Monday, August 31, 2009

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chubbies

Martha Stewart and I regularly go to blows. I don’t know why, but I can’t make a cookie recipe of hers to save my life. This cookie began life as one of her peanut butter sandwich cookies. And as usual, my right eyeball began to pop out of its socket, and my eyebrows hit my hairline when I realized there was no way this recipe of hers was going to come together as planned. Again.

I barely restrained myself from beating this dough about the head and shoulders, once I realized something so crumbly didn’t have a prayer in hell of being rolled out as per the instructions. These were City Hall cookies, they had to be done, and I didn’t have time to make another batch. So I grabbed my mini cookie scoop and started packing in this crumbly mess of a “dough”, and turned it out onto parchment in half rounds. Not daring to disturb the mounds, I just baked them that way.

After the dough came out of the oven, I dipped the underside of a dry measuring cup into some sugar and flattened them slightly. What I was left with were the best darn little peanut butter oatmeal cookies I’ve ever tasted. Holy moly these little chubbies are tasty.

Martha Stewart got it half right. Or maybe I got it half right. Either way, I just want another cookie, or five.

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Jiff peanut butter (I love Jiff in cookies)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
Granulated sugar for finishing

1. In a large skillet melt 1 stick of butter over medium heat. Add the oatmeal and cook, stirring often until toasted. About 5 minutes. Pour oatmeal onto a baking sheet and cool completely.

2. After the oatmeal has cooled, line a of couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. In a stand mixer add 2 sticks of butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until fluffy again. Add the salt and baking soda and beat until combined. Add the oatmeal and beat until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

4. With a size 60 mini cookie scoop, pack in the dough with your hands. Turn the dough out onto the cookie sheets about an 1 ½” apart. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, set aside a small bowl of sugar and a dry measuring cup bigger than the cookies. Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, dip the back of the measuring cup in sugar and flatten the cookies slightly. Re-dip into the sugar about every third cookie.

6. Let cool on the cookie sheets a couple more minutes, then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Martha Stewart recipe heavily adapted by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pluot Raspberry Pie

Weird things happen when a boy plum tree falls in love with a girl apricot tree. Their children produce strange looking fruit with tannic tasting skin and pretty red hued flesh. Unlike an American marriage where the female often takes the last name of the male, the plum tree and apricot tree keep their names, but combine them together for their spotty fruit offspring.

Or maybe pluots are just a crazy cross pollination idea from the brain of Floyd Zaiger, a Modesto California fruit breeder. At least he named them something fun, “Ploooooo-ought” rolls off the tongue like an odd foghorn, and is much more exciting to say than “aprium”.

So it’s come to be, the fruit with the silly name jumps into my Costco cart. Not having a clue what to do with these strange love children, I baked them into a pie, throwing in a cup of raspberries for brightness.

The result is a puckery sweet tart pie with a beautiful red color. Perfect with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

3 cups skinned and thickly sliced ripe pluots (About 5 or 6 )
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1 box purchased pie crusts, or make your own double crust
1 egg white
1 (9 inch) pie dish, not the deep dish kind

1. To remove the skins: Bring a pot with enough water to cover the pluots to a boil. Set aside a large bowl of ice water. Drop the pluots in the water for about 30 seconds and move to the ice water for a couple of minutes.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

3. Thickly slice the pluots into a large bowl. Add the frozen raspberries. Stir together the cornstarch and sugar in a separate bowl. (If you don’t do this you’ll have starch clumps). Add the sugar mixture to the fruit and mix gently. Set aside.

4. Roll out the pie crusts just slightly between two sheets of wax paper. This will make them prettier. Transfer one to the pie dish and brush completely with a little egg white mixed with a small splash of water. Pour in the fruit, dot with butter if desired, and top with the second crust. Press the edges together and flute the pie tucking the edges into the pie dish. Poke some holes in the top of the dough the pie with a knife to vent.

5. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes or until the bottom of the crust looks lightly browned. You can use a pie shield after the first 30 minutes of baking so the edges don’t burn. Also, sticking a foil covered baking sheet under the pie during the last 30 minutes will help with any run over.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blue Cheese Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burgers

There is fungus among us. And mold. But oh, they taste so good together. Top these beauties with a few raw sulfery onion rings and you might find yourself peacefully alone without any demanding children in your breathy presence. Then at last, you can finally take that long bubble bath and read that book you’ve been meaning to get to for two years.

