"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feed the Beast

Snacks are one of the (many) areas in parenting life that tend to get my goat.  Yes, I know, kids need to refuel.  Incessantly, it seems, sometimes.  "Mummy, I'm hungry!  Can I have a snack?"  Exactly how many times a day do I hear that phrase?  It's odd that it sometimes irritates me, given my love of food. But it does, I must admit.  I would far rather put my time and energy into preparing a meal, and I do. However, for some reason, those kiddos' bellies just don't stay full between mealtimes.  Perhaps it's all that moving around they do.  Perhaps I should make them stop.  Kidding.  Perhaps I should follow their example a bit more...

Back when we lived in New Zealand, and the Boy was a toddler (a toddler with a very good appetite, but a toddler-sized appetite!), I used to watch three neighbor kids after school, for about an hour a day.  I felt as if I'd been thrown into the lion pit, those first few weeks watching them, because until then, I'd had no idea how just how ravenous kids are, especially after school.  I'd scramble around my kitchen, hearing their cackles for "FOOD!" as if they were a pack of hyenas, set to devour anything I put in front of them, fangs dripping greedily.  No, I jest.  They were really cute, and they smiled and said please, even.  The gap between a toddler snack and a school age kid snack took me by surprise, though. Eventually, I learned from my friend, Jemma, the perfect, cheap, easy snack:  Popcorn.  You can make buckets of the stuff for pennies, and hey, I did.  Once I figured out that trick, I made it happily, every day.

The brilliant thing about popcorn is that it's pretty much a crowd pleaser, no matter what age group your crowd may be.  And on top of that, I never hear the "cha-ching" of my bank account decreasing as the kiddos annihilate it.  Feed the beast, I say.

A few months ago, I was searching for an appetizer for a Cajun feed that the gang was planning.  It was suggested that I bring a finger food, something light-ish, as the main meal was going to be rather on the filling side.  I combed through recipes online, trying to find just the right thing, and also dead set against anything deep-fried.  I am not the gal to attempt several batches of beignets.  It just wouldn't turn out well.  Then, I hit the jackpot, a la Martha Stewart.  Cajun Popcorn.  Oooo, boy, I was all sorts of excited about this one, let me tell you.

The recipe called for 1 cup of popcorn kernels, which makes about 2 very large bowls of popcorn.  You can easily halve the recipe, for one large bowl, though.  Make what you need.  And be prepared for the popcorn to be inhaled.  Definitely a crowd pleaser.

One more recipe note, before we get to the nitty-gritty:  It is spicy.  It calls for 1/2 to 3/4 tsp of cayenne, and unless you have a mouth of steel, which I don't, you just may breathe fire for a bit.  For the kiddos, I omit the cayenne altogether, or just put the tiniest of tiny pinches in.

Cajun Popcorn, adapted from marthastewart.com
-makes about 24 cups, or two large bowls

1 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup (1/2 a stick), unsalted butter, melted*

Spice Mix
2 1/4 tsp flake sea salt, or a larger grain salt, like kosher
1 1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp dried oregano, leaves crushed between your fingertips
3/4 tsp thyme leaves, crushed or ground in a mortar and pestle
1/2 to 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or adjust to your spice-tolerance)

*This recipe calls for a rather LOT of butter.  I usually halve it, especially when making it for the kiddos' snack, to keep things a bit healthier.  If you're going for an adult party appetizer, I advise that you go for the full amount.  Grown-ups don't usually make as much pigs of themselves in group situations as kids tend to.*

In a small bowl, mix the spices together.

Using whatever popping method you prefer, pop the corn.  I use an air popper, and make it in two batches. You can pop it on the stove, or however you desire.

Toss the popcorn in the melted butter, then throw over the spice mix, and toss to coat well.

