Thursday, February 19, 2009

TFF - Buttermilk Biscuits

I have to confess something. I've never kneaded anything in my entire life. Shameful but true. Never made parathas or rotis from scratch, never made any kind of bread that required kneading and rolling out. Probably because I had one bad episode when I was a budding young thing. Under my mom's directions I was trying to knead my first dough for rotis, and the results were so awful that I've been traumatized ever since! But the last few months have been about overcoming my hesitancy and fears, one tiny step at a time. So today I thought I'd conquer the big, bad world of Buttermilk Biscuits. Mainly because I had a lot of buttermilk left over from when I made that Luxe Red Velvet Cheesecake.

I must say, I'm on a roll with Tyler Florence's recipes! I've found yet another one to love! It's a big deal when you find someone who you can count on for no-fail numminess everytime. I started this biscuit recipe out with a lot of trepidation, but I'm beyond happy with the results. I think I devoured one straight out of the oven, and I'm not even ashamed of it! Mmmmm tender, flaky, buttery goodness.
My Personal Best Buttermilk Biscuits (courtesy of Tyler Florence, with some minor changes)
Makes 6 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable shortening/butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Keep your butter/shortening pieces chilled in the freezer for 10 mins, while you preheat the oven to 400 F. Keeping the butter really cold is key!

2. In the meantime, combine dry ingredients together with a fork or in the food processor. Cut in the shortening/butter (using a pastry blender OR 6-8 pulses of your food processor) until mixture resembles coarse pea-sized crumbs. I was too scared to over-process the butter in my food processor, so after a couple of pulses I took the mixture out, and used two butter knives to cut the butter in.

3. Add buttermilk. Quickly fold dry ingredients into buttermilk with a spatula, then your hands, until a sticky dough forms. Chill it in the fridge for 5-10 mins.

4. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Gently fold the dough over itself 3 or 4 times to create layers. Roll dough out to 3/4-inch thick. DON'T knead it too much. Cut with a 3-inch biscuit cutter OR into squares with a sharp knife. Transfer dough pieces to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Chill again for 5 mins.

5. Make a dimple in the center to help the top rise evenly. Brush with butter (I used milk and it didn't make a difference). Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool for 5 mins on a rack.
Verdict: I'm much more comfortable about kneading and rolling now. These biscuits are perfect for an evening snack or even for breakfast. Just cut them in half and schmear them with your favorite jam. I had fresh blackberries on hand, so made a quick compote and used that. But these are great just plain as well. You'll think to yourself "I'll only take a tiny bite, to taste", and the next thing you know, the whole thing will be gone and you'll be licking the crumbs off your fingers with glee! And if you're anything like me, you'll be scheming to find another excuse to eat two more before DH shows up.

I'm submitting this right away to Tyler Florence Fridays for their weekly roundup.

Winter Morning At The Beach

What does a girl do when she's stuffed herself to the gills with all the rich, luscious treats from her helluva hectic Valentine's Week? My instinct sheepishly asks "pass out on the couch and watch a Hugh Grant movie marathon?". *sigh* ... my instinct and I have to talk. The right answer, of course, is to give my poor digestive system a bit of a break, and feel refreshed and renewed by getting some fresh air.

The first part of the solution is pretty easy. It's so tempting to just skip breakfast and pretend that you're actually doing something good for your body, whereas the actual fact is that you're deluding yourself! DH is forever lecturing me to eat breakfast every single day. Apparently, if we don't eat breakfast, our body goes into "storage mode". It clings on to the fat, rather than using it up, and makes it even harder for us to lose the slightest inch of flab from around our problem areas. So if you want any exercise you're doing to actually make a difference, eat your brekkie! It's a bit of a pain some days, to be honest. You know those days, when you're bleary eyed and have a ton of chores to do, but you'd much rather be back in bed. My answer to that is either this Lip-Smackin' Breakfast Burrito, or if I'm feeling particularly health conscious, this - a ripe ruby-red grapefruit, cut in half, sprinkled with a tiny bit of sugar and freshly ground black pepper. That tart-sweetness wakes up all my senses!
Going outside in the winter months isn't easy around here, but we've been lucky enough to have a few amazing days, where the weather has been almost spring-like. When one such rare day rolled around recently, I knew exactly how I wanted to enjoy it. At the beach! I'm a Long Islander, after all. We always end up near the water. Spending a few hours at Long Beach was exactly what my body was looking for. Nothing like breathing in one lungful after another of a crisp, fresh sea-breeze. I'll let my photos do the talking.

