Buttermilk Biscuits


You know that I always try to have a little backstory to go along with a recipe, because I think that it’s much more fun to find out why someone cooks or bakes something than just read a recipe, which you can do on any cooking site. A lot of times, though, I have no good tale after I try a recipe, but I really want to share it and so I wander around trying to fit the recipe into a story, any story, so I can write about it. I mean, I’m not crazy (or committed) enough to go do something just so I can post about it and give you a recipe, but I do have a backlog of tasty treats that are hanging out just waiting for the right moment.

This is not one of those moments. The true story is that I bought a quart of buttermilk (seriously, who needs a quart of buttermilk?) in order to make sweet potato muffins for a brunch. Since the recipe only calls for 1/3 cup of buttermilk I had a full container when I was done.  I was thrilled when the lemon poppyseed cake called for a cup; I thought I could at least put a dent in the quart. But it’s obvious that buttermilk regenerates, because I swear that the carton was as full as when I started (and I made three of those cakes).  So as the expiration date approached, I started thinking about what else I could do.  Biscuits were the first thing that popped into my mind, but I dismissed them because I’m not a fan.  The ones I’ve had have always been heavy and chewy and too buttermilky–the tang of buttermilk is overpowering to me.  But I couldn’t find any recipes other than cakes and pancakes, so biscuits won by default.

Having never eaten a biscuit that I actually liked, I had every intention of just making them, taking a few pictures and pawning them off on my coworkers.  What really ended up happening is that I was late for work, because I was standing in my kitchen eating biscuits dripping with butter and honey like it was my job.  I moved from the “I’ll pass” camp to the “you’ll pass over all the biscuits now if you know what’s good for you” camp in less time than it took for them to cool.  They were light and layered and had a bit of sweetness (even without the honey) that balanced out the tartness of the buttermilk.  Even the next day they were soft and had none of that chewiness that I think plagues other biscuits.  Of course, I wouldn’t really know how they hold up for too many days, because there weren’t any left after day two.  But, you know what was still hanging around? 1/2 a quart of buttermilk. I kid you not.

Buttermilk Biscuits, courtesy of The Homesick Texan (I think I originally found the recipe on epicurious, but think it’s better to link to her actual site)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading (9 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, plus more to taste (I used just 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half or buttermilk (I added a bit more to the dough, because it was a little dry as I was mixing)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Cut the stick of butter into pieces and work it into the flour mixture with your hands or pastry blender until it resembles pea-size crumbs. Add the half-and-half or buttermilk, mixing until the dough is a bit loose and sticky.

Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute. Dough should be smooth and no longer wet. You can sprinkle more flour on the surface if you find it’s sticking. Make the dough into a ball and hit it with a rolling pin, turning it and folding it in half every few whacks. Do this for a couple of minutes (I actually just picked up the dough and threw it down over and over (fold over before throwing it down again).  Good tension release and upper arm workout).

Roll out the dough until it’s 1/4 of an inch thick, then fold it in half. Using a round biscuit cutter (you can use a glass or a cup if you don’t have a biscuit cutter–I used a measuring cup), cut out the biscuits from the folded dough. Place on a greased baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet close together, about 1/8 of an inch apart (so they rise up not out), and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

NOTE: If you don’t want to roll and cut them out, after kneading and beating the dough you can drop the dough onto the baking sheet with a spoon. They’re not as symmetrical (dropped biscuits are also known as cat-head biscuits), but they’re no less delicious.

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Chilaquiles


So the good thing about all of the gallivanting and country hopping and general revelry that’s been going on in my world is that I’ve gotten to spend a fair amount of time laughing and eating and drinking with some of my favorite people.  The not-so-good part is that–even though I’m reluctant to admit it–I can’t recover from all the festivities as quickly as I did at the height of my gallivanting days.  I mean, there was a time when four gin and tonics (FOUR, people!) was the baseline for a happy evening and I could roll into bed a mere 3 hours before I had to be up and at work with nary a thought of a hangover.  Not so much, anymore… As my granny always said, youth is wasted on the young.