How do you like that?  Couldn't be easier, and sure to please even the hungriest of snackers.  Just the thing to feed the beast.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Decade

A decadeTen years.  The Boy has been in the world for a mind-blowing ten years.  How can it even be possible that it's already been ten years since the day this gentle soul came into our lives...and yet...how can it only be ten years since that day?  I often look at my Boy, as all parents most likely do, as an amalgamation of us, his parents, his ancestors, his upbringing, and himself.  I see bits of the Mister in him...in his stance, in the way he rides a board, in his interests, and in his gentleness (and gentleman-liness).  I also see bits of myself in him...in those elfin ears, in the pointy chin, in his tendency to expect rather a lot from himself, and judge himself when he doesn't meet those expectations.  But mostly, I look at him, and see who he uniquely is, as himself.  I watch his inner strength and character gradually emerging as he grows older, and makes his presence known in the big, wide world.  From time to time, I catch a glimpse from somewhere in the depths of those soulful blue eyes, of the man he will become.  It's awe-inspiring to know that I had a hand in creating this Boy, and to know that whatever role I have had, and will have, in helping him find his way in the world...it's mainly up to him to choose his path.  And he's just that sort of kid, that I don't have to worry that he will choose a good path.

Ten years ago, today, this Boy was born, and had a terrifyingly close brush with not making it into the world.  After a textbook pregnancy, this kiddo had a rocky first meeting with life on the outside.  For absolutely no known medical reason, my Boy went rapidly, shockingly, into distress, quite early in labor, and was born via emergency cesarean.  Scary emergency, as I was given general anaesthetic because things were looking quite grim.  He was born with only a very weak heartbeat, not breathing, grey, and floppy, the poor wee thing.  I didn't get to meet my Boy until much later in the day, after I awakened from the anaesthetic, nor was I able to hold him for 24 hours, nor share a room with him for 3 days, while he recovered in the NICU.  But, recover he did, wonderfully and quickly, and a week later, we took him home to begin our new lives together as a family of three.

For such a rough start, he has been an incredibly easy kid.  He's the sort of kid that makes other people want to have children.  The sort that makes the Mister and I feel proud that we're doing a good job (even if, truth be told, it is just his nature to be amazing, more than our parenting.)  The sort that, as a toddler, we could tell him once, just once, to never touch something dangerous, or to never break such-and-such-a-rule, and he never would.  The sort who, at a couple of weeks old, our visiting midwife held him, and sighed, as she looked into his eyes, and said:  "Bless.  He's an Old Soul, this one."  It's true.  Just look into those eyes.

It's a very special place, being the firstborn, in a family.  We're all new to the game, learning each progressive stage together, and we have to trust each other, and ourselves, to figure it out as we go.  This kid couldn't make it easier.  Or more rewarding.

Being the eldest myself, I always longed for a big brother. Of course, for the obvious perk of him having cute friends that I could hang out with (which was an enticing option in the awkward early-teen years, as I was rather a late bloomer regarding boys, and a bit of a spaz around them.), but also how great would it have been to have an older brother there, looking out for his little sister, protecting her, and leading by example?  The Boy does this so very well, with the Girl.  I love it.  Patient and strong, gentlemanly and funny, he's just the sort of big brother all of us wished to have, when we were young girls.

Ten years with this Boy has gone so quickly, and has been so very full, I feel as if my head is spinning with all these sentimental reminiscences.  But, what's a mother to do?  We raise our children while straddling the past, filled with a vast catalog of our memories of them; the present, in hopes of not missing one single thing; and the future, wondering and dreaming who these little humans of ours will one day become.  So, if a little teary-eyed sentimentality should pop in for a while, we may as well go with it, as part of the job, right?

Happy Tenth Birthday, Tyler Sage.  You are such an astounding blessing, to all those who know you, and all those who have yet to meet you.  Indeed, the world is better for having you in it.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Today, was a day of grace, I must say.

After several weeks of storms, snow, ice, power outages...and nary a redeeming ray of sunshine to be seen, I rather felt as if I were teetering on the brink of major meltdown.  (If you ask the Mister, he may say that I slipped into that brink for a wee moment last night.  So don't ask him.)  I don't know if this is true for everyone, but going without sunshine for weeks on end is hard on this gal.  Thus, today, today my friends, when that gorgeous orb showed its brilliant self in a cloudless sky, I was nearly jumping for joy.

