Southern Sunday Biscuits

For years I have tried to find a biscuit that I would be proud to serve at our table. I have tried every reasonable biscuit recipe I could find, but they always turned out like something that would embarrass a Southern cook.  I mean, I feel like good biscuits should be in my genes.  Well, I’m delighted to announce that after countless trials, this recipe has won me over.

Adapted from The Homesick Texan

I love a simple recipe, only 6 ingredients… makes it easy to memorize.  First, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Keep the butter in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Then, quickly without handling it too much, cut into cubes.

Cut the butter into the the flour mixture.  My preferred method is with the whisk on my stand mixer, but you could use a pastry knife as well.  I prefer not to use my hands because I like the butter to stay cold.

Mix until you have nice pea-sized crumbs.

Then, stir in the buttermilk.  Before doing this, I switch the whisk for the dough hook on my mixer.  If mixing by hand, a good strong wooden spoon should do.  [I’m just lazy and use my mixer any chance I get.]  Mix until all the flour is incorporated into the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface.

Sprinkle with flour and roll so that the entire surface of the dough has a nice light sprinkling of dough and isn’t sticky to the touch.

Now here comes the fun part!  Whack the dough with your rolling pin a few times, turn the dough, whack a bit more, and fold the dough in half.  Then continue whacking, turning, and folding.  In all, you want to have folded it about 4 times or so when all is said and done.  The goal is to get some good dough, flour, and air layers going on in there (along with the now flattened pea sized bits of butter in the dough).  

Whacking the folded layers.

Roll out the dough to about 1/3 of an inch thick.

Flour a WIDE-Mouth mason jar, then cut out 8 biscuits from the dough.

Place in a warmed, well-seasoned 12 inch cast-iron skillet.

Bake until nice and golden brown.

Eat, with apple butter preferably.

Recipe – makes 8 biscuits

2 cups plain flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 Tablespoons (1 stick / 4 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled

3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°, stick your cast-iron skillet in the oven to heat up as well.  In one bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Cut chilled butter into cubes and cut into flour mixture until pea-sized crumbs form.  Slowly stir in the buttermilk until flour mix is completely incorporated into the dough.

Take the cast-iron out of the oven at this point (you don’t want it to get scorching hot).  Pour dough onto floured surface, knead quickly, then form into a ball.  Whack with rolling pin, fold in half, and repeat a few times.  Roll dough out to 1/3 inch thick and cut with a wide mouth mason jar into 8 biscuits.  Place in the cast-iron and cook in the oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown on the top.

Happy cooking, and delicious eating,

Rebecca

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Look what I found!

Took a wander through the garden/backyard this evening to check everything out; things have been popping up around here since we’ve been having unseasonably mild nice rainy weather. It certainly has felt like spring, and the plants must think so too.  Look what I found popping up next to our fence.

It’s a hollyhock! I planted them from seed last summer, but it was so hot and dry here none of them came up or did much of anything.  And then I found this guy, one little leaf, right next to a pretty healthy looking hollyhock plant.  What promise a seed may hold!  Although I won’t count my hollyhocks before they bloom, who knows when crazy cold winter air might swoop down here and freeze it, and everything else that thinks it’s spring, to a crisp.

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Monday Menu

(one of our winter staple dishes – carrot salad)

This weeks begins my weekly Monday Menu posts where I post our menu for the week with some explanation why we chose each meal, where we got the recipes, etc.  I explained why we love meal planning so much here, and I gave you an overview of our regular routines the are incorporated into our weekly meal plans here.

Sunday

  • breakfast – Fried egg, bacon [Iain’s homemade from our very own pig!], and sourdough toast
  • lunch – smoothie
  • dinner – roast chicken, green peas, roasted carrots

Monday

  • breakfast – homemade blueberry blue cornmeal muffins [with blueberries picked in Toccoa with my momma on a hot summer morning, the blue cornmeal with the blueberries makes for a fun and colorful wholesome breakfast] and half a grapefruit [yay for citrus season!]
  • lunch – Green lentil and curried browned butter soup with crusty sourdough bread [from 101 Cookbooks, also in the cookbook Super Natural Everyday]
  • dinner – garden salad tossed with leftover roasted chicken from Sunday’s dinner, sliced pear [just had it sitting in the fruit bowl, most any fresh or dried fruit would do], toasted walnuts, feta, and homemade vinaigrette

Tuesday

  • breakfast – blueberry blue corn meal muffins again, with more citrus fruit
  • lunch – Green lentil and curried brown butter soup again
  • dinner – white beans and cabbage [the cabbage is from the farm where we get our raw milk, Iain picked it up on Friday when he made the milk run; the recipe is from the cookbook Super Natural Everyday]

Wednesday [we’re tired, halfway through the week at this point – leftovers are our friend!]

