Greek Yogurt Scones featuring FAGE Total

Ahhh, the good life.

I was recently asked to write a post about FAGE Total, the culture of Greece and good living. Does anyone else think that “the culture of Greece” takes on a double meaning when you’re talking about yogurt?

I’ve never been to Greece but based on what I know about modern life there, I think I’d love it. The culture is fairly easy-going, with an emphasis on good people and good food. Despite recent economic troubles, the people there remain positive. It’s because they know what matters the most. Family. Friends. Fun. It makes sense that from such a carefree, positive culture, with a rich history and strong ties to family and friends, comes an amazingly versatile product like Greek yogurt.

When I was asked to contribute a post on these topics, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what “good living” meant to me. I didn’t try to figure out how to illustrate how Greek yogurt fits into my “good life.” I just started thinking about what I could do with yogurt. Yogurt in smoothies, yogurt in breads, yogurt in soups, yogurt on tacos. . . the possibilities are endless.

That’s because yogurt is so versatile.

It fits seamlessly into my “good life” with no fuss.

I never have to force Greek yogurt into an otherwise effortless situation.

It just goes so well with all the things I love to do.

Hiking in the mountains. Taking road trips. Hosting brunch. Hanging out with friends. Having a lazy Sunday complete with crossword and coffee.

Or having a lazy Sunday complete with brunch, coffee, and friends.

Now I think I’m on to something.

I love how these delicious scones pack an unexpected protein punch. Replacing the cream with FAGE Total Greek yogurt makes them just a little tart, and a tad lighter than traditional scones. They have become my favorite accessory of late, as I have toted them almost everywhere I’ve gone for two weeks (in several batches of course). These scones have won over crowds at an impromptu brunch, Monday morning at the office, a block party in our new neighborhood, and tea time with a dear friend.

I made some sweet and some savory, so I could have scones for every occasion. Like Greek yogurt, these little slices of heaven are extremely versatile; you can substitute whatever you have on hand to try out new flavor combinations. Try them and you won’t be disappointed. Share them with the people in your good life. Because I find that a lot of the time, it is the people around you who make an otherwise good life, a great one.

Greek Yogurt Scones (makes 16 scones)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup FAGE Total 0% Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Mix-ins (choose one of the following versions or create your own)
    • Chipotle Cheddar version: 1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese diced into 1/4-inch cubes, 3 tablespoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • Cranberry Almond version: 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries, 1/2 cup sliced almonds, 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the yogurt and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. *The yogurt will get really light and airy, like meringue.*
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. If you are making the sweet version, add the sugar at this step.
  4. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients to combine. *If you forget to soften the butter, just melt it. This recipe will still work out OK.*
  5. Add the beaten egg and the yogurt mixture to the large bowl and stir to combine. Then add the mix-ins to the dough.
  6. Divide the dough in half and roll into two balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into two 1/2-inch thick rounds. Cut each round crosswise into eight triangular pieces.    
  7. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange scones 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 18 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Relax, kick back, and enjoy with friends. . . wherever your good life takes you!

As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway

Any Given Scone Day

Most Sundays in the fall involve some combination of brunch, chores and football. I especially look forward to watching a football game with a cold beer and some spicy chili or stew. But lately my Sundays have involved baking, and not much else. I have been working on my submission for a recipe contest. Because I am a perfectionist, it took me baking 64 scones over 8 days to get the recipe just right.

It’s a good thing it’s the holidays or else the bagger at the local grocery store may think my butter consumption is excessive. It’s a good thing I have coworkers, friends and new neighbors to eat my creations or else they may have to remove me from this tiny apartment with a crane. It’s a good thing these scones take precisely 18 minutes to bake or else I may not have had time to take photos of my zesting and garnishing adventures today.

After a little garnish practice, I got to zest up these beauties. I am starting to like baking because I freaking love to zest citrus fruits. Maybe it’s because the peeling is a stress reliever, or maybe it’s because the flavors and smells are so deep. Seriously, I want to add zest to everything. Today it went into two different types of scones. Lime zest for the savory scones and orange zest for the sweet ones. I can’t wait to share this recipe with you this week. I am very excited about the possibilities for my nouvelles patisseries.

Pardon my French.

It’s a good thing these scones go well with chili, or else I may have felt like I missed out on two perfect football Sundays. Instead I got the best of both worlds. Baking and sports. Sweet and savory. Look out for recipes later this week!