These days, there’s talk of “pacing” ourselves or “should we really be doing this on a school night?” or “I have an 8am conference call; I gotta get some sleep.”  I think the worst is “this is going to hurt in the morning.”   Nothing quite kills the second (third?) round excitement like the idea that you’re going to suffer for having fun.  I’ve always believed that coating your stomach (i.e., loading up on greasy foods) after a night of libations is definitely the way to combat feeling like death warmed over the next day.  Hey, some people believe in aspirin and gatorade; I believe in bacon and eggs and maybe some hashbrowns.  The problem is that the only diner within walking distance from me is closed on Sundays, which seems silly at best, heartless and cruel at worst.  This means that after a Saturday night of living it up, I’m faced with a bowl of oatmeal from my own kitchen or a schlep to a fancy place near me when the last thing I want to do is get dolled up and pay upwards of $15 for overcooked bacon and undercooked eggs.  Seriously a first world problem, I know, but I also know you’ve had the same debate, so let’s not judge, ok?

Lucky for me, while I was in Mexico and was [surprisingly] in need of comfort food one morning, I was presented with a plate of chilaquiles, which–roughly translated–is heaven and goodness on a plate.  I think I may have heard angels sing as I tucked into a spicy mix of eggs, cheese, tortilla chips and salsa verde.  The ill-advised shot of Agavero Tequila was a distant memory as my stomach settled and the world righted itself.  The great thing about this dish is that it’s full of ingredients that you usually have on hand (mind you, the original recipe calls for making your own salsa verde and tortilla chips, but who are we kidding here?  After a night of fun you’ll be lucky to make your way to the kitchen, let alone reinvent the salsa wheel…).  I whipped this up in under 10 minutes and within 30 I was feeling as though I may live to see another day.  I think you could easily dress it up with some chorizo or Italian sausage, a bit of avocado or corn salsa, and I’ve even seen a version with chicken. Go wild!  It’ll remind you of your youth. Without the embarrassing walk of shame part…

Chilaquiles Verde (if you want the labor intensive version, go here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chilaquiles-Verdes-354951)

  • 3/4 cup salsa verde (green salsa)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled mild feta
  • tortilla chips
  • hot sauce, to taste

Pour the salsa verde in a medium frying pan.  Just when it starts to bubble, stir in the beaten eggs. Cook and stir for about 5 seconds, until the egg feathers into the sauce, thickening and binding it. Immediately add the chips (enough to cover the bottom of the pan), tossing gently until they have absorbed enough sauce to become soft. Take care not to break the chips. Sprinkle the Jack cheese on top and let it melt.

Divide the chilaquiles among 4 plates (or just eat it all yourself). Sprinkle with the feta and hot sauce, if desired. Serve immediately.

Note: original recipe calls for chopped onion, cilantro and sour cream, which I’m sure all kick this up a bit, but (1) I forgot the onion and sour cream when I made this and (2) not a cilantro fan. But try it and let me know!

Sweet Potato Muffins


 

I am, generally, an organized person.  It may not seem like it if you were to look at my desk, but I always know exactly where things are (likely because I’m an only child and there was no one around to move something once I put it somewhere), I rarely lose things and I can pretty much remember details of where I need to be without writing them down. I say all of this to tell you that I rarely do more than glance at information, because I rely (overly so) on my ability to absorb it quickly and remember it.  Fortunately for me, I show up where I’m supposed to be 9 times out of 10, so I’ve had little need to reconsider my methods.  But that 10th time? That 10th time will always be when it truly truly counts.  The biggest “slip up” I’ve made was when I was supposed to get sworn in to the Illinois bar.  Weeks prior to the swearing in, the bar people sent a letter listing where you needed to go based on where in Illinois you lived.  For Chicago, it was McCormick Place on XYZ day at 2:30pm. Done.  I alerted relatives and friends and threw the paper into a pile.  

