Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice Scones

Hi, everyone!  I’m overjoyed to be writing this from home (arrived late Sunday night), but instead of an update just yet, this is a warm welcome to a delightful event…

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a baby shower — even longer since I had one.  (My “baby boy” is 30 and my “baby girl” is 27.)  How time flies… and how quickly babies grow up!

That’s why I’m tickled to be part of this virtual event honoring Jenna of Jenna’s Everything Blog.  (For an honest, humorous, heartfelt chronicle of her pregnancy, please click on this link.It’s a joy reading the musings of this first-time-Mom-to-be and I’m still trying to figure out how she does that disappearing belly trick! :)

Today’s hostess is Veronica of Veronica’s Cornucopia and she put a lot of effort into coordinating things.  Thank you!  It was fun to be in on the “secret” from the start; later in this post, there are links to everyone who joined in to surprise Jenna.  (Be sure to stop in and say “hi!”)

Awhile back, Jenna announced that their bundle of joy is a sweet lil’ girl and it made me think of a nursery rhyme I used to read to my own daughter.

Sugar and spice and everything nice,

That’s what little girls are made of.

Which reminded me of a terrific scone recipe… 

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice Scones

2 c. all purpose flour

4 to 6 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/3 c. dried fruit (I used raisins — regular and golden)

1 c. heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425° F.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients with a fork.  Add dried fruit; mix to coat.

Add heavy cream; mix just until dough gathers around the fork.

Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Knead briefly (about 5 seconds); pat into a circle.

Cut dough into wedges; transfer to an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes until tops are golden; cool on a wire rack.

If you’re in the mood for something “sweeter,” drizzle with powdered sugar icing, if desired.

(P.S.  No recipe credit that I know of — it’s been in my recipe box for ages — source unknown.)

In closing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give something to our “sweetest” guest of honor — baby Alice!

A is for angelic — a gift from heaven above.

L is for the little things Mom will come to know and love.

I is for the intricate way God wove you in her womb.

C is for your countenance that will light up every room.

E is for eternal — you’re in Mom’s heart to stay.

Hello there, dear sweet Alice — Happy Baby Shower Day!

Thanks again for joining us and congratulations, Jenna!  Here are the links…

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City Songbird (Greensboro, NC): Merry Christmas, Alice!
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Eats Well With Others (New York, NY): Peanut Butter and Honey Ice Cream
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Hunting for Bliss (Bozeman, MT): Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
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Pinking Shears & Broccoli Spears (Newark, DE): Making Food Good For Your Baby
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Sydney Shares (Eugene, OR): Baby BLTs 
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That’s Some Good Cookin’ (Salt Lake City, UT): Cheesecake Cookie Bars
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The Pajama Chef (Bloomington, IN): Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup
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Two Dogs In The Kitchen (Sterling, MI): Spicy Asian Meatballs
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Veronica’s Cornucopia (Wichita, KS): Raspberry Almond Fudge Cookies
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Very Culinary (Sacramento, CA): Toasted Orzo and Chickpea Salad
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Words on Wendhurst: A Gift For Jenna and Alice
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Enjoying the sweetest things in life,

~ Kim

Loafing Around

The title of this post and the halcyon appearance of my last post might lead you to believe that I do nothing but enjoy a life of leisure since I made the transition to home.  Not so.  I’ve been working my butt off!  (Figuratively speaking, of course… although climbing up and down hills does have its merits.)

Part of my “back to the basics” kick has been to create a space conducive to writing — inside and out — household and self included.

This has meant perspiring in the 90°+ mid-day heat as needed, pushing my proverbial boundaries, and hacking away at a four-page “to do” list until it’s no longer dangling over my head.  (My brain is funny that way.)  Some folks call it all-or-nothing syndrome; I prefer to call it “no more excuses.”

