Savory biscuits for Sunday morning

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This is one of those recipes you really dig your hands into. It’s a basic biscuit recipe with a couple extra ingredients added for flavor and flair.

I got the idea to make these after visiting a coffee shop a couple weeks ago. They had ham-and-cheddar biscuits on the menu, so I ordered one and was surprised at how much I liked it. Since biscuits are a pretty easy thing to make, I set out to find a recipe and found this one.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use the old trick of taking a one-cup measuring cup, adding a tablespoon of lemon juice, filling it up the rest of the way with milk, and letting it sit for about 5 minutes.

These can be made quickly, whether you want to eat them for breakfast or pair them with a salad for dinner.

I’ll be in Boston next weekend, so look for my next post in two weeks!

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 ounces ham, diced
2 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in large bowl to combine. Add cold butter cubes and use fingers to press butter into the flour (see note) until the butter pieces are the size of large peas.

Stir in buttermilk, ham, and cheddar until just combined, using hands to press dough together if necessary. Stir in a small amount of extra buttermilk if mixture is too dry.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and roll into a rectangle 1/2-inch thick. Fold 1/3 of the dough toward the middle. Fold the other 1/3 piece of dough toward the middle (you should have three layers of dough). Roll out to about 1-inch thick. Cut out biscuits with 2 1/4-inch biscuit cutter or top of a glass (you should get approximately 9 biscuits). Chill biscuits while you preheat the oven.

Arrange biscuits on parchment lined baking sheet and bake until golden and set, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

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A sweeter spin on scalloped potatoes

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Some vegetables stump me when it comes to figuring out new ways to prepare them. Sweet potatoes are one I struggle with. Outside of baking them or cutting them up into small pieces and frying them, I didn’t really know what else to do with them — that is, until I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Scalloped Potatoes on Pinterest.

The sauce for this recipe is sweet, and the thyme lends a really nice flavor to it. The first time I made this, I used both Yukon Gold potatoes and yams, but the combination of the sweeter sauce and the Yukon Gold potatoes didn’t taste quite right to me. I liked the idea of making a pumpkin cream sauce with herbs for the potatoes, so I made the dish a second time only using yams. It was much better.

I used a mandolin slicer to cut the potatoes, and it was really nice to have all the pieces cut uniformly. I used cheddar and Parmesan, since that’s what I had in the fridge. The cheese added a much-needed savory flavor to the dish, which helps balance the overall taste.

This dish is a great way to make the most of fall flavors. It’s a nice comfort food for cold days, too. I may consider making it for Thanksgiving this year.

1scallopedsweetpotatoes111013Ingredients
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/3 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
2 large yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces Fontina, Havarti or cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, pumpkin, thyme, garlic and nutmeg and heat over medium-low heat. While the cream sauce is warming, prepare the potatoes.

Create three rows of potatoes along the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly and alternating the two types of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove the cream from heat (fishing out the thyme and garlic and discarding those) and spoon 1/3 of the cream sauce over the potatoes. Combine the two cheeses in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheeses over the potatoes too. Create a second layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1/3 more of the sauce and 1/3 more of the cheese. Create a third layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remainder of the sauce.

Bake the potatoes, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.

Broccoli bites take snacks back to basics

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I recently saw this broccoli bites recipe on Pinterest. It seemed simple enough, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a nice, basic recipe that only calls for four ingredients, which leaves plenty of room to experiment with other flavors and additions. It doesn’t require any special equipment, either. Mix it with your hands, form it into patties and bake. That’s it.

Next time I make these, I will likely use 1/2 cup of cheddar and 1/2 cup Parmesan, because I wanted more bite to them. Or, I might try a sharper cheddar — medium didn’t offer the flavorful punch I wanted.

The most difficult thing to figure out was what to serve them with. I tried sour cream, but it wasn’t quite right. So I tried a bit of mayonnaise with worcestershire, which was better; but I think ranch dressing might be the best option — I just didn’t have any on hand.

2broccolibitesFor something to snack on, these are pretty hearty and filling.

Ingredients
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut and steamed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form small patties and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over patties and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let cool for up to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Experimenting with eggplant

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I never ate eggplant as a kid. Mom never made it, so for most of my life it has been somewhat of a foreign vegetable. After seeing it at the farmers market on a regular basis, I decided to purchase one and figure out what to do with it.

While browsing Pinterest a couple weeks ago, I saw a recipe for mini pizzas that used slices of zucchini for crust. I decided to see if I could do the same thing with eggplant. It seemed like a good starting point and it was. It gave me a bit of experience seeing how eggplant bakes, and I learned that it has a lot of moisture that can be cumbersome if not drained a ahead of time. I made the pizzas two ways — first in the oven and second in a frying pan. I preferred the way it came out of the oven, because it had less moisture in the end. The pizzas are simple enough to throw together on a whim, and they taste good, too. I stuck with basic toppings, but you can easily put whatever you want on them.

