The Kitchen Prep

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Blueberry & Brie Salad with Puff Pastry Croutons | Food Wine Conference 2016 #FWCon

If you've seen the last few posts I've published, you might be wondering why the heck I'm so excited about attending the Food Wine Conference next month in Orlando. {You might also be wondering if I ever eat anything other than cheese, bacon and dessert. I do, I promise.}

Well, let's start with the two main reasons: FOOD. WINE.

All kidding aside, this will be my second year attending this fantastic conference, but my first time going as a brand ambassador {which basically means that I'll be helping one of our amazing sponsors promote their brand while I'm mingling, learning, sipping and noshing}. Finding out about the conference last year came at the perfect time for me. I was learning to juggle the work-from-home blogging thing with the mama-to-a-6-month-old thing, and quite frankly, I was feeling creatively depleted. {And sleep deprived. Let's not forget that.}

FWCon Brand Ambassador

At the very last minute {and at the prodding from my friends Shaina & Sloane}, I decided that maybe a weekend at this conference would reinvigorate me and help me regain my "spark." And it did! 

It's hard not to get excited about what you do when you're surrounded by a ballroom-full of talented and successful people who are willing to share their secrets with you. Also, the eatin' at these things isn't too bad either! {wink, wink!}

Last year's Certified Angus Beef dinner.
I always love food blogging conferences because it's a great place to connect with others who share my passion for food and writing, and it's also nice to meet face to face with the representatives from the brands that sponsor these events. So much of what we do is shared via social media, email and other technology that it's refreshing to be able to look your colleagues in the eye and relate on a human level. It's all about building relationships.

One of the reasons I enjoy FWCon in particular is because I feel like Isabel herself {the founder & creator of the Sunday Supper Movement & FWCon} builds the experience based on her knowledge as a successful food blogger and business person. Every last detail -- from the dining experiences to the selected speakers -- make you feel like she sat down and said, "What would make a conference fun and exciting for me? What would I want to learn?" And it's precisely that personal touch that makes FWCon feel warm, friendly and comfortable for both seasoned bloggers and newbies alike.

All smiles while learning with my blogging buddies! Photo credit: Ashley Hamon Photography
A whole lot of learning takes place at these things with tips coming from the pros themselves, with sessions covering all of the skills and strategies that are needed to stay relevant in today's busy, ever-changing world of digital media. But all that serious information is tempered with tons of lighthearted fun, too! Let's not forget all the snack breaks and all-out feasting that take place throughout the whole weekend. This thing is made for "foodies" after all!

It's not all business at FWCon! Photo credit: Ashley Hamon Photography
Whether you're new to the food blogging world and are looking for an opportunity to sharpen your skills or a long time blogger who is seeking to connect with colleagues, this conference is for you! Good news... you can still join in the fun by purchasing tickets today. {Use code THEKITCHENPREP and receive $50 off your ticket.}

I can't wait to dig into this year's Food Wine Conference... hope to see you there!

Photo credit: Ashley Hamon Photography
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

As I mentioned a few times, the Food Wine Conference is never short on, well... food! Last year, I found myself seeking some greens amidst the dessert tables, cocktails and poutine bar. So, in preparation for all the feasting, I'm gearing up for this year's conference with a salad! 

This Blueberry & Brie Salad with Puff Pastry Croutons is a riff on one of my favorite rich, creamy appetizers: Brie en Croute. You know what I'm talking about -- a wheel of brie wrapped in puff pastry and baked until it's ooey & gooey in the center. 

How do you turn a leafy salad into a mouth-watering version of this decadent appetizer? With puff pastry croutons, of course! I don't know why I never thought to turn puff pastry into croutons before... they're so buttery and flaky, and surprisingly simple to make with a package of store bought puff pastry dough. Genius.

Sometimes Brie en Croute is served with a layer of jam or a fruity compote topping to add an element of sweetness to savory dish. In this salad, fresh blueberries give a pop of freshness to the otherwise savory ingredients. And yes, it's nice to know that you're balancing out the little bit of "naughty" in this salad with a handful of antioxidant-rich blueberries

Wish Farms, a 3rd generation family-owned and operated produce company, will be among this year's conference sponsors, and they're hosting a recipe contest looking for delicious ways to use blueberries in salad form. I'd say this salad is my new favorite way to add blueberries to the mix! 

