Tuesday, December 13, 2011

best drop biscuits

I have this 'thing" about making bread items. I can't do it. NO knack for it apparently. In fact it has become a running joke among'st all my friends that someone is ALWAYS required to bring rolls or bread to parties at my house because I'm known for burning the rolls, or they don't rise properly, or they are just flat out inedible!(that last one has happened a few times)
So Thanksgiving Day arrives and I realize I've forgotten to have someone bring dinner rolls and I obviously do NOT have time to wait for a loaf of dough to rise then knead then rise again then hope and pray it's pretty and tastes good!
In a slight panic I start tearing through all my magazines and cookbooks and decide I'm going to try to make these drop biscuits from Cook's Illustrated. No yeast, no two day wait, hopefully no complications in execution (hopefully)

They were delicious! And SO easy! And edible! My new favorite biscuit recipe. Try these soon.

These came out of the Cook's Illustrated 'Holiday Entertaining' issue


2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 stick of butter - melted and cooled slightly
4 additional tablespoons butter - melted for drizzling after baking


oven to middle rack
temperature at 475

whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
combine buttermilk and melted butter in a small bowl - stir until clumpy
(it's going to look a bit odd - don't worry - it's fine)

add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture

mix with rubber spatula until combined and batter pulls away from sides.

scoop about a 1/4 cup of batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
repeat until all batter is used.

bake until tops are golden and crisp.
about 13 minutes.

after out of oven - leave the biscuits on the parchment paper and pour the 4 tablespoons melted butter over the top - letting whatever runs down the sides soak into the bottoms of the biscuits.

serve immediately.

Friday, December 9, 2011

white chocolate and peppermint meringues

I have to bring a sweet treat to my daughter's little OnStage production tonight and of course I can't just do some simple sugar cookies or basic cupcakes (of course!)
So I started plowing through my stack of magazines here in the kitchen and decided something with peppermint would be very fun and festive as well as delicious. 
These are wonderful!
The original recipe is in the latest issue of Sunset. And while mine are not quite as pretty as the ones in the magazine I am very happy with the result (I was too lazy to pipe the meringues - I can admit that - and I wasn't sure I had a pastry tip big enough for the chocolate chips to fit through, so two spoons were gonna have to do.) 

Try these. They're really fun and really tasty.


2 large egg whites - at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of salt
3/4 cup bakers sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup coarsely crushed peppermint candies - plus more for sprinkling on top


oven to 250
line 2 baking trays with parchment paper
set aside
crush all the peppermint candies.
i used my cuisinart.
set aside.

measure out 3/4 cup of sugar in a separate bowl.
set aside.

beat egg whites and cream of tartar using your whisk attachment until soft peaks form.
add vanilla and a dash of salt.
turn your mixer up to high.
add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and beat another 15 seconds.
slowly drizzle in the rest of the sugar.
beat until stiff peaks.

it's going to have kind of a marshmallow consistency.

gently fold in the white chocolate and 1/3 cup of the crushed candy.

then using two spoons, make little piles about a tablespoon in size

one spoon to scoop,
one spoon to scrape,
you get the idea.
you should have enough to fill two baking sheets.
sprinkle a little more of the crushed peppermint candies on top.

bake 30 - 35 minutes

remove from the oven.
let cool about 5 minutes.
turn the oven off.
put meringues back into the oven with the door propped open.

(try not to eat them all)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

what i've been doing instead of cooking

Where have I been? 
At home...completely crazed...preparing for the 44th Annual Christmas Arts and Crafts Show in Folsom, CA.  Yes, I realize this is a food blog and supposed to contain a jillion delectable 'edible' items, but these last couple weeks have been beyond nuts so unfortunately the family has been living on salad out of a bag and endless nights of hot dogs and fish sticks! There may have been some steamed broccoli in there somewhere as well. I can't really remember.

I promise to get back in the swing of things and start cooking again.
But today I thought it would be a good idea to give the world a glimpse of how I have been spending my time (in addition to all the time spent volunteering in my daughter's classroom and all the failed attempts to get this house clean and get some laundry done and maybe stop at the grocery for another frozen pizza) I really, really tried to be super mom and do ALL of my normal chores as well as ALL the prep needed for this huge show.
It didn't happen.
Something had to give so unfortunately the blog suffered.

