Sausage and Sage Biscuits

Sausage and Sage BiscuitsChicken and a Biscuit
Next week is Spring Break. And, while we don’t have an elaborate vacation scheduled, we are planning on a few small trips here and there to get us away from the daily grind. There are a few open days with nothing planned except to sit around and drool. I am hoping there will be at least one rain-free day to allow for a little laying in the hammock laziness. (Of course, I am writing this as it is absolutely pouring outside. I mean seriously, will it never end?)

Hammock laziness is fantastic. But, it can lead you to daydreaming, which in turn can lead you on some pretty random mind journeys. Case in point, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night in search of a few minutes of mind-numbing escape, I saw a video that a friend of mine shared showing a chicken running in her pasture while wearing a pair of blue pants. I almost wet myself. I have been laughing about it for days. It’s cracking me up as I write this now. I don’t know why I find the video so funny. But, it gets me every time. My kids think I am certifiable. They’re probably right!

And now for the random mental journey…
While watching the video, I was reminded of when we first moved into our house. There was a lot of work we had to do including building a fence around the property plus a long list of repairs that needed completion before we could even move in. Strangely, we decided to build the chicken coop first—probably because we were so excited to have the room to have chickens.

That memory lead to another of my husband and a friend building the fence around our property. I can’t even tell you how many feet of fence they built in that single weekend. Our house sits on a little shy of an acre-and-a-quarter and the fence goes around three sides of it. So, feel free to do the math. It’s a lot of fence. And, I have never seen two men eat as much as they ate that weekend (and these are dudes that can put it away on a regular basis). I now have a healthy understanding of what it is like to feed people on a farm or working cattle ranch. Which reminded me of the biscuits and gravy I made for them on the second morning to make sure they had the energy needed to keep building.

See? All of this from a chicken wearing pants…

That’s how I found myself thinking about biscuits and gravy. Since we’re on break next week, I will actually be able to cook something time-consuming for breakfast instead of the rushed bowl of cereal or piece of toast. There will be no calorie-burning fence building. So, I had to find something gravy-less at the very least.

I was happy to come across this recipe for Sausage and Sage Biscuits. I may be delusional, but it seems a tad better for you than traditional biscuits and gravy. And, if not? It’s vacation. Calories shouldn’t count on vacation. So, I am going to eat my biscuits in my hammock while pondering the benefits of pants on chickens…

Sausage and Sage Biscuits
Adapted from New York Times Cooking recipe by Genevieve Ko
Yields approximately 20 biscuits Read more…

Irish Porter Cake

Irish Porter CakePorter-able Breakfast
I’ve sorta been into cakes lately. I made the chocolate Bundt cake from last week for a friend that was in town and joined us for dinner on Saturday. Surprisingly, there were leftovers which meant I had a piece with coffee for breakfast the next morning.(I know, my devotion to health knows no bounds.) It was glorious. So it should come as no surprise that while searching for something a wee bit Irish for this week, I found myself thumbing through Irish cake recipes.

When you think of Irish sweets, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is scones or shortbread. Well, at least that’s what I think of.(I blame it on the Irish butter. Can’t get enough of it.) While making some scones this Sunday morning for St. Patrick’s Day would be fantastic idea, (I mean do you really need it to be a special occasion for scones to be a good idea? Or shortbread for that matter?) I will be on the road before the sun is up to attend yet another sporting event which means breakfast needs to be portable. So cake for breakfast it is! Again. Any excuse, right?

This Porter cake is an Irish classic and goes well with any meal of the day.

Irish Porter Cake
Yields 10 to 12 servings  Read more…

Fudgy Bundt Cake

Fudgy Bundt CakeCoffee Cooking
I wasn’t a big coffee lover until I went away to college. Even then I only started drinking it because “everyone was doing it”. See, I went to college in the Pacific Northwest during the early days of micro-breweries and the use of words like Venti and Grande. It was a good time to be in Oregon.

It took a while but eventually, it got to the point where I had to have a cup in the morning to even have a chance at functioning. And yes, I am well aware of the signs of caffeine addiction.

The actual flavor of coffee has always appealed to me even before I became one of the millions who must have their daily infusion of dark-roasted nirvana so that they can play well with others. From a young age, anything coffee, mocha or cappuccino flavored drew me in like the siren’s song. Nine times out of ten, if I was ordering any sort of ice cream or frozen yogurt I would go for the coffee or espresso flavored one. If it had fudge and some nuts swirled into it, so much the better. Same goes for cakes and cupcakes.

