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What We Ate: April

So as I mentioned, last month we threw a giant wrench into our normal eating habits. It was mostly for the sake of a good challenge, and I’m proud of what we came up with. With the exception of a bit of weekend cheating we spent April without alcohol, meat, grains, or complex carbs. I’m pretty pleased. And while I seriously missed certain things (sushi), for the most part I was content and full. I know we’ll be incorporating a lot of these recipes into our regular diets.

Most of the foods we experimented with last month have no place on this niche blog, but I thought I’d share a look at what we ate, for those that are curious.

Top left: Cauliflower falafel; spring vegetable frittata; quinoa & ricotta pancakes; cheese plate with apples and honey.

Quinoa stuffed portabella mushroomsdeviled eggsquinoa and chickpea cake with salsa and spicy black beans; salad with tuna, eggs, apples, and peppers

Sesame salmon with grilled asparagus; blood orange sorbet; salmon burgers with mango salsa and green beans; pizza with a cauliflower crust

Wasabi crusted salmon with quinoa; salad with tuna, eggs, onions, and apples; salad with apples, green beans, goat cheese, and a fried egg; hot and sour soup

Cilantro & cauliflower fritters; crab cake, green beans, and kale salad; black bean burger on a bed of spicy corn; broccoli soup with black beans and goat cheese

Recently a student at UNC contacted me for an article she was writing about the relationship between eating “Southern” and eating “well.” In my response to her I tried to make a lot of points about how we’ve gotten away from our roots in homesteading and gardening, how we’ve come to see once special occasion foods like fried chicken and pie as everyday foods, how portion sizes and ingredient ratios have spiraled out of control. But one point that I really wanted to emphasize is that more than any other trick or secret, moderation is what makes a difference. What I post on this blog, what you see of our meals, represents a very small portion of what we really eat. Believe me when I say I love a barbeque sandwich more than pretty much anything, but that’s not something I eat every day. What we eat most days is far more on par with what I’ve shown in this post, lean proteins, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains. And while I honestly enjoy eating this way and find a lot of “health” food to be delicious, what makes barbeque or pie or bacon cheeseburgers a treat is that I only eat them sometimes. I say this not to preach but to use my platform as a Southern food writer to emphasize reason and mindful eating. My dad said to me recently that it was my job to save Southern men’s lives by making my recipes lower in fat/calorie/cholesterol. And while I think I responded that Southerners (and a lot of Americans) would be healthier if they  learned more about what they ate, where their food came from, and how to moderate their indulgences, I took to heart his message. I have an audience, I have a platform, and it is my responsibility to bring these conversations to the forefront. It isn’t lost on me that a boozy pie recipe is ten times as popular as something more healthy (or full of quinoa). And that’s totally fine. As long as we remember that a slice of whipped-cream laden pie is a treat.

And that’s all for the soapbox today. I won’t be posting any more of these recipes than what I’ve already put up, but if you’d like a specific recipe let me know (in the comments or via email).

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Bacon & Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Sitting here, in almost May, looking forward through the spring, summer, and fall, is dizzying. So many special occasions coming up, so many big changes, so many day to day hurdles. It’s hard to know what to make of it when it feels like life is flying by.

A few weeks ago my sister, Lauren, got engaged. Actually, her fiancé Bradley proposed during our monthly virtual ya-ya book club, which was just about the cutest thing ever. I already adored him, I know he’s going to make my sister very happy. Not to mention that because of their engagement and eventual wedding I have the perfect excuse to spend time noodling around on pinterest planning bridal showers and bachelorette parties and special surprises. Surprise to nobody, I’ve been dwelling a lot on foods to serve. Cute, delicious finger foods.

I love mushrooms stuffed with pretty much anything. There’s something about the taste and texture of a mushroom cap contrasted with sausage or cheese or rice that’s so perfect. These little ones are beyond delicious… I’m a lover of goat cheese in everything, but in this case it was especially perfect. The salty bacon, the earthy rosemary, the juicy mushroom, the tart cheese. Heaven.

Bacon & Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

24 small cremini mushrooms

1/2 cup goat cheese

3 strips bacon

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

1 tbsp fresh oregano

Salt

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and clean them out. Cook the bacon. Let the goat cheese come to room temperature.

Chop up herbs and crumble bacon. Mix cheese, herbs, bacon, and salt. Fill each mushroom with stuffing. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

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Jack n’ Coke Pie

Last month a friend of ours was having a party, which means that I was left with the impossible task of deciding what kind of pie would be best to bring. We were coming off of National Pie Month, which meant that I was over cream pies; my brain was stuck. Nothing new was in season and out of desperation I asked what his favorite mixed drink was. A formula that had worked before, I hoped I could find something in his response. Chris’ favorite drink, it turns out, is a Jack and Coke. And that my friends, makes a pretty delicious pie.

This pie was pretty simple- a coca cola chess with a Jack Daniels whipped cream. The chess is simple and traditional and the cream is potent. The combination is reminiscent of the drink but not overpowering. The feedback I got from those who actually drink whiskey was enthusiastic, so I whole heartedly recommend this combination. What other cocktails would you like to see as pie?

Jack n’ Coke Pie

Pie dough:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tbsp shortening

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

3/4 stick butter, cold

1/4 cup water, cold

Pie filling:

1 12oz can cola

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp flour

1/2 cup butter, melted

whipped cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp sugar

1 oz Jack Daniels whiskey

Begin by making your dough. Mix together all the dry ingredients. Work the shortening in. Cube the butter and work in with your hands until the mixture is the consistency of corn meal. Slowly stir in the water, a little at a time, until a ball forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make your filling pour the cola into a medium sauce pan over low heat. Simmer until reduced by half– your goal is a syrup, approximately 1/3 a cup of liquid. In a mixer combine all filling dry ingredients. Add in eggs, one at a time. Add the butter, melted. Add in syrup. Add in vanilla.

Roll the dough out and press into a pie dish. Pour the filling into the center and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until mostly firm. Remove from the oven and let set.

To make your whipped cream combine cream, sugar, and whiskey in a bowl. Whip on high speed for 3-5 minutes or until it holds a peak. Serve alongside pie.

 

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