I made these two days in a row. I feel so much more peaceful now.

2 Portobello mushroom caps per burger
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Blue Cheese (Stilton is my favorite)
Hamburger buns
Sliced onions

1. Fill a large bowl with water. Gently remove the mushroom stems and scrape out the gills with a teaspoon. (The kind you eat with). Place the mushrooms in the water and soak for about 30 minutes.

2. Heat the grill to medium heat. Remove the mushrooms from the water brush them well with olive oil. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper.

3. Place the mushrooms gill side down on the grill and baste with olive oil occasionally so they don’t dry out. Flip once. Cook until they look tender then fill half of them with a good size mound of blue cheese. Sandwich together with another mushroom, underside side down. Cook just until about half the cheese is melted. Then remove to a plate to rest.

4. Toast the buns briefly on the grill. Then slather on a little mayonnaise, top with mushrooms, and a few onion slices.

Warning: Be careful biting into these feisty things. Squirting molten blue cheese is hot! We found that out the hard way.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Uncle Will's Molasses Cookies

Uncle Will Caulkins is not my uncle, but Dishboy Scott’s great great uncle. He owned a bakery in the 1930s where these cookies were wildly popular in the Rosebush, Michigan area. I’ve listened to Scott talk about them time and time again, but words cannot convey how delicious these warmly spiced cookies are.

As the cookies began to bake my home filled with the most wonderful smells. I closed my eyes and stood beside my modern day cheaply built oven, imagining what it would have been like to walk into Uncle Will’s bakery so long ago. I surrounded myself with this potent perfume, nearly blowing over from its spicy sweetness. I hung in reverie of what it might have been like to walk up to a glass bakery counter in a different time, salivating in anticipation of one of these scrumptious cookies. Would Uncle Will have been at the counter? I imagine he would.

A few years later Uncle Will retired to a farm, but the recipe tagged along with him and he shared it with others. Around 1945 Scott’s dad, Jack, was about 5-years-old when he saw his uncle for the last time, but his memory lives on through this recipe.

Will’s sister, Jack’s grandmother, always kept these cookies on hand in a big covered crock in her basement. When Jack was a boy he would walk by his grandmother’s house, stopping by for a cookie after school. Jack recalls her having both an electric and a wood stove in her kitchen. I find myself wondering which one she baked these cookies with.

The years have passed by quickly, but these cookies are still a favorite of Jack’s. Only now he enjoys them with a pint of Guinness, which I wholeheartedly recommend.

We don’t know much else about Uncle Will, as there is no one left to talk about his life. Save for this one memory. Each time these cookies are prepared the story of Uncle Will is brought up for future generations. I feel privileged that Scott shared this recipe with me, and let me share it with you.

When you make these cookies I hope you’ll think about Uncle Will, the 1930s baker from Rosebush, Michigan.

Uncle Will’s Molasses Cookies
1 pound seedless raisins (3 cups)
Boiling water
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (1 stick) shortening, softened slightly
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup molasses
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground cloves
1 Tablespoon allspice
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
6 cups all purpose flour

1. Place the raisins in a bowl with enough boiling water to cover them by a couple inches. (See note #2 below before soaking). Let soak for 5 minutes. Then in a colander, strain out as much water as possible, pressing with the back of a spoon. Pat the raisins dry if needed. Next, puree the raisins in a food processer until smooth. Set aside.

2. In a stand mixer, cream together the sugar, shortening, and butter. Next, add the raisin puree and molasses and mix well on medium high speed. Then add the eggs and mix to combine.

3. Next, add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, salt, and baking soda and mix to combine. Then add the flour in two parts mixing until just combined.

4. Wrap the dough in 4 or 5 individual rectangles in-between sheets of wax paper. Divide dough in half and store in two gallon sized plastic bags. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or preferably for 24 hours to let the dough set and the flavors develop.

5. After chilling, set the dough on the counter and let warm to room temperature. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Parchment paper can be reused one time.

