Whole Wheat Berry Ricotta Scones

I know raspberries aren’t quite in season yet, but I just couldn’t resist picking up a pint when I saw them in the store.  They looked so plump and pretty!

In an attempt to continue baking with whole wheat pastry flour, I decided to make some moist Raspberry Ricotta Scones that I saw on Smitten Kitchen.  I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of whole wheat flour, and the ricotta makes for a very tender crumb. These would be great with just about any berry, so I urge you to use what you like!  I have made these with both raspberries and blueberries, and they were both delicious!

If you have company coming over, be sure to make a double batch because they will go quickly and one batch only makes 8 or 9 scones.

One more thing…I have some exciting news!  I think we finally found a house, so soon (but not soon enough, since it will be in 2 months) I will finally have a new kitchen to bake in and have all of my fun baking stuff back!  I can’t wait!  The house gets a lot of sunlight, so I should be getting some better pictures as well.

Whole Wheat Berry Ricotta Scones

Yield: 8 or 9 scones

 

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold un-salted butter, cut into very small pieces
1 cup fresh raspberries, blueberries (or any berry you like)
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup heavy cream
extra sugar for sprinkling

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper or Silpat liner.  In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

2.  With a pastry blender, add the butter and cut it into the mixture until a coarse meal forms (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas).  If you don’t have a pastry blender, working quickly, you can use your fingertips to work the butter into the flour mixture.

3.  Add the ricotta and heavy cream and stir to together to form a dough.  Gently toss in the raspberries/blueberries.  It’s okay if they get a little squished!  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently form in to a 7-inch square that is 1-inch tall.  Divide the dough into 9 even squares with a knife.  Alternatively, you can form them into a round and divide into 8 equal wedges.  Sprinkle the tops lightly with sugar.

4.  Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet and cook for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden at the edges and set.  Cool in the pan for a few minutes and transfer to a wire cooling rack.  These are best served warm on the day that they are made.  I like mine plain or with a little pat of butter!

Tips and Thoughts:

At first I thought the dough was quite dry, since my dough hardly came together, but once I tossed the berries in, it became quite moist!  Be sure to use floured hands!

Don’t forget to try out different berries.  I think blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries would be great, or any mixture of the above.

The original recipe instructs cutting the raspberries in with the butter, but I preferred to add them last so that there were still a few big pieces.

These can be made ahead:  Freeze before baking. When you are ready to bake them, there is no need to defrost them, just add a few extra minutes to the baking time.  You can also make them the day before baking.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

 

Easy Cinnamon Almonds

Have any of you ever tried going for a “quick” trip to the grocery (or any store) with a toddler?

Well, if you haven’t, you are in for a treat when you do!

I try to stay focused on getting ONLY what’s on my list, but that is definitely not what I end up walking out of the store with!

I have a three year old, who loves to push around those cute mini shopping carts, which helped to entertain her enough a couple of times, but now she’s learned to run with it, or push it out in front of her really hard so it glides down the aisle almost running into a variety of food displays.  Now, I try to bribe my child to be good by letting her pick out one or two “treats”, like fruit snacks, or goldfish, or yogurt pretzels, or a special sugary cereal.  This rarely works of course, and I end up getting side-tracked, spend way more than I had planned, and come out of the store a frazzled wreck!  Ah, the joys of motherhood!

Anyways, on to what I picked out as an easy and tasty snack.  I could barely stop eating them long enough to take the pictures!

Easy Cinnamon Almonds
From: One Charming Party

 

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup water
3 cups raw almonds

Method:

1.  In a large saute pan, stir together sugar, cinnamon, and water.

2.  Over medium heat, add almonds and stir continuously until a thick syrup forms and sugar crystalizes.

3.  Pour almonds onto a parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.   Store in an air-tight container.

 

Lobster Mac & Cheese and Yummy Cupcakes

Since I haven’t been baking or cooking as much as I’d like to in my tiny limited temporary kitchen, I’ve been dining out a lot.  So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to and some of my experiences.

This past weekend, my husband’s cousin came to meet up with us for dinner.  We went over to Reston Town Center, since it’s only 10 minutes away from our apartment.  There are so many dining places to choose from, and they always seem really “happening” whenever we go over there.

Among the great selection of restaurants, we settled on American Tap Room.  They have cozy decor, and the first “light-up” menus I’ve ever seen!  This is really helpful as your eyesight starts to fail you as you get older.  The whole background of the menu is lit, so it makes it easier to read all of the delicious looking menu items.

I had a hard time deciding what to order because everything sounded so good, but I finally chose the Lobster Mac & Cheese which was loaded with gigantic chunks of tender lobster.  It’s a little pricey, but if you are in the mood to splurge it’s totally worth it and you won’t be sorry!  My husband picked the Flat Iron Steak Frites which he shared with me so that he could have some of my amazing Mac & Cheese.  His steak had a flavorful Cabernet shallot butter sauce which was also really good.  I only wish I had taken some pictures!