The small marina nearby

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day vs. Presidents' Day vs. Family Day

It was the ultimate three-way throwdown. My parents and brother had come down from the Great White North to spend their long weekend with us, because Monday was 'Family Day' in Canada. Even though our time together was too short, we managed to catch up on all the family gossip! We also took advantage of the fabulous Presidents' Day sales by scoring some great bargains (always cheers me up! 70% off is what I'm talkin' about, ahan!). Then there was Valentine's Day, which I spent with the people I love most in my life. Made enough goodies for all of them to get stuffed on to the point of passing out! All in all, I think I did justice to all three.

So you understand why this post is a little late, yes? Hopefully all of you were too busy this weekend to notice! Did you have the Valentine's Day of your dreams? Did you call your Canadian relatives (c'mon, everyone's got at least one) and send some love their way? And most importantly, did you hit the motherload at your nearest outlet mall?!

Today is my last post for the Valentine's Week cooking spree that I was on. DH gave me one helluva compliment on this pasta. I believe his words were, "This is something I would pay good money for in a fancy restaurant". At least, that's what I think he said. It was mostly gibberish because his mouth was full when he said it. But I'm sure it was a compliment, because he was very sad when we were finished our meal. As was I. This pasta is really something I should make more often!

Sweet & Hot Chicken Pasta (because isn't that what we all want? Some sweet 'n hot lovin' from our Valentine?)
Serves 6

1 box of penne or rigatoni pasta (uncooked)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breast halves (skinless & boneless, cut into bite-size pieces)
2 tbsp white/red wine/balsamic vinegar
1 mango (peeled, seeded and cubed)
2 large onions, sliced
1 green bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
1 red bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
1 jalapeno/serrano pepper, chopped
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less depending on how hot you want this)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more to pass around)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish


1. Marinate the chicken with salt, pepper, cayenne, vinegar (and really any other spices you feel like throwing in that day - sometimes I use allspice or dry mustard) for 30 mins.

2. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat, then brown the chicken pieces for 10 mins. Take them out and keep them aside.

3. Add in the rest of the olive oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add in the sliced onions and peppers. Let them soften. Then mix in the garlic, mango (DON'T get the canned stuff) and jalapeno pepper. Continue to cook and stir for 5 mins, or until the mango is soft. Add back the chicken.
4. Gradually mix in the heavy cream, cook 5-10 more minutes, until sauce is thickened.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the dry pasta and cook per the package instructions. Drain (keeping a cup of the pasta water aside) and add the pasta straight into the skillet with the sauce.

6. Mix well, along with the parmesan cheese, adding more salt and pepper as you go along (don't be afraid of a lot of seasoning; this needs it). You can add more cayenne if it needs more heat. A few sprinkles of sugar, or some apple juice can also be added if you want it a bit sweeter. This is a very accomodating sauce!

7. Once the sauce is seasoned enough to your liking, and is thick enough to cover all the pasta (if it's too thick, just add some of the pasta water you saved), it's ready to be garnished with parsley and more parmesan.
This pasta is such a crowd-pleaser. I have to give it some credit and send it right over to Ruth at Once Upon A Feast (I just love her blog's name, don't you?!) for a rather special round-up of Presto Pasta Nights. It's their TWO-year anniversary *confetti, balloons, applause*!

Y'know, even though DH refuses to celebrate Valentine's Day because he thinks it's all a commercial scam, and he instinctively rebels when he feels he is being ordered to be romantic on a certain day, he always surprises me by doing something special. Every year he will rant and rave against Valentine's Day, but every year (and every day really) he gives me a reason to smile and want to squeeze him to pieces! Nothing big, but it's the small gestures that matter. One of the many things that really make my heart brim over with WUV for him, is that he gets me. He gets me! And he wuvs me right back because of it (not despite it)! Sounds silly, but it's essential for a successful relationship, folks. That's the rare trait we should all look for in our significant other. Don't settle for anything less!