scones & a giveaway

in my house growing up, maple syrup was something of a necessity. bacon was mandatory. pancakes were always made from scratch. and breakfast was an extremely big deal.

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but it took my family a little while to figure out that real maple syrup is a completely different thing than the super sweet syrup that comes in plastic bottles shaped like a lady. my immediate family is from the west coast, and i always grew up eating the fake stuff, not realizing that there was something vastly superior being consumed on the other side of the country. we didn’t know hardly anything about it, but my parents wanted us kids to be comfortable in our new homes and to try foods that were more specific to our new home of new england. after moving from southern california to northern vermont, my parents bundled my brother and i into the car, drove us out to the woods, and tried to take us maple sugaring…in september.

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obviously, we were all a little disappointed to learn that sugaring happens in the spring. and to be honest, when my family first tasted pure, made-from-tree-sap syrup, none of us were that crazy about it. but it seemed ridiculous at our weekly sunday brunch to take my father’s incredible, fluffy, chock-full-of-love homemade pancakes and smother them with fake syrup, so we gave the real stuff a shot. and the more we tried it, the more we fell in love with the pure, delicious flavor of authentic maple syrup. it’s impossible to imagine going back now.

syrup | ginger-snapped.comthis is all a little embarrassing to admit, since i now do my best to consume as many local foods as possible and put real emphasis on eating natural, whole, healthy foods – but i try to just remind myself that we’re all a little foolish when we’re younger. after all, i used to hate tomatoes. clearly i had a lot to learn.

and while i’ve tasted some truly delicious maple syrup over the years, the syrup crafted at sweet brook farm, right here in massachusetts, is one of the best i’ve ever had. rich, sweet, with complex, beautiful flavors. i use it for all kinds of things, from pancakes to oatmeal to chicken to bacon, but i really love it in scones – it adds so much flavor and moisture and makes these perfect breakfast pastries light and sweet and positively lovely.

of course, any good quality maple syrup will work in the following recipe, but i’m giving you a chance to score your very own bottle of sweet brook farm syrup, along with some other yummy local treats! but first…

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maple syrup & toffee scones

1/4 cup really good maple syrup
1/3 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled or steel-cut oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup toffee bits, plus extra for topping
2 tablespoons brown sugar

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

in a small bowl, mix together maple syrup and milk.

in a large bowl, or the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, toffee | ginger-snapped.comand sea salt. add cubed butter – you can either mix this with your fingers, or lightly pulse in a food processor until mixture is crumbly. slowly add syrup and milk mixture until dough is just holding together, but isn’t sticky – you may not need the entire mixture. add the toffee bits and stir gently.

dump dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times, just enough so that the dough stays together. press dough into a square or a circle, and cut into 12 even pieces. i like squares, but you can also do triangles, or split it into 12 little round balls – whatever makes you happy. place the scones onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, with at least half an inch between them. mix brown sugar with a bit more toffee, and sprinkle mixture onto the top of each scone.

bake scones for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. eat these warm, preferably with hot coffee and a few friends. you can add butter, honey, jam, or more maple syrup, but they’re delicious all on their own.

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in honor of my 100th post, i’m delighted to announce that i’ve partnered with eat boutique to give away one of their exquisite and delicious local artisan food gift boxes! if you don’t know about this beautiful blog and shop, get your butt to their site right now. maggie batista and her talented team find the best of local syrups, spices, cookies, and other goodies and package them all up into these beautiful gift boxes that you can send off to your friends and family. i’ve both given new-england-gift-box-2_1024x1024and received these as gifts, and they’re an absolutely wonderful thing for any food lover in your life.

the winner of this giveaway will receive a special new england gift box, made just for ginger-snapped, containing taza chocolateQ’s nutssalt traders saltsweet brook farm maple syrup, and new harvest coffee beans. all items are produced right here in new england, and the chocolate and nuts are both actually from somerville, where i live – i can personally vouch for their deliciousness.

to enter, click the link below to enter through rafflecopter – the form is also available on the ginger-snapped facebook page. you can earn extra entries by following on facebook and twitter, or by tweeting about the contest. these boxes can only be shipped within the US, so the contest is only open to US residents. the winner will be selected with rafflecopter. the giveaway ends friday, may 24th, and the winner will be announced right here, as well as on facebook and twittergood luck!

