Posts from the ‘Biscuits’ Category

What’s In The House

Since the holidays are near, and this month has been a bit of a money nightmare, (Jim accidentally stepped on my glasses the night before Thanksgiving, resulting in an unexpected chunk of money taking a leave of absence from our bank account), I haven’t been able to splurge on ingredients. I don’t compromise on quality when I need to spend less, I just opt for some fish instead of a more expensive cut of meat, 3 days of drinking instead of 5. I’ve made a magic dessert with some Cream of Wheat before. No matter what’s in the house, I will make the best of it. No Ramen in this house. Anymore.

But some good does come out of spending less on groceries.  I smoke less, drink less, eat healthier, and realize what a luxury meat is. I appreciate how blessed I am to have food, and great food at that. The next two meals are about making something wonderful with a little less. Oh, and if roasted cauliflower isn’t already one of your best food friends, be prepared for a new half of a necklace.

It was Jim’s birthday, and we were low on money, so going out was not an option that night. I hate when I can’t go all out for his birthday dinner, but we usually have a week of celebrating, so don’t feel too bad for him. We opted for wine and snuggling, which meant I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen away from the birthday boy. I grabbed all the veggies I had, a dwindling package of bacon, and a carton of broth. I was determined to make something to make him smile, and soup always has that effect on people. I put on my chopping hat, and got to work.

Vegetable Soup (with a little bacon, of course!)

Saute bacon, remove then chop, chop veggies (I used carrots, celery, onion, shallot, garlic, purple cabbage, and potato.) Saute veggies, add stock, season (I used dried marjoram and thyme, fresh Rosemary, and salt and pepper), simmer for 50 minutes. Add a squirt of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Garnish with a sautéed slice of turnip and rutabaga, and a sprig of rosemary, (Add some Rosemary to some olive oil, saute turnip and rutabaga until browned. Add the olive oil to the soup too), and the crisp crumbled bacon.

Biscuits show love. Throw some together while the soup is simmering.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Brush 12 large (1-cup) muffin cups with some of melted butter; reserve remaining butter for brushing on baked biscuits. Using on/off turns, mix next 4 ingredients in processor. Add 1/2 cup cubed chilled butter. Using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Transfer to large bowl. Add cheese; toss to combine. Add buttermilk and stir just to blend (batter will be sticky). Divide among prepared muffin cups, about 1/2 cup for each.

    Bake biscuits until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Brush tops with remaining melted butter. Cool 5 to 10 minutes, then remove biscuits from pan and transfer to rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

    from Bon Appetit

    Roasted Vegetables with Cheese Omelet

    1-inch florets cauliflower

    2-inch carrots pieces

    olive oil

    salt /pepper

    sprinkle of sugar

    Pre-heat oven to 450*

    Toss veggies with oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring once.

    Serve with a cheddar cheese/Parmigiano Reggiano omelet.

    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  ~Theodore Roosevelt


    “Cat heads”, prison food, and a really great barbecue sauce

    I had never heard anyone call a biscuit a “cat head”, until I read a story called  Dinner at Darrington: The Dying Art of Black Southern Cooking, one of the stories in Robb Walsh’s Are You Really Going To Eat That? I didn’t really enjoy this book all that much. In fact, I have since sold it back to the used book store where I bought it, but before I did, I copied this story.  It’s length does not match the impact it had on me.
    Benny Wade Clewis has cooked in the Texas prison system for over forty years, and has been cooking since his teenage reform school days. He cooks only from scratch, and does a lot with a little. He has cooked for inmates and wardens’ families and has loved every minute of it. It is a humbling story that made me appreciate all of the wonderful food I get to cook and eat. To read the whole story go to Google books and type Benny Wade Clewis into the search box.
    In other food/prison related news, I have been enjoying an addictive show called Conviction Kitchen. I just got cable for the first time in ten years, and there are so many great food related shows out there, but I especially like this one. It deals with more than just food. It is also about relationships and giving someone a chance at a better life. Don’t worry there is still tons of drama. They are in a kitchen after all. Check out for more information.
    Barbecue Sauce
    Benny Wade Clewis learned his culinary skills while serving time in the Texas prison system. His grandfather used to sell this homemade hickory-flavored barbecue sauce in quart-sized bottles in downtown Dallas.

    1 lb. hickory chips
    Juice of 1 lemon
    6 stalks celery, chopped
    6 heads garlic, chopped
    4 baseball-size onions,
    finely chopped
    1 green pepper, seeded
    and chopped
    1 C brown sugar
    1/4 C white vinegar
    4 qts. tomato purée
    6 bay leaves
    1 T salt
    1 1/4 C mustard
    1 C lard or bacon drippings
    4 t cayenne
    1 gallon water

    Combine ingredients in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered one hour. Strain sauce, removing chips. Optional: Stretch recipe by adding 1 gallon water. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three weeks.-from Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook BY Robb Walsh

    This sauce would be good on almost anything, seriously, I am steps away from putting it on my cereal.  Instead, I saw these gorgeous ribs at Fero’s Meat Market, and had to get them, even though I had pork the night before. Fero’s is my favorite place to buy meat. They have local products available, everything is always fresh, the prices are great, and the people working there are knowledgeable and friendly.

