Cinnamon & Sugar Scones

April 18, 2014

It’s Good Friday, and the perfect time to stay home and do some baking for Easter morning. I hope you are spending the holiday weekend surrounded by loved ones!

Perhaps it’s my British heritage that makes me so unbelievably obsessed with scones…

Cinnamon Sugar Scones

I remember my first job at the Rose & Kettle Tearoom and I had to make the scones they served there. They were the BEST scones. Sadly I lost the recipe many years ago. Back then I knew it by heart… but that was 12 years ago. TWELVE YEARS! I would eat them warm from the oven, and smother them in butter or homemade strawberry ham from the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm garden. Those were the days.

Cinnamon Sugar Scones

Even now, I still adore scones. My go-to snack with my tea latte (still  not a cool coffee drinker… sigh) at Starbucks is the lemon-cranberry scone. Yum. It’s so crumbly and delicious.

I hadn’t made scones since the ground-breaking White Chocolate & Blueberry Scones Kacie introduced me to, so I thought it was high time. I also have an abundance of all-purpose flour at my house right now. Did I tell you about that yet? In typical Julia fashion, I accidentally bought a 20-lb bag of flour at Costco when I had just bought one a couple weeks ago and put it on the top shelf in my garage. So now this little family of two has FORTY POUNDS OF ALL PURPOSE FLOUR. Does flour go bad? I don’t even know.

IMG_7327

Anyway, that’s why I’m baking up a storm. And I don’t normally bake much except chocolate chip cookies and our favourite banana chocolate chip muffins.

So cinnamon and sugar scones – they’re awesome. I love the cinnamon and sugar combo. Remember the Pretzelmaker? Do they still have those? Apparently so. Anyway, I would always get the cinnamon and sugar pretzel. LOVED it.

Cinnamon Sugar SconesI also still put cinnamon and sugar on toast. Sometimes with peanut butter. Don’t tell anyone.

Cinnamon & Sugar Scones
Adapted from Money Saving Mom
Makes 8

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, yolk separated
3 tbsps honey
1/3 cup milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 tbsps sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsps milk (more if needed)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix first four ingredients, then cut in butter with your hands until the mixture is crumbly. Separately, mix yolk, honey and milk/lemon juice. Combine with dry ingredients. Form dough into a ball and roll out on a floured surface. Form into an 8-inch round. Cut like a pizza into eight pieces. Grease a baking sheet and arrange the scones. Beat the egg white until foamy and then baste them. Sprinkle cinnamon & sugar over top. Bake for 10-12 minutes. When cool, mix together the last four ingredients and drizzle over the scones.

Cinnamon Sugar Scones

Pub food is best in pubs, right?

Beer-Battered Onion RingsYeah, that’s what I thought too. Until I made these bad boys.

At the same St. Patrick’s Day party where I served my Green Melon & Lychee Martinis, I decided to make Guinness-battered onion rings. I’d never made onion rings before, but I’d made lots of calamari, so I figured it was similar.

The good news? It is similar! And relatively straight-forward, too.

My mind was blown when I tried these onions rings for the first time. They were amazing, and quite possibly the best onion rings I’ve ever had. That’s a bold statement, but I mean it. (I sound like my Poppy. He’s 91 and every meal is the best he’s ever had these days!)

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

You can make these with any type of beer, but I used Guinness because it’s Irish and I was trying to be festive. They turn out darker than if you use a lager or IPA, though!

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

2 cups flour
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups beer (I used Guinness)
2 large onions
Vegetable oil, for frying

Whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk in the beer until the mixture is well combined. Slice the onions 1/2-inch-thick rings and toss them with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Add at least 2 inches of vegetable oil to a large pot. Heat until a piece of onion sizzles when you touch it to the oil. Dip the onion rings into the batter, shaking off any excess, then immediately drop them into the hot oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot. Allow the onions to cook in the oil, flipping them once to guarantee even browning. Remove the onions with tongs and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate.

