Foolproof cheese biscuits

A superior method for better baking results!

I spent years trying to figure out why I couldn’t make cheese biscuits as well as my mother-in-law. After all, she had given me her recipe… or so I thought. Well, it turns out that “mix all together, cut into circles and bake in a hot oven until done” is not really enough information to make a light, flaky delicious biscuit. After much tinkering, I’ve come up with what I feel is a superior method to her abbreviated one and the resulting biscuits are, indeed, delicious. You can mix together the dry ingredients, butter and cheese ahead of time and transfer to an airtight container to store in the refrigerator or freezer. When ready to bake, it will take just a few moments to stir in the buttermilk and cut the biscuits so they are ready for the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white sugar
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional but delicious)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) very cold salted butter (measure then freeze for 10 minutes)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Cheddar
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) buttermilk *

* create buttermilk by mixing 2/3 cup room (160 mL) temperature milk with 2 teaspoons  (10 mL) white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir and let sit 5 minutes then refrigerate until needed.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place flour, baking powder, sugar and cayenne (if using) in a large mixing bowl.
  • Grate the cold butter into the bowl and toss with your fingers to combine. Add cheese and toss again.
  • Add milk and stir quickly to form a shaggy dough. If it is difficult to incorporate all the flour, add a bit of water, one teaspoon (5 mL) at a time (but no more than 4 teaspoons / 20 mL).
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and VERY gently fold 4 – 5 times to pull mixture together into a ball.
  • Use your hands to pat mixture down into a rectangle of 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thickness.
  • Cut with a 2” (5 cm) circle cutter and place on prepared baking tray. As you cut, take care not to twist the cutter as you press down on the dough or as you pull the cutter up out of the dough. A clean cut will keep the biscuit’s layers from getting compressed; as a result it will puff up higher and more evenly in the oven.
  • Alternatively, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) squares with a very sharp knife.
  • Shape scraps into a ball, pat down again and cut additional biscuits. These may not rise as much as those in the first cutting, but they’ll still be delicious.
  • Bake in the preheated oven 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown on top.
  • Remove tray from oven and transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 12 to 15 biscuits.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Baking & Sweets, Pasta, Grains & Legumes | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Easy Italian skillet chicken

Quick recipe yields big flavour!

This is one of those deceptive dishes – so fast and simple to prepare yet so flavourful that people might think you spent hours making it. It’s a great meal for using up any leftover vegetables in your fridge – I’ve sometimes just used onions and mushrooms while other times I’ll also add in zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes. Tailor it to what you have on hand and/or your family’s preferences and enjoy the praise they’re sure to offer when they taste this dish.

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless chicken thighs or 2 – 3 boneless breasts
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter or olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white wine
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) Italian, lemon-garlic or other herbed salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2/3 cup (175 mL) thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) halved cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cornstarch
  • Grated parmesan, to serve (optional but delicious)
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to serve (optional but delicious)
  • Cooked rice, pasta or mashed potatoes, to serve

Method

  • Cut chicken into pieces (approximately 1 inch / 2.5 cm). Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for 3 – 4 minutes per side, until starting to turn golden brown.
  • Add white wine and cook, scraping up stuck bits on bottom of pan, for 2 – 3 minutes, until it has mostly (but not completely) evaporated.
  • Remove chicken and any pan juices to a clean bowl and set aside.
  • Put remaining butter or oil in the same skillet and add onions and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms have begun to brown on the edges and onions are soft.
  • Push the cooked vegetables to one side of the pan and return the chicken to the empty space. Spoon the vegetables over the chicken to distribute evenly.
  • Add salad dressing, water, and salt & pepper along with zucchini and tomatoes, if using. Stir gently then cover pan and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add cream and stir to blend then turn off heat.
  • About 5 minutes before serving, stir 2 tablespoons of water and cornstarch together, then drizzle into chicken mixture. Stir and turn burner to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce just begins to bubble and thicken. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes then serve over hot cooked rice, pasta or mashed potatoes with a sprinkle of parsley and Parmesan on top if you like.

Serves 4

Posted in Chicken, Main DIsh, make-ahead meal | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Potato recipe roundup

Fresh ideas for a favourite vegetable!

