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I live in a climate that is hot about nine months out of the year, so winter time, especially January, is a great time of the year to bake. I can get some extra baking in and save the baked goods in the freezer for when it gets hotter. The recipe for one of our favorite breakfast scones is below.

Soup is another favorite and while tomatoes are not in season, Roma Tomatoes are plentiful and are great for cooking. Salads are hearty at this time of year and chicken salad is a great option. Stuffed vegetables or stuffed meat entrees are very comforting when there is a chill in the air. Try some of the recipes below to warm you up.

Breakfast

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Almond Scones

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
One 7 oz tube almond paste
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half (cream and milk)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut the almond paste and the butter into the dry ingredients until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the almonds.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg and almond extract and add to the flour mixture. With a fork gradually stir the dough until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently pat into an 8-inch round about 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar.

Using a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut the dough round into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the scones at least 1 inch apart.

Bake in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Egg Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large, jarred roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
2 medium tortilla wraps

Directions

Cut the pepper into one inch pieces.

In a measuring cup beat the eggs with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Add the peppers and mix.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Stir and cook until the eggs are set.

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Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Divide the cheese in half and sprinkle over each tortilla. Divide the egg mixture in half and place on top of the cheese. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Roll up each tortilla tightly, cut in half and serve.

Lunch

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Winter Tomato Soup

If you don’t like peeling tomatoes as much as I do, here is a technique I use to get around it. I usually purchase fresh Roma tomatoes for cooking and put them in the freezer when I get home from shopping. One day before I am going to cook with them, I place the amount I need in the refrigerator to defrost. The next day, the skins slip right off and are ready for the pot.

Ingredients

6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon honey
4 cups organic broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: add ½ cup half & half to make a creamy version
Basil for garnish

Directions

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Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, cover and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the the fresh and canned tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper to taste and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes with the cover ajar. Remove the pot from the heat.

With an immersion blender or in a processor, puree the soup. If adding cream, add it here and warm the soup. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve hot garnished with basil.

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Open-Faced Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Slow-poaching the chicken breasts keeps them extra moist.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 scallions, minced
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ of a green bell pepper finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices whole wheat or rye bread, lightly toasted

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover the chicken breasts with water. Bring to a very slow simmer and cook over low heat until white throughout, about 18-20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch dice.

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley and chicken until evenly coated.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Spread some of the chicken salad onto the toasted bread slices and top with tomato slices to serve.

Dinner

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Crab-Stuffed Flounder

This is a hearty entree and only needs one vegetable as a side. flounder comes in large sizes here on the gulf and mine weighed 14 oz. Substitute an equal amount of smaller fillets.

For 2-3

Ingredients

Crab Filling

1 tablespoon each of minced onion, celery and bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
1/2 pound lump crab meat

Flounder

12-14 oz flounder fillet or fillets
Paprika
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the crab. Then, gently fold in the crab. Place the flounder in a baking dish coated with olive oil.

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Spoon the crab mixture evenly over the fillet or fillets. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake at 400°F for 20-24 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

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Southwest Stuffed Peppers

January is a good time to try different ethnic cuisines. They can spice up some typical winter produce. While I find an occasional taco or quesadilla tasty, I am generally not a fan of Southwest recipes. This recipe turned out quite well, though, and is a nice change from regular stuffed peppers. It is also good served with a green salad with ranch dressing.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large green bell pepper
¼ lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 scallion, chopped
½ cup of corn kernels
¼ cup salsa
½ cup Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Place the pepper halves in a small baking dish.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the ground beef until brown.

Turn off the heat and add the scallion, corn and salsa; stir to combine. Spoon this mixture into the pepper shells. Add water to cover the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. Drain the water from the baking dish. Sprinkle the peppers evenly with the shredded cheese. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake just until the cheese melts.

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