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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Calzones and a lesson for an ambitious beginner

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Calzones are basically small pizzas folded in half and sealed around the edges. But sometimes, it’s a nice change.

Last week was busy, and I wanted to make a lunch I could eat at my desk if I needed to — something that didn’t require utensils or much cleanup. So, I went with calzones.

This is the second time I’ve ever made calzones. The first was years ago when my brother graduated from high school. I had just tried making them for the first time and got overly ambitious. I told my mom I’d make them for everyone at his graduation party. I made bowl after bowl of dough and kept the oven on for hours — even during the party — as I pulled them out of the oven. For me, that was one of those learning moments, particularly around cooking and entertaining. If you overcomplicate things, you won’t get to enjoy the gathering. Lesson learned.

That time I filled them with ham and cheese, but I liked the ones I made using this recipe more. While they may not look like they’ve been filled enough, the fillings I chose had stronger flavors, so it tasted like enough. Beware that using fresh vegetables such as spinach or peppers can make the bottom of the calzone watery if you haven’t sautéed them first.

Calzones2This recipe — the dough is from the Joy of Cooking — makes two large calzones. I like to keep my calzones basic, so I went with pepperoni, cheese, and pesto. You can put whatever you’d like in them.

Ingredients
2/3 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons pesto
20 slices of pepperoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine water and yeast in a large bowl and let sit until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly coat another large bowl with olive oil.

Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, or using your hands, mix in flour, olive oil, and salt. Transfer the dough to the oil-coated bowl, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, up to two hours. If you want to speed up the process, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and turn it off when you put the bowl of dough inside. I did it this way, and it took about an hour.

When dough is ready, remove from oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough in half. Shape each half the way you would for a pizza. Leaving about an inch all the way around the circumference of the dough, top with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni — or the toppings of your choice. Once topped, fold in half and pinch the edges to close. Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Fold your way to fresh spanakopita

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I learned how to make spanakopita a few weeks ago. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a Greek recipe in which a spinach mixture is folded into phyllo dough and baked into a crispy little triangle of deliciousness.

My mom and I both like the frozen spanakopita from Costco but, as with most of the foods I purchase and enjoy, I wanted to learn to make it at home. So I did.

Spanakopita051114-1This recipe makes about 10 large triangles but, if you’re planning to serve this as an appetizer, I’d recommend cutting the phyllo into quarters. You’ll need a pastry brush and a bit of patience, but the great thing is that you can add whatever you want to the mix, so long as it doesn’t get too watery and make the phyllo soggy during baking. The dough was tougher than I expected it to be — not to say mine didn’t rip at all in the process — but, because it’s folded so many times, you can easily cover up any tears.

I also used fresh spinach on my first attempt, and it required more work, because I had to sauté it to get rid of all the moisture. Next time, I will definitely use frozen spinach to prevent extra steps.

I was happy that this was simple to do at home. It is a nice recipe to have in the mix for when I need to bring an appetizer to a party.

Ingredients
1/2 pound of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 sheets of phyllo dough, defrosted and cut lengthwise into thirds
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped dill
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter, clarified and cooled

Spanakopita051114-2 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, feta, parmesan, dill, basil, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Add egg, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stack the phyllo dough next to a wooden cutting board situated with the shorter end facing you. Place one strip of phyllo on the board and brush the dough with the clarified butter so the entire strip, especially the edges, are moistened. Then, take up to two tablespoons of the spinach mixture and shape it into a triangle in one of the bottom corners of the dough. Then, fold the dough, starting with the long side of the triangle. continue to fold until the entire strip of dough is folded around the mixture. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining mixture and dough.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot.

Turn broccoli and cheese into a healthy soup

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After all those holiday sweets, I’ve been craving vegetable-loaded meals that are good for me. Broccoli is one of my go-to vegetables, but I usually just roast it or steam it. This time around, I was craving soup and decided to try my hand at broccoli-and-cheese soup.

One of my friends recommended the broccoli-and-cheese soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. I trust that publication, so I searched for the recipe and found the recipe from the March/April 2011 edition on another blogger’s site.

The baking soda in this recipe might seem unusual, but it speeds up the release of the broccoli’s sulfurous compounds, according to America’s Test Kitchen. Adding the cheese a bit at a time keeps it from becoming a gloppy mass in the soup. The spinach brightens the green color of the soup, too.

Overall, this recipe only took about 40 minutes from start to finish. It was a vegetable soup, but with a bit of saltiness and a slightly cheesy flavor. It was like an adult version of broccoli with cheese sauce that my mom used to serve. It was delicious.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces; stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4-in thick slices
1 medium onion, rough chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Ground black pepper

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes.

Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

Add broth and 2 cups water; increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute (the spinach will give the soup a bright green color).

Add cheese a handful at a time, allowing each handful to melt before adding more.

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can also process in a food processor or a blender.

Return soup to Dutch oven, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Adjust consistency of soup with up to 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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.