31 May

Cream Scones Recipe

 

So, after making all that delicious disaster of clotted cream I had to make something to put it on, right? Plus I had all that leftover un-clotted cream from the baking process that  needed to be used up. So, of course, I made the most logical thing:

Scones!

Frankly, I love scones. Sure, they can be a little bit dry but I can’t think of any better vessel for getting my daily required intake of butter and jam. Matt on the other hand hates scones so I don’t make them unless I want to eat a dozen by myself (which, I admit, does happen from time to time).

But I made scones anyway. For Queen and Country and Waistline.

I used the clotted cream in place of butter plus the leftover un-clotted cream in a basic scone recipe from BH&G. They turned out like a good classic scone with the added bonus of a nice nutty flavour from the clotted cream. Surprisingly Matt loved these, although if we’re being real I think he just really loved the clotted cream that he got to slather on them. And now he fully understands the true purpose of scone consumption. My work here is done folks.

Can you make out the golden clotted cream underneath all that strawberry rhubarb jam?

Delicious Cream Scones

makes 12

Ingredients

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 T sugar + extra for sprinkling
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/3 c cold butter or clotted cream
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c whipping cream (leftover from clotted cream making) + extra for brushing
1/2 c dried currants
Whipping Cream
Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter or clotted cream with a knife or pastry cutter until the mixture is coarse crumbs. Make a well in center.

In another bowl combine the beaten eggs, 3/4 cup cream, and currants. Add this wet mixture into the well of the dry mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it gently pressing dough for 10 to 12 strokes or until the dough is well combined and nearly smooth.

Divide dough in half. Pat or lightly roll each half of the dough into a 6-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges.

Place the scones 2 inches apart on a foil lined baking sheet.

Brush scones with the extra cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm with clotted cream and homemade strawberry rhubarb jam (yup, I made that too!) while drinking watching the Diamond Jubilee.

 

30 May

Homemade Clotted Cream

I wanted to make homemeade clotted cream in honour of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee which is happening this weekend. I was adamant about making clotted cream.

True Fact: I’ve never tried clotted cream before.

I told Vicki that I wanted to make it and she proceeded to tell me that she found it to be sickeningly rich when she tried it in the UK at afternoon tea. . . but that was after practically devouring all of ‘tea for two’ on her own and that I should try it anyway.

I was apprehensive at this point but I had a litre of cream in the fridge and nothing else to do with it. The idea of ice cream was coming to mind instead since the weather was hot and ice cream was a much better project than baking cream in the oven for 8 hours.

Then I started reading more about making it. I read that the cream should not be ultrapasteurized or contain emulsifiers. Was mine ultrapasteurized? The carton didn’t say. It did contain some other crazy ingredients I didn’t understand which were probably emulsifiers. This was going to be a disaster.

The Process

I picked the least hot day, turned my oven to 200F, poured the cream in a 9×13″ baking dish, covered it with aluminum foil, put it in the oven and left the house to turn into a sauna for the next 8 hours.

When I came home to check on it I was pretty sure that was I was looking at was not what it was supposed to look like. I consulted the internet and confirmed my suspicion. I got a deep brown, caramelized tray of cream without a distinct thick layer of fat at the top like I was expecting.

I knew it was all wrong but in any case, I decided to follow through with the rest of the instructions. I let it cool to room temperature then refrigerated it for a few hours before skimming the top fat off the cream with a slotted spoon.

I collected the remaining cream (which was also brown in colour) and poured it into a separate bowl. I refrigerated the cream and the clotted cream overnight and hoped for the best.

The Result

So, now it’s tomorrow. I take my clotted cream out of the fridge. It has a really terrible consistency. It’s as thick as butter and full of chunks of the crispy caramelized skin that formed when baking. It isn’t right but, but but(!) the flavour is actually phenomenal. It tastes almost like Norwegian brown cheese (and obviously my next project is going to be to make brown cheese, but that’s another post for another day), very nutty and slightly sweet.

