cranberry orange scones

Let’s see a show of hands: who here is having a craptastic week? (I’m operating under the assumption that anyone reads my blog.)

Sometimes getting out of bed is a challenge, when you know you’re facing a putrid garbage fart of a day.

Based on the weather alone, I’d say at least a few folks out there need a pick-me-up first thing.

Starting off the work day with a cocktail is generally not advisable, so I suggest, as an alternative, a freshly-baked scone.

The dough can be rolled, cut, and frozen in advance, then thawed and baked in about 20 minutes as needed.

These cranberry orange reasons-to-live are not too sweet, and not too tart.

They’re softer and fluffier than regular hard, dry, crumbly scones. Which is fine by me.

If you’re truly inconsolable, and even warm, buttery baked goods can’t salvage the day, perhaps Professor Meowington can bring you a little comfort:

Do you need a hug?

Recipe below the fold

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cap’n crunch buckeyes

I’m not gonna lie: these cookies are a pain in the ass to make.

Putting together the filling was no big deal, but I think I actually lost my will to live a couple times while tempering the chocolate and dipping the centers. Or at least, I think I may have contracted restless leg syndrome or something. Seriously. Tempering chocolate sucks.

I wish I could say, then, that these treats were not worth the trouble. The truth is, they were like the best damned Reese’s peanut butter cup EVAR. They were worth all the restless leg syndrome in the world.

And they have ground up Cap’n Crunch in them. So, y’know.

I’d never heard of Buckeyes – it’s a regional thing, I guess, that we don’t have in Minnesota. I was irritated enough by the whole chocolate tempering thing to not bother with the special dipping technique to make them look like creepy-ass eyeballs. I guess we can call them Cap’n Crunch Balls, then. But I don’t think I want to do that, either.

Recipe below the fold

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lettuce soup with goat cheese croutons

I hosted Christmas dinner this year.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, I was awfully excited and nervous about it, until I realized that hosting meant providing the venue, not the meal. Mom arrived with nearly all of the food prepared – the lasagna was ready to be assembled, the cottage cheese bread was ready to bake, and the candy cane custard was ready to go into the ice cream maker.

She did let me toss the salad. It was pretty exciting.

And dinner was fantastic. Mom’s lasagna recipe is the world’s best (the secret ingredient is salami!). All that remained of the meal the next day was a bag of leftover romaine hearts, and a giant mess on the dining room table.

So when my dear friend Jenna called from her hotel in town and we discussed what to do on our annual holiday visit, I shocked myself when I replied, “c’mon over for dinner. I’ll cook.” Without testing recipes, without weeks of menu planning, without even sufficient time to go to the grocery store, I offered to make dinner for my fancy friend, who lives in Connecticut. Connecticut, y’all. Who am I?

Sad Fridge

It was a little touch-and-go there for a while when I realized the dining room table was not just messy, but missing – it was completely hidden by dirty dishes. I thought of everything I could possibly make out of lettuce, while I rummaged through the soiled plates and glasses for the table. As it turns out, the dining room table was inside of me all along.

/Christmas miracle

And the lettuce soup recipe for my fancy vegetarian guesty was only a Google away. I cooked and cleaned in record time. Jenna and I shared stories of the year past, wishes for the year to come, boxed wine, and the world’s ugliest soup.

It was creamy and fresh, with a little bit of heat, and seriously butt-ugly. The crispy goat cheese croutons provided a tangy richness and a partial disguise to the fugly, yet tasty, lettuce and potato puree.

Recipe below the fold

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Coconut Macaroons

These cookies bring out the selfish jerkface in me.


I want to keep them all to myself. And I can – neither Mom nor Handsome Greg like coconut. So whenever I make ice cream, and I end up with four egg whites in the fridge that I just have to use up, and ohmygosh I totally forgot that you guys don’t like coconut, then I have a batch of warm, chewy macaroons, just for me.

I feel that I should find something to criticize about these cookies, that if I just gush and gush, I’ll be like the girl who cried cookies, and eventually, no one will believe me.

