Summer Corn

Summer Creamed CornRecipe

Summer is off to a fast paced start in our house. We have what feels like a full line up of classes and we have been out exploring the city with out of town company. All of this full speed fun has left me with a little less time for cooking, so I am sharing one of my favorite quick recipes. This corn is a well loved recipe of mine because it’s a delicious and versatile side that goes well with so many summer dishes. It pairs nicely with grilled chicken, fish or steak, but add just a touch of lime juice and a pinch of chili powder and it’s the perfect side for tacos. It takes just 10 minutes to make so if summer has you busy, then this corn recipe is just what you need to finish out a quick dinner.

Summer Corn – Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 ears of corn, cut off the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 lime zested
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped (you could also substitute chives)

First, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off of the corn discarding any remaining silks.

Then in a medium sized skillet melt the butter and add your corn  and season with salt, garlic powder and pepper. Sauté your corn over medium heat for about 5 minutes until your corn turns bright yellow and is tender.

Then add in your lime zest and cream and cook for an additional 2 minutes until the cream has reduced down. Then remove your corn from the pan and add your cilantro.

For My Mexican Street Corn Variation:

Simply add in 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder depending on how spicy you like it and the juice of 1/2 of a lime. Just add them in while you are seasoning your corn with the salt and other seasonings.

Fresh corn is sweet and crisp and absolutely one of summer’s finest. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to cook it. So fire up the grill and enjoy all the best of summer.

Brisket Tacos With Mango Salsa

Brisket Taco Recipe

Summer is here and with it comes gorgeous seasonal fruits and vegetables and hopefully some time to relax just a bit. When it comes to summertime cooking I love an easy recipe that gets me out of the kitchen, so I can enjoy my time outdoors. This is also a dinner that you can prep completely ahead of time since you use the crockpot which makes it great for entertaining or for any busy day.

Brisket is a Texas favorite, that I sometimes have to order from the butcher’s counter here in Chicago. However, there is a reason Texans love it. It’s a great cut of meat that lends itself well to lots of dishes including tacos. The slightly salty brisket with the sweetness of the mangos and just a touch of acidity from the lime juice and tomatoes definitely makes this one incredible bite. So here is one of my all time favorite dinners: brisket tacos with mango salsa.

Crockpot Brisket Tacos – Serves 4 to 6

  • 1  2 1/2 pound brisket
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 Teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion sliced into long strips (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 (12 oz) bottles of beer (I like to use Shiner Bock or Samuel Adams)
  • 2 (20 oz) bottles of your favorite BBQ sauce (With these Tacos my favorite sauce to use is Head Country)
  • 2 Tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 12 flour tortillas
  • Sour Cream (optional)
  • Shredded Cheese (optional)

First in a small bowl mix together your brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, cumin pepper and chili powder. Then rub the sides of your brisket with this spice rub. Then in a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot add the brisket and sear it until each side gets golden brown about 2 to 3 minutes a side.

Then get your cock pot ready and pour in your beer, 1 bottle of your BBQ sauce and the Worcestershire. Next add in your seared brisket making sure it is fully covered by the liquid. Then finally add in your sliced onions. Place your crock pot in a safe area. Put the lid on it and turn it on to the low setting. Let it cook on low for eight hours.

Then once your brisket has cooked carefully move it to a large cutting board and discard the onions and cooking liquid. Then slice your brisket on the diagonal against the grain removing any extra fat. Then chop those slices into small bite sized pieces. Pour about 1/2 of a cup of your extra barbecue sauce and mix it together with your chopped brisket.

Then take your tortillas and add in a couple of spoonfuls of the chopped brisket top it with the mango salsa and if you want add some shredded cheese or sour cream.

Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango peeled and diced
  • 3 medium vine tomatoes diced
  • 1/2 cup of finely diced sweet yellow onion (I like Vidalia onions or Texas 1015s)
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

First dice your mangos. If you haven’t cooked with mangos before then there are a few tips that you should know. You want to pick a mango that is ripe. You will know it’s a good one by its color. You want to find one that is red and yellow and you want it to be soft to the touch, but not overly mushy. The main thing is stay away from the hard green ones; they aren’t ripe yet. Then you need to peel them before you slice them. The other thing you need to know is that mangos have a hard pith or core that you will not be able to eat or cut through, so I slice around it on all four sides and then dice those large pieces.

