Saturday, April 23, 2011

Double-Strawberry Scone

I never thought I would enjoy something like a scone but a few years ago I fell in love with Starbucks blueberry scone!! I have been on a mission for a while now to duplicate it. During my search I came across this one and I had to try it out. I really like it but I'll give you some tips on things you might want to adjust.


2-1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup half-and-half
Extra half-and-half
Extra sugar


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl stir together flour, the 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbles. Gently toss in fresh and freeze dried strawberries and basil. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together eggs and half-and-half. Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once. Using a large spoon, gently stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it 5 to 7 times, turning dough a quarter turn after each fold. Transfer to a lightly floured parchment-lined (or use a Silpat) baking sheet. Pat or lightly roll dough into a 3/4-inch-thick circle. Cut circle into wedges and pull apart.

Brush wedges with additional half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 16 minutes or until golden. Serve warm. Refrigerate or freeze any leftover scones. This recipe makes approximately 12 scones.

My tips:

I did not have freeze-dried strawberries which provide a lot of flavor and sweetness. So I added a little extra fresh strawberries. I should have also added a little extra sugar too. Mine turned out great but I am looking forward to trying it again with the freeze dried strawberries.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen: Root Beer Float - My Way

I love a good root beer float but some times I get a little frustrated with the big chunks of ice cream.  One day, while visiting an A&W restaurant, I discovered the A&W Root Beer Freeze.  It's a full cup of the best part of the root beer float - it's like a root beer shake!  Now my kids and I have to stop for one every time we are near an A&W.  Unfortunately that isn't often so the other day we made our own :)

You just need the basics:

Scoop some ice cream in a blender:

I recommend breaking up the ice cream more so you don't over-blend the mix
Then slowly pour in some A&W Root Beer:

Blend and serve! 

Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-6, 2011.  Do you know what you are doing for your teacher(s)?  Here are some things that I came up with.

I started with these white gift bags that I let my kids each decorate for their teachers.

$.99 each from Michaels plus tissue paper that I already had
Then I found pencils, a blank notebook, and a notepad that have the first initial of the teachers name.  I also  made a bookmaker out of an extra large paperclip and some "school days" ribbon.
$1 each at Michaels
Using supplies that I have at home I created these personalized labels for them to use.

Then I filled the bag with these creative and useful gifts:

I used a little paper to cover up her last name for blog use
Of course I'll be adding a little something sweet to the bag before it is delivered!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie Minis

I was excited to make these for my in-laws (who I provide a home cooked meal for at least once a week).  They turned out great so now I am looking forward to making a vegetarian version for myself! 

Dough (you can buy pre-made):
2 Cups of Flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cups butter, chilled
1/3 cup of cold water
Egg wash (1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water)

Preheat Oven to 425. Mix the flour and salt together, then cut shortening with fork. Combine lightly (it will look like little balls of flour). Sprinkle water over the mixture a little at a time and mix lightly with a fork. You want to use enough water so the pastry will hold together in a ball but DO NOT over mix (this is how you get tough dough).

Roll out dough on floured surface to about 1-1/2 inches thick. I used a cookie cutter to create my “pie base” but you can also do this all in an 8″ round pie pan and make one giant pie. Generously spray your pie plate with cooking spray and place your base on the bottom. Use a fork to create some vent holes in the base. Place in the oven for 10 minutes (just to get a light bake).

I outlined the top of the pans to cut out dough tops for the pies and place them in an airtight container until I was ready to use them.

Filling –
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 red potatoes, diced
1 cup frozen/fresh/canned peas
3 cups of chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon thyme
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup Milk

Add butter to a pan and place on medium high. Add onions and cook for a few minutes. Add carrots and potatoes and cook for a few minutes more. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Allow mixture to boil for a few minutes and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add thyme and salt and pepper to taste blend well and allow to simmer. Add peas to the pot. Allow to sit and stew.  Add the milk to your filling and continue to simmer.

Once the pies base is baked use chicken to create a bottom layer.

Cover your chicken layer with your filling.   You should have enough to fill your four casseroles or one large pie exactly.

Cover the pies with the top crust and brush them heavily with the egg wash.

Bake them at 375 for about 30 minutes.


I found that my filling was not thick enough so I added a little flour to thicken it up before adding it to the pan. 

You could easily use all frozen or canned vegetables to take reduce your prep work. 

Want beef?  Change the meat to your choice and use beef stock instead of chicken.

Want vegetarian?  Don’t use meat.  Add some extra veggies (green beans, corn) and use a vegetarian broth instead of chicken.  I can’t wait to try this!!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

Per a request, I made some PB&J cupcakes.  They turned out pretty good (received great reviews) but I have a couple of tips I learned that I will share throughout this posting. 

4 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/8 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-5/8 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1 cup jelly (I used strawberry)

1/3 cup peanut butter
2 cups confectioner/powdered sugar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons milk (enough to give it the consistency you would like – I used more for this recipe to create a smooth look to the cupcakes)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners (recipe says it makes 16 but I used an ice cream scoop to measure consistently and only had enough batter for 13 cupcakes). 

