You Gonna Eat All That?

A fork in one hand, a pen in the other.

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

SNOW! Get to the store for milk and bread!

The weatherman uttered that nasty four letter word that starts with "S" today. SNOW and not just a little flurry, a full blown snow storm is heading our way. In fact the National Weather Service issued a Heavy Snow Warning ..... eeek!

And why is it just our luck that we actually do need milk and bread?! Did the weather gods peer into our cupboards last night and think "They're almost out of milk and need bread.......Hmmm time for a storm......." So poor Biscuit Boy is trudging off to the store to fight the panicking masses who have no doubt filled their carts with provisions to last a month or more.

For those of you lucky enough to live warmer environs, let me describe the typical Southern "OH MY GOD, IT'S GONNA SNOW!" list. (do you detect a note of sarcasm in my writing?)
1. Rush to the grocery store, don't bother checking the fridge or cabinets to get your shopping list, there's no time, snow's headin' this way!

2. Go to the milk aisle, get at least 5 gallons of milk. What? They're already out of 2%! No matter just grab 5 gallons of whatever they have and hurry to the bread aisle.

3. The bread aisle may be as depleted as the milk aisle. Use the same guidelines as you did for the milk, just grab the first 5 loaves you can.

4. Snacks. You seriously don't think you're gonna survive on milk and bread while you're snowed in, you have to have chips, cookies, pretzels, etc.

5. Toilet paper. After all the milk and bread and snacks, what are you thinking? Find the largest double roll pack left, get two if you have more than 4 people in the house.

Finally stand in line at the check out for an hour, curse the idiots in front of you for panicking and getting so much stuff (not that your cart is overflowing) and get home before the first flake falls.

Now I wasn't raised to panic when it snows, in fact, we were pretty calm about it. I lived in NY when I was a kid and snow was just another part of winter. Life went on, schools stayed open and nobody panicked. NY was also much better prepared for snow than a lot of Southern states. From Kindergarten thru 10th grade, I only remember school closing twice in NY because of blizzards and snow measuring in feet.

Flash forward to my first winter in Tennessee. My family had just moved to Knoxville in early December when I was a teenager. One morning, mom comes into our room to let us know that they have cancelled school because of the snow. WHAT?! We ran to the window expecting to see a full blown blizzard with snow up to the windows. What a surprise when we looked out and could still see grass! What the %$#*, where was the snow? We didn't realize at the time that the entire state of TN had only 18 snow plows or that the terrain wasn't as flat as NY or that Tennesseans lost all their good sense when the first snow flake touched their windshields. Slowly over the next 15 or so years, the snow panic syndrome got hold of me much like a lot of southern-isms. Snow is now a time of multicultural tug-o-war for me. The NY part of me says not to panic, it's just a few inches of snow. The TN part of me immediately wants to hit the panic button. Geesh..... I'll be happy when Spring arrives.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Chive Blossoms

Couldn't decide whether to go out for dinner or just stay in. We opted to stay in and fixed a stir fry with chive blossoms, beef, garlic and rice cakes. Biscuit Boy did the cooking and I helped a bit with the prep work. It was scrumptious. Even Biscuit Pup gave it two paws up.

For those of you who don't know what chive blossoms are, think chives with a little bitty bud at the tip. You can usually find them at Asian grocery stores or some specialty markets. You use them much like you would chives or green onions. We usually chop them into 1-2 inch pieces and throw them in a stir fry or just saute them and serve them as a side dish. A very yummy side dish. The rice cakes are found in Asian groceries as well. They are little oval disks about 1" x 1/2" and are usually found fresh in vacuum sealed packages in the refrigerated case. They can be frozen once you get home so they last longer. Just cook them a little bit longer than you would fresh ones.

Biscuit Boy created tonight's meal by tossing some oil in the skillet with some garlic (sliced thin). He also put the rice cakes in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until they were just past al dente then drained them. Once the garlic had infused the oil, he added thinly sliced beef, turned up the heat and cooked it until done. He removed the beef from the skillet and added the chive blossoms with some soy sauce and cooked them for just a few minutes. Then he added the beef and the rice cakes and stir fried them all together until everything was coated with the good bits from the skillet. As a final touch he tossed in a teaspoon of sesame seeds and served. There was nothing left. Gone... all of it. *burp* And it was good.

