Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones

I have always been a grapefruit lover. I'm sure my initial introduction to grapefruit was partially influenced by the fact that my mom! let me! sprinkle sugar! on my breakfast!, but it stuck with me. I plan on coercing my someday-children into an early grapefruit adoration the same way.

Unfortunately my someday-children won't be able to witness a true grapefruit enthusiast in action in their early days of grapefruit consumption. My grandfather could eat a grapefruit like I'd never seen and likely will never see again. A product of his wartime and Depression-era generation, Grandpa was very mindful of waste, and cleaned out every grapefruit half he ate (one half every morning) down to the rind. Every shred of flesh was meticulously scraped away with a ridged grapefruit spoon and consumed, his clean rind shells never failing to fascinate (I liked to turn them inside out like rubber poppers when nobody was watching). To this day, I can't eat more than the inner sections, juice, and whatever I can scrape away of the edges without puckering as the flesh becomes more and more tart - and all of that after a teaspoon of sugar, still.

Either I picked up the wrong bag of grapefruit last week (I wanted the red Rio Star and got the pink instead) or grapefruit season is already over. While they're not my favorite, I decided to take a page from Grandpa and use what I had. I thought scones from Joy the Baker would be a good place to start.

You will need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 Ruby Red grapefruit (or in my case, an unwanted pink grapefruit), zested and segmented
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside (note: I thought I could just spray a sheet pan, but they stuck a little..parchment would be best).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Zest the grapefruit and combined zest and granulated sugar on a clean cutting board. Rub together the zest and sugar with the back of a spoon or a plastic bench knife. The sugar will be a pale orange color and smell of grapefruit. Measure 2 tablespoons of the grapefruit sugar and whisk into the dry ingredients. Save the remaining grapefruit sugar for topping the scones just before baking.

Segment the grapefruit next. Slice off the bottom and top of the grapefruit, then use a sharp knife to cut away the peel and pith of the grapefruit, exposing the pink grapefruit flesh. Remove the inner core membrane from the peeled fruit, then use your fingers to peel away the white membranes surrounding each segment. Set segments aside.

Dice cold butter into small chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Using your fingers or a pastry knife, break the butter down into the flour mixture until butter chunks resemble a coarse meal (like biscuit dough). Add the honey, yogurt and grapefruit segments. Toss together with a fork until all of the dry ingredients are moistened by the yogurt and honey.

Turn the scone dough out onto a lightly floured pastry mat. Pat into an 8 inch circle, about 1 inch thick. Use a knife to cut the dough into six scone triangles - first cutting a cross, then an X. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly brush the tops of the scones with milk or buttermilk, and sprinkle generously with grapefruit sugar.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden brown on top and firm but soft in the center. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before serving.

Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

"You have to leave the kitchen while I make this - I can't share the secret ingredient with you," I told Alyssa as she hovered near me, watching my every move as I prepared dinner for some friends that were joining us later that evening. Lesson learned: telling a kid that a secret ingredient lurks within their coveted salad dressing opens the floodgate to a handful of silly guesses.

"What is it? Is it limes? Poison? Dog toenails? Fish?"

She had guessed fish correctly, but there was no way I was going to let on that tiny, oil-packed anchovies are the key to her favorite Caesar dressing. And they really, really are - if you can't get past the anchovies and are tempted to skip them, don't. Use anchovy paste if you must, but their flavor is absolutely essential!

You will need:
2 chicken breasts (I used a precooked rotisserie chicken from the store)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1-2 anchovies in oil, drained and diced, or 1 tsp anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup mayonnaise
1 loaf Italian or ciabatta bread, or 4 Italian or ciabatta sandwich rolls
Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Cooked sliced bacon (2-3 slices per sandwich)

Slice chicken breasts into thick slices and set aside.

To make the Caesar dressing, combine the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the anchovies/anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Process until smooth and well blended. Adjust seasonings to taste if necessary. Refrigerate the dressing if not using right away.

Slice the bread in half horizontally and toast if desired. Spread both cut sides of the bread lightly with the Caesar dressing. Layer the bottom half of the bread with the romaine leaves, then top with shaved Parmesan, cooked bacon slices, and sliced chicken. Place the top half of the bread on top. If using a loaf of ciabatta, slice the assembled sandwich into individual servings. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Annie's Eats.