  • breakfast – muffins again, citrus fruit
  • lunch – lentil soup again [at this point I am almost tired of it, good thing it’s finished today!]
  • dinner – white beans and cabbage

Thursday

  • breakfast – cranberry-orange-almond homemade granola [with a few tiny dark chocolate covered cocoa nibs, shh, don’t tell my mom I’m eating chocolate at breakfast!]
  • lunch – garden salad [a remix from Monday night, so a little roast chicken, some sort of toasted nut, some sort of cheese, some dried or fresh fruit, something pickle-y, dressing]
  • dinner – sausage ball carbonara [homemade sausage from our own pig, yum!; recipe from Jamie’s Italy, an incredibly simple and quick, yet delicious dish, it’s seriously so quick, one of my faves]
Friday
  • breakfast – granola again
  • lunch – leftover Sausage ball carbonara from the night before
  • dinner – fennel risotto [another recipe from Jamie’s Italy, it’s a great cookbook!]
Saturday
  • breakfast – homemade waffles in our awesome on the stove waffle iron [it’s small, easy to clean, easy to store]
  • lunch – catch up; not as in the condiment, but as in usually at this point in the week we have leftovers to eat, or have eaten with friends at some point during the week and are a meal behind on our plan]
  • dinner – borlotti bean mole with roasted winter squash [we’re just now realizing that we haven’t really begun eating on our big winter squash crop from the garden that we’ve got in our ‘cellar’; recipe from 101 Cookbooks]

If you’re a blogger and are going to try out weekly menus, post ‘um with us and link up in the comments!  If you’re interested in any recipes or help with weekly meal planning, you can let me know that in the comments too!

Happy planning and delicious eating,

Rebecca

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Introducing Monday Menus

(Iain’s homemade bacon hanging in front of our spice racks)

Every Monday I am going to post our menu for the week with some explanation why we chose each meal, where we got the recipes, etc.  I’m going to give you a little overview of our regular routines the are incorporated into our weekly meal plans.

BREAKFASTS – Often I’ll make biscuits or muffins for breakfast Sunday morning and I’ll make enough to last a few mornings into the week.  Generally, Iain will have made a batch of homemade granola in the cupboard, and he’ll make more whenever we run out.  I try and always have homemade yogurt in the fridge for granola at breakfast, and for smoothies.  If we ever find ourselves without muffins, biscuits, or granola, we almost always have toast and homemade jam or peanut butter and honey, or fresh eggs (from our henny hen hens).  We also have homemade sausage and bacon in the freezer always (from our own piggy pig pig).

LUNCHES – We often make some sort of soup or salad on Sunday for lunches for the week.  These are usually easy to make, healthy, and rarely include meat.  There are so many different types of cold salad out there, something like pasta salad, chicken salad, lentil salad, quinoa salad, coucous salad… the possibilities are endless and therefore lunches never get boring.

SMOOTHIES – We do smoothies a lot, as they’re a really healthy, nutritious, and delicious breakfast or snack.  We have them a lot on Sundays, when have a relatively late big breakfast and just have a smoothie sometime in the afternoon.  We make our smoothies almost always with the same basic recipe: frozen fruit we’ve frozen when it’s in season (peaches, blueberries, strawberries) and fairtrade bananas bought from The Daily Grocery – since we’re just going to freeze them we buy the ones that are about to go off, they’re cheaper! – homemade french vanilla greek yogurt (I’ll tell you more about that soon), a splash of OJ, and a drizzle of local honey

PANTRY – A well stocked pantry is how we survive from week to week (We’ll talk about what we keep in our pantry soon).  The pantry is so important and will make or break your weekly meals.

