Tag Archives: baking

Love Languages and Christmas Cookies

It’s hard to believe another Christmas is already upon us. A chance to look back on the past year and celebrate your accomplishments. A chance to look forward and make resolutions for the coming year. And a chance to visit that familiar self-induced hell of cookie decorating.

Just kidding. Kind of.

They say people fit into one of five different love languages. That emotionally, they need things like acts of service or words of affirmation to feel loved. And that receiving love is incredibly important to your relationship with others.

What does this have to do with cookie decorating you might ask?

Well they also say that you should tailor your love showing to the specific language of those you with which you have a relationship.

But because I think assuming you like physical touch would be the wrong choice in this scenario, I decided to settle for another year of holiday cookies.

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I’ll admit I was a little disappointed when I over-thinned my white icing just in time for Santa’s beard. The result? Santa Dog. Coming soon to a dog park near you.

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holiday cookies, christmas,  sugar cookies, royal icing, christmas cookies, baking, iced cookies

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I was a little disappointed until the boys and I had our annual Christmas cookie decorating party and the two of them showed me artistic skills I can’t even begin to compete with.

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Look at the depth and layering. The color quality and sparkle. The heavy use of sprinkles.

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I must admit I prefer the boys’ cookies to my own and I have a feeling it has a little to do with the quality time and acts of service involved.

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Merry Christmas!

Long time no talk

Hey there! Where have you been? Feels like we haven’t had a one-sided conversation in forever.

My bad. Truth is I’ve actually been busy. Really, truly, contributing to society again busy.

That’s right the sabbatical has ended. The summer of Sarah has come to a close. But what a summer it was! Beach time, dog walks, mid-day recipe posts, more dog walks, mid-day workouts, another dog walk. But it wasn’t all sunshine and summertime. The frustration, boredom and self-doubt that comes with re-starting your career in a place you know nearly no one can really wear on you.

sunset, florida, sky, palm trees

Nonetheless, I’m very excited to get back to seeing if the parts of my brain that have been resting all summer still work. So far so good. Brain cells seem to be multiplying and I feel like I need a nap by 3:00 everyday.

I ask that you bear with me as I remember how to live the 8-5 life again and somehow fit in workouts and meals along the way. And dog walks. Poor Finn might be the only one not thrilled with the new adventure.

So I’ll leave you with a photo dump from the past few weeks, including a visit from two of my best friends and a bunch of pictures of Finn looking guilty.

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sunset, florida, sky, palm trees

 

finn, greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, puppy, dog,

Oh and just for good measure, here are a few fun fall recipes from last year to tide you over until I actually make something worth sharing again.

pumpkin bread streusel topping

Pumpkin Bread

spooky pumpkin toffee chocolate chip cookies simply social blog

Pumpkin Toffee Cookies

Have a great week!

 

 

 

It’s coming up pumpkins

I ponder life’s questions frequently throughout my day. At the gym. Walking the dog. In the shower. But there are some questions that no matter how much I think about, I just can’t seem to figure them out. I talked about some of them last week but here are just a few more:

Why is it that?

I can hold my breath for nearly the entire length of a swimming pool but as soon as I put my face under the shower head to rinse it off I feel like I’m drowning? 

That although I’ve been in this body for 30 years now, I still have a difficult time judging the distance it needs to clear door frames, kitchen islands and coffee tables. 

Every girl I know is utterly and completely obsessed with everything fall. Pumpkin, pumpkins, pumpkin spiced lattes, selfies on hayrack rides going to pick out pumpkins. You get the drift. But don’t fret ladies, I’m right there with ya. 

And to show my support of the female obsession that is pumpkin, I made a batch of my mom’s pumpkin apple muffins this weekend.

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I made them a day after I attempted a healthier pumpkin muffin recipe and threw the entire batch in the trash.

When it comes to baking, always trust the recipes your mom gives you. End of story.

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Pumpkin Apple Muffins with Streusel Topping (makes 18 muffins)

  • 1 C unsweetened canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil (I used melted coconut oil but add a little extra if you are swapping)
  • 2 C peeled and chopped apples
  • 2 1/2 C flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 TBL pumpkin pie spice mix (cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

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Streusel Topping

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 TBL oats
  • 2 tsp butter

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, spice mix, soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, blend pumpkin, oil and eggs together.