The appointed day arrived and I put on my new lawyer suit and went into work.  I told the partners that I’d have to leave around 2pm and wouldn’t be coming back for the day since a celebration at a Cuban restaurant was to follow.  I vaguely wondered why none of my classmates were around that morning, but I realized that they were probably smart and took the whole day off for this big event.  2pm rolls around and I pull out the letter so I could get the name of the room where the swearing in was supposed to be held. And what do I see?  The Chicago ceremony had started at 11:30.  My heart skipped a beat as I realized that I had just missed getting sworn in and I had no idea what that meant (these bar people are no joke.  To even take the exam you have to jump through so many hoops that I figured that they’d punish me in some way for missing it).  Tears, frantic phone calls and a speeding taxi ride followed.  I arrived at McCormick Place to see the janitors sweeping up left over flower petals and locking the doors to the auditorium.  My well-wishers arrived to find me sitting on the floor crying with nothing to show for the day but that crumpled letter.  You’ll be happy to know that I was able to be sworn in by a judge a few weeks later, but, while I still believe in my abilities, few people trust me to tell them where they need to be and when any longer.

This story has nothing to do with food other than to lead into another example of how I get something in my head and completely think it’s right and there’s no need for me to double check or think about it again.  Basically, I ended up making sweet potato muffins when, up to the minute I was about to put the sweet potato in the microwave, I thought I was making pumpkin muffins.  A coworker had given me a recipe for–the way I remembered it–pumpkin muffins a few years ago and given the autumn weather, I thought they’d be a happy treat.  I could even see the picture of the muffins in my head from the printout she gave me, but couldn’t find the recipe online and she didn’t remember it (likely because we were searching for a completely different recipe).  I finally found it this weekend when I cleaned out a folder full of dashed cooking dreams, with magazine recipes dating back to 1996.  I glanced at the recipe to make sure I had the ingredients, made out my grocery list and crafted the story behind the muffins based on the pumpkin picking I did a few weekends ago.  It was not until I was washing off the potato last night that it occurred to me that I was actually making sweet potato muffins instead of pumpkin ones.  How’s that for the power of suggestion (or my ability to kid (delude?) myself)? Even though I bought sweet potatoes, I still had it in my mind that these were all about the pumpkin… At least my efforts weren’t totally lost and I actually had the sweet potato.  And! I was right about the picture, so my long term memory seems to be fully functioning.  I take comfort wherever I can get it.

Anyhoo. They’re super yummy and moist and the cinnamon sugar coating is a nice addition, although I suppose if you want to be super healthy about it, you could leave it off.  And, I also suppose you could substitute pumpkin if your mind’s set on it…

Warm Sweet Potato Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Coating (courtesy of Cuisine at Home)

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Cinnamon Rolls


 

I’m a total morning person. If I have work to do, I’d much rather go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 4am than stay up late.  Obviously I was a lot of fun in college.  I think I was one of the few people who actually left parties to go to bed (plus my grandfather always said nothing good happens after midnight.  Now, we all know “good” things can happen after midnight, but when you think back on it the next morning, it’s unlikely to fall into any category that constitutes good for a grandfather.  I digress…).  This saved me from gaining the notorious Freshman Fifteen, because I was tucked in well before the late night pizzas were delivered.  Senior year, I instituted the 11:30pm rule in our house which meant that on a school night, no one was allowed to wake me up unless the house was on fire, I was on fire or someone had died.  Don’t you wish you’d lived with me?  The 11:30 rule has become the 10:30 rule since I now live in a CST timezone.  I’m really not kidding about this; I’ve actually had friends ask if they can break the 10:30 rule to call me (I usually say yes…).

