Biscuits on a Monday Night/Biscuits on a Tuesday Morning

It’s definitely chilly this morning in Montreal. When I woke up before 8 it was 27 degrees, and since then it’s warmed up to… 28. I have some errands and odds and ends to get done today, and this is the second morning I’ve been waiting for my building maintenance to come at 8 and they haven’t. All of this, of course, means it is the perfect morning to stay snuggled up drinking coffee and make a yummy breakfast.

Last night I somehow convinced myself that I had to have biscuits, which is an odd craving for me, but you can’t explain cravings. I looked up biscuit recipes and found this recipe here: http://www.marthastewart.com/316713/flaky-buttery-biscuits Thank you Martha! It didn’t seem overly complicated, and I tried to follow the recipe as close as possible. I may have added more butter, but only because I’m still not very good at reading Canadian butter. It comes in 1 pound blocks all together, as opposed to in the States where it is packaged in individually wrapped quarters. Yes, there are markings on the side of the Canadian butter as well, but in this case, it didn’t include teaspoons or tablespoons, so I just had to take my best shot. I went with all white flour, mostly because I was tired and forgot to add some whole wheat. The batter took about a cup to a cup and a quarter of milk (I went with the softer biscuit version of the recipe because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to roll and cut dough). I was definitely skeptical, but Martha came through again. I ended up eating three biscuits last night because they were so good, and they went perfectly with my leftover chicken. You can see my roast chicken recipe here: https://sophisticatedjerseygirl.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/weekend-cooking/

Fast forward to this morning, and I was able to incorporate my biscuits into a yummy breakfast. Sunny side up egg with a biscuit heated in my frying pan, PLUS remember when I made lard? If not, you can read about it here: https://sophisticatedjerseygirl.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/canadian-thanksgiving-aka-my-time-as-butcher-aka-making-lard-from-scratch/ After making the lard, I was left with these delicious little pieces of hard fat. It sounds gross, but they are delicious!! Since I made them, I’ve been finding ways to sneak them into all sorts of dishes, like meatballs. Ok, mainly meatballs. But I’ve also been heating them up and frying them alongside eggs, which is exactly what I did today. On days when it’s ghastly chilly out, it’s the little things that make you happy. A nice cup of coffee, a gooey sunnyside up egg, biscuits and crunchy lard bits. I’m a happy girl. What do you think? What are the things that make your mornings just a little bit better?

UPDATE: My link to Martha’s biscuits doesn’t seem to work all the time. Copy and pasting the link seems to work, but something isn’t letting me click directly from my blog to her site. To save you guys the work, here is the recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup milk (For softer, cakier biscuits, add more milk and spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet. Firmer biscuits require less milk and should be rolled out and cut.)
    1. Step 1

      Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Butter or line a baking sheet.

    2. Step 2

      In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a fork or 2 table knives, combine the butter and flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Slowly add the milk, stirring with a fork, to the desired consistency.

    3. Step 3

      For softer biscuits, drop 2 tablespoons of the dough onto the lined baking sheet. For firmer biscuits, turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and gently knead just to bring the dough together. Carefully roll out the dough about 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or sturdy glass, cut about 12 biscuits, rerolling any scraps. Place on the lined baking sheet. (The biscuits can be frozen at this point. Freeze on the baking sheet, then remove to a resealable container or plastic bag for easier storage.) Bake the biscuits for 13 to 15 minutes (add 3 to 4 additional minutes for frozen ones), until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve warm.

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Weekend Cooking

This weekend was not very productive, but fairly relaxing, and a lot of fun. I honestly cannot remember what I did for most of Saturday, but I did start a chocolate peanut butter bar recipe that I saw on TV. The original recipe can be found here: http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Bars-Allison-Fishman-Task. I changed up the recipe a little; I used two eggs instead of one egg and an egg white, just because I didn’t want to store an egg white and/or throw it out. I didn’t have canola oil so I used olive oil, which worked out fine – the butter flavor cancelled out the olive oil flavor. I used chunky peanut butter instead of creamy, only because I didn’t have creamy, and really, I like chunky better. I think the texture is just better and more appealing. I didn’t measure my flour, but used about 3/4 cup, and in that included probably a 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour mixed in with the all-purpose white. I try and sneak in a little whole wheat flour in whatever I make just to add some nutrients. I also don’t have cooking spray, so I simply greased my pan with butter. The peanut butter bar part seemed to bake just fine. At this point, I was getting ready to go out for the night, and didn’t want to take the time to measure and melt chocolate in a double boiler, so I threw handfuls of chocolate chips on top of the still-warm peanut butter bar, and put it all back in the still warm oven, thinking I could beat the system and it would melt by the time I got home. In short, it didn’t. I tried a few more times to melt it in a low oven, at 200 or 250 degrees Fahrenheit, but finally had to use a spatula to spread the chocolate. I then put everything in the fridge to set up. Is it yummy? Yes. Am I absolutely addicted and can’t stop eating it? No, which could be a good thing. Also, it could be because I didn’t measure my flour or kept the peanut butter crust in the oven for so long, but the bars came out quite crispy, and not as chewy as I had hoped. I’ll have to try it another time and see how it comes out. Have you tried this recipe yet? How did it turn out for you?