Well, I may not have jumped so much...but the Kiddos certainly did.

Brisk fresh air, sunshine, and a couple of radiantly happy Kiddos...that is a seriously worthwhile way to spend your time.

(Do you know, the Girl has her hair in her face about 85% of the time?  Don't know how she stands it, but there you go.)
That sunshine couldn't have come at a more needed time.  Cheers for good weather!

May you have a lovely weekend, filled with grace.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cheap & Cheerful

A feature in which I share a good deal I happen upon...be it wine, food, or just something fun...If you have something Cheap & Cheerful you'd like to share, leave a link or suggestion in the Comments section at the end of this post!  Enjoy!

I have a tendency to go on about the same things.  (And on.  And on...)  I know this about myself.  I know that my Cheap & Cheerful posts were created with the intention of including good deals on all sorts of things, not just wine.  But let me just tell you something:  I am on a Cheap & Cheerful wine mission.  I sort of spontaneously decided this at the store the other day, when for some idiotic reason, I felt the need to justify my five bottles of less-than-$7-a-bottle wine.  (Who the hell cares, by the way?  Surely not the cashier at Trader Joe's.  Surely they're not judging me for being a cheapskate...me, with an additional three bottles of Chuck for cooking...Okay, total of eight bottles, then.)  So, when the lovely gal at the register comments on a particular bottle, asking if I've tried it, and says that it's quite good, I throw out a somewhat sheepish:  "I'm on a Cheap & Cheerful wine mission!  Searching for the most drinkable, least expensive wines!"  Possibly louder than necessary.  Sheesh.  I can be such a dunce.

But then I think, hey!  Why not?  Nothing wrong with a mission, after all.  Especially one of such great importance as this.  Well, okay, maybe it's not vital to our very existence.  But it certainly doesn't hurt, right?  On with it!

So, meet Seccola.  One of the featured wines you find at the end of the aisle, taunting you to try, tempting you with its dangerously low price of only $4.99 a bottle.  Which could go perilously wrong, couldn't it?  It could taste like $4.99 wine, and then what?  You're out $4.99.  Not such a terrible risk, after all.

Thing is, though, its taste doesn't match its price.  I'm not claiming that Seccola could be confused with a great bottle of vino, mind you.  I'm just saying that you needn't be ashamed of this one.

Taste...well, it's got a wee bit of a sparkle to it.  Which I adore.  There is something grand about breaking out a bottle of bubbles for no particular reason.  (I may possibly make a habit of it.  That's just fine.  I'm pretending to be French.)   This isn't bubbly in the champagne or prosecco sort of way.  This frizzante reminds me a bit of a vinho verde, like this one, or this one...only just the tiniest bit sweet.  Not over-the-top-dessert-wine-sweet, just a background hint of honey, enough bubbles to make you feel festive, and imminently drinkable.

Go get some.  Cheers, me dears!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Washington has been experiencing a doozy of a storm, or storms, rather, for the past week or so.  Snow, ice, freezing rain, high winds, widespread power outages, cancelled school and work...Mother Nature has been busy.  And while it's easy to say what I'm about to, as we were some of the lucky ones, safe and warm at the cabin...I will say it nonetheless:  It is both awesome and humbling to see Nature at work.  Being housebound, while it has its difficult moments, does force some good things to happen.  Craft projects get started (and some even get finished!), games are played, cocoa and coffee flow in abundance.  Friends are met in the coffee shop and street to compare storm stories, share a laugh, change the view for a wee while.  And most importantly, we are easily able to see our good fortune, and feel incredibly grateful.  In fact, Gratitude overwhelms us.  Gratitude for our woodstove, and well-stocked firewood supply.  For our kiddos, who are such very good friends, and (nearly always) so very kind to each other.  For a full fridge and pantry, and a new cookbook to tackle...(Thank you, my dear Gretchen!!)  For a healthy supply of yarn, fabric, gluesticks and tape (the latter two being The Girl's two favorite craft supplies).  Through hearing of the destruction caused by the storm...worrying for people we know and people we don't...reflecting on how very easy life generally is these days, and on how life must have been for people before electricity and all of our many, many modern comforts...Well, suffice it to say, we feel blessed indeed.