Give it a try the next time you're looking for a way to jazz up your salad game!

Disclosure: I received my FWCon ticket at a discounted price in exchange for my participation as a brand ambassador. Using my discount code in purchasing your ticket will also earn me a commission. 

Blueberry & Brie Salad with Puff Pastry Croutons

1 bag of your favorite salad mix
1 pint Wish Farms blueberries
About 4 ounces brie cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup candied pecans
Puff Pastry Croutons {see directions below}
Lemon, Honey & Thyme Vinaigrette {see recipe below}

Make Puff Pastry Croutons:
1/3 sheet of puff pastry from a store bought package
Favorite seasoning {I used a Garlic & Herbs seasoning grinder and salt}

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with a piece of parchment paper.

2. Unfold 1 sheet of slightly thawed puff pastry from the package, placing on parchment. Cut one third of the sheet, and save the rest for another use. {Or you could use the whole thing, but it would make a LOT of croutons!}

3. Brush the puff pastry with a bit of water to moisten slightly, then sprinkle with desired seasonings.

4. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the puff pastry into tiny squares -- you can make them as big or small as you'd like, but remember that they will puff up significantly when they bake.

5. Bake for about 12-14 minutes or until they're golden brown and puffed. Set aside until ready to use.

Make Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon thyme

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

Assemble Salad:

1. In a large salad bowl, toss salad mix with vinaigrette to taste until lightly dressed. 

2. Add blueberries, brie and pecans and toss to combine.

3. Sprinkle puff pastry croutons over top. 

Makes a great accompaniment to a dinner entree or a more substantial lunch served with a grilled chicken breast. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pimento Cheese Stuffed Cornbread

That whole "twist on a Southern classic" thing I mentioned last week got my wheels turning, and all I've been able to think about are amped up Southern recipes. Plus, my husband and I are planning an anniversary trip to Charleston in June and I've been falling asleep with visions of shrimp & grits dancing in my head. {Much better than sugarplums, in case you were wondering.}

It's only natural that this week my recipe development has gone "South", inspired by some of the most mouthwatering dishes you can find this side of the Mississippi.

The folks who have planned and sponsored this year's Food Wine Conference in Orlando have really asked us to step it up with creativity for their recipe contests, and I'm determined to try my best to deliver! As I mentioned, I already entered the #BreakTheRouxles contest with my Bacon Lattice-Top Peach Pie a la Mode with Bourbon Sweet Tea Syrup. No sooner had I submitted my recipe, another opportunity popped up, this time from Florida Dairy Farmers, a platinum sponsor for FWCON 2016.

Since I love a good recipe challenge, I decided to roll up my sleeves and see what kinds of dairy-filled delights I could come up with for this entry.

My initial thoughts were along the lines of ice cream, pudding and mac & cheese, but they all seemed too obvious and not quite challenging enough for what I had in mind. And then, like all great ideas, I imagined combining two ridiculously delicious foods into one mind-boggling recipe...

... and Pimento Cheese Stuffed Cornbread was born. {And the angels sang a hymn and hit the treadmills in preparation.}

I mixed it all up, slapped it in a pan and prayed for the best. {Literally because I should have used a slightly bigger pan and I was worried the entire time that it would overflow all over my oven. It didn't.} I'm happy to report that my idea worked out. Oh so well.

Tender cornbread employs the element of surprise by harboring a savory Pimento Cheese spread filling in its center. Though I was a little annoyed at first that some of the cheese oozed from the sides as it baked up, the crisp burnt cheese edges {you know, like the ones you fight over on a casserole dish of mac & cheese} turned out to be one of my favorite parts. Truth be told, my original plan was to bake this up as corn muffins with the filling in the center of each, but on a time crunch, I took the easy route and made it a one-pan recipe. And I'm not one bit sorry.

Straightforward dairy-filled delightfulness. Oven. Mouth. Belly. {Thighs.} Done.

Serve it as a side to chili, soup, or whatever your little heart desires. It's a winner for sure.

Pimento Cheese Stuffed Cornbread
Yields 16 squares 

For Pimento Cheese:
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon grated white onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup diced pimentos
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use {or refrigerate if not using right away}.