I have no idea where I was going with this (I actually wrote that paragraph last night and then, guess what? I got sleepy, so I’m finishing it this morning and have no idea what I was going to say next.  True story.).  At any rate, I truly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for many reasons, but it’s rare that I have anything more than cereal.  I really want to be one of those people who wakes up and squeezes orange juice to go with my freshly made waffles and crisp bacon, but for all of my morning person-ness, this is likely never to happen.  Why would I do that when there are perfectly good brunch spots within walking distance? I’m all for reinventing the wheel recipe-wise, but not if it’s going to stand in the way of bacon, you know?

So I was all over making these cinnamon rolls because I was craving them and it was too cold and rainy to go outside just for baked goods, especially when I had a delicious recipe from The Chopping Block and all of the ingredients.  But, you know what? I should have braved the elements because these are so ridiculously time consuming that I didn’t even want them half way through.  Seriously. It took me an hour to make the dough, what with the cooling times and mixing and figuring out how many ounces are in 3-3/4 cups of flour (that last part has more to do with my math skills than the recipe).  At any rate, I decided to just let the dough rise overnight, because it was close to lunch time by the time I finished making it and I couldn’t be bothered.  Putting them together was another lengthy process and all I could think was thank goodness there was no one waiting for these because they would likely have given up on me and gone out to get the canned version that bakes in 10 minutes.

That said, they are as ridiculously tasty as they are ridiculously time consuming.  The dough is sweet and chewy and I created a little icing based on the bourbon bread pudding version that is lick your fingers worthy.  So, if you are a total morning person who wants to spend some quiet time kneading dough while everyone else sleeps, make these this weekend.  Otherwise, I’ll catch you at brunch.  I’ll be the girl in the back cozying up to a plate of bacon…

Cinnamon Rolls (courtesy of The Chopping Block)

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Guest Post: Blueberry Muffins with a Gazpacho Chaser


Summer has come and gone and I admit to being more than a little sad about it.  I’m really not ready to pull out the fall gear, and the idea of heavy winter anything–clothes, food, boots–makes me a little twitchy. Luckily Heidi of Green Roof Growers is able to help me hang on to summer a bit longer with these lovely (98% of the time!) blueberry goodies and tasty home grown tomato treats.  Long live summer!

Clafoutis, Zucchini Blueberry Muffins, and Blender Gazpacho: Many Variables Later

A couple weekends ago Heather came by for a long-overdue visit. I’d already decided on the insanely easy and explicitly French clafoutis [a fruit filled cake] to have for nibbles, along with some gazpacho made with our roof-grown organic tomatoes.

I’ve made dozens of clafoutis (it’s one of my favorite sweets) using an equal number of recipes. Every time I see a clafouti recipe online I see it as a sign to Make Clafouti. It’s always eggs, flour, milk, sugar, and fruit…but in varying proportions.

Frankly, I now skip all recipes that call for preheating the pan and pouring in a thin layer of batter (sorry, Julia), letting it set up in the oven, and then taking it out to receive the fruit and rest of the batter. Who needs this?

A couple days earlier I’d made this recipe–with half-plums plopped cut-side down before being bathed in the batter–with a gorgeous finish.

 

 I used the very same recipe to make a blueberry clafouti for Heather. And the results were just depressing. There are many ways a clafoutis can look (I dare you to check out this image gallery and not run to the fridge to see if you have enough eggs to make one), but this isn’t one of them.

 

Heather asked what I’d done differently. Well, said I, I used blueberries instead of plums. And it was far more humid the day I baked the blueberry. And too late I noticed one of the burners on my oven had stopped working, so it wasn’t up to temperature when I slid in the pan.

(Heather is doubled over with laughter at this point.) “Anything else?!” she squeaked out. Well, it was so hot outside and there are so many new restos on our block sucking power away from us that the voltage stream to the oven was compromised (who except my smart boyfriend with a voltage meter knew this could even happen?).

Heidi’s Zucchini Blueberry Muffins

Undaunted, I’d also whipped up a couple batches of my favorite blueberry muffins for the folks working our honey harvest the following day. I assure you that this recipe can withstand the vagaries of baking in an uncertain oven…and how can I make that assertion? I baked them in the same under-heated oven (just longer than usual) as the clafoutis.

