Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baking on the Side: Homemade Biscuits

     Have you had your bowl of soup now? You'll need something to go with it -- something hearty that stands up to a slather of butter of jam.
     Like biscuits.

This recipe has kept me in good stead ever since high school home ec class. Moving to Colorado meant dealing with high altitudes, but even that was easier to solve than I'd hoped. Just use heaping measures of flour, rather than level ones.


2 cups flour
5 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk (or 1/3 cup milk powder and 1 cup water)

That's it! Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Crumble the dry ingredients with fork or your fingers, until they're thoroughly mixed. (Work quickly -- the colder these ingredients stay, the better the biscuit.) Gradually add the milk, stirring as you go, until mixture forms a ball.
     Scrape bowl out onto a heavily floured surface. GENTLY fold over six times, then press out in a circle, about 1/2" thick or so. (Thicker if you like tender biscuits, thinner if you prefer crisp ones.)
     Use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut biscuit circles, place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-10 min., or until biscuits are firm when you push on them, and just beginning to brown.

Makes between 9-12 biscuits, enough for supper for 4.

* * * * * * *

Or freeze your biscuits unbaked -- and bake the biscuit circles as you need them!
 More here via this link.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Soup Series: Loaded Baked Potato Soup

We're finishing up the soup series with a creamy, lickety version. It tastes just like a baked potato, loaded with sour cream and other goodies! The best part: this rendition is lower in calories. (Original source: Cooking Light magazine, Oct. 2002 issue.)

from AllRecipes.com - see it here


  • 4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds) 
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups 2% reduced-fat milk 
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream    (or try Greek yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled 


  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash. Discard skins.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil). Sprinkle each serving with cheese, onions, and bacon.                                  
Serves 4-6 hearty appetites. Serve with a green salad and crunchy breadsticks.

Next on the docket: 
    Biscuits, muffins and other baked goodies. Look for this series soon!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Soup Series: Beef Stew - the Frugal (and Luxurious) Way

Saturday afternoon, I have a talk to give. Friends are coming for supper...what can I give them that's a tad sophisticated, yet easy?

It's going to be beef stew, a hearty mixture of tender beef and vegetables, topped off with dumplings. You can make this dish any number of ways, from frugal to more lavish. Take a look at the recipe below; luxury additions are in parantheses.


More beef stew recipes here, at AllRecipes.com
2 pounds cubed chuck roast
     (substitute round steak, or even better, veal. For a really gourmet touch and tender results, use -- I'm not kidding! -- filet mignon)

3 beef bouillon cubes  (add a cup of red wine, as well. A few cans of beef broth may be used, instead)
2 chopped onions   (plus a few tablespoons of dry onion soup mix. Or leek soup mix. Substitute shallots for the onions.)
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms   (or a whole pound...or skip both, and just dump in a can of mushroom soup. This isn't luxury, but it sure is good)
4 cut-up carrots
1 can green beans (or fresh beans, snapped in smaller pieces) 
1/2 cup barley (I always skip this...but the family likes it. sigh)
     (plus any chopped fresh or dried herbs you like - about a tablespoon)

4 chopped potatoes (use a pound of red baby potatoes or yellow ones for extra flavor)
1/4 cup cornstarch

Dumplings (recipe follows)

This works best with a kettle or even better, a crockpot. Brown the meat and onions, then dump into the pot, scraping to get those nice brown bits. (In a hurry? Skip browning altogether. This step just gives the flavor more depth.) Dump the other ingredients in, up to the potatoes. (This is also the time to add any leftover veggies you might have, chopped. Stay away from the strong-flavored ones, like broccoli. Small amounts of leftover soup, potatoes, etc. can also go in.)  Add enough water to cover everything, with about an inch overhead.
    Let simmer for at least 2-4 hours, or up to 12 hours on low in a crockpot. Add water as needed, if the mixture gets too dry. About 30 min. (if you're using a kettle) or 1 hour (if a crockpot) before serving, add the potatoes. (You can put these in at the beginning...but they get a little soggy. I prefer them dry.)
    Is the stew done? Taste it, and add salt and pepper. Stir the cornstarch into a little cold water, and add it to the stew. Drop the dumplings on top (see below) and cook an additional 10-15 min., until the dumplings are firm to the touch. Serve in deep bowls, with a dumpling on top.
   Or skip the dumplings altogether, and serve as-is, or over rice. Serves 4-6 hungry people; up to 8 over rice.

Look out the window at the cold, blowy night outside and feel smug. Yum. 

Dumplings:   Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 pinch of soda, and your choice of dried herbs - marjoram, basil, rosemary and sage are good. (About a teaspoon's worth.)
     Break an egg into a cup, then fill it with milk. Mix into the dry ingredients until you've got a coarse, lumpy batter. Dip a large serving spoon into the bubbling stew, then dip into the dumpling batter -- it won't stick this way. Cover the surface of the stew, let cover and let simmer for 10-15 min.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Soup Series: Split Pea For A Chilly Day

Split pea soup...thick, warming and a great accompaniment to a crusty roll or slice of bread. Add some fruit and a cookie, and you've got a meal that will take you places.

The basics are simple: dried green split peas; potatoes, onion and carrot; and some kind of flavored broth. After that, you can add all sorts of things, including celery, turnip, bacon, and such.This is a strong soup, though -- and the peas will be the primary 'voice.'
     Save yourself money and feel brilliantly frugal by using a leftover ham or porkchop bone; make sure to remove it, dice the leftover meat, and stir it back into the bubbling pot.

