Grilled Romaine, Sweet Potatoes, and Nectarines with Mascarpone

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I thought about calling this post “The Creme Brûlée that Wasn’t”.  All week Kate and I been planning the Friday night usage of our kitchen butane touches, Kate wanted to torch tomatoes and peppers, and I was eyeing a raspberry basil custard brûlée recipe.  Friday morning I realized that the torches may not have come with the butane attachment, so I did some searching on where I could find one (aside from ordering a 12 pack on Amazon) and was left disappointed.  So instead of torching everything we ate last night, we went with the more pedestrian option of grilling.

Josh and I love fresh sweet potatoes in any form (not canned, that’s a whole other story and I don’t approve), so grilled sweet potato discs were an easy hit, especially topped with a little basil lime glaze (I had a lot of basil that was originally planned for the brûlées).  The grilled caesar salad took a little more convincing, Josh and Kate were both wary of “hot lettuce”, but they ended up liking it more than they were expecting.  The dressing was a hit, something I’ll make again for regular cold romaine salads.  Finally, we threw nectarine halves on the grill as we enjoyed the main course (grilled chicken, which somehow didn’t make it into a pic), and then served them with a dollop honey mascarpone, a drizzle of sweetened reduced balsamic, and adorned with, you guessed it, more basil :).  So wonderful.  I could eat honey mascarpone with a spoon (actually Kate and I did, after the peaches had all been topped).  And if you’ve never tried grilling stone fruits, I would highly recommend it.  Especially when served al fresco on a July summer evening.

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Grilled Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon of lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

1 Prepare your grill for hot, direct heat. While the grill is heating up, peel the sweet potatoes and slice lengthwise, or on a diagonal, into 1/4 inch-thick pieces. Coat the sweet potato slices with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt.

2 Combine all of the dressing ingredients into a small bowl.

3 Once the grill is hot, lay the sweet potato pieces down onto the grill grates. Cover the grill and cook until each side gets some grill marks, between 3-6 minutes for each side, depending on how hot your grill is.

4 Toss the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the dressing and serve hot.

Grilled Romaine Salads

  • 2 heads romaine lettuce
  • Olive Oil
  • Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette, recipe follows
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse and pat dry the lettuce. Cut the 2 heads in half lengthwise. Brush surface with olive oil and grill about 4 to 5 minutes total, turning occasionally. Place each wedge on a salad plate and drizzle with Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette or your favorite Caesar dressing. With a vegetable peeler, shave some pieces from a wedge of Reggiano-Parmigiano over each salad and serve.

Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette:

Place all ingredients in a pint jar with a lid. Secure the lid, then shake to blend. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Grilled Nectarines with Mascarpone and Balsamic

1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1T honey
1/4 c mascarpone
1T honey
2  large nectarines
basil to garnish :)

1. Grill the fruit with the cut side down until soft, about 5-10 minutes.
2. Simmer the balsamic vinegar and honey until it thickens, about 5-10 minutes.
3. Mix the mascarpone and honey.
4. Serve the grilled nectarines with topped with the mascarpone and the balsamic syrup.

Pistachio Chocolate Chippers

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As much as I enjoy traveling for work, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks of not traveling.  Stuck at home and off of airplanes since it’s too close to baby time, I’ve had every weekday evening to find recipes, (Whole Foods) grocery shop,  create, share, and often time the biggest hindrance in the process to blogging- actually take pictures, download and write about the foods.   News flash: It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you’re not in Boston Monday through Thursday every week :)

Some nights, I don’t grocery shop for specific ingredients but rather try to create something great with the ingredients I have.  We have a lot of shelled salted pistachios on hand, and they continue to sit stagnantly in our pantry.  My husband, who loves pistachios in their shell, seems to not be at all tempted by the very same nut with its shell removed.  So the bag of shelled green heart healthy nuts has sat untouched for a while.  Rather than throw them out I thought they’d be awesome in some simple chocolate chip cookies, and indeed they are.

Also my sous chef for this recipe is the infamous lama pen, thanks to Sisi for bringing him back from Machu Picchu.