Here you can see the hard pith center that I cut around and my diced mangos that are ready for the salsa. As long as you know these tips mangos are easy to cook with.

Next chop your tomatoes, onions and cilantro and mix them together in a medium sized bowl.

Then stir in your lime juice, salt and garlic powder. You can make your salsa ahead if you like and then store it in your fridge until you are ready to serve.

This salsa is so good that I make it as a stand alone dip or I also love eating it as a topping on my Black Bean Soup.

So dive into the fresh flavors of summer with this recipe add a quick side of black beans or if you want something more then try my Avocado and Black Bean Salad.  Add some tortilla chips and some Mexican beer or margaritas and you have all you need for an easy summer party.

Frosting That Makes The Cake

How to Frost A Cake

The creamy sweet taste of homemade frosting is simply the best. It’s what has my girls hovering in the kitchen waiting and begging to get a spoonful or two. But, if you have ever set out to decorate a traditional round birthday cake that sweet delicious frosting can begin to feel like its suddenly not your friend once it comes time to frost those sides of your cake.

Even celebrated pastry chef Christina Tosi stopped frosting the sides of her cakes. After spending hours in culinary school trying to achieve the perfect cake, she said it felt more like “pottery class” than cake decorating. I have certainly had my own moments trying to get those darn sides just right, but I still love frosting. Although I do like making “naked” cakes without frosting the sides, there is still something so pretty and delicious about a frosted cake. So over the years I have learned a few tips and tricks that make decorating those sides much easier.

This tulip cake was something I baked recently for my birthday. Instead of letting the sides of this four layer cake feel like an afterthought I made them the feature of the cake. Why should the top of the cake be the only part that gets decorated? I added fondant cutouts that were inspired by mosaic art and my garden.

So what’s the secret to smooth cake sides? The answer is Viva paper towels and making sure you get your cake layers evenly stacked.

Once my cake has cooled I trim off any unevenness on the top of each layer using a serrated knife. Then I stack them with frosting in-between ending with the flat bottom side of the cake as my top layer. If it’s a tall cake then I make sure it stays stable by using paper lollypop sticks as dowels. You can find these thick paper like dowels at any craft store in the cake or candy aisle. They are easy to cut, food safe and they will keep you layers from shifting on you. The key is to cut them at least a quarter inch shorter than your cake so you can frost over them easily.

Then once you get a final thick layer of frosting as even as you can manage let your cake chill in your fridge for about 10 minutes. Then you can take it out and press the sides of your frosting smooth using a Viva paper towel. Viva’s have a smooth cloth like finish unlike other brands, so when it comes to cakes only Vivas will do.

Here is a picture of me using this trick on a birthday cake I made for my daughter. If you have any stubborn spots especially on the top you can also heat your knife or separated spatula with hot water. Once the metal is hot quickly wipe it dry and the watch as the heat helps smooth your frosting.

Then any other imperfections can be covered with fun fondant cut outs. Pre-made and even pre-colored fondant is easy to find so add your own artistic touch to the sides of your cake. I happen to be a fan of polka dots. I used different sized spice bottle tops to cut these dots above.

Another pattern I love is squares cut and placed on an angle to look like a harlequin or argyle pattern.

An early cake I made before I knew much about food photography.

If fondant is more effort than you have time for then use sprinkles, shaved chocolate, finely chopped nuts or crushed candy.

They add a layer of flavor and texture, while dressing up those tricky cake sides. Because the best part of any homemade cake is eating it. Buttercream is too delicious to let a little thing like those sides of the cake get in the way.

So bring on the buttercream because your frosting skills don’t have to be perfect to make a pretty cake.

Chicago Tulips

Tulips have become one of my favorite flowers because they are so hopeful. You plant them right before the ground freezes and then when you think you can’t take a day more of the biting cold temperatures they begin to appear. Their bright green shoots herald the beginning of spring. They pop up and suddenly the garden feels alive again. Their beauty is too great not to share, so here are a few of my photographs from the Chicago tulip season.