But I just can’t help myself. I love these cookies. They’re perfect. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, light as a cloud, with coconutty goodness all the way through.

Oh, and they’re pretty heart-healthy. There’s no oil in them, and no yolks, just the egg whites. The most saturated fat you’ll find in these cookies will be in the coconut, and there’s no cutting the coconut.

Recipe below the fold

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Chicken Shepherd’s Pie with Truffled Mashed Potatoes

My pursuit of the world’s fanciest popcorn for fancy guesties Mom, Aissa, and Alison brought me to Clancey’s Meats and Fish in charming and trendy Linden Hills. I was looking for duck fat and truffle salt – I’d never used either ingredient before. As I waited for the butcher to scoop out a cup of rendered duck fat, I found an unmarked, 3-ounce jar of black truffle salt and handed it to the cashier.

“That’ll be $3.69 for the duck fat and $25 for the truffle salt.”

“TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS FOR SALT!!?!” screamed the voice inside my head.

I glanced back at the line of well-dressed Minneapolitans behind me, anxious to get home with their fennel pollen sausage and Alaskan sockeye salmon.

“Yes. Yes, that’s fine. I’ll put it on my Visa,” I heard myself say, in an entirely unfamiliar, just-a-hair-too loud, robot voice.

Thanks to my pride, I am the owner of 2.97 ounces of earthy, pungent truffle salt, and I’m happily exploring ways to use it in my cooking, tiny pinch by tiny pinch.

$25 salt and sale-priced frozen veggies cancel each other out, right?

I started with a thick, rich, comforting chicken stew topped with creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. Then I considered my (very slightly) elevated cholesterol, and made a couple of small tweaks:

I substituted milk for cream in both the gravy and the potatoes; I cut half the butter in the potatoes and replaced it with a heart-healthy spread; and I used canola oil instead of butter to make a roux for the gravy. Then I added truffle salt to the potatoes, and bouillon and a lemon rind to the chicken stock to boost the flavor lost in cutting the cream and butter.

It was delicious and rich – the perfect comfort food – and I didn’t miss the cream and butter at all.

Professor Meowington sez: the lemon really brightens up the flavor of the gravy.

Recipe below the fold

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red bean chili

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

If I’m going to make a change in my life, I’ll do it when I’m good and ready, and an arbitrary date isn’t going to make one bit of difference.

Not that I’m a headstrong child or anything, but you’re not the boss of me, One January!

That said, I learned back in November that my cholesterol is marginally elevated. With a well-established family history of hypertension, I thought I’d try making a couple substitutions in some of my recipes, and decide if they’re worth it.

For this chili recipe, I drained the beef after browning, and rinsed it in warm water. Then I used heart-healthy canola oil to sauté the onion and garlic, added a teaspoon of beef bouillon to compensate for the lost beefyness, and cut the salt to compensate for the bouillon.

It turned out slightly sweet – almost like BBQ sauce – and spicy but not too spicy. I was a little concerned about rinsing the beef, but the chili ended up delicious. Neither the flavor nor the texture was compromised, so I’ll lather, rinse, repeat from now on.

The timing is entirely coincidental.

Recipe below the fold

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brie ice cream with blackberry red wine reduction sauce

I wanted this ice cream to be spectacular. How could it not be? Y’all, I made Brie Ice Cream.

I wanted it to be creamy and decadent, buttery, slightly savory, complex.

And if it couldn’t be a spectacular success, I hoped for a spectacular failure – inedibly salty, thin and watery, a mess of long, stringy brie glops, with an off-putting sweet aftertaste.

Sadly, my brie ice cream was not spectacular at all. The brie flavor was so subtle, it was nearly undetectable. It tasted like extra rich vanilla ice cream, but with an odd, grainy texture. Not inedible, but not company-worthy.

This was supposed to be a great picture, but almost all the yolks broke.

It wasn’t a complete loss, though. The blackberry sauce was delicious — next time I’ll try it drizzled over pound cake and sweetened mascarpone.

Recipe below the fold

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