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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Brussel Sprouts

Biscuit Boy and I have been together for almost 8 years now and not once was I able to convince him to eat brussel sprouts. His memory of them was boiled within an inch of their lives and served with vinegar, yuck! That's the way his mom made them when he was young. No wonder he shivered when ever I uttered their name. Of course my mom boiled them too which is pretty bland. But we can't blame our moms for that travesty of justice. The brussel sprout is actually quite a versatile little guy.

About 2 weeks ago I finally wore Biscuit Boy down and bought a bunch of brussel sprouts. We were in one of the three Korean grocery stores in the area that we like to shop in for fresh, inexpensive veggies. They looked soooooo good. I promised him that I would make them taste good. I'm not so sure he was convinced.

I didn't realize the pressure I put myself under until I got home. I had to make these taste better than he ever would have thought. Hmmm.......time to think of a new recipe. After looking through my trusty cookbooks and a few web recipes, I concocted my version of tasty brussel sprouts.

Sorry I didn't get a picture of them, we ate them before I remembered to get the camera. So I'll have to give you a written description. Close your eyes and picture this (Wait, you better read this before you close your eyes or you'll just be sitting here in the dark) I cut off the ends, sliced them in half and steamed them for about 5 minutes. While they were steaming, I sliced some garlic paper thin and sauteed them in a pan with some olive oil then tossed in the steamed brussel sprouts. After everything was mixed together, I turned the brussel sprouts so the cut side was face down in the pan and added a little soy sauce. I let they cook for a few minutes until the cuts sides caramelized. Then served them to Biscuit Boy.

He smelled them, tentatively pierced one with his fork and brought it to his mouth. Another quick sniff then *Chomp* it was gone and he smiled. SUCCESS! He not only ate all the sprouts I put on his plate, we actually fought over the ones left in the pan. Am I good or what? In fact he like them so much he actually bought some on his own this past weekend and cooked them for me last night. They were good.

To both our moms, no disrespect, but the days of boiled brussel sprouts are gone (thank goodness).

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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Recipes from my previous posts

I'm not sure why I didn't include these to begin with but will try to do better in the future. Here are the recipes I used for the yummies I posted earlier.

Black and White Cookies
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups Confectioners sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 ounce bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets, set aside.
In a large bowl combine the sugar and butter, mix until fluffy. Add the eggs, milk, and extracts. Mix until smooth.
In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add slowly to the egg mixture. Stir well to combine.
Using a large soup spoon, drop spoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cooking sheets. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Place on cooling racks to completely cool.
To make the frosting: Place the Confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Gradually add the boiling water a little bit at a time until the mixture is thick and spreadable. Remove half of the mixture and place in bowl over simmering water. When the mixture is warm, add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat. Brush the cookies with the white frosting on one half the chocolate on the other.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (from Baking Bits)
1 package dry active yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (about 105 degrees)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter
6-7 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup raisins
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. melted butter

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water and 1 Tbsp. of the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water, 2 Tbsp. sugar, salt, butter and 3 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in the raisins and enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat all over, then cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until double in size (30-60 minutes).
Mix together 1/4 sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into a 9X18" rectangle. Brush each with 1 Tbsp.. water then sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Roll dough from the short side and pinch seams shut (to keep the sugar mixture from leaking out). Place into prepared pans and brush the tops with the melted butter. Cover and let rise about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. When dough finishes rising, bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on baking rack to cool.