This altered recipe for zucchini bread delivers a 200-calorie muffin that makes people want to eat five, replacing a lot of the high-gluten white flour with quick oats.

Recipe

Two bowls are needed: a large bowl for the wet ingredients, sugar, and oats + a smaller one for the scant dry ingredients and blueberries.

Preheat oven: 375 degrees

Baking time: 20 minutes

Broiler time: a minute or so to brown the muffin tops after they’re done baking (optional)

Oil a 12-cup muffin tin before you start…

Wet bowl

  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded (1 heaping cup)
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (olive oil or canola)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 Combine the mix well, moistening the oats so they absorb the liquids while you prepare the dry bowl.

  Dry bowl

  • ¾ cup white flour or pastry wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

 Use a whisk to mix the dry ingredients.  Then add 2 heaping cups fresh or frozen blueberries, tossing to coat.

Mixing dry into wet

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet bowl and, using a rubber spatula, blend using confident, large strokes. The idea is not to thoroughly combine the ingredients (though if you do this the sky won’t fall), but rather to combine to a point where you still see some dry flour in the mix.

Use a quarter-cup measure to fill the muffin tin. Then shake a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg onto the top of each muffin. These are not extremely sweet tidbits, so if you like sugar, sprinkle a little on top of each muffin for extra sweetness.

Bake @ 375 for 20 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes or so and then remove the muffins to the rack to cool completely.

Gazpacho

Meanwhile, the Mark Bittman Gazpacho was coming together. I realized too late that Heather has had her issues with Bittman (something about a chocolate cake?), but his basic gazpacho is a farmers market girl’s dream.

I had the blender half-full when Heather arrived, with extra cukes because I’d bought a bunch at the Wicker Park Farmers Market.

Not in the recipe, but we chopped and tossed in handfuls of fresh basil from the window boxes out front and added stale bread (that is part of the recipe).

Then we whizzed it up in the blender and strained it all through my new chinoise, a lovely gift from a thoughtful boyfriend (he’s not all about voltage meters). Adjust the sherry vinegar to your palate—we like a little bite.

No final photo, but this is the quickest soup you’ll ever make, smooth as silk. If you like a rougher soup, there’s no need to strain. And…if it’s the dead of winter, using canned tomatoes produces an equally delectable result.

Scrapple


I saw a quiz several months back that was supposed to rate your sense of adventure.  There were four choices of what you may consider adventurous: whitewater rafting, karaoke, something else I forget and trying a new food.  I, of course, chose trying a new food, not because I thought it truly the most adventurous thing I could do, but it sounded the most appealing.  Plus, I’ve already done karaoke and really, whitewater rafting looks like fun, but I guarantee you that if you ask me to go I’ll tell you I just got my hair done, but I’ll meet you at the end with a towel and dry clothes.  Just not my thing.  Of course, I was rated on the very lowest end of adventurous–which I didn’t need a random quiz to tell me–but I found it surprising that singing in a bar with a bunch of strangers while likely 37 sheets to the wind (and even more likely not to remember it) was considered more adventurous than eating something that could possibly poison you or at least make your eyes cross.  Obviously these people have never watched Bizarre Foods or read anything by Anthony Bourdain

Long way of saying that while I don’t think trying new foods is really as adventurous as jumping out of a plane (again, why??), I do think it can be just as exciting.  Think about what you ate all of last month and I bet that you probably only had one or two new food adventures.  So imagine my excitement (and I’ll admit, slight trepidation) when a work colleague told me that he would introduce me to the Philly favorite, Scrapple. 

Now, for those of you not from Philly, I’m going to pause here to say that you really shouldn’t go look up the ingredients.  No, seriously, don’t.  Suffice it to say that it is a very inventive and inclusive pork product.  I don’t know what’s in hot dogs and I really don’t care, because they’re tasty.  This is the same approach you should take to pate, fois gras and Scrapple, ok?