On another recent visit to Reston Town Center with my sister, we stopped by the Red Velvet Cupcakery.  How could I resist stopping by a cupcake shop?  I let my daughter choose which flavor to share and she chose the Red Velvet, one of her favorites.  It was fluffy and moist, with not too much of their whipped cream cheese frosting.  My sister chose the Devil’s Food, which would have also been my choice since I’m a chocoholic.  There’s not much seating in the shop, so it’s best to take these to go.  We ended up eating them just outside the shop on the sidewalk, which was ok since my daughter isn’t the neatest eater!  I think next time I’ll have try out the Cookies In Cream or Peanut Butter Cup cupcakes.  I love that they also offer a few gluten-free flavors.

I have one more Honorable Mention:  Panera‘s new Spinach Power Salad.  The one I got wasn’t very big, but it was super delicious and I’ve been thinking about it ever since!  I’m not really sure why it’s a “power” salad but it consists of: spinach, crumbled bacon, bits of hard-boiled egg, and crunchy onion bits with a Vidalia onion vinaigrette.  I highly recommend it if you like to eat at Panera!

Do you have any restaurants in the DC area that you recommend?  I’d love to hear about your favorites!

 

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

Have some ripe bananas sitting around that need to be eaten?

Here’s what’s baking in my kitchen this week:

I am trying to incorporate more whole grains in my diet and thought this recipe would be a great way to try baking with whole wheat pastry flour and use up some ripe bananas.

Whole wheat pastry flour can be a little tough to find, but I purchased mine from Whole Foods.  If you prefer, you can swap in regular all-purpose flour for some of the whole wheat pastry flour.  I must admit that the texture does take a little getting used to.

Perfect for breakfast, dessert, or just a snack!

 

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

 

Ingredients:

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (3-4 bananas)
1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet but you could also use milk chocolate)

 

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray or brushing with melted butter.  Over a double boiler, melt the 4 oz of semi-sweet chocolate and set aside to slightly cool.  Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa power, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar and egg.  Add vanilla and milk.  Stir in mashed bananas and butter and mix until incorporated.

4.  Gently stir wet ingredients (bananas etc.) into the dry ingredients (flour etc.) until just combined.  Stir in melted chocolate and be careful not to over mix.  Fold in chocolate chips.

5.  Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Let cool completely on a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container.

 

Thoughts and Tips:

If you want the benefits of coconut oil, you could swap that out for the butter, or use 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp of mild olive oil.

Quick Chicken Chili

Spring is near and I was feeling like I needed to get one last chili “fix” in for the winter. This time, I wanted to try something a little different from my usual beef chili.  I always have chicken breasts on hand and thought they would be a good substitute.  This chili comes together very quickly so it’s a great last-minute dinner idea for busy week nights.

If you want a little more flare to your chili, you can always add some cilantro at the end!  I like to serve mine with rice, but it is also good on its own.

Quick Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, diced into small pieces
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (garlic/onion flavor)
1 package (1.25 oz) chili seasoning mix
1 can (15.25 oz) whole kernel golden sweet corn
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Method:

In a medium saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté for several minutes until translucent.  Add chicken, tomatoes, and chili seasoning mix and cook over medium heat until chicken is done.  Add corn (undrained) and beans; simmer 10 minutes or until heated through.  Serve with shredded cheese or sour cream if desired.

Tips and Thoughts:

To make this recipe even quicker and easier, you could use canned chicken (12.5 oz size) and just add it in after the onions have cooked.

You could also do this chili in the slow cooker.  I would start out with 3 whole chicken breasts layered on top of the other ingredients and when done, remove the chicken to shred and then return to the pot.

Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

Wow!  I can’t believe it’s Friday (TGIF!).  It has been a long and stressful week of ear infections and house hunting.  And, the laundry is starting to really pile up.

I forgot (or maybe blocked out) how hard moving and house hunting can be.  It’s been a while, but then again the last time I moved across the country, we were just newly weds with a small apartment and no furniture.

I think we’ve made some progress, but needless to say, I haven’t had a lot of time to do much baking.  I did, however, have time to make these super easy and delicious granola bars.  They’ve been great for snacking (and dessert) and I like to think the oats and dried fruit make them a little bit healthy ;)

Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

This recipe is based on a recipe a friend gave me.  She would often bring these to get-togethers and I always thought her granola bars were delicious!  I’ve changed things a little bit, but that’s the great thing about this recipe.  You can add in a variety of ingredients to suit your tastes.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups oats (I used old-fashioned)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 – 1/2 cup mix-ins (optional) such as: flaked coconut, chopped dried cherries or cranberries, chopped pecans or walnuts

Method:

1.  In a medium saucepan, melt together the peanut (or almond) butter, honey, and coconut oil.

2.  Remove from heat, and add remaining ingredients.  Stir until combined, and chocolate chips are melted.

3.  Spread mixture into a 9 x 9 inch or 9 x 13 inch pan (depending on how thick you would like them).  Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.  Cut into desired sized pieces and store refrigerated.

Tips and Thoughts:

Depending on how dense of a bar you like, you can add less oats and/or less mix-ins.  As my friend would say, she likes it more “melty” so she uses a little less oats.

I highly recommend chopping the mix-ins into small pieces so you get a good variety in each bite.

If your bars are too firm to cut, set them out for about 15 minutes to allow them to come to room temperature, then return to the fridge.

I used all 2 cups of oats and 1/4 cup of dried cherries, as my mix-in in the bars pictured above, but I think my favorite combination would include: coconut, walnuts, and chopped dried cherries.

**I’d love to hear some of your favorite flavor combinations!  Feel free to leave me a comment.