Shepherd's Cottage Pie


This amazingly tasty dish has been making an appearance throughout Europe for hundreds of years. Mutton, lamb, beef and even fish, can easily find it's way into this British pie. I was first introduced to an English Shepherds pie early in my college days while on a short one month missions trip abroad. Previously in my home, we made this with a pastry crust, but recently an English girlfriend of mine told me that they make theirs without a crust all together! So easy to prepare and still just as satisfying! 

This recipe is pretty much allergy friendly and has ingredients that can easily be adapted to fit your dietary needs. Hope you enjoy!!

Ingredients
6 cups Mashed Potatoes (recipe follows)
2 cups Brown Sauce (recipe follows)
2 lbs. Ground Lamb or Beef
½ Onion
Salt and pepper
Butter or margarine
3 cups Dubliner Cheese Grated, I use Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese (*Please see note at the bottom)
3 Carrots cleaned and cut into small squares and cooked till tender.
1 Cup Peas (frozen not canned) cooked
6 Crimini Mushrooms cleaned and sliced

Mashed Potatoes
2-3 pounds russet potatos
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
3/4 to 1 cup raw milk or *Rice milk 
Salt and white pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. In a large heavy saucepan simmer potatoes in salted water to cover by 1 inch 10 minutes, or until tender, and drain in a colander. In pan or bowl combine potatoes, butter or margarine, and 3/4-cup milk. With a potato masher or blender mash potatoes until just smooth, adding more milk and butter if necessary to make a creamy but not pasty potato. *Over cooking and blending your potatoes will make them too starchy. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Brown Sauce
3 shallots or scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
10-½ -ounces beef broth, canned is fine
1 Tb. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce (this is gluten free)
1 Tsp. Fresh Tarragon leaves finely chopped
½ Tsp. thyme
Salt, pepper
Gluten Free Beurre Manie (recipe follows)

Sauté chopped shallots or scallions in butter. Gradually add wortsheshire and beef broth. Let it come to a boil and add the seasonings. Cook down for a few minutes. Add Beurre manié to thicken to taste. Let simmer for a few minutes and strain. Set aside.

Ground Lamb or Beef
Finely chop ½ an onion. Sauté in 2 Tbsp. butter. Add ground meat and cook. Drain liquids. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Vegetables
Mix prepared vegetables together.


Beurre Manié
Ingredients:
1oz Butter
3/4oz Cornflour
1 Blend the cornflour and butter together in a small dish.
2 Add the Beurre Manié in very small lumps to the sauce that you wish to thicken, a few at a time.
3 A good way to stop the sauce going lumpy is to add a few lumps on the tip of a knife, scraped down the side of the pan.  This melts slowly, ensuring no lumps.
4 Stir into the hot liquid until completely blended.
5 Return pan to the heat and slowly bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sauce is thickened.

Preparations
In a lasagna or sheet cake pan, start with mashed potatoes layer your ingredients, always adding cheese and sauce after each layer. Repeat process until you end with mashed potatoes on top. Potatoes can be piped on for a decorative finish but it is not necessary. Bake Shepherds Pie in a pre-heated 375° oven for 20 minutes. If potatoes start to brown too quickly loosely cover with foil.

This recipe can also be found on my allergy friendly blog,  A Favored Life.  

*Cheese can be omitted for those with a dairy intolerance, or substitute your favorite dairy free cheese.


** Any milk ingredient in this recipe can be substituted with rice, coconut or almond milk to fit your dietary need.




Chunky Applesauce


It's been such a long time since I've posted a recipe, but apple season just ended and we had a wonderful crop from our tree this year! Cinnamon and spice and everything nice has permeated throughout the house with apple fare filling the cupboards and dessert trays.  
Now are thoughts of, holiday foods and family gatherings coming up in just in a few weeks!


I wanted to share at least one recipe with photos.