Here's a bit of what kept us busy during the storms:

Lots of time spent reading, and cozying up by the fire...

A few giggles at the cat, who ventured out for no more than thirty seconds at a go...

A knitted hat begun and completed...meant for me, but...

...turns out, really meant for the Girl.

(Also it looked like a bathing cap on my head.)

Those pants finally, finally were finished (many moons later than intended)...

And the Boy loves them.

I used the Made tutorial to create the pattern, but had to up the size to fit the Boy.  Long time coming, but we do get there in the end.  Eventually.  

All in all...despite it all...and because of it all...it's been a pretty good week for us.  Sometimes it's good to have a reminder of just how lucky we are in Life.

May you keep Safe and Warm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guilty Pleasure

First, let me say that, around here, we do generally respect the season, and do a pretty good job of buying local, seasonal food.  But then, you see, we find ourselves smack in the middle of winter, in the midst of a snow storm nonetheless, and we perhaps have been yearning to consume something bright and, dare I say, reminiscent of warmer days?  Something to eat which may give us a little hope that despite the snow that is falling incessantly...(beautifully, yes, but we're feeling the cooped-up-stir-crazy-thing now, thus incessantly do we deem it)...Something that may be considered downright naughty if we're trying our very damnedest to eat locally.  Oh, hell with it.  Sometimes it's too hard to be idealistic.  Sometimes we have to throw caution to the wind, and enjoy a little guilty pleasure.

Yeah, I know.  Tomatoes in January.  I'm judging myself more than you can possibly be judging me.  But we're going with it.  At least in the flavor department, we'll come off alright.  (Never mind the buying seasonal department.  Some of us are desperate, alright?)  Just how are tomatoes coming off anything other than bland and flavorless in January, you may be asking yourself right now.  Well, I'll tell you.  We are going to slowly roast those anemic, long-distance transports, until the oven pulls from them a rich, powerful depth of flavor.  Reawakening their true taste potential.  And perhaps reawakening some of our hope, that winter won't last forever.

I came upon this recipe for Gateau de Tomates d'Eté in Parisian Home Cooking, by Michael Roberts.  It's an upside-down tomato tart, prepared in much the same way as a tarte tatin.  Only instead of caramelizing apples into a tantalizingly sweet dessert, we're caramelizing tomatoes, into a scrumptious tart.  Perfect.

Upside-Down Tomato Tart - Gateau de Tomates d'Eté - adapted from Parisian Home Cooking
-serves four to six

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
12 firm Roma tomatoes, or 8-10 on-the-vine tomatoes, about 3 pounds
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano, or 3 sprigs fresh, leaves only
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Paté Brisée - savory tart dough, recipe follows

Combine the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan, place over medium-high heat, and boil until it turns dark and syrupy, about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

Core the tomatoes, and quarter them from tip to stem.  Gently squeeze out the seeds.  The kiddos are handy for this job.  Be prepared for the inevitable jokes about guts, however.

Place the tomato quarters in a large bowl, and add the vinegar syrup, salt, pepper, olive oil, and oregano, and toss thoroughly.

In either a large, 7-10 inch cast iron pan (my choice for optimum caramelization), or a 2 inch deep non-stick pan, arrange the tomato quarters in a concentric rose-petal pattern, beginning from the outside, working your way inward, in a spiral.

Place in a cold oven, turn the heat to 375 deg F, and bake for one hour.

Near the end of baking time, roll your chilled pastry dough into a rough circle, large enough to cover the tomatoes.  Remove the pan from the oven, top with the dough, and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden.

Let the tart cool for 20 minutes, then invert it onto a plate.  You may need to loosen the edges somewhat first, if you used a cast iron pan.  If you like, decorate with fresh basil, and serve warm.