(Warning: This soup solidifies when it cools...it reheats well, but you'll need to add extra water. And the 'new' soup tastes just as thick and hearty as before, as if you didn't add anything extra at all. One of the great mysteries in life...and an excellent candidate for "quick, extra people are coming in the door" meals.)

This version of split pea is from AllRecipes.com


Original recipe makes 6 to 8 servings 


  1. In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 2 minutes, and then soak for l hour.
  2. Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper and marjoram. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Soup Series: Vichyssoise and Other Hot-to-Colds

Sometimes it's easy to forget, trudging through the snow, that others are trudging through the sand, instead! Then you need a soup that can go easily from hot to cold, and back again.
     One of the best: Vichyssoise. ("vee-shee-so-ause") There's some argument who came up with this basic potato-leek soup. The Americans say the chef of the Algonquin in New York invented it -- but there have been an awful lot of leek soups around in Europe for centuries.
      At any rate, it's delicious....and deliciously simple to make.

Photo from Simply Recipes; go here for their version.

one bunch (2-3) leeks, sliced thinly (whites and part of the greens)
4-5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
10-12 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade -- this really is one soup that shows the difference. But if you're not in the mood, commercial broth is ok. Or use 12 cups of water and 4 chicken bouillon cubes.)
1-2 cups cream (again, the real stuff makes a difference. Sometimes I'll substitute sour cream.)

Cook potatoes and leeks slowly in chicken broth until done, 1-2 hours. (They can also be cooked up to 4-6 hours on low in a crockpot, with pleasant results.) Whiz in the blender in batches, until soup is smooth. Stir cream in gradually -- or dish soup in bowls, and top each with a swirl of cream. Serves 4-6; can be served hot, or chilled. Savor every smooth, creamy spoonful.

Here are seven more soups that are tasty, whether they're served hot or cold.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Soup Series: Chicken Noodle...of course!

What better way to introduce our new "Soup, Beautiful Soup" series than with the queen:

Chicken Noodle!

Many an adult goes directly back to kid-dom with that first slurp of noodles and golden, herb-flecked broth. Growing up, I thought of it as a special treat; my dad hated chicken noodle soup, having had far too much of it during his stint in the Army. (He also disliked macaroni & cheese for the same reason, as well as sour cream and cottage cheese. "Spoiled," he'd sneer. And from a farm boy's viewpoint, he was right.) Whenever he went on a business trip, the first thing that dropped in the grocery cart was a can of Campbell's Chicken & Noodle.

I still love Campbell's. (Had it for lunch today, in fact, with a spoonful of green curry sauce and a beaten egg stirred in until it was white and fluffy. Yum.) But the best chicken noodle soup? Homemade. The longer it cooks (sans noodles), the better -- use a crockpot for easiest results.


    *Two large cans of chicken broth
    *10-12 cups of water and four chicken bouillon cubes
   *Homemade chicken broth
         -- cook 1 lb of chicken parts in 12 or so cups of water, simmering, for 4 hours, or up to 10 hours on low in a crockpot. For even more powerful results, use a whole chicken! Add 1 whole onion and a stalk of celery, as well. Strain the broth, discard veggies and debone the chicken. OR
         -- scavenge chicken bones from a recent meal. (Even off people's plates - the heat will sterilize them.), Add onion, celery and other vegetable trimmings. Simmer in a kettleful or crockpot of water for at least 6 hours or more. Strain and keep the broth.

    up to two cups each of chopped onion, celery, carrots, beans, peas, green or red pepper -- your choice, but the onion and celery really add flavor. (Stay away from beets -- but their greens, as well as kale, collards and others, can be added in the last few hours of cooking. Add chopped spinach just before serving.)
    1-2 tablespoons of some kind of herbs -- I favor marjoram, but others love a mix of marjoram, basil, rosemary and garlic
    1 teaspoon hot sauce, salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

A handful, up to 2 cups chopped chicken, cooked or raw

Two cups uncooked homestyle noodles

Cooking instructions:
    Dump the broth, whatever veggies you've chosen, spices, hot sauce and chicken in a kettle or crockpot. (Stir occasionally if you can...but it's not critical.) Cook on low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours or so, adding water if needed. Approx. 45 min. to an hour before you serve, add noodles. Cook until they're tender, then adjust for taste with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6 hungry people.

     *Chicken and rice -- instead of noodles, add 1 cup cooked rice just before serving, or 1/3 cup uncooked one hour before. (Warning: this soup does not keep well -- the rice expands and gets mushy. You'll have rice stew, rather than soup.)
     *Green chili chicken -- add 1 small can green chilies, plus a small can of chopped tomato. Onion and a tablespoon of garlic are important here.
     *Which came first? -- ten minutes before serving, stir in 1-2 beaten eggs, simmer until eggs are set and fluffy. Add 3-4 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice just before serving, plus a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro, if you like that taste. (Adding the lime juice first makes the egg bits break apart in very odd ways. Cook the eggs first.)

Tomorrow:  Vichyssoise and other hot-to-cold soups

Starting a New Series: Soup, Beautiful Soup

What's better on a cold, miserable day than a steaming bowl of soup?

It's a frugal way to make the best of your food choices, too. That's just as comforting as the spoonfuls that warm your chilly self's aching bones down to the core.

Look for a wide variety of soup recipes this coming week -- then a week of rolls, biscuits, muffins and dumplings that will go well with...well, you know.