Blog - biscuits and such
southern food blog
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Jalapeño Bagels

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My mother being from New Jersey, I know a good bagel, even by the toughest standards. Southerner though I am, I can appreciate a really good bagel. Crispy on the outside but almost doughy on the inside, I melt with the rest of them at bagel perfection. My favorite variety of bagel is the jalapeño bagel.

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Jalapeño bagels are rarely too spicy, as a lot of dishes containing jalapeños can be. The heft and weight of the bread levels out the spicy, and the effect is doubled if you enjoy your bagel with cream cheese. I myself either like my bagels in the form of a breakfast sandwich, or with a little strawberry jam. I am, you see, perpetually a sweet and spicy girl.

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I found this recipe in a children’s book titled Jalapeño Bagels, by Natasha Wing.  It’s a sweet book about a boy whose mother is hispanic and father is Jewish.  His parents own a panaderia (bakery), and the food that they make that best represents them as a family is a jalapeño bagel because it melds both cultures.  I really appreciate it when children’s books add something extra that you can use to make reading the book a holistic experience.  The book ends with a recipe for jalapeño bagels so after reading it to your child you could make them together.

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The recipe is pretty straightforward and fairly simple to make.  I had a few hangups along the way, for instance I ended up with only eleven bagels that completely varied in size.  Another recipe we found suggests making a ball and then poking a hole through the middle and working outward.  I think tomorrow when we make blueberry bagels I’m going to try that because my big complaint with these was that the circles were too big and the sides weren’t thick enough.  For the most part though, this recipe was straightforward, easy, and a lot of fun.  I don’t think you get bagels fresher than this!

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Jalapeño Bagels
Source: Jalapeño Bagels by Natasha Wing 

1 3/4 cups luke warm water

1/2 tsp dry yeast

2 tsps salt

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

6 cups flour

1/3 cup jalapeños, chopped

1/4 cup dried red peppers

Mix water, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Add flour and jalapenos and mix into a ball.  Knead for ten to twelve minutes, adding more flour if you need to.  Add red peppers and knead for three additional minutes.  Let the dough rest for ten minutes, then cut into twelve pieces with a knife.

Roll each piece of dough on a table to form a long cigarlike shape.  Then, for each of the twelve pieces, connect the two ends by overlapping them about 3/4 of an inch and rolling the ends together to make a ring shape.  Make sure it’s secure or it will come apart while you’re boiling it.  If you’re having a hard time keeping the bagel together in a ring, wet the ends and press them together, kind of like you did making clay pots in elementary school.

Cover the dough with a damp towel (paper or cloth) and let it rise for an hour and a half in a warm spot.  In a large pot, bring two gallons of water to a boil.  Drop the bagels in the water and boil until they float (about thirty seconds).  Remove and place them on a slightly greased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 for fifteen minutes or until golden brown.

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Pimento Cheese


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I have the luxury of having a July birthday.  When I was in elementary school this seemed like a tragedy at first.  Not having a birthday during the school year where everyone could celebrate me was horrible.  Until I realized the trick of it.  I learned that if I began celebrating my birthday in May, before school ended, I could continue celebrating all summer long.  And because my family is so spread out, as we made our summer travels to visit everyone, I could celebrate over and over again.

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One of the nice things about birthdays is that you can ask people to do certain things for you, and because it’s your birthday, they always do.  The same concept applies once you’ve left the nest.  Everytime I visit home, my parents make my favorite foods, something that used to be confined to my birthday.  I ask for certain things from each person for my birthday (or now, visits home).  My mother makes me lemon chicken and her delicious mashed potatoes.  My father makes me brunswick stew, or chili, or oysters during the winter and a tomato sandwich from home grown tomatoes during the summer.  My grandmother used to make me two things.  First, she would make me a blueberry mountain pie.  Second, she would make me my very own tub of pimento cheese, that I didn’t have to share with anyone.

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Pimento cheese is one of those foods that is inherently southern.  The appeal is hard to explain to people who don’t grow up eating it, and a lot of the time people just don’t like it.  There are variations (and I beg you never to try the store bought stuff), but essentially it includes extra sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos.  Some people add garlic, horseradish, dill pickles, and even mustard.  But I’m a pimento purist.

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When I was a kid, pimento cheese was also one of the things that I could help make.  These days a lot of people will throw the ingredients in a food processor and call it a day.  But making pimento cheese is an experience, like snapping green beans, that promotes relaxing and story telling.  My grandmother would combine the ingredients in a plastic bag and then let me sit on the counter and squish them with my fingers while we talked and she cooked other things.  Or while we sat on the front porch of the Swamphouse.  It’s a fool proof system, you can’t over-combine the ingredients.  And the benefits of passing on a tradition will completely outweigh the time saved with a food processor.

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Pimento Cheese

2-3 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 ounces diced pimentos (in a jar)

2 tbsp mayonnaise (or light mayo)

Begin by grating your cheese.  I recommend a medium size grate, not the smallest, but not the big chunks.  Start with two cups of cheese, and add the last cup as you mix it, depending on what you like.  I like my spread cheesy, so I use the full three cups.  It’s really your preference.  After you’ve shredded your cheese, dump into a gallon ziplock bag.

Partially drain the pimentos and add them to the bag.  Scoop in the mayonnaise and zip the bag- make sure you get as much air out as possible.

Use your hands to roll the ingredients between your fingers until it’s totally incorporated.  Add in extra cheese as you need it.

When you’re done, snip the corner off the bag and squeeze the spread out like it’s icing in a pastry bag.  Serve with crackers, on a sandwich, or on cold uncooked veggies.

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Turkey Chili

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This is my least favorite part of the year.   By Valentines Day I’m wintered out, and it feels like the stretch between now and 80 degrees is an eternity.  Not to mention that the weather keeps teasing us with sporadic 70 degree days, and then going right back to cold.  It’s not fair.  I’m at that point where I just want to make like the first lady and bare arms.

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I know that by most people’s standards the measly amount of snow we’ve gotten this winter was nothing but disappointing, but I am tired of it, sick of it, and ready for spring.  Snow is refreshing and fun in December.  I love the thrill of fall.  But now I find myself staring forlornly at my sundresses and pouting around the apartment.  So, on Thursday night when they called for more snow, I wanted to scream and flee south.

Instead I made turkey chili because well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

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Turkey Chili

1/2 lb ground turkey

2 tomatoes, chopped

4 oz crushed tomatoes

1 can black beans, drained

1 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp herbs de provence

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves fresh garlic

Heat two tbsp olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  At the same time, heat the remaining olive oil in a pot over medium heat.  Chop your garlic and divide it equally between both.  When the garlic has browned, add the turkey to your saute pan, and  the chopped tomatoes to your pot.

Drain your black beans and add them in with the tomatoes.  Add half of the cayenne pepper to the turkey, and add the rest of the spices and herbs to the pot.  Stir the turkey every few minutes.  It will need to cook about twenty minutes before it is done.

When the turkey is cooked, add it to the pot.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, and let boil over medium heat for thirty minutes.  Then let simmer for at least an hour, or until you’re ready to serve it.

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