But, the show is done.
I feel like I have recovered and gained a little of my normal sanity back.
(for those that know me it's probably more accurate to say "a little of my normal insanity")

There will be food soon (good food!)

Stay tuned.

Some photos of some of the products I made for this show are here. Many of the pieces will also be up in my etsy shop in the next week or so.
Majuk ink and paper is the shop name although it's pretty bare right now.
Here's a link if you're interested in checking it out. LINK  :-)

My friend liz said my house looked like Pinterest puked all over every flat surface available. Pretty accurate description.

I made a ton of coasters and trivets.

Made a ton of cards.
Used my own photos for an entire card series.
Did quite a few mixed media pieces.
And of course had to do a whole gob of festive garland.
Some photo or card holders.
and a whole boat load of other items!

whew...it's been quite a few weeks of crafty nonsense.

am looking forward to getting back into the kitchen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

mini Pumpkin Bread muffins

This is what 32 mini pumpkin bread muffins look like when they are frosted and ready to go to my daughter's 1st grade class. Whew!
Although I obviously need some practice piping frosting I thought they turned out pretty cute! And they are quite delicious.

This is my most favorite type of recipe to receive. A recipe that was hand written on a little sheet of yellow paper - almost no directions for procedure - given to the daughter - then her daughter - then me - because I tasted the bread that was brought to a party then begged and begged for the recipe!
Love it! Only a couple adjustments made and some creativity to make the frosting. These turned out very tasty and will be very fun for twenty four six year old kids.

Thank you Karen and Susan for sharing this with me.


3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cups water
1 29oz can of pure pumpkin

for the frosting:

2 sticks cream cheese (must be at room temperature)
2 sticks butter (must also be at room temperature)
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
splash of pure vanilla extract (this might be around 1 teaspoon)
pumpkin puree (most of the rest of the above mentioned can)
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice


oven to 350
prepare your baking tins
set aside

in a large bowl - whisk together the flour,baking soda,baking powder and salt
set aside

in your stand mixer (or in another large bowl) cream together the sugar and pumpkin puree - about 5 minutes
add the vegetable oil
add the eggs - one at a time
making sure the mixture is well mixed after each addition
add the water
add cinnamon and nutmeg
mix another five minutes or so
slowly add the dry ingredients
mix just until everything is blended and there are no white streaks
scrape the sides of the bowl and mix another couple minutes

fill the muffin tin - each cup almost to the top
bake 8 or 9 minutes - remember i was making mini muffins - adjust this time if you are making regular sized muffins or a couple loaves ( an average loaf will need almost an hour in the oven)

note: i did not use muffin liners - so i let these cool about 5 minutes before i removed each one to a clean baking sheet

let muffins cool completely before frosting.

note: i thought these cakes were wonderful with no frosting - but my daughter said "we HAVE to have frosting" 
so i frosted


cream together the cream cheese and butter and 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
add the pumpkin pie spice
slowly add sugar
mix well
add more of pumpkin puree if desired - i think i added almost all the rest of the can

frost the little muffins and enjoy

by the way - the easiest way to transport these across town is to place each muffin back in the tins - cover - drive away 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

butternut squash risotto

I've decided risotto is my high maintenance child (dish). It is the one that needs the constant, 'consume every second of your life' attention along with perfect temperature and perfect amount of liquid and just the right amount of salt and then the stars and planets have to line up in just the exact formation of a single grain of rice and then - and only then - do I produce perfect risotto! Not really. But this week it felt like it since I made three different risottos. And it's only Thursday!
Risotto really only takes about twenty minutes. But, the secret? stir, stir, stir, stir, stir.....you get the idea. If you can dedicate twenty minutes of your undivided attention to one pot it will yield you a perfectly delectable and satisfying dish. This one has the sweetness of the butternut squash married to the saltiness of the parmesan cheese with the earthiness of the fresh sage and thyme. Truly delicious. I hope you can give it a try. 

note: my apologies for the lack of photos - having some technical difficulties with the camera.


