Multitasking

I get a little overzealous at times. I see something I like, admire, want, or think is really cool and I’m all over it. It’s like when I was a kid. I was the little sister, and as such everything was somehow so much better, more awesome, or wicked cooler when my big brother was doing it. So naturally that made me want it even more.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little overboard enthusiasm. It’s good energy, and I’ve counted on it to carry me through some pretty crappy times and scary bits. Buy me a cocktail sometime, and I’ll tell you about the last few weeks before I moved to SLC. Enthusiasm is the only thing I had going for me.

Unfortunately, excess enthusiasm often leads to way more of whatever you were excited about than you know what to do with. Call it “Costco Syndrome.”  You walk through the colossus of canned goods and everything you could want, think you could want, or didn’t know you wanted until it’s in your cart is right there. It’s not until you get home and start playing pantry-jenga with a mountain of stewed tomatoes that you realize you may have been a tad overzealous.

I have the same problem when it comes to growlers. For those not fluent in brew-speak, a growler is a large jug containing draft beer. Basically it’s a beer doggy bag. A half-gallon beer doggy bag. The thirstier side of the room is probably thinking, “yeah, so?” But as a single gal who lives alone, the prospect of consuming 64 ounces of anything in the span of a day or two, even some luscious libation, is daunting. Yet that is exactly what I faced last weekend.

One of the local craft breweries here in SLC recently created a very tasty beer for a very good cause –  supporting refugees. That brewery, Squatters, released their limited edition Tempest-Tost wit beer (look up Emma Lazarus if you haven’t figured out why the name), with all of the proceeds going to the local Utah chapter of the International Refugee Committee.  With hints of orange and cardamom, I wanted some not just because I’m a first-generation American and a proud immigrant daughter and granddaughter, but because I love those flavors. Unfortunately, the only way I was going to get some home was in a 1/2 gallon swig-worthy growler. So, I did.

After downing my second frosty glass of this tasty brew the realization sunk in that I was no-way no-how going to drink up all this wit goodness before it went flat in the giant doggy jug. I was going to have to figure out something else to do with it. Luckily, culinary multitasking is one of my specialties. Since I was already defrosting some leftover Superbowl chili (created with some leftover short ribs), I figured why not toss some of this lovely brew into a beer bread to go with. And since cornbread goes really well with leftover chili from re-purposed short ribs…

Beer Batter Cornbread

Makes one 9″x5″ loaf

  • 1 cup corn meal (I like Bob’s Red Mill Medium Grind)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra melted butter for brushing on top of the loaf
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 12 ounces Tempest-Tost  (or, since you can’t get it anymore, I’d substitute Blue Moon)

Preheat the oven to 375°F and butter a 9″x 5″ loaf pan. Sprinkle a little extra cornmeal around the pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together. In a measuring cup, mix the melted butter and honey until the honey thins out a little, then add the orange zest and beer. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix just until there are no dry spots.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan, brush the loaf with some more melted butter, and bake another 5 minutes or until the loaf pulls away from the edges of the pan and the top is starting to brown a little.

Remove from pan and let cool about 10 minutes on a rack before serving.

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Thin Air

File Jul 25, 10 05 36 AMLately, I’ve been baking high. Now before you go assuming I loaded up on edibles before crossing from Oregon to Utah, I’m talking altitude, not altered states. While the former might have been fun, it wouldn’t exactly endear me to law enforcement in my new home state.

My first encounter with high altitude baking was probably around the time I was ten or so, and first ventured to the baking instructions on the back of a brownie box mix. There, under the picture of an egg and some corn oil was a tiny asterisk, and High Altitude Instructions, in italics. I think I remember the font being smaller too, as though people living  a few thousand feet above sea level had sharper vision. Of course, being a smart little girl, and knowing I didn’t live on a mountain top but rather on the flat, sea-wrapped Isle of Long, I never paid any attention to the asterisk or tiny font rules.

