Bisquick: A Justifiable Exception to the “Low on the Food Chain” Rule – AKA – Don’t These Blueberry Biscuits Look Good?

I ranted yesterday about eating as low on the food chain as possible, waxing poetic (in my own mind, at least) about being a locavore, avoiding pre-mixed, processed foods with unnecessary additives and preservatives, and and making dishes from scratch whenever you can. Read it here.

I also ‘fessed up that I don’t always follow those rules. There are a some defensible exceptions.

One such exception is Bisquick. I always have Bisquick on hand.

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I really shouldn’t be a Bisquick-er, because it is super-easy to make biscuits or pancakes from scratch. And we very rarely have biscuits or pancakes.

But that’s not why we have Bisquick in our larder.

It’s the Sweet Potato Biscuits. Read about them here at Sweet Potato Biscuits: Family History, Love on a Plate, or you can just infer how special they are from the title and the pics below.

Sweet Potato Biscuits just aren’t as good if you make the biscuit part of the dough from scratch. It sounds ridiculous, but I have tried it multiple times, and the Bisquick baking mix is part of the magic. My grandmother was famous for her scratch-made yeast rolls, but even she used Bisquick for her Sweet Potato Biscuits. She was the GODDESS of Sweet Potato Biscuits.

So hopefully I’ve convinced you that Bisquick is a reasonable exception to the “low on the food chain” rule. And now, since the Bisquick is there in the pantry, here’s something cool you can do with it: Blueberry Biscuits.

My Aunt-Mom had spare blueberries and some Bisquick and a hankering for a quick breakfast, and voila! Doesn’t that look good, and super-easy? Pretty enough for company…

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Follow the recipe on the Bisquick box to make biscuits. Add 1/2 to 1 cup blueberries. Bake. Eat. Enjoy.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

What’s for Breakfast? Roasted Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spinach Quiche

21740764_10213908123838331_4284786164392939414_oI shared the story of our next-gen newlyweds yesterday and how they chose  aliases for this blog, with a teaser about the breakfast they made here at Little House in the Rockies (see Our Next-Gen Couple (Now Married!) and Their Glover Gardens Aliases).

Now it’s time to talk about the breakfast they prepared. It was seriously good.

Here’s how it came down.

We were taking separate flights from our respective home airports and meeting in Denver to drive a couple of hours to our little cabin. Our flight arrived a couple of hours before theirs. The Grill-Meister texted them before we took off: “We are going to grocery shop while waiting for your plane. Any meal requests? And/or food preferences?”

The text response from our new daughter-in-law, to be known here as “The Girl Who is Always Hungry (or just Hungry Girl): “I will make a breakfast quiche if you get the ingredients!”, with the photo below.

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We were all over that idea!

And so, yesterday morning, here’s how our marvelous brunch was produced.

The Girl Who is Always Hungry was the boss in the kitchen, and her husband, The Best Eater, was her sous chef. They followed this recipe she found on Pinterest: Roasted Tomato, Mozzarella and Spinach Quiche.

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Roast the tomatoes first
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Layer spinach and mozzarella in the pie crust
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The roasted tomatoes look – and smell – wonderful
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Layer the tomatoes over the spinach (check out his shiny new wedding ring!)
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It’s beautiful already
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A little more mozzarella
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The cream and egg filling comes next
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Voila! The finished product
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Al fresco breakfast on the back porch
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The next-gen newlyweds can cook!

The finished product was wonderful – rich, creamy, filling and yet healthy-tasting with the tomatoes, herbs and spinach. It is a recipe that could be tweaked easily, with additions or substitutions like artichoke hearts, grilled vegetables, roasted corn or breakfast meats.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get a repeat performance during this long weekend at Little House in the Rockies. Check out the recipe yourself at  Roasted Tomato, Mozzarella and Spinach Quiche.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

Sweet Potato Biscuits: Family History, Love on a Plate

I don’t know where to start when I’m talking about Sweet Potato Biscuits.  There are so many aspects to these warm, soft, little pillows of butter-oozing love:

  • Cracked Ice Vintage Formica Table
    My grandmother’s kitchen dinette was one of these circa 1952 Cracked Ice Formica and Chrome models. There was never a bad bite served on it.

    I can’t remember the first time I had them, but it must have been at my grandmother Harvell’s formica table in her kitchen in Sweetwater, Texas.  It was the place to be in the early morning when we would visit her for Thanksgiving.  The  Sweet Potato Biscuits would come out of the oven in batch after batch, and all of us grandchildren held out our plates, eager for more.  What a taste memory.