For Cornbread:
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk {I used whole, but you can use whatever you'd like}
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
1 {8 tablespoons} stick melted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 inch pan with parchment or foil and grease the sides. {Alternatively, you can use a 9 inch seasoned cast iron skillet.}

2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine.

3. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients. Stir to combine until everything is well-mixed and fully incorporated, but try not to overwork the batter.

4. Ladle half of the batter into the prepared pan or skillet. Gently add the Pimento Cheese mixture to the top of the first layer, spreading it carefully to cover the batter evenly.

5. Scoop the remaining batter on top of the Pimento Cheese mixture and spread with an offset spatula making sure to cover the cheese layer completely.

6. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the top begins to brown* and a skewer inserted into the cornbread comes out mostly clean with just a few moist crumbs.

7. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before trying to remove from pan. Once removed, cut into squares {it's pretty rich, so small squares will do!} and serve warm.

*If your top browns too quickly, lightly tent a piece of foil on top as it bakes through to protect the top from burning.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Banana Split Brownies | Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Mixes

When signs of spring begin cropping up outside, so do the outdoor activities. Cookouts, picnics and potlucks start filling up the weekends, and with them come the need for go-to recipes to share with family and friends.

There are times, though, that the week gets busy... or that I'm exhausted ... or that I just want to hit the "easy" button. Like, "please do most of the work for me" kind of easy. I'm sure you have those moments, too.

So, I'm going to tell you exactly how to prepare for these times: During your next trip to Walmart, take a little stroll down the baking aisle. Cruise over to the Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Mixes... and stock. up. Then head home and put them in your pantry and be prepared to thank yourself the next time you need to make something on the fly.

Last week I mentioned how Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Mixes have come in handy for the times that I've made treats for GF friends and family. With the amount of people that are choosing to go gluten free for allergy or diet purposes, making GF options is always smart when you're bringing food to a gathering. But sometimes I just don't have the time or energy to experiment with a bunch of different flours and binders to make sure that the finished product will be tasty {read: Not have the texture of a pencil eraser.}, so I appreciate the predictability of a boxed mix.

As much as I love the classics {cookies, brownies, sheet cake, etc.}, I always like to bring something original and creative to the party. You know me... I can never leave well enough alone. My friends would probably take my temperature and tell me to lie down if I showed up to a party with plain brownies. {Not that there's anything wrong with plain brownies. I'm a fan.}

So, Banana Split Brownies it is. Because who doesn't love something inspired by ice cream when the weather heats up?

These brownies look complex, but they are SO EASY to make thanks to starting off with a box of Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Brownie Mix. Freeze dried strawberries give these rich chocolate treats just the right amount of fruity tartness, and whole bananas {cut lengthwise just like a real Banana Split} can be found in each fudgey bite, while walnuts lend some texture and crunch.

Just look at that banana peeking out! <3
The toppings are completely optional, of course... but how can you resist all the classic Banana Split fixin's? They're the perfect way to invite some customized DIY decorating to take place!

Springtime is here, so take my advice and squirrel away a few boxes of Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Mixes {and earn 75 cents cash back with Ibotta in the process} for the times when you need to "mix up a moment!"

Banana Split Brownies

1 box Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Brownie Mix
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoon water
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped {plus extra for garnish}
1/4 cup freeze dried strawberries, roughly chopped
2 medium bananas, cut lengthwise

Optional Toppings:
Whipped Cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with foil, leaving some overlapping as "handles", and coat with non-stick spray.

2. In a large bowl, prepare brownies as directed on box. Stir walnuts and freeze dried strawberries into the batter.

3. Pour half of the brownie batter into prepared baking pan. Arrange whole bananas in pan, pushing them lightly into batter. Top with remaining batter and smooth the top.

4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the brownies comes out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.

Let cool for about 20 minutes before lifting out by foil handles. Cut into 9 equal pieces. Embellish with toppings if desired!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bacon Lattice-Top Peach Pie a La Mode {with Bourbon Sweet Tea Syrup}

There is something about the honest to goodness, no apologies, "y'all come back now", rib-sticking recipes of the South that speak to me. I've mentioned my infatuation with Southern culture before, so it's no surprise that the food is no exception.