6. Heavily flour a clean surface, and sprinkle the top of the dough and a rolling pin with the flour. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out the dough with a 3 inch biscuit cutter. Place the rounds on the cookie sheets. Carefully reroll and use the scraps one time being careful not to overwork the dough, and then work those remaining scraps into the next round of scraps. Repeat with the remaining dough.

7. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cookies rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 72 cookies.

1. The original recipe was made with lard, but good lard is almost impossible to find today unless you have access to a Hispanic Grocery. If you want to make these cookies with lard, substitute both the butter and shortening with 1 1/2 cups of good quality lard.

2. If your raisins are soft and chewy skip the soaking step. Only soak if they are dry and hard.

3. There were few instructions in the original recipe. To clarify the instructions, I've modernized the wording, but left the ingredients and the ideas behind the instructions intact. Except for the lard of course.

4. These cookies freeze well after they're baked.

5. Instead of rolling them out, my friend Julie scoops this dough out with a cookie scoop and flattens them with the underside of a glass dipped in sugar.

Recipe by Uncle Will Caulkins. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Project Cookie, Some Fantastic Shortbread, & Sergeant First Class Ted Ryan

How do you pay off a life debt? One so meaningful that it changed the course of a life forever. Well in my case, with cookies. My Army buddy Ted is back in Iraq and I’m welcoming his return to the land of sun, sand, and insanity with some shortbread.

Several years ago I was going through some pretty painful and dangerous times in my last year of service and as a new civilian. I tried not to let it show, to be strong, and yet Ted always seemed to show up in those very important pivotal moments, when something life changing was about to happen and I needed a push. Because of his strength and influence, I have a happy and much safer life today. Ted is my own personal hero.

What I’m hoping for is that you’ll send Ted a little something too. I’m calling this “Project Cookie”, and I would be grateful if you could pitch in to bring a smile to the face of one heck of a friend and a very honorable Non-Commissioned Officer. Send cookies, send a card, send a joke, a favorite book, or anything to let him know he is cared about as he readjusts to life in the hot lane.

And thank-you. So much. This is going to be a lot of fun! Just tell him Laura Flowers sent you.

You can send mail to Ted at:
SFC Ryan, Theodore T.
C Trp, 1-14 CAV, 3-2 SBCT
FOB Caldwell, APO, AE 09324

Scotch Shortbread
Printer Version
This shortbread needs to rest in the refrigerator and bake three separate times, but it’s worth it! The only shortcut is using a food processor to mix everything together.

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ cup tapioca flour, or tapioca starch, or cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, warmed slightly
½ cup super fine sugar
1 to 2 Tablespoons sparkling white sugar (I got mine at Michael’s)


1. Line a 9” square baking pan with foil.

2. Place the all purpose flour, tapioca flour or corn starch and salt in a food processor and process for about 30 seconds until mixed and fluffed. Move the flour mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.

3. Place the butter and super fine sugar in the food processor and process until light and fluffy. Add half of the flour mixture back in and process until combined. Add the other half of the flour mixture and process just until almost wet looking but not combined.

4. Turn the batter out onto a clean surface and knead just until the dough is smooth. Press the dough into the baking pan and smooth with the back of a dough scraper. Sprinkle cookies with coarse sparkling sugar.

5. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours. After resting, place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.

6. Bake One: Bake the shortbread for 55 minutes. Let rest for about 5 minutes then cut into squares in the pan with the dough scraper. Leave the shortbread in the pan and the oven on during this time.

7. Bake Two: Place the pan back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes and then move the foil with the cookies to a baking sheet. Separate the cookies a little.

8. Bake Three: Bake the cookies on the sheet for 10 more minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes and move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Garlic & Spinach Pizza with Ricotta Blobs

My friend Veronica asked if the “blobs” on this pizza were ricotta. She was right they were, and that’s how this pizza got its name. I giggle every time I see this picture now with all the blobs, and am motivated to make more blobby food. Is blobby a word anyway? It should be.

Well anyway, here’s the blobby recipe for this tasty pizza.

Zesty Old School Style Pizza Sauce
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir together.

Makes 1½ cups of pizza sauce. Enough sauce to cover three medium, or two large pizzas.

