Archive for January, 2012

Cheddar Jalapeño Buttermilk Biscuits

Monday, January 16th, 2012

It’s happened – snow has hit the Seattle area for the first time this winter. The couple inches we’ve received have resulted in general hysteria and picture-posting on Facebook, cancellations of everything, and the continual sound of spinning/stuck tires outside my window.

I’m happy though, because Snow Day = Bake Day!

As I was flipping despondently through cookbooks, attempting to find appealing sugar-free options, I kept coming back to the thought of cheddar jalapeño biscuits. Turns out it was a happy thought!

From the moment I caught the aroma of these jalapeños sizzling in butter, I knew something good was about to happen.

By the way, if you don’t have buttermilk, you can make it simply by adding a little white vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk. That is one less thing to buy! Our new 2012 budgets like that!

I doubled this recipe, so I used 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and just under a cup of milk as prescribed here, but if you’re only making eight biscuits you can halve that.

I really love biscuits. My dad is from Kansas, and I think it’s the midwest in me that gravitates toward them. If I spot biscuits and gravy on a menu there is no going back!

I wish I could convey to you how good these are. I wish I could give you one right now and then lurk and hover while you ate it so that I could make sure you knew! Of course, the less creepy option is for you to just make them yourself – please do it!

By the way, the jalapeño flavor was definitely present, but I wouldn’t classify these as hot. Feel free to increase/decrease the amount of peppers depending on your preference.

Cheddar Jalapeño Buttermilk Biscuits

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten and Smitten Kitchen

Makes 8 biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced, plus 1/2 tablespoon for jalapeños
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
2 small jalapeño peppers (or about 16 slices), minced
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk
sea salt, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat about 1/2 tablespoon butter in a small skillet and sauté minced jalapeños until they are soft (about two minutes). Remove from heat and let them cool a bit. Add the jalapeños to the grated cheddar and coat them with about a tablespoon of flour. Set aside.

Add 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. With paddle attachment, mix on low while adding in the cold diced butter. Mix until butter is about the size of peas.

In a small bowl, lightly beat egg and buttermilk together with a fork. Add to flour mixture, mixing on low only until moist. Add the cheddar/jalapeño combination to the dough, and mix only until combined.

On a well-floured surface, knead batter lightly about six times. Roll into a 10×5 inch rectangle. Either divide into 8 rectangles with a sharp, floured knife, or use a biscuit cutter for the traditional shape.

Place biscuits on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with egg wash. If desired, sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

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7 Healthy Recipes

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Well, here we are – nearing the second week of January. New Year’s resolutions were enthusiastically made, and in my case lovingly typed up and stuck inside sheet protectors (am I revealing too much crazy here?). Sadly, most of us have probably slipped up once or twice already.

And now we are approaching Friday, when the movie theater beckons for our money, the buttery popcorn longs to cling for a moment on the lips but forever on the hips, and giving up starts to seem like the only option.

Don’t give up! I mean it! I have learned a lesson lately – obsession with perfection is the enemy of progress. “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step” – C.S. Lewis.

There are a lot of things I would like to work on this year. I would like to be the kind of person who remembers where she parks. I would like to start arriving places five minutes early instead of tumbling in five minutes late. I would REALLY like to beat my sister’s high score on Bejeweled Blitz…

In addition to these goals, I’m also trying to eat some healthier meals. The picture above is from last summer when I made Rocco DiSpirito’s Blueberry Graham Cheesecake Oatmeal. You may know Rocco from Rocco’s Dinner Party on Bravo. This recipe is from his book Now Eat This! Diet. It’s actually a great book with some creative/healthy recipes, whether or not you do the actual diet. It’s also unique in that there are just as many pictures of Rocco looking dashing as there are food photos!

This is an excellent healthy recipe, and I hope you try it. However, it is a little on the complicated side as far as oatmeal goes. This past week I really tried to focus on healthy recipes that are quick and compatible with life on the go.

The following photos were taken with my iPhone using Instagram. Links to the recipes are just above the photos, and the recipe for Blueberry Graham Cheesecake Oatmeal is at the end. Good luck!

Joy the Baker’s Peanut Butter, Banana, and Oat Milkshake. So creamy good! I left out the honey/flax seeds and used a little protein powder.

Simplified oatmeal: Quick-cooking oatmeal, blueberries and almond milk.

Sesame-Tofu Stir-Fry.  A tasty, light dinner.

Quinoa with Garlic, Pine Nuts and Raisins. I will say I’ve had quinoa recipes that I liked better than this one, but it was decent and really healthy of course. I also didn’t follow the recipe exactly so I’m not sure if I did it justice.

Martha Stewart’s Oatmeal Smoothie and Green Cilantro’s Breakfast Toast (on a whole wheat english muffin). This avocado/egg salad combo is genius!! My new favorite thing!

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I discovered a couple of these links and got my initial motivation based off of this blog post by Lauren Conrad.

Happy healthy eating!!

Blueberry Graham Cheesecake Oatmeal

Recipe very slightly adapted from Rocco DiSpirito’s Now Eat This! Diet

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups skim milk
Pinch of salt
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, such as 0% Fage Total
2 squares (or 1 rectangle) graham crackers, crushed

Directions
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add skim milk and salt. Bring to a boil. Add in the oatmeal, vanilla, agave nectar, lemon zest, blueberries and cream cheese. Stir and cook until the oatmeal is properly thick (about 1 minute).

Remove oatmeal from the heat and stir in the yogurt (or you can add dollops on top after dishing up the oatmeal).