I thought I’d try putting the clotted cream in the food processor to rectify the texture situation. It doesn’t really smooth out. I do get rid of the major chunks, but I end up with something like crumbly butter. But it’s tasty and good enough to spread on a hot scone, so it’s good enough for me.

Just for the hell of it, I food-processed the leftover cream too. That smoothed out much easier.

From a taste standpoint, the clotted cream is great. I like it, Matt likes it, and it’s better than butter as a spread. So in the end my clotted cream is one of those disasters that wasn’t actually all that bad.

But I still don’t know what real clotted cream tastes like.

. . . stay tuned for part 2 when I use my clotted cream and leftover cream from the clotted cream making process to make scones. Happy 60th anniversary to the Queen!

29 May

Modified Strongman

On Sunday morning my friend Kyle invited me out to a Modified Strongman class at BodyX Fitness in Tecumseh. I’ve never heard of this gym before, but then again I don’t spend all that much time in Tecumseh. It’s a smaller personal training gym that has just started offering this Modified Strongman class outside in their parking lot.

The class was a group training circuit session incorporating modified strongman lifts sequenced into various exercises. It seems a bit intimidating but it wasn’t exhausting or super intense; it was a really fun way to get a good workout.

In a way I wish that I would have brought my camera so I could post pictures, but then of course I wouldn’t have been working out (so I’ll steal pictures from the interwebs to show you what we did).

We ran through a circuit with a partner which I liked a lot even though Kyle and I weren’t allowed to be partnered together since he can lift about 1.4million times as much as I can. The exercises in are circuit were:

Sled Pulls

sled pulls(source)

Farmer Walks

farmers walk(source)

Tire Flips

Tire-Flip(source)

Medicine Ball Slams

medicine-ball slams(source)

Overhead Tire Throws

overhead tire throw(source)

Rope Slams

rope slams(source)

I can name a few people who I think would like this class so I want to go back and invite my sister or my cousin or my friend Tina. I tried to convince Matt to come but he was too busy running to bother.

28 May

Date of the Month: Colasanti’s

On Saturday morning, Matt and I went on our Date of the Month for May to Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens in Ruthven.

Colasanti's

If you’re not from the area Colasanti’s is pretty impossible to explain. It is part petting zoo, part plant retailer, part amusement park, and part banquet venue that happens to make really good doughnuts and fried chicken, and it’s all housed within a greenhouse. It’s exactly as eclectic and ridiculous as it sounds but if you’re from Essex County then Colasanti’s is totally normal and somehow makes sense.

Colasanti's doughnut

Truthfully, I go for the doughnuts.

So Matt and I wandered around the petting zoo area, hung out with the goats, and checked out the tropical birds.

Me and a Goat

Colasanti's

This little guy spent about 20 minutes trying to eat this sign. Ahh, goats.

Colasanti's goatColasanti's

Afterwards we searched for some plants for the house and picked out a couple of bridal veil hanging baskets for the front porch and a citronella plant to keep the mosquitoes away. The plants are pretty reasonably priced, but they seem to stock less and less every year.

Colasanti's

We stopped for a doughnut or six (relax, we didn’t eat all six, though it did take some willpower) and then headed out.

Colasanti's doughnuts

So it wasn’t exactly the most exciting of dates, but it gave us something to do besides sit in the basement watching The Game of Thrones. Plus the weekends in May have been so busy for us that I think that without the date night (or day in this case) we wouldn’t have gone anywhere together at all! Plus, ya know, we got doughnuts so it was still kinda awesome.