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ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios, shells removed
1 cup chopped dark chocolate
Sea salt, for sprinkling on cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

4. Stir in the pistachios and chocolate chunks. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, form tablespoons size balls of cookie dough. Place balls on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle cookie dough balls with sea salt. Bake cookies for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Let cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.

recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Pulled Pork Quesadillas with White Bean, Radish and Celery Salad

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This recipe marks the last of our pulled pork supply.  Simple, layered with roasted sweet potato, onion and sharp cheddar, these quesadillas were a nice bookend to our weeklong porky run.   Josh was a fan (at least I think he was a fan); they ranked higher than the pork waffles but of course, tiers below the pork pizza.   Before making these for Josh on Sunday evening, however, I decided earlier that morning that blueberry and I were over all things pig, so I also planned to make a summer-y and veggie based salad.  A friend had brought this flavorful and very fresh salad along to last Wednesday’s Concert on the Square, and after my third serving (I had no shame), I thought I should ask her for the details so I could make it myself.   So Sunday morning, still recovering from the scone incident of Saturday, I took my list of needed ingredients and ventured to my home away from home: Whole Foods :) .  I adore Whole Foods, it’s easily my preferred place for perishable grocery shopping, but the downside is that if you’re on a mission for ingredients for a recipe, like the white bean salad here, it can inadvertently turn in a somewhat costly endeavor.  A few bunches of radishes, a new bottle of white wine vinegar, lots of fresh basil and parsley, some fancy olive oil and you’re somehow at 60 bucks.  Such is life.  The salad was fantastic, worth the time and energy, and the Whole Foods prices for something that looks and tastes so wonderfully vibrant.  And best of all, it features zero pork :)

White Bean, Radish and Celery Salad

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 1/2 cups (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup (or more) white wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed, cut into thin slices
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 15-ounce cans cannellini beans
  • 3+ stalks of celery, thinly sliced

Blend  oil, capers, basil and 1 cup parsley in a blender until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a large bowl, mix in 1/4 cup vinegar, and season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.

Add radishes, scallions, beans, celery and remaining 1 1/2 cups parsley to bowl and toss to combine.

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Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

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My first summer in Madison, living downtown and just a few blocks from the capital, I walked up to the farmers market EVERY Saturday morning.  My friend and partner-in-Madison-crime, Joe, would drive downtown to join me; he had a favorite parking spot just around the corner from my apartment building on East Wash.  I bet if we totaled the number of Saturdays when I met him on that corner to walk up to the capital it would be somewhere in the hundreds.  We would start each market loop by grabbing a scone from the 3rd booth we passed, a stand called Chris and Lori’s bake shop.   They are, easily, the most wonderful scones I’ve ever had.  Significantly better than any I have made, which is saying something.  Probably because they have always been associated with such wonderful memories of summer days and the beginning a market adventure.  Over the last 5 years, so much about those 2010 market mornings have changed: Joe has moved to Pittsburg, my home is now a in quiet Verona neighborhood, there’s 30 extra pounds of human around my waist to trek up that East Wash hill… but despite all of those changes, my favorite way to start a summer weekend in Madison is grabbing a Chris and Lori’s espresso dark chocolate scone.

My husband doesn’t love the market as much as I do.  Needless to say we don’t venture all the way downtown every Saturday morning.  So with Josh gone this weekend, it seemed like a perfect morning to go to the market and stock up on as many scones as I could carry.  I gleefully called my parents on the drive informing them of my plan, I parked in the lot associated with my first apartment, for both nostalgia and convenience purposes.  I nearly sprinted up the hill to the bustling Madison square.  As I approached Chris and Lori’s stand, my heart sank.  They were already sold out.  It was 100% humidity, 90 degrees, sunny, and at nearly 9 months pregnant I had just skipped four uphill blocks to see empty shelves covered in once-scone crumbs.   I was over it.   No other market treat would do, so I headed home to create something of my own.

These pancakes were my best remedy.  Josh’s camera makes the process look significantly more picturesque, and when covered in thick syrup, they helped begin to drown out the pain of my experience.   If ever you have a poignantly painful morning, I’d recommend them as emotional encouragement.

Recipe adapted from the Minimalist Baker.

Ingredients
  • 1 very ripe medium banana
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 Tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat a skillet to medium heat or about 300-325 degrees.
  2. Mash your very ripe banana with baking powder.
  3. Add egg, oil, salt, vanilla, almond butter, almond milk and stir.
  4. Stir in oats and flour until just combined.
  5. Sprinkle in chocolate chips and fold gently.
  6. Scoop scant 1/4 cup measurements onto lightly greased griddle.
  7. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side – until golden brown.
  8. Serve plain or with a small drizzle of maple syrup and a few additional chocolate chips for melting.