Sunday morning I made an egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel.  So good!  A moist sunny-side-up egg with cheddar cheese on a toasted sesame bagel.  An easy and yummy breakfast!!  Sunday I finally made it outside around 5pm. I went to the store for butter, and came back with so much more. Whole chicken was on sale and it sounded so good. I rinsed it under running water, quickly checked to make sure there was nothing inside of it, patted it dry with a paper towel, and arranged it in my French oven with sprigs of rosemary, some inside the body cavity and some around the top. I added baby carrots and cut up zucchini, rubbed the chicken with olive oil and sea salt, and put it in the oven uncovered at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes before turning it down to 375. Cooking this chicken seemed to take forever. I let it cook for an hour after the first 15 minutes and checked it every 15 minutes thereafter but it would not come up to temperature with the thermometer. This wasn’t a huge chicken; only 2.5 pounds, but it took 1:45 total to cook. It did come out yummy in the end, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. A success by all accounts!  The pictures that follow are the peanut butter batter, the finished peanut butter bars, my yummy bagel sandwich, and the cooked chicken (minus a thigh because I’d already eaten part of it when I remembered I wanted to take a picture).  Enjoy!

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Starbucks, Leftovers, and It’s Getting Chilly Out!

I must have managed to block out just how chilly Montreal gets so quickly! I had intended to get up early and go for a run, but it is 34 degrees F right now, and I think I will stay snuggled up in my apartment with a nice cup of coffee just a little bit longer.

It’s been a good week, which has absolutely flown by. The days are slowly but surely getting shorter, it is not so slowly getting colder, and the semester is flying by! This was a busier week for me in terms of school, and most nights I did cook up some reheated form of all of the farmer’s market veggies that I still seemed to have.

Yesterday, I found a new favorite at my local Starbucks. I don’t go to Starbucks that often when I’m home in NJ, but somehow whenever I’m out of the country I crave it. I don’t know if it just feels a little more like home or what, but at some point during the semester, Starbucks becomes the place to be. Yesterday I stopped by before class and discovered what is bound to be a new favorite – the Early Grey Tea Latte. I wasn’t feeling like coffee, and I don’t love a Chai latte as much as I should. I love black tea, and if you do too, you might love the Earl Grey Latte. For me, it was just sweet enough but didn’t taste as artificial as a Chai latte can, and there was the right amount of milky foam on top.

Last night, after I realized that the heat in my building was on, I just needed to turn up the thermostat, I headed up some rice with veggies and pork that I’d made the night before. I love my microwave as much as you do, and it is useful for reheating food quickly, or melting butter for recipes, but it just doesn’t add any flavor to the food. I added some olive oil to my nonstick pan, let it heat up, and added the meat and rice with veggies. I cut some rosemary from my rosemary tree (partly because I love rosemary, and partly because I think the plant is dying and I want to use it before it does), and put the rosemary on top. I did my best not to overcook anything, and it came out delicious. Leftovers don’t have to be boring; they can be fun if you change things up just a little bit. Just by adding rosemary and not using my microwave to reheat, I had a yummy meal, and didn’t have to feel guilty about throwing out any food or getting take-out.

What do you think? What are your favorite ways to make leftovers interesting?

Also, I’m putting up a picture of my rosemary plant… if anyone has any ideas as to what might be wrong or how to fix it, please feel free to tell me!!

Happy Friday everyone!

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Fall Mountain Views

The past few days I have been cooking up all of my veggies before they had a chance to go bad, which I realized was bound to happen soon. My fridge is filled with tomato sauce and roasted zucchini, mashed potatoes, and eggplant pizzas. I made another apple pie last night just to use up more apples. Nothing worth blogging about except, when roasting slices of eggplant topped with mozzarella cheese on a cookie sheet, the lesson is to grease the cookie sheet first. I don’t know what I was thinking. The eggplant surprisingly didn’t stick, but of course the cheese did! I’ll be scraping cheese off for a while.