Their glorious colors are stunning. I love the combination of the red, orange and pink.

Add in some blue muscari bulbs for a little contrast in color and you have a pretty garden that can withstand even record breaking late spring snow.

Tulips are such social flowers. I love how the look bunched together in small groups or large tightly spaced displays.

The details of each petal’s color and shape are amazing. I love these bright purple blooms with the orange and yellow.

Mixed together with daffodils and hyacinths they create a happy and colorful border. I love this planter that is overflowing with ivy and spring bulbs.

This vivid and almost regal color combination of deep purple and red made me stop a moment to just take in the beauty as they swayed in the breeze.

These parrot tulips almost look like they have been painted with their soft tangerine and pink details.

Finally, this garden bed in shades of purple and white belongs to me. I plant some bulbs in my front yard, but my largest planting is off my back patio where I can enjoy it most. Usually a shady summer spot because of the large trees above it, spring is when this little bed in my garden shines. Before the leaves return to the trees the sunlight allows me to plant a more colorful display. This year I decided to plant a mix of purple and white tulips. I planted some white Fremont tulips that have a pretty light pink color on the tips of their petals. I also planted some purple striped Flaming Flags. Then on a last minute whim right before the first snow of the season, I sprinkled in a few of these taller deep purple tulips called Queen Of The Night.

The view outside always makes me smile. I love looking out of my kitchen to see these blooms. I planted purple pansies and violas to add in some addition color before my tulips bloomed.

The periwinkle colored muscari flowers dot the back of flower beds with more color. Spring may arrive a little later here in Chicago, but these these blooms make it worth the wait.

Thursday Morning Teacakes

It had been a long week and by Wednesday night I was tired. As it goes with parenting, sometimes more worry fills my mind than should. My daughters have had some recent vision issues and challenges with reading. It’s easy to loose perspective from time to time when things are hard. Mothering is absolutely wonderful, but it can at certain times feel like an all consuming role. As I was getting ready for bed all I could think was: is there anything I am really good at these days? I tried to shake off that nagging question and get some sleep.

Thankfully the next morning we didn’t have a class or appointment we had to rush off to before afternoon school. My oldest daughter came downstairs and on her own she began clearing the breakfast table. She took her favorite pink floral quilt and set the table with forks and spoons. Next, she began digging through the dress up box looking for something, her chef’s hat and apron. “We are having a tea party,” she announced. Now my youngest wanted to join in the fun and find her apron too. “Let’s make teacakes!” The dresses and shoes were now thrown all over the room and it was getting late since it was now 10 o’clock. I hadn’t planned on baking, but I had can of refrigerator biscuits. So I made my own smaller version of the Pillsbury monkey bread coffee cake that my mom used to make for Christmas when I was little. My girls put on their own cooking show as they rolled the pieces of dough in the cinnamon and sugar. I helped make a glaze and then the little teacakes were in the oven. We pulled out my grandmother’s white teacups and saucers and we made some tea and my girls played like we were all princesses.

The smell of cinnamon and sugar began to fill the kitchen and the sweetness of those rolls baking in the oven and the giggles at that table caused the worries of the night before to begin to fade. Then as we were eating our teacakes, like a wink from above the thought came: I am divinely good at Thursday morning tea parties. That’s the thing I have learned about motherhood, sometimes it isn’t about having all the answers or being able to fix everything. It’s finding a way to encourage and celebrate the small things that counts. This tea party was an important reminder to me that my girls won’t remember all the things I worry about. Instead, I hope they learn how to find joy in the everyday from impromptu dance parties, to lego castles, to sidewalk chalk murals and bake offs. Because it’s the loving, laughing and baking your way through it all that matters.

So in honor of Mother’s Day I am sharing our recipe for Thursday Morning Teacakes. They are simple because they start with canned biscuits and their small size bakes quickly. It’s something my young daughters can bake and they love eating these mini coffee cakes or as they call them teacakes.