BREAD – When I’m too lazy to bake myself, we buy bread from the Granary in Watkinsville… it’s  AWESOME bread for reals y’all, I am so grateful to have such good bread available locally.

VINAIGRETTE – I know it sounds weird, but we always have homemade vinaigrette lying around, and we use it all the time.  It’s so versatile and quick and easy to make.  I shake the following up in a mason jar: extra-virgin olive oil, whatever vinegar I have lying around – I usually make my own herbed vinegars – a quick drizzle of honey, sometimes some homemade mustard goes into the mix, a splash of water, and some sea salt and cracked black pepper.  It goes on everything from sandwiches, green salads, pasta salads, braised greens, bread and cheese, etc.  It’s so nice to always have around, and homemade vinaigrette really elevates otherwise ordinary and plain dishes to delicious gourmet meals.

Do you have a weekly routine or some repeating players in your weekly meals?

Rebecca

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Weekly Meal Planning

Iain and I have a good thing going with our meal planning these days and I’d like to start sharing our weekly menus with you each Monday.  I’d like to introduce the thought processes and general formula we follow when making our menus before sharing our menus with you.  Meal planning is an excellent tool for those seeking to eat more sustainable, locally, economically, and seasonally.  Typically, sometime over the weekend we plan the meals out for each week, checking out the pantry, “cellar”, freezer, and garden first to see what is available, and then sitting down with cookbooks and planning the weeks meals.  Then we do grocery shopping for anything we don’t already have.

IT TAKES PLANNING – Meal planning prevents that ‘oh no, I’m hungry and don’t have anything in the house to eat’ problem.  It keeps us on track eating fresh, local, seasonal, and homemade food.  Without meal planning we find it way too easy to find ourselves tired and hungry and suddenly fast food, take-out, or going to a restaurant has way more appeal than it normally would.  Going out for food is never as fresh, rarely is it local or ethical, therefore it’s often not seasonal, and it’s usually not nearly as healthy and good for you as a home cooked meal.  And, it’s dang expensive too!  Iain and I feel that meals out should be a special, deliberate treat, not a rushed decision made at the last minute.

MEAT – As far as meat goes, in the winter we eat out of our freezer.  We never buy meat from the grocery store anymore (and we’re saving tons of money by doing that).  We have most of half of a pig in the freezer from our pig we slaughtered in the beginning of December.  We froze some chickens from the farm Iain works on so we’d have chicken over the winter.  We bought an eighth of a cow back in the late summer for our beef supply.  Occasionally we’ll have duck from the farm, lamb if we can find a whole one from a local farm we’ll keep in the freezer, and sometimes other things too.

SUNDAYS – Sunday nights are becoming a bit of a ritual for us: it’s always a roast of some sort – roast chicken, beef, pork, lamb, duck, venison, maybe rabbit in the near future.   We serve it with some sort of seasonal veg, so these days it’s things like sweet potatoes, winter squash, fennel, kale, potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, leeks, cabbage etc.  Generally, when we’re cooking our fresh seasonal veg we like to keep it quick and easy, often roasting the veg in the oven alongside the meat, sometimes even in the same pan (which means fewer dirty dishes, yay!).  Greens we’ll either blanch and serve with a vinaigrette dressing – an idea we read in Jamie’s Italy – or we’ll saute them on the stove.  Usually we’ll have leftovers from this meal, particularly meat, which we try to incorporate into other meals in our week.

We also try to do most of our cooking on Sundays, so that during the busy week, composing healthy, local, and fresh meals is an easy, relaxing activity instead of a stressful, harried task.

LEFTOVERS – Whatever aversion to them you might have, let me spread the good news: leftovers are your friend!  Cook once eat twice (or thrice… or more!).  They can have a rerun on your plate, or you can remix them into another dish, either way, leftovers are awesome and should not be ignored.  Just think of them as already prepared ingredients.  Heck, people pay loads of money for pre-cooked roasted chicken pieces in the deli section, and they’re basically just leftovers from a roasted chicken.

Finally, we plan new recipes or more complex meals for days when we have plenty of time for them. We enjoy cooking, and we both feel like cooking should be a joy, so we plan fun and challenging cooking almost as a leisure sport. (I only wish I enjoyed washing the dishes afterward as a leisure sport)

Do you already do meal planning?  If not, I would encourage you to try it out.

