Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Break Recipes

The past four days have been Brian's Fall break. And they have been some of the most fun days of our marriage so far. Friday evening when Fall break officially began we made Toscana Soup. If you've been to Olive Garden then you've probably had this before. It is going in the rotation of regular recipes we liked it so much. 

Toscana Soup
1 lb. spicy Italian sausage 
1 qt. water

(2) 14.5 oz. cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth

2 lg. red potatoes - scrubbed clean, cubed

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 med. onion chopped
2 cups chopped kale 
1 cup half & half (called for heavy cream but I found what I had on hand did the trick)
salt and pepper - to taste

Kale is my new favorite ingredient

You can see in the background I served this with some steaks I got on the cheap and spinach. But we ate the soup again last night by itself and it was hearty enough to eat alone.

Simmer potatos, onions, water, garlic and broth until veggies are soft. Add cooked and crumbled sausage simmer for 10 minutes. Add kale and half & half and simmer until warm throughout. This would be yummy with garlic bread or biscuits. Add garlic and italian spices to melted butter in the butter-dipped buscuits below. 

Saturday was so relaxing. We slept late except for that brief moment when Brian's alarm went off at 5:30am (there was gnashing of teeth). I call it "Brian's alarm" because it's on his side of the bed. I'm unemployed so I don't really need one. My only job right now is to be Brian's helper which means that as long as I'm in the kitchen before he gets out of the shower, I'm good. So on second thought my alarm is the shower. 

I tried a new biscuit recipe for breakfast. We had these biscuits at small group last week and I got the recipe from our host. They are very, very simple and delicious (and bad for you). If I can make these, I trust anyone can. (The recipe I linked to is twice the size of what I make for Brian and me, so if you want a bigger batch you'll want to check that out.)

Easy Butter-dipped Biscuits
1 cup self-rising flour*
1 T sugar
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/4 cup butter melted
all purpose flour

*As a substitute for each cup of self-rising flour, place 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a measuring cup. Add all-purpose flour to measure 1 cup. This is what I did since I don't buy self-rising flour.

In a bowl, combine the self-rising flour, sugar and milk; mix well. Turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle with all-purpose flour. Pat dough to 1/2-in. thickness. With a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut into 3-in. x 2-in. pieces. Pour butter into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan. Dip one side of each piece into melted butter. Carefully turn to coat. Bake, uncovered, at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

I was so proud of them.

There was dispute on the allrecipes comment section about wether or not to cook the biscuits in the butter or to dip them in the butter. It seemed easy enough to me to just cut pads of butter on the cookie sheet and cook them in the butter but after doing that a couple times I found it's not the best idea. The excess butter burns and smokes in the high temp. So I would say dip 'em real good in a bowl and bake them on the sheet. These biscuits turned out great. I made them to go with chicken curry soup later that night too.

Chicken curry soup (crockpot style)

1/2 head of cauliflower chopped
1 large sweet potato chopped
1 onion chopped
3 large chicken breasts cooked and thinly pulled or chopped
2 can chicken broth
1 cup apple cider
2 T curry powder
1 t cumin
1 T ginger (I used the spice since I didn't have fresh)
1 clove crushed and minced garlic

Curry turns everything bright yellow. If you can get over yellow cauliflower, you'll like this soup. I dumped all of these into my crockpot Saturday morning on low. I had a moment of despair when I realized that the apple cider I got for a bargin at Super Target was carmel apple flavored (it smelled and tasted gross). Mom always said that you get what you pay for. I bumped the crockpot up to high and added a little water and after an hour the flavors settled together and I could no longer smell the vile liquid that almost cost me my soup.

Dinner with Drew and Keano was so fun! They both study bio mechanical engineering so I enjoyed hearing them talk about how the body works, ergonomics, and some interesting tidbits about running barefoot.

Fall Break was made up of four of the most enjoyable days of our marriage so far. We ate good food and spent time with our friends and family. Brian's family came up to eat at Casa Bonita on Sunday and came back to our place so they could see our apartment. On Monday we went down to Colorado Springs to see them and visit with Brian's sister Christine who was in town on leave. Fall Break has left me eagerly awaiting the holiday season ahead.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Aren't You?

Ashley has this cute and perplexing habit that seems to be coming up more frequently lately.  When she wants something, or wants to go do something, what would normally be a statement becomes a question.  Examples?

Rather than saying "I want to go to sleep" she'll say,

"Aren't you ready to go to sleep?"

Rather than "I think we should go brush our teeth" it's,

"Don't you want to go brush your teeth?"

My favorite quality about these questions is the cute lilting at the end which makes it seem less like a threat and more like a sweet pondering.  I can see right through it, though.  I know she's anticipating a positive response from me, and she's right to expect it.

What prompted this blog post tonight?

While enjoying milkshakes and an episode of the Office:
"Aren't you sick from so much milkshake?"