This is a simple crock pot applesauce recipe that makes such a yummy, low sugar, chunky monkey type of sauce! Every slow cooker heats differently, so you decide how long you cook your apple sauce for. The original recipe I read said 4 hours for a saucy sauce, but I found that 3 hours gave me some chunky pieces which I prefer.


My apple tree produces a Fuji Apple, but I also added Red Delicious apples to cut down on the sugar addition. Plus, my previous batch of apple butter took a lot more apples than I expected.
For a completely sugar free apple sauce, find out from your produce man what the sweetest apples are for the season!! 

Yield: 3 ~ 16 oz Jars

Prep Time: 45 minutes to an hour (unless you have a rotary apple peeler)

Cook Time: 3-4 hours

INGREDIENTS

A mix of 6 pounds Fuji and Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks. 


1/4 cup light brown sugar (if needed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in the Crock Pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours. 
2. For chunky applesauce as pictured, stir and mash the apples with a large spoon close to the end of the cook time.  Store applesauce in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze in freezer jars for up to 6 months.
Enjoy!! 
xo

The Inspired Plate | December | Cast Iron


I always have mixed feelings this time of year. Our last post usually means changes with our TIP group of gals. We have all grown in our art, our photography and even our businesses. It's a good thing.. but it often means our schedules change and we all can't keep up with the demands. I'm going to miss those gals who won't be participating next year!

This last post of the season is Cast Iron Cookware/ or Favorite pots and pans. My favorites are definitely my cast iron. So.. everything cooked here today has been baked, browned and grilled on three different forms of cast iron. My Artisan Boule bread was baked in an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven, my leg of lamb was warmed/browned in my favorite antique cast iron pan, and my panini sandwhich was pressed and grilled on my cast iron grill and weighted down with a cast iron pan.

So here we go..

Grilled Rosemary Lamb Panini
with Currant Jelly, Spinach and English Cheddar 
on a Fresh Artisan Boule


I hope you enjoy the photo journaling of this recipe.. I enjoyed preparing it just as much as my little family enjoyed eating it!


I used the no knead procedure here. It made a WONDERFUL dough with beautiful air pockets, crunchy crust and a perfectly chewy crumb! The best recipe I have yet used for bread!



Baked in an enameled cast iron pot. So easy and quick!!


Mmmm.. perfect loaf!!


This pretty little piece of pottery is from my daughter Kat, who bought it for me at her college's Art Department Christmas Boutique. She bought it specifically for my photo stylings. :) I love the colors and have decided these shades really do need to appear more in my photo shoots!


I made a rosemary & herb crusted roasted lamb for Christmas dinner. It was SO moist and made the perfect grilled panini sandwiches!


Spread a hearty helping of currant jam on the inside slices of bread, thick slices of English cheddar cheese, good sized portions of lamb slices. Spread butter on outsides of bread. Place on hot cast iron grill and place a heavy cast iron pan or pot on top to weight it down. Turn over to grill on other side. When done add spinach.. Voila!


Be sure to head on over to see what my dear friend Stacey Siegal | Kitchen Serendipity | Longobat Key & Bradenton FL Photographer is cooking and photographing! 
And check out her beautiful recipes and food photos when your there.. this gal can cook!! :)

Till next year.. 
Buon Appetito!! 

Celebrate | The Inspired Plate's December Issue


Celebrate.. The Inspired Plate's theme for the month of December! We all came to this 
month with different idea's and varying plans, but all of our ideas were novel just the same. 
I really intended to end this year with a "BANG".. photographically that is. Until December
actually came along and that BANG went "BUST" with all sorts of unexpected expectations.
Do you ever feel like your head is in a whirlwind and it's spinning round and round like one
of those awful tea cup rides at Disneyland? :) Honestly, I have been feeling overwhelmed
like that since October!


