cheddar bay biscuits a la red lobster.

As promised, mama’s back on her home turf. And it feels good to be home. No, I didn’t kiss the hypothetical ground of my blog, but I did celebrate. With lard.

holy butter.vegetable shortening. rad.
whoa, a little full!cheddah.

OK, not lard, literally, but essentially its relatives. Shortening, anyone? Cheddar cheese? Butter? You bet, baby — all three in one fluffy biscuit. Butter inside and butter on top. Gooey yellow cheddar and garlicky goodness. I’m not promoting a diet strictly of the biscuit kind, but you may want to cut out whatever else you were planning to eat today once you bite into one of these biscuits. Though you’ve had them before.

cheddar, shortening and buttah.

scoop n' dough.

“What do you mean, I’ve had them before?” you ask. Ever been to Red Lobster (if not, get thee out from under that rock!)? If you have, you’ve undoubtedly scarfed down a Cheddar Bay Biscuit (or two, or three… my my, save some room for your Admiral’s Feast!). I was planning to make a side dish to lasagna for a co-worker who’s recovering from surgery, and after sifting through the pages of my heap of Food Network magazines, I found this little copycat, gasped, and thought, “These must be made.” And the rest is history (as seen below).

biscuits pre-oven.

mmm. garlic butter and parsley.

The saddest part about this whole operation is, I don’t know what these taste like, as I was infantile enough to buy only enough ingredients for one batch. Which goes to said family. Leaving none for me. I guess that’s the point of doing someone a favor. Sigh. But not to worry, I’ll be making these for myself in no time, as they certainly smell and look delicious. And maybe you can let me know how they taste, too? Here’s hoping I don’t send off these pretty little numbers only to find they taste like lard. And only lard. What a pity that would be.

cheddar biscuits.

Debrief: Though I decided to keep it simple for the sake of sparing my co-worker and his family my crazy experimental adaptations of this recipe, I wouldn’t doubt switching out the parsley and cheddar for blue cheese and scallions tastes great (as shown in this variation). Also, as I am a sucker for whole-wheat flour, replacing half of the all-purpose flour for it might not be such a bad idea either.

Cheddar Biscuits
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Yields 12 to 14 biscuits

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp vegetable shortening, room temperature
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (plus more for greasing baking sheet)
1 1/4 cups grated yellow cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk (they suggest whole, I used 2 percent)

For the garlic butter:

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with butter.
Make the biscuits: In a large food processor or stand mixer (as you can see my food processor wasn’t big enough, thus the switch to the stand mixer), pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the butter; pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times. Pour in the milk and pulse just until the mixture is moistened and forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently knead until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough.
Drop the dough onto the baking sheet in scant 1/4-cup portions (I used an ice cream scoop for this), 2 inches apart, and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the garlic butter: Melt the butter with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Brush the biscuits with the garlic butter and serve warm.

Extra punches: Watch the biscuits carefully, checking every few minutes after 10 minutes in the oven to ensure they don’t burn. They can very easily go from golden brown to burnt in a short amount of time.

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wheat naan.

I know, I know, I swore I would never eat Indian food again after my month-long trip there over a year ago. But I must admit, this recipe really warmed me up again to the idea of Indian cuisine (I even had a rice and potato curry dish with it for dinner last night — egads, I am risky!).

Anywho, enough about me. It’s time for you to read my next post on Tablespoon! This time, Wheat Naan. Want some bread? I have naan left because I ate it all. Get it? Ha. ha.

Ha.

Oh dear. A happy Monday to you all.

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blue cheese & walnut wheat crackers

Dear Ina Garten,

If ever you feel the need to invite a big fan of yours to your lovely abode in the Hamptons and fill her up with fine cheeses and wine, I wouldn’t be opposed to accepting your invitation. Just saying.