This autumn has been surprisingly mild, and the city has been especially beautiful. Mornings around here have been so dreary lately, it’s been a struggle to drag myself out of bed. When I wake up, the cool air is coming in through the window I leave cracked open, and I can barely see the mountain through all the fog. All I want to do is snuggle under the covers as long as I can! By the afternoon though, the fog usually clears and the sun shines through; the perfect fall weather. Yesterday I got to take a nice afternoon walk up Mount Royal with a friend, and took some pictures so everyone might enjoy the scenic views that I got to see! What do you think? What are your favorite things to do on a gorgeous fall day?

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Canadian Thanksgiving aka My Time as Butcher aka Making Lard from Scratch

I hope everyone is doing well! It’s been quite a while since I sat down and wrote something, partly because I’ve been crazy busy and partly because nothing blog-worthy has happened lately, except maybe the time I carried the world’s largest rosemary plant across town last week and a surprising number of people thought it was socially acceptable to stop me and ask what I was carrying, how much it was, and where I got it. The moral of that story is never buy so much produce at the market that it won’t fit on a Bixi bike!!

Anyway, yesterday was my second Canadian Thanksgiving. It has become tradition to get together with friends and eat and drink because, why not? I was excited about making rosemary potatoes and apple pie. Nothing new, fairly easy recipes. When I was at Marche Jean Talon over the weekend, I stopped at a specialty pork butcher to see if I could pick up some lard for my pie crust and avoid a trip to the supermarket. What follows is the story of what happens when you try and buy lard in a city where you do not necessarily speak the language perfectly, and the merchants don’t quite no English. This is not the first time this has happened to me; most notably, November 2010, the Thanksgiving I spent with one of my favorite people in Milan, we spent at least half an hour running around the city from store to store looking for “lardo”. That was also the Thanksgiving we rolled out the pie crust with a wine bottle, and I got to sit in on my first Italian dinner party, so overall it wasn’t bad at all. The point still stands however, it might serve me well to learn the word for lard wherever I’m purchasing it.

I thought I bought lard this weekend. The people at the store said it was lard, the package said, “lard blanc,” and even if I wasn’t entirely sure, the guy and woman at the store agreed it was the “just fat” part of the pig. I’d never bought lard with the skin attached before, but figured I would give it a try, since I’d heard you could buy lard from the butcher, and maybe this was it in its natural form. Thanksgiving day, a little voice told me to start cooking earlier that I normally would. Around noon, I started mincing garlic for my potatoes, a good 7 hours before I had to be at dinner, potatoes and pie in hand. The potatoes went off without a hitch, save the fact that my kitchen is so small I had to open the oven door and leave them on the rack for them to cool because I had nowhere else to put the cookie sheet of hot potatoes.

Then came pie time. This was when I got to play butcher. Using a sharp paring knife, I separated the skin from the fat before slicing and cubing the fat into more manageable chunks to incorporate into the dough. Something just didn’t feel right though; whereas lard is soft and pliable, this fat was not. I googled “making lard from scratch”, and sure enough, what I had was what I needed to make lard, but was in fact, not lard yet. I used these blogs to help me: http://thehealthyfoodie.com/2013/08/24/how-to-render-your-own-lard/ and http://harmonioushomestead.com/2013/02/24/loving-lard/ and set about rendering my lard with a stockpot, a Pyrex measuring cup, and a pasta colander. After some time, it worked. I didn’t add any water to my fat as the one blog suggested, mostly because I didn’t realize that was part of the directions until after I had started rendering fat. My fat also didn’t seem to need anything extra, so I don’t know that I would add water the next time I make it either. Which means of course, that there will be a next time. I don’t think I can buy pre-made lard from the store ever again. I found myself eating raw pie dough. Whereas it normally has no flavor on its own before it is part of the pie, this crust was light and buttery and so flavorful!! I had to use all of my lard in the pie crusts, but what I do have leftover are the crunchy bits of hard fat that rendered the lard. I can’t wait to try them, or find ways to sneak them into other dishes!! Lard-making was such a success, I highly recommend it. Dinner with friends was a lot of fun, and the best part is I have a few pounds of apples left and just might have to make another pie!

What do you think? Have you ever tried to make lard? What did you find and do you have any tips for me? Let me know!

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