Bread Pudding Cups

I committed at the last minute to bring something for a company bake sale yesterday, knowing I wasn’t going to have much time that evening for baking. A fussy dessert was out, and whatever it was I wound up bringing had to be portioned into individual servings for a bake sale. What to do?

When I went home for lunch, my answer was right in front of my face. I still had half a pan of bread pudding from the weekend in the fridge and decided in a moment of brilliance what I was going to do. Mini bread puddings portioned out in muffin cups! And I would only need to pick up a few things from the grocery store. I had no idea how they would bake in muffin cups, but they held their shape wonderfully and stood at room temperature both overnight and through the bake sale without issue. To top it off, they were delicious and raised money for a good cause.

You will need:

1 pint cream or whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 loaf (12 ounces) Italian bread, torn into small pieces
1 package King's Hawaiian Rolls, torn into small pieces

In a large bowl, combine cream or milk with eggs and whisk. Add vanilla, salt, sugars and melted butter and whisk until combined. Pour in chocolate chips and walnuts, if using, and stir to combine the mixture. Add bread and using your hands, toss the bread cubes until all are coated. Be sure to distribute the chocolate chips and walnuts throughout the mixture as they have a tendency to sink to the bottom.

Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with muffin wrappers and evenly divide the bread pudding mixture among 20 of the cups (the mixture should mound over the top of the cups slightly). Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the bread is golden and the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool and remove from muffin tin. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature - but they're best warm and gooey.

Tortilla Española

I make a lot of lists. Recipes to blog, things to buy at CVS, songs to download, movies to add to Netflix, decorating ideas. Problem is, I lose them and nothing gets accomplished. They get stuffed into my purse, I change my purse frequently, and I don’t find a list from December until March. This morning I was reminded that I was supposed to buy Q-Tips on December 18th.

Fortunately, my never-ending list of recipes to conquer remains an internal one, and when external events align so that one of them actually has a chance to materialize, I scratch it off my mental list and move its physical recipe into my stuffed-to-the-gills recipe book. This past week my mom was kind enough to send me a supply of chorizo, a spicy and smoky Spanish sausage she can sniff out a quality link of no matter where in the country she may be. I do not possess this skill and need to hone it pronto – because the one recipe I dared to try with perfect chorizo in my possession needs to be made over and over again.

Tortilla Española, often referred to as a Spanish omelet in tapas restaurants, brings to mind fond memories of helping my mom in the kitchen as a kid. As it requires thinly sliced peeled potatoes and paper-thin onions, Spanish pimentos and the elusive chorizo sausage, it is a bit of a labor of love. It also requires a midway flip, which I won’t deny intimidated me. My dad was always my mom's flipper. Josh is my flipper.

You will need:

4 small to medium potatoes, peeled and sliced with a mandolin (1/8 inch thickness)
1 medium Spanish (white) onion, sliced with a mandolin (1/8 inch thickness)
5 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons diced pimentos
4 ounces hard Spanish chorizo, diced
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Olive oil

Soak potato slices in cool water to prevent discoloration. When ready to cook, remove potatoes from water and press dry with a cloth, removing as much water as you can. Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet filled with 1/2 inch olive oil over medium-high heat. Rub some of the olive oil into the sides of the skillet as well. Once oil begins to shimmer, add dry potatoes and cook until potatoes soften, but do not allow them to brown. Remove cooked potatoes to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Add onions to oil and cook until translucent but not brown. Remove and cook chorizo until hot but again, do not allow to brown. Remove chorizo to the plate with potatoes and onions.

Add diced pimentos to beaten eggs and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Once potatoes, onion and chorizo have cooled a bit, add to egg mixture. If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the skillet and pour in egg mixture. Do not disturb until eggs begin to set, then run a knife along the outer edge, and with the edge lifted, tilt and swirl the pan to distribute some of the uncooked egg on top toward the bottom and sides. Do this a few times until the top of the mixture is no longer runny. Loosen the bottom of the mixture with a spatula, being careful not to break or tear the omelet. Place a well fitting plate on top of the skillet and quickly flip the tortilla onto the plate, then quickly slide the tortilla back into the hot pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and slide back onto your serving plate.

Serves 4.

Skinny Lasagna

I wasn't suprised to learn that my favorite go-to lasagna recipe was not Weight Watchers approved. Oozing with melted Mozzarella, whole fat ricotta and bursting with pork sausage, the 30 points per serving calculation seemed about right, if not less than I expected. My mission was clear: make over the lasagna to satisfy my craving and not manage to blow my entire day. This won't be a regular thing, but being that it was my first made-over recipe, I've provided the nutritional data at the bottom of the recipe as well as the total Weight Watchers points (Points Plus) per generous serving.