After getting that bit of experience under my belt, I felt ready to tackle something a little more ambitious. I had never made Eggplant Parmesan, so I decided to consult my cookbooks to see how it was done. It turns out everybody has their own version. One book called for large slices of eggplant, another called for long sticks of eggplant; one book recommended frying the eggplant in oil, and another said baking it was better because frying it made it too soggy. It sounded like each recipe had its issues, so after checking out the basic methods and ingredients, I decided to come up with my own method.

I chose to approach the eggplant like I would homemade fish sticks. I breaded it in panko, which I like because it gives foods a nice crunch, and chose to bake it in a thin layer of olive oil. It worked surprisingly well. I like a bit of heat to sauce, so the garlic and red pepper flakes took care of that. I didn’t have mozzarella, so I went with fresh Asiago I picked up at the store, and I liked how it complemented the sauce. I’m proud of how this experiment turned out, and will definitely be making this version of Eggplant Parmesan again.

eggplant2Eggplant mini pizzas
Olive oil
Sea salt
Three 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices of eggplant, drained on a paper towel for 30 to 45 minutes
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 cup grated cheese
About 12 slices of pepperoni

Put enough olive oil in the bottom of a pie pan to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Put the pan in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.

Once the pan is preheated, add the eggplant slices. Cook for 5 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and turn over the eggplant slices. Spoon tomato sauce onto each slice. Top with cheese and pepperoni. Put back in oven and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Eggplant Parmesan
2/3 of an eggplant, cut into 1-inch-wide sticks and drained in a colander or pan lined with paper towels for 1 hour or overnight
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup panko (or breadcrumbs)
Olive oil
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic or 1 clove fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Dash salt
3/4 cup Asiago, grated or cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine flour, white pepper and salt in a resealable freezer bag. Beat the egg in a pie pan and set aside.

Put five sticks of eggplant into the resealable bag with the flour mixture, seal the bag and shake to coat. Remove and repeat with the remaining eggplant, doing about five sticks at a time. Once all the eggplant has been coated with flour, dispose of any remaining flour mixture.

Put the panko in the same resealable bag. Coat each piece of eggplant in the beaten egg and set aside. Put five sticks of eggplant into the bag of panko. Seal the bag and shake to coat the eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass pan or cookie sheet. Place the panko-covered eggplant sticks in a single layer in the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bottom of eggplant is slightly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomato sauce, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt in a small saucepan or microwavable dish and heat until hot. Set aside.

Once the eggplant has baked for 15 minutes, turn it over and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the other side of the eggplant is slightly browned. Remove eggplant from the pan. Coat the bottom of the pan evenly with half of the sauce. Put the eggplant back in the pan in a single layer. Pour remaining sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle cheeses over eggplant and return to oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Not your average baked potato

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Baked potatoes are good, but sometimes twice-baked potatoes are better. This was the first recipe I tried from the Williams-Sonoma Cookbook that my brother bought me for my birthday a few years ago. It’s probably one of the more decadent baked potato recipes you’ll ever make. One of these could be a meal in itself, but they also go well with salmon or steak.

I like this recipe because it’s straightforward, and the ingredients are something most people have on hand. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, it’s easy to substitute or just do without. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled, depending on the number of people you’re serving.

The one warning I have is that the cheese can make it oily after it bakes. I recommend either using less cheese or using a harder, aged cheddar instead. If you don’t like cheddar, you can use whatever you’d like.

IngredientsTwicebakedpotatoes2
4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and patted dry
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, tough stems removed and leaves rinsed well
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup firmly packed shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender when pierced with a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté until the shallot is translucent, about three minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the spinach, and toss until wilted but still bright green, about four minutes. Transfer the spinach mixture to a sieve set over a bowl and press all the liquid out of the spinach.Twicebakedpotatoes3

Using a serrated knife, cut a slice 1/2 inch thick off one long side of each potato and discard. Scoop out the potato flesh into a bowl, leaving a shell 1/4 inch thick. Add the sour cream, salt, pepper and the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the potato flesh and mash with a potato masher to blend. Stir in 2/3 cup of the cheese and then the spinach. Spoon the potato mixture into the potato shells, mounding it high. Press the remaining cheese on top of the filling.

Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. To test for doneness, stick a small knife into a potato and leave it there for about 15 seconds. Remove the knife and feel the blade; if it is hot, the potatoes are ready. Serve immediately. Serves 4.