It is a rather modest looking tart, but trust me, the piquancy of the vinegar syrup, combined with the sweetly roasted tomatoes and herby oregano, makes for one delicious meal.  A meal that will bring back your faith in warmer days to come.

Paté Brisée - Savory Tart Dough - adapted from Around my French Table

*Note*  I made this tart the first time, using the dough recipe from Parisian Home Cooking, and wasn't satisfied with the flakiness of the pastry.  That recipe called for a mere three tablespoons of butter, whereas Dorie's calls for six.  After making this a second time Dorie's way, the dough was perfectly flaky and buttery.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 Tbs (3/4 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg
1 tsp ice water

You may use either a food processor to mix the dough, or a pastry knife, or your fingers.  I used a food processor, so I'll give directions for that method.  It's the same method any which way, so adapt accordingly.

Put the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Scatter the bits of butter over the flour, and pulse a few more times, until the butter is coarsely mixed in.  Beat the egg with the ice water, and pour into the bowl in 3 additions, pulsing quickly after each one.  Don't overdo it!  The dough won't form a ball in the processor.  Your dough should hold together when pinched.  If it's still a little dry, add a tsp of water at a time, being careful not to overmix. 

Dump the dough onto a work surface, and gather it together into a ball, briefly kneading if necessary to bring it together.  If you haven't overdone the mixing and kneading, you'll see bits of butter in the dough.  That's what will give the crust it's flakiness.  Flatten it into a disk, and wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for 3 hours, up to 5 days.  (You can freeze the dough for up to a month.)

When your tomatoes are nearly finished with their one hour roasting time, roll out the dough, and continue on with the recipe above.

Enjoy your guilty pleasure!  I know I did.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

B is for Beautiful

Isn't it funny how memories are so linked with food?  Sometimes even incredibly indirectly.  For dinner the other night, I made a gratin of butternut squash, which turned out beautifully.  Blog-worthy, we call that.  After the meal, in my head, I was rough-drafting what I was going to say about the dish in a post, and was surprised to find my mind going in a completely different direction than I intended.  Which is rather how the most beautiful moments in life happen, I think.

There I sat, pondering away on how beautiful butternut squash is; how vibrant and lively, and yet how delicately, sweetly unassuming when eaten.  Into my head popped a wee fragment of a memory of how my Grandma B used to pronounce the word beautiful.  B-E-A-U-tiful!  she'd say, every time, in a sort of sing-songy voice, emphasizing each vowel at the beginning of the word, with the "U" receiving the most attention and highest pitch.  As if, when we choose to acclaim the beauty of something, we must truly go for it, give it the praise it deserves.  (And conversely, we must refrain from shallow, meaningless compliments, I believe Grandma B would have advised.)  B-E-A-U-tiful kept playing out in my mind, over and over.  That line of thought led me down a little reminiscing sort of path, of my grandma.

This is one of those indirectly-related-food-memories, obviously.  Grandma B was decidedly not a cook.  Her most successful dish was coleslaw.  The least, liverwurst sandwiches.  (Shudder.)  Which we used to feed to their poodle, Jacques, as soon as her back was turned to pour a wee gin and tonic.  (Grandma B pronounced it Jock.  Just so you know.)

Grandma B was very cool.  Especially considering that grandmothers generally aren't thought of as cool.  She wore amazing pant suits well past the 70's, and rocked them.  She ran a music store, and let me come stay for weeks in the summer, helping out in the store.  I got to run the cash register, by the way.  And take as much free sheet music and records as I liked as my pay.  Oh yeah, those were the days.  She drank G & T's, because in her mind, that's what ladies drank.  And in her later years, she drank Seagram's on the rocks.  I think this made her a little bit bad-ass.  She smoked (what grandmother didn't, in those days?), but only with a cigarette holder, because it was low-class, otherwise.  She taught me to shuffle cards, and deal like I worked in a casino, at about age 8.  Grandma B never swore, but she did teach me what I thought was a scandalously named card game, Screw Your Neighbor.  She used to wake me in the middle of the sticky-hot, Walla Walla nights, to go sit outside and watch the stars, drinking an icy-cold limeade.  I'm pretty sure hers had a tipple of Seagram's in it.  I was never treated as many children are by grandparents, neither coddled nor condescended to, but rather felt as if I were, if not exactly a peer, perhaps a protegé.  As if she were pleased to spend time with me.  Grandma B was the perfect combination of old-school etiquette, and graceful rebel.  She was an amazing conunudrum.  (Pronounced AY-MAY-zing, of course.)

