Goat Cheese Biscuits

Before I made these biscuits, I was under the assumption that Grands in the blue can were the gold standard of biscuits.  I’ve tried making homemade biscuits before and nothing was ever really worth the effort.  Then I made these biscuits to go with a big pot of parsnip soup (recipe coming soon!).  I ended up making them for breakfast the next weekend and many meals after.  This weekend I made them for a bridal shower and had many requests for the recipe.  The recipe doubles easily for a party, but I do warn you that while your mouth could eat the whole pan, they are seriously rich and you probably won’t eat more than one or two.

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Goat Cheese Biscuits

Makes about 12 biscuits

2 cups flour

1 T baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper (to taste, I like a little more)

5 T butter, divided

3 oz. goat cheese (eyeball it)

1 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 425, and put a cast-iron skillet inside to heat up (I’ve done it in a 10″, 12″, and 14″, doesn’t really matter).  Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper together in a medium sized bowl.

2. Cut 4T of butter into small pieces and crumble the goat cheese.  Cut the butter and cheese into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter.  It should not be smooth, but you want all the chunks to be pebble-sized.  Stir in the buttermilk until all of the flour is absorbed.  It should be a thick, lumpy batter.

3. Pull the cast-iron skillet out of the oven and melt the remaining tablespoon of butter into it, use a knife or fork to coat the bottom and sides.  It should make a pleasant sizzling sound.  Using a spoon, drop the batter into small mounds into the skillet.  They can touch, it’s fine.  I usually go around the outside of the skillet and then put three biscuits in the middle.  Depending on your size, you should get 10-12 biscuits.

4. BE SURE to use an oven mitt (from experience!) and return the skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are browned.  Serve warm, be sure to save one for yourself.

Source: adapted from Art Smith for Oprah

Pumpkin Scones

I have a confession to make: I don’t really like pumpkin spice lattes.  It’s tough because I live in North Texas and when the PSL is released (in what, July?) it’s still about 85 degrees outside and it doesn’t seem very seasonal to order an iced pumpkin spice latte.  Instead, I’d rather sip some iced coffee from home and enjoy my breakfast pumpkin in the form of a scone.  These scones have a very autumnal vibe and are incredibly easy to make.  They require a few specialty ingredients, namely a can of pumpkin.  I do find that sometimes scones are too dry, too massive, and have a huge slab of icing on top – not the case here, these are moist, normally sized, and have a nice glaze.  Pumpkin season is ending, so get one last great breakfast in before it’s smoothie season.

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Pumpkin Scones

yield: 12 small scones

2 1/2 cups flour

1 T baking powder

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp ground cloves

4 T cold butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

For the maple glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp maple extract

2 T heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and spices in a medium sized bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces and cut into the dry ingredients (I used a fork, but you could also use a pastry cutter or your hands) and break the butter up into very small pieces.

3. Combine the wet ingredients in a small bowl and fold into the flour mixture.  Don’t over mix the dough, just use a spatula to blend the ingredients until they form a soft, but sticky dough.  Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and use your hands to make a rectangle.  Using a knife, cut small triangles of dough and separate them onto the parchment paper a few inches apart.  Put your parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake until the scones are firm, but still soft inside, 12-15 minutes (I tap the top to make sure there’s still some give).

4. Whisk the powdered sugar, maple extract, and cream together to make the glaze.  Once the scones are cooled, dip the top of the scones into the glaze.

Source: adapted from Our Best Bites

Cost-Benefit Analysis:

This recipe has 3 integral specialty ingredients: pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and maple extract.  If you don’t put cream in your coffee, you may need to purchase that as well.

1. A can of pumpkin cost $1.79 – it’s nonnegotiable in this recipe.  Fortunately, you use about a half a can in this recipe, which leaves you plenty of pumpkin to make pumpkin snickerdoodles in the same week.  You could also put pumpkin in a smoothie (with some yogurt, banana, and some spices) or feed it to little ones if you have them.  I put plastic wrap over the can and store it in the fridge for a few days.

2. Pumpkin pie spice cost $5.49, which is a lot for a small container.  It would probably cost much less if you were buying it in, say, April, but I’ve never really wanted a pumpkin scone in April.  If you have PPS, use it!  If not, it’s really easy to make your own with spices that you probably already have.  To make it easy, PPS is essentially 1 part ginger, allspice, and nutmeg to 3 parts cinnamon (so 1 T cinnamon, and a teaspoon of ginger, allspice, and nutmeg).  If you’re planning to make a lot of pumpkin baked goods, scale it up and store it in an old spice container, if you’re just using it for these scones, I would increase the cinnamon to 1 1/2 tsp and then use 1/2 tsp of ginger, allspice, and nutmeg.

3. The maple extract cost $3.59.  I really love the taste of maple extract and I use it in frostings and glazes enough to make it worth the cost, but if you don’t want to buy it, you could easily substitute 2-3T of maple syrup and get the same effect.