So around this time of year when everyone is all "tacos and margaritas" for Cinco de Mayo, I'm usually dreaming of Derby dishes and thinking about what foods go well with a splash of bourbon. {Hint: It's all of them.}

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that one of the contests for this year's Food & Wine Conference calls for creating your own twist on a classic Southern recipe. Um, done. 

My problem was not coming up with an idea, but narrowing down the slew of ideas that came to mind! My husband, bless him, has been kind enough to listen with {feigned} interest as I brainstormed over the past few days, abruptly blurting out Southern-inspired concoctions and waiting for a look of approval {or disbelief}.

When I came up with this combination, the look on his face was somewhere between curiosity and concern... so I knew it must be a winner.

On a lot of the cooking shows I watch, the celebrity chef judges often praise or criticize a contestant's
"restraint" or lack thereof in a dish. And this pie? This pie would definitely fall into the latter category.

This pie laughs at diets and sneers at daintiness. It says, "Don't come around here looking for a cream puff.", and yet, has some of the genteel qualities of a true Southerner.

Strips of bacon {yes, I went there} are interwoven with flaky bands of pie crust to create a perfectly piggy lattice top. Underneath the shocking exterior is a heap of sweet peaches that balance the salty bite of the bacon canopy. You could stop there, but I mean... you topped a pie with a bacon crust. So I highly suggest going full steam ahead with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of Bourbon Sweet Tea Syrup. It's just the right thing to do.

This ain't the way your grandma from Georgia made her peach pie, but listen... I'm not trying to win a blue ribbon at the county fair. {But I am trying to win a free conference pass!} Sometimes it's ok to #BreakTheRouxles!

Bacon Lattice-Top Peach Pie a La Mode with Bourbon Sweet Tea Syrup

For Pie Crust : 
1 box of store pie crust {or your own from scratch if you prefer, just make sure your recipe yield's 2 9 inch circles}
4 strips bacon {lean or thin cut if possible}

For Filling: 
4 cups frozen peaches {or 3 to 4 medium fresh peaches, peeled & pitted}
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
{Optional} 1 tablespoon sanding/sparkling sugar
Your favorite vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Carefully unroll pie crusts to fit a 9 inch round glass pie dish. Place the dough for the bottom half of the pie directly in the dish, pressing lightly and making sure it goes all the way up the sides.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients for filling. Add the peaches to the dry mixture and toss to coat all of the peaches evenly. Pour over the dough-covered bottom of the pie dish.

3. On a lightly floured surface, place the second circle of dough and measure out about 1 1/2 inch strips {the goal is to have strips of dough about as wide as your strips of bacon}. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut into strips. For a lattice design, the easiest way to create the pattern is to fold back every other strip of dough about half way, then place a strip of bacon horizontally across the dough and return the strips to their normal position to overlap the piece of bacon. Continue this pattern until all the strips of bacon and pie dough are interwoven in a lattice design. This is a good tutorial for you visual learners out there!

3. Press the edges of the pie dough to seal or create a fluted design. {I actually reserved a few strips of pie dough from the top and pressed them around the edge to create a fluted border. You don't have to, but it makes for a nice presentation.}

4. In a small bowl, beat together egg and a tablespoon of water to create a wash. Brush the egg mixtures over the strips of pie dough. Bake the pie for about 35-40 minutes until the crust is golden and the bacon is cooked and crisp.*

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of Bourbon Sweet Tea Syrup!

For Syrup:
1/2 cup brewed peach flavored or regular black tea {bottled is fine, just make sure it's unsweetened}
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

1. Bring tea, sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced by about half.
2. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon.

Set aside until ready to use or refrigerate, stored in a sealed jar.

*I typically like to use fresh fruit, but I couldn't find any peaches as they aren't in season just yet. Frozen works just fine. A pound of frozen peaches equals about 3 medium peaches. Depending on the source, it is suggested that you thaw and drain the peaches, though I did not. {And therefore had a bit of extra liquid in the pie.}

*If the edges of your pie is getting too dark before the bacon is crisp, you can use foil to tent the perimeter so that it doesn't over-brown. They also sell these nifty pie crust shields for this very purpose!

*There was a little grease from the bacon that I simply poured off by tipping the pie {carefully!!!} over the sink once the pie was slightly cooled.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Do's & Don'ts of Gluten Free Mix Baking | Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Premium Mixes

It's pretty obvious that I LOVE from-scratch baking, and that I'm not afraid of a challenge when it comes to cakes, cookies, brownies and most other sweet treats. BUT. I have a little secret...