    This adorable ground pork piece of art in their case doesn’t hurt to look at either.



    I use different rubs all the time, but I use this one as a base recipe and add to it pretty often. Sometimes sweet paprika, sometimes hot, more garlic, and cayenne, etc.

    Memphis Dry Rub– by Steve Raichlen

    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons celery salt
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Here is one of my favorite “cat head” recipes. I have made them without the scallions and they are still great. I sometimes add chopped, crispy bacon, diced ham, and/or chives to the mix.

    Cheddar Scallion Biscuits- from Gourmet

    yield: Makes 12 biscuits

    active time: 12 min

    total time: 35 min

    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 6 oz Cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
    • 3 scallions, finely chopped
    • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

    print a shopping list for this recipe


    Preheat oven to 450°F.

    Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in Cheddar and scallions. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

    Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

    Sexes equal at mixed prison – but women do the porridge

    • The Guardian, Thursday 10 March 2005 01.00 GMT
    • Alan Travis
    It is billed as Britain’s first purpose-built mixed gender prison of modern times, with equal provision for both sexes. But when details of HMP Peterborough were released yesterday it became clear that equality has yet to reach the prison kitchen.Prison chiefs say that all parts of the 840-prisoner institution will be duplicated to provide male and female areas. Except one area. There will be only one kitchen, and in it only women will do the cooking. 

    Mike Conway, the director, of Peterborough prison, which is run by a private security company, United Kingdom Detention Services, insists that the decision has nothing to do with old-fashioned chauvinism but stems from an official risk assessment of the different dangers of having men and women doing the cooking.

    “Whenever we have prisoners operating in kitchens and there is a risk of adulterating food, we carry out a risk assessment,” said Mr Conway.

    “It was far more likely that males would adulterate food going to the female side than vice versa. There wasn’t any paternalistic reason why females were going into the kitchen.”

    The prison, which will take its first inmates this month, is designed to hold 480 male and 360 female prisoners and is the first purpose-built prison to house men and women.

    A UKDS spokesman said that nearly all the services and facilities in the prison are duplicated to ensure total separation of the sexes at all times. The only exception is the kitchen, which is used to feed the 400-strong staff, as well as the prisoners.

    Peterborough is the 11th private prison to be opened in England and Wales and will serve courts in the East Midlands and East Anglia.

    The Home Office hopes that its pioneering dual purpose role will prove a blueprint for the future with new prisons able to accommodate a mixture of adult and young offenders, as well as men and women.

    Taste-Testing Nutraloaf :The prison food that just might be unconstitutionally bad.

    By Arin GreenwoodPosted Tuesday, June 24, 2008, at 8:07 AM ETIllinois NutraloafIllinois NutraloafNobody thinks prison food is haute cuisine, but could it be so bad it’s unconstitutional? The question comes up more often than you might think, and there’s one dish in particular that so offends the palates of America’s prisoners that it’s repeatedly been the subject of lawsuits: Nutraloaf.

    Nutraloaf (sometimes called Nutri-loaf, sometimes just “the loaf”) is served in state prisons around the country. It’s not part of the regular menu but is prescribed for inmates who have misbehaved in various ways—usually by proving untrustworthy with their utensils. The loaf provides a full day’s nutrients, and it’s finger food—no fork necessary.

    Prisoners sue over Nutraloaf with some regularity, usually arguing either that their due process rights have been violated (because they are served the punitive loaves without a hearing) or that the dish is so disgusting as to make it cruel and unusual and thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Typical of these suits is the 1992 case LeMaire v. Maass. Samuel LeMaire slit a man’s throat before going to state prison and attacked his prison guards and fellow prisoners with sharpened poles, feces, and a homemade knife once inside. LeMaire was then put in a Nutraloaf-serving disciplinary unit. Among other complaints about the accommodations there, LeMaire argued that Nutraloaf was cruel and unusual and thus violated his 8th Amendment rights.

    A lower court agreed with LeMaire and ordered the prison to serve him something more delicious. The 9th Circuit, however, overturned the lower court’s decision, holding that while Nutraloaf may be unappetizing, “The Eighth Amendment requires only that prisoners receive food that is adequate to maintain health; it need not be tasty or aesthetically pleasing.”