Grandma B is no longer with us, but there are, from time to inexplicable time, random flashes of memories of her, that absolutely delight me.  There is absolutely no logical reason that my mind took off on its reminiscences of her, in relation to butternut squash.  Other than that I think it's beautiful.  As was she.  I can only dream of being that cool.

So, the recipe.  It comes from a book I found on the library shelf, Parisian Home Cooking, by Michael Roberts.  It is one of those dishes that is incredibly simple to prepare, and yet knocks your socks off with its contradictorily bold and subtle flavors.  Fresh bay leaves, ground cardamom, and ground coriander, tease something new and exciting out of the squash, while still remaining ever-respectful of its graceful, tranquil essence.  Beautiful.

Gratinéed Winter Squash - Gratin de Courge - adapted from Parisian Home Cooking
-serves 4

1 medium butternut, or other winter squash, approximately 1 pound or so
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 fresh bay leaves
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 to 1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.  Butter a large baking dish.

Prepare the squash.  If using a butternut, slice off each end, then stand on one of the sliced ends, and cut in half, top to bottom.  Scoop out seeds, then slice into half-rounds, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut the peel off each semi-round of squash.  Place in a large bowl, and toss to coat with all ingredients, except cheese.

Pour the squash mixture out into your prepared baking dish, cover tightly with foil (or a lid, if you have one), and bake for 35 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Remove the dish from the oven, and turn on the broiler, set to high.  Uncover the baking dish, remove the bay leaves, and sprinkle with cheese.  Place under the broiler until the surface bubbles and turns golden.  Serve immediately.

We ate our gratin with some roasted beets and green beans, tossed in balsamic.  


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Well, I may slack for a good, long while, my friends.  It's true.  You can pretty much rely on my tendency to be a bit flaky.  But I do keep my word.  Here I am, back the very next day, with a tasty recipe for you.  (The one which, as I mentioned yesterday, I misplaced.  After looking everywhere and getting into a minor tizzy about possibly committing the unthinkable - lost book! - I found it.  On the floor of my car.  For reading at the kiddos' bus stop, of course.  As you do.)

The newly discovered cookbook is The Homesick Texan, by Lisa Fain.  This is a cooking genre which I hadn't ever felt particularly drawn toward, I have to say.  But, having heard it mentioned in the great bloglandia (which blog - I do not recall), it sounded interesting, so I ordered a copy from the library.  (Hooray for the library!)  Oh, and turns out, the book is fantastic.  I love when that happens.

I drooled, ahem, read, my way through it, and showed it to the Mister, who passionately digs heat, sauces, pickles and relishes, recipes for which this book is jam-packed.  (This predilection for spice could be from all his traveling.  Although some might say this would be from growing up Brit.  All the bland food, you know.  Not me, of course.  I would never say that.  The Mister would like to put in that the reason for his spice-love is all the good Indian food in the UK.)  I do believe we will be the proud owners of our very own copy of The Homesick Texan quite soon.  All those condiments have got me all sorts of excited.

In addition to all the marvelous condiment recipes, there are, obviously, actual meal recipes in there too.  Lots of bold and bright Tex-Mex, with a wee smattering of Southern comfort foods.  Like biscuits.

Biscuits and I...me and Biscuits?...whatever...we've had a rather tumultuous relationship in the past.  See, I love some good, flaky biscuits.  And I have eaten some good, flaky biscuits.  Only, the thing is, until now, I have never actually made good, flaky biscuits.  Each and every time I've tried, and it's been a good many times, my friends, they've been lacking.  Some were definitely edible, but not great.  Some were, let's call it like it is:  utter rubbish.

