest. Did I remember to set aside enough cookies to share with the neighbors who faithfully keep an eye on our house while we’re in AZ? Will Bill’s gift arrive in time?

STOP! It’s Advent. The time for quiet reflection and preparation, not for the gifts that we are going to give or receive, but for the birth of the one who is sent to save us. Advent gets lost in the sea of Christmas frenzy. Like George Bailey, we need to remember to be grateful for what we have and for those who make our lives special.

The one thing that all of those Christmas movies have in common is that life is full of surprises, and it’s not what happens to us, but who we share our lives with and how we accept our life as it has played out.

“Pinning” for You

I own a ridiculous number of cookbooks – ridiculous because I actually use a total of exactly two. Well, perhaps technically more than two. I tend to lump all of my Lidia Bastianich cookbooks into one. If I cook one of her recipes, I use the actual cookbook. Of her cookbooks, the one I use far and away the most is Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen. It has the tomato sauce stains to prove it.

20160918_140120

The other cookbook I open occasionally is my beloved Joy of Cooking cookbook that belonged to my mother-in-law who gifted it to me a number of years ago. It’s beloved simply because it’s from her. I can’t say I use it often. Joy of Cooking is a classic cookbook from which you can get recipes for practically anything. For heaven’s sake, it even tells me how to dress a deer (and I don’t mean in camouflage shirt and pants, ar ar ar). Needless to say, I haven’t actually had the need to hang a dead deer from my back porch because Bill doesn’t hunt, thank goodness. I’m not anti-hunting, mind you. Just anti-dressing-a-deer and anti-plucking-a-goose-or-wild-turkey. At any rate, Wilma’s Joy of Cooking was well-used by her, and looks much like my Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen.

dressing-a-deer

I was thinking about this the other day as I was searching all of my various spots for a particular recipe. It’s a pasta salad that I make often but have never memorized. I have it somewhere, but I can never remember where. Since the pasta salad originated with my sister Bec, I generally email her and ask her to send me the recipe.

However, when I made the salad recently, I googled the recipe. It isn’t an easy one to find, as it comes from the Crème de Colorado Cookbook (one of Colorado Junior League’s cookbooks) which isn’t online. But I put in “tortellini salad havarti salami” and eventually found it on the Better Homes and Gardens website. I don’t know if BHG stole it from the Junior League or if Junior League stole it from BHG. I envision both groups comprised of women wearing pillbox hats and white gloves and not stealing, so your guess is as good as mine.

All this is to say – perhaps randomly – that I love Pinterest. I wish I had invented Pinterest. First, and foremost, because I would likely be a millionaire. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about looking for recipes because I would have a professional chef on my staff. But second, because I would be so proud of myself for having had such a good idea.

I rarely use cookbooks anymore (see above), but that isn’t to say that I don’t use recipes. Oh my, yes I do. I couldn’t cook without a recipe. I’m not one of those. My siblings all cook without recipes. Me, I need to have someone telling me what ingredients are necessary and how much of each. Having two homes makes keeping track of my recipes somewhat difficult. As it is, I haul many of them back and forth – mostly those that were my mom’s recipe cards. But more and more, I’m able to find the recipes online and “pin” them to my Pinterest page. That way I have access to my recipes wherever I am as long as I have internet access, and I know where to find them.

I used to religiously peruse Pinterest and pin recipes, decorating ideas, crocheting patterns, and other things that are important in my life. I still occasionally will log onto Pinterest and pin one thing or another. But mostly I use it as a giant high tech recipe box. That alone makes it worth what I pay for Pinterest (which, of course, is nothing).

By the way, here is the recipe for the Havarti Tortellini Salad. It is so good that even Addie’s 13-year-old friends ask for the recipe…..

Havarti Tortellini Pasta Salad

Ingredients
10 oz fresh cheese tortellini, cooked al dente and drained
¼ c. fresh parsley, minced
¼ lb. salami, cubed
¼ lb. Havarti cheese, cubed
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
½ c. black olives, sliced
2 green onions including tops, sliced

Dressing:
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. dried basil
1 t. Dijon mustard
¼ t. salt
¼ t.coarsely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Process
In large bowl, combine tortellini, parsley, salami cheese, bell pepper, olives and green onion.  In blender or food processor, combine all dressing ingredients and blend well.  Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

If making more than 3 hours ahead, reserve half the dressing and toss with salad just before serving.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

The New Kale

Kris_Grands004_optI often think about what it must have been like for my grandparents when they came to the United States from Switzerland six or seven years after the end of World War I. I’m sure they were sad to leave their country of origin. Grammie talked about being a young wife and mother and having to say goodbye to her parents, knowing full well that it was likely she would never see them again. She was right. While Grammie and Grandpa did return several times to Switzerland many years later, her parents were long gone and she never did see them again. And no email or Face Time. Whaaaaaaat?