Between this influx of activity, I worked up a powerful hunger.  (A girl’s gotta eat, ya know…)

Food-wise (in my opinion), there’s nothing more basic than bread.  With a history spanning thousands of years and variations ranging from flat to fluffy, bread has graced many a table and sustained multitudes of generations.  Who can resist its universal appeal?  (Even Maria von Trapp extolled its virtues: do re mi fa so la TI….. with jam and bread.) ;)

Soft, warm, crunchy… homemade bread presents pillowy pockets of opportunity, waiting to soak up a smear of butter, a spoonful of jam, a drizzle of honey, a dab of peanut butter, or — my perennial favorite — gravy.  (You haven’t lived until you’ve “sopped gravy,” as many a Southerner can attest.)

But, it was too hot too think about gravy, so here we are again… “back at the very beginning.”

The best “basic” bread I’ve eaten in recent history was inspired by Alice D’Antoni Phillips of Ally’s Kitchen.  Profuse thanks, Ally!  It truly fulfilled my basic requirements.  (And made wonderful croutons!)

Basic Baguette

(adapted from Rustic Boho Buttermilk Bread, linked above)

3 to 3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided

1 tsp. sea salt

1 (1/4 oz.) pkg. active dry yeast

2 1/2 Tbsp. warm water (110° F)

1/2 tsp. sugar (I added some to speed things along)

1 c. buttermilk, at room temperature (or a scant cup of milk “soured” with 1 T. lemon juice)

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for the “rising” bowl and baking sheet

First, whisk together 2-1/2 cups of flour and the salt; set aside.

Next, lightly oil a large bowl; set aside.

In another large bowl, combine yeast and water (and sugar, if using); stir to break up any lumps.

When mixture is foamy (about 5 – 10 minutes), stir in buttermilk (or sour milk) and olive oil until combined.

Add 1 cup of the flour/salt mixture; mix well.  (I used a sturdy wooden spoon.)

Add the next cup of flour/salt mixture; mix well.  (Ditto.)

Add enough of the remaining flour/salt mixture to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.  (I used my hands at this point.)

Sprinkle remaining “plain” flour on a flat surface.  (Note to self:  sprinkle first, then get hands sticky.)

Turn dough onto floured surface; knead 5 to 10 minutes.  (Note to you: only knead in enough flour to keep it from sticking!)

Place dough in previously oiled bowl; turn “bottom side up” so the oiled surface is topside.

Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place until double.  (Approximate rising time is 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on how “active” your yeast is.)

Punch down dough; let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450° F and lightly oil the middle of a large baking sheet.  (No need to oil the whole sheet.)

Turn dough onto floured surface again; knead 3 to 5 minutes, then shape into one long baguette.  (I rolled it like a Playdough “rope” — FUN!)  (By the way, the original recipe makes two loaves… much as I love bread, I can only eat so much.)

Place baguette on oiled baking sheet.

With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes in the top, 3″ apart.

Bake 15 minutes at 450° F.  Reduce heat to 350° F; bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you “thump” on it.  (The original recipe called for 20 to 25 minutes of additional baking time, but a single loaf only required 10 to 15 minutes.)

Cool slightly.

Break out the butter and jam.

Enjoying the basic-ness of bread — and writing,

~ Kim

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Guest Post: Chili Chicken Soft Buns

One of the perks of living on a lake is that folks just naturally stop by to visit.  Of course, a warm welcome and a little lunch is in order. :)

Via the wonders of modern day technology, that same warm welcome can be found in foodie friends’ kitchens all over the globe.  One particularly welcoming place is Exquisite Niche.  (Note, per Kimby:  website no longer functional; link has been disabled.)

I was drawn to Gursahiba Anand’s blog for several reasons: 1) the name!  2) her passion for “delectable food” and 3) the fact that she loves to create a joyful ambience in her home.  Now, Gursahiba has graciously agreed to come to “the lake” and I’m tickled to introduce you to her!

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Kim recently did her first guest post for me on Cardamom Braided Bread.  This was incredible and utterly delicious.  This is my first guest post too!!:)  And I am as much excited as her to do all this together.  She asked me to do something that I absolutely love to do.  If you follow my blog then you must have guessed, it’s BAKING!!

