Monday, January 30, 2012

Cooking Through Grief and Worry and Frustration and ...

Last week was not easy. I went to the memorial service of a man who was like a second father to me — my childhood best friend's father. While he lived a wonderful full life, dying only three weeks after he was out dancing with his wife of 63 years and at the age of 87, it's still, as everyone knows who has suffered this kind of loss, gut wrenching.

Last week is also when our granddaughter was diagnosed with MRSA. MRSA, if you don't know, is a fairly — no very — scary antibiotic-resistant form of staph. Of course Rachel and John have pulled out all the stops. (You can read about it in Rachel's blog.) But they're 3,000 miles away and I can't do a damn thing to help other than read things about MRSA online (I would not recommend this as a plan by the way) and try very hard not to freak out.

So in between just feeling sad and hyperventilating, I did one of the things I do when I'm trying to work through emotions. I cooked.

I made mookies (recipe here)

And roasted vegetable soup

And a quiche

and banana chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

(Oh and I also put a coat of paint on a display case I'm redoing and knit. So yea, I was a little manic.)

The cooking made me feel a little better, though. As I diced and mixed and stirred and spiced, I felt as if things were normal. I was making good food for someone I love, food that would nurture him literally and emotionally, and for at least those moments life's uncontrollable moments were held at bay. It may not be for long, but I'll take it.

Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (! 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together the butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix in the banana. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until just combined. Add the oats, chocolate chips and walnuts.

Place on a baking sheet. Bake 12-13 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Healthy + Delicious Muffins. For Real.

Rachel here.

We've got a finicky eater on our hand. By finicky I mean that someone in this household who is only about yay high has issued a moratorium on trying new things. And by new things I include hot chocolate. No matter the deliciousness, Miss M simply refuses to let anything new cross her lips. Thank god we'd gotten a few super nutrients over the threshold before the embargo settled in. The fact that she will eat interesting and strongly flavored foods (such as garlic and ginger), though, makes her refusal to continue adventuring all the more frustrating. John and I both offer her things to try with confidence that she'll like them, only to find our spoons butting against her cheek instead of her open mouth.

We're getting pretty good, though, at tricking her into eating things without knowing it. We put silken tofu in yogurt and oatmeal; John minces vegetables and adds them to pasta sauce. And the other day I whipped up some muffins that are brimming with carrots and unsweetened coconut, flax and organic whole wheat flour. Evidently, putting things in muffin form moves them into the acceptable category for Miss M. Just don't put a carrot on her plate.

Anyway, these muffins were surprisingly tasty. I used demarara sugar which is one of the least-sweet sugars around. I used just enough to cut the tang of the wheat flour and the muffins are just ever-so-slightly sweetened. These are hearty little lumps, excellent with a smear of cream cheese on top. Though generated for M, we've all been eating them.

I adapted this recipe from this old hippy tome.

According to my marginalia, I've made these muffins before in a different variation (I used apples and agave and such in that endeavor). I always mark my differences, and pretty soon my marginalia is going to crowd out the original recipe. Maybe next time I should try them the way the cookbook suggests...

Oh, you mis-measured the milk? And just poured it in anyway? And now your batter's too runny? Yeah, I did that, too. I just added handfuls of flax meal until things returned to a nice, gooey consistency again. And then I patted myself on the back for upping the health ante.

Voila! Don't these suckers look extra healthy next to the heaping basket of produce our sweet hippy neighbors dropped off?

They hold up all right on their own, though, too. I think perhaps part of tricking a saucy toddler into eating healthy muffins is putting them in cute polka dotted wrappers.

It's hard to wait for muffins to cool, but somebody's gotta do it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Twist

Regular readers know I (Janet) am fairly cookie-obsessed. I love to bake them and I love to eat them. This past weekend it was snowing here in the Northeast, a time when I always feel particularly cozy baking up a storm.

There was just one little problem: I'm in the middle of my annual purification cleanse, which basically means taking a bunch of supplements, drinking a lot of water, and eating mostly fruits and vegetables. Notably not on the list are cookies.