Potatoes were served often in our house when I was growing up and I still love them today; I’m sure the fact that my dad grew up on a potato farm on Prince Edward Island has something to do with it. They’re one of the most versatile vegetables and apparently the fourth most-consumed crop in the world, after rice, wheat and corn. Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap as being unhealthy, but if you cook them with the skin on, they’re a good source of many nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium. There are lots of potato recipes on this website (use the search bar to find more); below are a few of my favourites. Click on the titles to jump directly to each recipe.

Super crispy roasted potatoes

Potato pancake poutine

Make-ahead potato and pancetta puffs

Perfect oven-baked French fries

Fully loaded mashed potato flatbread

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Fun and festive pizza cake

Fool your family with this sweet treat!

The first time I made this cake it was for my son’s birthday and when I brought it to the table, he was really confused. It was fun to pull a little prank and I know I was forgiven when he tasted it and found it to be just as delicious as every other birthday cake I’d ever served. The cake recipe below is scaled down to fit a standard pizza pan (if you like this cake, note that it makes 10 cupcakes). You can also use a boxed cake mix; if the mix makes two layers or 24 cupcakes, simply measure out half of the mix and use half the recommended water, eggs, etc. Be sure to seal up the remaining mix and put a note to yourself in the box so you remember it’s been halved the next time you open it.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk

For the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) icing (powdered) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2. 5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) milk
  • Few drops red food colouring

For decorating:

  • Assorted candies, trimmed and/or thinly sliced to look like pizza toppings
  • Grated white chocolate (melt and chill white chocolate chips to form a block to grate)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Line a pizza pan with parchment paper (overlapping pieces if needed and having paper drape over the sides of the pan) and set aside.
  • Prepare cake batter by combining flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar for one minute. Add the vanilla and melted butter and beat until well combined.
  • Add half the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined. Add the milk, and beat until just combined. Add the remaining flour and beat until evenly blended then pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Alternatively, prepare cake mix per package directions and pour the cake batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 12 – 14 minutes, or until the cake springs back when you press a clean fingertip lightly into the top. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  • While cake is cooling, prepare frosting by beating icing sugar, cocoa and butter together  in a medium bowl until smooth. Add vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of milk plus the food colouring.
  • Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (2 – 3 minutes). If the frosting appears too thick to spread easily, add additional milk as needed, one teaspoon at a time.
  • When cake is cooled, carefully lift it off the baking pan and remove the parchment paper. Trim the outside edge as needed so it is even. Place the cake back on the pizza pan and spread frosting on top, leaving a 1 inch (2.5 cm) border around the edge, to resemble the pizza crust.
  • Add candy toppings and sprinkle grated white chocolate on top.

Makes 1 pizza cake.

 

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Edible Science: tiny juice balloons

A tasty molecular gastronomy kitchen experiment!

This is a fun project that kids really enjoy. The littlest ones can watch and then play with and eat the results, while older children and teens can probably do it all by themselves. While kids may not be familiar with molecular gastronomy, if you tell they they’re going to take a liquid (juice or water) and turn it into little balloons they can hold in their hand and then eat, you’re sure to capture their attention. The science behind this is called spherification and it is commonly used in many restaurants today because it’s one of the easiest tricks in the molecular gastronomy toolbox. I’ve enjoyed finding on my plate little pearls of beet juice, green tea, balsamic vinegar and more over the past few years. If you’re using water instead of juice, it might be fun to add a drop or two of food colouring so the experiment is more visually appealing. You can find the necessary food-grade chemicals, both of which are naturally derived, online or at molecular gastronomy supply shops. In Ottawa, contact Chef’s Paradise and in Toronto, Nella Cucina stocks the two products you’ll need and either would likely arrange for local contactless pickup or ship by mail order; Powder for Texture also ships nationally. Last comment: if you’re looking for other fun edible science experiments, check out this rock candy recipe and the instructions for making potato chips in the microwave. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) sodium alginate (seaweed based)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) calcium lactate
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pulp-free juice (or coloured water)

Equipment needed

  • Small, medium and large bowls (2, 4 and 6 cup / 500 mL, 1 L and 1.5 L approximately)
  • Immersion blender
  • Whisk
  • Sieve (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) measuring spoon with a deep bowl (not a broad, flattish one)
  • Slotted spoon
  • Plate

Method

  • Put the 1/2 cup of juice or coloured water in the smallest bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon of sodium alginate to the liquid. Use an immersion blender or very vigorous whisking to completely dissolve the sodium alginate. Set the mixture aside to allow air bubbles to dissipate.
  • Add 2 cups of cold water to the medium bowl. With a clean whisk, whisk in 1 teaspoon of calcium lactate. It may not completely dissolve but whisk for a few minutes to get the majority of it to dissolve.
  • Add 4 cups of cold water to the largest bowl and set the sieve over top so that most of the sieve is under water. The sieve is not essential but it can make it easier to scoop out the water or juice balloons after they’ve been rinsed.

