Bacon Cheddar & Chives Scones // Waking Up Early

Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones
Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones

As Bermuda dips further into fall, the days are getting much shorter and the evenings cooler. What used to be a bright and early rise at 6:00 AM is now dark and quiet, even the feral chicken that roams our property is still fast asleep.  I’m generally a morning person. I’m the type that will get up at the crack of dawn, run 3 miles, check all emails and cook an entire breakfast spread before 9am. But now that little Ollie is around, he pretty much dictates when I’m awake with a loving paw in the face at about quarter to 6. I used to welcome his panting cute head in front of my face, but lately it’s been a real drag to get me out of bed. Sometimes my eyes will open slightly and I’ll see him still snoring away peacefully in the crate. I’ll shut them quickly hoping he didn’t hear me stir, but it’s as if he has a sixth sense! In the next blinking second, there he is pawing at my face to wake up!

Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones
Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones
Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones

So for the days that I’m not so chipper in the morning, making a batch of scones and freezing them for later is a great time saver. I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of scones until I tried a savory one from a bakery near my old apartment in Vancouver. The ones I’ve had in the past have been overly sweet, dry and crumbly, but the cheese & green onion scone from Beaucoup Bakery is just divine, moist and full of flavour. And what early meal isn’t complete without some bacon? So here is my go-to recipe for scones: an easy bacon, cheddar and chives recipe that is the perfect pastry for a quick breakfast and those days when you’ve hit the snooze button one too many times.

Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones
Bacon, Cheddar and Chives Scones

Bacon Cheddar and Chives Scones
adapted from King Arthur Flour 

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg
4 ounces of grated cheddar cheese
1/2 pound of cooked bacon chopped
1/4 cup of chopped chives
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
pinch of pepper

Whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and sugar.

Work the butter into the flour until the mixture is unevenly crumbly, with some of the butter remaining in larger pieces.

Mix in the cheese, chives, and bacon until evenly distributed.

beat the egg and milk together in a small bowl and then add to the dry mixture. Squeeze and knead dough until it comes together, adding more flour if too tacky or cream if too dry. Transfer the shaggy dough to a well-floured work surface.

Pat the dough into a 7″ disk about ¾” thick. Transfer the disk to the prepared baking sheet.

Use a knife to cut the disk into 8 wedges, spreading the wedges apart a bit on the pan.

Brush the scones with a bit of cream to help brown the crust.

Bake the scones for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool right on the pan before serving warm.

After scones are cool, freeze them in a zip lock bag. To serve, remove and defrost in microwave before slicing and toasting.

 

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola // My Path to Health and Fitness

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola
Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

A few years ago I wasn’t happy with the way my body looked and how unfit I felt. I barely exercised and I ate whatever I wanted. And like many others on New Year’s Eve, I made my resolution the ever so popular, ‘get fit and be healthy’. I really wanted to stick to this goal, knowing that it takes time to see results and I definitely didn’t want to fall off the New Years resolution bandwagon. I knew that this wasn’t a quick fix; I had to completely adjust my lifestyle if I wanted to feel healthy and strong. So one morning in 2013, with brand new runners on my feet, I stepped out the door of my tiny Vancouver apartment and went for a jog on the False Creek seawall and since then, have never looked back.

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola
Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

Nowadays, I’m happy, healthy and am in the best shape that I’ve ever been in. It might be hard to believe that I’m a serious advocator for fitness and health when I write a food blog that is full of sugary sweets! Everyone has an opinion on what to eat to stay healthy, and I truly believe in life balance. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine if you want to eat that cookie or cake slice! I think that as long as you try to incorporate whole and fresh ingredients into your meals and keep active you can feel great and still stay sane.

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola
Vanilla Almond Buckwheat GranolaVanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

As much as I would love to have sausage with a side of bacon every single day for breakfast, I don’t think it’s the best idea if I’d like to continue to fit into tiny swimsuits for the beach. My favourite go-to breakfast that is both delicious and healthy is my homemade granola. Sprinkled onto of some Greek yogurt with a few slices of fresh peaches reminds me of Saturday mornings in Vancouver after a long run around the Seawall. It’s sweetened with honey and made with buckwheat for an extra crunch; I can’t help but grab a handful for a quick snack whenever I walk into my kitchen.