Put the butter, sugar, and peanut butter in a bowl and beat together for 1-2 minutes, or until well mixed.  Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract.  Stir in the flour and baking powder and then fold them into the mixture, alternating with the milk.  Spoon the batter into the paper liners. 

Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean (be careful not to over bake or it will be dry).  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 

Scoop out a portion of the center of each cupcake.  I used an apple core remover to make this easy and consistent.  Fill the hole you have created with jelly.  I transferred some jelly into a squeeze bottle with a small enough opening to reduce the mess. 


Cream peanut butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I used my large mixer because it gets thick). Beat in honey and vanilla. Beat in enough milk to achieve a spreading consistency. It's enough frosting for 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.  Frost and decorate.

Kids in the Kitchen: Character Bread

My kids had a great time making this - and eating it :)  You can do any character your creative mind will let you imagine.  The original recipe I found was for a turtle.  I decided to start with a teddy bear since I thought that would be easy.  I found instructions for a bunny that can be turned into a cute veggie tray (cut out the tummy for dip) that I can't wait to make for a future gathering!


Bread dough (I used a frozen dough)
1 egg
Decorations (in this case I used raisins for eyes)


Let the dough rise, punch it down and form balls for the body parts.  Assemble the dough balls on a greased baking sheet.  Push two raisins in the head for eyes.  Cover the dough with plastic and let it rise again for 30 minutes.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Meanwhile, make an egg wash by whisking an egg with 1 tablespoon of water.  Brush the dough lightly with the wash and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. 


My raisins were not pushed in very good and they puffed up a lot when cooked.  I'm not sure yet what to do to solve that but I thought I would explain why my teddy bears eyes looks so crazy.  The kids got a real good laugh out of our crazy eyed bear :)

The turtle version that I originally found suggested using a knife to cut a crisscross pattern on the "shell" and maybe adding a little green food coloring to the egg wash to create more of a reptilian look. 

Consider how much dough you need.  The bunny that I hope to make next requires 2 loafs of bread. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

California Vacation: Beaches & Piers

There are many great beaches in California! I'm going to talk about a few that I have visited and feel they are worth a visit.

Santa Monica Pier (LA area)

This one is often on movies! It’s a wooden pier that has a lot of action and a Ferris Wheel ($5 per person/per ride or you can purchase wristbands for all the rides all day). The atmosphere and activities available are exactly what I had hoped for. You can drive around for a while looking for a cheap parking meter and then walk a ways to the action or I have found it better to just pay for the pier parking that is right there. When I was there in February 2011, the parking rates were $1 each half hour with a maximum of $6 a day. If you arrive after 4:00 pm you pay the $6 and get refunded for any amount you did not use if you leave before 10:00 pm (so they can eventually let the attendant go home). It also has a beautiful beach that is very easy to access. There is great “high end” shopping on the Third Street Promenade (about one block from the pier).

From the end of the pier looking back toward the beach. 

View from Ferris Wheel (night time)

Under the Pier - nice spot for pictures.

Redondo Beach (South of LA)

This has a large more modern pier that loops around an area of the beach. It has many shops and places to eat. There are great views! The beach area that I discovered was kind of small but the pier itself is worth a visit. It’s also a great spot if you like to watch boats. There are many picture opportunities and bring some bread for the birds - they are very interesting! I fell in love with a Farmers Market that they have year round on Thursdays! You do have to pay for parking unless you find a spot further away and walk.

Great Farmer's Market on Thursday mornings!

My favorite farmer's market find!  I go back every time I can to get some more :-)

Newport Beach (Orange County)

Mission Beach (San Diego)

"Borrowed" picture

This is like a carnival on the beach! There is a roller coaster and other fun rides along with many shops and places to eat. It has a great sandy beach that is very easy to get to. Parking is mostly free – it’s sometimes difficult to find an open spot but it’s manageable. It's also not far from Seaworld.

Venice Beach (LA area)

Otherwise known as "Muscle Beach". The beach is very nice! There are a lot of interesting shops, places to eat, and artist tables. You can even have your palm read :) It's a beach that I am glad to visit but it's also the home of many homeless and panhandlers. The main parking area (which I think we paid to park at) is close to the “Muscle” area and is great for kids to experience. My little ones started to get a little scared the more we walked away from that. It’s beautifully put together (wonderful bike path along the beach) but the site of sleeping people in makeshift homes and the occasional human fecal matter was something they did not enjoy. It is a great place if you want to experience something more than the usual “beach atmosphere”.

My kids loved the sand castle but not the guy sleeping next to it waiting for donations.

Unfortunately, the most common product you will see advertised at this beach...

"Borrowed" picture - looks cleaner than what I would have been able to take myself.

Freakshow - Yep it's the place from the TV Show
You can see some of the shows entertainment for free:  two-headed turtle.

Like I said - great beach and bike path!

Skate Park


Laguna Beach

Exploring sea life in the rocks

I like Laguna because they have a mix of beach and rocks (where we like to explore - and they are not clearly separate from each other).  They also have easy access restrooms, a kids play area and shopping.

La Jolla (South of San Diego)

Parking is free but very hard to get! This is a beautiful area to visit so it's worth the walk. I will let the pictures speak for themselves on this one.

My kids love playing on these and they make cute pictures.

And you can swim with the seals!

Small swimming area