How to Save a Crumbled Cake

Mistakes happen. Especially for me when I am baking, because I’m really not much of a baker. I’m going to go out on a limb and say, most people who bake have had a cake crumble before their disappointed eyes. If you are making this cake for a special occasion, it can be extra devastating when your creation starts to fall apart. As for me, I’ve had crumbled cakes, the leaning tower of pastry cakes, cakes that have split right down the middle, and everything in between. I told you, I’m not much of a baker.

I was making a coworker’s birthday cake this week and I had a similar disaster. I’m sharing this with you because there is a light at the end of the convection oven tunnel. I fixed my crumbled cake and you can too.

It all started with this fantastic recipe from the Lee Brothers, a moist and chocolatey red velvet cake with just a hint of orange zest. Oh honey, simple fresh Southern. Are my roots showing?

I decided to add a fresh raspberry filling, which I created by simmering raspberries, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch on the stove, then straining the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. I worked on the filling while the cake baked, enveloping my tiny kitchen with the aroma of cocoa, vanilla and orange peel.

When the cakes were done in the oven, I followed the instructions for letting them cool in their pans for 10 minutes and then flipping them out of the pans onto wire racks. And then this happened.

It was 11:00 PM and this red velvet cake was due to my office in 9 hours. What’s an amateur baker to do? First, I ate some of the crumbles. Yes, emotional eating. But let’s face it, no one was going to miss those crumbles. I wasn’t going to be able to put my humpty dumpty cake back together again. Then I decided to make a trifle. If this happens to you, I suggest you make a trifle too.

What is a trifle, you ask? A trifle is a dessert made with alternating layers of cake pieces, pudding, whipped topping and fresh fruit. My one problem was I had no pudding, whipped topping or fresh fruit on hand. And I had this gorgeous homemade raspberry filling that was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

So I did what any amateur baker would do. I set my alarm to wake up early and crashed into bed. This disaster could wait until tomorrow. Of course I ignored the alarm and overslept by an hour, causing me to dash in and out of the shower, put on the first thing that matched in my closet and run out the door, cake pieces and kitchen utensils in hand. Ideally you would assemble this in your kitchen. I did not. This was the scene in the back of my car at 7:30 AM in the grocery store parking lot.

Wherever you decide to assemble your trifle, do it this way:

  • Cake pieces (1-inch chunks)
  • Pudding
  • Whipped Topping
  • Repeat
  • Optional: fresh fruit between the pudding and whipped topping layers

You may notice that I used pudding snacks. I know, that’s terrible. But I couldn’t make pudding in my car while driving to work, so I improvised. I ended up mixing my raspberry filling into the whipped topping for the bottom layer of whipped topping and it was delicious. I left the top layer of whipped topping plain and decorated the top of the trifle with fresh raspberries.I think it turned out okay. People seemed to like it. And the birthday girl would never have known that this was Plan B if one of my not-so-tight-lipped coworkers had not told her. Although the story of the “Parking Lot Cake” was fairly entertaining once everyone had been served their piece of trifle.

I guess that’s just the way the cake crumbles.

Farmers’ Market 07.16.11

Are you there blog? It’s me, Lauren.

Sadly, our internet went down on Wednesday and didn’t come back up until last night. So I have taken a brief hiatus from blog-writing and blog-reading. But I was still a busy bee in the kitchen! If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent my day off on Friday making a birthday cake for a friend.

Happy Birthday Kevin!

I made a vegetarian version of a spicy banh mi sandwich.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite pesto, with walnuts in place of pine nuts.

minus pine nuts, plus crunchy walnuts

I did some party planning and shopping for my upcoming 25th birthday bash, and I made a little trip to the SOJ Farmers Market in beautiful, sunny 80-degree weather.

The loot:

  • Melon that turned out to be canary yellow inside – what?! (CSA)
  • Summer squash (CSA)
  • Eggplant (CSA)
  • Lettuce (CSA)
  • Parsley (CSA)
  • Tomatoes (Amy’s Organic Garden)
  • Jalapeños (Walnut Hill Farm)
  • AnnaB’s Gluten Free multi-grain baguette (new to me!)
  • Mother Bars (new to me!)
  • Sun-dried Tomato Fettucine (Bombolini Pasta)
  • Poblano peppers (Pleitez Produce)
  • Blackberries (Walnut Hill Farm)

And now, thanks to a new modem, I am back to my favorite Sunday morning spot, enjoying a cup of homemade coffee on the porch and writing about the things that I love.

Hope you made the most of a beautiful weekend too.