Dish oatmeal into bowls and crush graham crackers over the top.

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Shrimp and Grits

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

I have noticed that sometimes when we lose something, or don’t get what we want, something different and better happens instead.

So it was last June when my sister and I, in Portland and on the hunt for chicken and waffles, joined the long line waiting for the restaurant Screen Door to open.

However, much to our dismay, after being seated we found out they don’t serve chicken and waffles on the dinner menu. So instead, we both ordered a different southern meal: shrimp and grits. I won’t even attempt to describe how good it was…just trust me!

Because I’m steering clear of desserts and refined sugar this month, I am forced to edge cautiously into the savory world of cooking. Shrimp and grits was the first thing that came to my mind as I have been daydreaming about that dinner ever since I had it!

If you live in the Pacific Northwest like me, grits may be something you’re not familiar with. They have a similar consistency to porridge. In this dish, they are made delightful with a scandalous amount of sharp cheddar cheese and butter.

I took a couple of liberties with this recipe – I used instant grits instead of stone-ground, and went with a “seafood medley” of herbs (parsley, dill and thyme) instead of just parsley. Thankfully, it was a big hit!

There are a lot of different recipes for shrimp and grits out there, but part of what makes this one so good is the presence of bacon, and the fact that the shrimp are cooked in the leftover bacon grease, along with lemon juice, herbs, scallions and garlic.

This is not necessarily the healthiest dish ever, and I promise there will be more of that soon! But it is easy, and unique. I’m already craving it again…

Shrimp and Grits

Recipe very slightly adapted from foodnetwork.com

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 cup instant grits
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (or use a combination of parsley, thyme and dill)
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 large clove garlic, minced

Directions

Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Cook grits as instructed on the box. Remove grits from heat, and stir in butter and cheese until melted.

Rinse shrimp and pat them dry. Fry bacon in a large skillet until brown. Remove the bacon and drain it well. Cook shrimp in the remaining bacon grease. When shrimp is pink, add the lemon juice, parsley, scallions, garlic and chopped bacon. Saute for 3 minutes.

Spoon grits into bowls and top with shrimp. Serve immediately.

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Rosemary Kalamata Olive Rolls

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to celebrate in your own favorite way, whether that was a big event or just going to bed. I had such a good time – a relaxed night with a couple friends. We made an indulgent dinner and dessert and watched When Harry Met Sally. We briefly considered heading to a local park to watch the Space Needle fireworks, but quickly abandoned that idea in favor of staying warm, and caught the show on the local channel. It was perfect.

And yes, I have now begun my month without sugar. Today is Day 4 of my captivity. I am not sure I thought this through…skipping dessert is hard! However I am holding out and hoping for some positive effects. I will keep you updated!

Fortunately, there are still some delicious things to bake, like these Rosemary Kalamata Olive Rolls. Let me just tell you about these. They are the. best. rolls. I have EVER had. I first had them Christmas Day – our honorary aunt Kathy brought them. Soon the whole room was raving about their flavor, and I found myself wildly calculating in my mind how many future cookies I was willing to forgo in order to have a second roll.

The magic begins with rosemary and kalamata olives. The fragrance these two elements give off during the baking process is something special.

The rolls are brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt just before baking, which gives the top a tasty crunch.

Kathy was so kind as to share her recipe with me. Below are the instructions she sent me, nearly word for word. I hope you make these! You need them in your life!

Rosemary Kalamata Olive Rolls

Recipe courtesy of Kathy

Makes about 24 rolls

Ingredients

3 cups tepid water (I microwave in a glass pyrex cup for 70 seconds and it’s perfect)
1 teaspoon of sugar or honey (to feed the yeast)
2 envelopes of yeast (quick acting)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2.5 lbs (more or less) of flour (1 lb of flour is equivalent to 3 3/4 – 4 cups)
1 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
¼ cup finely chopped rosemary (don’t use dry, and chop the fresh just before you need it because it turns brown)
Good olive oil
2 tablespoons of high quality French sea salt (I like the gray sea salt or sel de mer: not fine, not super chunky)

Equipment
Two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
Sharp kitchen shears or a very sharp knife to slash the rolls
Pastry brush
KitchenAid stand mixer

Directions

Start by chopping the rosemary and olives.

Pour the two envelopes of yeast and the sugar into your KitchenAid mixing bowl. Add the tepid water, stir, and let stand for 3-5 minutes.

Add 4 cups of the flour, one tablespoon kosher salt, the olives and rosemary and turn the mixer on low (it should be on low the entire time).

Keep adding flour one heaping tablespoon at a time, kneading it for a total time of 10 minutes. The dough should be silky and a little loose. Don’t be tempted to use too much flour.

Cover the KitchenAid bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 45-60 minutes. Punch it down and let it rise again (if you are short on time, once is sufficient).

While dough is rising, prepare two sheet pans with parchment paper. Pour some olive oil into a small bowl.

With oiled hands, make each roll approximately 4 ounces in size. (If you don’t have a kitchen scale, just estimate the size so that you make about 24 rolls.) Make the roll by smoothing the dough and tucking it under the bottom. Place about 12 on each pan. Let them rise uncovered for another 40 minutes or so—they should almost double in size.

While the rolls are rising, position two racks evenly in the oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut a cross on the top of each roll, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle them with the French sea salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 450 degrees F until the tops are lightly brown.  Switch the pans half way through the cooking process so they brown evenly.  Uniformity and even browning give the “bakery” look. Let the rolls stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

These freeze really well and warm up as though you just made them.

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