I have read and heard many tips on making good biscuits.  The key one being not to overwork the dough.  And I swear by all that is holy, that I did not overwork the dough.  (Except for that one time.  Matt and Jamie and the Mister may recall an overambitious, slightly inebriated cook, who valiantly attempted a batch of biscuits that went seriously awry.  It may have had something to do with a day spent sipping sangria in the sun.  We may never know.  Nor may we remember clearly.  So it goes.)

Anyway.  Back to technique.  For some reason, this recipe has you whacking the biscuit dough with a rolling pin.  I guess it's a Southern thing.  I read the recipe, thought:  "Well, I haven't yet managed a batch of great biscuits, what have I got to lose?"  And went for it.  I mean went for it.  I smacked that dough around, people, for a good two or three minutes.  Feeling a little fearful all the while.  But also feeling a little guilty pleasure.  Because even if they didn't turn out...well, it was kind of fun.

And you know what?  They worked out.  Splendidly.  Just the tiniest hint of crunchiness on the outside.  Not much, mind you.  Just enough to give them an interesting texture.  And then the inside:  flaky as all get out.  Absolutely lovely.

Buttermilk Biscuits - Adapted from The Homesick Texan
-makes about 10 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or fine sea salt
8 Tbs (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 deg F, and grease a cast iron skillet, or baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

Using either a pastry knife, a food processor (my choice), or your fingers (run under a cold tap first), cut in the butter, until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.  Add the buttermilk, and pulse a few times (if using a food processor), or mix, until the dough is a bit loose and sticky.  It doesn't need to be perfectly combined here.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, kneading briefly, just a minute to bring it together nicely.  The dough should be smooth and no longer overly wet.  Sprinkle on more flour if your dough is sticking to the work surface.  Make the dough into a ball and hit it with a rolling pin, turning and folding it in half every few whacks.  Enjoy this activity for a couple of minutes.

Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness, then fold in half.  Using a round biscuit cutter, or a small cup, cut out the biscuits.  Place on your prepared pan or baking sheet, close together, about 1/8 of an inch apart, to encourage them to rise up and not out.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Do you like my misshapen biscuit there?  That's the one made up of the dough scraps, after cutting out the other tidy ones.  Still tastes good, never fear.

We served our biscuits with a vegetable soup, and they were scrumptious.  I am rather looking forward to trying the Lisa's recipe for biscuits and gravy, I must say.  As well as a whole lot of her other recipes.

A perfect dose of flaky going on here.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Missing in Action

I'm still here.  Really.  I've been somewhat missing in action these days, I am aware.  (Note to self:  When exactly does the holiday rush end?  Because in this world of mine, it appears to be going strong.  Still.)

Amidst the back-to-school settling in...the adjusting of late holiday bedtimes back to normal, sane ones...the weekday moans of disgust at early rising...the putting away of holiday decorations (and the increased space, hooray!)...amidst all those usual activities...  There has been house hunting and job hunting. 

And on the more fun front, a visit from aunt and uncle and cousins from the UK, showing them our lovely Pacific Northwest...

And heaps of skiing and snowboarding, and fun in the snow...

...And just this weekend, after all the crazy-busy-fun stuff began to calm, I had the huge honor, the bliss, of attending a beautiful birth at home.  Now that is something profoundly worth celebrating, I must say.  A massive amount of gratitude goes out to my dear friends, now parents of their third wee girl, for allowing me to be part of their story.

Obviously, I am not posting photos of their little one.  But I do have a hat.  (Sheepish Grin.)

You should make one.  The Aviatrix, knitted in Cascade Superwash (a local, and washable wool yarn!).  I adore this hat.  Unfortunately, it won't be fitting the little girl for which it is intended...for a little while. My Ravelry notes here.

Have a beautiful day.  I'll be back to share a recipe, pronto!  (Just as soon as I can find the one I misplaced!)