"I’m hurried and frazzled and sometimes bedazzled, 

I’m a jewel in the rough on a pink powder puff, 

I’ve got here to go there to go everywhere a kids show, 

Behind me, beside me, around me, “Please guide me!” 
Mom do this and mom do that, My dear husband reminds, 
“Don’t forget that”. I need a break, and I really do mean it, 
Just need to slow down so I don’t go ballistic, 
Inhale, exhale, don’t forget to breathe, 
I think if I pray, I’ll remember what I believe, 
On the wings of an eagle, He mounts me up high, 
Don’t have to be weary, with Him I can fly, 
He gives strength to the tuckered, and to him who lacks might, 
He increases with power to those who’d take flight. 
How absolutely awesome the Creator I know, 
So down on my knees in prayer I shall go." 
By Laurie M.Vengoechea ©


It's in one of these moments that I wrote this.. tap tap tap.. "I must remember to take
my own advice!" Needless to say, I didn't get everything done for this post that I would
have liked to. I did do all the shooting, but some of the other AMAZING gals are putting
together their end of the year Magazine Covers. WOW! I am so impressed and if time permits..
which, by golly Miss Molly I'm going to make happen, I too will put my efforts in creating
my magazine issue with the recipes included! I did start my Prep School layout.. but by 7pm
I knew I was too fizzled out to get beyond these photos. So here we go...


One of the photos I'm including here is my DMC Italian Filled Cookie. It's my favorite
cookie that our family has been making for years. It's quite similar to the Sicilian

Cucidati Fig Cookie, with the exception that mine is made with apple butter instead of Fig.

I will have this recipe up soon! Over the years my Dalla Mia Cucina cookie has had 
quite a few searches and raves. If you are looking to get your hands on this recipe soon.. 

 you can find it here. Although.. in my updated recipe I add a new ingredient that cuts down a bit on the sweetness and ads another flavor component that rocks the recipe! "Espresso Powder". :)


Our yearly Christmas celebration wouldn't even start without my Manicotti, Meatballs and Sausage! My kids beg us to stay home for the holidays to ensure they get their fill of this Holiday 
favorite. And then there is my traditional hot spiced cider with my DMC twist.. cherries! 
It's yummy for the whole family.. and perfect for a night of playing kid friendly games by the fire!


Before you go any further, please be sure to visit my friend Jennifer Grant | Metro Detroit Editorial Food Photographer. I'm so pleased that she has been with us all year and will continue
to rock our socks off with her amazing photography for another year!

I am SOOO excited to get through the circle this month.. we have some amazing talent here
at The Inspired Plate and it has been an honor to watch them grow throughout this year. I have
made friendships that I will forever treasure.. and even though some of the girls may not be with us full time this next year, we will see them for Alumni Posts and they will still be an ear shot away for us to chat and gab about creativity and business advise for new growth
within our group and our own successes.

Coming January we have new themes and some new talent too, so please come back,
we look forward to your visits and your comments too! If you haven't done so yet, visit our Facebook page and become a "friend"! We love visitors!


Smokey Spicy Beef Skewers




Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies is a product I have mentioned a few times here at DMC. It not only is a product I photograph, but it is a product I use quite often! It makes a beautiful glaze for biscuits,  a sweet and spicy addition for seasoned nuts, and as we've used hear for beef skewers, a wonderful addition to a tangy grilling sauce. But please.. PLEASE don't hesitate to eat it alone by the spoonful!! It's that YUMMY and perfectly balanced with heat on sweet! 

Depending on your own style, you have a few flavor options. I love the JA-HA for it's versatility, I can puree figs, cherries, prunes or apples, and make a chutney style barbecue sauce with it, or use it plain with an addition of crushed garlic and red pepper flakes.. these would be my preferences to accompany beef.  But for a chicken or fish perparation, I prefer the Jalapeño Garlic Lime, Mango Ginger and Peach habanero. (ohh the countless recipes I have yet to create) :)

For this Photo Shoot, I strictly used Mrs G's recipe from her web site. It's DE-LICIOUS! :)
Be sure to check out some of her other amazing flavor pairings and recipes!