When I started to bake, I was pleasantly surprised that coffee was a common ingredient in any sort of chocolate cake, cupcake, or cookie. Turns out, coffee enhances the flavor of the chocolate in many desserts without making the result actually taste of coffee. Using coffee gives the chocolate a dark. fudgy richness.

The recipe below is a perfect example. It is a simple chocolate cake recipe adapted from Samin Nosrat’s book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. It is one of my favorites because of its density of flavor and moist lushness. It’s a great ending to a nice meal or even better as cupcakes for a fun event.

Because it’s pretty rich, this cake is best served topped with fresh whipped cream and some sliced strawberries or a light dusting of powdered sugar. The more decadent among us might go for some cream cheese frosting.

Fudgy Bundt Cake
Adapted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat
Yields two 8-inch cakes or one bundt cake  Read more…

Home Made Croissants

Home Made CroissantsCroissant Crazy
Over the years, my sister and I have taken a lot of cooking classes. So many, in fact, that there isn’t a whole lot out there that we haven’t taken. By no means have we mastered the art of cooking. Far from it! But, you do reach a point that, unless it is something very specific, you can pick up any recipe and produce a better than average result. There was one thing that both of us were fairly intent on learning—and that is how to make croissants. Or, to be more specific, the laminated dough used to make croissants and other flaky goodness.

I’ve always been a fan of a really good croissant. I mean what’s not to love? You just can’t go wrong with flakey buttery pastry, with or without filling, fresh from the oven. Am I right?

This particular drive to learn the art of croissant was born out of an obsession with the orange morning buns that are produced by our favorite bakery in Tahoe City, CA. I can’t even with these morning buns. No trip to the lake is complete without these for breakfast at least once but they’re up there and we’re down here. We had to figure out a way to recreate them but to do that we needed to learn the basics.

This was how we found ourselves spending a lovely Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago learning to make croissants. It was great. It was challenging. And I have found that having an industrial grade sheeter would make the folding process so much easier but, alas, that is not an option.

To be frank, croissants are not a thing you make on a whim. They are a project that requires hours. It is something you do as much for the process as for the end result. It is a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday when you have absolutely nothing going on.

This weekend for me is one of those rare weekends where we will not be running around shuttling kids here and there and my plan is to make a batch of croissants just to make sure I can do it without the instructor there. Should be interesting…

For those adventurous spirits out there below is a great recipe for those who are willing to give it a shot. For the rest, there is definitely something to be said for letting someone else do the work and grabbing a dozen or so from your favorite bakery.

Home Made Croissants
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 2 dozen Read more…

Baked Brie

Baked BrieHot Stuff
If a party is happening at my place you can bet there are going to be snacks. I say snacks because the phrase hors d’oeuvres can be a bit high brow for what the function actually is. You do not have hors-d’oeuvres at a football party. You have snacks. Munchies. Grubs…You get the idea.

For the rare party that I throw at my place, I almost always have a cheese plate with various cheeses and fresh fruits. It’s easy and elegant and you can set it out and let people serve themselves. Same goes for a dip platter with veggies—or depending on the dip, some interesting crackers. These are easy go-to pre-dinner nibbles that allow you to interact with your guests but they’re not hot, and for parties on a cold night, I like to have at least something that is warm.

The difficult thing about serving hot hors-d’oeuvres is that it requires you to be in the kitchen and not mingling. Instead, you are in a constant stage of putting stuff in the oven or taking it out. One of my favorites is my Hot Cheesy Things which are a family favorite as well as a definite crowd pleaser. But again, there’s that oven thing.

This year I think I have found a solution to the dilemma. Baked Brie.

Obviously, this is not a new concept but you can modernize it a bit by choosing a different type of jam than the traditional raspberry or another sweet version. I’m making mine with a Maple Bacon Onion jam that we sell here at the store but it would also be good with a Balsamic Onion Jam or even a Fig Jam. Of course, anything spicy would work well too—like a little Thai Sweet Chili sauce…Yum!

Because I am using the onion jam I am going to sprinkle a little fresh thyme for a little more flavor.

Baked Brie
Yields about 16 servings Read more…