Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Buttermilk Biscuits

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

Ahh biscuits!  These are my favorite!  You can do so many things with a biscuit, and they are so easy.  I do not ever, ever, ever buy refrigerated canned biscuits.  I think they are gross, especially when you compare them with the real thing.

So, I had an epiphany several weeks ago when my sister told me she made her biscuits sweet, for breakfast.  I make biscuits for lots of things, adding ingredients to complement the meal, but for some strange reason that had never occurred to me!

Of course I had to try it out.  I added 1 Tbsp of white sugar to my regular recipe, and a generous 1/4 cup of dried cranberries.  De-LISH-ous! (Yes, I know how to actually spell that word.)  My mother-in-law, whom I adore btw, said they were like Scones.  She's Scottish, like actually from Scotland, so she knows a good scone.  I also think the way she says scone -Skon- is fun.

It was great for breakfast with a side of eggs and bacon.  I think the white sugar added to the consistency of a scone, whereas honey would have kept the dough a little tighter, and more biscuity.  Food for thought, and another batch.

So after that very long intro, meet biscuits:

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits (Makes about 8 biscuits): adapted from Pinch My Salt

1 1/4 c. cake flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 c. buttermilk or milk (I usually don't have buttermilk, and hubby prefers the taste with just milk.)

Favorite Add Ins (stir in before adding liquid):
Sugar or Honey
1/4 c. dried fruit
1/4 c. cheese, especially parmesan or cheddar
1 T. herbs

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  This is important because it takes a long time for an oven to get to 500 degrees.  Open a window and turn on a fan too, because your house will warm right up!

Prepare ingredients: cut butter into small chunks, place in bowl in fridge.  Measure out buttermilk and set aside (or back in the fridge.)

Flour your workspace, and keep extra flour on the side for your hands and dough cutters.
Mix the dough: whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until very well blended.

Add butter, and cut into flour using pastry cutter (my preferred method) or fingertips, until mixture resembles course crumbs.

Make a well in the center of your mixture.  Pour in the milk and stir *lightly* until dough comes together in a ball.

This is my "ball" of dough.  Don't over mix.

Knead and Cut:

Dump the dough mixture onto floured work surface.  With floured hands lightly knead 5-10 times (just pull up a corner or side of the dough, tuck in into the middle, and pull up another, etc. Turning until the dough is tight.)

Pat into a circle (or gently use your rolling pin) 3/4 - 1 inch thick.
Super flattering hand pose

Dip cutter into flour.  Cut biscuits *without* twisting the cutter.

Form the scraps into a biscuit shape instead of re-kneading to cut another.

Bet you can't tell which two unfortunate pastries were hand formed.

Place biscuits onto baking sheet, or into pie pan (or in my case, a preheated cast iron skillet), with the sides touching as much as possible.  Brush the tops with melted butter if desired.

Bake in the middle of preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.  Brush again with melted butter if desired.  Remove to cooling rack for a few minutes.


My modifications usually include doubling the recipe, then baking in a large (I think it's 12")preheated cast iron skillet.  I heat the skillet while the oven preheats, and add 1/4 cup of butter to the pan letting that melt while I knead and cut the dough.  I have also added buttermilk powder with the dry ingredients, and water instead of milk for the wet (according to the directions on the powder can.)  Then remove the skillet from the oven, place shaped dough into the skillet, starting from the center to make sure they all touch.  With so much dough, the temperature needs to be adjusted.  For the doubled recipe I bake at 400 for 13 minutes, and then 5 more minutes at 375.  The tops should not brown much, but the bottoms will be golden.

I also just saw a tutorial where they dip the cut biscuits in melted butter just before baking.  Seems like a healthy alternative to my plain ol' baking method, so I might give that a shot next time :-)

It really is easy, and only takes a few more minutes than opening those pre-canned ones and putting them in the oven.  Let me know if you try it!  Ten minutes of actual prep, twenty minutes if you're letting the dough relax before rolling out.

For a meal:
Use 1 pound ground sausage, like Jimmy Dean.  Brown It.
Grab your favorite country gravy mix, like Southeastern Mills or McCormick.  Follow directions on the bag.  Add a teaspoon or two of dried Rosemary.  (I occasionally make it from scratch, but really, this is just as good.)

Hire help.
Mix in the cooked sausage.

Pour gravy over warm biscuits.  I like to pull my biscuits apart and pour the gravy over the top of two halves.

Biscuits and Gravy
It helps to have such an excited onlooker!