Thursday Morning Teacakes– Makes 12 mini cakes

  • 2 (12 biscuit) cans or refrigerator buttermilk biscuits OR 2 (8 biscuit) cans of grands southern style biscuits THE KEY IS DO NOT GET THE KIND WITH “FLAKEY LAYERS”
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: I made these rolls with the smaller buttermilk biscuits, but they can be harder to find so if you can only find the grands then cut each biscuit in quarters instead of halves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray two muffin tins with cooking spray

Then cut your biscuits in half if using the smaller buttermilk kind (see note above for grands)

Roll those halves into small balls like you would make for clover leaf rolls

Then in a small mixing bowl combine your granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Roll the dough balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture until they are well coated.

Then place four dough balls in your muffin tins.

Next in a small sauce pan melt your butter and brown sugar over medium heat and add in your vanilla extract. Stir until the brown sugar has melted and the mixture is well combined. Then remove your brown sugar glaze from the heat. Then place a tablespoon of the brown sugar glaze on the top of each roll using the back of your spoon the spread it out evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes until the tops are golden brown. I like to bake mine with a baking pan underneath just in case a little glaze runs over the side while baking.

Baking with kids can be so much fun! I have found that my girls want to help with everything so these rolls are great because they can cut the biscuits with kitchen scissors and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar without too much help. This recipe is one of their favorites. Perfect for Thursdays or any day where you want to bake something, but you don’t have lots of time.


Happy Mother’s Day!

Brushstrokes of Spring

The warm sunlight filters through the tree branches cutting the cool spring breeze. There is still a chance for late spring snow, but that doesn’t stop the optimistic green shoots from popping up to greet the sun. Their colorful blooms a welcome sight after the long brown winter days.

The daffodils come first with their cheery yellow blooms.

Then the tulips follow, reaching up with their long stems and leaves. As they flower a dazzling display of color fills the garden beds. Like precious gems they sparkle in yellow, pink, purple, orange and red.

They stand with a watchful eye as the vibrant pansies and violas play hide and seek below.

The stately foxgloves tower above and the sweet smell of hyacinths fills the air.

Everyday new blooms as their colors join together to tell the hopeful story of spring.

New visitors appear to revel in the beauty. The butterflies, bees and birds have all returned.

The sunlight beckons me to come and see: how glorious is the creator and all the brushstrokes of his spring.

Reading and Eating: Save Me The Plumbs

Ruth Reichl’s latest memoir, Save Me The Plumbs, is filled with all the delicious details that readers have come to expect from her writing. It tells the story of her time as the editor of Gourmet magazine; from the first moment she was mesmerized by its tales of exotic dishes at the age of eight to the unexpected twist of fate that years later lead her to become its editor. It’s a story about how she and her staff shaped the food writing world, but most importantly it’s a tale of creativity, courage and resilience in the face of change. Reichl’s humorous and honest reflections will have you feeling like you are right there living it all with her and it will have you savoring every page.

As always Reichl, ever the foodie, shares recipes for memorable meals along the journey. My favorite was a late night dinner that she shared with her son, Nick. The worry and stress of her new job fades as she steps into her apartment to cook Spicy Chinese Noodles. This recipe is delicious, full of flavor and simple to make. It’s the kind of meal that will have you slurping and loving every bite. After making this recipe several times I have made a few adaptations so it can feed a family of four. I also decided to added some Asian pear. I find the crisp texture and slightly sweet flavor adds a nice balance to the spicy noodles.

Spicy Chinese Noodles-Serves 4

  • 1 (10 oz) package of Lo Mein noodles or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup of finely diced Asian pear (Optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black bean paste with garlic
  • 1 tablespoons Chinese black bean paste with chili  (Note: if you have young children or someone who is sensitive to spicy foods then just use 4 tablespoons of the garlic bean paste instead)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut oil or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Cook the noodles in boiling water until al dente (every noodle brand is slightly different so check your package for the cooking time) and drain and set aside

Meanwhile as your noodles are cooking, peel and then mince or grate your ginger and chop your scallions and pear.