But I really wanted to bake. The question was would I be able to refrain from eating one of these little numbers warm from the oven or perhaps sneaking an errant chocolate chip or two from the batter?

Welllllll, no. I did eat one cookie, and it was damn good. I'm pretty sure my detoxifying liver and kidney will recover.

As for the recipe, it's a good one. I added a little twist that I heartily recommend: cinnamon. Seriously. Give it whirl and let us know what you think.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
about 3 dozen

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter (I used a little of each)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla

Put the butter and peanut butter in a bowl and mix until smooth. (If you're using an electric mixer that would be about 2 minutes.) Add the sugars and mix some more. Mix in the eggs. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, peanuts and vanilla and mix well. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your hand or a fork. Bake until golden, about 13 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Mess 'o Magazine (Pages)

Janet here: Sooooo last year I posted about my magazine, um, problem. The picture probably tells the story but if you want to hear all the messy details, you can read it here.

At the time, my very clever solution was to simply tear the pages out of the magazines, thus eliminating the ever-growing stack. (You can probably tell where this is going.) But now, I have a mess of — yup — pages, including recipes I've printed from things I've read online. It's not pretty.

Clearly this strategy isn't working, especially since on top of it all I have hardly cooked a single thing from this pile. Pathetic I know.

But I've been thinking a bit about why we do this. For me I think it's all part of my lifetime quest to create the family I wished I'd had as a child. Don't get me wrong: plenty of things about my childhood were perfectly wonderful. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood and never really wanted for anything; my family was intact and many of my memories are happy ones. But there was, as there is in every family, a dark side, and in my particular case that dark side involved alcohol and all the many messy, confusing (to a child particularly), scary things that disease invokes.

And at a certain point — I think I was in 9th grade — I vowed my family would be different. I can picture the moment quite clearly. I was in my room and I looked up at the sky, hand clenched, and vowed, not unlike Scarlett in that seminal scene in Gone with the Wind, that my family, the one I created with my future husband, would be different.

I've been working at that mission ever since we had children. And food — making food from scratch, trying to ensure that everyone liked the food, literally keeping my family well fed — has played a major part. So as I flip through magazines or scroll through food blogs and recipes, this desire to feed people well is always in the back of my mind. It's about showing my love and, of course, looking for love in return.

So I rip, thinking G and S might like this one or maybe I can make that one for Rachel and her family or perhaps this one would be great when we have some of our friends over for dinner. I rip, thinking, hoping, that this next meal will add just another knot in the quilt of my life I've been sewing since I was 14. The more knots, apparently, the stronger I think it will be.

Still, something in this method has to change. So here's my (kind of) New Year resolution about this. I am going to cook something from this pile at least three times a month. (I originally was going to say once a week, but that would fail oh probably around week two, at which point I might give up on the whole thing and I'd be back to just a growing mountain of magazine pages.) Anyway, once I make the recipe, I will decide if it's a keeper or a tosser. The keepers will go in a notebook for posterity. And some day, as my children clear out what's left, they'll be able to know that these particular recipes were some of the ones that made the cut.

In the meantime, if anyone has any brilliant ideas about how they deal with their ripped-out recipes — I know I'm not the only person who does this — please share them! You'll be doing us all a favor.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Rachel here.

So, this Wednesday we will be silent. Our silence will speak volumes, though, about our vehement opposition to the internet censorship bill (PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House...such innocuous sounding nicknames for policy with such terrifying implications). We will be standing in quiet solidarity with websites around the country in protest of this insidious attack on freedom of expression. As writers, as women, and as mothers we refuse to be passive in the face of such violent assault on our voices.

Here is a little video to clue you in in case you're not entirely sure what the big deal is:

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

A year ago, during the Arab Spring, the United States government was outspoken about their dismay at various Middle Eastern governments' censorship of their citizens. Today, on the heels of a growing grassroots movement against the United States government, we find ourselves faced with a government that seeks to enact the very sort of policy they tsk-tsked a year ago. The rhetoric around PIPA and SOPA fronts as a sort of "defense of the entertainment industry" schtick. We know, though, that it is only the latest policy move towards privileging corporations over people, advancing an agenda of grotesque profits and power for a tiny few on the backs of the vast rest of us.