Add dry ingredients into wet and mix until just combined. Add apples.

Scoop into prepared muffin tins and fill about 2/3 of the way.  Top with 1 tsp streusel topping per muffin.

Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

It’s back!

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Happy HalloLaborDay! 🎃

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Candy Corn is back in your local grocery store folks! You only have 60 days to enjoy this treat so don’t delay. I don’t know about you but my Labor Day was filled with super sweet waxy triangles of awesomeness. So what if it felt like I was cheating on the holiday. We’re just friends I promise.

I figure if Candy Corn is back in stores then fall is just around the corner. And since it’s still 96 degrees outside and probably will be for the foreseeable future, I’ve thrown out all rules about when you should or shouldn’t make traditionally seasonal foods.

Truth is, I found rhubarb at the store last week and I couldn’t not buy it. Yes, I realize this stuff grows in ditches back in the Midwest but I can’t find it for the life of me down here so I have to take advantage when I get the chance. I was a little skeptical, having paid way too much for a pound of it, sure that it would taste like crap and not live up to my grandmother’s recipe, but man was I wrong.

So in honor of fall, candy corn and everything football, I figured this recipe deserved another share. Do me a favor and find some locally grown rhubarb though. I’d hate for you to make a scene in the grocery store like I did when you finally spot some of the fresh stuff.

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Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 C flour (plus 1 tsp more for pan)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C buttermilk mixed with 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 C rhubarb, chopped

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream sugar and shortening together. Add egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk flour and salt.

Gradually add flour and buttermilk, alternating once each is combined.

With a spatula, fold in chopped rhubarb.

In a prep bowl, whisk cinnamon and sugar. Pour over cake and tap until covered. Remove excess if necessary.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center. Let cool.

Serve with coffee in the morning, a mid-day snack or dessert in the evening.

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Honey Cornbread Muffins

I learned an important lesson this week while making cornbread muffins.

Don’t over-think things. Simple is best.

Who says the best lessons aren’t learned while baking anyways?

A few weeks ago I made a cornbread crumb cake that was delicious albeit a little time-consuming.

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And yesterday I cooked up a batch of vegetarian chili and was looking for a quick corn muffin recipe to go along with it. Let’s avoid getting into the details as to why I felt the need to make chili when it was 96 degrees outside and focus on the fact I discovered a quick and simple corn muffin recipe in the process, shall we?

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I scanned several recipes, knowing I didn’t want to mess with anything vegan, jalapeno or healthy on this particular day when I settled on this one. Wouldn’t you know it turned out way better than my other more complicated attempts and it took half the time.

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Honey Cornbread Muffins

-adapted from The Neely’s via Food Network. Makes 6 muffins. Double recipe for 12. 

  • 1/2 C cornmeal
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 TBL baking powder
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 stick butter, melted
  • 2 TBL cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a liquid measure, whisk melted butter, egg, milk and honey.

Add wet ingredients into wet and stir until just combined.

Fill silicone baking cups or paper-lined tins 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with butter or extra honey.

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Enjoy!

 

Banana Crumb Muffins

If you’ve been reading my recipe posts as of late, you’ll know that I’ve been doing everything in my power to avoid turning on my oven this summer. With the exception of this ombre birthday cake for Matt’s birthday, I have stuck with no-cook or grilling meals to combat the summer heat.

When Rizzi from the New York Baking Company asked me to review their silicone baking cups, my first thought was, oh crap I actually have to turn on my oven for this. Just kidding. A paper muffin liner user for life, I was excited to see how these colorful creations handled the heat. See what I did there?

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My first inclination was cupcakes. After all, these cups are pretty colorful and would look great for a kid’s birthday party or some other colorful event. After a decently long internal dialogue about delivery and recovery issues if I were to bring these potential cupcakes somewhere to share, I decided muffins might make the best first attempt since I could remove the cups before serving.

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I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical at first. These silicone baking cups didn’t have the bake-eat-and-toss feature that my paper or foil liners did. What if they didn’t look good with the type of muffin I wanted to make? Or they clashed with the cupcake icing I was hoping to create? Yes, I do realize these thoughts are completely first-world in nature, but I’m just being honest.

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So I went with my trusted banana crumb muffin that started as a bread recipe, knowing I could best judge the texture having eating one or twenty in the past.