  • Following Mema’s example, my immediate family has had these biscuits for breakfast on holidays forever.  My dad was the one who made them at the home where I grew up at the beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.  He learned from his mom (“Mema”), and he always used Bisquick for the biscuit dough.  I don’t apologize for this.  The recipe is perfect with Bisquick, and there is no reason to make it any other way.
  • Don’t, don’t, don’t be fooled into trying a fancy recipe or mix for these biscuits. You don’t need Southern Living, Paula Deen, Martha Stewart or the Food Network for Sweet Potato Biscuits.  No, no, no!  They all know food and know how to cook, but there is absolutely no reason to tart up Sweet Potato Biscuits or add extra ingredients like Crisco or brown sugar.  Trust me.  This is a home truth.
  • All of my cousins feel the same way about Sweet Potato Biscuits.  Their parents, my dad’s siblings, also made them on special occasions while they were growing up, which spelled out FOOD IS LOVE every time they were served.  We made these biscuits at a Harvell family reunion in 2012 and I think 18 people ate about 100 biscuits.  Food was indeed love and we shared our memories of Mema’s kitchen and chrome table and the incredible feelings of safety and warmth and comfort when you were ensconced there.
  • People who come into our family, through marriage or friendship, become Sweet Potato Biscuit converts.  Without fail.  Even if they hate sweet potatoes.
  • People who loathe sweet potatoes like these biscuits.  They are transcendant.
  • The biscuits are more about textures than flavor.  They are moist and chewy, and absolutely MUST be heavily laden with butter when served.  My mom used to say that it wasn’t right to eat Sweet Potato Biscuits without butter dripping down your chin.
  • They are durable.  These biscuits can be reheated and served again with no impact to their quality.
  • You can’t eat just one.  Or two.  Sitting down with Sweet Potato Biscuits is a commitment to getting really, really full.
  • There was never a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits that anyone in the family ever followed.  I asked my dad for years how to make them and he could never tell me; he could only show me.  There’s a cute little article at the end of this post written by my aunt that summarizes the conversation she had with her mom (my grandmother) about the biscuits…you’ll see how vague her instructions are.  My dad channeled my grandmother by telling me to add the mashed sweet potatoes to the biscuit dough “’til it looks right”. What does that mean???
  • You can make these biscuits ahead of time and par-bake them, removing them from the oven when they are 80% done.  Just set the oven to 400 when you are ready to serve them and bake until they are lightly browned.
  • I made the biscuits with my dad about ten times over the years, and have finally documented the amounts.  Woohoo!  Now I can post the recipe.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

This recipe makes about 30 biscuits.  You’ll probably want to double it.  They are relatively flat and even children can eat 5 or 6.

Ingredients

  • Two medium/large sweet potatoes
  • One recipe of Bisquick biscuit dough (or any other favorite biscuit mix), which is 2 1/4 cups of biscuit mix and 2/3 cup of milk
  • Flour for dusting

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 400.  Pierce sweet potatoes several times with a knife and place on a baking dish lined with foil.  Bake for about 45 minutes until they are soft when tested.  Cool, then peel and mash by hand with a fork or a pastry blender. It should not be a super-smooth consistency; there should still be some chunks. This step can be done ahead of time by a day or two.

When you’re ready to bake the biscuits, preheat the over to 400 again.  Prepare the biscuit dough, following the recipe on the package.  Measure out 2 cups of the mashed sweet potatoes, and fold it gently into the biscuit dough.

Spread flour over a large cutting board and then place the dough on the board.  Flour your hands and pat the dough out to about 3/8 inch thick.  Use a round cookie cutter from 1 1/1 inch to 2 inches in diameter to cut the biscuits from the dough and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the biscuits are lightly browned.

Serve hot with twice as much butter as you think your guests will need.

Note:  It’s the cook’s prerogative to test as many biscuits as necessary to ensure that they are the highest quality.  They must be tested immediately upon removal from the oven, with butter, of course.

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This batch of dough was made by my dad and me at a family reunion, and “it looks right”.  There wasn’t a good spoon for mixing it, so we used a spatula.  Any port in a storm…
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We didn’t have a cookie cutter when we made the Sweet Potato Biscuits at the family reunion (we rented a mountain cabin and used their kitchen).  But an emptied tin can worked just fine.
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They are very humble, but Sweet Potato Biscuits could probably bring about world peace; they are that good.
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Sweet Potato Biscuits, in all their buttery glory.  Yum

Below is my aunt’s high school project, an interview with her mom about Sweet Potato Biscuits.

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I’m not sure when Mema evolved to using Bisquick, but I’m sure glad I don’t have to try to follow this recipe!

 

Found (and edited) Recipe: Scotch Eggs

 

I grew up near Galveston, Texas, and an annual treat was attending Dickens on the Strand, a wonderful festival held there each December that honors Charles Dickens and the Victorian Era.  There are entertainers, food vendors and costumed characters, most harking back to 19th-century London. Check out the festival highlights via the 30-second video below – and don’t miss it if you happen to be in Galveston the first weekend of December, in any year.