One year ago. . . I let you in on a secret: where to get the best iced coffee in Richmond.

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

Today I tackled one of my most intimidating challenges yet.

Bread!

I have said before that I am not a baker. Really, I do my best work on top of the stove, and generally the area inside the oven is a scary place for me. I do a few things well, like pizza (with store-bought crust), scones (from scratch), and the occasional batch of cookies. Recently I’ve added to my repertoire: granola, oatmeal breakfast cookies, and brown rice pizza crust. I’ve had more than my share of burnt cookies, drippy frosting, and leaning towers of cake. I have even given up halfway through a recipe because it seemed that success just wasn’t in the stars that day.

The main reason I have so many baking disaster stories is that. . . I keep trying. After all the sticky dough, crumbly muffins, and icing explosions, I still try new recipes in an attempt to learn a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me. I flour the counter and fire up the hand mixer, knowing that the chances are far greater that I will be fanning the smoke detector than creating a masterpiece. That’s okay, because it makes me enjoy the surprising successes even more.

So it came about that I felt a strong urge to conquer one of my greatest baking fears: yeast. I have had so many issues with getting bread dough to the right consistency and to rise properly that I was almost ready to give up on yeast entirely, and resign myself to a life of quick breads only. I don’t know what got into me this weekend but I decided I was going to go for it one. more. time.

I found a fantastic recipe here, courtesy of Budget Bytes. I made my dough exactly as Beth describes in her post, placed it in an oiled bowl, covered it, and let it rise for about an hour. While the dough was rising, I ran out to the store to get a new pan. I read somewhere that a baking tin is better for making bread than the standard non-stick loaf pans that I have in my pantry. Whether that claim is true or not, this tin made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

Next, I sprayed the tin with olive oil, patted down and kneaded the dough and formed it into a loaf that fit inside the tin. By the way, this tin is 12″ long and about 4″ wide. I think it’s about 4 inches tall too.

I covered the pan and let the dough rise a second time, for about 45 minutes. When I uncovered the pan it looked like this.

Looking good, no? I was so happy that so far it was working. The hard part was over and now all I had to do was pop it in the oven for 35 minutes at 425 degrees F. I might have let it get a little too crispy, but I was still very pleased with the end result.

A beautiful loaf of sandwich bread!

This bread is dense enough to slice thinly and still hold up to sandwich ingredients, but soft enough to enjoy alone. The outside has a nice crisp crust and the inside has a very fine crumb. And the taste. . . the taste! It has that nutty graininess that you get from whole wheat flour, with just a hint of sweetness from the honey. The yeast is more pronounced in this loaf than in the store-bought pre-packaged and pre-sliced varieties. If I could be attentive to the process for 4 hours one day a week, I might never buy bread again.

So today’s lesson, kids, is about perseverance. You have to burn a lot of rolls before you find your honey wheat sandwich bread, but it’s out there and you will find it someday. The one recipe that breaks down barriers in the kitchen: for me it’s bread, for you it might be barbecue. The point is if I (Smokey the Baker) can do it, so can you!

Have a successful week!

Homemade Granola

During my visit to my hometown over Thanksgiving weekend, I picked up a bag of some of the most delicious granola I have ever tasted:

Michele’s Granola!

I tasted some of the pumpkin spice granola at a local coffee shop and was immediately hooked. I bought the 12 oz. size for around $7.50 and enjoyed every single oat and nut cluster in the whole bag. As the weekend drew nearer, the bag felt lighter and lighter. When I could see the brown paper at the bottom of the sack of granola, I panicked.

I considered stocking up on the stuff (which I highly recommend) but when I added up the cost of 2-3 months’ worth of Michele’s Granola and considered the impending drain on my bank account around the holidays, I figured there had to be a more cost effective way to get my fix. It was time to make some homemade granola. And it was a great way to get the holiday-related baking itch out of my system, without gaining 5 pounds of cookie dough around my midsection.

I burned the first batch while texting my friends about how awesome I was for making my own granola. The second batch was perfection. I did dump a whole batch of burnt granola in the trash, but on the bright side, now I can show you a color reference so you can tell the difference between “too long in the oven” and “just right.”

too long in the oven

just right 🙂

Speaking of bright sides, I replaced my 100-watt soft white kitchen light bulb with a GE Reveal light bulb, which is supposed to mimic daylight. This is particularly important for photographing your late night cooking and baking adventures for your food blog. No matter how hard I try, I rarely cook an entire dish during the 6 hours of daylight we get this time of year. I thought, “this light bulb will save me!”