Here is one small example of both the absurdity and the stakes of SOPA/PIPA passing. My niece likes to record herself singing on her computer and then upload her little ditties onto Facebook for her friends and family to hear. She's got a set of pipes, she does, and chutzpa to boot. Her latest offerings have been from Jason Mraz and Adele. And you know what? Though she's adorable beyond description and sings her heart out, I feel confident that no one--NO ONE--has opted not to purchase Adele or Jason Mraz's music because my sweet niece's version hit the spot. She's eleven, after all, and nobody masters her tracks. The idea that Facebook, or Youtube, or even SHE would be sued over this someday makes my blood curdle. Because you know what? What is lost in a world where an eleven year old girl can't sing her heart out in her bedroom and share it with her friends over the internet is more than just the sharing of the song. We lose the sharing of feelings, we lose grasp of a way to connect, to find access to ourselves through words we sometimes can't think of on our own and we lose a vehicle for sharing this part of self or moment of feeling with other people. In a society where we are trained at every turn to self-censor--to wear only the right clothes, to offer appropriate feelings, to desire only certain bodies--the idea that we would further strip away freedom of expression--and on a policy level, no less!--is appalling.

You've read Fahrenheit 459, right? Let's stand up before freedom of expression is just a pile of ash.

Here are links to a few websites. Some have links for emailing your local representatives, others have informative breakdowns of the operations of PIPA/SOPA. If you know of any others, please share them in the comments section below.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A New Tuna Casserole

Janet here: I know tuna cassroles are staples in many households and a go-to meal for a busy weeknight but I don't think I made one while my kids lived at home. The reason is simple: the word tuna.

I made a mistake as a parent I would suggest anyone reading this with young kids avoid: for a while — and waaaaayyy longer than I should have — I made separate meals for certain kids who did not like (maybe even refused to put one bite in his mouth) of the general dinner. On a given night that could mean I made four dinners. I know, I know, I know! This is CRAZY and goes against every parenting book out there. I took the path of least resistance, what can I tell you? (And I know I'm not the only one out there.)

Anyway one night, as I surveyed what was going on at the dinner table, I suddenly woke up from this nightmare and said to myself, This is going to stop. Right. Now.

The break was not happily met but as I've mentioned at various other junctures in our children's lives, this perceived grievance (not being able to have a friend over on a school night, not being their personal short order cook, not buying the latest gadget EVERYONE BUT THEM had, are all found in the latest edition of the Parents' Torture Book, which every parent receives at the hospital upon the birth of their child and they can look forward to getting their own copy one day. I also at various points may have said something like, "Well now you have something to talk to your therapist about.")

Anyway, the point is I never went down the tuna road. Since I was making one meal I did try to come up with something that would please the lowest common denominator. I probably batted 50-50 there. Thank God for cereal and peanut butter and jelly. This particular child is now a strapping 6 feet tall.

But if your family is more adventurous or if you've just got a hankering for tuna casserole yourself, this version is a little like warmed salad nicoise. And who wouldn't like that?

Mediterranean Tuna Casserole
inspired by Not Your Mother's Casseroles

10 ounces wide egg noodles
olive oil
1 pound red potatoes, sliced
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 6-ounce cans tuna, drained
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and cut into pieces
3/4 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup sliced black olives
a few hearty shakes of dried parsley
3/4 cups shredded Parmesan

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9X13 baking pan. Boil a pot of salted water and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl. Toss in a little olive oil so they don't clump.

Bring water to a boil again and add potatoes.Blanch for four minutes, drain and return to the pot.

While the noodles and potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir for about five minutes. Then whisk in the milk. Cook for about five minutes, stirring regularly until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. '

Mix the egg noodles and potatoes in the pot. Pour sauce over them. Add the tuna, artichoke hearts, capers, olives, scallions,parsley and Parmesan. Salt to taste. Mix it up and place in baking pan. Add a little more Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh Brother, Mother.