I fell in love with the authentic music and food at Dickens, especially the Scotch Eggs.  They are hard-boiled eggs encased in sausage, then rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.  Served piping hot, they are a simple but amazing hearty snack to eat on a cold, crisp winter day.  Or on any day.

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Our Scotch Egg at Dickens, paired with an English Ale.  It was a very balmy day, or else we would have had the wassail that was on offer.

I’ve been talking about the Scotch Eggs from Dickens for years, and this year, the Grill-Meister and I made the trek to Galveston so that he could taste them for himself.  It was a hit!  Not only did he love them, he volunteered to make them for Christmas breakfast if I could find a good recipe. I never Googled so fast in my life as I did on the way home from Dickens trying to find the right recipe.

Betty Crocker online had the best-looking recipe, primarily because the Scotch Eggs were baked, rather than fried.  (We deep-fry about once a decade at Glover Gardens and it wasn’t time yet.)  Click here if you’d like to view the original recipe.

The Grill-Meister is smart, and decided to translate Betty’s recipe into a make-ahead dish so that it wouldn’t be a big chore on Christmas.  He also decided to use a baking rack so that the Scotch Eggs wouldn’t sit in the sausage drippings.

Our modified version of the recipe is below.  We kicked it up a notch, Glover Gardens style, and made enough to serve 8 on Christmas morning.

Ingredients

3 lbs bulk pork sausage (or you could use hot bulk sausage for a real kick)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic (or substitute 2 tsp. fresh minced garlic)
12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups Panko crispy bread crumbs
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (cut this back if you use spicy sausage)
2 eggs, beaten

Cooking Instructions

If you are making the Scotch eggs to eat right away, heat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix pork sausage, onion powder and garlic. Shape mixture into 12 equal patties.  Note:  if you have a kitchen scale, use it to measure out 12 4 oz. portions of the sausage mixture and then make it into a patty.

Roll each hard-cooked egg in flour to coat; place on sausage patty and shape the sausage around the egg completely. Stop here and cover and refrigerate the sausage-encased eggs if you are making them ahead of time.  Remove them from the refrigerator an hour before baking, and preheat the oven to 400°.

Dip each sausage-encased egg into the beaten egg mixture, then roll in Panko to coat completely. Cover a cookie sheet large enough for all 12 Scotch Eggs in foil, then top with a rack and place the eggs on the rack.

Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until sausage is thoroughly cooked and no longer pink near the egg. Resist the temptation to check earlier; it really does take that long to cook the sausage.

Serve hot.


IMG_1368Oh my goodness, were these Scotch Eggs good!  Waaaay better than the Dickens version, and those were the stuff of memories.  Crusty and crunchy on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside, only needing a dusting of salt and freshly ground pepper.  And they were easy to prepare, especially with the majority of the work done a day ahead. They stayed hot until everyone got seated, and paired beautifully with a bit of fruit and my sweet potato biscuits (watch this space for the recipe soon – it’s a marriage made in heaven).

I highly recommend Scotch Eggs as the main event for a holiday breakfast or any weekend brunch when you want to wow people.

Also, they are very portable – we had a few left and brought them to our mountain cabin in Colorado, where they made a super-easy travel-day lunch.  Reheat by microwaving on medium for about 3 minutes and then in the oven at 450 for about 2 minutes; the come out nice and crusty.

Scotch Eggs with Sweet Potato Biscuits
Scotch Eggs paired wonderfully with Sweet Potato Biscuits for Christmas Breakfast.  (Watch this space for the recipe.)

For more info about Scotch Eggs, and a nice look at a variety of them, check out this blog:  The Search for the World’s Best Scotch Egg.


Update

One of my former colleagues made these Scotch Eggs and connected with a childhood memory:  click here to read this sweet little story.

 

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Breakfast Club Casseroles: Ham & Green Chilé Strata and Broccoli & Mushroom Frittata

I love my job and the people I work with.  The job is full of challenge and opportunity and the people are dedicated, interesting, creative and talented.  One of the ways we connect in the office is via a weekly Breakfast Club.  Membership is optional, and here’s how it works:  you bring enough breakfast for everyone when it is your turn, and for all the other weeks, you get to enjoy a nice breakfast provided by one of your colleagues.  So, if there are 18 members, I just have to bring breakfast once every 18 weeks, and show up hungry the other 17.  Nice!

Recently, two of us thought it was our turn to bring breakfast, and one of us was wrong  (me.)  We had a feast that week.

I ended up bringing breakfast two weeks in a row because of that snafu, and thought it would be a perfect time to capture my efforts for the blog.  I made up two breakfast casserole recipes:  Ham & Green Chilé Strata and Broccoli & Mushroom Frittata.  The frittata was created for a visiting colleague, who is a vegetarian.

Both of these casseroles can be prepared the night before and cooked in the morning.