The Inspired Plate | November | A Casual Holiday Breakfast


Welcome to The Inspired Plate. It's the Holidays and we're shooting special foods styled in a holiday setting! I chose breakfast because the aroma of the apples and spices lingering in my house with this granola preparation always puts me in the mood for music, baking and hot tea! I can't believe another year has gone by! Starting January, we'll be celebrating 3 years with The Inspired Plate. So if you're a professional photographer with a niche for food.. definitely email us and let us know! Or visit us at our Facebook Page and leave us a comment!


Casual breakfasts are the key to a stress free day here in our household, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. At least once a week I make a big batch of this granola. This is an adapted recipe that my mom happened to get from one of the cooks at our church's, (Calvary Chapel) Retreat Center here in our local San Bernardino Mountains.


What I love about this granola is the ease of changing the flavor with just a different combination of fruits, nuts and spices. My husband and I like ours with plain greek yogurt and fruit, while the kids prefer there's with milk.. and sometimes as a snack in a baggie for their lunches. This shoot was photographed using a wonderful cranberry sauce, "Crushing Cranberry" that my friend Cheryl made. She made around 200 jars for our church's Christmas Boutique. The best Cranberry Sauce with the essence of orange I've ever had!


Here is the simple granola recipe.. and please don't forget to make your way over to see the rest of the gals' festive food fare! Next up is my dear friend Kim Kelly, San Diego Food Photographer. Her amazing recipes never disappoint!


Laurie's Homemade Granola
Adapted from CC Conference Center Twin Peaks Kitchen
1 Cup Almonds
1 Cup Shredded Coconut
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg
6 Cups Old Fashion Oats (not quick oats)
**Chopped Apples
1 Cup Honey
3/4 Cups Salad Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, combine almonds, coconut, cinnamon and oats. Mix well.
In a small saucepan, heat honey and oil to simmer, add to the oats mixture
stirring to mix. Divide between two 9x13 or so, baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Add chopped apples, stir. Bake an additional 10 minutes. When granola is cool, store in sealed containers.



** For this Holiday Granola; I made it with the slivered almonds, chopped apples, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Perfect for our breakfast celebration! But I often substitute *soaked raisins or dried cranberries with a variety of nuts and spices.

* For soaked raisins; Put your raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them steep for 5-10 minutes or over night, and then drain them thoroughly. 


Peppermint Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark

Who doesn't love chocolate.. and what better, than to make it and give it away as gifts! In 
my home it's a tradition to start our baking when the kids have Thanksgiving break. This week
our youngest was off earlier than usual so here we are, celebrating mom and daughter time and looking forward to the holidays with Peppermint Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark. 


This is the easiest candy to make.. you don't even need a candy thermometer, which I love. Every year when I pull mine out to use, it's either broken or just not calculating the correct temperature. So voila!! No stress about running out to grab a thermometer.. this time! While I have a link to Callebaut chocolates, you can use another good quality chocolate, I think Ghirardelli Chocolates are yummy too. Quite a few years ago I was fortunate enough to find this chocolate in a local candy making store and I fell in love with the taste and texture. Oh my.. it's so buttery and smooth! I hope you enjoy.. Buon Appetito and Happy Holidays!!

Ingredients
1 block good quality dark chocolate (minus a few extra squares)
1 block good quality milk chocolate (minus a few extra squares)
* a few extra squares of chocolate for tempering
1 cup white chocolate nibs or chips
2 tsp. solid coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil also)
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup dried cherries
Offset spatula
Baking sheet covered with parchment paper
Wooden skewer or knife