This is an Asian pear. It looks a bit like a cross between an apple and a pear, but it has a distinct flavor that goes well with pork and beef dishes.

Then in a small bowl mix together your bean pastes and sugar.

Heat your wok making sure it is hot. I use an electric wok since I have an electric stove that doesn’t get as hot as I would like, so I set my wok to 375 degrees. If you have a gas range you can heat your wok or skillet until water skitters across the surface. Add a tablespoon of peanut oil or canola oil if you prefer. Peanut oil is often used often in high heat cooking because of its high smoke point at 440 degrees, but canola oil still has a fairly high smoke point of 400 degrees so it is still a good choice. Especially if you have any concerns about allergies.

Add the ginger to the wok for about 30 seconds. Then add in your pork and cook while stirring until your pork is no longer pink. Add the bean sauce and cook and stir for about two minutes.

Finally, add in your noodles, green scallions, pears and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and quickly toss them and serve.

Quicker than takeout, this recipe is unbelievably good and quick. A one bowl meal for any busy night that will have you savoring each bite. Reichl knows food and this recipe and every tale in her book will leave you hungry for more.

Defining Details: Patterns That Add a Designer Drapery Look

Sometimes even a dreaded stomach bug can in its own way bring good things. In my case being quarantined in my bedroom for two days is what gave me the time to think and get inspired to do something new. As I lay there and watched the snow fall outside of my bedroom windows, began to think about those almond beige draperies I had purchased so many years ago as a newlywed. Their design appeal had certainly faded, but other projects had been a high priority when we moved. So after staring at them for two days, I decided it was finally time for a change.

Once I was on the mend I made my way to the Pottery Barn  to purchase some new white draperies. The fact that there was a “friends and family sale” made it feel like design kismet; these new drapes were meant to be. I had planned to add a custom trim to them, but when I saw this Instagram photograph from Sarah Richardson I knew exactly what I wanted to do. That crisp blue and white trim added a pop of color and pattern. It struck the right balance between pretty, but not so feminine that my husband would object.

Photo from Sarah Richardson Instagram Starlight Farm

So I got online and ordered three yards of sea breeze buffalo check fabric and then began to think about how I could create my own custom fabric trim.

P Kaufmann Buffalo Check

I then summoned the courage to cut the fabric, because admittedly my sewing skills are in the category of enough to get the job done. The checks made the cutting and matching of the patterns on my four panels fairly straight forward. I folded and ironed the rough edges over and then folded each fabric strip in the center to create a blanket like binding for the edge of each panel.

Here is the fabric trim I created by cutting and matching strips and then pressing the raw fabric edges under.

I pinned my fabric trim to my panels and sewed a single stitch on the inside edge.

Voila, the finished trim took my ordinary store bought drapes and made them look like high end custom draperies

The checked trim is colorful and adds just the right bit of pattern to the otherwise plain white draperies, so now I smile every time I walk in the room and see them.

I have other plans to update things a bit further but the the draperies were a big step in the right direction.

This fabric trim is one of my favorite projects. It now has me looking at some of my other draperies thinking about the design possibilities. Fabrics with vertical repeats are perfect for a project like this because the repeated patterns often means you need less yardage. Because of this fabric trims are generally much less expensive than woven tapes. It’s also a way to add a beautiful designer touch to your home. A fabric that may have been far too expensive to make multiple custom drapery panels from could still add just the right touch as a trim on a store bought drapery.

So with my mind a buzz with all the possibilities, I thought I would share a few favorite fabrics that I think would make gorgeous trims for any design project.

Schumacher Acanthus Stripe by Celerie Kemble

Celerie Kemble has some of the the most elegant and sophisticated fabrics. I have seen this Acanthus pattern used in wallpaper in a number of projects that I love, but I also think this botanical inspired pattern would look fabulous as a trim on the edge of a drapery.

Duralee Alfama Emerald by Tilton and Finwick

Want a more worldly inspired design? This Persian block print by Tilton and Fenwick would add a layer of color and pattern to any room. If emerald green isn’t your color it also comes in several other colors including a classic blue and white and an eye catching poppy red and blue.