My first time actually baking 5000 feet above the briny deep was about three decades later, when I was visiting family in Jackson Hole and baking birthday treats for soon-to-be sweet sixteen niece. I didn’t pay attention to the high altitude instructions then either. The result was Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Guts. It’s name should give an indication of how well that turned out, though filling a cratered cake with the attitudinally challenged overflow of devils food cupcakes was a bit of a stroke of genius. I give my architect brother full credit for that one.

Previous experience aside, now that I live 4,000 some-odd feet above where I did before, it seems high time (sorry) to figure out just how to maneuver this baking high thing. Especially if I am going to continue my quest for tasty pastry world domination, mountain style. I could baffle you with the various whats and whys of baking up here, but there are countless others on line who do that much better (and more boringly.) So here’s how I look at it. There’s less air up here. Or rather, less of the stuff pressing down on your head and your baking goodness. What happens then? Well, first the air bubbles in your culinary confection puff up faster with their newfound freedom. Unfortunately they kind of get, well, how shall I put this….overexcited, and before the rest of the batter is ready, which results in sinkage. I’ll just leave it there.

Basically the fix for this premature rise and droop is a little less of this and a little more of that. Specifically:

  • Reduce baking powder: for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon;
  • Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons;
  • Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons;
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

As with everything in life, a little trial, error and practice is still needed, but I think I may have this baking high thing down. Sure there will be times of overexcitement and resulting disappointment, but as long as I don’t let frustration get into my head, I think everyone will be satisfied in the end.

My first foray into the high altitude oven were scones. Blueberry scones to be exact. And with adjustments described above, I managed to make a batch that brought moans of satisfaction for all involved. Below is the original recipe, with high altitude adjustments, naturally in italics.

FullSizeRenderBLUEBERRY SCONES

Yield: 8 scones, about 275 calories each

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (high altitude adjustment: 6 TBSP)
  • 1 TBSP baking powder (high altitude adjustment: 2.25 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cold cream, or 1/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup buttermilk (high altitude adjustment: 6TBSP cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk, plus 1-2 TBSP more if the dough seems too dry)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • An extra TBSP cream and some raw sugar to brush on the top and sprinkle before going into oven

Preheat oven to 400ºF (425º for high altitude). Whisk together the flour. sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a bowl or in electric mixer. Add the butter and mix until you get fine crumbs and the butter is well dispersed. Add in the blueberries and toss until the blueberries are coated in flour mixture.

In a measuring cup, beat together the egg, cream, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the wet to the dry slowly with the mixer going or mix together by hand with a fork until the dough just starts to come together. Dump out onto a floured board, and gather the dough together into a disk about an inch high. Don’t overwork the dough, just bring together until it holds shape.

FullSizeRender IMG_6058 FullSizeRender

Cut the disk into quarters, then each quarter in half to get 8 triangles. At this point you could put the scones on a tray and pop in the freezer, which is what I usually do with at least some of them. Once they are frozen, pop into a freezer bag. They’ll keep for a few weeks, and are easily baked off from frozen, just adding a little time to the bake.

If you are baking them right away, put the scones on a parchment-lined baking pan, brush with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar (I like to use turbinado sugar of this – makes a nice crunch.) Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the scones are golden and firm to the touch.

High altitude baking: Since things take a little longer to bake up here, I raise the oven temp to 425, and bake for about 20 minutes, then lower temp to 350 and bake another 5-8 minutes until firm. This prevents the bottoms from getting too dark before the inside is fully cooked.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). You can also see what’s cookin’ on my Instagram page. Thanks!  :-)

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, Bubeleh

Tis a tale that bears repeating. Sláinte mhaith and Mazel tov!

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The following story is based on fact (sort of). The names have been changed to protect the culinarily impaired.

A young Irish lass with a passel of tots and her young doctor husband moved into a predominantly Jewish building, while Dr. McFertile (there were a LOT of tots) finished his residency at a nearby hospital. Mrs. McFertile, while prolific indeed, was not as bountiful in the kitchen. Fact was, our bonnie lass was a lousy cook. Luckily, living in such close proximity to so many bubbes served her well. You see, no bubbe can resist feeding a hungry mass, and soon our badly cooking colleen was taken under a wing and taught a bissel basics for feeding her ever-growing Mc-tribe.