Gluten free baking can be a little intimidating for me. Though I've dabbled a bit from time to time, I generally avoid baking gluten free goodies for family and friends because GF ingredients can be a bit tricky if you don't know much about them. 

I know exactly what to expect when you combine flour, sugar, eggs and butter... but start throwing in things like almond or rice flour, xantham gum and tapioca starch, and all bets are off. Gluten free baking can take a bit more finesse, especially if you're looking for an outcome that is similar to its non-GF counterparts {think: fluffy cakes and chewy cookies}. I'd hate to admit it, but I've had more GF baking fails than successes when I've been left to my own devices.

So you know what I discovered? Pillsbury has an entire line of gluten free mixes that make baking EASY. No more guess-work, purchasing ingredients you'll only use for one recipe and baking flops! These mixes come with everything you need right in the box for results that are exactly what you're hoping for. AND they can be purchased at your local Walmart! Um, tell me again why I was making multiple trips to specialty stores for expensive GF ingredients?!

These mixes are affordable, simple to make and so nice to have in a pinch when you're baking for GF friends. Now that I've stocked up on a few boxes at Walmart and tried my hand at GF box mix baking, I've learned a few important things that I'll now pass along to you:

DO get creative with add-ins & toppings. Just because you buy a GF brownie mix doesn't mean you have to make plain ol' brownies! Think of all the possibilities and get creative with your add ins to give mixes a personalized touch. {This goes for cookies & cakes, too!}

DON'T forget to check your other ingredients if you're baking for someone with a true gluten allergy. While these boxed mixes are wonderful for whipping up sweets without the worry or hassle, it's important to make sure that all of your ingredients are gluten free if they'll be consumed by someone with Celiac Disease or severe gluten intolerance. Always read labels and double check, and make sure to use well-cleaned kitchen tools and surfaces to avoid cross-contamination. 

DO use the directions as a starting point -- but DON'T limit yourself! There are so many fun treats that you can make out of simple boxed cake, cookie or brownie mix! What if you use cookie mix as a base for a tart? Or how about turning your cake mix into a GF crumble topping for a cobbler? The possibilities are endless!

DON'T overdo it. Though many people these days are choosing a gluten free diet in an attempt to eat healthier, it's important to remember that GF treats are still treats! It might be tempting to bake goodies more often when you're using a delightfully easy mix, but remember... everything in moderation!

DO get your family involved! A lot of the fun of being in the kitchen comes from "mixing up a moment" with family and friends! Whether you let your little ones scoop cookie dough onto baking sheets or work on cake decorating with your mom or grandma, you'll be baking up sweet memories that will last longer than the treats you gobble up!

I've had so much fun seeing how many amazing things I can make from boxed mixes, and I can't wait to show you one of my favorites in an upcoming post... so stay tuned!

But for now, check out how I turned ordinary {but delicious} Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix into an irresistibly fun springtime treat! Setting up an "assembly line" with family and friends makes quick work of putting these goodies together -- the quicker they're ready, the faster you can get to nibbling!

What's your favorite way to jazz up your gluten free mixes?

Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 box Pillsbury™ Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Premium Cookie Mix
1 stick {8 tablespoons butter}
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
Marshmallow Creme OR large marshmallows*
Melted chocolate chips
{Optional} Colorful sprinkles

1. Prepare cookies according to package directions, scooping about 1 tablespoon of cookie dough for each cookie onto baking pan. Bake and cool completely.

2. When the cookies are cool, top each one with a dollop of marshmallow creme or a half of a large marshmallow.

3. Immediately coat with melted chocolate, tapping gently to coat completely. {You can spoon the melted chocolate over the cookie or dip it in the melted chocolate.} Place on a cooling rack or parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with sprinkles if desired.

4. Place in cookies freezer until the chocolate is set, about 5-7 minutes.

Store in refrigerator if not using immediately.

*I placed the marshmallow creme in a zip top bag and snipped the tip to pipe a dollop onto each cookie, but you can also use half of a large marshmallow for these {though they'll look a little Frankenstein-boxy because of the shape of the marshmallow. They'll still taste good!} If you use marshmallow creme, work quickly or refrigerate to help the creme set a bit as it tends to get runny.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Flax Pancakes with Banana-Coconut Compote | Stonyfield + Barlean's

I think my kid broke me. Or, at the very least, my ability to sleep peacefully for extended periods of time.