Since my school times, I often visit a small confectionery shop called the ‘Maxims’.   Its got the most fresh breads, pizzas, rolls, buns, pastries, muffins, cakes etc..  If I happen to stop by, I always buy more than what I can eat.  I know since childhood the taste of any of its fresh bakes hasn’t changed till date.  This shop hasn’t even opened more outlets but happens to be very popular.  My most favourite are the fresh chicken rolls or buns which they make.  I always wanted to learn how to make them.  When I actually tried it, trust me, the homemade ones were as good as what I eat there.

Often I am asked “why Exquisite Niche?”  It’s because I want everything in my house and life to be just exquisite (like all the women in this world!)  But I truly believe homemade goods create some sort of warmth in the house which brings your loved ones together.  When I cook and bake, I not only get appreciation, but I enjoy when my husband, JS, comes over and helps me out and is my official tester.  This brings us to spend more quality time together, enjoying our most favourite activity EATING!! ;)

“Moments like these not only make my food exquisite, but the ambience and the energy in the house, too.”

My fling in the kitchen making these soft buns has been the most fun-filled experience.  I hope you enjoy it too!!:)

Chili Chicken Soft Buns

Bread dough:

1 cup warm water

1 tbsp fresh yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

500 gms all-purpose flour

1 egg

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Stuffing:

250 gm boneless chicken cut into very small pieces

1 small capsicum, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 onion, cut into 1/2″ pieces

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp chili paste

1 tsp soya sauce

2 tsp cornflour

3 tbsp tomato ketchup

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Garnish:

Some black caraway seeds

Preparation:

Put the salt, sugar and yeast in the warm water.  Keep aside for 5 minutes.

Mix the flour and the egg. Pour in the yeast mixture.  Knead the dough well.  The dough would be soft and very sticky.  Knead for about 10 minutes.

Add oil gradually.  Knead well with the knuckles until the dough is soft and can be rolled into a ball in the hands.  Knead a little more.

Dust a bowl with flour and place the dough in it.  Cover and keep aside till the dough is doubled in volume.

While the dough is kept aside, prepare the stuffing.  Heat oil in a pan.  Add the chicken pieces and saute till they are cooked.  Keep aside.

In the same pan, heat some more oil.  Add garlic, chilli paste and onions.  Add capsicum and saute for 2 minutes.  Add soya sauce, cornflour, ketchup, salt and pepper.  Add cooked chicken; mix well and keep aside.

Bring the bread dough back.  Punch it down.  Divide the dough into small balls.

Take one ball and roll it flat into a circle.  Put 1 tsp stuffing in it.  Bring the edges together and make a ball using your hands.  Place on a greased baking tray with the joint side down.  Cover and let it rise to double.  Sprinkle with black caraway seeds and bake at 180 degree celsius for 30 minutes until golden.

Serve and eat HOT!!!

Thanks Kim, for letting me share this space! :)

-Gursahiba Anand

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It was my pleasure having you here, Gursahiba!

Enjoying the joyful ambience of friendship,

~ Kim

Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

Grandma's Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

Sometimes you revisit the past to move forward in the present, only to discover the past has changed. (!)

This post was originally entitled “My First Guest Post” and it was linked to a blog that apparently no longer exists.  (No worries.  I totally understand… “stuff happens.”)  Following are excerpts from the original post, along with Grandma’s Cardamom Bread recipe.

One of the things I love about blogging is that it’s like having the world’s cookbook at your fingertips.  You can find a recipe for anything, anytime, anywhere!

Coincidentally (or not), cardamom isn’t so easy to find, especially in the middle of Oklahoma.  After I finally located some, I promptly made a batch of Kheer that I’d been wanting to try…

As well as my Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread) — a recipe from my past, in more ways than one!

Grandma’s Cardamom Bread (Bohemian Braided Bread)

1/4 c. warm water

1 pkg. yeast

1/2 c. milk, scalded & cooled

6 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 c. butter, softened

2-1/2 to 3 c. flour (more or less), divided

1 tsp. cardamom

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. mace

1/2 c. raisins (I use regular & golden raisins)

Powdered sugar icing

Maraschino cherries & whole blanched almonds, for garnish

Dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand until foamy.

