Are you dreaming of spring? Let me take you on an escape to the most beautiful spring garden in the world: Keukenhof. I had long dreamed of seeing the famous Keukenhof gardens in Holland which seemed to have seas of flowering bulbs. A few years ago I did make the dream come true and Keukenhof was truly an unforgettable experience. It is still one of my favorite trips. The garden was designed in 1857 as an ornamental garden for Castle Keukenhof. It has been open to the public since 1950 and features more than 7 milion bulbs in bloom with more than 800 varieties of tulips to dazzle one’s imagination. The garden is set in 32 expansive hectares in beautiful established woods with 15 kilometers of foot paths meandering throughout. Large swaths of flowering bulbs enchant in gorgeous woodland vistas with centuries old beeches. In 2018 the show is open from March 22nd to May 13th and this year’s theme is “Romance in Flowers.” Keukenhof is an easy 45 minute commute on public transit from Amsterdam. On the short journey, you will pass by the bulb farms with field upon field of tulips planted in large swaths of one color. That sight alone is worth the trip. Join me for a visit to Keukenhof!
January is National Hot Tea month. What better to go with a cup of tea than a warm scone? January also being a month of resolutions to eat more healthy, I went looking for a scone recipe that had some nutritious value but still tasted great. These scones are chock full of old-fashioned oats and fresh raspberries and get their bold flavor from ginger and lemon zest. As far as scones go, they baked up moist with a lovely crumb. Spread them with a smear of raspberry jam to sweeten them up, if desired.
Raspberry Oat Scones
Adapted from Good Housekeeping
- 1 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats, plus more for topping
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter(1 stick)
- 6 onces of fresh raspberries
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
- zest of a lemon, finely grated
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, pulse the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda until finely ground. Add the cold butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Using a wooden spatula, fold in the raspberries, ginger, lemon zest and buttermilk. Flour your hands and finish kneading gently until the dough just binds together.
- Turn the dough onto the parchment lined pan and pat the dough into a circle mound. Score the dough into 12 slices. Sprinkle the dough with some additional oats.
- Bake 27 to 30 minutes until golden on the edges. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting into triangular scones. Makes a dozen.
Looking for more scone recipes? Here is a half dozen recipes of my favorites from the archives:
Looking for a page turner to accompany your cup of tea and scone? Lisa See’s The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is set in the tea growing regions of China and is a compelling read.
For an interesting read about choosing the right teacup, click on this link to get to a fascinating article written by my niece Jessica Woollard, in Fresh Cup Magazine: https://www.freshcup.com/lips-and-curves-the-right-teacup/
With the New Year intention of eating healthy yet tasty foods, we tried this recipe and were blown away by how delicious it was. The portobello mushroom caps are partially cooked before getting stuffed with some lean turkey ragu which I loaded with veggies. The stuffed mushrooms are sprinkled with a little shredded cheese and returned to the oven for just 10 minutes. I served ours on a bed of velvety purréed spinach. Pesto or harissa would be just as good and would save a step, but would be higher in calories. This was a satisfying meal that was full of flavor to perk up January healthy eating. Skinny gourmet dining at its best! Depending on the size of your mushrooms, you may get 4-6 servings, 1 mushroom per person. Select mushrooms that have a deeper concavity to hold the stuffing. Hope you’ll try it!
Turkey Ragu-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Adapted from Cookin Canuck. You can read the original recipe here.
For the mushrooms:
- 4-6 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425F. Oil the flat side of the mushrooms and set them on a baking sheet, bottom side up. Salt and pepper the inside cavity. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften. Turn the mushrooms upside down to drain out all the moisture. Keep warm until ready to stuff.
For the ragu:
- 1 pound of lean ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 2 stalks of celery diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup of dry red wine
- 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup of grated cheese(I used an Italian blend with added parmesan cheese)
In a large pot, heat the oil and brown the turkey with the onion, red pepper and celery, stirring often to break up the meat and keep from burning. Add the spices, wine, garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil then simmer for an hour until the ragu is nice and thick. You can modify the ragu with other vegetables you prefer or have on hand, such as carrots instead of peppers for example.
Reduce oven temperature to 375F. Divide the ragu among the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Top each one with some of the cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Spinach Velouté (Adapted from Jacques Pépin)
- 16 onces of spinach
- 3/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of salted butter
In a large pan, sauté the spinach in just enough water to wilt it. Reserve the cooking water and place the spinach in a blender with the salt, pepper and butter. Purée until a velvety consistency is achieved. Add a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce if needed. This will make more of than you need to serve with the mushrooms. The sauce is fantastic with eggs, chicken or fish.
Dutch Babies are puffy golden oven-baked pancakes that are often called German pancakes. Once the batter is made, the pancake bakes itself in the oven and is served directly from the baking dish. Coming out of the oven it is just gorgeous so have your guests ready for the wow moment as it deflates quickly. The Dutch name was coined by Manca’s Cafe in Seattle Washington in the first half of the 20th Century and is probably an misnomer for the autonym “Deutsch”. Whatever it’s origin, it is an absolutely delicious breakfast which lends itself to personalization. I made mine with lemon and orange zest as I was serving it with fresh berries. This was my first time making a Dutch baby and it was so easy and much less messy than conventional pancakes. Happy New Year!
There is a wonderful tea room, A Taste of Britain, near where I live and it is a favorite lunch spot with friends. Although they make wonderful scones, tea sandwiches and offer a lovely selection of loose leaf teas, their soups and salads are outstanding and what I usually order. Recently I enjoyed a delicious broccoli-bacon-gruyère soup that was out of this world! Thick and creamy with a hint of smokiness from the bacon, it was memorable. I tried to recreate it here. My version has no cream with the thickness coming from giving the soup a whirl in the blender. Use a good melting cheese such as gruyère or aged cheddar. Finish the soup with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and grated cheese. Soup’s on!
Break out the stand mixer! “Tis the season for baking cookies. This year I’m adding these chocolate crinkle cookies to the family favorites. The recipe was very easy and with only 10 minutes in the oven, super quick. The cookies are not only pretty, they are ooey-gooey-fudgy good and sure to please the chocolate lover. The dough needs to be refrigerated at least 3 hours so plan accordingly. I chilled mine overnight. The pretty crinkle sugar pattern is created when the dough expands during baking and the sugar dusting splits apart. Happy holiday baking!
No holiday is complete without a visit to see the seasonal display extravaganza at Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania. The crown jewel of the gardens is the conservatory. This year’s theme is “C’est magnifique!” and the décor is done in a French style reminiscent of Versailles. The floating display is designed like a French parterre garden with thousands of floating Granny Smith apples, cranberries and walnuts arranged in a deconstructed fleur de lys design. A Christmas table is set as if in a palace with its adjacent winter wonderland outdoor terrace garden. At every turn, there are surprises that delight every sense. Trees are decorated with fleur de lys, giant castle keys and mirrored sun ornaments, a nod to Louis XIV, Le roi soleil, who was known for his vanity. Towering Christmas trees made out of succulents are spectacular creations. Another tree constructed of 400 fragrant orchids takes the breath away. Giant pointsettia topiaries are nothing short of stunning as are the towering pointsettia trees. It was difficult to edit my photos for this post, it was all so magical. Join me for A Longwood Christmas! The enchantment continues to January 7th. Check the website for details. Continue reading