Over a cup of tea…

April 14, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you something you probably didn’t know about me – I love rain! Weird, right? I don’t love the cold or grey skies particularly, but I really love it when it rains really hard. And especially when there is thund and lightening. I think it’s exciting! Plus, rainy days are an excuse to curl up at home with a good book, which is exactly what I did yesterday. Speaking of books, I am just loving Khaled Hosseini’s latest novel, And the Mountains Echoed. He’s my favourite living novelist and I cannot get enough.

Essie

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d admit I probably have an binge-buying disorder or something. You see, I seem to get on a kick and then just go crazy collecting a particular item. For months, it was David’s Tea (as illustrated by my Instagram). At one point I had more then 60 of their teas. Lately, however, it’s nail polish. Essie, in particular, but really any type will do. I also love Creative, OPI, China Glaze and I CAN’T STOP BUYING THEM. They are just so fun. Especially since tons of them were on sale this weekend. I bought six. Whoops. And I now have, like… 20 or something? It’s getting out of control.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you my calves are still sore from my 13km (!!!) run on Saturday! I know, right? That’s super far. I’m actually surprised I survived. It was really, really hard and when I walked through the door afterwards, I think My Other Half thought I was going to break down completely. I could barley move I was so exhausted. Thankfully I pulled myself together enough to get in the tub for a soak before hosting a dinner party. Now I feel like I need about 10 rest days. Except that I need to run four times this week, including attempting 16km on Easter weekend. Yikes!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you how I had the best brunch at Benny’s Bistro. All these years I thought it was just a bakery, when really it’s this adorable French restaurant nestled behind a bakery. Thank goodness I have such restaurant-savvy friends who can introduce me to this stuff. Anyway, it made us miss France big time! The food was fantastic. And really, any place that has wine on the brunch menu (My Other Half had a glass of Chardonnay – he was so happy) is winning in my books.

Last but not least, if we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d show you this nice infographic I made to summarize all the babies in my life of late. Yes, all my friends got pregnant at once and yes, it’s hard to keep track, and no, it’s not over. Lots more friends will have babies in the next few months. Anyway, you’re welcome.

Babies

Benny's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Before you laugh, you need to know – my dad named this recipe!

Breakfast Surprise

 

Also, yes – I made you breakfast!

 

My Other Half is the true breakfast master. Well actually, his dad is, but he learned from the best. On the weekends, when we actually make a real breakfast (not a smoothie or bowl of cereal or toast like during the work week), he almost always does it.

I’m totally a spoiled brat, by the way, because My Other Half gets up much earlier than me on weekends and I often (seriously – often) get breakfast in bed. I couple weeks ago I got this AMAZING Mexican scramble with chipotle crema and ground beef… OMG it was the best. He really is the breakfast king.

Breakfast Surprise

 

But on this particular weekend, My Other Half was out of town coaching his basketball team, and my Daddy was here for the weekend! So I decided to channel my inner Hanrahan and whip up something to fill our bellies before heading out to the Fairmont Chateau Montebello in Quebec.

This was AMAZING. When Daddy asked what it was, I kinda shrugged because I didn’t really know what to call it. So he dubbed it “Julia’s Breakfast Surprise”. The best.

And no, this post is not sponsored by Tenderflake (yet)!

Julia’s Breakfast Surprise
Serves 4

4 Tenderflake patty shells
2 Italian sausages, uncooked and casings removed
1 cup chopped red peppers
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten
Olive oil, as required

Cook patty shells according to package instructions. In a large frying pan, cook the sausage meat in a bit of olive oil, breaking it up with a spoon as you go. Add red peppers and cook until beginning to soften. Add green onions and stir. Add eggs and cook, combining everything. Fill the patty shells with the egg mixture and top with cheese. 

Breakfast Surprise

When he was vis

Whiting recently…

I love love love love LOVE this meal!Cajun Shrimp & Quinoa Skillet Casserole

 

Yeah, that’s a lot of loves, but I really really do. I want to eat it EVERY DAY.

Along with perogies and popcorn and buffalo chicken dip. And noodles. These are a few of my favourite things.

