Lots of cultural musings today, flavored with laughs:
The recent passing of Alan Rickman, may he rest in peace, reminded me that I never blogged about the Harry Potter party we had back in November. It was a small affair, with maybe a dozen like-minded Potter-nerd friends, as many free decorations as I could print off of the Internet, with Pumpkin Pasties, Butterbeer, and a cheese plate with fixin’s (because cheese plates are my favorite and require no cooking or baking). It was one of those fun parties where at the last second before guests arrived I was able to snap some pictures of what we assembled, then promptly lost my phone and forgot to capture any photos of actual humans. We each took a 100+ question sorting quiz (find it here), watched some of the movies, did Harry Potter trivia (to compete for Head Boy or Head Girl of course) and played Quidditch Pong. It was a marvelous time! Also, a fair warning: If you have no interest in Harry Potter, but you are interested in Pumpkin Pasties, skip the middle and read to the end. They were delicious for breakfast the next day. What I’ve included below is some pictures of the sparse decorations we had, a link to an authentic butterbeer recipe, and my recipe for pumpkin pasties.
Paring down the social media outlets for a while, but I’ll still be posting here, and for the foreseeable future, on Instagram. On occasion I like to post links to news, stories, music, and food related news instead of recipes, which is the subject of today’s post.
The new Dietary Guidelines for American’s for 2015-2020 has been released. This list is updated periodically and it seems the US can’t decide if whole milk is good for you or not. This Washington Post article and this blog post are good reads if you want a distilled version. For the record, we’ve always consumed full fat dairy at our house, regardless of the recommendations, and straight from the cow as often as we could get it. When I was in college and high school, I drank a lot of 2% because that’s what they had and served, I wonder if that was a product of these recommendations and if schools will adapt to the changes?
Marion Nestle, of Food Politics, offers some great insight and opinions into these guidelines. You can read about these insights here, but I’m sure she’ll add more later. This is worth the read if you want an abrasively honest look at these guidelines, which most people need, because they can be annoyingly convoluted. She also links some great commentary on the guidelines. After reading her thoughts on them, it sounds like the writers of the guidelines don’t want to give really firm advice on anything (like, STOP DRINKING SODA), or they don’t understand the science of nutrition well enough to be well-versed in the recommendations. To be fair, nutrition is relatively new in the studied and researched world of science, and is far more complex than most people think, but there is enough literature out there to be able to actually say “you should never drink soda ever again because it’s horrible for you” BUT that’s just my opinion.
In other stranger than fiction news, Sean Penn met with El Chapo (read: drug kingpin from Mexico) who apparently has nothing on the CIA or Mexican Police. The high points for me: El Chapo wants to be immortalized in film, he’s bros with Donald Trump, apparently he abstains from his product (a lesson for us all), and the race is on for Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, Nicolas Cage or Sean Penn to portray Sean Penn in the film. (the above link is a post from Foreign Policy that describes an interview done by Penn for Rolling Stone, a publication that has a sordid history for how it portrays offenders)
I’ve never made my own marshmallows, but I’ve been meditating on the concept for some time now. The ones bagged and sold in stores have always disappointed me in adulthood, but its really cold outside now (ahem, cold for South Mississippi) and drinking hot chocolate just seems like a good idea all the time. If I was going to make some, I’d probably use this recipe, mostly because they are described as “bonkers awesome”.
These are my favorite biscuits.
I’ve been making some version of them for years now, but I love this version best. They take about 20 minutes from start to the end of baking, so that automatically shoots them to the top of my list. I love the nuttiness of the whole grains, the tang that the goat cheese adds, and the honey gives just a hint of sweetness.
I used to make these with plain, all-purpose flour, and of course they were delicious that way. But then I learned that the fiber in whole grains are one of the only types of fiber shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer (you can read more about that here, its actually an impressive 20% risk reduction) i.e. fiber you get from grains that have been minimally processed, like quinoa, bulgar, brown rice, etc. So absolutely this means you can label these as Healthy and add them to your New Years Diet. Ha.
I’ll let you judge for yourself whether these biscuits are ‘diet worthy’, but if you’re looking for a tasty way to include more whole grains/less white flour into your life, these biscuits are an excellent place to start. Tonight we ate these with salad and grilled chicken, but they’re lovely for breakfast and go great with soup.