As a thank you, the grateful gal decided to bake something from the Old Sod and bestow it upon her teacher. Irish soda bread was lovingly prepared according to her sainted mother’s receipt and presented with Celtic pride. Bubbe smiled and thanked her pupil for the thoughtful gift.

The following day brought a knock at the door. There stood Bubbe, a freshly baked loaf of soda bread in hand. “Tateleh, yesterday I had a piece of your lovely bread with a nice glass tea. The Sinai has more moisture.”

The following recipe is a bubby-improved version of Irish Soda Bread. Traditional? Feh, but it sure is good, and Mrs. McFertile has been making it ever since. So, what’s not to like?

Bubbe’s Irish Soda Bread with Sour Cream

Makes one generous loaf, as moist as the Emerald Isle.

  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups raisins (I like a mix of dark and golden raisins, but what usually goes in is based on what I have in the pantry at the moment.)

Preheat oven to 350ºF and butter and flour an 8” or 9” cake pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk in a large bowl. Add the raisins and mix so they are well-distributed. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg and whisk with the sour cream. Dump the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined.

Add the batter to the pan and spread out evenly (wetting your fingers or the back of a spatula makes this a little easier. It’s very sticky dough). Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until tester inserted in middle comes out clean and top is golden. Cool for 20 minutes before removing to a rack.

Serve with a little (or a lot) of butter. Keeps well wrapped for about a week (as if it would last that long), is terrific toasted and freezes very well. Calories: 3100 per loaf, or about 210-250 per slice (12-15 slices).

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

A Soda Bread, a Lamb Shank, and an Irish Toast…

DSC07527If you grew up in my hometown, the 17th of March was on the list of major holidays. Happens when the citizens number many with roots deep in the old sod. There were Meehans, and Feehans, and Sheehans (all in one class), and an O’ or a Fitz was not foreign to the front of last names. Sure there were others too with roots vast and wide, but on that day in mid-March, we were ALL Irish just a bit. So in that spirit I offer up two recipes and a toast. Bubbe’s Irish Soda Bread with Sour Cream fills the quick bread needs of the day deliciously, and what’s better than lamb and Guinness when celebrating the best of Ireland?  And as for that Irish toast? I can’t think of one more fitting than this:

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends…

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Guinness Braised Lamb Shanks

Per lamb shank

  • 1  cup of Guinness (I trust you’ll know what to do with any leftovers)
  • 1 lamb shank (1 – 1.25 pounds)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium rib celery, chopped
  • ½ a medium onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • ¼  cup red wine
  • 1-2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 anchovy fillet, chopped
  • ½  a bay leaf
  • 2” sprig of thyme, left whole
  • 1 “  sprig of rosemary, left whole
  • water or stock
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Generously salt and pepper the lamb shank. Brown the shank on all sides. Remove to a plate, turn heat to medium and add the chopped onion, carrots and celery and a pinch of salt to the pan. (Add some more oil to the pan if it is dry.) Cook the vegetables until they begin to soften and brown slightly. Add in the garlic and cook another minute. Add in the tomato paste and anchovy, stir into the vegetables, and cook another minute. Add the red wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add back in the lamb and any accumulated juices, the bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Add in the beer and enough water or broth to come up to the top of the lamb shank but not cover. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour, turning the lamb once or twice. About 10 minutes before the hour is up, turn the oven on to 325°F.  When the lamb is starting to pull away from the bone, remove the cover, baste with the braising liquid and bake, uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn shank and bake another 10 minutes. This will give the lamb a beautiful shellacked finish. Remove lamb to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Put the pan with the braising liquid over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until it is reduced and thickened a bit. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed asparagus.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In honor of the Isle of Emerald and all who hail from it (including those who do just for today), I share a bounty of quick bread recipes. One I posted last year, Bubbe’s Irish Soda Bread with Sour Cream, the other two I had intended to feature one of my favorite quaffs from the land of snake-chasing saints and mischievous wee folk – Guinness. However, when faced with the quandary of using Guinness in baking, rather than using Guinness as the gods intended, I decided to go with a lovely chocolate stout in my baking instead. Rest assured the Guinness did not go to waste, and was well represented in my glass as I baked Chocolate Stout Soda Bread with Dried Cherries, and Chocolate Stout Beer Bread. 