Most people think I plan all my meals way ahead. Which is generally true – I do! I choose 3-4 recipes each week and then base my grocery shopping on what I need to make those recipes. Most of the time, for blogging purposes, I try new recipes (I really am a recipe-testing pro by now… so Anna & Kristina should add me to their show) but every now and then I revisit an old faithful.

Cajun Shrimp & Quinoa Skillet Casserole

This particular week, I didn’t plan ahead at all, for whatever reason. I just began browsing Pinterest, keeping in mind what was in my deep freeze and fridge. I actually came across a few quinoa casseroles and was surprised – quinoa, in a casserole? Smothered in cheese? With a bit of spice? Sounds… perfect for me.

The strange thing is that whenever I go absolutely nuts over a recipe, My Other Half is just like “umm… it’s good” and I’m like HOW CAN YOU SAY IT’S JUST “GOOD”???

Cajun Shrimp & Quinoa Skillet Casserole

Generally we like the same things, so I know he’s holding back. It’s like he purposely subdues his enthusiasm when he sees me get excited over a recipe. Probably just to annoy me or to make me a more calm human or something. And then to get him back, I’m all nonchalant about the things he goes nuts for. Like chocolate chip cookies and milk (which secretly I looove but pretend to not care about because he started this whole little game anyway). And then I get away with blaming him for eating all the cookies and he doesn’t even notice.

“There’s only six cookies left. I made two dozen. You ate EIGHTEEN COOKIES since yesterday? That is ridiculous.”

(But only I know that actually they’re all in my belly.)

Cajun Shrimp & Quinoa Skillet Casserole

 

So, this skillet. Yum. LOVE my cast-iron skillet, by the way, ever since I learned how to clean up and properly take care of it. Thank God for the internets. I would not survive otherwise.

The recipes seems like it calls for an excessive amount of tomatoes, but I assure you – it’s just right. They really make the recipe and keep the casserole nice and moist.

Secret: I actually used half cheddar and half jalapeno havarti, but marble is just easier.

Cajun Shrimp & Quinoa Skillet Casserole
Adapted from This Gal Cooks
Serves 4

1 lb large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ cup chopped onion
2 tsps minced garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsps Cajun seasoning
1 cup quinoa
1 cup shredded marble cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water. When all the liquid is gone, remove from heat. Toss the shrimp and about 1 tsp Cajun seasoning together and set aside. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and another 1 tsp of Cajun seasoning and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet. Cook the shrimp until pink and remove from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan with the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent. Mix in the quinoa, tomato paste, remaining Cajun seasoning and tomato chunks. When combined, top with the shrimp and then sprinkle with the cheese. Put whole skillet in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. At the end, turn on the broiler to high and broil until the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly (keeping close watch so as not to burn it).

Cajun Shrimp & Quinoa Skillet Casserole

Over a cup of tea…

April 7, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d say yesterday was the best day ever! Multiple amazing things happened. First of all, one of my closest friends, Kristy, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl – Mila Vivian Conners. She weighed a whopping 9 lbs 11 oz and was 11 days overdue. It was about time!  Other reasons yesterday was so great: I ran for the first time since my hamstring injury and I was fine! I managed 10km and was five minutes faster than the first time I ran that far. Back to the regular training schedule now! I also spent the day cooking lunches for the week and baked Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes for book club last night. They we delicious! Recipe coming soon, obviously.  Yesterday was also my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary and while they were still in the UK and I was unable to speak to them, they’re home today and I can’t wait. Last but not least, the royal tour of New Zealand and Australia kicked off and Kate decided to sport bright RED for the first official appearance! Red is best, so I was delighted.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d also tell you I helped host my big cousins De’s bridal shower on Saturday. It was in Pembroke, where her fiancé’s family is, and it was my first time out that way. We had a great turnout and she was spoiled with lots of gifts and yummy food. Her wedding, which is in Hubbards, NS, is less than four months away!