Directions
1. In a heat proof bowl, add your white chocolate nibs and 1 tsp. of coconut oil. Heat for 1 minute in microwave oven. Stir and heat again for 30 seconds. Stir again and it should be ready.
2. On the stove top in a heavy duty pan, add 1 tsp. of coconut oil and all but a few blocks of the dark and milk chocolate. *The saved chocolate will be used for tempering. Heat on medium low heat so the chocolate melts slowly without it scorching.
3. When chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and add a few of the extra chocolate squares.
Stir till incorporated.
4. On prepared baking sheet, pour your dark/milk chocolate blend onto the paper. With the offset spatula smooth it out across the paper to fill the parchment.
5. With a spoon, drizzle the white chocolate horizontally across the dark chocolate to create lines.
((Pictured below))
6. With your skewer or knife, run up and down through the white and dark chocolates to create the swirl pattern. ((Pictured below))
7. Sprinkle Peppermint candies, dried cherries and chopped almonds on top.
8. Chill in refrigerator till firm. Cut diagonally or in long strips, or for a rough look, break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. 


Quite a few years ago I was fortunate enough to find Callebaut Chocolate in a local candy 
making store, and I fell in love with the taste and texture. 

   Pour the white chocolate horizontally across the dark chocolate to create lines. 
   With your skewer or knife, run up and down through the white and dark chocolates to       create the swirl pattern.



















































Two Toned Cocoa and Amaretto Pizzelles


Pizzelles.. they are the quintessential Italian treat that look wonderful plated at an elegant dessert table with it's beautiful floral lace pattern and it's crisp texture. It is a quick an easy cookie to prepare that is the talk of the room at many school parties or family get-together's.

The traditional recipe calls for anise and anise seeds..yes, like my Spungna Di Biscotti Cake.. but also like the Biscotti, it works well with many flavorings. During the holidays I'll give Pizzelle cookies as gift's, side-dipped in a chocolate coating and for more of a festive look sometimes sprinkled with fine glittery candies.

Here I made a two toned pizzelle with cocoa on one side and a dousing of Amaretto in the lighter version. Oh so yummy and flavorful,
and according to my husband, addictive.
Amaretto Pizzelles
(Makes about 2-3 dozen)

3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur
1-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar.
Add the butter, vanilla, and amaretto.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix well.
The batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon.
The batter can also be refrigerated for later use.

Cocoa Pizzelles
(Makes about 30)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.

*Heat the pizzelle baker and follow the directions for How to Make a Pizzelle.
Put half a teaspoon of each, cocoa and amaretto, side by side onto the iron to achieve the two toned affect. It takes practice.. but the result is beautiful and delicious!



Orange Pomegranate Sherbet
with a S.Pellegrino Splash



Spring time is the perfect season to start experimenting with fruit mixtures and ingredient concoctions. So when I received the POM Wonderful package, my mind went into overdrive. I only ended up utilizing it in two preparations.. the Raspberry Pomegranate Balsamic Glaze and this Orange Pomegranate Sherbet, but both were refreshing and enjoyable by all who tried them. I have been so impressed with all the recipes created using POM, it is healthy, full of antioxidants and a great juice to aid in digestion as well as being perfectly enjoyable on it's own. 

Growing up we lived in a pomegranate rich neighborhood and it was a common fruit to enjoy, but it hasn't been until recently that creativity has been unveiled in this gorgeous fruit. Just to add.. I would have made more dishes with this juice but my kids couldn't resist drinking them on their own! 

I used pomegranate and orange juice for the syrup base. I had intended on making sorbet but after reducing the two liquids the combination was too sweet. I decided instead of watering it down to add half and half till I achieved the sweetness desired. I don't know why, but it didn't curdle. It could have been the heating process that made it into a syrup, but when I took the chance and added the half and half to my base it was creamy and smooth. I cooled the mix in the refrigerator for a few hours and then processed it in my ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. It froze up perfectly and made a wonderful sherbet. 

For parties, we often make a punch bowl with seven-up and scoops of rainbow sherbet. It looks lovely and tastes great! Although it makes a pretty perfect party beverage, it's still a tad too sweet for my liking so I opted to use my favorite sparkling water, S.Pellegrino. I have been drinking San Pellegrino's since I was a child and it made the perfect choice for a satisfying spring sherbet splash.