    Prisoners in Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia, among other states, have sued over Nutraloaf or its equivalent. The latest court to hear a Nutraloaf case is the Vermont Supreme Court, where prisoners argued that Vermont’s use of the loaf violated their due process rights. (In Vermont, the punishment is one loaf, served at normal meal times, for up to a week.) Oral arguments (MP3) were heard in March, and a decision is expected to come down by the end of the year. But it doesn’t look good for the prisoners. The lawyer representing the prisoners noted that “Nutraloaf has been found to be uniformly unappetizing to everyone who has been served it.” To which one justice replied: “Counsel, I’ve eaten Nutraloaf. And it isn’t tasty. But many things I’ve eaten aren’t tasty.”

    Even unsympathetic courts seem willing to concede that Nutraloaf is pretty disgusting, but after reading through the court filings in these cases, I couldn’t shake a nagging question—just how bad is it? Nutraloaf is made differently in different prisons. Vermont’s penal cookbook calls for a combination of vegetables, beans, bread, cheese, and raisins. I recently spent $15 on a nearly identical dish at a vegan cafe in New York—and it didn’t even have raisins. In a spirit of legal and culinary adventurousness, I decided to make some Nutraloaf of my own.

    I chose three test recipes that seemed representative of the various loaves served in prisons across the land: a vegan Nutraloaf from Illinois that is heavy on processed ingredients (and has been the subject of lawsuits); a meat recipe from California that favors fresh, natural ingredients (which has not been challenged in court); and the Nutraloaf from Vermont, the one most recently at issue before a court.

    I started with Illinois. I mixed canned spinach in with baked beans, tomato paste, margarine, applesauce, bread crumbs, and garlic powder. Together the ingredients became a thick, odorous, brown paste, which I spread into a loaf pan and put in the oven. After 40 minutes, I took the loaf out of the oven and sliced some off. It was dense and dry and tasted like falafel gone wrong. But instead of it making me feel pleasantly sated like falafel does, even the small test slice I sampled gave me a stomach ache.

    I cooked up Vermont next, wondering what I’d gotten myself into. Vermont was like Illinois but with raisins and non-dairy cheese. I’m a vegetarian, so my sister-in-law Lori volunteered to cook the California loaf, which includes ground beef. As she mixed up the chopped cabbage, diced carrots, cubed potatoes, whole wheat flour, and beans, I realized that what she was making looked delicious, at least compared with the first two loaves. Lori kindly offered to make two California loaves—one with meat and one without, our only deviation from the Nutraloaf recipes.

    To test the loaves, I invited friends and relatives over for what I promised would be an educational dinner party. This being Washington, D.C., more than half the adults were lawyers, which I thought gave our experiment a nice jurisprudential twist. To keep the Nutraloaf test authentic, I mandated that my guests eat with their hands; plus, after sneaking in that taste of Illinois earlier in the day, I was worried someone might stab me if I let them use utensils.

    I thought I’d start out easy with the loaf that hasn’t inspired a lawsuit—yet. California looked nice on the plate, though it didn’t quite hold together as a loaf. I picked some off my plate with my fingers. It tasted a bit like vegetarian chili. Not bad. My cousin Steve, a mortgage broker who had sampled the California loaf with meat, disagreed. “It’s what you imagine Alpo tastes like,” he said. Lori said she liked it and said she’d even consider making it again, though she’d use more spices. Lee, a lawyer and her husband, asked her not to.

    Next came Illinois. I couldn’t bear to try another piece; the others were divided about whether it was cruel or merely unusual. Lee described Illinois as “absolutely detestable.” David, a lawyer, liked it and willingly ate a second piece. Steve summed up Illinois generously: “I think if you like baked beans, you like Illinois. I like baked beans. I wouldn’t think it’s fair to sue anyone over it.”

    Last came Vermont. It looked the best of the three—it was moist—and the non-dairy cheese and canned carrots gave it a fetching orange color. But it tasted terrible. Mike, a computer guy at NASA, said the raisins were disconcerting; you couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be in there or not. Steve said he hated it, but it wasn’t the worst thing he’d ever eaten. I asked him what was the worst thing he’d ever eaten. “Cat,” he said. “But I didn’t know it was cat.” David, meanwhile, helped himself to another slice of Illinois, a decision he later came to regret. “The third slice sits a little heavy,” he said.

    As the night went on, and wine washed away the taste of loaves, we discussed the Eighth Amendment and how bad food would actually have to be in order to be unconstitutional. Kim, a lawyer who works in asylum law and knows a human rights violation when she sees one, said the loaves would have to be extremely bad—considerably worse than any of the food we’d just eaten. Courts have nearly all found that prison food can be unappetizing, cold, and even contain foreign objects, and still not be unconstitutional.

    Inmates hoping for relief from the courts for their Nutraloaf punishments aren’t likely to get it from the courts. They won’t likely get it from the prison cooks, either. When the Vermont prison’s lawyer was asked during oral arguments why Nutraloaf couldn’t be made more appetizing, he answered that if it were tastier, then prisoners would act up for the privilege of getting Nutraloaf. Hardly a ringing endorsement for the rest of the prison menu.