James & Julia

 

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you how I had the pleasure of holding this gorgeous little baby boy last night at book club (photo cred: Yvonne). Erin H. has bounced back amazingly and is such a fabulous momma. Hopefully Kristy and Laura are just as lucky!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d say how happy I was to have a date with Brigitte, one of my bridesmaids, at El Camino on the weekend! She wasn’t in town long, but we managed to have some drinks and delicious tacos and catch up. She’s heading off to Peru for the month of May, but then moves back to Halifax so I’m happy I’ll see her whenever I make it home! I was lucky enough to have tacos twice this week, since my gym buddy Sarah had me for supper too. I love me some tacos!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d ask – what did you give up for lent? I didn’t give anything up this year, because I figured all the running for my half-marathon would be commitment enough. Mama gave up sweets and chocolate and is only having bacon and eggs every second morning (I’ve been trying to get her to stop that because it’s so unhealthy). Anyway, whadya give up?

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d say I forgot to tell you all about how I tried The Albion Rooms for the first time the week before last! I (like most people) am always wary of hotel lobby bars, but this was totally different. The decor is terrific (make sure to ask to be in the back part, not the front where you can see the hotel lobby), the cocktail list is original, and the menu was creative. We had chacuterie and then I had the fish and chips, which were the bomb. I highly recommend it!

The Albion Rooms on Urbanspoon

As you may have noticed on my Facebook page, I’m entering my very first recipe competition!

Indian Lentil ChickenWhen I heard about the Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge, I immediately thought of the bag of green lentils sitting in my pantry. I’d been wondering what to do with them. So I started investigating, and it turns out there are countless ways to use lentils in all sorts of dishes. Indian Lentil Chicken

For example, The Recipe Rebel put them in a nanaimo cake. Olena at ifoodreal put them in a Sante Fe casserole. And me, well… I’m using them in a traditional way. But the recipe is so delicious and so easy!

I think the idea of a recipe competition for an organization like Canadian Lentils is a terrific idea. Case in point – before embarking on my submission to the competition, I had no idea what to do with lentils. I don’t even know why they were sitting in my pantry! But now I’ve been exposed to dozens of different ways to use them. They’re very versatile!

Indian Lentil ChickenI don’t have a ton of experience with Indian food, but I do make a mean butter chicken dish and I love to go out for Indian. In my limited experience, I’d say this dish is most similar to a dahl or dhansak. It’s best served with fresh naan bread. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know I made naan for the first time from scratch for this recipe, but you’ll have to come back next week for that recipe :)

Indian Lentil ChickenFor my vegetarian friends out there, don’t worry – you can totally make this without the chicken and it would be just as good!

I hope I win the competition! I love this dish and have been eating it all week for lunch. Cross your fingers for me and leave some comments!

Easy Indian Lentil Chicken
Serves 4

4 chicken thighs (I used boneless/skinless)
4 tbsps canola oil
2 medium onions
4 tsps minced garlic
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tbsps minced ginger
1 tsp cumin
2 tsps garam masala
1.5 cups lentils
2 large carrots
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cilantro, for garnish

Heat a large, deep frying pan with 2 tbsps of canola oil. Cut the chicken thighs into quarters. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in the frying pan and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. When browned on one side, flip the chicken and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Continue frying the chicken until browned, and then remove from the frying pan to a plate. The chicken doesn’t have to be entirely cooked through, just browned.

Finely chop the onions and set aside. Heat remaining 2 tbsps of canola oil in the same big frying pan. Add garam masala, cumin and a bit of salt and stir for a few seconds. Add onions, jalapeño, ginger and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent and browned. 

Cut the carrots into 1/2-inch chunks. If you use baby carrots, just cut them in half. Add them to the pan with the lentils and stir to coat. Stir in four cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the chicken. Cover the frying pan and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with naan.

I need a drink today.

Green Melon & Lychee Martini

 

Thankfully it’s hump day! But I’ll still need a drink to get through the day. Mostly because I (sadly!) have re-injured my hamstring, and my half-marathon training is definitely going to be affected. So I’m bummed about that. I fall off bandwagons FAR too easily.

So please don’t let me! I need your encouragement. Make me run. Bum hamstring or not!

Anyway, these martinis. Delicious. They’re bright green (as I’m sure you noticed), so I made them for St. Patrick’s Day!