4. I put whipping cream in my coffee, so I always have it on hand.  If you don’t, you could certainly substitute half and half or even whole milk, but it will give you a runnier glaze.  If I were not a cream lover, I’d buy a small container, use it for this recipe, and then plan on making a pasta with cream sauce pretty soon.  Cream stays fresh in the fridge for quite a while before it goes bad, so you don’t need to use it immediately.

Pecan Tassies – tiny pecan pies

When I was growing up I had no idea that you could actually purchase pecans at the grocery store.  Since my grandpa had a pecan tree that produced tons of pecans, I thought that pecans were just something that existed in large ziplock bags in the freezer.  If only.  Because pecans were always in plentiful supply, I put them in everything from cookies to casseroles just because they were there.  Now that I buy my own pecans, I’m a bit more judicious with my use.  These tiny pies really showcase the greatness of pecans without requiring you to buy a ton.  I only learned about these recently, and after some quick googling, I’m really shocked – the recipe is everywhere and basically doesn’t change much except for quantity.  It’s a classic that you might find in an old Junior League cookbook, but probably overlooked (like I did) because you weren’t quite sure what it was.  Pecan Tassies are not to be overlooked  in the three weeks I’ve known about the recipe, I’ve made them three times.

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Pecan Tassies

makes 24 (easily doubled to 48), adapted from multiple iterations of the same recipe.

Crust:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

3 oz. cream cheese

1 cup flour

Filling:

1 cup chopped pecans

1 egg

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 T melted butter

1 tsp vanilla (or almond) extract

1/4 tsp salt (a bit more if you’re using unsalted butter)

1. Preheat the oven to 325.  Locate mini-muffin pan (this usually takes me 15 minutes).   Beat the butter and cream cheese together for a minute or two until combined.  Add in the flour and beat until it forms a soft dough.  The dough will NOT be like pie dough, it has an odd, firm elastic consistency.  Roll the dough into 24 small balls – about an inch in diameter.  Smash the ball between your palms to make a flat disc and place them into the ungreased mini-muffin pan.  Use your fingers to make sure it comes all the way up the sides.  They don’t need to look perfect, but if you have holes the filling will drip and you’ll have a hard time removing them from the pan.

2. Using about half a cup of the nuts, place a spoonful into each individual pie.  Melt the butter and whisk in the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Pour the mixture over the nuts, putting a bit less than a tablespoon in each.  I melt the butter in a glass pyrex measuring cup with a spout and whisk the ingredients together in there to make pouring less messy, but you could spoon it in, too.  Top the tassies with the remaining pecans.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are set and the pecans are toasty.  Let the tassies cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing.  I use a toothpick to pop them out.  Enjoy, make more!

Texas Caviar

According to my wise father, New Year’s resolutions don’t begin until the first Monday of the new year, so you have plenty of time to come up with one and continue to not exercise and eat whatever you want.  I think it also means you have a few days to get in your black-eyed peas.

While I’m not entirely convinced that eating black-eyed peas on January 1 is a guarantee for good luck, I’m not one to give up an opportunity for luck.  Unfortunately I have never been a huge fan of black-eyed peas (the food or the purveyors of “My Humps”) until I learned about Texas Caviar.  For the record, it doesn’t resemble actual caviar in the slightest.

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Texas Caviar

adapted from Food Network

2 cans of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters

1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 jalepeno, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2T olive oil

1/2 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco or Cholula)

salt and pepper

1. Stir the black-eyed peas, red onion, tomatoes, parsley, bell pepper, and jalepeno together in a medium-sided bowl.

2. Whisk the red wine vinegar, oil, and hot sauce together in a small bowl.  Pour the dressing over the caviar and stir to coat everything.

3. Cover and chill for several hours.  The longer the flavors marinate together, the better it tastes, so give it at least 3-4 hours.  I serve it with tortilla chips.

Drunken Noodles

When I first saw drunken noodles on a menu at a Thai restaurant I ordered it without reading the description.  Noodles?  With alcohol?  What could go wrong?!  When I got my plate, I was surprised to find that there’s no real “drunkenness” involved in drunken noodles, but I totally didn’t care because it was spicy and delicious.  I found this original recipe in Food & Wine magazine a few months ago and tried it, but found that the tofu it calls for took a while and I wasn’t really happy with the result.  I switched to shrimp the next time I made it and found it to be a really great substitute that made the dish a bit more filling.  The main trouble with this dish is that it requires a small amount of several of specialty ingredients – I have some suggestions for substitutions after the recipe to save some money on this dish.

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Drunken Noodles

adapted from Food & Wine

1lb. pad thai rice noodles (I have used Udon, too)

2T olive oil

1lb. small shrimp, tails off and deveined (I buy the bag from Trader Joe’s)

1 cup chicken stock

2T oyster sauce

2T fish sauce

2-3tsp roasted red chile paste

2tsp soy sauce

1tsp sugar

1 bell pepper, sliced

1/2-1 large jalepeno, seeded and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red thai chile minced

small bunch basil, chopped (roughly a cup).

lime wedges for serving

1. Boil the noodles according to package directions.  Whisk the stock, oyster sauce, fish sauce, red chile paste, soy sauce, and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the bell pepper, jalepeno, garlic, and red chile cooking over medium-high heat until fragrant (just a few minutes).  Add the noodles and shrimp and stir-fry until the noodles are browned and the shrimp is cooked through (4-5 minutes).