Rachel here.

Ok, so yesterday my mom wrote this post about how she like, doesn't need to follow cooking rules or some madness like that. She claims her cooking is not only fine, but good, rules be damned.

I grew up eating her food. I turned out fine. She rarely repulsed me (except by refusing to believe that I hate broccoli and cauliflower until I was well into my 20s) and some of her dishes remain my all-time favorite meals to eat (her Greek Pizza and granola are unrivaled in my opinion). However, the woman isn't a professional. She just isn't. And, as her concession that letting dairy products warm to room temperature before baking does, in fact, improve the end product suggests, maybe the pros are onto something.

I have spent the better part of the last 6 years in a kitchen. A RESTAURANT kitchen, no less. And while the place where I've worked is no-frills, it's also deeply committed to consistency. The food looks and tastes pretty much the same regardless of who has made it. What's the key? Following rules.

I've also spent the last 6 years cohabiting with a guy who has spent more years in professional kitchens than I think he'd like me to count and announce to you all (ok, he probably doesn't care...I'm just too lazy to figure it out on my own). John almost never uses a recipe and, my inferiority complex aside, I think I've finally figured out why: he knows the rules. There are these hard, fast, reliable truths about food and preparation processes that have seeped so deeply into him that he no longer needs to be propped up by a recipe. A recipe, after all, is basically just telling you what rules to follow.

And here's the thing: My mom is a good cook. I'm an alright cook. John, though, is a great cook. The man throws things together in the kitchen that make my knees weak, and he does it all without breaking a sweat.

One final point before I rest my case. This post might have a bunch of type-os in it that I don't catch. Want to know why? Because I used a too-big knife on a too-small cutting board and hacked off the tip of my finger the other day. THINK ON THAT.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Breaking the Rules

Apparently I am a bit of a cooking disaster waiting to happen. At least I am according to the experts interviewed by Real Simple.

The January issue has a story called How to Fix Dinner: 17 all-too-common cooking mistakes (plus easy tips to avoid them). I do (or have done) about half of these tips regularly — mostly without any ill effect.

Take number two: using the wrong knife. Been there, done that, do that all the time. I don't even know which knife in my fairly nice Cutco knife set (Rachel spent a brief foray one summer in this selling cult so we of course now have many Cutco knives purchased before she quit) is supposed to do what. It's a complete mystery so I just grab the one closest at hand and hack away. Mostly that method works just fine. The Real Simple story, however, suggests that this approach will "damage your food." If I used the correct knife, I would be more efficient and my dicing would be neater.

The problem is that I don't really care about how neat my diced pieces are. In fact, I mostly don't care if my food is precisely diced at all, favoring larger pieces overall and losing interest fairly early in the process. I'm more interested in the flavors themselves and getting to the finished product.

Which is why I always — until the past year, when I finally realized maybe all these cookbooks and cookbook authors I interviewed were on to something since they were all saying the same thing — just grabbed my eggs and dairy products such as milk out of the fridge minutes before I would mix them into some kind of batter and dough. This is a baking no-no (number 15) because it results in dense cakes and breads. Apparently at room temperature, the article says, eggs, butter and liquids such as milk "bond and form an emulsion that traps air." Cold ingredients don't always bond.

As part of my quest to get my cookie baking Mojo back, I decided to pay more attention to some of these baking details. Letting the eggs and butter get to room temperature has been one of my changes and I'm happy to report, I will go up against Rachel's cooking baking any day. Bring it!

But a "mistake" I don't see myself changing, despite admonitions to the contrary from a variety of well-known and/or cooks I admire, is measuring dry ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. (And this is before going into the whole weighing debate which certain people absolutely swear by.) I don't even own dry measuring cups (or teaspoon/tablespoon measuring utensils for that matter; I use my eye and pour it directly into the bowl or into the palm of my hand. Oh, and I don't sift — ever.) Apparently baking this way means that my flour is in danger of being compacted if I bang on the cup to try to make it create a level line.

