I should be writing. Instead…biscuits. [Again.]

Yep, when in doubt, it’s biscuits.

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Savory biscuits bordered top and bottom by the traditional ones.

Well, that and the suggestion from my wife that, ‘gee, with all this fruit around, I think biscuits would be perfect.’.

And so, with the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ playing in the background, two versions are in the oven, with the aroma of the parmesan cheese-colby cheese-chive-Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute version [a not-so user-friendly label] filling the kitchen.

Starter recipe: Sky High Wheat Biscuits from Bert Greene’s The Grains Cookbook. I can send it to you.]

As always, I can’t help but stray from the exact instructions, but I’ve used this recipe for over a decade. [Instead of 1 cup cake flour : 1 cup wheat ratio, I went with 1.5 cups all-purpose and a half cup of wheat flour.]

The other version, what one might call ‘plain’—I added an egg and some vanilla and a little extra sugar. So yes, feel free to call them ‘shortcakes’–the accompanying strawberries won’t argue with you.

As I was hand-blending the frozen butter chunks [an upper-body workout hack.], my mind drifted to my semi-recent high school reunion.

And I pondered some of the questions I would like to have posed to the folks.

No, nothing about the staged–I’m dating myself here–Godfather-themed ‘abduction’ of a favorite teacher. And nothing about the senior boys’ version of ‘Alley Top’ during intermission at a Friday dance.

Instead, I would want to know what they’ve been cooking. And when they started cooking.

After all, when many of us parted at graduation, few of had any baking, sautéing, or barbecuing skills.

So, my questions:

What are your specialties?

What events pushed you into the kitchen? A lonely Saturday night during or soon after college? Forsaken by a spouse for a weekend? Expectations of kids? Having Thanksgiving hosting duties dumped in your lap? Or how about the age-old ‘just because’?

My first ‘real’ cooking experience took place sophomore year in high school.We were supposed to contribute to a culinary celebration in French class and I teamed up with my lifelong friend. He proposed [and made] stuffed French rolls. [I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t have the heart to tell him.]

I went with chocolate eclairs and son of a gun if I didn’t whip out the Joy of Cooking and successfully crank out the cream puffs shell recipe [page 646] and follow up with some variation of a chocolate icing. [Would have been fitting to try to make Fudge Cockaigne as a further nod to the French theme, but I was probably still dumbfounded that the cream puffs recipe worked for me.]

I would love to hear of your first successful experience in the kitchen. Chime in down below. Thanks for reading.

Bonus photo: [Seems my ‘craftsy’ wife needs an alternative leaf press.]

leaves in Joy of Cooking

I should be writing. Instead…blueberry muffins, with variations.

muffins horizontal

I was going to launch a mini-rant against technology this afternoon [Safari and WordPress weren’t playing nicely], but I redirected toward wholesomeness. And comfort. And calories.

After all, frustrated writers don’t rant; they bake.

In my case, blueberry muffins. A new recipe. A simple one, since I just wanted something straightforward so we could squeeze in a little afternoon coffee. Never mind that the temps outside are in the high 90’s. When the need for ‘fresh-baked’ arises, I spring to action. [Well, not exactly ‘spring’. That would imply flexibility…agility…youth.]

Breaking news from the kitchen–[Hey, if CNN can do this 24/7, so can I.]…They’re halfway done and they’ve already earned the ‘They smell goood’ pronouncement from my wife and they look like they’ll turn out ‘normal’—a relative term in my kitchen.

What constitutes ‘normal’?

These muffins [here’s the recipe] will form fit to the muffin tin. That’s about it. Anything less than that, I add the word ‘mutant’ to the title.

Today, three of these little hummers are traditional, I’ve added a sweet ginger jam to two of them, and one of them has nary a blueberry. [Yes, a blatantly forced rhyme.] I populated it with ’60% cocoa’ chocolate chips. My wife…ever so subtle. When muffin fixins emerge, you can bet she’ll saunter by and plop some usable form of chocolate onto the counter.

Impressions

  • Good ‘blank canvas’ recipe. I will gladly reuse this as my muffin base. Add cinnamon, etc. for stone fruit muffins. Add peanut butter to join the chocolate chips. You get the idea. [Thank you, Joanne and Adam Gallagher.]
  • I used muffin-top tins today to shorten the cooking time. Again, I wanted quick results. In the future, I would use traditional tins for more moisture.
  • Ginger jam: Yep. I’d repeat this. The marriage of blueberry and ginger definitely worked.
  • Chocolate chip muffin: I bungled this one. The muffin was fine, but someone [me] turned out to be chintzy with the chips. [Divorce proceedings imminent…]
  • Everything tastes better when it’s served on my favorite ‘dog plate’.

I should be writing. Instead…an expected winning recipe and, well…

Let’s start with the good news– a recipe I’ve relied on for a decade.

best cocoa brownies

This is my chocolate chip-studded version of Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies. These babies are uncooked and darned if I forgot to take a photo this morning before they [and their counterpart batch with walnuts] headed over to a staff celebration.

But the serious ‘dark’ should tell you anybody eating these might well liken them to a  candy bar. [Only a half-cup flour is needed.]

The kitchen gods–whose voices sound oddly like my wife’s– are beckoning me to whip up another tray–one that won’t leave the premises.

***

And now, for a venture into the land of culinary unintended consequences…

refried beans unintended

There in the fridge sat a bowl leftover red beans and a bowl of cooked quinoa.

Hey! Why not doctor them up with a caramelized onion, sun-dried tomatoes from the jar, and some paprika, granulated garlic, and chili powder and make veggie-burgers? I’ve had good luck with this combination in the past, so why not?

Aaaand you’re wondering where the recipe is.  Me too.

I did a short consultation online, but paid as much attention to the recipe as I did to the cranked-up food processor.

So…burgers? Malleable patties out of this glop? Not a chance.

But…refried beans? Absolutely. In fact, the best I’ve tasted in years.

All due to my lapse into ‘kitchen shlub-hood’.

Nice save, T.

I should be writing. Instead…butternut squash soup.

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In keeping with the whole ‘putting off till later’ theme, here is some breaking news: Merriam-Webster’s thesaurus doesn’t grok the word procrastinate.

Moving on…

I had gained so much procrastinative ** momentum from my earlier foray into non-productivity that I sauntered into the kitchen. Imagine that.

Shockingly, I chose to cook healthy.

I had no intention of opening a cookbook, of course.

I chunked up the squash the day before, knowing full well how exhausting it would be to both prep the squash AND cook it all in one fell swoop. Pretty obvious that I’m not into swoops–energy requirements too steep.

I heated up some olive oil, sprinkled in some za’atar, 21-Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s, salt, and pepper for a quick blooming, added chicken broth, and then the squash. That reminds me. It might need a dash of white wine.

butternut squash soup
the ‘before’ photo. 

After a severe pummeling with the hand blender, I might finish it with a little milk and then sprinkle some grated Asiago cheese into each serving.

Turns out I didn’t bother with either the milk or the Asiago. Plenty of flavor to stand on its own. It doesn’t mean I won’t try them with the leftovers, however.

While I didn’t use a recipe, if you stayed with me this long, you deserve one to consider. I like the idea of adding some ginger to the mix.

Thanks for reading. Go make some soup. On your own. No cookbook. If I can do it, so can you.


**Yep, it’s a word. No way did I think so when it flew off my fingers onto the keyboard.