I really don’t think that he thought I’d try it, but I thought it very kind that he brought it back–on ice during the drive–from Philly and really, how could I call myself a foodie or even a food blogger (neither of which I call myself on regular basis, just FYI), if I wouldn’t try something that at first blush made me a little anxious.  But look how well the quinoa experiment turned out, I told myself!  I was given detailed instructions on how to prepare the Scrapple: slice it thin, fry it in a pan, serve it with an egg and toast. Hot sauce or ketchup could be put on top.  I did admit that I’d have to jazz it up a bit for this post, but I promised to try it as directed first.

Side note: I make a lot of the recipes I write about early in the morning before work, because that’s when I have the best light to take the pictures.  Unless it’s a cake or something that I can do the night before and still get a fresh looking shot the next day, you’ll find me in my pajamas at 6am slicing and sautéing and generally making a mess before I’ve even had a cup of coffee.  Overshare?

So, I’m in my kitchen at 6:30 yesterday morning about to open a package of a product that I did read the ingredients of and I was a little scared.  But unlike the quinoa, there was no smell so I was happy to move to the next step of slicing and frying.  And when I slid it in the pan, it started to smell really good, as you would expect a pork product would.  I think I may have sliced it too thin, because it fell apart, but I just chopped it up and used it in my frittata (my fancy Scrapple adventure).  I finally got the perfect cut, got it nice and crisp and made a lovely sunny side up egg to go along.  My plate was beautiful, but could I live up to my own challenge and eat it??

I could and I’m glad I did. 

My only disappointment was that it kind of tasted like a sausage patty (without the added spices), when I was kind of expecting something totally unfamiliar.  Mixed with the egg and toast, it was an excellent sausage egg mcmuffin substitute.  I can totally see the appeal of it, though, because it’s super easy to fry up and stick on a slice of bread.  And, it turned out well in my frittata, too (which I brought to work) even though I imagine that I’m not going to convert any die-hard Scrapple lovers over to my schmancy use of their childhood comfort food.

So score one for me on the food adventure path, although I will deduct half a point because it wasn’t truly that adventurous, just new and different.  And I’m ok with not being adventurous.  The world needs people like me to nurse the rest of you back to health after you catch a cold with all that whitewater rafting…

Scrapple Frittata

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Food Challenge #3: Kala’s Quinoa Pudding


Last week, one of my closest and dearest friends, Kala, sent me a food challenge. I point out that she is one of my closest and dearest friends—we have known each other since we were 11—because when she told me that she wanted me to help her find a tasty way to make quinoa, I absolutely wanted to make the best quinoa ever in life because I love her dearly.  When she then told me she had never actually had some that tasted good, I got a little nervous, because I really didn’t want to disappoint her.  When I started looking up recipes online that described quinoa as “nutty,” “crunchy,” “a super-food” but never “delicious” or “yummy,” I started thinking that this was going to be a little harder than I thought. But it wasn’t until I asked another friend what she thought of this ultimate protein and she said, “it’s kind of like couscous, but it has these little tail things,” that I thought that disappointing one of my closest and dearest friends was really not that big a deal. I’m sure that Hallmark even has a card to make up for it. 

Since I have been at a loss for cooking ideas lately, and as the days ticked by without the slightest bit of inspiration, a quinoa pudding started to sound better and better (or at least the idea of it.  Kala and I decided that I’d try to make a variation on rice pudding since she wanted sweet over savory).  I really think it’s difficult to screw up anything that has sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, but I also thought that if anything could, it would be some kind of grain with a tail (I really hoped that that part of the description was an exaggeration, but there it was right on the package—although what my friend called tails are technically called “germ rings.” Even better…). 