Sincerely,

Stephanie

P.S. Tell Jeffrey I said hello.
butter and blue cheesefreshly ground pepper
cracker doughwalnuts
Though I truly love the Midwest and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else for the rest of my existence, I sometimes get wanderlust to places like Greece, or Australia, or even the Hamptons. Kelly Ripa talks about it all the time; I’m pretty sure there’s some version of “Real Housewives” set there; and I wouldn’t complain about wearing the obligatory over-sized floppy hat. And, of course, Ina Garten lives there (I think — I haven’t stalked her enough yet to know for sure, but wherever she lives is magical). Plus, if I lived in the Hamptons, I would get to eat fancy-schmancy crackers like these all day long, complete with a glass of wine (which I hear, in the Hamptons, is perfectly acceptable to drink at 11 o’ clock in the morning).

slices of wheat crackers

But for now, I’m stuck here, with a cornfield instead of a coastline. But at least I can still have the crackers.

blue cheese and walnut crackers

I don’t know what inspired me to bake crackers this time. Maybe it was the wall of cheese at the co-op that fascinates me so (What a bounty of cheese! Such variety!). Maybe it was the practicality of making crackers as opposed to stollen or lebkuchen. Whatever the reason, the result has left me and my husband happily full in the hours between meals.

closeup of crackers

And, as my friends well know, a full Steph is a happy Steph.

Debrief: These crackers are very versatile. If you don’t like the strength of blue cheese, try cheddar and chives. Or parmesan and thyme. Or rosemary and… manchego, perhaps?

Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers
Adapted from Food Network

Yields: 30 crackers

Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
5-8 oz. blue cheese, crumbled (Ina recommends Stilton, but Maytag worked just fine for me), at room temperature
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and blue cheese together for 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large crumbles, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly on the outside of the log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the log 3/8ths-inch thick with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Extra punches: I’d suggest chopping the walnuts really well before coating the crackers. As you can see with mine, the pieces were a little big and had trouble sticking to the sides of the crackers. They still basically stuck, but I think a coating of finely-chopping walnuts would not only look prettier, but would also save you the headache of trying to keep them stuck to the edges.

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warm pizza

In our continuing quest for good, vegetarian-friendly grub, the husband and I decided to make ourselves a homemade margherita pizza, with our own flair (queso fresco instead of mozzarella, plus some spinach… I’d say it was a result of culinary innovation, but really it was because we had nothing else in the fridge). I’ve always hated the buttery taste of store-bought pizza doughs, so I searched for a healthy, easy pizza dough recipe, as I’ve been longing to make my own pie base for quite some time now. Leave it to my handy dandy Food Network Magazine to come through in the clutch with a pullout section for what? Pizza. Schwing.
wheat flourwhisk!
2 1/4 tsp yeastpouring water

The recipe was so short it fit within the confines of a 3/4-by-2-inch box in the center of a list of 50 pizza recipes, and despite the gashes in my current food supply I had all of the ingredients necessary for not one, nay, but TWO pounds of pizza dough. My stars!

The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour alone, but in an effort to make a healthier dough I incorporated 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour with 2 cups all-purpose (I could have tipped the scales more in favor of whole wheat, but at the risk of make a super-tough dough I declined this time). In a matter of minutes the dough was ready for kneading, and my wonderful husband decided to take a stab (or a fist) at kneading for the first time (I guess he had a lot of stress to release).

kneading pizza dough, part deux

kneading pizza dough, part three

ball o' dough

After the dough doubled (which took just about 1 1/2 hours, per the recipe), we separated the mass in half and reserved one pound in the fridge for the next day, leaving one pound to spread thin, thin, thin across a 15-inch round pizza stone (also from Food Network — psh, what are the ODDS?)

rolled out pizza dough

closeup of pizza

We smeared on olive oil and crushed tomatoes; sprinkled a smattering of dried oregano, salt and pepper; and topped it off with crumbled cheese and torn spinach leaves. Into the oven for 15 minutes (barely) and bellissimo! That’s amore.

pizza squares

Seriously, if you’re salivating over these pictures (which you should be, because this pizza was ah-mazing), grab these ingredients out of your cabinets (or cupboards, if you are a gnome and live under a thatched roof) and get to business. It’ll be easier than poaching an egg! (I know, because I did just that this weekend.)

Debrief: This was certainly an inspirational recipe, to say the least, in the sense that it got me thinking about so many different kinds of pizzas I could make with this simple dough. Maybe a breakfast pizza or fruit pizza is in my near future.

Pizza Dough
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Whisk 3 3/4 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Make a well and add 1 1/3 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 packet yeast. When foamy, mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil; knead until smooth, 5 minutes. Brush with olive oil, cover in a bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Divide into two 1-pound balls. Use 1 pound per recipe (unless you want to make a thicker crust, deep-dish or a stuffed pizza… in which case follow the recipes on Food Network).

Extra punches: Really, you can make any pizza your little heart desires using this dough. It’s mild enough that it can be topped with anything from tomato sauce to barbecue sauce to hummus to yogurt. Go crazy! And send me the recipes.

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