Kravet Brookhaven by Sarah Richardson

Want some more inspiration from the ever talented Sarah Richardson? I like the soft chambray color and the diamond pattern of her Brookhaven fabric. I have seen this fabric used as a trim with white linen draperies and I loved the finished look.

Stroheim Madagascar by Dana Gibson

This crisp and cheery blue by Dana Gibson would add a touch of whimsy and color. I could see this fabric in a less formal dining room or a bedroom. The pattern repeat also appears large enough to be able to do a lot with just a few yards.

Izmar Stripe in Indigo from Schumacher

I love this gorgeous Schumacher Ikat pattern and have thought about using it as a trim on my dining room draperies.

Madcap Cottage Mill Reef Palm

This green and white pattern reminds me of the more a more expensive fabric by Brunschwig and Fils called Les Touches. This smaller scaled pattern by Madcap Cottage also come in turquoise and coral. I like smaller abstract prints like this when used as thin trims on either roman shades or curtain panels.

Kate Spade Leokat in Maraschino

Finally because I love a touch of red in a room, here is a vibrant and pretty pattern from Kate Spade that would add a touch of drama and style.

Draperies frame the view in any room, so they give you the opportunity to define your style and can add a much needed touch of color and pattern. However I believe that good design shouldn’t feel out of reach. There are great solid curtain panels out there from places like Pottery Barn, West Elm, Ballard Designs, Crate and Barrel and even Ikea that would be nothing short of amazing with just a few yards of a gorgeous and defining pattern. This project took a few hours of my time, but the finished look was worth it. It’s those small details that sometimes make all the difference.

Mini Cheddar and Chive Scones

Cheddar Chive Scone Recipe

When you walk past the gray weathered siding, through the vine covered gable and in the bright red doors at Ouisie’s Table you instantly feel like you are dining in a gracious southern home. The dining room might be a little larger, but the lace café curtains, twinkling candles and wooden tables make it feel like you are dining with old friends. This Houston restaurant is one of my favorites. The menu is filled with well loved Texas dishes like chicken fried chicken or steak, grilled quail and Louisiana seafood. I know I am not the only one who loves this charming little restaurant it’s been a Houston favorite for over 40 years. My parents had a neighbor who at one time dined there multiple times each week. He was not one to cook so while his wife was away taking care of their old house in California, he made Ouisie’s Table his home. It’s just that kind of a place.

One of my favorite things that they serve isn’t even on the menu per se. It’s the amazing breads that come with the meal: cheese biscuits, gingerbread and cornbread muffins. This trilogy of bite-sized breads is so delicious, that it would be a mistake to waive this breadbasket away. These petite breads are wonderful because you can have a taste without getting too much. Since I don’t get home to Texas often enough, I have created my own version of the mini cheddar chive scones that I love. Light and flakey with little bites of cheese and a whisper of a savory onion flavor from the chives, if I close my eyes, a bite can take me there. So this week I am sharing these mini scones that would be perfect for any brunch or dinner.

Cheddar and Chive Scones – Make 35 mini scones

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter,cut into small pieces
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup (4oz) cheddar cheese diced into small squares
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, thinly chopped
  • 1 egg mixed with a tablespoon of water for an egg wash

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

In the bowl of your food processor mix together your flour, baking powder and salt. If you don’t have a food processor then you can use a large bowl and then cut your butter in using a pastry blender or your fingers, but the food processor make it much quicker.

Cut your butter into small pieces. Then on a high-speed pulse your food processor until the butter is cut into tiny crumbs. It took me less than 30 seconds. You don’t want to over do it because you want to have little bits of butter evenly distributed in your dough.

Here you can see the small bits or crumbs of butter

Then lightly whisk together your egg and cream and slowly pour them through the chute of your food processor while you mix it into the flour. Be careful not to over mix. As soon as your dough comes together stop mixing.

The dough once it just comes together.

Then on a lightly floured silicone mat or counter evenly kneed in your diced cheddar cheese and chives. Then your pat it with the palm of your hand or roll your dough to a thickness of 3/4 of an inch to an inch thick. Cut your scones using a small 1 1/2 inch cutter. (I have a whole set of inexpensive round cookie cutters that I love for things like this.) Cut out as many rounds as you can then bring your dough together in a ball and pat or roll it out it out again until you use up all of the dough.