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola

Vanilla Almond Buckwheat Granola 
2.5 cups large flake oats
3/4 cup buckwheat groats
2/3 cup almonds whole or sliced
1/2 cup unseated coconut flakes
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup honey or agave
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup of coconut or olive oil
1/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°C

Combine all dry ingredients including spices in a large bowl. Mix together the honey, water, oil and vanilla extract in a small bowl and add to the dry mix, making sure it’s combined well.

Spread granola mixture flat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20-30 minutes, checking and flipping granola every 10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to fully cool before storing away in an airtight container.

Nut Free Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Pesto Lemon Ricotta Crostini

I’ve always dreamed of being able to grow a beautiful garden full of vegetables and herbs that I can pick at my leisure. Being in Bermuda I definitely have the advantage of growing plants year round. Last year I headed to Brighton Nursery and picked out all the seedlings I wanted to grow: 4 types of lettuces, arugula, tomatoes, peppers, and all the herbs you would need in a kitchen. I was determined to nurture these babies into healthy plants! At first the jalapeño’s were doing great, I had harvested my first crop of cute little green peppers but the slugs eventually got to them and the happy peppers looked quite sad. The lettuces always tasted bitter and my tomato plants never grew past 2 feet. All the herbs however, great into healthy aromatic bushes! I knew I didn’t have a black thumb…it was more like a brown one!

Pesto Lemon Ricotta Crostini
Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

So this year, I thought I would up my gardening game and try growing some herbs from seeds. It was like a little science experiment in my kitchen window. I was so excited when I saw the little green spouts emerge from the soil. And because I was 50% sure that this project would survive I sowed way more basil than I really needed to grow. My brown thumb had succeeded again! So currently outside our doorstop in our little Bermuda apartment are giant bushes of healthy green basil plants.

Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Pesto is the obvious choice to me for what to make when you have an abundance of basil. For a while I didn’t even think about making the simple sauce because of Dan’s nut allergy and I just didn’t think it tasted the same without pine nuts. But toasted sunflower seeds turned out to be the perfect alternative. The last few times we’ve had company for dinner I made this easy pesto appetizer and it’s always a hit. The creamy lemony ricotta pairs perfectly with the zesty pesto and the touch of sweetness from the honey ties it all together.

Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini

Nut Free Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
2 cups of packed basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
2 cups of whole milk ricotta
drizzle of honey
sea salt
zest of one lemon
crusty baguette

Lightly toast sunflower seeds in a pan until golden. Combine basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and seeds in a bowl of a food processor and pulse until a smooth. Season with sea salt to taste.

Mix ricotta with lemon zest and set aside.

Cut baguette into thin slices and toast lightly. Spoon ricotta onto crostini, top with a dollop of pesto and drizzle the honey over to serve.

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt

For most of my childhood the only relationship I had with cauliflower was at holiday meals with my family and it was always served sautéed with an entire can of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. It probably was actually a recipe for an easy casserole found on the can label, but somehow got lost in translation with my Chinese mother. So the result was the two ingredients simply heated up and mixed together. Don’t get me wrong, this dish is comfort food for me, it reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners of roast turkey and with sides of BBQ pork and rice.

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt
Harissa Paste

These days one my favourite way to prepare cauliflower is simply roasting the florets that have been tossed in olive oil and spices. A nod to a restaurant in Vancouver called Nuba, their version called Najib’s Special is deep fried until light and crispy, an appetizer I adored when I frequented their Kitsilano location. My go-to starter for those that are vegetarian/vegan/GF, it’s not overly filling, but is certainly satisfying when shared with friends.

PS: I think the French word for cauliflower sounds beautiful, it’s chou-fleur!

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt
Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt
Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt

Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa-Tahini Yogurt 
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon harissa paste
2-3 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
a squeeze of lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together until a smooth consistency in a small bowl.