Mapo Tofu (modified from Land of Plenty cookbook)
1 pound firm tofu
4 green onions
1/2 canola oil
6 ounces ground beef or pork
2 1/2 Tbsp. Szechuan chili bean paste*
2 tsp. ground szechuan chiles (if you want to add more heat)
1 Cup chicken stock
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. soy sauce
4 Tbsp. corn starch mixed with 6 Tbsp, cold water
1/2 tsp. ground roasted szechuan peppercorns **

Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes and steep in very hot (lightly salted) water for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Slice the green onions at a steep angle into 'horse ear" slices. Set aside.
Heat your wok or large saute pan (I use a saute pan) over high heat and the ground beef or pork. Stir fry until brown.
Turn the heat to medium, add the chili bean paste and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add ground chiles (if using) and stir fry for another 20-30 seconds. Pour in the chicken stock and tofu. Mix it gently so you don't break up the tofu. Combine sugar and soy sauce, add to pan. Stir gently to combine. Let simmer about 5 minutes.
Add the green onions. Gently stir in. Add the cornstarch a little at a time until the sauce thickens and clings to the tofu.
Pour into a large bowl, sprinkle with the szechuan peppercorns and serve.

* Use a bean paste that lists long beans or fava beans as the first ingredient. If you like your food insanely hot, you can use a bean paste that lists chiles as the first ingredient, but don't say I didn't warn ya. Read my post on Mapo Tofu in case you need a reminder.

** Szechuan peppercorns are not as much hot as they are numbing and add a distinct flavor to the dish. If you don't have a good Chinese market in your area, search the internet for places that sell them online. To use them, you'll want to take the required amount and place in a dry skillet over medium high heat. Roll them around just until they become fragrant. Remove from the heat and place them in a mortar and grind them up.

Pan Fried Dumplings (modified from Land of Plenty cookbook)
Dumpling wrappers: 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 cup boiling water Filling: 1-inch piece of ginger
1 green onion, white part only
1/3 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tsp. rice wine (or sake)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
6-8 twists of black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil

Crush the ginger and green onion and soak in 1/4 cup cold water for about 5 minutes. Drain water into a cup and set aside. Discard ginger and green onion.
Place the pork in a bowl. Add the ginger scented water and mix well until it absorbs. Gradually add the chicken stock and mix well to help it absorb. The mixture will be very loose and moist. Add the rice wine, salt, sugar, pepper and sesame oil. Mix well.

Wrappers: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, making a well in the center. Add the boiling water and mix quickly with a pair of chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth dough, about 5 minutes.
Break the dough into two or three pieces. Roll each one into a log about one inch thick. Cut teaspoon size pieces and set them aside (keep them covered so they don't dry out). Repeat with remaining dough.
Take each piece and flatten it. Roll it out into a circle about 2 inches in diameter. Place a generous teaspoonful of the filling into the center of the wrapper. Fold it gently in half and, starting at one end, press and seal the two sides together, making about 6 pleats as you go along. Set aside in a lightly floured surface until all the dumplings are assembled.

To cook the dumplings: Heat a heavy skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Pour enough oil in the bottom to coat the surface. When the oil is hot, arrange as many dumplings as you can in the skillet, leaving about 1/2 inch between each one. Sprinkle a little water over the dumplings, cover and let them cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle them dumplings with a little oil, place the lid back on the skillet and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until the bottoms are nicely browned and crispy. To serve, remove them with a spatula and place on their sides on a plate. Serve with a little soy sauce for dipping.

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Our Dog is Insane... (or A dog named Biscuit Pup)

We own a very sweet little dog. Let's call her biscuit pup. We adopted her from the animal shelter a year and a half ago. Our best guess is she's a Papillon, Cavalier Kings Charles Spaniel mix (with maybe a little Corgi thrown in).

99% of the time, she's a sweet loving little dog. The other 1% she is insane. That 1% comes out everyday about noon when the mailman arrives. We think in her little doggie mind, she's protecting us from this evil person who shoves stuff through our front door every day. And to better protect us, she must destroy everything that comes in through the mail slot. I'm convinced that this behavior is only reinforced by the fact that the mailman walks up to our front door, Biscuit Pup barks, snarls and attacks the incoming mail and the mail man leaves. She interprets this as successfully chasing away this bad person, thus she's a "good dog".

We've had entire issues of Consumer Reports destroyed. Biscuit Boy was particularly upset when she destroyed the annual car issue. vroom.