Date of the Month Club

Check out other posts in the Date of the Month club, where Matt and I go on one special date every month of 2012:

January – Bookstore Scavanger Hunt
February – Board Game Night
March – Bowling
April – Detroit Walking Tour
May – Colasanti’s
June – Picnic
July – Next Restaurant
August – Detroit Tigers Baseball Game
September – Detroit Institute of Arts
October – Wine Tasting 

 

24 May

Dream Vacation: Ranches in Montana

I’m really, really into planning dream vacations. I may have missed my calling as a Travel Agent. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about different vacation destinations that I would love to see sometime in my life so I figured I’d start to share some on the blog.

I was reading about Resort Ranches in Montana recently and was pretty impressed. Any destination that includes mountains, hiking, clean air, and wide open spaces is my kind of vacation. I love doing lots of different outdoor activities whenever I travel. I think these ranches were made for me.

Here’s a peak at what you can find at ranches in Montana.

The Ranch at Rock Creek is a high class all-inclusive resort ranch with several activities available like horseback riding, clay shooting, hiking, and mountain biking. You can even camp there, woops, I mean “glamp”, yeah that’s glamorous camping. They have canvas cabins with all the amenities of a 5 star hotel inside. Sound luxurious!

For the bargain basement rate of only $950 pp/night you get your meals, lodging, and all activities. I’ll be able to afford this once that lottery tickets pulls through.

Triple Creek Ranch is located in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. It’s also an all inclusive resort ranch with lots of activities like horseback riding, hiking, and guided nature tours of the moose, elk, big horn sheep, and other wildlife in the area. They also have various winter activities like skiing (alpine and xcountry) and snowshoeing available.

It’s not ‘glam’, but it is definitely quality accomodations and a little more reasonably priced at $1150 per couple/night including meals, lodging, and activities.

Or more realisitically, I could visit the Covered Wagon Ranch in the Gallatin National Forest for $955/3 nights. This ranch is for horseback riding primarily. The rate is inclusive of meals and lodging as well as your own horse for 3 days plus and riding lessons.

For an extra $40 per night you can take a guided Pack Trip. Load your horse up with all your camp equipment and travel on horseback throuogh mountain ridges, rivers, and meadows to a campsite under the stars in Big Sky country. That’s my kind of camping.

 

22 May

Conditioning Drills: Gut Busters

I’m feeling much better after my bout of food poisoning from Friday night. I feel terrible for Matt’s friend who was over at our house when I got sick and was probably trying not to look disgusted as he chatted with Matt in the living room (which, for the record, is not nearly far enough away from the retching sounds that were coming from the bathroom).

At least it wasn’t enough to ruin my whole Victoria Day weekend though it did kinda ruin most of it, not gonna lie.

I managed to wrestle together enough energy yesterday to go to the gym for a weightlifting session. I’m just about done the 6 week full body programme that I’ve been working on. I’m liking the mix-up between the lifting and the circuit. It still goes by relatively fast (about 40 minutes) but I’m able to get in some heavier lifts in addition to the circuit conditioning which I like.

Also, on my cardio days I’ve been trying to do more conditioning that just straight-up running. Today might be the only cool day this week, so I am going to get out and try this conditioning drill again. I did these Gut Busters last week and it was pretty intense, not as exhausting as the Terrible Twenties, but still pretty good.

Hill Gut Busters

You can also do these on flat land. Just sprint for about 50m between the exercises.

Warm up: half mile walk

Sprint up the hill

10 push-ups

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 squat jumps

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 sit-ups

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 burpees

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 mountain climbers

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 butt kicks

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 jumping jacks

Sprint down the hill
Sprint up the hill

10 push-ups

Sprint down the hill

Cool down with a 2 mile jog.

18 May

Chewy Espresso Chocolate Cookie

Espresso Chocolate Cookies

I’ve been back to baking a lot of cookies again. It’s track & field meet season and Matt likes to bring cookies for his fellow coaches so it seems like I’m making a batch of cookies each week.

This week I made two.

I picked up a Food & Drink magazine from the LCBO and they had a recipe for Espresso Chocolate Cookies in it and I wanted to make they right away. They were loaded with chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pecans, and shredded coconut, and they had a fudgy chew to them which was an awesome texture.