dutch oven
other pot to warm chicken broth
baking sheet 
1 medium butternut squash
olive oil
1 1/2 cups risotto
around 6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 a small onion
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage (or about that)
1 tablespoon thyme (maybe 2)
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese plus more for serving


oven to 400
peel the squash
evenly chop into small pieces - about the size of dice - maybe a tad bigger
place all the squash in a bowl
toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil
salt and pepper
stir well
spread out onto baking sheet
roast about 15 - 20 minutes
until fork tender
when done - set aside until ready to use

note here: i did not use the entire squash - the rest of it i served as a side dish at dinner 


in a small pot bring the chicken broth to a simmer - turn to low and keep warm.
in a dutch oven melt the one tablespoon of butter - medium heat.
add two tablespoons of olive oil.
add the chopped onion.
cook 3 or 4 minutes until onion is translucent.
add garlic.
cook another couple minutes.
add rice.
stir well - make sure all the rice is coated. 
add three cups of the warm chicken broth.

when it starts looking like you are running out of liquid add another cup of broth.
in another three minutes or so add another cup of broth.
stir some more.
taste for doneness.
you want the rice to be soft but still have a little bite in the center.
you do NOT want it to go the route of baby food.
if rice still seems too hard add a little more broth and keep stirring.

when the rice is ready add two cups of butternut squash and the herbs.
you may want to add more of the squash or adjust the amount of sage and thyme - i'm sure it will still taste great
add the 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese
stir well

serve immediately - garnished with more cheese

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

steak au poivre

What is it?
Very simply put - it's a steak, with a crust of salt and peppercorns accompanied by a rich, luscious sauce. That's about it. I guarantee you've seen it on a hundred different menus. Sometimes simply called 'steak with peppercorn sauce' or 'black peppered steak' or several other names, but this traditional French favorite is technically called 'steak au poivre' (yes - pronounce the V) For us, it was the sauce that put this dish into the "favorite dinner requests" list.  
Much simpler than I anticipated with tremendous flavor. I highly recommend you try to make this at home. 

This dish usually calls for filet mignon. Given the price of that cut of beef I needed to find something a little more within my budget. Rib-eye is apparently also acceptable but I went with sirloin. Delicious. Whichever cut you choose I'm sure will be wonderful. Just be sure to not over-cook the meat.

Also, I was only cooking for two people since my daughter - at six years old - has decided she will not eat meat. And my husband loves his au jus so this recipe has a bit more sauce than most recipes call for.
I made four different sauces the other night and an extra the next morning just to make sure I had one we loved. The one I am posting here was definitely the favorite and includes a little brown mustard and then honey for balance (in addition to the brandy - never would I skip adding the booze!) I added the additional ingredients to the sauce because the sauces with only cream added to the pan gave me nothing but cream flavor - was not happy with this. Therefore some experimenting needed to be done. Hope you give this a go.


2 steaks 
about a 1/4 cup fresh, whole black peppercorns - crushed using a mortar and pestle or a cast iron skillet - then spread out onto a plate
little olive oil
2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brandy or cognac plus 2 tablespoons for later
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon brown mustard
almost 2 tablespoons honey


oven to 400

prepare a baking/casserole dish so you can finish the steaks in the oven.
set aside.

rinse and pat dry the steaks.
generously salt one side.
place the salted side onto the plate with the crushed peppercorns.

salt the top side then flip the steaks to cover this side in pepper.

press down a little bit to ensure good coverage of pepper.

add butter and couple tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet.
warm on medium heat.
when the butter is just starting to brown, carefully add the steaks.  
cook 4 or 5 minutes each side.
keep an eye on this because you do not want to completely burn the crust - just blacken it a bit.
once both sides are done I used a pair of large tongs to hold the steaks and cook a little around the edges
(sorry - no photo)
place into the prepared baking dish.
cover with foil.

my husband does not like his steaks 'mooing' so I cooked them in the oven about 10 minutes.
most often this dish is served rare
cook how you prefer.

while the steaks are in the oven make your sauce.