this contest is now closed. the lucky winner is emily olson – congratulations! i’ve emailed you, so let me know where we can send your lovely prize. thanks to everyone who entered, and keep your eye on the blog because i have another giveaway coming up in june!

maple syrup & toffee scones |

jacques pepin’s eggs jeanette

one of the books we were required to read for our cooking class this week is jacques pepin’s memoir the apprentice: my life in the kitchen. if you didn’t know, pepin worked with julia child to set up boston university’s gastronomy program, and he acted as an instructor for many classes before i started. i unfortunately haven’t gotten to meet him – though he did make a brief appearance in my cheese class semester, snagging a few bites of camembert and trying to steal a bottle of wine – but this book gave a delightful perspective on his culinary experiences throughout his amazing life. the man has had an incredible life.

of course, every chapter of the book ends with a delicious recipe from a different point in his life. many of from restaurants he’s worked in, or from specific regions he lived in, but the first recipe in the book is one of his mother’s. as soon as i read it, i just had to make this so that i could snack on it while i read the rest of the book.

absolutely worth it. these eggs are awesome. i know, i just posted about eggs, but these are an essential. they’re like deviled eggs, but better. and trust me, i love me a good deviled egg.

do yourself a favor and read this book. i’m going to try to make more of these recipes, but if you can’t do anything else, at least make these eggs as soon as possible, and thank jacques pepin for being completely amazing.

les oeufs jeanette – from jacques pepin’s the apprentice

6 jumbo eggs (preferably organic)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (preferably peanut oil)

for the dressing:
2 to 3 tablespoons leftover egg stuffing (from above)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon water
dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
crunchy french bread

put the eggs in a small saucepan, and cover with boiling water. bring to a very gentle boil, and let boil for 9 to 10 minutes. drain off the water and shake the eggs in the saucepan to crack the shells. (this will help in the removal of the shells later on). fill the saucepan with cold water and ice, and let the eggs cool for 15 minutes.

shell the eggs under cold, running water and split them lengthwise. remove the yolks carefully, put them in a bowl. add the garlic, parsley, milk, salt and pepper. crush with a fork to create a coarse paste. spoon the mixture back into the hollows of the egg whites, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling to use in the sauce.

heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet and place the eggs stuffed side down. cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the eggs are beautifully browned on the stuffed side. remove, and arrange stuffed side up on a platter.

for the dressing, mix all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk or a spoon until well combined. coat the warm eggs with the dressing and serve lukewarm with crunchy french bread as a first course or main course for lunch.

the incredible, edible (delicious, exciting) egg

anybody who claims not to like eggs just hasn’t tried them enough.

remember julia roberts in runaway bride? not that i’m recommending this film, because it really is awful, but i love the little detail of eggs that runs through it. the idea is that none of the men that julia attempts to marry really know her, and richard gere uses eggs to prove it. every guy thinks that she likes eggs “the same way i do – [scrambled/fried/poached/stomped on the ground/whatever].” the truth is, even she doesn’t know how she likes her eggs, because she doesn’t try any other kind, instead just ordering whatever her man-of-the-moment prefers.

i know, it’s too early for sappy rom-com clichés – sorry. here’s a better point: did you know that the tall white master chef’s hats traditionally have 100 pleats, since the chef should know (at least) 100 ways to prepare an egg? eggs are ridiculously versatile, can be used for any meal (not just breakfast or brunch…or brinner!), and can take on any texture from soft to runny to firm to whipped.

all this to say: eggs are awesome. and don’t tell me you don’t like them just because you think poached eggs are gross or your mom always made your scrambled eggs too runny. stop whining and get out a pan – i promise, you’ll find a type of egg that you can’t get enough of.

culinary classes are going well, thanks for asking. next week we’re making eggs, so i thought i’d get in the mood by trying a brand new egg recipe (new to me, anyway). like any good culinary student, i pulled out my copy of julia child’s mastering the art of french cooking, flipped through the egg chapter, and found my breakfast: oeufs en cocette (eggs baked in ramekins).

they’re super easy, probably horrible for you, and taste absolutely delicious. seriously, no culinary skill of any sort required – if you can preheat your oven and crack an egg, you’re pretty much golden.

oeufs en concette

(ingredients per serving)
1/2 tsp butter
2 tbsp whipping cream
1-2 eggs

preheat oven to 375 degrees, and fill a pan with about half an inch of water, placing over medium heat until water is simmering. lightly butter a ramekin (one per serving), and save a bit for later. add 1 tablespoon of cream, and set the ramekins into the pan. when the cream is hot, break the egg into the ramekin, then top with the rest of the cream and the last of the butter.