Though he's been "sleeping like a baby" through the night for quite some time, I find myself having the same "red light, green light" sleep cycles that began when he was just a tiny thing that needed tending to in the middle of the night. If I'm not waking up to take a peek at the monitor, I'm tossing and turning because I'm: hot, uncomfortable, unable to shut my mind off, have to go to the bathroom, having nightmares, distracted by sounds outside, etc. etc. etc.

Stress makes matters worse for me, especially in the dream department. I have always had VERY vivid dreams. Vivid to the point that sometimes I wake up and feel like I lived a second life during the hours I should have been snoozing.

Last week I started the daunting task of researching all of the whos/whats/whys/hows that come with the structural and design changes I hope to make to the blog soon, and those stressy thoughts leached their way into my subconscious. Whenever I'm feeling "out of control" in real life, I have tidal wave dreams. Usually the waves come as I watch them from a sound, anchored structure, but last week's monstrous swells came while I was on a cruise ship with no land in sight. {Also, it kind of makes me never want to take a cruise again.}

It's hard to sleep peacefully when you're dreaming about being battered around on the open seas.

Anyway, restless nights make for exhausting mornings. It's true that coffee is usually the only thing that interests me immediately after I get out of bed, but a nice breakfast is always a good follow up once I'm a little more awake. It's even better if I don't have to do to much to get it ready.

These Flax Pancakes with Banana-Coconut Compote are easy to make, and can even be made ahead of time and frozen so that you can have a luxurious weekend-style breakfast any day of the week.*

Don't run away just because I used the word "compote." If you can throw a few things in a pan together and let them simmer, you got this.

The lovely folks at Barlean's sent the members of Stonyfield's Clean Plate Club some of their great products to try out this month, and I have to say that their coconut oil and flax chia coconut blend worked perfectly in these pancakes. I loved the way they turned out hearty {yet fluffy} with the combination of white and whole wheat flours and the addition of the ground flax blend. I used Stonyfield's Whole Milk Greek Yogurt in place of the traditional buttermilk, and it gave them just the right amount of rise and tang.

Any time I smell coconut, I immediately think of palm trees and island-type things, so naturally I topped these babies with something that tasted equally as tropical. Each forkful is like a beach vacation for your taste buds. {Something I definitely wouldn't mind waking up to, even after catastrophic nightmares.}

Maybe one day I'll sleep deeply again, but for now, I'll settle for these pancakes --  truly a dream. :)

Flax Pancakes with Banana-Coconut Compote
Pancakes adapted from King Arthur Flour, Compote adapted from BlogHer
Yields about 20 pancakes

For Banana-Coconut Compote
2 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons Barlean's Coconut Oil
4 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Add all ingredients except for coconut flakes to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to combine.

2. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for about 7-8 minutes until the banana softens and begins to break down and the sauce thickens a bit.

3. Stir in coconut flakes and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Set aside until ready to use.

For Pancakes:
Butter, coconut oil or non-stick spray for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup Barlean's Flax Chia Coconut Blend
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Barlean's Coconut Oil, melted
3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons Stonyfield Whole Milk Greek yogurt**
3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons water or milk

1. In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients to combine.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients until well blended

3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined {don't over-mix}.

4. Meanwhile, heat pan, skillet or griddle over medium heat and add butter or oil to lightly coat. Scoop pancake batter {about 1/4 cup for each pancake} onto skillet, and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the edges set and the bubbles that form on the batter begin to pop. Flip and cook for another minute or two until puffed and golden. Repeat until all batter is used.

Serve with Banana-Coconut Compote and serve hot.


* To make pancakes ahead, simply prepare and cook them as you normally would, cool completely and then place them on parchment-lined baking sheet -- side by side, not stacked so they don't fuse together -- in the freezer. Once frozen, place them in zip-top freezer bags. Remove as many as you need in the morning and reheat in the microwave, oven or even toaster.