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Pulled Pork Pizza with Maple Leeks, Gouda and Cheddar

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The pork adventure continues.  Last night we tried a new use case, one involving Trader Joe’s award winning pizza crust, and some freshly grated cheeses and leeks.  This recipe blew the waffles out of the water.  Not that the waffles weren’t a treat, but this pizza was just fantastic.  The crust was not at all soggy, which I attribute to the solid layer of gouda beneath the pork and leeks, isolating the crust and allowing for a perfect crispness.  The pork was able to shine, the maple leeks added a depth of flavor, and everything was evenly and generously topped with freshly grated cheddar.  Finally, I added the barbecue sauce at the very end, just minutes before taking the pizzas out of the oven, so it had time to heat but not to add too much moisture to the layers of goodness.   35 week belly photo is not part of the recipe but added for posterity.  Also Josh would like credit for the photography from this point forward. IMG_2439 IMG_2441 IMG_2453 IMG_2458

Ingredients:

dough get the awesome pre made dough rounds from trader joes :) pizza 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 sliced leeks 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 + cup pulled pork 4 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated 6 ounces aged cheddar cheese, freshly grated 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce, for drizzling

Directions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks, salt and pepper, stirring to coat. Cook untiled softened, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat. Using a rolling pin or your hands, form dough into your desired shape on a baking sheet.  Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Cover the dough with the fontina cheese, then layer on the leeks and the pork. Add the cheddar on top evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and golden. Drizzle the pizza with BBQ sauce before or after slicing and serve.

Pulled Pork Cornbread Waffles and Peachy Blueberry Yogurt Cake

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I’m on a mission: to creatively use the pounds and pounds of pulled pork that we currently have in our home.   Why would a family of two people (one who eats largely vegetarian) have enough pork to feed 16 hungry adults?  Well, it all started one gloomy Saturday afternoon with our new Costco membership…

Technically it all started with a pregnancy and a necessity to buy and move into a 3400 square foot home, a home that has more square footage devoted to pantry and storage space than our previous apartment had in total square footage.  I definitely miss the perks of a trendy and industrial downtown apartment, but in an effort to look on the bright side of our new small-town-neighborhood home, the storage options are aplenty.  What better way to embrace that space than becoming a Costoco family?  So on Saturday all 2 of us piled into the family BMW, waited in the Costoco membership line to hear the perks of this new way of life, and then promptly purchased 5 pounds of organic carrots and cases of Pellegrino as we meandered our way through the store.  On a whim (isn’t that always how it happens) we happened to grab a container of simple slow roasted pulled pork… and here we are.

Last night we turned that pork into the first of a few creative entrees: Barbecued and served stacked with cornbread waffles, sharp shredded cheddar and some summer chives and green onions.  Jake, easily our friend with the most discerning of culinary palates, stopped by to assist in Operation Costco Pork Consumption, and he approved of the variety of tastes and textures in this inaugural dish.  Meanwhile I enlisted the help of my trusty and coveted spring form pan (who has his own shelf in one of the pantry areas), to create a dense but refreshing yogurt cake featuring ripe and flavorful peaches and bluebs.  No feedback yet on the texture as it’s being saved to share at the going away party of two of our favorite Madison-ites later tonight.

Pulled pork and aged cheddar pizza later this week!

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Pork Waffles!

  • 1 box cornbread mix
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbs butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 egg
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 -2 cups pulled pork
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 ear of corn, grilled
  • 1/4 cup scallions, diced

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a metal wire rack; set aside.

Preheat waffle iron. Following the directions on the box of Jiffy cornbread, mix the cornbread mix, milk, butter, eggs and cheddar cheese together. Spray waffle iron with non stick cooking spray and prepare waffles as directions indicate for your waffle iron or until they are crisp and cooked through. Place waffles on prepared baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm.

Reheat your pulled pork with additional barbecue sauce if desired.

Slice the kernels off of the corn and stir in the scallions.

Remove the waffles from the oven and layer with pulled pork. Sprinkle with corn and scallion mixture. Serve with additional barbecue sauce to taste.

Cake!