Now let’s all lift a glass of Guinness, or Bushmills or such, and send out a toast…

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.

May your heart be as light as a song.

May each day bring you bright, happy hours

That stay with you all the year long.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Chocolate Stout Soda Bread with Dried Cherries

Makes one loaf

This is nice with just some butter or jam

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 TBSP sour cream (lite or regular, not non-fat)
  • 1 cup Guinness, chocolate stout or your favorite stout beer (I used chocolate stout from Trader Joe’s and it works nicely – why waste a good Guinness?)
  • ¾ cup dried cherries
  • 1 TBSP melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with some of the melted butter.

Sift the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Take a ¼ cup of the dry mixture and toss with the dried cherries (this will keep the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the batter when added.)

In a smaller bowl, beat the egg with the sour cream and sugar until well mixed. Add the stout and mix together until incorporated. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix just until there are no dry spots (don’t over-mix), then fold in the dried cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and even out. Brush the top of the bread with the remaining melted butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Cut into 8-12 wedges, slather with butter, and enjoy! Total calories, 1850, or 155-230 per wedge.

Chocolate Stout Beer Bread

Makes one loaf

I love this with some goat cheese or a nice sharp cheddar

  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 12 oz. chocolate stout (or other stout beer)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 TBSP sour cream (lite or regular, not non-fat)
  • 4 TBSP brown sugar
  • Zest of a large orange
  • 1 TBSP butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush an 8-inch loaf pan well with some of the melted butter.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cocoa and salt into a large bowl. Wisk in the orange zest. In a medium bowl, beat the egg, sour cream and sugar together, then add the beer and mix.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix just until no flour is visible – don’t over mix. Pour into prepared loaf pan and brush top with remaining melted butter. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on rack 10 minutes. Calories: 1900 total, or about 160 calories per slice (12 slices).

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, Bubeleh

©cookinginmyheels.com

The following story is based on fact (sort of). The names have been changed to protect the culinarily impaired.

A young Irish lass with a passel of tots and her young doctor husband moved into a predominantly Jewish building, while Dr. McFertile (there were a LOT of tots) finished his residency at a nearby hospital. Mrs. McFertile, while prolific indeed, was not as bountiful in the kitchen. Fact was, our bonnie lass was a lousy cook. Luckily, living in such close proximity to so many bubbes served her well. You see, no bubbe can resist feeding a hungry mass, and soon our badly cooking colleen was taken under a wing and taught a bissel basics for feeding her ever-growing Mc-tribe.

As a thank you, the grateful gal decided to bake something from the Old Sod and bestow it upon her teacher. Irish soda bread was lovingly prepared according to her sainted mother’s receipt and presented with Celtic pride. Bubbe smiled and thanked her pupil for the thoughtful gift.

The following day brought a knock at the door. There stood Bubbe, a freshly baked loaf of soda bread in hand. “Tateleh, yesterday I had a piece of your lovely bread with a nice glass tea. The Sinai has more moisture.”

The following recipe is a bubby-improved version of Irish Soda Bread. Traditional? Feh, but it sure is good, and Mrs. McFertile has been making it ever since. So, what’s not to like?

Bubbe’s Irish Soda Bread with Sour Cream

Makes one generous loaf, as moist as the Emerald Isle.

  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups raisins (I like a mix of dark and golden raisins, but what usually goes in is based on what I have in the pantry at the moment.)

Preheat oven to 350ºF and butter and flour an 8” or 9” cake pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk in a large bowl. Add the raisins and mix so they are well-distributed. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg and whisk with the sour cream. Dump the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until combined.

Add the batter to the pan and spread out evenly (wetting your fingers or the back of a spatula makes this a little easier. It’s very sticky dough). Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until tester inserted in middle comes out clean and top is golden. Cool for 20 minutes before removing to a rack.