(if you want, you can mix other goodies in with the cream, or just sprinkle them on after you put the cream in. i added some chopped spinach and a bit of grated romano cheese. try anything that sounds good, but these are also great plain.)

carefully move the pan into your hot oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. according to julia, “the eggs are done when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins.” the eggs will cook a bit more once you take them out of the oven, so it’s better to pull them out slightly undercooked if you can. season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

lemon blueberry happiness

after a week of dismal rain and overcast skies, i woke up this morning to sunlight streaming through my window. it’s the first sunny morning i can remember in awhile, and it’s also the first morning i’ve woken up without being in immediate pain from my fall last week.

i was going through the automatic motions of making coffee, trying to figure out what i was craving. sunshine can have that effect on me – one minute i’m happily eating chili in june, the next i need something fresh and light, something that speaks of hot weather and sunny skies. i’m not much of an optimist, but i really love the summer. i think if you were born in a sunny state, even if you didn’t strictly grow up there, it never really leaves you – and i was born in southern california.

what did i want? pancakes with honey? a peppery, cheesy omelette? croissants?

for me, the ultimate summer combination is lemon and blueberries. i know, it’s not that unique – but it’s so delicious. i love lemons to a ridiculous degree, and try to sneak lemon juice or zest into anything i can think of. but when i can make it the star of the show, especially with fresh blueberries, i’m a happy girl.

if you’re reading this, and you find yourself suddenly craving these muffins, don’t worry – it takes about 35 minutes from conception to eating. 10 to make, 20 to bake, 5 to cool, and you’ve got breakfast/lunch/snacks/your meals for the next 2 days (that’s me). Continue reading

time for bread

if you follow me on twitter or we’re connected through facebook or linkedin, you may already know that i clumsily fell on the sidewalk while running with my puppy, and managed to scrape up my knees and palms quite badly, scratch my legs and feet, ruin my pedicure, and humiliate myself in front of my neighbors. i don’t consider myself particularly accident-prone, but this was an embarrassingly hard fall, and i’ve been a bit incapacitated for the last few days, limping around my house, ordering takeout since i couldn’t cook, and whining at my poor husband.

i hate being coddled, and i really hate feeling less than independent. i’m firmly in the “get over it” camp when it comes to sickness or injury, but for some reason these stupid scrapes have made me feel surprisingly helpless. with lots of ice, neosporin, gauze and painkillers, plus netflix instant which features a delightful amount of 30 rock episodes, i’ve made enough of a recovery to make something comforting, something delicious, something to fill the house with warm, happy smells.

i made bread, of course. Continue reading

summer chili

i know, i know. after months of anticipation, boston finally sees the sunshine and an 80-degree day – and i immediately start chopping vegetables and making chili, a classic, cold-weather, fill-me-up, comfort food dish. my chili is pretty good (check out the recipe if you’re in the same odd mood as me), and in spite of the hot sun, my husband and his co-worker nearly finished off the pot before i had time to snap a photo.

why the bizarre craving? in my constant pursuit to fit into that elusive article of clothing, my beloved lucky brand skinny jeans, i’ve decided to go vegetarian for the summer. i’ve never given up meat for any real period of time – i honestly can’t even remember the last day that i didn’t eat any – and it seems like a good way to get into shape, and to ensure that i eat every last bit of my summer csa box. starting june 1st, i’m giving up red meat and poultry, but i will continue to eat fresh fish, dairy, and (of course) plenty of produce.

i’m actually kind of excited. Continue reading

scrambled eggs with spinach and garlic

i love eggs. i love eating them any way, with just about anything. i generally just throw whatever i feel like in them, but i wasn’t sure how many readers actually experiment with their eggs, so here’s a quick recipe i made this morning for breakfast.

ball street cafe – friendly and delicious

after signing a lease on our new apartment, my husband steve and i decided to check out the local hot spots. i’m a big fan of phantom gourmet, and we had both remembered an episode discussing a serious feud between two popular breakfast joints in somerville’s davis square – sound bites and ball square cafe. the two breakfast cafes are right next door to each other, have similar menus, have shared a chef, and the owners have notoriously bad blood. naturally, i was intrigued, so yesterday we headed to ball street cafe to see what all the fuss was about. Continue reading