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 peaches, sliced into wedges
  • 6 oz blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease the side and the bottom of the pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom of a 9×3-inch springform pan (or 9 inch round cake pan) with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper too.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, together into a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat butter, sugar, and 2 eggs until very light in color and fluffy, 2-3 minutes on high speed. Add vanilla and Greek yogurt and continue beating until very creamy and light in color, for about 1 more minute.
  4. Keeping the mixer speed low, mix in the flour mix until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Transfer the cake batter to the springform pan. Top with sliced peaches, and scatter blueberries evenly on top in the spaces between the peach slices. Sprinkle the fruit with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.
  6. Bake until cake turns golden, and the tester comes out clean in the center, about 1 hour, depending on your oven. Midway through baking, I like to put some extra peach slices and extra blueberries on top of the cake for prettiness, and return cake to baking.
  7. When the cake is done baking, let it cool (still in the baking pan) on a wire rack. After cake has cooled for about 40 minutes, release the cake from the springform pan. At this point, if the cake is cool enough, you can slide your hand under the cake, between the parchment paper and the bottom portion of the springform pan and move the cake with the parchment paper attached to its bottom onto a cake plate easily.
  8. If using a 9 inch round cake pan, cook in pan for about 40 minutes or more (up to 1 hour, depending on your oven), then invert onto a plate.

Oatmeal Bourbon Carmel Cookie Pie

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This Saturday will commemorate the greatest Pi Day of our lives: 3.14.15.  In preparation for the festival of pies that we will prepare and eat this Saturday night (Schaefer Themed Dinnerparty Club, edition #3), I tested out a dessert pie option.  If there’s one thing that’s as constant as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, it’s that cookie pies are a crowd pleaser.  I found an oatmeal caramel milk chocolate cookie pie recipe and thought that something so wonderful could only be enhanced by the edition of a splash of bourbon.  We shared this pie tonight with Kate and Wyatt: it was such a wild success that I will definitely make it again for Saturday night’s festivities, AND I’d recommend it for any non pi related event in your lives :)

Josh and I worked hard on this, as you can see in this photo ;)

 

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Which bourbon should I use?  Decisions, decisions.

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THIS ONE.

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Shaped into a crust in my incredible Pi pie plate.

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Filled with a caramel middle (not homemade, but in support of the Smucker’s company)

 

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Baked and goldeny brown.  Smelled like heaven.

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Served with hazelnut gelato at Kate and Wyatt’s on their New Mexico placemats.  Can you see their tiny refections in the spoon?

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Thanks for dinner K & W!! Thanks for the most magical pie plate ever, my dear gwen.

  • 1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted salted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup good bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
  • Smucker’s Salted Caramel Sauce

In large mixing bowl lightly whisk together steel cut oats, flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt.  In another bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, egg, bourbon, and vanilla, stirring vigorously until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, then stir again until dough takes shape.  Lastly fold in chocolate chips, then cover bowl and place in refrigerator to chill for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.

When ready, lightly grease pie dish (mine was 9.5″).  Using your hands shape cookie dough to pie dish, spreading out as evenly as possible.  When just over half the dough has been used, pour over with salted caramel sauce in a swirling pattern, then top caramel sauce with remaining dough.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until just cooked through.

Serve with gelato and friends!

The Rainbow Cake That Will Launch My Small Business

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I’m not usually a bake-from-a-mix kind of sconemaster.  Mixes actually doesn’t save you that much time or hassle.  If you have a kitchenaide, you can make almost anything in little time and very little effort.  Homemade icing, a simple but magical blend of softened butter and confectioners sugar (with a splash if milk and maybe vanilla) is a miracle compared to shelf stable, crazy chemical fortified grocery store frosting from a tub.

However, I make an exception to the “from scratch wherever, whenever” rule when we receive a generous box of treats from Josh’s friend Fred, who is gleefully employed by the Smuckers corporation (at least I imagine it to be gleeful employment :) ).  The parent company of Pillsbury, Martha White, Folgers, Jif, and many others, Smuckers seems to be very generous with its employees, allowing them large quantities of samples of their new products.  And in turn Fred is very generous with us, periodically shipping us boxes of limited edition Jif PB flavors, crazy K cup flavors, and a variety of their boxed Pillsbury mixes.

Last week, the arrival of a Fred box coincided with Ellie and Tim’s engagement AND an atrocious Tuesday at work, leading to a perfect storm of hours and hours of baking Pillsbury mixes :) Since Tim & Ellie are the king and queen of gummy bears, I wanted to make a cake that would commemorate bears, and the spectrum of colors and happiness that gummies represent.

This cake definitely had excellent presentation from the exterior, but the real celebration came when we cut into it.  It was clearly a hit with our friends and with the happy couple, but as an extra perk, it was a huge hit with the restaurant staff.  We left the extra cake slices with our waitress and asked her to share with the kitchen, and she was thrilled.  Apparently everyone at Gates and Brovi was, because by the end of the night the manager had expressed his interest in ordering 4 gummy rainbow cakes for their Christmas party this year, since everyone in his restaurant got so much joy out of the cake :)

This is how small bakeries and catering companies start.  And how a lifetime of Ellie and Tim happiness starts.