1 large cauliflower head
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
a squeeze of lemon juice
parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 424 degrees. Cut cauliflower into large florets and toss with a few glugs of olive oil, spices, sea salt and pepper. Space the florets evenly on roasting pan. Roast for approximately 20-30 minutes until tender, set under broiler for another few minutes to brown. Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley to serve. Drizzle tahini-harissa dressing over cauliflower reserving extra for dipping.

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

ollie
ollie-3

Guess what?

Dan and I welcomed a new addition to our home in the form of a tiny four-legged tail wagging monster! His name is Ollie and he’s a working English springer spaniel and behind those adorable floppy ears hides tiny little devil horns. A rambunctious little guy, Ollie is like any young puppy…take your eyes off him for even one second and he’s bound to be up to no good! Chewed shoes aside, it’s hard not to adore his cuddly spaniel face, plus Ollie sure is smart! Within 3 weeks he’s learned a handful of tricks, including a crowd favourite of playing dead at the cue of Bang!

Artisan Boule Bread Loaf

Now that I’m a new Puppy Mama, I’ve realized how much work a pup can be.  I’ve only had family dogs growing up and my mom did all the grunt work of raising our little ankle biters. I was determined to crate train little Ollie the moment we knew we were getting him, dreaming of a perfectly behaved pooch. But alas, the crate training is coming along rather slow…he much rather be my little shadow in the kitchen, flopping down next to my feet wherever I go. Which can make my usual cooking prep a little annoying… or absolutely adorable!

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf
Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

Usually every week I’ll bake at least one type of bread (which I sometimes shamefully gorge on when alone). And since all my attention in the next few weeks will be making sure Ollie doesn’t get himself into trouble I wanted to bake something easy.  One of the simplest methods I have come across is from Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Yeast Salt. His Saturday Bread requires no kneading and only the four ingredients that the book is named after. The recipe does take some planning (about 6 hours from start to oven), but it doesn’t need much work, just the initial mixing, a few folds a proof, and voila! a crusty boule! So in between chasing after the little rascal, and putting in a few folds of this dough, I was still able to produce my weekly loaf…that I’ll now shamefully gorge on!

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf
Easy No-Knead Artisan Loaf

note:  It’s best to work with a kitchen scale, but I’ve provided approximate cup measurements for those without.

Saturday 50% Whole Wheat Boule
Adapted from Flour Water Yeast Salt
Makes 1 1/2 pound loaf

250g white flour (2 cups)
250 g whole wheat flour (2 cups)
760 g water (3 ¼ cups)
10 g sea salt (2 teaspoons)
1/2 tsp yeast

In a large tub, mix the flour and water with your hands until the water and flour are incorporated. Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes to let the flour absorb the water.

Sprinkle the salt and yeast over the top of the dough and mix with your wet hands by alternatively stretching it and pinching it to fully incorporate the yeast and salt. This should take about five minutes. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Fold the dough by picking up each side and stretching it, and folding it over the middle like a little package. Re-cover. Fold the dough again after 30 minutes and repeat. When the dough is triple its original volume, about 5 hours after mixing, it’s ready to be proofed.

Heavily flour a proofing basket. You can also use a mixing bowl lined with a lint free kitchen linen that has been heavily floured. Carefully shape the dough into a boule (ball), tucking the sides around tightly. Place the shape loaf seam side down in the proofing basket.

Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 hour 15 min, or until the loaves are puffy (it’s about an hour for me in Bermuda). Here is a great tip on checking dough doneness by Ken Forkish that I came across on Karen’s Kitchen.

About 45 minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F and place a covered Dutch oven on the middle rack. Make sure your Dutch oven has a knob that is oven safe.

Invert the loaf carefully onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down. Being cautious not to let any body parts touch the side of the Dutch oven, use oven mitts to remove from the oven and remove the lid. Carefully place the loaf in the hot Dutch oven and replace the lid. Place the Dutch oven in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes until medium dark brown. Check after 15 minutes in case your oven is hotter than normal.

Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.