Matt like them a lot too, even thought they had a strong coffee flavour and he’s not a fan of coffee, and he wanted to make some for the track coaches at the WECSSA meet. 4 of his throwers are going on to SWOSSA next week– Go Team!

This version of the cookie is a bit different. I didn’t have any more baking chocolate for the cookie base so instead I used more butter and I mixed cocoa with the flour. Also, I left out the cranberries and swapped the pecans for walnuts and basically made these cookies more friendly on the wallet.

They turned out quite good actually! Matt preferred them to the original batch I made. They were very chewy with a strong espresso flavour and lots of chocolate chips.

Good thing I was paying attention, because I’m going to want to make this recipe again, and probably soon.

Espresso Chocolate Cookies

Chewy Espresso Chocolate Cookie

(makes 20-24)

Ingredients

½ lb salted butter at room temperature
¾ c sugar
¾ c brown sugar
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
1 ¾ c AP flour
¾ c Dutch process cocoa powder
1 T espresso
2 eggs
½ t vanilla
1 ½ c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts
½ c shredded coconut

Directions

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until it’s soft, white, and fluffy.

Beat in the sugars together with the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla, and eggs (one at a time),

In a separate bowl stir together the baking soda, baking powder, flour, and cocoa powder until well combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl of the mixer, add in dry mixture a little bit at a time. Mix until incorporated then add the nuts, chocolate chips, and coconut just until mixed.

Scoop cookie dough and form into a ball about the size of a golf ball. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and flatten the balls slightly with your fingers.

Bake at 350*F for 10 minutes or until the top is just set (not shiny).

The cookies should still be very soft and look underbaked. Let them cool on a rack before eating.

15 May

White Chicken Chili with Hominy

It’s time for another Eating the Alphabet recipe link-up where each month we make a recipe featuring a fruit, vegetable, legume, or whole grain from a different set of letters of the alphabet.

So far I’ve done:

(A or B): Buttercup Squash and Artichoke Pasta
(C or D): Grenadian Oil Down with Cassava (Favourite)
(E or F): Homemade Fig Newtons (Favourite)

This month we look at G or H. I’m going with hominy.

WTF is Hominy?

I picked hominy because I didn’t really know what it was but I know that I’ve eaten it before. Chances are good that you’ve had it too.

Hominy is used primarily in Latin American cooking where it is, most commonly, ground up into masa harina, the flour that is the basis for corn tortillas. If it’s ground a little coarser then it becomes white hominy grits.

Hominy

Hominy looks like mutant-sized corn kernels and that is essentially what it is.

Regular old corn is prepared using a process called nixtamalization where it is heated in lye and ash until the outer germ of the kernel falls off.

This process was crucial to the survival of the ancient Latin American people in a couple of ways. Nixtamalization is a method of preserving the corn beyond harvest time and, more importantly, the process exposes the inner kernel of corn making it is easier to digest and also releasing vitamin B3 which allowed the Latin Americans to avoid deficiency.

Hominy is the primary ingredient in a popular Mexican meat stew called pozole. It is also often used to make chili, which is what I decided to do with it.

Because of all the hominy in it, this chili tastes a lot like tortilla chips. I liked the taste of the hominy overall, but I found this chili to be just okay. Matt was a big fan of it though, but he loves anything with chicken in it.I wish I would have tried my hand at a traditional pozole instead.

White Chicken Chili with Hominy

White Chicken Chili with Hominy

From Ellie Krieger

Ingredients

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (~1 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, diced (~1/2 cup)
3 poblano peppers, seeded and diced (~1 1/2 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t cayenne pepper, more to taste
1lb ground chicken
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 c water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 t dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
1 (19-ounce) can hominy, drained and rinsed
Salt

1/4 c nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt
fresh cilantro leaves
1 Lime

Directions

Heat the oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, poblanos, and cook for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander and cayenne for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add the ground chicken and break it up with a spoon. When it is no longer pink add in the white beans, water, bouillon, bay, and oregano. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.

