Chocolate Hazelnut Scones

Chocolate Hazelnut SconesOregone
I spent last weekend in Oregon and it was glorious. True, I spent four years living there—so I may be biased. But, the drive down to Eugene from Portland reminded me just how much I love it up there, green rolling hills, fields of frisky animals, charming red barns….

There is no greener state than Oregon. And yes, it does rain up there. A lot. And that rain makes for some of the most stunning scenery you can ask for. This time around, I was blessed to experience one of the few absolutely perfect-weather weekends. No rain and 70 degrees. Perfect. Add to that a football win for the home team and you just can’t get much better than that…unless we start talking about the food.

Oregon is a food lover’s dream and it’s no secret that the hot Portland restaurant scene is where innovation is happening. With the abundance of fresh-grown veggies and humanely raised meats available within an hour or two of the city, you’d have to work pretty hard to not to produce a quality product. Needless to say, I ate pretty well on this trip.

I took advantage of what there was to offer including the fresh veggies, and the Pinots, and of course, the coffee. Coffee is a religion up there. Like, literally. Oregonians don’t mess around. While consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of caffeine at one of my favorite coffee stops, I had the privilege of snacking on a hazelnut chocolate scone freshly made from Oregon grown hazelnuts and fresh butter. It was ah-may-zing!

I brought a bunch of coffee beans home with me in an effort to extend my trip (if only in my mind and coffee cup). For this same reason, I have been searching for a hazelnut scone recipe on the internet. I found this basic recipe on Food 52 and have been experimenting to duplicate my Oregon scones. It’s a tough job but I am definitely up to the task….

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 12 servings Read more…

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Chewy Chocolate BrowniesBrownie Brain
Labor Day weekend is almost here…which is awesome because, Hey!, a three day weekend! Tradition suggests that I am supposed to be thinking about barbecue but truth be told, I’m kind of sick of grilling. With as hot as it has been lately, I haven’t even looked twice at my oven. Everything we’ve eaten in the past two weeks has been hot off the outdoor grill. Needless to say, I am finding it hard to get too excited about a barbecue for Labor Day.

That being said, I will be going to a barbecue on Sunday. The good news is the decision to figure out what to throw on the grill rests entirely on my sister’s shoulders. I have a feeling that I will be in charge of bringing something sweet to the party. And, for some reason lately, I have had brownies on the brain.

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I have made a batch of brownies. I love brownies and because of that love I just can’t have them lying around. I will simply end up eating them. Hence, I have not made them in over a year. As a general rule, I am a brownie purist but I am not above swirling in a little peanut butter before they go in the oven or even mixing some espresso into the batter. There are never any nuts in my brownies. Not because I don’t like nuts—but I just don’t want anything to interfere with my chocolate intake. And, no nuts means there is more room for chocolate in each bite.

Brownies, or chocolate anything really, are a great way to end a barbecue because chocolate just goes well with grilled meats. Even better, you can serve them with the ice cream of your choice on the top for a sundae. Or, take it a step further and use the brownies as the base for an ice cream cake!

Chewy Chocolate Brownies Read more…

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Plum Upside-Down CakeDun Gone Plum Crazy
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s plum season. Beautiful black plums, red plums, French plums and all sorts of pluots are available for your eating pleasure pretty much anywhere fruit is sold. I love plums. In my opinion, they are best when they are still slightly firm so that the skin is still a bit tart but the flesh is super sweet. Yum!

In my yard, I have essentially two plum trees. One is a hybrid that combines a couple of varieties so its hard to say what type it is. The other is actually a pluot. Both are about 5 years old and neither one has produced any fruit…until this year.

Because we had a crazy amount of rain last year, my trees were loaded with fruit by May/June. I can’t tell you how excited I was. I went out there every day to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Each day they got bigger and bigger and when they finally started to change color and ripen I was vibrating with excitement and then one day, they were gone.

I don’t know if it was squirrels, rats or raccoons but my bumper crop vanished overnight with no evidence left behind. I was baffled and distraught and more than a little bit angry.

Since then I have been having to sooth my plum craving via the different varieties we have here at the store and also with what is available at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. And, don’t get me wrong, the plums are great. But, it’s not the same as eating your own homegrown version right off of the tree.

Over the weekend I went plum crazy and bought more than we will be able to consume fresh so I plan on making this upside-down cake with what’s left over. There is never a bad time for cake and I will especially enjoy it with a cup of coffee looking out my window watching the squirrels eat the majority of this year’s pomegranate crop…sigh.

Plum Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields one 9-inch cake Read more…

Summer Salmon Pasta

Summer Salmon PastaPasta Problemo
Pasta for dinner is a lifesaver. It IS quite frankly the easiest thing you can make besides a phone call to your favorite takeout place. Here’s the thing with pasta, on a hot night it can feel kind of heavy if you go the traditional red sauce and meatball route.

Summer pasta definitely needs to be light pasta either with a little pesto or some grated lemon zest with olive oil and parmesan—and don’t forget the tomatoes! All of these can be go-to options for a quick bite at the end of the day. But, sometimes you just want to do something different for a change of pace.

This recipe for Summer Salmon Pasta is my current obsession. It’s light but hearty enough for those nights you need just a little bit more.

Summer Salmon Pasta 
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Tomato Chile Melon Salad

Tomato Chile Melon SaladTomato Treasure
This is the time of year when tomatoes are at their best. And, if you are growing your own, chances are you have more than you can handle. For me, that was always the best part of gardening. There is nothing better than a homegrown tomato. Giving a portion of your bumper crop to someone who understands and appreciates that a homegrown tomato is worth its weight in gold is just as satisfying as eating one. In fact, I tended to over-plant just so I could give some away. Mainly to my mother who lived for a summer tomato sandwich.

Time constraints and squirrel invaders have prevented me from planting a tomato garden in recent years. So, I have become hopefully dependent upon the generosity of my tomato-growing friends and I am beyond grateful when they share.

Summer tomatoes make the best meals because they don’t require you to do anything with them. They are basically the perfect snack. The flavors are so good that to hide them under or in a heavy sauce or as an ingredient in a complex recipe is in my mind criminal. If you ask my husband, the best way to eat a summer tomato is to slice it up, sprinkle it with a bit of sea salt and eat it with a fork. That was how my grandmother liked to eat hers, too. But, she would also serve them sliced alongside some avocado wedges and sprinkled with a little bit of Italian dressing (and the occasional dollop of mayo). I think that is one of my favorite “salads” that I serve with grilled steaks. Having a variety of heirloom tomatoes sliced on a platter can be a very pretty yet simple side dish addition to any meal.

I think if I had to pick my favorite way to eat peak of season tomatoes, though, it would be sliced and set atop some creamy fresh burrata cheese that has been spread on a slice toasted baguette. Heaven! (Add a little prosciutto and you have the perfect picnic!) Which is probably why this Tomato Chile Melon Salad recipe appeals to me so much. It’s basically an appetizer platter in a bowl.

Tomato Chile Melon Salad
Yields 4 Servings Read more…