Stop, drop (cheddar biscuits), and roll!

I got an itch I had to scratch. TMI? Well, I was itching to make biscuits. I figured they were do-able since bread & yeast seems scary. They were amazing! I loved them!
biscuits_inside_590_390
They had so much flavor and were simple to assemble. I don’t bake a lot but these made me feel like a successful baker! Just wait till my kitchen is bigger than a shoe box!

Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

(adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (preferably stone-ground; not coarse)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
biscuits_mix_590_390
Blend in butter until the mixture is crumbly. A pastry blender will work best but fingers will do a good job too.
Stir in cheese and add buttermilk, stirring just until combined.
biscuits_mixed_590_390
Drop 12 lumps onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
biscuits_tray_390_590
Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
biscuits_baked_590_390
I nixed the Parmigiano-Reggiano and scallions but I’m sure both are great additions. I also made my own buttermilk since buying buttermilk seems unnecessary for a small amount so rarely. Epicurious also thought there would be 8 large biscuits. I’m here to tell you I made mine pretty colossal and there were 12.

To make buttermilk: mix 1 ⅓ cups milk with 1 ½ white vinegar or lemon juice. Let it stand a few minutes before using.

I was feeling very southern so I served these with some honey barbecue wings. The wings had been chillin’ in my freezer forever and it was time to clear some room in there. I defrosted them and marinated them in barbecue sauce and honey. Honey Barbecue…duh! I also made slightly freezer burned green beans since it’s not dinner in my book without a veggie.
biscuits_wings_590_390
I was so excited about the biscuits. It made a lot and I ate them for breakfast for days on end. Mr. J isn’t in love with drop biscuits to the extent that I am because of the cornmeal and the crumbly nature, rather than the flakiness of regular biscuits. I attemped some other biscuits for Thanksgiving and they weren’t good so I’ll stick with these guys.

biscuits_plate_590_390

Here’s a variation on these biscuits as a Chicken Pot Pie Biscuit Topping.

Pumped Up Risotto

I love risotto and always think of it as a fall/winter comfort food. It is surprisingly easy and I even love it reheated. I like it better than regular rice, which we don’t eat a lot of at home.

risotto_bowl_590_390
On my honeymoon I had some AMAZING risotto with shrimp and arugula which was a fantastic reminder to make some at home. I also was gifted a broccoli risotto recipe that I’m looking forward to making. I added it to my fall-to-make list.

risotto_cooked_590_390

Ingredients

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 cup pumpkin beer (or white wine)
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 slices prosciutto, chopped
3 tbs grated Parmesan
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions

Toast the rice on medium low for 5 minutes while liquids are heating separately.
Add ½ cup of liquid mix until absorbed. Repeat until liquid is gone.

risotto_liquid_590_390
Heat prosciutto until crispy.

risotto_proscuitto_590_390
Mix pumpkin, prosciutto, Parmesan, and spices into risotto.

risotto_pump_cooked_590_390

I liked it a lot. I think there was a bit too much prosciutto but that’s an easy fix…it wasn’t that much of a problem seeing how I ate it for dinner, and 2 lunches in the days following.

The color was awesome and it felt really fall-ish. Sage would have been good in it too.

I’ve never put beer into my risotto so I was definitely a bit nervous about it. I worried what kind of aftertaste it would give. I think it worked though! I wouldn’t have included it if I didn’t have pumpkin beer on hand.

risotto_beer_590_390
I’ve made one using tomato juice and zucchini. It’s an awesome vegetarian one and the V-8 is a great addition for even more veggie perks. I’ll have to make that one sometime soon too! If you’re not too pumpkin-ed out after Thanksgiving, make this one when the pumpkin shelves are restocked!

Lunching Couscous

Lunch ideas can be hard to come by for me and sandwiches were never really my thing. I love them with interesting condiments on bakery bread, but making one at 7am and bringing it to work never appeals to me.