At first, the only thing it revealed was the horrifying collection of crumbs on my kitchen floor that I couldn’t even see in normal light. However it also improved the lighting situation for my photos so I am proud to present to you my 11:00 PM granola adventure, in all its GE Reveal glory.

Basic Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup unsalted nuts (I used almonds, but any nut will do)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional: 1/2 cup other mix-ins (dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc)

Preparation

1.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Combine the oats, coconut, nuts, and seeds in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3. Combine oil and honey over medium heat in a small sauce pan. You may add the brown sugar at this step or in the next one. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and whisk to combine. It will look a little angry when it starts to boil, but it will be OK. This is necessary to get the honey to jive with all the other ingredients when you toss everything together.

4. Carefully pour the oil-honey mixture over the granola and stir to combine. Add brown sugar if you have not already. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and toss all ingredients together.

5. Pour the granola mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a wooden spoon to spread it into an even layer.

6. Bake in preheated oven for ten minutes, then stir to turn over and return to oven for ten additional minutes at 325 degrees F.

Make yourself a cup of tea while you wait.

7. Remove from oven and sprinkle mix-ins over the top of the granola. Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheet before packing in an airtight container. Granola should keep for 1-2 weeks, although I doubt it will last that long!

I made a few variations of this granola and all varieties made fine accompaniments to our weekend activities. The cinnamon raisin went well with Saturday hiking.

And the gingerbread version was great for Sunday decorating.

When inspiration strikes, I hope you find this granola a fun and easy snack to go along with whatever you get yourself into this winter.

For more holiday baking ideas, check out Brittany’s 12 Days of Cookies over at Eating Bird Food. My persimmon cookies were featured last week, and all of the other cookies she has highlighted look delicious too!

Veggie Pot Pie

Today the temperature dropped 25 degrees in less than 12 hours.

I woke up this morning in the midst of a tornado warning with rain smacking into the glass window panes behind my head and the apartment building doors slamming into the building at the whim of the winds that gusted for hours. When my alarm went off, I wanted nothing more than to stay curled up in my bed under 4 layers of blankets and listen to the sound of the rain.

But I had to go to work. Work wasn’t so great today and then I came home to some bad news. It was the kind of day that made me wish even more that I had stayed in bed.

I went back out in the cold and windy night to pick up groceries. Because the only thing that could fix a day like today is homemade comfort food, packed with hearty vegetables and peppered with the excitement of trying something new.

This evening I made my first pot pie. And a vegetarian one at that!

Have you seen the movie Waitress? It is a cute little story about a waitress at a small-town diner who bakes all of her emotions into pies. Every time she needs to get something off her chest, she bakes a pie and its ingredients reflect her mood. Here is the trailer:

Tonight I’m calling this “I-never-should-have-gotten-out-of-bed-and-now-all-I-have-to-keep-me-warm-is-a-big-plate-of-vegetables-in-a-flaky-crust” pie.

The experiment went well and the pie did indeed warm me to my core. Although as soon as I put food on the table, I was quickly reminded that I also have both a hungry boyfriend and a curious cat to keep me warm. 🙂

I and my non-feline companion enjoyed big plates of this hearty pie.

We didn’t even miss the chicken because it was overflowing with so many tasty vegetables right from the start.

I adapted a recipe from allrecipes to get to the one I have copied below. I highly recommend that you make this for someone you love (or all for yourself) sometime soon. I think I overestimated my vegetable measurements because when I cooked this recipe it filled a 2-quart round baking dish plus a small Pyrex dish. Thank goodness I had extra pie crust – we got an extra half of a pie rather unexpectedly!

Veggie Pot Pie


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb yellow squash, cut into small chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 4-6 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1/2 inch pieces (I used canned organic cut green beans this time but use fresh if you can get them)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (at least)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 recipe pastry for double-crust pie

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook onions, squash, and garlic in oil for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in carrots, potatoes, and celery. Stir in broccoli, green beans, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are barely tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, soy sauce, and 1/4 cup warm water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Stir into vegetables, and cook until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
  4. Roll out 1/2 of the dough to line an 11×7 inch baking dish. Pour the filling into the pastry lined dish. Roll out remaining dough, arrange over the filling, and seal and flute the edges.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown.

Have a terrific end of the week. Just two days left until the last outdoor SOTJ market for 2010 – it really is getting cold! Guess you know where I will be this Saturday morning, possibly bundled up and probably beaming.

Stay warm!