It has been beautiful here in the Valley, the weather has been a bit unstable and changing every other day, but with it has come colors so vibrant in the landscape and the perfume of lavender, rose and geraniums outside my windows. I hope you are enjoying the outdoors! 
Ciao and Buon Appetito!
Laurie

Colored Sugar Shapes



This isn't my first post about sugar shapes, in 2008 I also wrote about these wonderful sugar creations that are SO easy and quick to make. I actually have to give the credit for this batch to my 8 year old daughter who was so excited about playing in the color stained water and filling the candy molds. I was happy to have her help.. because at this point I was more interested in clicking away with my camera and getting some pretty photo's.

I wasn't just shooting for Dalla Mia Cucina this time around, Simone from Jungle Frog Cooking is a professional Food Photographer who periodically has food photo challenges on her blog. I thought it would be fun to join in THIS particular one, themed on the use of "white". My experience with shooting all white has usually left me with burned and over exposed images. Even this time around, the light in my studio wasn't "all that", and I had the wrong bulbs in my lamp stands (which cast a yellow light) so I went "tout naturel" and upped my exposure trying to eliminate the shadows. Oh how I HATE shadows! :)

I usually use my 24 -70 mm lens f2.8, but I knew I was going to need as much light as possible filtering in, so I used my 50mm f1.4 lens. Other than having a smaller cropping area to play with, it was a pretty good choice. Hope you enjoy the photo's.. and the Sugar Shapes!! 


Colored Sugar Shapes

This is an easy and elegant way to serve sugar at your holiday or everyday table. My children and I started making these a few years ago and now regularly enjoy these shaped and colorful cubes for our coffee and tea. With holiday dinners and family gatherings just around the corner definitely make time for this easy preparation.


Ingredients
Sugar
Food Coloring *
Water
Candy or Chocolate Molds


 Instructions
Color your water to desired shades.
Add 2 teaspoons of water to 1 cup of sugar, combine until it's the consistency of wet sand.
Pack moistened sugar into plastic mold trays (with shapes 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide available at Joanns Fabrics & Crafts or kitchen-supply stores).
Scrape level with a spatula. Let harden.
Turn plastic molds over gently on cookie sheet, they should release easily.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.




* My son came up with an alternative to colored water. He places colored sugar crystals (sold in craft stores) on the bottom of the plastic molds before he adds un-colored sugar. This also lends to a very beautiful display!

Enjoy and Buon Appetito!
Laurie

The Inspired Plate | March Challenge | Breakfast


This month The Inspired Plate is celebrating our monthly challenge with "Breakfast".
I know this looks like a simple breakfast.. with not too many ingredients, but I so often eat alone
in the mornings after the kids have all gone to school and this for me is quick and satisfying. A soft cooked egg, thinly sliced and buttered sourdough toast.. perfect for dipping, and a cup of tea. 

A few of the gals added a challenge element to their photos, Morning Sunlight. The top photo was shot early in the day with my place setting in front of the light source. Creating a "Backlit" effect. I love the warm glow it gives and you can almost see a faint outline of the trees in my backyard.


I had so much fun shopping for props this month. Spring is definitely in the air and all the beautiful hues of yellow, pink and lavender set the tone for this place setting beautifully. I LOVE this tea cup and saucer. And this egg cup.. so adorable! Right before Easter isn't really the best time to be looking for egg cups. I scoured the antique market and probably spent 3 hours perusing the aisles to find one that would match this lovely tea set. But, I have an idea that many hostesses thinking of serving soft cooked eggs on Easter.. and throughout Spring, was a very good idea!


My garden is in bloom with a variety of lavender plants and daisies. I just love this pop of color streaming through my kitchen and family room windows!