-Rebecca

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Our New Years Goals


(PARKing day Athens, GA 2010)

As a way to encourage myself in my goals, and maybe encourage you in yours, I am going to post some of the goals Iain and I wrote in our little notebook here, on the blog.

1-Blog regularly: I’m off to a good start, and I’m setting myself up with a bit of a routine with it, with weekly series and such.

2-Open (and stock) etsy store: Picking up steam with this, hopefully I’ll have it up and running before too long with lovely handmade crafts.

3-Learn how to sew: I’ve already gotten started with this too, my ultimate goal is to sew a quilt by the end of the year.

4-Have an awesome garden: there are LOTS of steps to achieving this, and I’m sure I’ll be posting along the way.  An awesome (and large) garden takes a whole lot of work, especially when starting from almost scratch (we had a bit of a garden last year), so this is going to be a BIG project.

5-Build a shed: Iain and I both want to get better at DIY and carpentry skills, and we desperately need a shed (our WHOLE house has only TWO closets! and we don’t have a basement).   Hopefully with help we’ll build one with our own hands.

6-Keep ducks: We’ve had a couple ducks at various points, but never at this house, and never for long.  We’d like to get some ducks for laying eggs and for pest control in our garden.

Phew, I think that’s enough to keep us busy for the next few months.  I’ll keep you updated on how these things are going along the way

If you’re committing to some goals, share them here if you’d like, or like up on a blog.  Lets check in periodically and see where we’re all at with our goals.

Rebecca

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Choosing Worthy Goals

(stretching mozzarella cheese)

I received a comment on the last post that I felt was a really good question and I wanted to address it here in a post.  I was asked “How do we decide which goals are worthy of our time?”

Choosing goals depends on a myriad of things, where you are in life, what you enjoy, where you live, what you’re missing in life, etc. Singling out the right goals is a key component of actually achieving them.  There are gazillions of things out there that are valuable, productive, and worthy things to do with your time (just as there are gazillions of things out there that are wasteful and counter productive).  Doing a bunch of things half as well as you could (or should) surely isn’t as fulfilling as focusing on a few things and doing them well.

Sometimes, when picking just one or two, I find myself fixating on the multitude of worthy things I am turning down instead of using that mental energy on the goals I have set for myself.  That just makes me feel defeated before I even begin, so I have to check myself and make sure I don’t fall into that.

For Iain and I, the goals we truly succeed at are ones we also have the passion and interest to follow through with.

When thinking about new goals, there are questions I sometimes ask myself:

Would I do this for fun even if it wasn’t necessarily a goal or a resolution?

When I’ve had a busy week will this be a chore or a joy?

Is it going to enrich my life?

Is it something that is going to be something I am proud of myself about? Sometimes things that are worth doing and goals that are worth achieving are a lot of work, not always a joy, and sometimes feel like a chore, but in the end is it worth it?

Does this stretch me and challenge me in a  good way?  Or will it just end up being stressful?

Is this attainable, within reason?

I have to be reminded that setting myself up for failure is not productive.  Not only do I not achieve a goal I’ve put energy and effort into, but failure feels yucky and is discouraging.  It sucks the joy out of challenging yourself and I will often be put off goal setting for the future.

If you’re anything like me, there are tons of good things that appeal to you, but you can’t reasonably do all of them.  There will be goals to get started on now and some that should wait.  In order to pick the goals for now and the goals for later, I gauge whether or not I’m on fire and excited about them.  For instance, I’ve been wanting to bake most of our own bread for a while now, and I’ve had phases when I’ve baked bread somewhat regularly.  However, I’m not really fired up about it lately, it seems like a chore and makes me feel incompetent every time I try and bake a good loaf.  Even though it’s something I want to be able to do, I’m choosing not to set it as a goal right now.  I know later the time will come when I’m ready to try again.  However, I’m all fired up about sewing right now after a small success with making our Christmas stockings.

So, do you have some goals in mind?  Need to think about them a little, maybe ask yourself a few questions?

After Iain and I spend the weekend discussing our goals and making sure we pick good ones, I’ll share ours with you on Monday.

-Rebecca

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