Combine milk, sugar, and salt.  Stir in yeast mixture.

Add egg and butter; mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add enough flour (in two additions) to form a soft dough.  Use only enough flour as needed and “don’t be afraid of a sticky dough,” per Grandma.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until it springs back and forms a smooth ball.

Place dough in a buttered bowl, then turn “buttered side up.”  Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled; punch down.

Allow to rise until doubled a second time; punch down again.

Sprinkle dough with mace, cardamom and raisins; knead in until combined.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts.  Shape 3 parts into 14″ long ropes and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Braid loosely to form one large braid; pinch ends to seal.

Divide remaining dough into 3 parts; shape into 12″ long ropes.  Braid them and place smaller braid on top of larger one; pinch ends together.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until double.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Bake 40 to 60 minutes until golden and “hollow sounding” when thumped.  Transfer from baking sheet to a wire rack.

Drizzle powdered sugar icing over the loaf while it’s warm; garnish with maraschino cherries and whole blanched almonds.

Cool completely before slicing.

Grandma's Cardamom Bread

Enjoying the flavor of friendship — past and present,

~ Kim

Something Old, Something New

When I first started this blog, I had no idea what a gift it would be to meet the amazing and diverse people who are now my friends (including you.)

Every day I’m blessed with real-life stories that make me smile, cry, hope, cheer, and want to dispense hugs.

I also find myself drooling more than usual.  And laughing.  A lot.

This one's a tad out of focus, but I liked the angles. :)

Prior to joining the ranks, my perception of “cyber world” was that it was a cold, unfeeling place — a place where faceless human beings exchanged trivial bits of information.  (Some of it not so nice.)  Boy, was I wrong.

Where else could you post of picture of slightly blurry cranberry bread and know that it’s okay?  That no one expects perfection, just… me?

And every time I click on one of your posts, I find… you.

Reading your day-to-day ups and downs, joys and triumphs, kitchen foibles, family matters, or just plain zany/fun/thoughtful perspectives on life has enriched mine beyond measure.

Cold and unfeeling?  Nope.

Heartwarming?  Definitely.

Makes me want to bake something right now!

Here’s a quick-bread from my “archives” (and no, the recipe isn’t carved on a stone tablet) with a few variations thrown in over the years because, well… you know me. :)

Cranberry Orange Bread with Walnuts & Coriander

2 c. flour

1 c. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. coriander

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Zest from 1/2 an orange

1 1/2 c. fresh cranberries (truthfully, I drained my leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving to use it up…but either way is good)

1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts

3/4 c. orange juice

2 Tbsp. butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan (or two smaller pans.)

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Add orange zest, cranberries and walnuts; stir to coat, then set aside.

Microwave the orange juice in a 2-cup glass measuring cup (you could probably use a smaller cup, but I tend to slosh) for about 45 seconds — do not boil.

Add butter and stir until melted; cool slightly.  Mix the egg into the orange juice/butter, then add all at once to flour mixture.  Stir just until blended.  Spread batter into prepared pan(s.)

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes (less time for smaller pans) on the center rack of your oven.  Test with a wooden pick to determine doneness.  If bottom of loaf appears to be browning too much, move your oven rack up.  (Works for me!)

Cool 10 minutes (in the pan) on a wire rack.  Remove from pan(s) to cool completely.  Wrap in plastic wrap and/or foil and store in a cool place.

I generally make this a day ahead so the moisture from the fruit softens the crust and makes slicing easier — but, it’s great “fresh out of the oven” too, if you don’t mind crumbly slices.

Oh, and the something new?

I finally overcame my skepticism towards the Internet and created a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/okielicious).

Friends are always welcome… there and here!

Enjoying the old with the new,

~ Kim

A Labor Of Love

It finally cooled down over Labor Day weekend and I took advantage of it to fire up the oven.  Call it a labor of love.

(Kind of a monochromatic labor of love, lol.)