I try to mix it up when it comes to lunch. Often it’s leftovers but I used to be so good about picking something, making a regular sized batch, and eating it all week for lunch. It was even more convenient when I’d bring it all on Monday and not have to think about it the rest of the week.  Lately, I’ve gotten off course.

Recently I made couscous for a couple of lunches and it was soooo good. I ate it as a cold salad and was all about it. Tomatoes were my inspiration.
couscous_tomato_290_200
Grape. Heirloom. Tomatoes.

Ingredients

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 cup dried Israeli couscous
2 cups vegetable stock
11/2 cups baby spinach
2 slices of bacon, cooked to a crisp
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
¼ cup ranch dressing
drizzle of olive oil

Directions

Toast couscous over medium-low heat until lightly browned
couscous_toasted_290_200

Add in veggie stock and cover for 7 minutes
Slice cherry tomatoes in halves, chop the spinach chiffonade, and crumble the bacon.
Fluff couscous to separate and allow to cool.
Add spinach, bacon, Parmesan and dressing.
Refrigerate overnight and drizle with olive oil before eating to rehydrate.
couscous_everything_290_200
I’ll admit. Ranch might seem a bit weird, but I had it and wanted something creamy. Parmesan peppercorn dressing would be more appropriate. My spinach had lived a good life but wouldn’t have been amazing the next day, which is why I chose to throw it in…like an herb rather than like a salad. Nobody was going to overshadow these tomatoes. No, siree!This was an easily packable and flavorful lunch. It also is super cheap. If I were like whats-her-face on the foodnetwork who makes $10 dinners I’d probably have an impressive lunch cost since this served as 2 lunches for me…and my mum may have bought the tomatoes for me when we were at the farm stand. I’d much rather pack a lunch and afford a fantastic meal in Italy or Spain. In just over 4 weeks time I will be! So excited I can’t even stand it!

This would be a good side dish. Adding basil and fresh mozzarella would be good with Italian dressing. Bring couscous to your next BBQ this summer and be the star next to all the cole slaws and potato salads.
couscous_dried_290_200
What are some other lunchable ideas & inspirations?

Ranch Burgers and Apple Slaw Apartment Style

You could pour ranch dressing on an Old Navy $5 pair of flip flops and it would make them taste good. I took a tastier approach and was so excited about my creation. I made Ranch Chicken Burgers and Zesty (mayo-less) Apple Slaw in my own kitchen…no party required!
ranch_burg_plate_290_200

Ingredients:

¾ pound ground chicken
½ packet dried ranch dressing/dip mix
3 tbs ranch dressing
2 bulky rolls

Directions:

Mix ground chicken, ranch mix, and dressing
ranch_burger_290_200
BBQ or cook on a grill pan flipping once.
ranch_burg_cooking_290_200
Serve on toasted rolls with ranch dressing on top.
ranch_burg_flipped_290_200

Ground chicken and ground turkey are more likely to fall apart so don’t overflip! I took a tip from my pal Guy on Diners Drive-ins & Dives: I flipped them but feared they weren’t going to be fully cooked so I covered them and added a touch of water for some steam.

They were cooked perfectly! That is tricky without my trusty meat thermometer but I was so proud of myself. They were juicy and I definitely tasted the ranch.

I paired it with some slaw. This was awesome and is a nice alternative to creamy slaws. I put in some apple I planned to use otherwise but had on hand.

Ingredients:

3 cups shredded cabbage/slaw mix
½ gala apple, chopped into matchsticks
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs veggie oil
¼  cup cidar vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 tbs dijon mustard
dash red pepper flakes

Directions:

Heat oils, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and red pepper over medium heat just until warmed through.
slaw_dressing_290_200
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Toss with cabbage and apples.
slaw_apples_290_200
Refrigerate several hours and pour off excess liquid.
slaw_done_290_200

I liked how light it was with a zesty crunch. This would be a great picnic or bbq item. I only made enough for 2 or 3 servings which was perfect.

