side dish

Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits

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The last couple of things I’ve posted here have been on the healthier side of delicious. Tonight’s contribution is also delicious, but also needless on the scale of “Healthy”. Exhausted by a million things going on that I’m going to generalize under the catch-all phrase “Life”, I decided on a summery dinner of grilled London Broil and Tomato salad filled with herbs, easy and super flavorful. But, alas, the meat was not thawed come dinner time. Or an hour after dinner time. And by the time we were actually able to start making dinner we were ravenous. Which is how I wonder up ruining our healthy protein and veggie packed dinner with buttery, cheesy biscuits.

Easy Cheesy Gourmet Drop Biscuits

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp black pepper

2 TBSP minced sun dried tomatoes

1 TBSP grated or shaved parmesan

1 TBSP grated mozzarella

2 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 cup milk

1 TBSP olive oil

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, diced

1 1/2 tsp freshly chopped basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack for the upper third of the oven. Mix everything together in a bowl until a stick mass forms.

When I make biscuits, I make serious biscuits, which is the over dramatic way of saying I make them way too large. They are the Big Gulp of biscuits. I usually make 6 large biscuits, but you can make 8 or even 10.  I wouldn’t go much smaller than that, though, and cooking time is affected by size. Bake 6 large biscuits for 20 minutes, 8 medium for 15 minutes, or 10 small for 10-12 minutes. The bottoms of the biscuits should be evenly golden brown and the tips of the various points on top crisp and golden as well.

This are fluffy, flavorful, moist, and a super tasty and easy addition to any meal, whether or not they have any health benefits. They are also excellent with a poached egg for breakfast!

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Watermelon & Feta Summer Salad

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Kick cole slaw to the curb with the healthy, tasty, and refreshing summer salad. It’s also super easy and can come together in minutes.

Vegetables were very important in my family when I was a child and, as a result, vegetables are very important in my life as an adult. No meal is complete without them, which means you have to be pretty creative to keep from getting into a veggie rut. There were a number of salads in my youth that I continue to make today. While this one wasn’t prevalent in the past, it is a mainstay during the summers now.

Watermelon & Feta Summer Salad

4-5 cups watermelon, cut or broken into rough 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup arugula, optional

1 1/2 TBSP fresh mint leaves, chiffoned.

1 TBSP olive oil

1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1 TBSP champagne vinegar (You can use all Balsamic if you prefer)

1 tsp honey

Fresh cracked black pepper

I generally buy those freaky, genetically modified “personal sized” watermelons and crack it, like a giant egg, on the edge of my counter. This allows me to let the watermelon drain a little bit before dicing. After about an hour of draining, I broke and cut the watermelon into 1-2 inch chunks. You can use a melon baller, too. I dumped the watermelon and above ingredients into a bowl and gentle tossed. The watermelon will absorb the vinegar nicely, so generally once everything is mixed, I will let the salad sit for about 10 minutes and then move the mixture to a strainer over a bowl, just to help get rid of extra water. It only needs to sit in the strainer a couple of minutes.

If I’m having this as a brunch or mid-day thing, or if feeding it to picky eaters, I will sometimes omit the arugula. It’s just so delicious, that slightly bitter pepperiness with the sweet refreshing nature of the watermelon, honey, and mint. Not to mention the salty tang of the Feta! Oh, it comes together ever so nicely!

Just as beautiful to eat with your eyes as with your mouth!

Skip the arugula and add a croissant for brunch.


Poached Eggs Easy like Sunday Morn’

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Perfect Poached eggs every time are super easy. Granted, they can be a little messy, there’s no longer a reason to fear making an egg to top your sauteed asparagus or to have with Hollendaise. Me? I eat it a little simpler with a piece of toast and slice of proscuitto.

We’re looking at steps here more then a “recipe”.

