Confessions of an Over-worked Teacher/Writer/Editor/Freelancer

It has recently come to my attention that people other than my mom (Hi, Mom!) read my blog. In the past few days, two friends have nagged me on Facebook, reminding me that I haven’t blogged in over a month. And then, lo and behold, this morning my mother emailed me to tell me she’s noticed I haven’t written anything in awhile. Point taken:  Dana needs to write again.The fall has been crazy. It’s been a time for new adventures, for phasing out the less productive parts of my life in favor of new, exciting, highly productive ones. I’m teaching four classes at ODU, I work a contract job with the law firm I used to work full-time at, I have been picking up freelance work, and I write for and edit the food section of I’m not competing; almost everyone I know is insanely busy. But let’s just be real for a second. I’m crazy busy, right?

So busy, in fact, that I often sacrifice basic physical needs in the name of productivity. Sleep? I can do with less in the interest of staying up late to grade papers and getting up early to plan classes. Right? Wrong. And for that matter, who needs water? Water has no caffeine in it. You know what I need? Coffee. And Coke. Lots of it. Until my stomach burns like my digestive system is catching fire.

When I was little and I got sick, the school nurse would always put me on the phone with my mom when they called to ask her to pick me up. And as soon as I heard her voice, I burst into tears. Every time, without fail. Something about hearing my mom’s voice on the other end – it was like a familiar, comforting life line. Somewhere over the phone lines was the woman who was going to make me feel all better. When I moved away to Virginia to go to graduate school, I usually tried to avoid calling my mom during times of illness; there was no point. My mom could no longer come wash my sheets and make me soup and toast and get me fresh ice water. I had to go to the store and buy medicine myself. I had to cook up Ramen noodles and get my water myself. Let’s just say it:  when you’re sick, being a grown-up kind of sucks.

As with most things in life, illness is tied to food for me. I’ve been very fortunate to have people in my life in Virginia who would bring me soup and medicine. My friend Andrea always brought mac and cheese (because, she reasoned, at the very least, I could boil water) and a box of Oreos (for when I needed a pick-me-up) in addition to copies of O Magazine. I’ve become an old pro with upper respiratory illness, and so when I feel it coming on, I find one final burst of energy to make whatever food I’m craving at the time. Sometimes it’s chicken soup, with fresh herbs and veggies and chicken picked off the bone by hand. Sometimes it’s bread, or cookies. This time around, it was scones.

Scones and tea: ready to help when my appetite returns.

I made these scones for the first time last year when a particularly strange CSA delivery yielded a couple cookies, a jar of salsa, and some oranges. I turned to my trusty copy of The Joy of Cooking and looked up oranges. Out of all the options, I picked Orange Chocolate Chip Scones, a variation on the traditional cream scone. It was an instant (and surprising) hit in my house, and my roommates have been requesting it lately. So in the final burst of energy before my sore throat and stuffy nose took over, I made Orange Chocolate Chip Scones, which are best enjoyed warm, slathered with butter, alongside a cup of coffee (or if you’re finally coming to your senses and scaling back, a hot cup of herbal tea with lots of honey).

Orange Chocolate Chip Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 large egg

1/2 cup heavy cream, plus a little extra for brushing

3-4 teaspoons grated orange zest

Juice of half the orange (optional; I give it one good squeeze, straining for seeds)

Cinnamon sugar mixture (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a large ungreased baking sheet.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together egg, heavy cream, orange zest, and orange juice. Add all at once to the flour mixture, mixing with a rubber spatula, wooden spoon, or fork just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently against the sides and bottom of the bowl 5-10 times, turning and pressing any loose pieces into the dough each time until they adhere and the bowl is fairly clean. [Sometimes the dry pieces don’t quite want to adhere. I add a little extra splash of cream to help it all come together. Do this only if you can’t seem to get the dough to come together right.]

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat the dough into an 8-inch round about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 8 or 12 wedges and place at least 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with a bit more heavy cream, and if desired, sprinkle tops with a mix of cinnamon and sugar (1 part cinnamon to 3 parts sugar).

The edge of that dough looks like a turtle face, right?

Bake until the scones are golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on a rack or serve warm.

*And so, my first blog post in over a month. In the coming days, look for more posts on Paula Deen’s new status as the hottest female TV chef (thank you, Maxim, for making my world a more complicated place), the recipe for the fall treat Pine Bark, and a meditation on the beauty of funnel cake (because Stockley Gardens Art Festival is this weekend, and I’m living in a fried dough dream state until then).

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