She's also bitten through (and removed chunk's from) Southern Living, several of Biscuit Boy's radio magazines, Cooking Light, etc. She doesn't discriminate, it's all edible. Thankfully she's not completely destroyed bills, although we've sent a few back to the phone company with teeth marks in them.

We knew that we had to do something to stop this insanity. What we came up with was to remove the inside flap of the mail slot and replace it with a plastic trash can. We cut a hole in the side so the mail could fall into it and then screwed it into the back of the front door. Genius! It worked great.........for a while. One day I noticed teeth marks along the bottom edge of the trash can. seems our little angel was still trying to eat the mail but was thwarted by the trash can. No matter, the mail was safely in the can each and every day sans teeth marks and drool.

Then I saw it...........two holes along the top edge of the trash can. Fang marks. That little beast some how jumped up and bit the top of the trash can! Over the next few days we noticed a small tear and more teeth marks along the top edge of the can.

I was actually home one day when the mail arrived and witnessed the carnage with my own eyes. If only I had a video camera. It went something like this.......the mailman walks up to the front door. Biscuit Pup is going nutso at the front door, barking, growling scratching at the window. The mailman lifts the outside flap of the mail slot and pushes our mail into the can. Biscuit Pup leaps up, clamps her jaws on the top edge of the can and is hanging on it, shaking it for all it's worth.

Needless to say, she eventually tore this can off the door (did I mention it was held in place with four screws). So now we're back to square one.

Some days the mailman will just leave our mail in between the storm door and the front door. Which I'm sure pisses off the dog. But he will occasionally still put mail through the door. Yesterday I came home to find a sample of Tide I had requested was here. Unfortunately, the dog found it before I did. I spent this morning mopping the foyer because there were little blue foot prints all over the tile and the dog smelled suspiciously like Tide. Guilty as charged.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Birthdays and Valentines (or how I decided to make Black and White Cookies)

Biscuit Boy had a birthday last Friday. Since it falls so close to Valentine's Day, going out to dinner, or buying him flowers or chocolate can be challenging. I hit Kingsbury Chocolate in Old Town Alexandria on Friday only to find them wiped out. Of the 25 varieties of truffles they carry, only three were left in display case (Cubano - made with tobacco which is supposed to make the chocolate taste darker, lavender Pistachio and Kir Royale). So I got two of each plus 6 chocolate dipped strawberries. I thought I'd give him the strawberries that night and save the truffles for Valentine's Day.

We met a few friends Friday night at Corduroy in DC. After a few drinks and some appetizers, Biscuit Boy and I headed to the dining room for a quiet romantic dinner for two. It was so good! He had black sea bass and I had veal cheeks (which absolutely melted in my mouth). After we got home, I gave him the chocolate dipped strawberries. There were no survivors.

Poor biscuit Boy had been flirting with a cold all of last week and over the weekend, it seemed to take the starch out of him. I really felt bad and wanted to do something for him. He didn't want chicken soup, the cure-all for colds. He didn't seem to want anything. But while looking through some cookbooks, I found something that I thought would cheer him up a little, Black and White Cookies.

Being a true Southerner, he didn't grow up on such delicacies. It wasn't until we went to NYC a few years ago to see the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show that he tasted one. He was skeptical at first but once he took a bite, he knew why I throught they were so yummy. But try to find a Black and White anywhere outside the NYC area..... Good luck.

I happened across a recipe yesterday and made a batch. I nailed the white icing but had a little trouble with the chocolate. I think it was too thick but it tasted right. Before they were even iced, Biscuit Boy knew what I was making when he saw the cookies cooling.

He ate one last night and gave it a thumbs up. Too bad they don't have the healing powers of chicken soup, but at least he'll enjoy eating them just the same.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Sunday we went out to lunch with some friends. Afterwards we went by Trader Joe's to pick up a few groceries. Walking by the breads, I picked up a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. It smelled heavenly and I decided I'd make some when we got home. I love to eat it toasted for breakfast.

