Sundried Tomato, Basil

and Feta Cheese Scones

May 30: National Scone Day

Most of the scones recipes we feature on our blog have been sweet ones. But we are slowly adding more savory scones recipes on our list, such as this one with sundried tomatoes, fresh chopped basil, crumbled feta cheese and black olives (optional). They look like tender American biscuits with a subtle Italian flavor—a testimony to the international impact of the humble Scottish scone! For National Scone Day, mix up something savory—make tomato, basil and feta cheese scones.

Recipe

(Adapted from RecipeLand)

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • ¼ cup very cold unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped finely
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup black pitted olives, drained and chopped (optional)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt and pepper.

Cut in the butter and mix until the flour resembles large peas. Stir in the buttermilk and gently mix until the dough is moistened. Avoid overmixing the dough or the scones will be hard instead of tender. Add the chopped sundried tomatoes.

Stir in the basil leaves and feta cheese. Mix well until the dough comes together. Add a little buttermilk if it is too dry; add a little flour if it is too wet.

Turn out the dough on a clean, floured surface. Roll out to 1-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds (or triangle shapes). Place on greased baking sheet lined with foil. Brush tops with a little buttermilk. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. Remove from the oven. Serve warm with butter. Yield: Approximately 9 scones.

Notes

  • Islander is not fond of olives so she omitted them in this recipe. But Highlander likes them so she adds them to these savory scones on occasion.
  • Search our blog for more scones (both sweet and savory) recipes.

Midori (Japanese Melon

Liqueur) Cake

April 29/May 4: Greenery Day (Japan) [みどりの日Midori no Hi]

We missed Greenery Day in Japan by just one day when we flew into the “Land of the Rising Sun” in 2019 for Highlander’s belated kanreki. But we arrived in time for Boys’ Day (May 5) and the culmination of Golden Week.  As spring has already sprung, the pink cherry blossoms have given way to all the natural green beauty of the country.

Greenery Day in Japan began on April 29, 1948, to celebrate the birthday of the emperor. In 1989, the Emperor’s Birthday was renamed as Greenery Day. In 2007, the date was moved from April 29 to May 4. The whole week includes holidays commemorating the Emperor’s Birthday, Constitution Day, Greenery Day and Boys’ Day (also known as Children’s Day).

We celebrated our own Greenery Day at home in Texas and reminisced about our trip to Japan by making a green cake. We even used a Japanese melon liqueur called midori to give it a little culture and color! And we ate a few slices of midori cake while we drank green (matcha) tea.

Make a midori cake for tea time and on Japanese Greenery Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 small (3 ½ ounce) instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup Midori (melon liqueur)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract or flavor

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and yogurt.

Stir in the oil, Midori and coconut flavor. Mix until smooth.

Pour into a greased bundt pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Overturn cake onto a plate or cutting board. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Feel free to add a few drops of green food coloring to the batter to boost the hue of the Midori cake.
  • Sprinkle the top of the bundt cake with powdered sugar for a prettier presentation (optional).

Homemade Butter

May 1: National Butter Day

When Islander was in elementary school learning about food and dairy products, she and her classmates were divided into little groups and given jars of cream. Each student in the group would take turns shaking the jar until parts of the cream solidified into butter. After draining the buttermilk, everyone enjoyed spreading butter onto crackers and eating snacks together. It was a lot of fun and energetic way to learn about making butter from scratch (she wonders how she would have gotten through that lesson now since she has developed lactose intolerance in college; she takes pills for it).

We decided to make butter at home—after our inattentiveness to beating heavy whipping cream turned out to look like a mess of light yellow wet cheesy curd. But that was just the butterfat separating from the buttermilk. We continued beating it further, then straining the liquid, and came out with real butter. A little Hawaiian sea salt and more beating gave us a creamy, spreadable, fresh and tasty butter. What a deliciously yummy mmmmm-mistake!

Now we overbeat the cream on purpose so we can have some homemade butter. Instead of shaking the cream in jars (or using a traditional churn), we simply let our Kitchenaid mixer whip up a batch of butter and buttermilk. This is a fun experiment with kids and a delicious way to observe National Butter Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream, very cold
  • ice water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Directions

In a cold mixing bowl with cold beaters (such as the Kitchenaid balloon whisk), pour the cream. Beat on low for a minute, then increase to medium speed and whip until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to high and beat for another 3-5 minutes.

