Blog - biscuits and such
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Front Yard Garden

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For the first time in my adult life I have garden that achieves the holy trinity of personal gardens- it’s well located (our front yard), it has great soil, and it’s big enough for everything I want to grow. In years past we’ve struggled with our own gardens. In Baltimore our backyard garden was small, had terrible soil (lots of runoff problems), and was plagued by hungry guests. Our community garden plot was far enough away that it became a chore and an inconvenience, something that lead to neglect and ended with giant prehistoric okra plants that took over everything.

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ilm garden 17 When we first moved into this house we were so taken with the big back yard. Perfect for cookouts, sitting around the fire pit, and running around with the dog. Unfortunately it is NOT perfect for gardening- it is shaded by two big and beautiful live oak trees that will mean wonderful respite from the summer sun but no place for tomatoes. Thankfully our landlord is open to basically any home improvements that we’re interested in doing and signed off on us turning our small front yard into a big garden bed.

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ilm garden 6 A few trips to the hardware store and the farm supply store later and we had our garden. We built it to fit the sort of crooked space, so it’s 10x6x6x8, with a nice little sliver between the bed and the walkway for sedum and flowers. Thanks to our handy saw, cordless drill, and a car that is just barely big enough to haul weathered 2x6x10s we were able to build the bed and only spend approximately $20 on wood.

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ilm garden 5 We turned over the existing soil (which was gorgeous) and added six bags of top soil ($5/pop), which left us with a nice layer of good soil and plenty of room for our plants to put down roots. The yard had been overgrown with weeds (I mentioned I’m a bit lazy, right?) so our composter got a nice thick layer of greens and Kaylee got a temporary bed in the yard.

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ilm garden 2 Understanding the risks of an open, front yard garden (people helping themselves) we planted difficult-to-pick items against the sidewalk. Potatoes, okra, and pumpkins line the back gate, followed by tomatoes (four varieties), pimentos, jalapeños, bell peppers, lettuce, chives, green onions, and basil in the middle. A small pathway divides the arugula and the climbing plants- beans and cucumbers. A row of marigolds along the side will hopefully protect our growing ‘maters from hungry aphids.

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Thanks to the overgrown bamboo patch in our backyard I was very easily able to build an arch to support the tomatoes and a trellis for the beans and cucumbers to climb. I even got a compliment from Dan on my lashing, which, coming from an Eagle Scout, meant a lot.

ilm garden 1 In the yard outside of the bed we planted our rosemary which had become root bound and choked in its pot, a lavender, and a flower mix that aims to attract hummingbirds, something that I’m hoping will edge out some of the more aggressive weeds and make our front yard into a more beautiful place. Finally, on the porch, we have a collection of pots that house our dwarf pomegranate, a few varieties of mint, thyme, horseradish, dill, and oregano.

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All in all the garden feels very settled, a small place full of hope and opportunity. I know that by mid-July it’ll be bursting at the seams and that I’ll be tired of fighting the battle against the weeds (does that ever end?), but I’m hoping that its perfect location keeps it a place that I’m happy to escape to every afternoon.

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Chocolate Strawberry Bread Pudding

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This weekend we piled into the car and headed along a familiar path up 1-95 to DC. A surprise birthday party for Brit was an occasion we wouldn’t miss for the world, especially because it meant spending the weekend with friends and family we haven’t been able to see since the move. We drank, we ate an insane amount of incredible food, we laughed, and we reveled in the luxury of being able to pop up to Virginia to surprise the ever living heck out of a friend.

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I’ve mentioned it before but one of the things that we love most about Brit and Aaron are that they love to cook and eat as much as we love to cook and eat, which means that when we get together it is beautiful. This party was no exception. Aaron joked that he mostly wanted to throw it as an excuse to make paella, and I think that was only kind of a joke. The paella that Aaron and his friend Tom made was incredible, as was the grilled chicken, the hamburgers (seriously, they were unreal), the cake and everything else. I brought along a bread pudding and even though by the time we ate it we were all a few sheets to the wind, it felt like the perfect continuation of the meal of a lifetime.

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I’ve known Brit for a lot of years and I count her as one of my closest friends (her and Aaron both, really), which made it even more special to see this outpouring of love for her. I felt the same way at their wedding- that only two completely fabulous people could attract such a loving and wonderful group of friends. Happy Birthday Britty! We’re so glad we got to be a part of it.

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In other news, the results of the Saveur Best of Food Blogs competition came in today and while I’m disappointed that we didn’t win I am so incredibly overwhelmed by the amazing response to Biscuits and Such making it to the final round. It was extraordinary how many people reached out, new followers and old, to say how much they love this food blog and that means the world to me. Thank you.

csbp 7 Chocolate Strawberry Bread Pudding

1 loaf of bread (we used challah)

1 pint of strawberries

1 cup chocolate chips

2 cups milk

3/4 cup sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cube bread and halve strawberries. Toss together with chocolate chips and spread in a baking pan. Mix together milk, sugar, eggs, and extract and pour over bread. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.

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Southern Gin Cocktail

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A few weeks ago I was invited to Chapel Hill for the launch of the Our State Magazine April issue, an issue that focuses on food in the great state of North Carolina. The party was at Crook’s Corner, the famous Chapel Hill restaurant that is home of one of the best adaptations of Shrimp & Grits around (the recipe that taught me everything I know about loaded grits), and the flagship of Chef Bill Smith’s culinary empire.

southern gin cocktail The menu was simple and reflected the food showcased in the issue- benne, deviled eggs, house-cured ham on fresh biscuits, and a cocktail that I thoroughly enjoyed- a gin martini made with Cardinal Gin. Cardinal Gin is distilled in Kings Mountain in small batches and has all the intricate and delicate flavors you hope for with a bottle of nice gin. This is not the gin you blend with a heavily flavored mixer- this is a gin that you sip and let speak for itself.

our state magazine

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I’m pretty terrible at cocktail parties, I get anxious and awkward and have to resist the urge to hide in a corner and just watch. This cocktail party was no exception, especially because everyone seemed to know each other and I felt like the odd duck out. But I didn’t drive two hours to sit in a corner so I got out there and mingled, and I’m so glad that I did. I met a ton of great people, made some good connections, and got to talk about one of my favorite things- Southern food- with other enthusiasts.

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This issue is really fantastic. I always love Our State and the stories that it culls from across the state, but this one spoke especially close to home with stories about Morehead City and small community potlucks. It also gave me some ideas for new places to visit (like Yadkin Valley) and recipes to try (benne!).

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The party was also a huge success in that I got to talk to some of the magazine staff about Tasting North Carolina, an opportunity I’d been hoping to have since I dreamed the project up. It just so happens that they loved the idea of the project and wanted to partner, so for the past few weeks we’ve been going back and forth with different ideas. Without further ado I’m excited to say that starting in May Our State will be publishing the entire series on their newly formed blog. The recipes will be posted on both Our State and B&S which means, hopefully, more people reading, more people loving, and more people sending me recipes. Next up in the series? A trip to the North Carolina Pickle Festival in Wayne County.

southern gin cocktail 4 Southern Gin Cocktail
Adapted from Crook’s Corner

3 jiggers of gin
1 jigger of triple sec
Splash of bitters
Orange peel for garnish

Combine all three liquors in a tumbler with ice. Shake and strain into a glass, garnishing with orange peel.

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