So once we got home I scrounged through my cookbooks and searched the Internet for a good recipe. Usually I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to make bread but today I decided I wanted to knead it by hand. It's great if you you're stressed out. A good 10 minutes of kneading and pushing the dough around and I felt much better. Funny.....I didn't think I was that stressed....?

It was only after I had the dough sitting on top of the stove to rise when I looked back at the recipe and realized I left out the salt. Oops! Too late to do anything about it now. We'd just have to see what happens.

While it was baking it smelled wonderful. We couldn't wait for it to finish baking so we could eat some. We got to try it after dinner and it was good, despite my forgetting to add the salt. The only thing we could detect was that it was a little flat tasting but not enough to keep us from enjoying it.

I really should make bread or bake more often. Whatever you make tastes better than store bought and has to be better for you since it doesn't have all the preservatives in it. Plus I love to bake. It's one of those things that helps me relax. Biscuit Boy always knows when I'm really stressed out when I announce that I want to bake something. And he's happy to help out by tasting whatever I make.

Speaking of tasting, I'm hungry and haven't had breakfast yet. Hmmm.......what will I have? Gee, I think some cinnamon raisin toast sounds good.


Sunday, February 06, 2005

Tofu is good? Why yes, yes it is!

Last night we made Mapo Tofu. If you had told me ten years ago that I'd be craving this dish, I'd tell you that you were crazy. But that isn't the only thing I've discovered that I like. Biscuit Boy and I have introduced each other to foods we'd never tried before. I introduced him to foods from my family's NY roots, bagles, egg on roll, bialy's...... My family lived in NY until I was a teenager when we moved to TN, so I had years of eating southern foods before I met Biscuit Boy who is a true Southerner. Born and raise in TN. Although there wasn't much in the Southern Food realm that he could introduce me to, he did make me sushi on our third date. When he told me that 's what he was making, the first thought ran through my head was, "What ever you do, don't gag." I had never tried sushi before, nor had the desire to. Raw fish? Ick! Well......wasn't I surprised when I tentatively bit into the tuna and rice! I didn't gag, in fact I think I made some sort of nummy sound. Needless to say, we ate all the sushi he prepared. A short time after that date, we took my nephew out with us for sushi. He was 11 or 12 at the time and has always been willing to try anything you put in front of him. We gave him a piece of Eel sushi which quickly disappeared. He earned the name Eel Boy night. It's still his favorite kind of sushi.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Mapo Tofu. We used our ever-faithful "Land of Plenty" cookbook for this dish. And like the pan-fried dumplings, it took a few tried before we perfected it. Each time we used a different chili bean paste. According to the cookbook's author, chili bean paste made with fava beans is what she prefers. We went to a local Chinese market and studied the jars of bean paste. None listed fava beans so we randomly chose one that had soybeans listed as the first ingredient. We used it in the first Mapo tofu we made and while it was good, we still wondered what it would taste like if we found a paste made with favas.

On a second visit to the market, we again could not find the elusive fava beans listed on any of the labels. Instead we chose a bean paste that listed chilis as the first ingredient. Why I never thought about the heat factor, is beyond me. I should have tasted that stuff before I used it. If I had, I would have known not to add any more chilis into the mapo tofu. To say the final product was hot would be an understatement. It was blistering! I don't think my mouth could have burned more if I licked a lava flow. I couldn't even finish my bowl.

So it was back to the market. Did I mention that there is a (Manchurian) chinese restaurant in the same shopping center as the market? It was always a good excuse to go eat there whenever we go to that market. More on that in a future entry..... On our third trip to the market, we noticed several jars of bean paste listed Broad beans as the first ingredient. We thought we'd give it a try. And had I done my homework beforehand, I would have realized that fava beans and broad beans are the same thing. Bingo! We had the chili bean paste we were seeking.

This bean paste has a nice cumulative heat that doesn't smack you in the face like the last one did. And when added to the dish, along with the Szechuan peppercorns, produced a great bowl of mapo tofu. Numbing, hot (but not too hot) and full of flavor. We fought over who got to take the leftovers for lunch the next day (I won.)

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