Scrape the sides and cover the mixer with a towel or splash guard. Beat on high for another 3-5 minutes until the solids separate from the liquid. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the liquids out from the butter; reserve the buttermilk for another use.

Transfer the solid butter to another bowl and squeeze out more liquids by rinsing with ice water until clear. Return butter to mixer and change to the whisk to the paddle attachment. Add sea salt (or other flavors) and beat until creamy. Store in a covered container for two weeks.

Notes

  • After straining the butter from its milk, return to the mixer and whip with some herbs, citrus zest or honey for different flavored butters.
  • Spread fresh homemade butter on bread/biscuits/toast/scones, use in recipes or make buttercream frosting.

Earth Day Cookies

April 22: Earth Day

Long before Hawaii was the first to ban plastic bags in America, Islander had won a design contest for a non-profit organization in her home state that wanted to give away free reusable grocery store bags. We have collected other freebie bags at festivals and events and bought some fancy ones at other stores (Islander admires fellow designer’s artwork on those bags). We always use them when we go shopping as we feel it is just one little but significant way to protect the environment. The few plastic bags that we do get from the stores are returned to their designated recycling bins.  [Learn more about the effects of plastic bags on the environment from the Health Guidance website.]

If the kanaka (Hawaiian people) revere the ‘aina (land) and it is just a small island chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, imagine if everyone could have the same love towards the whole world. We know we could do more than just reuse our grocery bags and recycle items. But if everyone could start becoming more aware of protecting our environment then we are taking important steps to save our planet. With this premise, the movement for Earth Day was created.

Earth Day is celebrating its 50thyear as an international “holiday” in 2020 and we made cute cookies for the milestone occasion. They are easy to make but we added the tiny fondant heart to make a bold statement on this global goodie.

Enjoy these cookies on April 22 but celebrate everyday Earth Day!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • blue and green food coloring
  • red fondant

Directions

In a covered measuring cup, melt the butter in the microwave. Cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla and egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix the dry ingredient with the wet ingredients until a dough comes together. Divide the dough in 1/3 and 2/3 portions.

Color the larger dough portion with blue food coloring. Color the smaller dough portion with green food coloring. Pinch out a 1-inch ball from the blue dough. Pinch out little pieces from the green dough and randomly stick to the blue dough. Roll gently into a ball.

Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, being careful not to overbrown the cookies. Remove from the oven, cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, roll a small piece of red fondant on a clean, lightly floured surface to 1/16-inch thickness. Use a heart cutter/plunger to cut shapes. Brush the back of the mini fondant hearts with a dab of water. Position the hearts on the cookies. Serve on a tray. Store leftover cookies in a covered container.

Notes

  • We halved the recipe above just for the two of us.
  • Refrigerate the dough balls for 15 minutes before baking (optional).
  • If possible, wash the reusable grocery bags often to keep them clean and the food items safe from bacteria.
  • Learn more about the history of Earth Day from the History website. 

Garlic Garbanzo Soup

April 19: National Garlic Day

At the time of this post, the world is still battling the COVID19 pandemic. During self-isolation at home, even though we still had work projects to do, we had a little extra time to cook more and catch up on our blogging. With limited ingredients at the stores (sometimes we could not find chicken or bananas!), we had to make do with what we had in our pantry. We came across a simple soup recipe that was healthy—garlic garbanzo soup. Especially during the coronavirus crisis and flu and allergy season, this soup features immune-boosting properties from the garlic and garbanzo. Garlic also is the main flavoring in this soup; it may be strong but it softens and becomes less bitter when cooked longer. Make this tasty garlic garbanzo soup while the world tries to overcome the coronavirus. It is especially appropriate to eat it, too, during National Garlic Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Houston Chronicle)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup garbanzo beans (chick peas), dry
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (we reduced it to 2 ½ tablespoons)
  • 20 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt (we reduced it to ¾ teaspoon)

Directions

In a bowl, place the garbanzo and cover with water. Soak for 3-4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator (they should double in size). Remove from the refrigerator, drain and rinse.