Whole Wheat Goat Cheese n’ Honey Drop Biscuits
Adapted slightly from the recipe found in The Joy the Baker Cookbook
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), cubed, plus 1 more tablespoon for the pan
6 tablespoons soft goat cheese
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons honey
Place a 10-inch iron skillet in the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt together. Add the butter and the goat cheese with the paddle attachment, and mix until well incorporated. There should be chunks of butter and goat cheese that are pebble sized. Turn the mixer off and use your hands if needed, to ensure the butter and cheese is mixed well throughout. Add the milk and honey, turn the mixer on low until all the liquids are well combined and there is no more dry flour. The mixture will be very sticky. Set aside.
Remove the iron skillet from the oven. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the bottom of the skillet, swirling it around to coat the bottom. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop the biscuit dough into the skillet. I got 9 biscuits, but the original recipe said it yielded 6. Bake for 13-16 minutes, or until the biscuits are puffy, browned on top and golden brown on their bottoms and utterly delicious. If you’re daring, you could drizzle the tops with honey.
Store the biscuits fully cooled in an air tight container, and try not to eat them all in one day.
It took me 12 minutes to get home from work yesterday, and an extra three to change out of my work clothes, wrap myself in a blanket and turn on Gilmore Girls. I allowed myself this leisure because I had gotten up at 5:45 that morning and sleepily went to the gym (which was surprisingly not packed), showered and got dressed and was early for work. The day before I made this turkey stew, so dinner was already prepared = winning. And then today I ignored my alarm and overslept by an hour and half, just making it to work on time.
Moving on. Its finally cold here so I feel more justified eating soups and stews, something we eat all the time anyway, but they add a level of comfort to our old and drafty house that is much needed in the colder temps.
Also, did you really make it if you didn’t take a picture of it? Because that’s what happened here. I made a stew and didn’t awkwardly and artfully pose pictures of it for you. But it happened, I promise, and it was really great, and even better the second day. You can substitute the turkey with any meat here, or even use lentils or beans and vegetable broth to make it vegetarian. Its the perfect soup to help you stick to your new years healthy resolutions, especially on days where you get “extra” sleep and forego the gym.
1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
4 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped small
5-6 celery sticks, tops removed, scrubbed and chopped small
6 ounce can of tomato paste
4 cups (more or less) chicken stock
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Goat cheese, to serve
Chips or crusty bread, to serve
In a medium pan, brown the turkey until cooked through, set aside.
In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook till translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, then the celery, as you chop them. Cover and cook for another 10 or so minutes, until the carrots are tender/can be pierced with a fork. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and spices, cook for 1 minute more.
Add the stock (you can also add the turkey, but see the next step first), let simmer for about 20 minutes. At this point, I used my immersion blender to pulse the vegetables, leaving a few chunky pieces, because I like my stews a little smoother and not just chunks of vegetables. Feel free to skip this step. Add the turkey, let simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Its ready to eat now, but the longer it simmers the better the flavors will be. Its even better the next day. Serve garnished with goat cheese and crusty bread or tortilla chips. Enjoy!
I think I’ve had a serious case of writer’s block lately, but there has been so much holiday merriment and other distractions that this space is often the first to get neglected. We got through the flurry of Christmas but it felt emotionally/mentally like a snowstorm. Lots of travelling, family, niece and nephew play times, late night Star Wars screenings, nights spent not in my bed (first world problems, I know), trips to the local bakery, eating all the food, and some really lovely conversations with family. Christmas with our loved ones was fun and sweet, but it was in a large concentrated dose over a small period of time that left my head feeling fuzzy and reaching for the 4th and unfortunately 5th cup of coffee, daily. Physically, our holiday was the exact opposite of a snowstorm with highs in the 80s! and lots of short sleeves and blooming roses (see above) and air conditioning. Such is life in the deep south, I suppose.
I discovered that October, November, and most of the December we’ve had so far has passed me by in an over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived haze. You see, I work the regular 8-5 type job, but for some reason I decided to take some classes this semester. Maybe it was 10 hours of classes. And I also decided to take the GRE, not once, but twice, because apparently I’m a glutton for punishment. (I believe that masochist is the technical psychological term.)