I’ve had mixed success with about five rice pudding recipes I’ve tried: either the rice was too hard, too soft, not sweet enough, blah blah blah, so I knew I’d have to find a recipe specific to quinoa, since I wasn’t familiar with its texture or taste.  Surprisingly, there were a number of good ones out there, which means more folks have jumped on the crunchy-almost like couscous-but-with-a-tail bandwagon than I knew (can you tell that I really can’t get over that tail/germ thing?? I mean, really. It’s just too much for me).   All of the recipes I found online said that the quinoa needed to be picked over and separated out and washed thoroughly in unicorn tears, which sounded way more complicated than I really could be bothered with. 

Luckily Trader Joe’s sells boxes of it and I’m going to hope that TJ did all of the hard work for me.

So I open the package and it was literally like putting my head in damp soil, which, since this is a food blog and all, is not the best description for something I’m trying to encourage you to make, but that’s what came to mind and I’m all about honesty here (wait! Perhaps I should cut to the chase and tell you now that it turned out to be super tasty, so that all of this lead up doesn’t have you swearing off quinoa and its goodness before you even try it.  It was yummy! I promise!).  Needless to say that as it was cooking, the earthy smell intensified to the point that when it was ready I said out loud, “I really don’t want to taste this,” and had an internal debate about how on the one hand I really enjoy this blog, but on the other, I’m not prepared to eat just anything for the sake of coming here to tell you about it.  But my New Year’s resolution to commit myself to this little endeavor won out, and I tasted about three grains.  And they were crunchy. But! Also kind of bland and inoffensive (again, strange words to use to describe food, but that made me realize I could work with it). 

Even though I knew the sugar, coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla mixture was going to work, I really didn’t expect the recipe to turn out as well as it did.  I mean, I had to walk around my apartment for a good 5 minutes after it came out of the oven humming the theme to Rocky to gear myself up to taste it.  And I’m really happy I did, because it was sweet and creamy, with a lightness that made it more appealing than rice pudding, which I love, but will totally cheat on with this quinoa pudding.  I actually had to convince myself to move away from the pan so there’d be some left for pictures.  And, it was even better the next day when all the flavors had soaked in and it was room temperature.

So, yeah, I am smitten with a super-grain.  I had some for breakfast and have been snacking on it as I type this up.  If I weren’t going out to dinner, I’d have a bit more.  I almost feel like I should buy it a card and some flowers…

Quinoa Pudding

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Doughnut Holes


I’m always looking for new recipes to test and make part of my go-to list, which in reality means that I’m always finding recipes and filing them away and then making myself feel really guilty for not trying them.  This was bad enough years ago when Food Network only showed Emeril Live and Ming Tsai and when epicurious.com was just a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye and I had to clip recipes from magazines, but now with the explosion of all of these cooking shows (have you ever watched Cake Boss? I have a ridiculous crush on Buddy and his ability to make cakes in the shape of anything under the sun) and food websites, the countless recipes and ensuing guilt just about swallow me up. [insert deep dramatic sigh here]  I have about 200 recipes I’ve been meaning to try (this does not include all of the cookbooks I’ve used one or two times).

I watched Giada De Laurentiis make doughnuts sometime last winter, and I never had any occasion to try them until this weekend when I needed something tasty to take to a brunch with friends.  I’m not a huge doughnut fan, which is odd since fried dough + sugar = 20 kinds of happiness, but Giada just made them look so fun! and easy! and so super cute!  She used pre-made pizza dough to make doughnuts and doughnut holes and really, nothing could be simpler. 

I did a test run of the doughnut holes on Saturday and the hardest part was not eating the entire batch in one sitting.  The fact that they are incredibly easy came in handy on Sunday morning when I made the real deal after spending a bit too much time gallivanting on Saturday night and got home oh, 5 hours before I needed to get up and start rolling out dough.  

I ended up making powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar ones and they were soft and chewy hours after I made them (some reviews online said that they got hard after a few hours).  No one believed that I’d actually made them, which I think is a sign of success. So yeah! for me… Only 199 recipes to go…

Italian Doughnuts (I’m not actually sure why they’re considered Italian, other than they were made by an Italian person) courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

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