Take a skillet – that’s right, leave your pot in the cupboard as it has no place in poaching an egg. I used an 8inch pan. I filled it almost to the bring with water, leaving only about a 1/2 inch around the edge. I placed it on the stove, added 4 Tbsp or so of white vinegar. I do this by eye. Any where from a few tablespoons to a quarter cup is fine, but very necessary. It’s not going to alter the taste of your egg…though it may make your house smell slightly pungent. Then crank that burner up and get that water boiling.

While waiting for the water to start rolling, crack your egg into a small handled mug. This makes it easier to slide that little baby into the water without the whites freaking out and flying away.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat. You heard me. Turn. It. Off. Get the lips of the mug with your egg in it as close to the water as safely possible and gently pour the egg into the water. Cover and set your timer for 4 minutes. Once that timer goes off, remove your egg from the water with a slotted spoon and strain on a paper towel or stop the cooking by placing it in an ice bath. Once ready to eat, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little dried parsley.

You can do up to 4 eggs in the pan at once if need be, but remember to adjust your water for displacement. When I remove my egg, I strain it on a paper towel for a minute before making a plate and digging in. You can adjust the doneness of your egg by cooking as little as three minutes to as many as five. You can also halt the cooking by removing your poached egg from the hot water and dropping it into an ice bath, which you can keep in your fridge for future eating for up to 5 days. Whether served on a steak, over sauteed or steamed veggies, or just a la cart like my breakfast, there’s always room for a poached egg. And, just in case you were wondering, a poached egg is a mere two points on Weight Watchers. So go ahead, eat four.

Freakin’ delicious – and classy, too!

Science in the Kitchen: Fennel, Red Beans, & Chowdah

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This week was incessant. Stressful, disappointing, overwhelming. It’s been months since I’ve written so little, but time keeps passing and life goes on. At the same time I’m writing so little, my brother is writing more than ever, hysterically documenting his trip to Thailand and parts beyond. The pictures are great and the writing very sarcasticly funny. I recommend it.

So after a shitty, no good, very bad week, the weekend arrives in an attempt to break me out of my funk.

Saturday morning grocery shopping reminds me that weekends are for experimenting!

Tomorrow is game day! I have no idea what that means! All I do know is that most of the thirteen original colonies are so bad at American Football (a sport I abhor, by the way) that many of them had to apparently band together to form a single team: The New England Patriots. And what an intimidating mascot that is. A guy who really likes his country can defeat a Giant, no problem. I guess they operate under the power of positive thinking. Yeah, that’s totally super cool and masculine.

Sorry, bit of a rant there. So for this weekend, my husby is making a new red beans and rice recipe and I’m making clam chowder and sauteed fennel.

Today I’m going to post the fennel and beans.

My It’s So Good That It’s like Salty Candy Fennel:

2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

2 heads Fennel, sliced in 1/4 – 1/3 inch slices

2 medium to large garlic cloves, sliced thinly

2 small or 1 medium shallot, sliced thinly

1 TBSP ponzu

freshly ground black pepper

Growing up in a stereotypical Italian-American family, meant much of my youth was spent in or around a kitchen. My grandparents had an impressive garden, and as a kid bouncing around with a million cousins amongst the many legs of mother, aunts, and grandparents it was common for a hand from above to drop slices of fennel, tomatoes, figs, or hunks of other veggies in our paths. The flavors of ripe fruits and vegetables were abound, building a deep respect of their versatility in me at an early age, yet I didn’t have cooked fennel until I was a teen.

Often the flavor of fennel is described as a more delicate version of black licorice. I happen to like black licorice, but not because I like fennel. Fennel does have a unique flavor, but when it saute’s, it caramelizes, becoming sweet and a little smokey, much like an onion does. Generally when cooking, the first thing that hits the pan once the oil is hot is garlic, but in this super simple and quick recipe, garlic comes last. And this recipe is so quick that the longest part is the prep in slicing everything.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a skillet. Once the oil moves around the pan easily toss in the fennel, trying to keep the slices in one layer. Let them sit for 3 -4 minutes and then stir – or toss if you’re skilled – to continue caramelizing. After the fennel has been in the pan for about 5 minutes, add the shallots. After an additional 1-2 minutes, add the sliced garlic. You want the garlic to warm, but not brown. Add the Ponzu and continue cooking for an additional minute, stirring to coat. You want the fennel to be just tender, caramelized on the outside, but with a good bit of bite in the center. There’s nothing worse than mushy vegetables.