3. Pour the sauce over the top and toss until the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the heat and fold in the basil.  Serve with lime wedges.

*Note that the level of spiciness can be altered based on how much jalepeno, red chile paste, and red chile you choose to add.  I like it spicy so I use a whole jalepeno, nearly 1T of paste (or sriracha), and a whole red chile.  You could easily scale this back for a less spicy dish.

Maximize your budget:

1. Any protein would work here – I love shrimp, but if you had a grilled chicken breast or two, some leftover brisket, pork, it would work well.  The original recipe calls for tofu, which is really cheap, but frying tofu takes forever and to me, isn’t worth it.

2. If you cook a lot of Asian food, investing in oyster sauce, fish sauce, and red chile paste is reasonable, but if you are unsure, I’d start with just the fish sauce (it lasts forever) doubled to replace the oyster sauce.  I’ve also had a hard time finding red chile paste at my regular grocery store, so I’ve substituted sriracha, which works well (in a pinch, tabasco would probably work fine, too).  The original recipe also calls for “black soy sauce” but regular works fine to me.

3. The original recipe calls specifically for a red bell pepper, which looks pretty in the dish, but they all taste the same.  Unless they are on sale, I use green.

2014

As I spend my NYE watching a bowl game, snuggling kids in footed pajamas, and struggling to believe that it isn’t even TEN yet, I’m giving some thought to 2014.  2014 holds a lot of promise: watching two babies grow, tons of career growth for Ross, and I’ll be turning 30 (!).  To be fair, I have no issues surrounding my entrance into my 30s – I think they will be a great time and I’m totally ready to embrace the next phase in life, but I have a few things I want to accomplish while I’m still a 20-something.  That’s sort of what BIMJ is all about – my goofy goals, progress, and a general love for all things butter related.  So in the name of accountability, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish before 12/13/14 – the day I turn 30.

1. Learn to cook Asian food.

I’m really NOT trying to sound so American by minimizing an entire continent into one sentence (or dish, for that matter).  The thing is, I love Thai food, I love Japanese food, I love Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese food, but I honestly can’t cook any of it.  My goal is to try 2 new dishes of the Asian persuasion per month, so by the time it’s 2015, I have a few winners to rotate.  My first goal is hot and sour soup.

2. Run a 10k.

So my facebook is full of my fit peers running half marathons and marathons.  I’m totally impressed, yet not at all interested in running for actual hours at a time.  A 10k seems like a reasonable distance.  Plus I haven’t won a medal for anything in more than 10 years, and I’d like to change that (and ideally the shape of my butt).  My goal is to run 2 in 2014 (because together it’s almost a half marathon).

3. Incorporate pies into everyday life.

I love pie, to the point that we had pie at our wedding instead of cake, but I’ve found I reserve pies for special occasions.  I think that’s truly a shame because pie is not only my favorite dessert, but also that of so many people I’m fond of.  I’m hoping to make a new pie every month, just because.

4. Do a handstand without a wall.

So back in November of 2012 I decided to learn how to do a headstand.  It took less time than expected, but I found out I was pregnant probably 2 weeks after I could do it without a wall.  I stopped because since it was a fairly new practice for me it seemed unwise to continue.  My first goal is a headstand without a wall again, then move onto a handstand.  Then, eventually a totally badass looking yoga move so I can take a picture and show it to my kids (and the world).  Step 1: buy a new yoga mat because the dog peed on mine.

5. Enter some knitted goods into the State Fair.

Because every year I peruse the Embarcadero and wish I had.  I’m hoping to make 3 fair-worthy items.  Be prepared for extreme levels of obnoxiousness if my work is displayed.

6. Make 2 successful souffles.

Because I watch Gordon Ramsay and Top Chef and I’m a sucker for challenge.  I want to make a chocolate souffle and a cheese souffle, partially because Robin’s new film du jour is Beauty and the Beast and “Be Our Guest” has been in my head for 7 solid days.

7. Finish a triathlon.

A sprint (5k run, 10-15 mile bike, 1/2 mile or so swim), obviously.  Again, I want a medal, and I have several family members doing it.

8. Blog.

I enjoy taking a few minutes every now and again to write, share recipes, and reflect.  But this road goes two ways, if it turns out my mom is my only reader (thanks, mom!), I’ll just call her instead.

9. Stop using my phone in the car.

This is my New Year’s Resolution.  I don’t currently text and drive, but I do at a red light sometimes.  I am going to stop using it at all – I have two precious babies in the car, so there’s really no excuse.  I encourage you to do the same.

So, it’s ambitious, but then so am I.  I figure even if I accomplish half of the things on my list it will be a pretty great year.  Stay tuned, and happy new year!