**You can substitiute 1 3/4 cups plain, regular style yogurt in place of Greek + milk.

If you want to a stronger coconut flavor in your pancakes, you can add a tablespoon of unsweetened coconut flakes or 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones | Nutri Ninja® Auto-iQ™ Pro Compact System

My husband and I will be celebrating our 8 year wedding anniversary in June, and while I'm happy to say that we're still going strong, the appliances that we acquired upon the start of our married life together are not. About a year ago, everything we received from our registry started going south -- chipped plates, broken blender, dysfunctional food processor. {Meanwhile, my mother-in-law is still using things she received for her bridal shower over 40 years ago.}

We sailed past the fabled "Seven Year Itch", but instead encountered a "Seven Year Glitch."  Little by little, our kitchen tools have begun to turn on us, leaving me in a bit of a bind.

I really dislike the process of researching all the newest gizmos and doo-dads on the market, especially because it seems like every month there's one that's bigger, better and more efficient than the last. Who has time to keep up with all that? So you can imagine the intense joy I felt when I received an email asking me if I'd like to try out the Nutri Ninja® Auto-iQ™ Pro Compact System, which is basically {not basic at all} an all-in-one blender and food processor that will pulverize just about anything to smithereens in seconds. {These gadget guardian angels are also sending me a state of the art coffee system, too, which works out perfectly as mine is on its last leg. But more on that in another post!}

Anyway, that big, beautiful box arrived {the same day I also received my new spiralizer}, and it was all-out culinary Christmas up in my kitchen. Naturally, I wanted to try everything all at once. It reminded me of shopping with my mom as a kid; as soon as we'd get home I'd want to wear my new purchases immediately. ALL OF THEM. Not much has changed.

While most peoples' minds immediately think "smoothie" or "soup" when they see a food processor, mine did not. Once I found out that this new contraption had a dough blade, I knew that baked goods would be the very first thing that my Ninja would help me make. {You can at least pretend to be surprised.}

Yes, this thing has all the bells and whistles you need if you're trying to extract the nutrients from just about any fruit or veggie, but I wanted to see how it handled sticky situations -- namely doughy ones. So, scones.

If you've ever made scones, biscuits or pie dough, you know the importance of "cutting in" cold cubed butter to get flaky results. {Cold butter cut into flour  melts in the oven and creates steam pockets and layers that give you those tender results!} The process is easy enough, but it also happens to be one of those things I have no patience for. Before I had the NutriNinja, I'd throw everything into my blender and get the job done that way, leaving me with a dough-covered sharp blade that was hard to clean without slicing off a digit. Luckily, the NutriNinja makes it SO much easier. Just pulse, pulse, pulse and then easily wipe the blade without any trips to the hospital.

I'm really excited to try out all the cool features this thing has... those shiny buttons are calling my name! But for now, I'll just be enjoying my Lemon Poppy Seed Scones and maybe a cup of tea with my pinkie up {and thankfully in tact!}. I have a feeling that this new kitchen tool and I have a long, happy relationship ahead!

What would be the first thing YOU'D make with this beauty?!

Disclosure: This appliance was sent to me in exchange for review. As always, all opinions here are my own! 

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones
Slightly adapted from Everyday Food Magazine

2 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup {1 stick} cold butter, diced
1/2 cup buttermilk {or 1/2 cup plain yogurt, or 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup milk}
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Optional: Sanding sugar for tops of scones

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking pan by lining with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add diced butter. Cover and pulse until the butter is chopped into the flour {the flour will resemble wet sand.}

3. In a measuring cup with a pouring spout, whisk together buttermilk, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, vanilla and poppy seeds.

4. Open the feed spout on the lid of the food processor and slowly pour in the liquids while pulsing. The dough will begin to come together and eventually form a ball. Do not over pulse.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, pressing it together to form a uniform piece of dough. Quickly flatten with your hands {or use a rolling pin... but that's one more thing to wash.}, and pat the dough into approximately an 8 inch square.

6. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into nine equal pieces, then cut each square in half diagonally. {You can also punch these out using a biscuit cutter.} Place each scone on the prepared baking sheet and brush with a little buttermilk {or yogurt/milk mixture}, then sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the scones are baked through and slightly golden.

Remove from oven and let cool on a baking rack.

Note: If you don't have this magical appliance, you can definitely still make these the old fashioned way using a pastry blender and incorporating the liquids by hand. But who wants to deal with that mess?! :P