Do you have a favorite adaptation or add-in for biscuits?  Did you try this?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grandma Wade's Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I recently reorganized my cupboards.  I threw out a lot of spices and other things that were expired.  They look really pretty now.  That has nothing to do with the rest of this post.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Lots of Healthy Yummy Vegetables

There are only a few cookbooks that I use regularly.  One of them is the Watson Family Recipes cookbook, with recipes from ladies (and a gentleman or two) who I'm related to on my Mother's side.

This one is my most used.  Sweet and Sour meatballs.

I make the meatballs a few different ways, depending on how I feel and if I'm using up some frozen ones from the last pasta night I had.  Grandma's recipe is much simpler.  Bread crumbs, milk, salt and pepper.  Delicious!

I do a couple of things differently than Grandma, I hope she won't take offense (the chances of her ever finding out by Blog are seriously slim.)

The recipe calls for the vegetables to be stir-fried or sauted first, then simmered again with the liquid and meatballs for 20 minutes.  I like my peppers to have more of a crunch to them, so I will saute them, and then set aside and only add them back into the mixture in the last five minutes, when I add the cornstarch and water.  That and sometimes using a different meatball are my only real changes.

This is great served over white rice with a side of spring rolls or egg rolls.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs - by Grandma Wade (pg. 67 of the Watson Family Recipes)

1 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
2 slices day old bread
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1 medium can pineapple chunks, cut each in half (or use tidbits) RESERVE JUICE
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion (or 1 tsp. onion powder)
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/4 c. vinegar (I use Apple Cider vinegar)
1 c. pineapple juice (which you saved from earlier)
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. cold water

Soak bread in milk.  Mix well with ground meat, egg, salt, and pepper.  Roll into one inch balls.  Brown meatballs in 1 tablespoon oil or butter in large pan.  Remove from pan and keep warm.  (I usually use breadcrumbs, and just toss them in with the milk and meat mixture.  I use a potato masher to mix it all together without touching it, because touching raw meat is gross.  Then a melon baller with a release lever - like an ice cream scoop - to shape the meatballs.)

*Side note:  If you double or triple the recipe, you can cook all the meatballs and then freeze them in Ziploc freezer bags for up to a month.  The meatballs reheat well in the microwave or on the stovetop and make a nice addition to pasta or for when you make this recipe again.*

In same pan, saute pineapple, green pepper, onion and carrots for 5-10 minutes.  Return meatballs to pan and add all remaining ingredients except cornstarch and water.  Simmer 20 minutes. (At this point I start my rice cooking in my rice cooker, or I'll forget and wait an extra twenty minutes after the meatball dish is cooked.)  Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water.  Stir into meatball mixture.  Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes.  Serve with rice.  If seasonings warrant, adjust to your taste. 

Enjoy!  I always do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some days, I just can't do it all

This was my breakfast.  Sue me.  I got up at 5:45 and worked out.  I took a handful of vitamins on an empty stomach, and then in the process of getting three kids fully dressed and off to school, I forgot to eat breakfast.  Empty stomach, vitamins and water.  Not a good combo.  I pulled over once on the way to the preschool thinking I was going to lose those vitamins.  My purse held my last stashed Snickers.  It was barely delicious.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Steel Cut Oats

I love oatmeal for breakfast!  When I discovered Steel Cut oats about a year ago, I decided to try it.

If you like oatmeal, this one's for you.  If not, give it a shot, it might change your mind.

Steel cut oats are whole oats, cut, with steel :-) Instead of rolled or instant oats.  They have more vitamins and fiber and are better for your heart than rolled oats.  They keep a "pop" or crunch even after they are cooked and have a much more pleasant texture I think.

Steel Cut Oats with Dried Cranberries and Cinnamon

Here's how:

1 part steel cut oats
2 parts water, milk, or soymilk
a pinch of salt (for 1 cup of oats)
a palm full of dried fruit (again, for 1 cup of oats) (I like raisins and cranberries the best)

Method 1:
Toss it all in a rice cooker, wait for it to signal that it's done (about 20 minutes)

Method 2:
Double the liquid.  Toss it all in a slow-cooker.  Cook overnight (8 hours) and wake up to a warm breakfast.

For both methods, I like to add a little bit of milk in my bowl to make it the right consistency.  I will also add a sprinkling of brown sugar or sliced bananas on top.  If you like this for an every morning breakfast, it actually reheats well if kept sealed in the fridge for several days.  (You can seal it and keep it on the countertop if you don't add fruit or cook with milk.  Keeping oatmeal out on my counter grosses me out though so I opt for the fridge.)

Very healthy, very warm, very easy clean-up in your crock pot if you use a liner.