Bill and I traveled around Europe – mostly France and Italy – for three-and-a-half months, and I can tell you that while we enjoyed every minute, we often felt like the proverbial fish out of water. We didn’t know the language. We couldn’t figure out some of the customs. We couldn’t find a good hamburger.

That latter fact is more important than you would think. While we loved the food we sampled during our travels, we often missed the familiar foods we grew up eating – hamburgers, fried chicken, barbecued spareribs. The reason they call these foods comfort food is because eating these foods make us feel comfortable.

So in addition to giving up family and friends and familiar customs, my grandparents had to get used to a whole new way of eating. They, like most immigrants, lived near others from their own countries of origin. Because of this, they probably were able to get some of the foods that were familiar to them. I remember, for example, my dad and my grandparents eating a highly suspect food with a wholly unpleasant smell called head cheese. Head cheese is not cheese at all, but more of a sausage or cold cut made from, well, the head of pigs or cows. Yummers, right? And just to add to the fun, it is set in aspic. You know, aspic – in and of itself a totally disgusting item. You’ll be glad to know that the brains, eyes, and ears are almost never included, according to Wikipedia.

Another delicacy that my grandparents and my father enjoyed was limburger cheese. I couldn’t even be in the room with them when they ate it. It smelled awful. More than awful. Much more than awful. And I once again looked it up on Wikipedia and learned why it has such a dreadful odor. It seems limburger cheese is made using the bacteria called brevibacterium linens. That, my friends, is a bacteria found on the human body and is responsible for human body odor.

I’ve got to stop looking on Wikipedia.

kohlrabi rawRecently I read that the vegetable kohlrabi is coming into fashion. The new kale, according to what I read. I mentioned this awhile back, and also said that I was having trouble finding the vegetable. In fact, I couldn’t find a single produce person who had ever even heard of it. But I was at lunch with a friend recently who had stopped at a farm near her home in Brighton, Colorado, to bring me fresh corn on the cob, and I mentioned my quest for kohlrabi.

“They had it at the Palizzi’s Farm,” she told me. “I would have brought you some but I didn’t know what it was!”

So I went to a nearby farmers’ market on Saturday where Palizzi’s had a booth, and lo, and behold, I found kohlrabi.

Why kohlrabi? I assure you that it wasn’t because kohlrabi is the new kale. Do I seem like a food snob? No, friends, it was because I remembered my grandmother making kohlrabi (which was and is often eaten in Germany and Switzerland) when I was a child, and I loved it.

The problem is that I couldn’t remember how she made it. I’m pretty sure it involved speck, a bacon-like substance that originated in Europe, which she got from her brother-in-law-the-butcher. I had enough trouble finding kohlrabi; I have no intention of starting a hunt for speck.

But I did find a recipe, and made kohlrabi last night for dinner. It was worth the hunt.

kohlrabi cooked

Ingredients
2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
2 T. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
Process
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and then cut the halves into half-moons. Spread on the bottom of a cookie sheet or a baking pan. Sprinkle with the minced garlic; pour the olive oil over the vegetables, and stir until coated.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake 10 minutes; stir the vegetables. Bake another 10 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the kohlrabi and bake another five minutes.

Serve immediately.

Nana’s Notes: I would definitely compare kohlrabi to turnips except they are much sweeter. They really were very good. And my grandmother DIDN’T use parmesan cheese, I assure you.

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

I want to tell you two stories about scratch cooking and/or baking.