Congrats E&T! Love you both.

 

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Newton who? Steph’s Oatmeal Fig Bars

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A few weeks ago my 2nd home (aka the Madison Whole Foods) was sampling their 365 Brand organic and lower sugar version of the classic snack cookie: the Fig Newton.  Without specifically ripping Nabisco, they did a pretty good job of shaming the original “Fig Newton” by calling out all the atrocious ingredients that their organic product didn’t contain (i.e. corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, sulfites, resistant corn maltodextrin, etc).  Nice work, Whole Foods brand, I thought, but I bet I could do it even better.  So I set out to make a Sconemaster version with stellar nutrition and the addition of love.  My recipe includes zero sugar, only local honey, oat flour instead of any white or wheat flour, and a wonderfully textured whole-fruit figgy filling.  Though it takes longer than I would like to reduce the figs, it’s worth the time; I will definitely make these again.   Served on my Crate and Barrel Holiday 2014 plate “What’s the Fig Idea?” (thanks Ellie and Tim!), these treats were a blog post waiting to happen :)

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Ingredients

2 cups oat flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

Fig Filling

2 cups dried figs

3/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 clementine

1/2 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut off the stems of the dried figs and place them into a saucepan with the cold water. Allow the figs to soak for 15 minutes and then add the honey, salt, and orange zest. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add clementine if it looks like more moisture is needed.  Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes and then transfer to a food processor to puree into a paste.
  2. Next preheat the oven to 350°F and then line a 9 x 9” square baking dish with parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients (oat flour, oats, walnuts, salt, baking soda, cinnamon).
  3. In a separate large bowl, combine the wet ingredients (honey, vanilla extract, apple sauce and coconut oil) and stir together. Add the dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined.
  4. Spoon half of the batter into the lined baking dish and press it firmly to form a base layer. The dough will be sticky- using another layer of parchment paper to press down with will help to keep it from sticking to your hands. Next, scoop out the fig paste from the processor and press it into a thin layer using your hands. Lay it on top of the base layer in the baking dish and press until it forms a smooth middle layer. Lastly spoon the rest of the oatmeal batter on top and smooth down as evenly as possible.
  5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the edges are light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for several hours. This will assure they hold together properly. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Recipe adapted from Making Thyme for Health.

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Blog Gone…

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It’s been quite a while since this little website has seen any action.  Why, you ask?  Believe me, I ask myself the same question.  And I always conjure the same combination of excuses: a lack of time in the evenings to compose posts, a general frustration with WordPress that wears on my patience which is already thin by the end of each weekday, a needed and costly website space upgrade which I’ve just been putting off (just call me Steph- Thrifty- Nienaber),  a number of new competing priorities.   If there’s one excuse that never makes the list, it’s a lack of cooking or baking or sharing the joys of good foods with good friends.  And I’d prefer it that way.  In other words, I’d rather still be living in my kitchen and spending weeknights and weekends cooking for friends but then not have the time to blog, rather than have the time to blog but not have any content to feature.  So as frustrating as it’s been for all of you readers to continually visit this site and not see any new posts, know in your heart that there has not been a lack of new foods or new friends or new culinary fun.  That’s gotta be worth something, right?  It is to me, and since I continue to be the sole writer, editor and publisher of Sconemasters, that’s all that really matters ;)

Catch up on 4 months of noteworthy adventures in the picturesque vignettes below-

1) The Schaefer Dinner Club.  Each month, a couple in this exclusive group creates a menu, tasks the other couples with a dish to bring, prepares the main dish, and hosts.  We kicked off the rotation with our “Keely’s Farm” themed menu, featuring beef tenderloin as the main entree.  Josh can be seen below seasoning this gem the morning of the event, shortly after I had returned from purchasing it at Whole Foods, and still recovering from the shock of the price.  Let’s just say, the comments in the Saveur recipe included the following, “this recipe is awesome! super easy and delicious. easily the hardest part is finding a job that affords you the ability to buy beef tenderloin”.  A part of me wished I had read that comment before volunteering to make this for 14 :) but the other part was too thrilled with the results to remember.

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Kristi’s bourbon based cocktail-

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Outtake

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Matt and Ashley’s Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Tart.  Incredible.

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All those years as a child where setting the table was my nightly job are coming to fruition.