Add the hominy and salt and more cayenne pepper, to taste, and continue cooking, partially covered, 10 minutes longer. Ladle into individual bowls and top each serving with 1 tablespoon of yogurt a sprinkle of cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

White Chicken Chili with Hominy


11 May

Beach Volleyball Again

My Friday night beach volleyball league has been cancelled before it even started. I honestly couldn’t be happier. Between my pathetic skills, sand in my ass, and my general aversion to team sports, I find beach volleyball less appealing than cleaning the toilet. I’m not exaggerating– I actually do spend my Friday nights cleaning the bathroom (along with all the other rooms in the house) and I was upset that my routine was going to be disrupted for something like volleyball.

I was angry at Matt for agreeing to it on my behalf. He was angry at me for not wanting to go out and socialize. I told him that I personally find it difficult to socialize when balls are flying at my head, and couldn’t we do something that required less hand-eye coordination and less sand? Apparently ‘no’ was the appropriate answer to that question and I’ve been stewing about it ever since. Not so much ‘stewing’, I guess, as telling everyone who would listen about how much I was dreading beach volleyball.

This isn’t something new. If you know me then you know how I feel about it. Apparently I even posted about it before. Here is a re-post from July 2010 because my feelings haven’t changes and I’m sure a lot of my current readers never saw it the first time around:

Beach Volleyball by opart

Image by opart on Etsy.com

Sometimes I have moments of partial memory loss where I forgot how terrible my coordination is. Moments where I can only remember my fitness level but completely forgot my lack of hand-eye coordination. That’s when I do something stupid like sign up for a sport league or a dance class. I generally steer clear of such activities, except in these moments of weakness, lured by the pretence of it being fun. It never is.

I am coordinated enough to put one foot in front of the other and run, but ask me to do something with my hands simultaneously and you’ll get a blank stare. Even worse is something like soccer where I have to use my legs for 2 things at once (gasp!) while my arms flail wildly in confusion. I once played pick-up soccer with friends and after repeated taunts of “you suck!” during the game, I refused to return.

Then there was that one time that I was misguided enough to take a reggaeton dance class, unaware that reggaeton requires you move your shoulders and hips in different directions at the same time.

Coordination: It’s all a bit too much for my brain to take.

In a fleeting moment of insanity I signed up for a beach volleyball league with friends. Our first game was on Wednesday. Before the games started I became really nervous as memories of volleyball season in high school gym class came to mind. All I remember was being teased by the good players and watching my P.E. grades plummet.

I suck at volleyball. I’m basically a spectator on the court. If I make any contact with the ball at all, it’s a miracle. I try to go for the ball most of the time, but sometimes I panic when I see it coming my way. I think “You’re going to fuck this up” and move just out of the way.

The worst part of playing is the words of encouragement. I know they’re well-meaning, but do I really need to hear “Good try Sam!” as the ball flies over my head in my attempt at an easy volley? It’s like reinforcing the fact that I’m just not good enough. I want to scream: “It wasn’t a good try! It was a terrible try! If I got the ball over the net but failed to get a point, that would be a good try. You and I both know that sucked, so lets just all shut up, okay?” But instead I grind my teeth and try not to have an outburst.

Our team is not very competitive, and none of us are really that good (we lost 5 out of 6 games), but I still seem remarkably bothered by my own poor performance. It’s a metaphor for life, really: me being dejected by things I can’t accomplish. I want to be good at everything, or at least average, and when I’m not– when I watch myself fail– I get upset. Even if I’m failing at something I care little about. It’s tough to be good at volleyball but I think it’s even tougher to accept the fact that I’m not good and just have fun.

Because when it comes down to it, it’s really just playing in the sand. And who wouldn’t love to play in a giant 16m x 8m sandbox?