Finally in a small bowl whisk together one egg and one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Then brush the tops of your scones so they get a pretty golden finish when they bake. The protein in the egg helps the scones turn golden while the fat from the egg yolk will give your scones a slight shine on top.

If you are entertaining: you could make your scone dough ahead of time and even have them cut and sitting in the fridge. Just wait to brush them with the egg wash until right before you bake them.

Bake your scones for about 12 minutes if you are making this mini version. If you want to  make a larger more traditional 3 inch size then bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Don’t worry if a little cheese finds its way on your baking pan just trim off any extra crispy cheese bits. The little pockets of cheddar cheese make these scones delicious.

These cheddar chive scones would be a welcome addition to any meal, but I find the mini size works perfectly for holiday meals or brunch. In the winter I make a slightly larger sized scone and serve it with my potato soup. These versatile little scones are fairly quick to make and unlike traditional rolls they don’t have yeast that needs time to rise. A basket or plate full of these cheddar chive scones will definitely have your family and friends talking. They might be the side that you make a little extra room for because they are that delicious.

Southern Sides: Mandarin Orange Salad

I love a recipe that has been shared so many times that one doesn’t even know where it originally came from. Those recipes are wonderful because you know they have to be good to be made and shared between family and friends. This mandarin orange salad is a holiday favorite in our house. My aunt was the one who first shared this salad with us, after she got the recipe from a friend. I have made a few changes to make it my own, like  using butter lettuce and tweaking the salad dressing just a touch. The canned mandarin oranges may be a bit retro but they are delicious and they make the recipe quick to assemble. Sometimes when you are putting a holiday meal together you need some dishes to be simple. The salad dressing is something you can make ahead and have in your fridge and the candied almonds can also be made the day before and stored in a Ziploc bag or airtight container. This salad is a classic in our house and it finds it’s way on the menu for many special occasions, so now I am sharing it with you:

Mandarin Orange Salad (Serves 4 to 6, but can easily be doubled)

  • 1 large head of butter lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite sized pieces
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 (11oz) can of mandarin oranges, well drained
  • ½ cup sliced almonds (optional if you have an allergy then this salad is still good without the almonds)
  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

Salad Dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of Fine Herbs (a French herb mix that you can find in the spice aisle that has parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives)
  • ½ cup canola oil

First, you want to prepare your candied almonds. Place a small to medium sized nonstick skillet over medium heat and then add 2 tablespoons of sugar and your almonds. Stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar melts and just begins to turn golden. Make sure your almonds are evenly coated in the melted sugar. While your nuts are toasting, keep a close eye on them, because once the sugar starts to melt it can burn very quickly.

If you look closely you can see the sugar is just beginning to melt and turn golden. This is the part where you need to stir and look closely so the sugar doesn’t burn.

Have a plate or piece of aluminum foil ready to put the nuts on to cool. Once the almonds are cool they are ready to break apart and sprinkle on top of the salad.

Then in a large bowl assemble your salad by tossing together your lettuce, celery, green onions, mandarin oranges and almonds.

Finally, make your salad dressing by whisking together your vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and fine herbs. Then once they are well mixed slowly drizzle in your oil while whisking. You want to keep whisking your dressing until it fully emulsifies and thickens. Sometimes I make this dressing in my mini food processer, which makes it even quicker. If you make you salad dressing ahead you may need to whisk it again if the herbs and ingredients have settled a bit. Add your salad dressing to your salad to taste and wait to toss it with your salad until right before your serve it.

I like serving this salad in a shallow bowl or on a platter because the oranges and almonds don’t sink to the bottom.

A little sweetness from the oranges balanced with the slight tang of the dressing makes it a delicious side. The mix of crispy textures and colors make it a pretty dish too. It’s a side that is sure to brighten any buffet or dining table. So I hope you love and share this recipe too!

The bright orange and spring green leaves make a gorgeous spring salad.