This is crazy delicious. It’s sweet and salty, it has bite, it’s just a little spicy from the barely cooked garlic, and it’s got great texture. It’s the dish that changes a dissenter’s mind about fennel. Now this as it is makes an excellent side dish and if you’re on Weight Watchers it’s next to Zero points. Immediately upon diving into this for lunch all I wanted was to have thrown in some shrimp the last 2-3 minutes of cooking and served with brown rice. Perhaps even a dash of Srirachi. That would have been a mega simple, quick, filling, and healthy dinner!…In fact, stay tuned for that recipe later in the week.

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My husband has a bit of a man-crush on John Besh. And who can blame him. It’s impossible not to fall in love with all things N’Orleans and Besh is certainly an integral part of their current food culture. Chip likes to make his lunches for the week on the weekend prior and as I’ve gotten more interested in new recipes so has he. What used to be his standard Yakisoba or hummus and veggies lunch, has evolved to include homemade bean salads that change with the seasons, and now red beans and rice.

But this is serious red beans & rice. Chip choose to double the amount of red beans, added an extra ham hock, a little extra water and bacon grease, but otherwise his loyalty remained intact. Rendering bacon fat is easy, but it does make you house smell strongly of bacon. I only like to smell bacon right when I’m eating it. Then I need all evidence of it being cooked to disappear. This is because of one time when we were house hunting a few years ago. Chip and I walked into the most claustrophobic, messy home and it just reeked of bacon. We took one look at our realtor and read each others mind at once: Get Out! Ever since I just can’t stand the smell of that stuff, but I put the dislike to the side for today.

Rendering bacon fat is easiest if the bacon is cut into 1-1 1/2 inch chucks and cooked over low to medium-low heat. I did not cut up the bacon ’cause I didn’t want to smell like bacon for the rest of the day. No matter how many time I wash my fingers I swear they’ll smell of bacon for hours. You want all the fat to cook off, but you don’t want the grease to cook into brown bits.

John Besh’s  Red Beans & Rice with “Chip Tweaks”

2 onions, diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded & diced

1 stalk celery, diced

3 TBSP rendered bacon fat

2 pounds dried kidney beans

3 smoked ham hocks

3 bay leaves

1/2 cayenne pepper

3 green onions

salt and pepper

3 cups rice

In a heavy stock pot, Chip sweated the celery, peppers, and onion until the latter was translucent over medium high heat. Then he threw in the kidney beans, ham hocks, bay leaves, and dash of cayenne, and gently stirred everything together. After a few seconds of stirring, Chip poured water into the pot until the beans were submerged by 2 inches of liquid. Some items may float to the top, but that’s cool, let them do their thing. Just do you best to measure 2 inches above the beans.

At that point he cranked the heat to high and water for a boil. Once there was a good boil going, Chip turned the heat to low and covered to simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Everything needs to be covered by at least an inch of liquid at all times, so adding water periodically might be necessary, though I’m sure you could use chicken broth or low sodium stock as well. When the beans are crushed to a creamy consistency easily with the back of a spoon, everything was done. Chip removed the ham hocks, easily pulled the meat off the bone, roughly chopped it into small chunks, and then added it back to the pot.

He continued to reduce down the mixture until it was the consistency Chip wanted. You can make this as souped or thick and creamy as you want. And, yes, red beans are healthy for you, but when they’re cooked with ham hocks in veggies that were sauteed in bacon fat, I make no promises of their diet power.

For a final touch he added chopped green onion, salt and pepper, and hot sauce to his liking.

Red Beans & Rice finished and very tasty, rich and hearty without seeming too heavy. An excellent alternative to the usual winter stews and chicken soups.

Clam Chowder tomorrow!