Serve with a little (or a lot) of butter. Keeps well wrapped for about a week (as if it would last that long), is terrific toasted and freezes very well. Calories: 3100 per loaf, or about 210-250 per slice (12-15 slices).

Moose Muffins

When my niece and nephew were little they had a book titled “If you give a Moose a Muffin”. The premise was that if you give a moose a muffin, he’ll want some jam, so you’ll have to go berry picking, and as you do you see some lovely flowers for the table, and you know how much moose-folk like flowers, but then you’ll need to make something to put the flowers in…. You get the picture. I seem to spend a good deal of my time making moose muffins. I start out with plans to, say, clean the apartment. As I’m dusting I stop to straighten the magazines on the ottoman (all food themed, naturally). Hmm, I really need to go through those dog-eared pages of recipes and review the keepers and trashers. You know, a cup of earl grey would be nice while I do this, and maybe a cookie. What was that oatmeal cookie recipe Mom had?  Yup, moose muffins, AGAIN!

It’s even worse when I’m planning a dinner party. There I am, list in hand, very focused. I will not be distracted. I will only buy what is on my list. Off to the market I go, steely in my resolve as I head down the first aisle. Carrots, check. Celery and onions, check. Just three more things and I’m done. Ooo, almonds are a really good price here. Plop, in the cart it goes. OK Karin, FOCUS. Chopped tomatoes, check, lentils and stock, check, check. Done! Hmm, those sausages look good. What was that recipe I cut out? Roasted grapes with sausages, definitely want to give that a try. Plop, plop. I probably would like some rosemary in it too, and I spied pots of herbs by the door. Plop, plop plop. It would be so nice to have an herb garden on my windowsill. I think there’s potting soil over there. PLOP! Suddenly there he is, standing right in front of me with muffin crumbs on his antlers and smiling that big moosey grin.

I’m not sure there’s a cure for me. Use lists you say? My pockets and purse are filled with them, and I’m still baking for Bullwinkle. Luckily, he likes my cooking.

They're out there just waiting for those muffins

My moosey friends prefer I include a muffin recipe today. They know they’ll get a taste eventually. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I created one that would make a nice addition to the holiday breadbasket. These Mini Pumpkin Corn Muffins with Fresh Cranberries are not overly sweet and should please your non-moose guests too.

Mini Pumpkin Corn Muffins with Fresh Cranberries

Makes 24 mini muffins

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 TBSP grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 TBSP canola oil (or other flavorless vegetable oil)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup whole cranberries, chopped fairly fine

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray mini muffin pan with nonstick spray. Whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. Add all of the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and whisk until they are well blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined (over-mixing makes tough muffins.) Fold in the chopped cranberries.

Fill the mini muffin pan with 2TBSP portions of the batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan after 6 minutes. Remove the mini muffins and cool on baking rack. Calories: approximately 65 each.

Hiking the High Road

I learned pretty early on in life that it’s always better to take the high road. Unfortunately, getting there can sometimes feel like climbing Everest, especially when you are blue and fantasies of verbally eviscerating someone peek around the corners of your brain. I’ve never regretting taking the elevated route, but that climb isn’t always easy and can truly test your resolve and hiking heels. Consider the romantic breakup. Once the deed is done, wouldn’t it be nice if that person fell off the face of the earth? I don’t mean that maliciously, but rather that they enter an alternate universe and you never have to run into them. At the very least, shouldn’t they be sitting alone on the edge of bed in some seedy room, bare light bulb swinging overhead and garish neon letters just outside the window flashing ‘OTEL’’, while you’re on a date with George Clooney?

It gets even harder when you’ve been out of work for a while and run into someone in your network that knows your ‘villain’. We all know burning bridges is just plain BAD, and trash talking someone you worked for to someone who may know them is like pouring kerosene on the overpass. Regardless of how hard it is you have to stifle the urge to fire up the flame-thrower, even if the person controlling the your bridge is a beady-eyed, bald, officious troll with an ego 4 times his merits and diminutive height. (SEE how hard it is?) Much better to climb up to that higher road, smile like the Mona Lisa (with visions of torches dancing in your head) and enjoy the view from up there. Actually, I find a kind of nobility in holding my tongue and rising above it. I can’t always muster it (obviously), but on the occasions I do I realize that the crap that’s been thrown at me has had some  value and gives me more practice in shoring up my resolve. I have a feeling that will come in handy again.