Green Melon & Lychee Martini

 

I’ve talked about my love for lychee martinis before. They were one of the first cocktails I ever had! Nowadays I’m less of a fan (I’ve graduated to bourbon. Yum!), but when you hand me a bright green cocktail with a sugared rim, I can’t say no. Obviously.

These are sweet, but not overly so. I can’t wait until the snow melts and I can lounge on my patio with one of these babies!

Green Melon & Lychee Martini (for two)

2 oz vodka
2 oz green melon liqueur
2 oz lychee juice
Sugar, for rimming
2 canned lychees, for garnish (or a slice of lime

Combine liquids in a cocktail shaker over ice. Rim two martini glasses with sugar. Strain and pour martinis into glasses. Garnish with a whole lychee and serve! If you prefer a stronger, less sweet martini, try 3 oz of vodka and just a splash of lychee juice.

Green Melon & Lychee Martini

Over a cup of tea…

March 31, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d say SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!! There might still be a foot of snow on the ground, but the forecast for this week is warm! Can you tell I’m excited? I’m not normally affected by weather too much, but spring is my favourite season. This year I am especially excited because it means it will be warm for my runs outside!

Speaking of which, if we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you last week (week #4) was my first bad week of my half-marathon training. I skipped a run (5km) and came up short on another by 3km. We were in Hamilton/Oakville for one of My Other Half’s basketball tournaments, so it was hard to find time between games and meals etc. Oh well. As my half-marathon buddy Erin said, missing a few kms isn’t going to make or break my race. I found this article (sent by Yvonne) to be really interesting and motivating. I may not be fast, but I am running a lot, so based on what that article says, I should surprise myself come race day. Anyway, hopefully week #5 will be better!

Cambridge

 

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you how excited I was to see this little Mother’s Day surprise. And the royal tour starts next week! In other UK news, my team (Liverpool) is top of the English Premier League and I’m pumped. All good things!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I would be excited to report that I’ve been reading up a storm! I finished our book club book, and then finished The Lovely Bones which is part of my 2014 reading challenge. Now I’m reading And the Mountains Echoed by my favourite living novelist, Khaled Hosseini. I absolutely adore his writing! I’m only a chapter in but positive I will love it. Hopefully I can finish it before book club next weekend.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you you’re crazy if you’re not watching Shameless. It’s in its fourth season and I can’t get enough. The acting is terrific and the story line is original, believable and keeps you interested at every turn. It’s no Breaking Bad (did I mention we finished the series? Unreal!) but it’s pretty good!

 

I am just loooving this food combo right now.

Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Risotto

 

Obviously I am on a goat cheese kick, but pairing it with butternut squash is heavenly. We’ve made this recipe twice in just a couple weeks and seriously cannot get enough.

Oddly enough, I’ve only made risotto a few times before this. And when I said “I”, I really mean mostly My Other Half. You see, risotto involves constant stirring for a long, long time. Like 30 minutes, maybe? Anyway, my chicken arms get sore. I can’t handle it. So I do all the legwork and then bring My Other Half in for the heavy lifting. He’s much more patient… and strong. Obviously.

IMG_6961Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Risotto

My girlfriend Kacie recently moved to Charlotte (you can “like” her Facebook page here!), where she’s making new friends and entertaining a bit. I thought it was interesting when she told me risotto is her go-to for entertaining. I should tell her to try my Lemon & Arugula Risotto (it’s soo summery and delicious!)

I ate this for lunch 6/10 days over two weeks and didn’t complain one bit. I actually couldn’t wait to devour the smooth, sweet, creamy goodness.

Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Risotto
Adapted from Eat, Live, Run
Serves 6

1 cup arborio rice (risotto)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine (or water)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and grated
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt, to taste

Heat oil in a pot and add onion and squash. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add the rice and stir well. Cook for a few minutes, and then add the wine. Stir until all liquid is gone. Gradually, in small portions, add the chicken broth, stirring constantly. When all liquid is absorbed, add more, and so on. When you only have a cup of stock left, taste-test the risotto. If it’s still too firm, continue adding more stock until it’s to your desired tenderness. Remove from heat and stir in goat cheese. Season with salt, if required.

Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Risotto

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