  • Using the deep-bowled measuring teaspoon, scoop out a full spoonful of the first mixture (liquid plus sodium alginate) which should by now feel slightly gelled.
  • Very carefully drop the spoonful of gelled mixture into the second bowl (the cold water and calcium lactate mixture). It will take a little practice to get perfectly round spheres but it doesn’t really matter – irregular shapes taste just the same and can be rather fun looking! You can also use a tiny spoon to make little pearls if you prefer.

  • Repeat the above two steps until you have three or four balloons in the middle bowl – avoid overcrowding the bowl. Using a clean finger or a small spoon, very gently stir the liquid around the balloons for three minutes, keeping the balloons gently in motion.
  • Using the slotted spoon, carefully transfer the balloons to the third bowl to stop the chemical reaction and rinse them off.

  • Gently place the balloons on a plate and repeat with the remaining gelled sodium alginate + juice (or water) mixture.
  • Your balloons will now be ready to carefully pick up, jiggle and, of course, pop into your mouth! They’ll feel a little slimy but will taste just fine and are perfectly safe to eat.

 

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Cauliflower recipe roundup

Six delicious ways to cook up this nutritional powerhouse!

Much like squash and cabbage, many cauliflowers are grown to a substantial size, making them ideal for several meals and therefore economical (at least at the reasonable prices are seeing in March 2020). Often described as a nutritional powerhouse, cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, and is naturally high in fiber and B-vitamins. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and cancer-fighting phytonutrients, as well as choline which is essential for learning and memory. When I was growing up, cauliflower was only ever served plain, smothered in cheese sauce, or boiled into oblivion for soup. I’ve enjoyed coming up with far more delicious ways to prepare it as it lends itself well to lots of different flavour profiles. Here are a few of my favourites; just click on the titles to below to jump to the recipes. You can find additional cauliflower recipes on this website by using the search bar.

Roasted cauliflower with spicy peanut sauce

20 minute red curry vegetable soup

autumn cauliflower soup with red curry paste

Pan-roasted cauliflower with Tex-Mex seasoning

Grilled cauliflower on a can with sweet and spicy BBQ sauce  

Healthy honey-garlic cauliflower bites

cauliflower nuggets with honey-garlic sauce

Cauliflower ‘n cheese bake

Posted in Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Microwave mug muffin

A fun treat kids can make all by themselves!

Remember the mug cake craze from a few years ago? Coming up with new flavour combinations was a favourite after-school pastime for my kids; their creations were inventive and usually loaded with chocolate and sugar but I let them have their fun. Thinking about how much they enjoyed making mug treats, I decided to come up with a healthier version that is more like a muffin than a cake. One of the things I love best about this recipe is that it requires very small amounts of ingredients and no eggs! Be advised that cooking time will depend upon your microwave’s power and note that it’s easy to make a vegan version by using vegetable oil and non-dairy milk instead of yogurt and regular milk. This recipe is delicious as is, but even more delightful with a dollop of whipped cream, whipped coconut cream or even a spoonful of ice cream on top. Who says you can’t have a little fun at breakfast?

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (37 mL) all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.6 mL) salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (16 mL) sour cream, plain yogurt or vegetable oil
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) milk (regular or non-dairy)
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.6 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (17 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries, or sliced bananas
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) ground cinnamon

Method

  • Spray a microwave-safe mug or teacup with cooking spray or grease with a little vegetable oil poured onto a piece of paper towel.
  • Put flour, salt, baking powder, sour cream (or yogurt or oil), milk, and vanilla in the mug and stir until combined. Sprinkle fruit on top of the batter and stir gently to blend.
  • In a separate small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle that mixture on top of the cake batter.
  • Microwave on high power for 45 seconds then check for doneness (a toothpick inserted should come out clean); if needed microwave for 15 seconds more and test again. Repeat as needed.
  • Let cool for 1 minute before eating right out of the mug.

Makes 1 mug muffin.

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