Garlic & Spinach Pizza with Ricotta Blobs
1 (16 inch) stretched pizza dough on a pan (See notes below)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup zesty old school style pizza sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Couple handfuls fresh spinach
1 to 2 cloves minced garlic to taste
Ricotta, about ½ of a small tub
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Sprinkle of onion powder
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes, optional

1. Make the Zesty Old School Pizza Sauce. Set aside. (Extra sauce freezes well, or will cover another medium pizza.)

2. Heat up the grill to hot and close the lid.

3. Brush the pizza pan lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Stretch and roll the dough and place on the pan. Brush with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Spoon the pizza sauce around the dough.

4. Top pizza with the mozzarella, spinach, minced garlic, ricotta blobs (I did mine with a mini cookie scoop, but teaspoons work fine), parmesan, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and red pepper flakes.

5. Set the pizza on the grill and close the lid. Turn grill to medium high and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until cooked through. Turn to medium for a thicker crust pizza and cook longer. Remove onto a cookie sheet with tongs.

Notes: See for information on pizza dough and grilling techniques.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cake Mix Chai Spice Cookies

I’m a dork. I admit it. I love making cookies from a cake mix. I think it appeals to my ornery nature which wants to bend the rules. Even rules that aren’t really rules like turning a box of cake mix into cookies. It also helps that these cookies are tender, filled with chai flavors, and have a little bit of crunch to boot.

The trick to cake mix cookies is to have a cup of hot water nearby to dip your cookie scoop or teaspoons into after every few cookies. This dough is pretty sticky, and you’ll find it’s much easier to work with if you rinse off some of that stuck dough and then shake off the water before re-scooping.

Also, If you like vanilla chai, try substituting a Tablespoon of real vanilla extract for the water to make Vanilla Chai Spice Cookies.

1/3 cup butter, melted
1 Tablespoon water
1 (18.25 ounce) package spice cake mix
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 (2 ounce or 1/3 cup) package slivered almonds

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Position the cookie rack in the middle of the oven and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a stand mixer, add the melted butter, water, half of the cake mix, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and ground cardamom and mix until blended and smooth. Add the rest of the cake mix and beat until just combined.

3. Using a mini cookie scoop (or two teaspoons), drop dollops of dough onto the parchment about an inch-and-a-half apart. Sprinkle the tops with a few of the slivered almonds.

4. Bake cookies a sheet at a time for 9 to 12 minutes or until the edges look set and the top looks barely set when touched. Cool for 3 minutes on the cookie sheets and transfer to cooling racks to finish cooling.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Recipe adapted from "Cake Mix Cookies" by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Black Rice Pudding

A surprise package showed up in the mail recently from my friend Veronica in Kansas. Inside was a bag of black rice, a note, and a recipe for this beautiful soupy pudding. Veronica thought this looked like something I would enjoy, and she was right. I enjoyed this “pudding” so much that I ate part of it for dessert, and the rest for breakfast the next morning all by myself!

The recipe comes from The Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann. I used to own this great little book, but thinned it out of my overflowing cookbook collection a couple years ago and now I want it back!

I should never part with a cookbook; it always bites me on the backside later.

Black Rice Pudding

½ pound raw black rice (forbidden rice), rinsed and drained
1 (14 ounce can) light coconut milk
4 Tablespoon granulated sugar
A pinch of salt

1. Place the rice in a 2-quart saucepan. Fill the saucepan with water to within 1 ½ inches from the top. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the rice is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk to a boil. Add the sugar and salt and boil, stirring, for one minute, until sugar dissolves.

3. To serve, place rice into six dessert cups and top with coconut milk.

4. Black rice pudding is good cold or at room temperature, but it’s even better served warm. For lunch, pack the pudding in a lidded container in the lunch box to eat it cold, or pack in a preheated insulated food jar for a luscious hot pudding on a chilly day.

Recipe from “The Vegan Lunch Box” by Jennifer McCann. Picture by Laura Flowers

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sloppy Joes with Fresh Ground Sirloin and Homemade Buns

I can tell when I haven’t been making enough man food around here. Jesse, my husband, starts incessantly talking about his deep love of bacon. He also requested Sloppy Joes of all things for dinner. I tend to fall into vegetarian tendencies naturally, often forgetting he grew up on a small farm with cattle.