Finding a recipe to go with this post was a bit of a challenge. I don’t have anything with trolls as an ingredient (now THAT would be revenge), so I thought something that rises. Yes, bad pun, but good recipe, and very nice addition to your holiday table or for breakfast the next day.

Pumpkin Biscuits

These are wonderful just as they are with a little honey, butter, or cranberry sauce. You could make these up to adding the wet ingredients in a food processor, but they are so easy by hand, why get something else dirty?

Makes 12-14 biscuits 2 ½” biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 TBSP cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ cup cold whole milk
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add in the orange zest and whisk so it’s well distributed throughout the flour. Add the chilled butter, and ‘cut’ in using a pastry blender or a fork until the butter is about the size of peas. Whisk the milk and the pumpkin together until fully incorporated, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix together with a fork until the dough just comes together (careful not to over mix). Dump out onto a floured surface and pat together to a rough rectangle about an inch thick. Fold the dough in half and pat down again. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Once the dough has rested (it will have risen a bit), roll out to about ½ to ¾” thick. Cut out biscuits using a juice glass or 2 ½”biscuit cutter. Don’t twist the cutter or you will crimp the edges and they won’t rise as well.

Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for 12-13 minutes. Calories: 100 per 2 ½” biscuit.

You want some cheese with that whine?

There’s an awful lot out there these days to whine about. The rising prices, the falling market, your job or lack of, lovers (or lack of), children, bosses or just why anyone would give a rat’s heiny about any Kardasian. You name it, there’s a vintage of ennui to accompany. Yet rather than fan the embers of melancholy, I find a guaranteed method for extinguishing that whine is through the liberal application of some cheese. Specifically, a spectacularly cheesy movie. And what is le grand fromage of cinema d’cheese? THE ELVIS MOVIE!! You just can’t feel sorry for yourself watching one of Mr. Presley’s lactose-filled little gems. Come on, I dare you to slip on sackcloth during “Speedway”, “Roustabout” or “Tickle Me”. “Girl Happy” is guaranteed to inspire giggles. Just the fact that a song and dance about a mollusk was created for this cinematic tour de force makes me laugh out loud, leap off the couch and DO THE CLAM! It’s better than Prozac. Perhaps a laugh-fest from the Marx Brothers or Mel Brooks might do the trick, but for maximum schlock-factor the cinematic cheese of an Elvis flick can’t be beat. Take the King, put him in a boat or race car or on a beach, add in a pretty girl in capri pants and kitten heels, a smarmy rival for her affections and the Jordanaires (conveniently showing up at the first chord of a ditty) and you’ve got a cheese-a-palooza! So the next time you feel the blahs creeping in I suggest you raise the corner of your upper lip, start up your wiggle, and pop in an Elvis flick. You’ll thank me, thank me very much…

Rather than include a cheese-themed recipe (there’s plenty of lactose in the movie), I created something the King himself might have enjoyed. Feel free to fry a slice up in butter. Elvis would.

Hunk-a Hunk-a Peanut Butter Banana Loaf

Makes 1 loaf (10-12 slices)

  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 cup shaken buttermilk
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter chips
  • 2 TBSP roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP banana chips, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8×4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the brown sugar and peanut butter together. Add in the banana and beaten egg and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet (it will be a little dry – don’t worry, the buttermilk will loosen it up to a more batter-like consistency). Add in the buttermilk and mix until fully incorporated. Fold in the peanut butter chips. Pour the batter into greased loaf pan. Mix the chopped peanuts and banana chips together, and sprinkle top of loaf.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean. Remove from pan and cook on rack. Calories: 210/slice for 12 slices, 250/slice for 10 slices.