The first story is about a woman I worked with for many years. She boasted about the fact that she made everything from scratch. This fact annoyed my inner not-so-nice self. To be perfectly honest, many things about her annoyed me. She told me once that she, her husband, and their two kids could eat dessert twice from one of those small cartons of Hagen Daz ice cream. Seriously? They got eight servings out of a pint of ice cream? Did she dip it with a thimble? But the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was the day she proudly announced that she and her family had s’mores for dessert the night before. I wouldn’t have given this a second thought until the next words came out of her mouth: I made the graham crackers and the marshmallows from scratch. I believe I just turned around and left, entirely speechless. Who makes graham crackers? Nabisco, that’s who. And King Soopers sells their marshmallows for a buck a bag. Maybe it wouldn’t have annoyed me so much if she hadn’t already told me about the Hagen Daz.

My second story concerns a very good friend of mine. Early in her marriage, money was tight, as it was for many of us when were young. She stayed home while her husband worked. To compensate for her not bringing in an income, she took her role seriously as the stay-at-homer. And in order to save money, she made most of their bread items from scratch. She had a Kitchenaid mixer that she either inherited or purchased for a great price at a thrift store. She used the Kitchenaid to make all of their bread, including hamburger buns and bagels.

Isn’t it funny how I’m annoyed at the one and proud of the other?

Anyway, I was thinking about both of those women the other day when I decided to make English muffins from scratch. Bill and I have a toasted English muffin at least three or four times a week. I like the Thomas muffins. I smear mine with peanut butter; Bill prefers cream cheese. My idea to make them from scratch didn’t come from any concern about preservatives or cost; rather, I simply am challenging myself this summer to give some of these projects a try. Other recipes I’m going to attempt are homemade pho and homemade gyros meat. The idea of making croissants from scratch crossed my mind for a fleeting instant, and thankfully dissolved quickly.

Bread baking eludes me for some reason. My bread simply doesn’t seem to rise. I have begun to think that perhaps I’m just too impatient. Because our house in Denver tends to be chilly, I think bread rising just takes longer. My brother-the-baker has suggested that perhaps I am putting the yeast in water that is too hot, thereby killing the yeast. All I know is that I am determined to successfully make bread. I decided to give English muffins a try.

I found a recipe, and spent a few hours the other day making the muffins. I can’t say it would always be this way, but everything went perfectly. My dough rose just as it should. I formed the dough into disks, and they again rose just as they should. I briefly browned them on both sides on my griddle and baked them for 10 minutes. They are yeasty and delicious, with nice little holes and crevices as befits a good English muffin.

I will leave you with my recipe for English muffins. I’m now going out to skin a snake to make a belt for Bill….

toasted English muffins

English Muffins, courtesy Baked by an Introvert

Ingredients
2 c. whole milk
3 T. honey
2-1/4 t. active dry yeast (1 package)
1 egg, room temperature
4 t. butter, melted
5-1/2 c. bread flour, measured correctly
1-1/2 t. salt
cornmeal for dusting

Process
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and honey over low heat until it reaches between 105 and 115 degrees. Remove from heat, stir in the package of yeast, and set aside for 5 minutes to let the yeast ferment. Whisk in the egg and the melted butter.

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed and gradually pour in the milk mixture. Continue to beat on low until the flour is incorporate, stopping to scrape the sides as needed. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for 4 minutes until the dough is smooth and sticky.

Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn so the dough is oiled on both sides. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until double in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, using as little flour as possible. Gently knead the dough together. The dough is sticky, but just add enough flour to make it easy to handle. Divide the dough in half. Then cut each half into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten the ball into a disk. Place the disks on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle more cornmeal over the tops. Cover and set in a warm place for 1 hour, or until double in size.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a griddle over medium-low heat. Using a spatula, gently place the muffins onto the pan, being careful to not deflate them. Cook them for about 2 minutes on each side, or as long as it takes to make them lightly browned on both sides. Work in batches. Place the muffins back on the cookie sheet and bake them for 10 minutes.

Split the muffins with a fork. Serve warm immediately, or later toasted.

Cooking for Dummies

I feel like I’m not a great cook any more. I’m not horrible, but I feel like I’ve lost the patience necessary to be a tremendous cook. Almost daily I thank my lucky stars that I elected not to do a blog exclusively about cooking. Because some of my most recent failures would not offer a compelling read, unless my blog was entitled Cooking Blunders.

Take Monday night’s dinner, for example. No, seriously. Take it, because it was practically inedible. And God bless Bill because he doesn’t EVER complain about my cooking. So he bit into the pieces of completely charred Italian sausage and said something like, “Food Network would call this carmelized.”