drain the excess fat and oil out of the pan but keep as much of the fond and pepper and beef bits as possible.
turn the stove OFF.
add the brandy.
IF you are daring - CAREFULLY light this with the longest fire starter you have.
i do recommend you light it and let all the alcohol burn off - giving the pan a few swishes to make sure the flames reach all sides.
it does make a difference in the flavor.
But if you do not light the pan (and do not nearly burn the house down like I did) skip adding the 2 tablespoons of brandy at the end.

once the flames have subsided and you are breathing normally again - turn the stove back on to a medium high heat.
add cream.  
cook for a couple minutes.
add mustard and honey and salt.
cook five more minutes.
add 2 tablespoons of brandy (or cognac - whichever you have)
cook until sauce thickens - whisking continuously.
salt to taste.
maybe just a few turns of the pepper grinder as well.

keep warm until ready to serve.

steaks should be done by now.

serve each individual or slice each steak.

husband likes the slice method so that there is more surface area for sauce.

I served this with steamed vegetables and mashed red potatoes.

Great dinner.

Friday, November 11, 2011

chicken pot pie

Confession time - I usually have these made for the family by my good friend Marie (yes...THAT Marie - whose last name begins with a 'C' - and who also makes 'Pies')
But I was scanning through Sacramento Connect and came across this site called 'a girl and her fork' (how great is that name? a girl and her fork)
And one of her recent recipe postings was Chicken Pot Pie. While I have often thought about making these from scratch, it just didn't seem necessary to fix something that wasn't broken. The family has been perfectly happy having pies from my friend Marie so why bother?
Of course I had to bother! (you're surprised?) ...here we go ... 
I've decided to make my own chicken pot pie.

I did have to make a few changes to her recipe. Either I didn't have what was called for. Or I just didn't put it in my pie. Or I just didn't feel like making pastry dough from scratch ( i know i know...the box from the grocery...shameful)
So I am posting this the way I made it last night.

D E L I C I O U S ! 
One of my guests today said "eating that was like crawling into the lap of my mother"
Quite a compliment I would say.

I hope you can try it soon.


1 box Puff Pastry
4 whole chicken breasts
little olive oil
salt pepper
4 cups chicken stock (i DID have this homemade)
1 cup white wine
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 sticks butter
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups chopped sweet onion
2 cloves garlic - minced
2 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped celery 
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 cups mushrooms (i had button mushrooms - and after chopping it came to 2 cups so that's what i'm posting here)


oven to 350

lay those chicken breasts on a baking sheet
rub both sides with olive oil
add salt and pepper to both sides
bake about 35 minutes
let get cool enough to handle
chop into big chunks
set aside

in a saucepan put your chicken broth,the white wine and the bouillon cubes
bring to a simmer
stir to make sure the cubes are dissolved
keep warm

in a dutch oven add the butter (yes..all of it)
let melt then add the chopped onion
cook till translucent then add the garlic
cook another couple minutes
add flour - stir constantly
cook 2 or 3 minutes then add the chicken broth mixture
cook about 5 minutes then add some salt and pepper and the heavy cream

stir well

add chicken
cook couple minutes to make sure all the pieces are coated
add all the other vegetables
cook another 5 minutes or so
taste for seasoning
resist the urge to continue tasting

it really could be served at this point with some great rustic bread - but we're making pies remember?

note :  Last night I used large mugs. But I felt the ratio of chicken mixture to pastry top was a bit off - too much of one in comparison to the other. I wanted to make sure there was pastry topping all the way to the last bite of chicken goodness. So today I decided to use a bunch of my little ramekins to see if everybody finished the race to the bottom together. Success.


lightly flour a work surface and roll out your pastry dough - just enough to get 4 or 5 lids - you don't want to roll this out too thin
using a cookie cutter or a knife and a bowl bigger than your ramekin (that's what I used)
cut out your 'lids'

back to the mixture

place all your ramekins (or mugs) onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper
spoon filling to the tops of each ramekin
(i only needed to make six - so there is quite a bit of mixture left over right now)

using your finger - dip into the broth and rub it around the edge of the ramekin to create your glue for the pastry top

place all your lids
using a knife or fork make vent holes (must do this)

into the oven it goes for about 20 minutes - or until the tops are golden brown  and crispy
and beautiful

let cool for a few minutes before serving