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Banana Crumb Muffins

  • 3-4 overripe bananas
  • 1/3 C melted unsalted butter
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 C Flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Crumb topping

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 C oats
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/3 C brown sugar

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream melted butter and sugar together. Add egg until combined. Add bananas and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking soda and salt together.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, being careful not to overmix.

Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. I have a hot oven (hotter than most) and noticed mine were done closer to 16 minutes in.

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It wasn’t until I pulled these out of the oven that I started to see the opportunities. Yes you would need to keep track of them, but if you bought another set, these cups could be perfect for Illini tailgates (or Gator ones I suppose) and the other colors could be coordinated based on holidays or events. They do make a basic muffin really pop don’t they?

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My only issue was I had a little too much batter leftover after 12 muffins and only one set of silicone cups. Typically I would just grab an extra paper liner or two, but in this case I dumped the rest. Don’t feel bad, it was barely enough for one more muffin.

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Compact, BPA free, dishwasher-safe and a great gift idea, you can get your own silicone baking cups on Amazon.

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Have a great weekend. I’m counting down the hours until my mom and sister come to visit. Eeek!

 

Lessons in layer cake

Some of you may remember when I made my first attempt at an ombré cake back in March for my
Mom’s birthday.

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It wasn’t a complete flop but I rushed through it, failing to execute the preschool-mastered skill of color order. Yes, it still tasted good and fit in with the whole St. Patrick’s day theme that weekend, but I knew I’d need to try it again when I could devote the time and patience it took to not screw it up.

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So in celebration of Matt’s birthday this week I decided to give it another shot.

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My first tip with making this cake is to do it on a Sunday afternoon when you have no commitments other than careful measuring and wait time. If you’re anything like me, you often try to multitask when you cook and bake.

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This is not the cake to do that with. This layer cake is a special occasion type of cake because it is equal parts time-consuming and indulgent. From the cake to the buttercream icing, there’s no shortage of butter and that’s a good thing. Throw out your paleo/whole/vegan/healthy eating plan for enough time to eat a slice. You can thank me later.

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Ombre layer cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. Grease and flour two of them and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cup at a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternating between milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. Add no food coloring to the first bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate.  Add one toothpick of color into the second bowl and mix until combined. Two for the next and closer to four for the final one. The key here is to only mix the batter until the color is combined as the colored layers already tend to be a little tougher than those that aren’t.

Need another photo to take a break from the instructions? Me too.

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Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool. Trust me it helps. Wash and dry your pans to bring them back to room temperature before you bake your other two layers.

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Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

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Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier.

When you are ready to ice your cake, check your layer order several times before you place them on your cake stand. Trust me. The two middle layers look a lot a like and can be very deceiving. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

I like to keep this cake in the fridge between servings because let’s face it, it’s going to take you at least a week to eat it all. Offer it up to friends or strangers that you just met. Everybody loves a good layer cake.

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Cornbread Cake Crumble

Man I love subject lines chock full of alliteration. Can you blame me? It perfectly sums up what this recipe is; a mix of cornbread, cake and an awesome crumble on top.

And as much as I love alliteration, I love cornbread even more. Just don’t tell my good friend almond butter. I’m not sure love even covers my feelings on a good batch of cornbread. Adoration perhaps. Addiction probably. There may or may not have been an occasion where I single-handily devoured an entire basket of jalapeno cornbread in a suite at a NASCAR race a few years ago.

It’s probably because we’ve lived in the south for so long that I developed this fondness for cornbread. Just kidding. It’s a direct result of the countless visits my grandmother took my cousins and I on to good Old Country Buffet when we were little. And if they didn’t have cornbread, I opted for a cinnamon roll to go with my mac n’ cheese and orange drink right before I let my cousins tell me how to spend my $20 at the Toys “R” Us next door, likely in an altered state from the spike in glucose.

Those. Were. The. Days.

I saw this recipe from the How Sweet It Is blog a few weeks ago on Instagram and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Oh come on, you know you get hangry when you see all those food pictures on Instagram, too. If you ask me, there is no reason why likes or comments shouldn’t come with free samples. Just sayin’.

So as with most things I can’t get out of my head, I finally decided to try it. Don’t hate me ’cause I made it. Hate me because I haven’t figured out how to ship the free samples yet.

cornbread_cake_crumble

Cornbread Cake Crumble

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 C cornmeal
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 1 TBL + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a spring-form pan with parchment paper. I typically trace the bottom of my pan with a knife over the parchment (and on a cutting board) so I have a circle for the bottom. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Add melted butter and stir until just combined.