Details — and color — coming soon to a blog near you!

Enjoying life’s subtleties,

~ Kim

Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Good morning (or afternoon or evening), wherever you are.  Thought I’d start your week with a sunrise from my recent mini-vacation.  Take a moment to enjoy…….

Okay, back to business.  (I know you’re busy — I am, too.)

First, hearty thanks to Mike at The Culinary Lens for “tagging” me.  His website is a treasure — food, photos, travelogues, restaurant reviews, creative get-togethers, you name it!  (Do yourself a favor and click on his links.)  I feel honored to be among Mike’s “tag-ee’s” — thank you, friend!

Let the games begin…  Since I’ve only been blogging a few months, it was difficult to select The Magnificent Seven.  (Or at least that’s the idea behind this venture.)  I’ll cut to the chase.

Note:  For your viewing pleasure (and expediency), I’ve linked the photos to the respective posts, too.  Click away!

Most Beautiful Post.  Last Of The Magnolias (Flowergram III) ~ Fiction, flowers, and a few thoughts about aging gracefully.

Most Popular Post.  Granita ParfaitThe little champagne flute that could.

Most Controversial Post.  Alright.  I’ve posted everything from “Close Encounters” to “Cow Tipping,” so I had to think about this one for a moment.  In the end, it boiled down to “credibility,” which my last post surely jeopardized…  Who in their right mind would admit to eating __________?  (Click the link if you must know.)

In my defense, I’ll answer that question with a question.  Why do folks drool over Red Velvet Cake with more food coloring than my afore-hinted-at choice (not to mention 2 pounds of cream cheese and powdered sugar), or vinaigrette sweetened with sugar or honey liberally drizzled over a perfectly good plate of arugula?  Because sometimes ya just gotta.

Food is supposed to make you smile, yes?

Most Helpful Post.  I submit a recent post, with this summary:  Don’t hurry, be happy. 

Post Whose Success Surprised You.  My very first post, Almost…  (Thank you, friends, for your comments.)  Any post that generates comments is a success to a novice blogger.

The Post That Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved.  A Tribute To Trees.  “The Lightning Tree” is worth the look alone — probably the most dramatic photograph I’ve ever taken.  So far.

The Post You’re Most Proud Of.  Boy howdy, aren’t we proud of all of our posts?  It’s why we blog, right? — to give others a glimpse of our corner of the planet?  Or, at the very least, the inner workings of our __________minds?  (Feel free to insert your own adjectives…)

I’m downright proud of Encouragement: The Ripple Effect (thanks, Isabelle!) — not only for the encouragement, but because you meet some of the nicest folks in that post (tee hee) — and Gumby, too.

Tag, you’re it!

1)  Food Served With Love and Calories

2)  An Italian Cooking In The Midwest

3)  Cooking With Books

4)  Running With The Devil(ed) Eggs

5)  Welcome To Shirley’s Luxury Haven

Go!  Play!!!

NOTE:  Due to the length of this post, highlights from the mini-vacation will be coming soon to a blog near you.  As for the title of this post… please disregard.  I’m including the kitchen sink.

Kim’s Kitchen Sink Biscuits

2 c. flour

4 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. cream of tartar

2 t. sugar

1/2 c. shortening (or butter, chilled and cut into small pieces)

2/3 c. whole milk

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

*4 strips of bacon, fried and crumbled

*1/4 c. green onions, sauteed in bacon drippings (drain on paper towels before adding)

*1/2 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Additional butter, melted

Garlic salt

Preheat oven to 425°.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Cut in shortening (or butter) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Fold in garlic, bacon*, onions* and cheese* and stir gently to coat with flour.  (*Measurements are approximate — it’s a Southern thang — use your judgment.)  Add milk all at once; stir just until moistened.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  (I generally check them around 9 minutes; if the bottoms are browning too quickly, move them to the top rack to finish baking.)  Remove biscuits to a cooling rack; brush with melted butter and sprinkle with garlic salt to taste.  Serve warm.

Enjoying all things Southern, and tag, too!

~ Kim