Knowing I’ve pushed my luck a bit too far I fulfilled this man food request. I’m not all that excited about this honestly. Sure it tasted great, and the homemade bun was fabulous, but my overexcited inner child is not jumping for joy here. If only this sandwich was made of beautifully grilled fresh vegetables, that would make my soul sing!

My husband however, was ecstatic I made this meaty sandwich. He loved it! There’s something about many men and meat I just don’t understand. Jesse and the other males in my family get excited when meat shows up on the table. They visibly start to become more animated and announce how much they love the meal, no matter how simple. On the other hand, if I feed them quiche and chai tea, they look like I’ve beaten them and their testosterone levels appear to drop.

I also realize if I don’t make these meaty man food items on occasion, my husband will try to put up with me for awhile as best he can, but will soon start knocking on neighbors’ doors begging for a good meal, all the while repeatedly broadcasting bacon to be his favorite vegetable.

I’m steaming artichokes and roasting corn for lunch. I’ll likely need to redeem myself soon by making more man food for this atrocity against male nature.

Bread Machine Hamburger or Hot Dog Buns

1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons non-fat milk powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons shortening
2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 packet yeast (about 2 1/2 teaspoons)

Add all the ingredients to the bread machine pan except flour and yeast. Top the ingredients with the flour, and put the yeast on top of the flour. Set the dough cycle and push start.

When cycle finishes, turn out onto a floured board and punch down. Knead 4 or 5 times; add a little more flour as you knead if necessary to keep it from sticking.

Cover dough with a clean dishcloth and let rest for about 30 minutes. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.

For hamburger buns: Press dough into a circle and cut into 8 even wedges; form each wedge into a ball then flatten into a smooth and fairly even circle.

For hot dog buns: Shape these into long narrow snakes. (Makes about 12 or so.)

Place dough shapes on the baking sheet and let rest for about 20 minutes (cover with a clean dish towel or parchment paper).

Bake at 375 for about 18 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Makes 8 large buns.

Super Sloppy Joes

(Double the recipe for 8 sandwiches)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1 1/4 pounds ground beef sirloin (See notes below for grinding your own)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon steak seasoning blend, such as McCormick brand Montreal Seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped (I used green)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 crusty rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around the pan and begin to break it up.

Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning. Add sugar and spice mixture to the skillet and combine.

When the meat has browned, add onion and red peppers to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, peppers, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce with meat for 5 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer.

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile sloppy meat onto toasted, buttered bun bottoms and cover with bun tops.

Serves 4

Notes: Instructions for grinding your own meat in a food processor can be found at

Super Sloppy Joe recipe belongs to Rachael Ray. Bun recipe by Diana Rattray from with rewritten instructions for clarity purposes. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Puff Pastry Plum Tart

I’ve had one lonely sheet of frozen puff pastry sitting in my freezer since December. It didn’t smell too much of freezer burn, so I nabbed it for a simple plum tart. This is much less a recipe, and more of a guide to putting one of these things together.

I’ll probably make this tart again when the local peaches are ready. They’re so easy to throw together it’s almost like cheating.

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
Water for brushing edges
About 7 to 8 ripe plums (more or less might be needed), pitted and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Disaronno (amaretto) Liqueur, or any favorite type

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut the puff pastry in half, long ways or short ways both work. Then roll both pastries out until they're about the thickness of pie dough and place on a parchment covered baking sheet.

3. Brush the edges of the dough with a little water, and fold the edges over to create a boarder leaving the corners unfolded. Take the corners and stretch them in your fingers slightly and twist around a half turn.

4. Arrange the plums however you like on the pastry inside the boarder. Don’t put them on top of each other in a pile though or your crust will be soggy. Less is better here.