In a liquid measure blend eggs, milk and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir to blend. Pour batter into pan.

crumb topping

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Add melted butter and mix until crumbly. I realize this seems like an abundance of crumb topping. I hesitated too, but it’s worth it. Trust me.

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Top batter with crumb topping. Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean.

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I ran out of tomatoes so I couldn’t try the candied tomatoes that came with the recipe, but I will tell you that a healthy dose of honey is like heaven on a piece of this, too.

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Not too sweet. Not too savory. A combination confusing enough that you will be able to justify this cornbread cake crumble at nearly every meal.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

For the love of oats

I have a wee bit of a sweet spot for oats. A self-proclaimed carb-lover, I like that oats provide a complete breakfast with little more than a dash of salt and water. And unlike other carby breakfast foods, they actually fill you up.

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I also love my cast-iron skillet so I’ve been waiting for a chance to try a baked oats recipe in it for a while now. Not that I need a special occasion to bake some oats in a skillet but when I say it that way maybe you will judge this excited oat lover a little less.

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This is a great recipe for a group as it makes several servings. I adapted my version from this Two Peas and Their Pod one.  Contrary to how the photos look, there are peaches in it, they are just busy getting browned and gooey in the bottom of the pan. In other words they are busy getting awesome. I got called out on Instagram for only using 5 blueberries in my photo so let this be a disclaimer to you to add as many blueberries (or peaches) as you would like. I just added them to the dishes when we served this up.

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Peach and Blueberry Oatmeal Bake 

  • 2 C Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 C chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 C Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 TBL coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix oats, brown sugar, salt, baking powder cinnamon and chopped almonds.

In another bowl, blend almond milk, egg, coconut oil and vanilla.

Slice peaches and layer in bottom of cast iron skillet. Arrange oat mixture on top of peaches. Pour almond milk mixture over oats. Bake for 40 minutes or until top is golden.

Serve in a bowl with as many fresh blueberries as you can handle and a dash of almond milk.

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Have a great day!

The art of being a scone snob

I’m a self-proclaimed scone snob. It’s years of love for these flaky, just sweet enough treats that’s made me this way. So you can imagine my concern then, when I decided to use some of my farmer’s market blueberries in a batch of scones this morning, only to have misplaced my go-to recipe.

So I did as I sometimes do and I started browsing recipes online until I found one that I thought would to the job.

It didn’t. Granted I improvised a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary. You see, I like a sweeter scone and I should have known when this recipe only called for 2 tablespoons of sugar that we were in trouble. We being my scones and I. We’re in this together, you know.

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So rather than dump the entire batch, which I may or may not have done after a thorough taste and texture evaluation over coffee, I thought I’d use this experience as a lesson.

Lesson #1: Sometimes recipes let you down. Sorry Tyler Florence. You let me down today. And that’s ok. You’ve just reaffirmed my stand on proper sugar and butter usage in baked goods. Let’s just stick with grilled stuff from now on, shall we?

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Lesson #2: When it comes to scones, you are allowed to be a snob. You don’t hear guys at the ballpark getting all picky when it comes to their hot dog, do you? Well actually, if you’re at a game in Florida with a Chicago-style-dog lover and they don’t have sport peppers and fluorescent relish you might. Most of the time though, you leave the expectations for items that were historically served with high tea.

mauraders_baseball

can’t you see the hot dog disappointment in his eyes?

Lesson #3: If at first you don’t succeed, call your mom. Or try, try again. Whichever works best for you. In my case, I’ve experienced my mom’s blueberry scones first-hand and there’s no question that’s the better option.

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Lesson #4: Don’t post a recipe on your blog if it sucks. You’re welcome. Sorry if the photos make you want blueberry scones. Trust me these look prettier than they tasted. I’ll be sure to share a recipe that not only photographs well, but one that actually tastes less like a plain biscuit here soon. Until then, consider yourself free to indulge in some other form of carbohydrate today as an alternative.

I hope you had a nice holiday celebrating with friends and family, food and sunshine. How humbling it is each year to reflect on the service and sacrifice these men and women have made so that we can live freely. So that our biggest worry the next morning is how the scones turned out.