Monday, December 8, 2014

Cranberry-Orange Scones | More Holiday Baking

'Tis the season for baking...cookies, pies and scones.  This is a new recipe for our family that has quickly become a favorite.  It is delicious with coffee (for the grown ups) and hot chocolate for the kids.  These scones are quick to whip on the kitchen and add wonderful color to the table.  A great addition to any holiday breakfast for guests or yourself!

I have tried a few different scone recipes, as I think everyone has their own recipe they follow.  By  tweaking and combing parts of different recipes, I came up with this recipe.  I love that this recipe yields large and soft scones.
There is nothing worse that a hard, dense scone.

Cranberry-Orange Scones
3 cups of flour
1/3 cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
11 tablespoons of diced, unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 cup of whole milk
1 cup of whole, fresh cranberries
The Glaze
3/4 cups of powdered sugar
Orange Juice-pour until desired consistency
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in KitchenAid with paddle attachment (it will be best for the wet dough.)  Add the diced  butter to the dry ingredients and mix on low until the butter is mixed in and the mixture feels like the consistency of course sand. 
Whisk together the eggs and milk in a separate bowl (it will look like your are about to make scrambled eggs.)  Add the mixture slowly to flour mixture while mixing on low.  Turn off the mixer once added.  Fold in cranberries using a spatula or wooden spoon.

 The dough will wet.  Sprinkle some flour onto the counter and scrape dough out of the bowl and onto the counter.  Knead the dough a couple times and pat into a disk.  I love how you can see the color and shape of the cranberries in the dough.  It seem so natural and authentic.

Sprinkle some flour onto of the disk.  Cut the disk into pieces, like you would cut a pizza.  The kids were laughing saying I was making cranberry pizza! 

Place scones on the lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes.  The tops should be golden brown and the scones puffed.  You will see some of the juices from the popped cranberries.

Just look at the thickness of the scones and the generous serving of cranberries in each piece!

While the scones are baking make the glaze by  stirring together the orange juice and powdered sugar.  Use a whisk and make sure the glaze is smooth, with no lumps of sugar. 

When scones are finished baking, let them cool slightly and then add the glaze by drizzling on top with a spoon. 

The scones were so delicious...sweet and tart from the sugar, cranberries and orange glaze.  I loved using fresh cranberries because of how they juiced and popped while baking.  I am think that next time I will add a bit of vanilla...

These scones are delicious and could be made for any breakfast, not just Christmas.  They would be lovely served at a brunch, bridal shower or baby shower.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mini Skillet Frittata | Easy Holiday Breakfast for Guests

I am always searching for breakfast dishes that double as easy entertaining and easy assembly.  After having a wonderful breakfast out the other morning, my search was over.  We had a lovely breakfast out with friends and I had the most delicious frittata served in a skillet.  The presentation was lovely (check it out on my Instagram) and it was delicious.  I was very inspired to try and create my own.

I have mini cast iron skillets that I use for single serve cookies and brownies…with vanilla ice cream, but now I also use them for single serve frittatas.  We have holiday guests coming later in the month and these frittatas will be perfect to serve to company.  When having guests, I like to keep it casual and simple!  These frittatas can be made for individual tastes and served with fresh fruit, whole wheat toast with jam and coffee.  A very easy, casual and yet, elegant breakfast.  Guests will be impressed with the use of the skillet!

Mini Skillet Frittata (for 2 skillets)

4-6 eggs

¾ to 1 cup of whole milk or half-n-half

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Additions: cheese, peppers, mushroom, ham, onion

First, place skillets on a baking sheet (in case of spilling during the cooking process.)  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place additions (cheese, peppers, etc.) into the skillet.  I used white cheddar cheese, feta cheese and peppers. 

Mix eggs, milk and salt and pepper together.  Make sure mixture is whisked well.  Pour egg mixture into skillet.  Place baking sheet into the oven and bake until the egg mixture puffs and is set in the center.  The edges will turn a golden brown.  This should take about 15 minutes.  While the eggs cook, guests can fix their coffee and relax around the table!

Remove baking sheet from oven.  Use potholders to handle the skillets!  I like to serve the skillet on a heatproof plate with a cloth.  The frittatas can be served immediately, but remind those that you are serving that the skillets are hot!
The frittatas were golden and delicious.  I loved the combination of white cheddar cheese melted together with feta cheese.  The result was sharp and salty mixed with the fluffiness of the egg mixture. 

The frittatas are a great way to use up any leftover veggies that you may have on hand.  They can also make an easy week night dinner.  There are numerous things that can be added to the frittata…the combinations are endless.  I would love to make a “meat lover” version with bits of bacon, crumbled cooked breakfast sausage and cheddar cheese.  Another great combination would be just veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms and diced tomatoes with feta cheese. 

Have fun and be creative!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Sugar Cookies & Decorating Tips

I love making Christmas sugar cookies.  I loved making them when I was younger and now as an adult, I love making them with my children.  Of course, sugar cookies are the best kind of cookie to give to Santa, too!

