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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

"You've never had biscuits and gravy?"

My husband was shocked, but no, it was not something my parents ever made for breakfast when I was growing up. I'm from the Boston area, and breakfast was usually either cereal, various preparations of eggs, sometimes with bacon, various pastries, or the occasional loaf of Polish rye bread from Alice's Bakery in Southie. My husband is from northern California, which doesn't scream "biscuits and gravy" to me, but his mom grew up in Kansas, so that's probably where it comes from!

What is standard breakfast fare in your neck of the woods?


These tender, flaky biscuits are a fabulous complement to the creamy gravy, which has just the right spice from the fennel in homemade sausage.

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy
Source: Slightly adapted from Beantown Baker and Good Things Catered
Yield: Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
Total time: 27 minutes



  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance vegan butter sticks)
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 8-12 ounces chicken sausage (I chopped up 7 pre-cooked patties, which ranged from 1 to 1.5 ounces each, since that is what we had on hand)
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • pepper


  1. For the biscuits: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture until the butter pieces are pea sized. Add the milk, stirring just until combined.
  2. Turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with powdered sugar or whole wheat pastry flour. Roll out dough to 1" thick.
  3. Cut dough into rounds or other desired shape. Top each biscuit with a small cube of butter.
  4. Bake biscuits at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. For the sausage gravy: Brown sausage in a skillet. Add milk and flour to pan and whisk together to form a gravy. Add more milk to thin the consistency out, more flour to thicken the consistency. Season with pepper to taste.
  6. Serve gravy over biscuits.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Irish Soda Bread

    Despite a significant amount of Irish in my blood, I'd never had Irish soda bread until last weekend. With Saint Patrick's Day upon us, I've seen requests for this recipe everywhere, and it piqued my interest. When I first saw the (very simple) ingredient list, I thought, "What is so special about this bread?"


    It seemed easy enough to whip up, so that I did. My first loaf was dense and almost chewy - not good eats. This recipe turned out so much better for my second attempt, and had me singing the praises of Irish soda bread along with everyone else.

    This tasty bread is crisp on the outside, but so soft on the inside. The buttermilk lends great flavor to the bread - tear off a piece and enjoy with butter, jam, or just by itself! Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

    Irish Soda Bread

    Irish Soda Bread
    Source: Slightly adapted from Cate's World Kitchen
    Yield: 1 loaf
    Preparation time: 10 minutes
    Cook time: 45 minutes
    Total time: 55 minutes


    • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda (fresh is best)
    • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk


    1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and grease a baking sheet (or line with parchment)
    2. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl and wisk together with a fork.
    3. Stir in half the buttermilk, then add the remaining buttermilk 2 tbsp at a time.
    4. You want the dough to be just a little bit moist. It should hold together, but not be sticky. If you accidentally add too much milk, knead in some flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
    5. Shape into a ball, then cut an X into the top.
    6. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. (If you tap on the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles, it should sound hollow).
    7. Let cool as long as you can stand to wait, then serve with butter and jam.
      Best if eaten within about 3 hours of baking.

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      Basil Chicken in a Coconut-Curry Sauce

      It's easy to get lost in the sea of recipe sources these days. There are cookbooks, family recipes tucked in a recipe box, magazines, Food Network shows, more magazines… and let's not forget all the other food blogs I have in my Google Reader. Every once in a while I think of those poor cookbooks (collecting dust), hanging around the kitchen, and find it refreshing to crack them open and rediscover the recipes waiting inside.


      I recently pulled out my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for some inspiration, and found plenty! I kept jumping from one page to the next, finding quite a few recipes to choose from given what ingredients I already had in the house. I was sold on this recipe, however, as soon as I saw the title. First off, it would use some basil that was dying a slow death in my refrigerator (and good basil is a terrible thing to waste). Second, I've been mildly obsessed with curry lately. In the last month, I've probably made five different curry dishes. Two have emerged as our favorites, for different reasons, and this is one of them.

      We love this dish because marinating the chicken in the spices allows for a nice punch of flavor. The dish is balanced by the sauce, which uses fresh garlic, onion, and ginger, and has a surprisingly subtle background of basil.

