Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

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Lately, I’ve been wanting to bake with apples or pumpkin. Pumpkin won. 🙂

I’ve been making these scones for many years. The original recipe came from this cookbook published in 1979. Wow – I was single then and not even dating my future husband! I’ve made these with raisins, apples and blueberries, but this time I worked pumpkin, cranberries and toasted pecans into them. Mmmm…

I like the uniqueness of scones. When I eat a scone, I have certain expectations. I want it to be rich and a bit crumbly, not dense. I want to feel the complex texture – the bits of oats, nuts and fruit that I put into it. I don’t want it to be smooth like a biscuit that’s more of a side item. A go-with. A scone is the main fare! It should look earthy. Wholesome. Hearty. And it shouldn’t be too sweet, like a dessert. Just slightly sweet, like I’m eating one of the original scones from Ireland of old where flour and sugar were precious commodities. These scones are whole grain, can be gluten free, and celebrate the coming of Fall!

The ingredients in this are like those in all of my recipes – examined for nutritional content and processed as little as possible. Recipes abound that are rich and sweet that do not do your body one bit of good! I can’t, in good conscience, give you those.

I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give you what will nourish your body  toward good health. Some people really have no idea that nutrition is a science, proven to affect health. Food intolerance, too much protein, too many processed foods, too much bad fat and sugar, too few nutrients – all of these can cause health issues that people go to the doctor for, and then are put on medication. For instance, the CDC estimates that 2.7 million children in the U.S. are currently taking medication for ADHD. Many of these children can be treated by a high-nutrient diet and avoid the side effects of medication.

If you have parents who were aware of the benefits of whole natural foods and passed that on to you, be grateful for it! That’s where I’m blessed – my mom is a retired registered nurse and learned early  about nutrition. She actually introduced me to it when I was a teenager, and my interest in it stuck. Thanks, Mom!

We can learn and affect the next generation. 🙂 That’s what I want to do. How about you?

So as far as I can know, the recipes I use for my family combine good flavor, natural ingredients, and solid nutrition. This is what I offer to you!

On to the scones…

You may remember from here that I am new to a gluten-free diet, which I became committed to after experiencing relief from my long term joint pain. I’m experimenting with all of my old recipes, adjusting them to fit my new nutritional focus. I keep a jar of gluten free flour mix ready in my pantry for when I want to bake. I learned from the master, Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl (this page will give you all the details), how to make a whole grain flour blend. Below is the recipe I used for my GF flour mix that I used in these scones. I’ve written the scone recipe as a regular recipe that anyone can use – just know that for the gluten-free version, you are to substitute GF oats (if you’re extremely sensitive to gluten) and GF flour mix for the whole wheat or white flour.

GF Flour Mix:

18 ounces brown rice flour

7 ounces millet flour

10 ounces potato starch

Instructions:

Whisk or sift all ingredients together till thoroughly combined. Store in mason jar in refrigerator.

Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

When preheated, toast 1/3 cup pecans for 3-4 minutes. No more! They burn easily. (I only burned one batch this time.)

Dry ingredients:

1 1/4 c oats (GF if necessary)

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (or GF flour mix)

1 T baking powder

1/2 t cream of tartar

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1/2 t allspice

1/4 t nutmeg

1/3 c toasted pecans, broken with fingers

1 T milled flaxseed or chia seeds (optional)

1/3 c dried cranberries, fruit-juice sweetened

Wet ingredients:

6 T melted butter, Earth Balance or extra virgin coconut oil

1/3 c pure maple syrup

1/4 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

Instructions:

1. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

2. Whisk wet ingredients together in small bowl.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix with rubber scraper until moistened.

You can form scones in different ways. One was is to turn dough out onto floured pastry board. Form a log, pat down into a rectangle, then cut into about 12 triangles.

Alternately, you could turn it out onto floured pastry board, pat into one or two circles, then cut into 8 “pie wedge” type triangles, separating slightly.

OR you could just drop 8-12 spoonfuls of dough directly onto oiled baking sheet just like drop biscuits. (see “drop” scones above)

Using pancake turner, move to oiled baking sheet. For a nice touch and some added sweetness, you could paint these with milk and then sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. I did that on some of these in the pictures. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Enjoy the fragrance permeating your house. Candle businesses spend a fortune trying to fabricate what you’re creating with natural ingredients! 🙂

Remove from pan immediately. As with most baked goods, they are best while still warm (or briefly warmed up). Brew hot drink of your choice. Put feet up. Enjoy!

Basic Crustless Quiche

I was invited to have lunch with a friend around 30 years ago (Can it be?!), and she served this quiche.  She gave me her recipe, I changed it to eliminate the crust, and I have made it many, many times since then. It makes a great entrée for brunch or dinner and is a well-received dish to bring to a group meeting or potluck supper. I occasionally bring one to our morning ladies Bible study.

This quiche can be made with or without meat. It can be made gluten-free or with wheat flour. The filling can be poured into a pie crust, but it does perfectly well without one. I will give you the basic recipe as well as many options – be creative! Choose something different each time using the basic structure found here.