It was such a nice try on his part, but the truth is Food Network would call it a cooking fail.

The recipe was simple. Tiny new potatoes, fresh green beans, sliced pieces of Italian sausage, seasoning, all doused in olive oil and put into a piece of aluminum foil. The foil was closed up to make a package, and cooked for 30 minutes on the grill. Easy, right?

Except that I should have double wrapped it in the foil because it cooked fine on the closed side. However, I turned it so that the part that I had allegedly pinched closed was on the bottom, and unfortunately, it really wasn’t closed. At least not tightly enough.  As a result, the olive oil dripped onto the grill and a rather large fire ensued. A fire of which I was entirely unaware because I was engrossed in a book. I was reminded of a simply hilarious episode of the Bob Newhart Show in which Bob was grilling steaks on his Chicago condo’s patio and unbeknownst to him, the steaks caught fire. Bob was in his living room doing all of the funny conversational things of which Bob Newhart is the master, and in the background the audience watched as the grill was consumed by flames.

That was me on Monday night.

Here’s an interesting fact about moi. I am easily influenced by reading what someone in a book is eating. So if I read a book that takes place in India, I crave Indian food. If Mexican food is mentioned, that’s what I want for dinner. It happens the book that I’m reading (in which I was so engrossed and totally missed out on a grill fire which rivaled the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, minus Mrs. O’Leary’s cow) takes place in Scotland, and the characters routinely eat scones.

Normally I can take or leave scones, but after reading about the characters eating scones with their tea, I simply HAD to have a scone. If I was in Denver, I would simply have walked over to Whole Foods and purchased a peach scone. Despite giving it plenty of thought, I couldn’t think where I could get a scone around our AZ house. (Bec has since reminded me that Starbucks sells scones and there are probably two or three hundred Starbucks in a five mile radius of our house. Oh well.)

So I made my own peach scones. Had I shot video of my endeavor, it would not have made the cut on Next Food Network Star. Perhaps on America’s Worst Cooks. Ina Garten makes the process of making scones look easy (using peaches imported from a small organic and sustainable peach grove in the south of France). She ends up with a beautiful disk of dough that she easily cuts into triangles and bakes until they are a golden brown with sugar crystals glistening on top. I, on the other hand, ended up with a crumbly mess that I pressed into roughly a round disk, all the while frantically patting the crumbs back into the dough.

But it didn’t turn out too bad…..

peach scone disc

And when it was all said and done, the scones were quite delicious, as evidenced by Bill eating two in a row.

Just as an aside, when I’m cooking, Ina Garten often comes to mind. Mostly how she would be horrified to observe me in the kitchen. For example, I thought of her recently when I was making chicken. I had seasoned the chicken, and needed to throw something away. Because I had not yet washed my hands (which were full of whatever it was that I wanted to toss) and didn’t want to touch anything with raw chicken still lurking there, I opened the cabinet door with my feet. While doing so, a couple of thoughts came into my mind: 1) I have never seen Ina Garten open a cabinet with her feet; and 2) I wonder if it is any more sanitary to put your feet on the kitchen cabinet handle than using chicken-laced hands.

Don’t worry, I used an antibacterial cloth to wipe the handle.

Here is the recipe for the peach scones. Despite the crumbly dough, the scones were delicious.

peach scone cut

Peach Scones, courtesy honestcooking.com

Ingredients
2 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 T baking powder
½ t. salt
½ c. unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1 egg
¼ c. heavy whipping cream, plus more for brushing
¼ c. sour cream
2 t. vanilla extract
½ c. fresh peaches, diced

Process
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Once combined, cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Whisk together heavy cream, sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Stir in the peaches, and mix until just combined.

On a well-floured surface, turn out the scone dough and pat into a small disk that’s about a half inch thick. Cut into 6-8 slices, and transfer to the baking sheet. Brush each scone with just a bit of heavy cream.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or just until golden brown. Allow to cool.

Nana’s Notes: Her recipe had a glaze; I chose to sprinkle mine liberally with sugar after brushing on the cream. Also, since I was facing the above-mentioned crumbly mess, I formed my disk right on the baking sheet, and that seemed to work fine. Finally, I didn’t use fresh peaches; instead, I used canned. That made the dough a bit wetter and the resulting scones a bit more moist. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.