      Basil Chicken in a Coconut-Curry Sauce

      Basil Chicken in a Coconut-Curry Sauce
      Source: Reworded from Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition Cookbook
      Yield: Serves 4
      Preparation time: 25 minutes
      Cook time: 20 minutes
      Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes



      • 2 teaspoons curry powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
      • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 1 cup chopped red onion
      • 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
      • 5 cloves garlic, minced or grated
      • 1 can unsweetened light coconut milk (~14 ounces)
      • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
      • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into ribbons
      • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
      • 3 cups cooked rice (use brown rice if you are following a clean eating diet)


      1. In a medium bowl combine curry powder, black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the chili powder. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Add to spice mixture in bowl; toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours to allow spices to penetrate meat.
      2. Pour oil into a wok or large nonstick skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken to wok. Cook and stir for 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from wok. Repeat with remaining chicken.
      3. Add onion, jalapeno peppers, and garlic to wok; cook and stir about 8 minutes or until crisp-tender.
      4. Stir together coconut milk, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Carefully add to onion mixture in wok. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly.
      5. Return chicken to wok. Stir in basil and ginger. Cook and stir about 2 minutes or until heated through. Serve over hot rice.

      Friday, March 11, 2011

      Vanilla Bean Cake

      In 2007 after we moved to the Chicago area, I started a job that allowed me a 4 day work week. I jumped at the chance to have that schedule, since I had a long commute and it meant saving wear and tear on my car, and making a dent in the gas bill. However, when you combine 3 day weekends + a husband with a demanding job + not being close to family or friends... you get a whole lot of free time.


      I dove into cooking, then blogging, then cooking groups like TWD and BB. I filled my weekends with trying new recipes and new techniques, hoping to find favorites that I could someday share with someone other than my husband.

      Last year we moved back to the east coast, little more than an hour from where I grew up. When it was time to plan our son's baptism, I knew right away that I wanted to make the cake. This is what I'd been working towards - years of building experience in the kitchen, so I could share the fruits of that labor with family and friends!


      For this cake, I pulled from some old favorites, tried new recipes, and built my first stacked cake! I was really happy with how it came out, considering how rushed I was putting it together.  The top section is a 6-inch, triple layer cake made with Beatty's Chocolate Cake (water instead of coffee, though) and chocolate mousse filling.  The bottom was a 9-inch, triple layer cake made with vanilla bean cake and raspberry filling.  I also made Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the first time for this cake, and loved it!  I'll be posting that recipe once I work out some kinks that I had with it.

      This vanilla bean cake recipe was perfect. Fluffy, moist cake with great vanilla flavor - I couldn't get enough!  This is definitely my new favorite white cake recipe.  I made 1.5 times the below recipe to have enough for three 9-inch layers. 

      Vanilla Bean Cake

      Vanilla Bean Cake

      Source: Reworded from Confections of a Foodie Bride
      Yield: Two 8 or 9-inch cake layers
      Preparation time: 25 minutes
      Cook time: 45 minutes
      Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes


      • 3 cups cake flour
      • 1 tablespoon baking powder
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
      • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
      • 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and softened to room temperature
      • 2 cups sugar
      • 5 large eggs
      • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
      • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


      1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line two 8-inch or 9-inch baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
      2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Split and scrape the vanilla pod into the butter, discard pod (or reserve for another use). Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.
      3. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl before each addition. Add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
      4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an off-set spatula. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top a couple of times to burst any air bubbles and allowing the batter to settle. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached.  I found that 45 minutes was too long for my cake and ended up overbaking them a bit, so check early. 
      5. Let cool completely in the pans before removing the cakes and frosting.

      Monday, March 7, 2011

      Party Punch


      In February, we celebrated our son's baptism. Such an event brought all sides of my family together (sadly my husband's family lives clear across the country, so it's hard to attend events like this). When planning the menu, I arrived at the beverage category and things quickly got out of hand. You see, there are some polar opposites in my family. When my mom's side gets together to celebrate an event, they bring along certain friends: Caymus, Cakebread, Jameson (why not add a little Irish to your coffee?), Veuve, Van Gogh, Bud, and Coors. My dad's side? They bring out the Martinelli's. Yup - sparking apple cider is about as wild as it gets there!

      I created the Mom's side portion of the menu with simply red and white wine, and two types of beer. After running it past her, she thought that mimosas, espresso martinis, and a third beer offering were in order. I had to politely remind her that this was a Sunday afternoon event - no need to run the gamet on alcoholic beverages! We compromised and ended up somewhere in the middle. For the Dad's side of the menu, I found this suggestion for punch on a cooking board that I frequent. I wanted to do something other than just water and soda, and this was a fabulous choice! What are your family gatherings like? Are the offerings more like Mom's side or Dad's side?

      This party punch is easy to throw together, fruity with a little zing from the ginger ale. A great treat for all party guests!

      Party Punch

      Party Punch

      Source: Ammie of Adventures in my kitchen
      Preparation time: 5 min


      • 2 quarts cranberry juice
      • 1 can pineapple juice (46 ounces)
      • 2 cups orange juice
      • 2 liters ginger ale
      • 1 orange, sliced


      1. Add all ingredients except orange slices to a large punch bowl with ice. Stir to combine.
      2. Float orange slices in punch for garnish.