5. Warm the honey in the microwave until its very fluid. Stir in the Disaronno and brush some over the plums and sides of the pastry. Save a little of the honey mixture for a final brushing.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. For a shiny look, warm the leftover honey mixture and lightly brush the fruit and crust after removing from the oven. Tarts can be served warm or cold.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Monday, August 3, 2009

Classic Scones, Not To Be Eaten with Angry Squirrels

The last morning of camp I wake up early. The light is up enough to start taking pictures, and I’m overjoyed because I’m parked in the middle of what looks like a thimbleberry forest. I thought the thimbleberries were gone for the year, judging by the ones I’d seen earlier along the river, but in the mountains they’re in full swing. I cheerfully pick and take pictures for a couple hours. Little thimbleberries are delicate and don’t last long, so of course I have to eat a good deal as I go. The rest will go into the icebox until I can figure out what to do with them.

Happy with my haul I head back to Otto the Travel Box, make a quick breakfast, grab my book, and carry everything out to the campsite picnic table. I take a couple bites, begin to read about wild food in Idaho, and strangely an immature pinecone lands beside my plate. This happens again, and again, and pinecones start to rain down faster and harder. Angry chattering begins to accompany the barrage of pinecones, and a little territorial grey squirrel shows himself just long enough to scold me. He then races from branch to branch pummeling me with these spiky weapons. A territorial war has been declared.

I start to chatter back, which makes him so angry he races faster to gather and chuck pinecones at my head. I try to take a bite of my food, and wham! another pinecone hits my plate! Pine needles are everywhere, and my food looks like a forest floor. I chatter back and yell at him to stop, this simply eggs him on. I start throwing his pine cones back, but my aim is so bad he gets even more fired up. Finally, I wave a proverbial white flag and run for the motor home. So much for breakfast outside!

After finally eating, I poke my head out the door, stretching my neck to see if the coast is clear. Instead, I spot the enemy. All grey furry eight inches of him, standing on his back legs about four feet from Otto, with the most disgusted facial expression I’ve ever seen on an animal. I can see him thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to get this big piece of crap outta my yard!?”

At this point I start to laugh, I laugh so hard I can’t breathe, and I’m sure the other campers must think I’m crazy by now. The grey squirrel on the other hand gives me a look of loathing, and marches off to see what damage I’ve done to his picnic area.

Once he leaves, I quickly collect the pinecone bombs for a quick count and picture. Sixty-one pinecones chucked at my person. This is one squirrel not to be messed with.

I pack up and head out soon after; much to the relief of the enemy I’m certain.

Classic Scones, Not To Be Eaten with Angry Squirrels

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Wisk together:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar (for sweeter scones add ¼ cup sugar)
½ teaspoon salt

Cut in with fork until pea sized pieces of butter:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) cold butter cut into pieces

Beat in a small bowl:
2 large eggs (Reserve 2 tablespoons of the beaten eggs) and add to mixture.

Beat in until just combined:
1/3 cup heavy cream

Flour surface, dump out the dough, flour top of dough. Kneed a few times and press pieces of dough into scone pan or scoop out with an ice cream scoop and drop onto a cookie sheet. Brush with reserved egg and sprinkle with sugar (I used coarse sugar). Bake for about 15 minutes.

1. I do all this in a food processor. If you want to do this, add the ingredients in the order of the above directions and be careful not to over-process.

2. If you use a mini scone pan leave 5 spaces empty and bake for 12-13 minutes.

Scone recipe from "The Joy of Cooking", pictures by Laura Flowers.

Wild Blackberry Jam & Adventure for the Soul

Sadly, I am home. Sometimes it feels good to be back, and other times I wish I could travel forever. It’s a fight not to pack up the motor home and head out again. Wanderlust has me by the throat it seems.

I took Otto the Travel Box (motor home), up Idaho Highway 12 on a fruit picking adventure. Along the road runs the most beautiful river, the Clearwater. Named so because you can see right through to the bottom where large trout swim around and tease you. This part of Idaho is my favorite. I adore going through stark desert mountains into lush green old forest growth as I head east. All along the roadside are fruit trees and bushes and I stop and pick and play all over the place.

My first campsite was at the Wild Goose US Forest Service Campground sandwiched between a beautiful white sandy beach along the river, and blackberry bushes on the highway. After a swim, I started up the road with my camera bag and a sack intending to pick all the blackberries I could handle. I was surprised to find not only blackberries, but apples, chokecherries, service berries, ripe wild plums the size of large cherries, wild carrot, thimbleberry bushes past their prime, and believe it or not, one amazing glorious sour cherry tree.