Soft Boiled Eggs are easy to cook. Take out your eggs ahead of time and allow them to come to room temperature. This will prevent them from cracking when you put them into the water. Boil water in a small saucepan. Make sure you have at least 3/4 of the pan filled. Bring to a rolling boil. Lower temperature to medium high, carefully place eggs in water. Allow them to come back to a soft boil. (not simmer) Cook exactly for 4 minutes for firm whites and a soft yolk. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy with your favorite toast! I drizzle my sourdough toast with honey. yum. I love the salty savory taste with the sweetness of a little honey! :)

Please be sure to head on over to Stacey Siegal | Bradenton FL Food Photographer. I am sure she will have some beautiful and scrumptious photos and recipes to share! My lucky friend sits pretty on the warm beaches of Bradenton and rocks her camera! She is SO talented and it is a privilege having her join us for a second year!

Ciao and Buon Appetito!
Laurie


Cream Puffs



This is probably one of my all time favorite
deserts with Chocolate Covered Strawberries
coming in a close second. There are a few
steps and it is a little timely to make but this
I'm sure will be one of your families favorites too!

Hope you enjoy..
Laurie

Choux Pastry Puffs

Ingredients
1-cup water
1/2-cup butter (no substitutes)
1-cup all-purpose flour
1/4-teaspoon salt
4 eggs

Directions
In a saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Add flour and salt all at once; stir until a smooth ball forms. Remove from the heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove puffs to wire racks. Immediately cut a slit in each for steam to escape. Cool. Split puffs and remove soft dough.


Pastry Cream

Ingredients
2 cups milk
1/4 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4-cup cornstarch
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1-teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch; then stir them into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the bowl in a thin stream while mixing so that you do not cook the eggs.
Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don' t curdle or scorch on the bottom.
When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in.
Pour into a heatproof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled before using.

Chocolate Icing

Ingredients
2 (1-ounce) squares chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 cup whipping cream

Directions
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler add sugar and cream. Cook over medium heat until soft ball stage.
Let cool and beat until smooth. Ice tops of the eclairs.

Pepper Jelly Scones


I'm so happy to share this recipe with you today.. even more so because I've created it using one of my favorite products ever, Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies! These unique blends come in three amazing flavors; Ja-Ha (Jalapeño-Habanero), Jalapeño Garlic Lime and Mango Ginger Habanero. 
Handcrafted with the freshest ingredients, Mrs G's artisan hot pepper jellies are produced with great care in small batches in an FDA-certified kitchen to ensure quality and consistently excellent flavor!

Not only is Mrs G a producer of fine products, but she happens to be one of my dearest friends!
I've been fortunate to be able to photograph her products, and at the same time enjoy using these peppery jellies in many of my own dishes. This recipe came from our recent Valentine Day shoot where we had the idea to use spicy jam with yummy scones.. I knew that we could easily infuse the jam right into the baking process as well as smothering it on later. :) These scones are light with a hint of Ja-Ha spiciness. Just the right amount to add that extra something to your Valentines Day!


Pepper Jelly Scones
Recipe courtesy Laurie M. Vengoechea, Dalla Mia Cucina

Ingredients
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar 
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
*2 Tablespoons Mrs G’s Pepper Jellies
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream *minus 2 Tablespoons (Pepper Jelly is replacing the milk)
2 tablespoons milk, to brush on scones during baking



Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, and salt in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Blend in the cold butter and 2 Tablespoons of pepper jelly at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. 
Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add to the flour/butter mixture. Combine until just blended. The dough may be a bit sticky.
Place the dough out onto a floured surface, push together till combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough out to 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. You will see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into circles with a 4-inch fluted cookie cutter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the scones with milk. 
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the outsides are crisp and the insides are done.

Glaze
1/2 cup milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Mrs G’s Pepper Jelly

Mix all ingredients together in a small pot till well combined!
Drizzle abundantly over your the scones!! :)


Enjoy!!!
And please don't forget to check out Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies website!