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The final tenderloin.  Wish it was as captivating in photos as it is in your mouth.

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Ellie and Tim’s Brussel Sprout and Kale Salad.

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Kate and Wyatt’s Roasted Root Vegetables.

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Perfect.

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Ellie and Tim also brought Caramel Apple Pie!  Points for 2 awesome dishes.IMG_0077

2) November 2014 European Getaway.  This adventure has already been highlighted in many other forms of social media but just to highlight a couple of photos which Josh may not have posted, I’m including a few here.

After getting lost in Harrods one afternoon, we clearly needed a sugary boost.  I think French macarons would be a nice change of pace for me, right? ;)

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This magical, whimsical cupcake cake was available pre made at nearly every corner store in Cambridge.

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Long day onsite, let’s get drunk on the train into London… and refuel with… you guessed it.

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This was a grand city center in Brussels where I had asked a stranger to take our photo, and while we were definitely not trying to make these faces or this pose, I think it’s a pretty comical capture.

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Couldn’t write a blog post without paying homage to the waffle haven of the world.IMG_0416

A surprise from my most wonderful family upon returning from a long day or touring.  Josh can verify that this expression is not exaggerated for the photo.  Thanks again, Gwen and Glenn!!

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Bruges at dusk.  The most lovely medieval city I have ever had the pleasure of touring (and by touring I mean getting a sugar high off chocolate testing and a buzz off of brews).

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He’s all about his Cath Kidston tote and Burberry messenger bag ;)

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Zurich! Just lovely.

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Swiss chocolate, because comparison (of belgian chocolate and swiss chocolate) is what makes the world go round.

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Lucerne.  We may have taken a few photos in this setting, trying to get the foreground/ background ratio juuuusssstttt right.

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On top of Europe!  IMG_0623

A $50 cheeseburger at our Woodrow Wilson Grand Hotel in Geneva.

Was it delicious?  Yes.

Was it $50 worth of delicious?  No, especially when I think that I could’ve bought 1/4 of a beef tenderloin instead.

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3) Holidays.  With Simba.  and with other family members, but mostly with Simba.IMG_0694

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So many goldens, so little time.IMG_0763

4) A Madison Rendezvous with my favorite humans.  Just a Saturday lounging in the den.  Probably looks like nothing to most, actually everything to me.

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Birthday cake pancakes for the birthday Coco Bean.IMG_0919

5) Quick trip to Chicago where we used a limo for casual transportation.  Why not?IMG_1113_2

And where we indulged in one of my favorite donut-eries, Glazed and Infused.  If you turn this 90 degrees counterclockwise, it’s most definitely representative of a smile.IMG_1127_2

6) a Very Nienaber Christmas.  20 year Pappy.

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The annual Ella-Steph-only-Nienaber-born-girls-in-the-family photo.

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7) Post holiday culinary adventures with Matt and Kev.  My introduction to raclette.IMG_1273

What a kitchen island should look like.

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8) The most incredible red wine chocolate cake.  Whoops, and some spilled in my glass while I was making the glaze.IMG_1312

Steph is speechless upon tasting.IMG_1316

9) A quick visit to my favorite host of munchkins in the south.  They’re presenting a scene to their version of Frozen for me.

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My Molls, showcasing our attempt to recreate Matt and Ash’s tart from above.

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10) Obsession with my new spiralizer.  Why make pasta pasta, when you can make zuchinni pasta?  There are zero valid reasons.IMG_1447

11) The Schaefer Dinner Club, Edition 2.  This time themed “Asian Fanfare”. Ellie hits the appetizer out of the park with her pork potstickers.  And her rabbit vest.IMG_1457

Matt and Ash compose a very detailed and elaborate Bibimbap.

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According to Josh “no utensils for this meal, only Porkchops!” (another way of saying ‘chopsticks’? )IMG_1462

My Cookie Dough Egg Rolls.  An unexpected and glorious success.IMG_1466

12) Which brings us to this week, last night in fact, where I wanted to make a ho ho cake for Josh’s birthday week and a small get together we hosted with a few friends, but this cake was so moist and soft it wouldn’t dismount onto my cake plate in any semblance of a complete round.  This is the “before buttercream” photo, where you can appreciate the size of the gauge in one side.IMG_1480

After, covered in melted chocolate glaze and funfetti sprinkles, I can’t even see with my critical eye where the issue was.  A birthday miracle, I call this.IMG_1484

 

And with that, I close this hiatus-ending post, promising, in the words of Bubba Cutler, to “come again soon and stay longer”.