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Chives and Cheddar Scones can be served for breakfast, with salad or soup, or made into a delicious ham sandwich. Photo by Sue Doeden

Chives add color and flavor to scones

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On a cloudy, gray day in early spring, a friend handed me a small plastic bag with a moist paper towel inside. As I opened the bag, a familiar fragrance of mild sweet onions wafted up to my nostrils. Before I even unrolled the wet paper, I knew there were fresh chives tucked inside.

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I can't think of one thing that could have brightened my day more than the gift of petite, young, vivid green blades of chives. I was giddy with the anticipation of polishing off a scoop of creamy cottage cheese generously doused with chopped freshly harvested chives. And I could not keep from feeling envious of this friend who was already enjoying fresh-from-the-yard chives. Mine were still covered with snow.

The first tender, green blades of chives shooting up through the sandy soil in my flower garden are a sure sign of spring. Finally, they've made their appearance. It happens just once a year, like a steady and reliable friend who comes at the same time each year to stay for the summer, and it always makes me smile. I've been out with my scissors, snipping slender, deep green stalks, being careful to leave some for blossoming. I rinse them with cool water, keep out what I need and wrap the remainder in a damp paper towel to be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for at least a few days.

There are so many things to love about chives. Perennial and tough-as-nails, chives are the easiest of herbs to grow. They are not picky about soils or fertilizers. All they seem to really need is a little bit of sun.

Because of their delicate flavor, chives are versatile, pairing well with eggs, vegetables, cheese, greens, soup and pasta. Even their flowers are delicious. Don't pop the whole blossom into your mouth, though. It can be a bit overwhelming. Break the blossoms apart and toss them into salads.

I've discovered chives are a tasty addition to savory scones, especially scones that have shreds of cheddar cheese weaving through each tender mound like bright orange ribbons. A sprinkling of chopped walnuts over each scone adds a welcome crunch.

Warm Chives and Cheddar Scones are simply wonderful served with a salad or soup. Eat them for breakfast, warmed, split in half, filled with scrambled eggs and slices of crispy bacon. Now that's a breakfast sandwich. Use these scones to make ham sandwiches. They're fabulous.

If you don't have chives, snag some from a friend who has enough in the garden to divide. If you don't have outdoor space to plant chives, grow them in a pot, indoors in a sunny window or outside. You'll never be without chives again.

It's chive time. Snip and sprinkle for months. It's time to begin enjoying garden fresh chives.

Chives and Cheddar Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small chunks

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne to combine. Add small chunks of cold butter and pulse until the bits are no larger than small grains of rice. (This can also be done in a large bowl, working mixture with a hand-held pastry blender or two knives.)

Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese and toss, separating any clumps of cheese that form. Whisk the buttermilk and heavy whipping cream together in a small bowl. Add to the dry ingredients all at once, along with the chives. Stir with a light touch until the dry ingredients are moistened and just combined.

Drop mounds of batter (scant 1/4 cup each) onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle walnuts over the top of each mound.

Bake scones 10 to 12 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. Makes 18 scones.

Tips from the cook

--Buttermilk and heavy whipping cream create scones that are wonderfully moist and tender. Do not use skim milk to save fat grams or calories.

--In an ideal world, Chives and Cheddar Scones would be served warm shortly after removing from the oven, but they will keep well for a couple of days. They can be toasted lightly to perk up their flavor and texture. They also store well in the freezer.

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