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Remember last time how I said I was making a chicken curry soup for some friends on Saturday? Well I need a good bread to go with it. Rolls or biscuits or something like that. So I'm sending out an S.O.S. for recipes that aren't too difficult and don't require ingredients that I wouldn't already have.

On second thought, no biscuits. Emily and her Mom gave me the key to the mint with their recipe but I'll have to really work my ego back up before I try homemade biscuits again after my epic fail.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Pumpkin Muffins

I really like I get most of my recipes from that site because each recipe is like a blog post in that people leave comments about how they liked or didn't like or changed the recipe. I read the recipe and then the comments where people made changes and make my muffins accordingly. I usually use the base recipe (flour, oil, baking powder, etc.) as the recipe prescribes and change the other ingredients like nuts, raisins, and spices to my own taste. 

That's what I did with these pumpkin muffins and they are so good!

Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (you can use 1/2 cup brown sugar instead of adding raw sugar)
1/4 sugar in the raw
dash of cinnamon
dash of ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
a little more than a cup canned pumpkin puree (the recipe called for 3/4 cup but I wanted to be sure they'd be moist. Using whole grain flour usually makes for dry muffins)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
generous squirt honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts and pecans

I know that looks like a lot of ingredients but I just throw in whatever I have on hand and seems to go together.

Put raisins in a cup and cover them with hot water until they're plump (until you're done with the rest of the recipe). Stir all dry ingredients then add rest of the ingredients (including raisins) and mix until all contents are moist and well distributed. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes.

These are the first moist muffins I've made using whole wheat flour. They aren't too sweet. If you want dessert muffins, you can add more honey. I used half of what the original recipe called for. The batter turned out to be enough for 16 muffins so I saved what was left over after a dozen and baked a small batch this morning.

In other news, Brian has an interview this morning. He just left. And he looked so handsome that it was a shame we weren't going on a date. I couldn't help snapping a photo :)

We are having our friends Drew and Keano over for dinner Saturday. I think I'm going to make a chicken curry soup that I found in a Rachel Ray magazine. It looked interesting. The broth is apple cider and the ingredients include, but are not limited to, a half a head of cauliflower and a large sweet potato. I hope our guests will be as excited about eating it as I am making it. I bought a HUGE jug of apple cider from the super Target in preparation for this meal. (It was the only size I saw and it was on sale.) I think we'll have apple cider floats for dessert since I have a lot of cider on hand.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FAIL: Homemade Biscuits

I would like to make it known from the outset that is a descriptive post not a prescriptive post. I am an amateur biscuit maker and would not suggest that you do as I do. 

I found my recipe on yesterday. The website had "oldfashioned" in it, so it sounded credible to me. 

2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tablespoons butter or shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
about 3/4 cup milk

Sift Flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cut in shortening or butter. (this is where I use my hands by rubbing the butter into the flour). Add milk gradually, stirring until soft dough is formed. Turn out on slightly floured board and lightly "knead" for 30 seconds, enough to shape. Roll 1/2 inch thick and cut with 2 inch floured biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased sheet in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits. You can also make tiny tea biscuits that are only 1 1/2 inches wide with a small cutter or glass bottom. These are great served with tea, jam or honey. Makes 24.

I bought a sifter yesterday morning in preparation for this baking adventure. And I must say that sifting two cups of flour can really wear out my hand. I had to take a break and I'm not being dramatic. Making biscuits got me all homesick thinking about Maw Maw and her biscuits. And then it got all me all depressed because I knew mine wouldn't be nearly as good as hers if they were even edible.

The dough was really thin and I didn't have anything to roll it out with so I used my nalgene (for non-mountain people, that's a water bottle). I knew they were a little too thin as I put them on the pan, but I said a little prayer and shut the oven.

It turns out that God did not make my biscuits magically delicious. Which makes sense since God is not a genie. I reaped the natural consequences of years of watching Maw Maw make biscuits but not learning how to make them myself. They were terrible. Brian ate three anyway and said they were good. I wouldn't even eat them. So Brian and I had to have a talk about what it means to be credible. I explained that if he says that things are good when they are empirically not good, he loses credibility with me when I need to know if something is good enough to serve to other people.

Like today, I made pumpkin muffins (recipe will be posted soon) and brought one to Brian's friend who works the shift after him at the Coffee Cart. I didn't want to feed his friend a mediocre muffin but I couldn't ask Brian if it was good because he lost credibility with the biscuits. But I'm not complaining about Brian. He's a real gem, eats everything I make without complaining.

We had two left over biscuits and you know me, I hate to waste even the worst of foods.  So this morning I made chocolate gravy in which to drown them. I was able to eat about a half of one and so was Brian. I didn't like the recipe I used for the gravy as much as the one my friend LaShanda's mom made when we were growing up. Does anyone have a good chocolate gravy recipe?