This cherry tree was a thing of beauty. The ripest, reddest cherries warmed by the sun and fed from the cool water made them burst with flavor. I was desperate to pick them and I reached and stretched, but alas it was not to be. Karma was punishing me for stealing cherries for those sour cherry financiers. I could barely grasp but a few perfect little cherries without risking my life. The rest were off a very steep embankment. Too big and steep to slide down, I knew I would just have to stare longingly at those beauties and continue the berry hunt without them.

I also ate a few sweet wild plums along the way before I figured out what they were, and of course picked every ripe blackberry I could find before nightfall. As I slowly trailed back I was stopped by a female road worker who offered me a ride. That’s Idaho. Amazing isn’t it, that someone will pull over and check on you. Of course there is no phone or cell service for many miles, and it’s a different way of life. A much more peaceful one in my mind.

Reflections started to fade in the water as the stars came out. A brilliant display of light sparkled in the sky on my way back to Otto and I began to think of love life man Steve Fugate, who I saw walking the highway earlier in the day. Although I don’t know him personally, I know of his story. His message is powerful, sad, and yet hopeful. Fugate walks American in honor of the son he lost to suicide, and the daughter he lost to an accidental drug overdose. His site tells more about his astounding journey.

The next morning I woke to motorcycle after motorcycle passing by on the highway. I quickly realized I had a front row seat to motorcycle gawker’s paradise. America’s big biker rally started the following weekend and the Westies were off to Sturgis South Dakota! I watched the big bikes, the little bikes, and a cluster of several beautiful Shelby Cobra cars pass my way. I supposed I should tell you now; I’m a voyeur. All crazy photographers are. I love to watch life go by and cheer it on.

After some tubing and playing on the river (and a bit of hitch hiking to get up the river so I could float down), I packed up and headed east to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Jerry Johnson is a mile hike in a mystical looking old growth cedar and fir forest into a beautiful warm river where the river rocks have black moss growing on them. Hot water pours out from a waterfall and at other places on the cold mountain fed river, making it the most picturesque place in the world. I didn’t bring my camera this time, as many go nude and I was alone and didn’t want to make any trouble.

I got lucky and had the upper pools to myself. I slipped off my clothes and sank into a beautiful, shallow gravel pool with water trickling over the rocks. Warm water surrounded me as I watched the river rush by and the moss on the old trees sway in the wind. Here I was at peace. I only wish I could have stayed forever in that water, but sadly the sun began to set and I left before I had to walk back through the forest in the dark.

Trusty old Otto and I headed back west a few miles to Wilderness Gateway National Park where I found a spot to camp for the night. I passed out in restful sleep for the first time in years.

Up Next: Scones, thimbleberries, and a territorial squirrel declares war.

Wild Blackberry Jam & Canning Instructions


8 cups ripe wild blackberries
1 (1.75 ounce) package fruit pectin
3 cups sugar (taste after each cup, add more to taste if needed up to 6 cups)

1. Prepare your canning jars. I wash my jars and bands with hot water in the dishwasher just before using and place my lids in a bowl of near boiling water. Also, start boiling water in a canning pot with enough water to cover the jars by about two inches.

2. Mash the blackberries with a potato masher (don’t use a food processor), in a large pot. Sprinkle in the fruit pectin and bring to a boil over medium high heat while stirring constantly.

3. While boiling, stir in the sugar one cup at a time tasting after each addition until sweetened to taste.

4. Ladle the jam into jars stopping a little less than 1/2 inch from the top. Use the magnetic lifter to grab a lid, shake the water off gently, and top the jar being careful not to touch the underside of the lid. Screw on the bands finger tight, but not too tight.

5. Process the jars in the boiling canning pot for 10 minutes under 2000 feet elevation and 15 minutes over 2000 feet. Then turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes.

6. Remove the jars with canning tongs to a towel covered counter and let sit for 12 hours.

Notes: Full canning kits can be purchased with everything you need except jars. You can also skip the canning step by using freezer jam pectin, pour jam into freezer jam containers, and freeze.

Recipe & pictures by Laura Flowers

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