For the sauce, you will need:

2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb chicken sausage, casings removed (I like Trader Joe's Formaggio & Vino)
Bunch basil, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon white sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste

For the lasagna:

18 half-sheets lasagna or 6 full sheets
2 cups light Ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced very finely
Small bunch basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ bag of baby spinach (whole)
1 ½ cups reduced fat Italian shredded cheese blend, or equal parts reduced fat Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, shredded

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. When hot, add onions and carrots and cook until onions are translucent, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add sausage and cook for 4-5 minutes. Pour in wine and reduce slightly, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and simmer gently for 15 minutes before adding the basil and parsley. Season to taste, cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.

In a medium bowl, combine Ricotta, Mascarpone, egg, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

To assemble lasagna, spoon enough sauce to line the bottom of a ceramic or glass baking dish. On top of the sauce, fill with one layer of pasta sheets (you may need to break some pasta sheets to completely line the bottom of the pan). Make sure that all the pasta is touching sauce – since the pasta is not pre-cooked, it will need to soak up the sauce to soften. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the pasta sheets. Add a layer of spinach. Add tablespoon-size drops of Ricotta cheese blend over the spinach, about 9, and spread to cover spinach. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the shredded cheese mixture over the top and repeat with a new layer – adding in order sauce, pasta, sauce, spinach, Ricotta blend and cheese. Complete three layers and top the lasagna with remaining sauce and shredded cheese.

Cover with foil and bake immediately in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes, until the sauce bubbles. Remove foil for the last 10 minutes to brown the cheese. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Lasagna can also be made ahead of time and stored either in the refrigerator or in the freezer until ready to bake. If baking from frozen, add another 10 minutes to the cooking time. Serves 10.

Nutritional data

Per serving: 403 calories, 42 carbs, 14 grams fat, 24 grams protein

Weight Watchers points plus: 12.6

Strawberry Crumble

March always does this to me. The first hint of a warm breeze and I'm overly excited for more permanent warmth. Eventually I will wake up on a pretty morning and dress for work in a sandals and a skirt without leggings underneath. I will then find myself walking through a windstorm in the parking lot knowing that all the other employees walking into work in jeans are laughing at me.

The same goes for produce. Strawberries start to grace the shelves in shades of crimson only slightly deeper than their pale December counterparts, and I giddily fill my cart, only to find later that they need significant help from a sprinkle of sugar before I can consider them palatable. I'm annually premature and I'm not sure I'll ever learn.

Enter this strawberry crumble. Grand Marnier, sugar and butter join forces with the otherwise subpar strawberries and create something not only palatable, but superb - early March or not.

You will need:

1 pound of strawberries, tops removed and cut in half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or cognac
1 teaspoon lemon juice

For the crumble topping:

1/2 cup flour
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold butter, diced
6 tablespoons rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped, or 1 tablespoon almond meal

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and butter to a medium bowl. Work the butter chunks into the flour mixture with your fingers, crumbling until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the oats and almonds/almond meal and chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the strawberries.

Spray a pie plate or 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in halved strawberries, vanilla, lemon juice and Grand Marnier and toss gently to coat. Top strawberries with crumble mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Allow the crumble to rest and cool before serving.

Bacon-Green Chile Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes. Josh loves sweet potatoes. But the last two bags of sweet potatoes we bought completely went to waste because we didn't eat them in time. There was abosolutely no excuse, unless the fact that I'm sick of sweet potato fries counts. I needed something new to entice me into cooking and eating the current bag - which, given our recent pattern with sweet potatoes, may be our last for a while.

What a great sendoff! Green chiles are surprisingly well matched with the sweet potatoes, and the bacon is a no-brainer. Served with a few dashes of hot sauce, these were the best sweet potatoes I've had in ages.

You will need:

4-5 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sour cream (or light sour cream)
1 can green chiles
3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
Dash chili powder
Salt and pepper

Add potatoes to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender and drain. Rinse the potatoes well under cool water and return to pot over very low heat. Add sour cream, butter, chiles, salt and pepper and chili powder and mash until smooth. Add bacon, stir and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve warm with a dash of hot sauce.