I have been following the same cookie recipe for years, which can be found here.  It makes a very sweet and soft cookie.  Make sure not to over bake it!

 It is so much fun to pick the different cookie cutters and to press them into the dough to make the shapes.

Decorating the cookies is even more fun because you get to decided what colors to use and any other added decorations such as sanding sugar or sprinkles.

I love having Christmas sugar cookies on hand during the holiday season.  It is such a joy for my kids to have a cookie after school or with some hot chocolate after playing outside.  But like I said before, they are good to have on hand for Santa on Christmas Eve.

I like using royal icing to frost my sugar cookies.  Make sure that when you are icing the cookies, the royal icing is able to fall back on itself and is not too runny.  You don't want it running off the cookie, but staying on the cookie and spreading itself out.

Royal Icing Recipe

3 egg whites
4-5 cups of powdered sugar

Using the whisk attachment in a KitchenAid or handheld mixer, beat the egg whites until they are frothy.

Slowly add in powdered sugar
and mix until smooth.  Depending on the consistency of the icing you may need to add more powdered sugar.  If it is too thick, dribble in a little water and mix until you think you have the right consistency.   

When the cookies are cool, they are ready to decorate.  Make sure they are completely cool, as any warmth will make the icing melt and run.  I like to have all my colors, bowls and piping bags laid out prior to decorating.  Keeping it organized and tidy will make the decorating process go much more smoothly.  I scoop out the icing and divide it up between bowls, then add my food coloring to make my colors.  I like the Wilton brand of gel colors, which can be found at Michael's craft stores.

To ice cookies with layers (like the reindeer and mittens) I did the light brown first, let it get hard and then do the next layer of icing, such as the collar, antlers and noses.  It is important to make sure the icing has set before adding the other colors, or else they will blend together.

Packaged in cello bags with crinkle and my tags, ready to give to the neighbors.

I love making snowflake cutout cookies.  They are fun and easy to decorate.  With these cookies, I just make the royal icing without any gel coloring.

I add the first layer of white icing and make sure it sets.  Then I add lines of icing highlighting the fancy snowflake parts.  While still wet, I add I then add sprinkles and sugars.

They turn out beautifully...just imaging snacking on them with a big mug of hot chocolate!

Other Christmas sugar cookies that my children helped make...they insist on using a lot of color!  But as you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to decorating Christmas cutouts.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Packages | Gift Wrap Ideas

It is December!  Some people may have their shopping almost complete, while others may have just started.  Some people may still be in “list” making mode and trying to figure out who to purchase gifts for! 

I made my gift lists months ago and have been doing a little shopping here and there over the course of the last few months.  I don’t like to leave my shopping for the last minute.  I like to give myself plenty of time to shop and make sure that I get the right gift for the right person.  I also like to make sure I have plenty of time to rush jobs!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I started to organize my packaging and wrapping items.  I even started wrapping some gifts!  As I was working away happily in my own little world (with Christmas carols playing in the background), I thought to myself, “what a great blog post this would be!” 

 This year, my gift wrapping philosophy is to keep it simple, clean and classic...almost vintage with a modern twist.  I am keeping the wrapping paper simple by using solid colors like red and white, along with brown kraft paper (same color for gift bags) and of course, cello bags.

For decoration, I am using ribbon.  This year I am really into red plaid, cotton stitched, reds, whites and natural twine.  I think the simplicity of the wrapped packages under the decorated tree will look beautiful and stunning.  Almost too pretty to open!

What I really love about my gift wrapping this year are the tags I am using.  There was a preview of my tags at Thanksgiving (which doubled as gift tags and place cards, seen here.)  I wanted to do the same thing for Christmas and I had fun designing the tags by enlisting the help of my children.  I asked the kids what their favorite Christmas “things” are and from their answers, I came up with the tags.  I looked for images online and used my two favorite fonts-one of them is what I used for our wedding, almost 10 years ago.

My son loves to watch the “Reindeer Cam” app and that is how the reindeer tag was created.  My daughter loves snowflakes and loves to investigate each one with a magnifying glass, so the snowflake tag was created in her honor.  Both kids love to go sledding in our front yard, so I like to imagine they are the children on the sled tag.  My family has sold Christmas trees for many years (my parents have a Christmas tree farm) and so the tree tag represents our love of Christmas trees.  Lastly, the Santa tag…my children still believe in the magic of Santa.  This tag was created for them and the hope that they can still believe for a long, long time.  I think the tags are just darling!  A simple and sweet approach to labeling any gift, baked good or table setting. 

In my kitchen, there is a built-in desk with many drawers.  It is very handy and I have turned one of the drawers into where I hold my “stash.”  It is where I keep my packaging supplies like ribbon, tags, kraft bags, cello bags, crinkle, paper cutter and scissors.  It is very handy to have it all in one place and then I do not have to run around the house looking for everything.

This was my view while I was organizing and wrapping.  Such a picturesque winter scene!  

Happy wrapping!