Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Butter Me Up: Butter-Pecan Drop Scones

I'd been wanting to make a scrumptious baked treat for some time, and had my eye on this scone recipe I posted a while back. When I finally had the time to make it, I poked around my cupboards and fridge, only to find that I didn't quite have all the right ingredients on hand. However, I did have what I needed to try another variation that had been lurking in the back of my mind—not as sweet, but still full of rich, comforting flavors. And LOTS of butter. As a bonus, these scones are simply spooned out into mounds before baking. No kneading, flouring, or fussing required!

Butter-Pecan Drop Scones

Butter-Pecan Drop Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and set aside.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, measure out milk and mix in egg and vanilla extract until combined. In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pecans, breaking up any clumps of sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Pour milk mixture in all at once, and stir together gently until just combined and there are no dry pockets of flour left. Spoon twelve mounds onto prepared sheet, spacing them evenly, and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until browned on the top and somewhat firm to the touch (you want them to be cooked all the way through). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: I chose not to use any glaze or topping for these so I could enjoy the flavors of butter and pecans, but you could certainly make the glaze I used in the original recipe, or sprinkle the tops with a little granulated sugar before baking. You could also add a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg into the dry ingredients for a hint of spice :-)


Monday, September 14, 2015

The Nose Knows: Herbal Carpet Deodorizer

If you have furry, four-legged companions, and you also have any type of carpeting or rugs in your home, you already know these two things don't necessarily mix. In fact, sooner or later, you may have some lingering odors that even the most nose-blind would find hard to ignore. There are plenty of carpet products in the stores, but many contain chemicals and fragrances that might not be so good for you, your pet, and anyone else in your household. Thankfully, you can make a quick and easy carpet deodorizer at home, with just a few ingredients:

Homemade Herbal Carpet Deodorizer Ingredients

Herbal Carpet Deodorizer

1 lb. baking soda
1/2 cup loosely packed crumbled, dried herbs such as lavender, sage, or rosemary (use whatever you like best or a combination)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Spoon into an airtight jar or container and store in a cool, dry place. To use, sprinkle a thin layer evenly over carpet and let stand for 10-30 minutes, then vacuum as usual—your vacuum will consequently be deodorized as well :-)

Have any great home-cleaning hacks that are easy and safe for the whole family? Be sure to share in the comments!

Notes: You can certainly use just the baking soda for its odor-absorbing properties, but the herbs add an additional odor-fighting layer that will also help repel any critters with more than four legs. Be sure to mix the ingredients together on a relatively dry day (or in the comfort of your air conditioning) to avoid clumping. For serious deodorizing, sprinkle and leave overnight before vacuuming—just be sure to keep everyone out of the room while it sits!


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Tried and True: Lemon-Rosemary Zucchini Bread

For some reason, traditional zucchini bread recipes tend to be strongly spiced with things like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. These are certainly great flavors, but they completely obscure the delicateness of the squash. I suspect the people who developed these recipes never really liked zucchini at all! So I thought about how I like zucchini best—with things like butter, lemon, and fresh herbs - which also happen to be traditional flavors in many parts of the world. The result was a hit, where all the components served to enhance one another perfectly:

Lemon-Rosemary Zucchini Bread

Lemon-Rosemary Zucchini Bread

One large or two medium zucchini, shredded and excess moisture squeezed out (use a clean towel or strong paper towels—you should have roughly 1 to 1 1/2 cups of zucchini)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole-milk sour cream (or plain yogurt)

Prep zucchini per above and set aside. Butter an 8 x 8 inch square pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest and rosemary. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; stir in eggs until combined, then add the zucchini and mix together. Gently stir in half the flour mixture, followed by the sour cream, then the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers (the flavor is even better the next day).

Notes: Like all quick breads, this is really just cake in sheep's clothing, and as such it is delicious with your coffee in the morning or a spot of tea in the afternoon. For an easy substitute, use one cup fresh blueberries in place of the zucchini. For more sweetness, stir 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar together with just enough fresh lemon juice to drizzle over cooled bread.