Green or red onion would be a great add in and broccoli slaw would be great too. Shortly after making the burgers I made them again and Mr. J cooked them on a BBQ. Aside from our poor puppy not having a yard, not being able to use a grill is our biggest issue with this apartment and something we greatly look forward to enjoying in a house someday.

These made me super jazzed about other burgers inside. I can’t eat red meat so I miss out on fun ones at restaurants like stuffed burgers since they rarely come in turkey or chicken burgers. I’ll just have to make it happen! I have a feeling Mr. J would love a blue cheese stuffed one. I was thinking cheddar or spinach and feta stuffed. Stay tuned!

Fritters are Fun

Zucchini Fritters are something I’ve been making for years. I’m not sure where I originally came up with them but I love them as a side dish. I think Mum made eggplant fritters now that I think about it….hmmm there’s an idea for next time.
zucc_fritter_done_290_200
This time I used yellow squash. I think it added a different flavor but it was a good use for the sad yellow squash in my fridge.

Ingredients

1 zucchini or yellow squash
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs or wheat germ
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
¼ cup diced green onion (optional)
¼ cup corn (optional)
¼ cup feta (optional)

Directions

1) Shred zucchini/yellow squash and lay over paper towel to remove most of the liquid
2) Mix zucchini/squash with egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper and any other ingredients.
zucc_fritter_mix_290_200
3) Form into patties and bake 15 minutes at 375. Flip and bake another 10 minutes.
zucc_fritter_pan_290_200
I bake them instead of frying them since they get too oily and it’s way easier. I use my muffin top pan which definitely helps for the shape. It gets a lot more action from zucchini fritters, crab cakes, and the like especially since I’ve never made muffins.

They’re a fun side dish with only a few ingredients. I made them one night when we had our own salad bar with these on the side. I’ll probably stick to zucchini next time but add in spinach! Or corn! Or leeks! Or bacon! Or whatever!

Chopped at Home

I love watching Chopped not only for the food factor, but the competition aspect! I’m not always in the mood to be told how to make something on another cooking show. Plus, that 10-second countdown at the end of each round? Eeeek! It’s also fun to see where the chefs have come from and I love some of the judges.

My sis and I play chopped sometimes. It brings us back to the days of Ready-Set-Cook from ‘95. Ready Set Cook had studio audience members bring mystery ingredients to cook along side the chef.

On Chopped, there are 3 rounds: appetizer (20-minutes); entree (30-minutes); dessert (20-minutes).  Each round includes a basket of mystery ingredients which need to be included (in any amount) in the meal with any of the pantry items. We don’t always make 3 courses and we definitely don’t have a time limit.

chopped_em_290_200

My ingredients:

Cannellini Beans
Zucchini
Israeli Couscous
Whole Peeled Tomatoes

chopped_liz_290_200

Sis’ Ingredents:

Leeks
Thin Cut Pork Chops
Spam

Our Meal:

Pork chops in mustard sauce
Couscous with spam and leeks
White bean, leeks, zucchini, and tomato hash

Directions:

Chop the leeks and bathe or salad-spin the dirt/sand out of them.
chopped_leeks_290_200
Mix dijon mustard, chopped garlic, salt and pepper together and spread onto the pork chops while a grill pan is heating.
chopped_pork_290_200
Drain tomato and bean cans before dropping into a skillet. Add leeks, chopped zucchini and season generously with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.
chopped_hash_290_200Finely chop spam and pan fry as if it were bacon.
Start cooking the couscous while adding spam and leeks. This will take about 5 minutes so set the pork chops on to grill.

The spam was totally the curve ball here. I have to say, it’s not as weird when sliced into small strips and fried until crispy. Sis and I eat our share of pork so we went with it.

The pork chops were good! I think our sauce had a nice not overpowering flavor. It was a good quick fix that will come in handy sometime in the future.
chopped_porkdone_290_200
I loved the hash. It also provided a good vehicle for leeks 2 ways. It was fresh and a nice medley.