Basic Crustless Quiche (GF version)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Custard ingredients:

4 eggs, preferably farm-fresh organic

1 1/2 c organic 2% milk

2 T GF millet flour

1 T arrowroot

1/2 t salt

1/4 t dry mustard

Few scrapes of nutmeg

1/2 t dried herbs or 2 t fresh (about 1 t each fresh chopped rosemary and sage)

Filling:

1-1 1/2 c grated cheese (I used half grass-fed cheddar and half monterey jack)

1 small to medium onion, chopped and sautéed

Approx. 2 cups vegetables, lightly steamed or sautéed, and patted dry (I used 1 1/2 yellow zucchini and 1/2 bunch kale)

1/2 cup meat, if desired

Some notes about ingredients you may choose to use:

1. Vegetables РBroccoli, cauliflower Рslice thin, lightly steam. Frozen spinach or kale Рsqueeze dry. Fresh greens Рpull leaves off tough ribs, wash, shake off water, steam in covered pan until reduced to about 1-1/2 cups worth. Zucchini, asparagus Рsliced or chopped and lightly saut̩ed. Tomatoes Рchopped and drained a bit on a paper towel. Fresh sweet peppers Рno need to saute. Frozen organic corn Рno need to cook first. Potato Рsliced and lightly steamed.

2. Cheese – Swiss, cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, gouda, havarti – just grate on large-hole side of box grater. One kind or combination of a few. Low-fat is okay. Just don’t use romano or parmesan cheese as your only cheese. You may, however, add a few tablespoons for flavor. Brie is wonderful!

3. Onion – after chopping, you may saute, but you don’t have to.

4. Milk – Two percent works well. One percent’s okay, too. And I’m sure whole milk would be wonderful!

5. Herbs – dill weed, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, summer savory, etc.

Instructions:

1. Blend custard ingredients (except for fresh herbs, if using) in blender or place in bowl and blend with stick blender. Set aside while making filling.

2. Oil pie pan. Place it on a foil-covered baking sheet.

3. Cover bottom of pie pan with sliced, sautéed zucchini. Sprinkle chopped onion evenly over zucchini.

4. Distribute steamed kale over onion layer. Sprinkle shredded cheeses (and meat if using) over kale .

5. Blend custard again for a few seconds. Stir in chopped rosemary and sage. Pour over fillings in pan.

7. Very carefully, place baking sheet with filled pie pan on center shelf of oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then at 300 degrees 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out without any custard sticking to it. Let sit 10 minutes to settle before serving.

Some great combinations:

Asparagus and Swiss.

Corn, peppers, and black beans with cheddar/monterey mix.

Spinach, havarti, and nitrate-free bacon.

Mozzarella and tomato with basil.

Broccoli, potato and cheddar.

What combinations can you think of?

Fresh Lean Eggplant Parmesan and Finding a Farmer’s Market

I love my farmer’s market. We have a few in the area within 1/2 hour drive, but the closest is also the most convenient (open Saturdays) and has the BEST produce! My favorite stand will be operating until November selling apples, winter squash, and greens along with whatever is still in season. This is what we bought last week.

This is more than I usually get because I needed to make a large pan of roasted veggies to bring to a birthday party for my dear father-in-law who turns 89 this year! Also, my older daughter and her family came from Vermont for a visit  for a few days so I wanted to make sure I had enough healthy vegetables on hand. My grandson is now eating table food – it was this Italian nana’s first opportunity to feed him real food! Tu mangi! (You eat!)

Now we’re working on finishing up those veg – we still have eggplant, cabbage and okra in the fridge. Okra? Not quite sure what to do with that, but I had to try it. But I do know what to do with eggplant! This is my lighter version of Eggplant Parmesan. Forgive me, but measurements are totally estimates. There is so much leeway with this type of recipe because of differences in sweetness and size of the tomatoes and eggplant, so you just have to taste as you go along and adjust.

The way to assure a good result, even without exact measurements, is to use ingredients that are as fresh as possible. You really can’t go wrong that way. Find a farmer’s market in your area. Go here – this should help.

Ingredients:

About 20 meaty tomatoes (I use what I grow – Brandywine)

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

About 20 fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 large eggplant

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thin or coarsely grated

Freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In medium saute pan, saute onion and garlic in a little extra virgin olive oil until soft. Set aside.

Prep tomatoes – wash, dry and core tomatoes. Cut them in half horizontally and, with your index finger, slide out the seeds. Place tomatoes into a wide saucepan on medium high heat and cover for about 10 minutes so that peels will slip right off. Remove the lid and, using tongs, begin pulling skins off the tomatoes. Then use a stick blender to blend the remaining tomato pulp to desired consistency. Alternately, you could just mash with potato masher – your choice.

Add sauteed onion and garlic to tomatoes. Boil, stirring frequently, until reduced to good sauce consistency. Stir in chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Cup off top of eggplant and peel. Cut about 1/4″ slices. “Fry” on cast iron pan lightly painted with olive oil at medium heat. This could be tricky. Too high, and the eggplant will burn before getting soft. Too low, and it will take forever! You just have to experiment. Keep turning them over and moving them around if you have hot spots like I do. Continue “frying”  until slices are lightly browned on both sides. Remove to a plate as soon as each slice is done. Continue until both eggplants are cooked. You should have a nice mound of slices.

You hardly need any oil with a well-seasoned pan. This isn’t an old-fashioned version, saturated with oil. The oil on the pan will keep the eggplant from sticking, but it’s actually direct heat and trapped steam that do the cooking.

Now to assemble: First spread some sauce in bottom of 9×9 baking pan. Then place eggplant slices to cover bottom of pan. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Distribute mozzarella on eggplant slices. You can go easy here, because there will be more layers of cheese. You could also sprinkle just a bit of Parmesan or Romano cheese at this point.

Ladle some sauce over all.

Repeat until pan is full or you run out of ingredients. If you have just a small quantity of ingredients left over, fill a lunch-size casserole dish with them and bring to work for a special lunch! End your layers with mozzarella cheese, then tomato sauce.

Bake uncovered at 350 for about 20 minutes. Open oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese over all and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is lightly golden.

Enjoy every bite of this! Seriously, this was the best eggplant parm we ever had – just because of the freshness!

Now what do I do with okra? Any suggestions?