Ready for baking: both casseroles were prepared at night and cooked in the morning; for transporting, cover in foil and put them in a cooler to keep them warm
Ready for baking: both casseroles were prepared at night and cooked in the morning; for transporting after baking, cover in foil and put them in a cooler to keep them warm

These casseroles would be excellent breakfast dishes for Christmas or Thanksgiving, when the relatives are hungry but the big main event meal isn’t going to happen until late afternoon.

Ham & Green Chilé Strata

Ingredients

  • 6 slices thickly cut bread, cubed; I used Jalapeño-Cheese bread from the Tomball farmer’s market
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Peppers
    A variety of peppers adds color and spice

    1/2 cup of chopped red onion

  • 1 1/2 cup of chopped bell peppers (one very large, two medium or 3-4 small)
  • Optional:  jalapeno or other hot pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. celery salt
  • 9 large eggs
  • 1 lb. of chopped ham (about 3 cups)

    I took a shortcut with two 8 oz. packages of already-diced ham
    I took a shortcut with two 8 oz. packages of already-diced ham
  • 1 c. half-and-half
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used Colby-Jack, but Pepper Jack would be great, and cheddar would be fine, too)
  • 1 4 oz. can of diced green chilis, drained (I used the hot variety, but mild is ok)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Cubing and toasting the bread makes a nice crusty foundation for the Ham & Green Chile Strata
Cubing and toasting the bread makes a nice crusty foundation for the Ham & Green Chile Strata

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spread cubed bread on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake until the cubes are toasted, about 4-5 minutes.  Reduce oven to 350 (unless you are planning to bake your casserole in the morning, in which case you can turn the oven off).  Arrange bread cubes in a large casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray, and sprinkle liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper.  (I used a 15×10 Pyrex dish, but 13×9 would also work.)

I like to use a variety of peppers to add color to the dish
Saute the onion and peppers until they are just soft

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and sauté the onion and bell pepper unit they are just soft, adding the oregano and celery salt.  Set aside.

Crack the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium until the eggs are beaten.  Add the ham, half-and-half, chilés, shredded cheese, the rest of the seasonings and the sautéed onions and peppers, and mix until blended.  (This can all be accomplished in a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer, and the eggs can be beaten by hand.)

Optional step to ensure that you will love the taste of the final product:  put a tablespoon of your egg mixture in a small ramekin and microwave it for about 20 seconds, until the egg is set.  Cool for a moment and taste.  Add seasonings to the egg mixture to suit your taste.

Pour the egg mixture over the cubed bread, add a little more freshly ground pepper on top.  At this point, you can go ahead and bake the strata, or cover and refrigerate it until morning.   Bake for 40+ minutes at 350, until the eggs are set.  (The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the casserole dish.)  Let cool and serve.


Broccoli and Mushroom Frittata for Anne

Ingredients

  • Potatoes2 baked potatoes, skin on (click here for quick instructions on baking a potato in the microwave), sliced
  • 1 small can of sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 head of fresh broccoli, steamed, drained and chopped, or 1 box frozen broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 package of sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  • 2 large slices of french bread, torn into small pieces
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

IMG_0782Preheat oven to 350 degrees (unless you plan to refrigerate the casserole overnight and bake it in the morning). Spray a 13×9 casserole with cooking spray.

Arrange the potato slices in the casserole dish and sprinkle liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Arrange the broccoli and olives atop the potato slices
Arrange the broccoli and olives atop the potato slices

Distribute the steamed broccoli pieces and olives on top of the potatoes.

Sautéing the mushrooms gives them a beautiful mahogany color and brings out their woodsy taste
Sautéing the mushrooms gives them a beautiful mahogany color and brings out their woodsy taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and sauté the onion and mushrooms unit they are just soft.  Set aside.  Arrange the torn pieces of french bread on top of the broccoli and olives.

Crack the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium until the eggs are beaten.  Add the half-and-half,  shredded cheese, the rest of the seasonings and the cooled mushroom mixture, and mix until blended.  (This can all be accomplished in a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer, and the eggs can be beaten by hand.)

Optional step to ensure that you will love the taste of the final product: put a tablespoon of your egg mixture in a small ramekin and microwave it for about 20 seconds, until the egg is set. Cool for a moment and taste. Add seasonings to the egg mixture to suit your taste.

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and bread and add a little more freshly ground pepper on top. At this point, you can go ahead and bake the frittata, or cover and refrigerate it until morning. Bake for 35+ minutes at 350, until the eggs are set. (The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the casserole dish.) Let cool and serve.

Broccoli & Mushroom Strata
The finished Broccoli and Mushroom Strata, a nice vegetarian breakfast casserole
A little of each casserole made for a hearty breakfast at work
A little of each casserole made for a hearty breakfast at work