We toasted the couscous before adding the liquid for a more nutty flavor. Spam was the salt factor and dropped leeks in as well.
chopped_plate_290_200
Overall, I think our meal would have scored well…it did by our critique! Sis’ idea for leeks 2 ways was a good one…it tied everything together. I ate the leftover veggie hash for lunch and it was still good. I probably wouldn’t have given much credit to canned tomatoes but it was a great variation from my usual sides.

In the past we’ve made ratatouille stuffed, pita chip crusted pork tenderloin with green beans and no-bake chocolate marshmallow cookies.

I highly recommend you try this game sometime! It’s a good challenge to use something you have on hand or to try something new…spam?

I have several of birthday meals to post soon (Figs, Amrheins, and the Mac & Cheese Taste-Off) so stay tuned!

The Pork is More Than Just Brine…With Butternut Squash Risotto

I don’t end up cooking much meat so I’ve never brined meat before but there’s a first time for everything. I was excited for a new technique.
risotto_pork_plate_290_200
I set the country style boneless pork ribs set up in brine for the workday. The pork should absorb a lot of liquid and when this cooks off, the meat will be more tender. True story.

Ingredients

2 cups ice cubes
1 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbs peppercorns

Directions

Boil cider vinegar.
Add salt and sugar stirring until dissolved.
Add ice cubes and peppercorns.
Put pork into the brine and let sit for 8 hours.
brine_pork_290_200
To cook, remove from brine, smother with bbq sauce and bake for 1 hour, covered.
brine_pork_bake_290_200
The pork came out smelling amazing! It was uber tender. Fork tender…no knives required. It would have been really special with homemade barbecue sauce but was so good and I was really happy with it.

butternut_risotto_cup_290_200
I made butternut squash risotto to go with it. I love risotto and don’t make it nearly enough. It is creamy and delicious with so many variations! I’ve made a weight watchers one with tomato juice and zucchini. The tomato juice makes it red, flavorful, and creamy without being overly acidic. Enough about that, onto today’s risotto.

Ingredients

1 cup aborio rice
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups butternut squash
½ cup white wine
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

Toast aborio, stirring consistently until golden.
Heat broth and wine on medium low.
Steam butternut squash and add to rice.
butternut_risotto_steam_290_200
Add ½ cup broth until absorbed and repeat until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Serve with plenty of Parmesan.
butternut_risotto_290_200
The risotto was sticky and delightful. The squash was a perfect addition. What a great orange color! Needless to say, I ate leftovers for days. I thought making a ½ cup of rice might be weird to have strange quantities but we definitely had more than enough. Maybe arancini will be a fun use of these leftovers.

Pattypan, You’re So Darn Cute

The cutest vegetable in the WORLD is pattypan. Veggies aren’t always chosen by their endearing appearance but it’s such an easy one to cook and just so darn adorable. I can’t ever believe how cheap it is too. I bought 3 for $1 at a farmers market. After stuffing and baking it, refrigerate for a few days until you devourer all of them! I’ve had it as a whole meal but it would make a good side dish for 2 to share.

pattypan_290_290
Ingredients

-2 pattypan squash
-6 slices bacon, chopped
-1/2 cup onion, diced
-1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
-1/4 cup chopped spinach
-1/4 cup Parmesan cheese & another sprinkle
-dash garlic powder
-salt & pepper


Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) In a saucepan with one inch of boiling water add squash and cook for 10 minutes. Prick with a fork to ensure it is el dente.

3) Cook bacon until crispy adding onion partway through

4) Slice the top off of the pattypan, and scoop out most of the inside. (be sure to leave a 1/8 to 1/4 inch all the way around). Chop squash.

5) combine squash, onion, bacon, parmasan cheese, bread crumbs, chopped spinach, garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste and stuff into each pattypan.

6) Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan to serve.

Why not skip the spinach and add in mushrooms? Or tomato? There are so many variations to stuff these guys with.