The article did get me thinking, though. I am a good cook. But could I be a better cook if I was more precise, more of a stickler for detail? Is that worth exploring?

My gut reaction is no. Leave it be. I'll try new things when I want (as in with the room temperature switcheroo) and because I'm motivated, not because someone, somewhere, is declaring my method a "mistake."

What about you? Do you break certain cooking "rules"? How's that working for you? Do you have certain procedures you absolutely swear by? Let's do some sharing and see what we come up with.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pork and, Yes, Beer

Clearly at least two of the writers of this blog have pig on the brain. First we get the Edna post (that almost made me become a moral vegetarian) and now we have a much lovelier post about roast pork, a favorite of mine back when red meat was on my personal menu. (I know pork is the "other" white meat but you get what I mean.) Anyway, without further ado, this month's post from Mike the Gay Beer Guy — Janet

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel -

Happy 2012!!! Can you believe it’s here? As I write this on Christmas Day, it’s hardly imaginable that the new year is upon us once again. Last night we made a roast pork shoulder based on a recipe from the TV show, America’s Test Kitchen. Of course, not knowing there as a copy of the recipe online, I set out putting this whole thing together by memory — and actually came pretty close! America’s Test Kitchen also suggests a peach sauce, but we made one with our Weizenbock from last month’s post...enjoy!

Roast Pork with Weizensauce

Based on America’s Test Kitchen Recipe - either from the TV show, or also found here:

pork ingredients
Bone-in Pork Shoulder (2-3 lbs for 2 people with leftovers)
Kosher Salt & Brown Sugar, equal parts
Ground Pepper

Mix the salt and sugar in a bowl making sure there aren’t too many big clumps of brown sugar. Take the pork, fat side up, and score the top; press the salt/sugar mixture into the pork on the top. Wrap the roast in plastic and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight... as you can read in the ATK link, the salt acts as a brine or curing agent, making sure the meat is flavorful throughout. When you’re ready to roast, take the pork out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature; for us, this took the better part of an hour, or maybe longer (I forgot!).

Heat your oven to 325*, unwrap the pork making sure to brush off all the excess salt and sugar, and season with fresh pepper. Place the pork on a greased up V-Rack set inside a roasting pan or high-rimmed baking sheet; add some water to the bottom of the roasting pan so that the juices from the pork don’t burn during roasting. As the pork is in the oven, make sure to replace the water as it evaporates... it’s ok if the sugars caramelize a little!

The pork should be done when a thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 190 degrees; for our 2-3 lb roast that was about 3 hours. Take the roast out, move it to a cutting board, and tent it loosely with foil.

Prepare the sauce from ATK or try our Weizensauce! Serve with your favorite festive sides... we had roasted acorn squash and zucchini (multi-task... as the roast is finishing, put your veggies in the oven!!).


Drippings from the Pork Roast
1 shallot,minced
Weizenbock Beer, about 6-8 oz from a bottle or your keg
Thyme, we used 3 sprigs of fresh, but you can used dried too

Collect the drippings from roast pork; let it sit for 5-10 minutes so you can separate the fat from the juices. As the drippings are resting, prepare your shallot and saute in a small pot. When the shallots have caramelized a bit, stir in the beer, bring it to a boil so the alcohol burns off, and begin reducing. Add the pork drippings to the pot along with the thyme; check your seasoning, but the pork drippings should be salty enough. Reduce by at least half; when finished, remove from heat, remove the thyme and add the honey to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Beer of the Month - Sour Wit

Over my Christmas Break, I will be making an experimental beer based on something we had in Minneapolis at the Herkimer Pub and Brewery in Minneapolis, MN. I think everyone should try sour beers, especially if they aren’t beer drinkers; although sour and complex, most people actually enjoy this style (which is very broad) as opposed to the very bitter IPA, for example. Often you will find fruit lambics in the store, which have been soured with fruit and sweeteners added. My favorite non-fruit sour beer is from Rodenbach, which falls into the Flanders Red subcategory. This recipe will combine a Witbier (think Hoegaarden or Blue Moon) with a sharp sourness... it’s my goal that the sour will accentuate the citrus and coriander normally found in Witbiers. I am only making a half batch, just in case something goes wrong! Cheers

OG: 1.056

FG: 1.014 (apx)

IBUs: 24

ABV: 5.5% (apx)

(3 gallon batch, as opposed my usual 6 gallons!)