In a large pot, bring 4 cups of new water to a boil and add the garbanzo. Cover the pot and simmer until soft (anywhere from an hour to 2 hours). Add more water, a cup at a time, if the liquid has lessened. In a frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the garlic cloves until golden brown. Lower the heat and add the cumin seeds and chili.

Add the celery and cook for about a minute before putting into the soup pot. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and fenugreek and bring to a boil. Season with salt. Check the water levels and add more if necessary. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes until the garlic is softened. Turn off the heat and let the soup rest for another 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Ladle into soup bowls and serve hot.

Notes

  • Learn more about the health benefits of garlic from Healthline.

HI Cookery is 10!

Time flies when we are cooking up some fun! We finally accomplished our goal and “cooked our way through the calendar”. It may have taken us 10 years—longer than most bloggers—to fill in all the holidays or feast days with a recipe or two (or more on some days). We may not have been as fancy as other sites, made money from ads or pushed to become popular for more traffic, but we stayed true to our simple selves for the past decade to merely share our recipes, learn new things about cooking and technology, and document our memories.

Even though we have every blessed day represented with a recipe now, we will slowly continue to add a few more throughout the coming years and hope to build on our Theme Menus with international recipes, especially since Islander became a member of her local global cooking club.

As we post this 10th blog-o-versary message, we are in the midst of surviving the coronavirus crisis. Food items and sanitation supplies are limited at the stores and social distancing is being practiced, so we cannot gather together and share meals with our families and friends. But we pray that this, too, shall pass and we can get on with our lives like before.

Thanks again to all our subscribers and visitors who have shown their support for our blog for the last 10 years. We may not know each one of you personally but are grateful that you took the time to read our humble blog. Take care, be safe and keep on cooking!

Tapadh leat! Mahalo! Thanks!

Highlander and Islander

Byzantine Spice Cake

March/April: Palm/Passion/Pussy Willow Sunday

Although we lived in the Chicago suburbs of Elgin, Illinois, for five years, we did not really explore the other Lenten traditions in the area’s Christian churches. Then when Islander’s brother went on his sabbatical year at the Catholic Theological Union, she took the opportunity to return to the city to visit him downtown and her Ukrainian friend Olga W. in Skokie.

She stayed in a guest room across from her brother’s in the CTU dormitory where other priests, brothers and sisters were residing on the same floor. Brother Chet F. from the Congregation of the Holy Cross invited a group of us to go with him to Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish in Homer Glen for Palm Sunday. The beautifully painted church with traditional iconography was made even more festive with fresh palm fronds—plus pretty pussy willows.

Islander later asked Olga, who attended Russian Orthodox Church services in her youth, about the pussy willows. She explained that in some colder countries in Europe, palm leaves were not readily available but pussy willows were symbolic of spring so were used instead during Palm Sunday celebrations.

It was very interesting to learn about the pussy willow tradition at the Byzantine church. So for our blog post, we have featured a recipe for Byzantine spice cake that can be made for Palm/Passion/Pussy Willow Sunday.

Recipe

(Adapted from Genius Kitchen)

For the spice cake

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup + ½ cup yogurt (plain Greek yogurt)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground mace or allspice

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and sugar. Beat in the eggs and ½ cup of yogurt.

Add the baking soda and orange juice to the mixture. In another bowl, sift together the flour and spices (ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and mace/allspice).

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in another ½ cup of yogurt. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter into a 9×13-inch greased baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, testing the cake for doneness. Remove from the oven. Poke holes in the cake with the tines of a fork. Let cool completely.

For the topping

  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ cup honey

Directions

In a saucepan over the stovetop, mix the water, sugar and honey. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, reducing heat as to not bubble over and splatter.

Mix until slightly thickened. Cover the saucepan for another five minutes. Pour hot topping over the cake. Spread the honey glaze over the top and let it soak. Cut into squares and serve.

Notes

  • This cake was really dense and dry and probably would make a good tea bread if baked in a loaf pan.
  • Plain Greek yogurt may be substituted for sour cream.
  • We halved the syrupy topping. It is sticky-sweet, which complements the very mildly spiced cake.
  • Search our blog for other Palm/Passion Sunday and Lenten recipes.