3.15 lbs Wheat Liquid Malt Extract

1 lb Flaked Oats (or 1 Minute Oats)

1 lb 2-Row Base Malt

2 oz Munich Malt

1 oz Hallertau Hops at 60 Minutes

½ t Coriander

Zest from 3 different citrus fruits (naval orange, blood orange, and lemon perhaps?)

Witbier Yeast (Wyeast 3944)

Lactobacillus (Wyeast 5335)


Mini-mash the oats, 2-row, and Munich malts (hold anywhere from 149-158* F in about a gallon of water for about an hour. Make sure to use a grain bag, paint strainer bag, or other filter of your choice... if after an hour the liquid tastes sweet, you’ve done it right!!). After an hour and you have separated the liquid (wort) from the grain, dilute the liquid to about 4 gallons and add your wheat malt extract. Bring to a boil, add your hops, and continue to boil for an hour; add the coriander and zest with about a minute or 2 left in the boil. Cool using an ice bath or other method of your choice, move to a glass or stainless steal fermenter (plastic is not a good choice with this beer because of the bacteria involved) and ferment with Witbier yeast in the mid 60s* F. Once fermentation has started, add the Lacto culture; the Wit yeast will finish out and the bacteria will take over giving you a nice sourness. Taste every so often... when it feels right, keg and serve!

Good luck!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Biscuits Baby!

Over the holidays, I was invited to a baby shower for the daughter of Susan "Fake It Til You Bake It" fame. The daughter is a childhood friend of Rachel's and it's her first baby. A celebration was clearly in order.

Susan was a bit flustered when I called her to see what I could bring. It was the holidays after all. "Call Johanna," she said. "She's the one in charge."

So I dutifully called and while I had hoped to bring one of the 3,000 holiday baked goods/chocolates already made, desserts were not what she needed. Nope, what they needed to go with the four different (and I might now add, fabulous) homemade soups and country ham was biscuits.

I had actually never made biscuits before (yes, I know that's unusual but my family is really not a bread family in general so they haven't been on our radar much — a trait that is apparently a bit of an anomaly based on my frantic internet reading about biscuits after I got off the phone with Johanna) but I blithely said, "sure." And then headed online.

Where I learned that there are approximately one million ways to make biscuits and I immediately began to feel just a teensy anxious because, after all, I was making these for Susan (yes, other people would be at the party but anyone who is reading this and who knows Susan understands exactly what I mean when I say I was making them for her. Click here to get an inkling of what I mean.) And all of this was before I got an email from someone else attending the party who said that Susan didn't want to bother me herself but would this person please let me know that the biscuits must be bite-sized.

The stakes were clearly high.

Among the many decisions to be made were buttermilk vs. milk, the quantity of baking powder and butter vs. Crisco (or shortening, which really is one of the world's best euphemisms for something that is otherwise just plain disgusting to ponder — lard). I went with milk because I am tired of buying a quart of buttermilk and having the rest go bad (someone should make pints) and Crisco. The Crisco part was hard, I'm not gonna lie. I mean, what IS that stuff anyway? But I don't have a machine and I know firsthand how hard it is to make crusty things without one (read one of my many pie failure posts here) and so I thought I'd see how Crisco does with my new pastry cutter.

The answer is wonderful. Much much easier. And the biscuits, Susan proclaimed, were "wonderful." Crisis averted.

Basic Biscuits


2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Mix flour, powder and salt together; cut in the shortening. Add the milk and then roll out to 1/2 inch. Cut with a biscuit cutter. Bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes.