Recipe: Baking Powder Biscuits

Several of my friends were discussing crackers, biscuits and scones today with a bit of debate as, depending where you are in the world, the words describe foods that are quite different. Trying to describe the texture of an American biscuit to someone in Europe is not quite as easy as it sounds! Rather than try to figure out how to ship a can of pre-made refrigerator biscuits across the pond without having them spoil or pop mid-transit, I figured a recipe might be a simpler way to go.

This is my mother Leah’s recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits. In all likelyhood, it was probably taught to her by my grandmother or great-grandmother. Growing up on a ranch as the eldest daughter, a lot of the cooking and baking for the family and farmhands fell to her. This is a quick recipe for a filling biscuit and the recipe can be doubled without too much trouble which is important when you’re trying to keep a bunch of hard-working and hungry cowboys fed! Don’t overbake these or they will start to dry out…take them out when they are a nice light brown. They are amazing with butter and honey, or some homemade strawberry jam and they also go great with a nice hearty beef stew.

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder (I prefer Clabber Girl or Calumet)
4 TBSP shortening
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix all ingredients thoroughly and knead lightly. Roll out dough to 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Cut into circles and bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

It’s just not the holidays until…

We all have our holiday traditions…decorations, family gatherings, well wishes for the coming year, and FOOD! It’s just not the holidays around our house until someone breaks out those foods we wait for impatiently all. year. long. Growing up, it was never officially Christmas until mom had made the familial standard trifecta of decadent candy: caramels, rocky road, and divinity. Sure, sometimes she also made caramel popcorn balls or fudge or brittle, but without the original three, it just didn’t feel right. For Thanksgiving, at least with my dad’s side of the family, we had to have sauerkraut…and not that bitter German kind. This is my great great grandmother’s Yugoslavian recipe…a savory, succulent dish, carefully prepared with pork and simmered for hours…and no, you can’t have the recipe for that one. It’s a family secret!

For Joel, I know his holiday food weakness…it’s tamales. I have to admit, when we first started dating, my experience in even -eating- tamales was so limited it was almost non-existent. His mom Corene however was gracious enough to give me her recipe for making my soon-to-be husband’s favorite dish. After making them for twelve years now, I still find myself amused at his awe filled reverence in the grocery store when I’ll put the masa in the cart. “You’re making me -tamales-??” He’ll ask in wonderment. It’s almost like I’ve never made them for him before.

Tamales are fairly straightforward and easy, but they are time consuming and the whole process takes a day or two, but it’s definitely worth it.

Corene’s Tamales

Red Chile Sauce
10-12 dried chiles (I use an even mix of California and New Mexico chiles, but different chiles provide varying degrees of heat*. Choose yours accordingly!)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp crumbled oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Soak chiles overnight. Weight them down with a plate to keep them submerged if necessary. The following day, remove from the soak water, but reserve some of the soak water. Remove skins and seeds. (I suggest wearing gloves and whatever you do, -don’t- touch your face.) Put pulp and some of the soak water into a blender. Add more water slowly until it is juice-like. Pour into a pot and add spices. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You can freeze this sauce, so if you make additional batches, it will save you hassle later. It can be used in many other Mexican and Spanish recipes and makes a great enchilada sauce.)

Meat Filling
5 lb pork shoulder or butt roast or chicken or ground beef or chuck roast (Joel prefers the pork ones!)
onion & garlic (personal preference…use as much as you like. I usually use a whole onion and about 10-12 cloves of garlic)

Place meat, onion and garlic in pot and cover with water. Simmer meat in water until meat begins to pull off bone. Remove meat from pot and let cool slightly. Shred. Mix with red chile sauce and simmer.

1 1/3 cup lard or Crisco
4 cups masa flour (I use Maseca)
2 tsp salt
2 2/3 C warm water or beef or chicken stock

Mix Crisco, flour, and salt in a large mixer until crumbly. Add liquid slowly while mixer is on lowest setting until consistency is a spreadable dough. (Think frosting-like consistency.) Beat on high for approximately 5 minutes.

Soak two bags of dried corn husks overnight in water. Weight them down with a plate. You may be able to get away with using only a single bag, but I’ve found that I usually will need two bags to get good sized intact husks. Separate the husks and discard any leftover corn silk. Rinse well and drain. Take husks and spread masa on smooth side of husk with a spoon or spatula. (I use an offset frosting spatula.) Add filling and roll, folding over the ends. Tie if you wish with small strips of corn husk. Steam for about 2 to 3 hours. Be sure to check your pot occasionally to make sure you have enough water. Check doneness by unwrapping one and checking the masa. (Joel just eats one, but he’s got a cast iron stomach!)

Yield: about 50 tamales

*About California and New Mexico Chiles
California chilies are dried Anaheim chiles and are very mild.
New Mexico chiles are also called New Mexican chiles or chilies de ristra and they look very similar to the California chile, but they are hotter and more flavorful.

Nuts and Berries

While in NYC in the middle of August for a tradeshow, a group of friends and I frequented a local pub called the “Old Castle”. It’s your average bar that stays open late with a decent bartender, a couple of tvs tuned to various sporting events, and a handful of regulars. Well, we’re all a bunch of functioning alcoholics when we go to these sorts of tradeshows, so I’m sure we completely blew their monthly sales projections to smithereens.

The second night we were there, the call went up for shots and this little glass of deliciousness was what the barkeep served up.

Nuts & Berries Shot

Nuts & Berries

1/2 oz Frangelico® hazelnut liqueur
1/2 oz Chambord® raspberry liqueur
1/2 oz cream

Pour alcohols into a stainless steel shaker over ice, and shake until completely cold. Strain into a chilled shot glass, slowly pour cream over the back of a spoon to top.

Family Recipe – BBQ Chicken Sloppy Joes

I am always looking for healthy recipes for my family. My kids (and my wife) can be picky sometimes, so when I find a recipe that everyone likes, that the kids can help with, and that is actually good for them, I know I have a winner on my hands. Enter BBQ Chicken Sloppy Joes from the Rachel Ray Yum-O Family Cookbook .

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe you will find at the link above that worked for me and my family in using a bagged Cole Slaw mix from the store and in substituting apple cider vinegar for the red wine vinegar called for in the recipe.    I also added some oven fries to round out the meal.   I’ll leave substitutions and sides up to your discretion.


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 tablespoon grill seasoning, such as McCormick brand Montreal Chicken Seasoning
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar  (I used apple cider vinegar )
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can tomato sauce (14 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 4 crusty rolls, split and toasted (I used Kaiser Rolls)

The Technique:

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then add the EVOO. Add the ground chicken to the pan and, using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, break it up into crumbles so that it can brown evenly. Season the chicken with grill seasoning blend.

Once the chicken begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes, add the onion and peppers and cook 5-6 minutes more to soften.

In a bowl, combine the vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and hot sauce. Stir the BBQ Joe sauce into the chicken and combine. Reduce heat to simmer, let mixture bubble and then combine for 5 minutes more.

Prepare the bagged Cole Slaw

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile the sloppy chicken onto toasted bun bottoms, then top with Slaw  and bun tops.  Serve with oven fries, more slaw or potato chips.

Easy healthy pasta recipe

I’m ways looking for quick and easy recipes that the kids will eat and that I can feel good about cooking for them. Last week I found myself with a stash of veggies, some Turkey Italian Sausage, and some Barilla Plus Penne Rigatte pasta. Here’s what I came up with:

3-4 links Turkey Italian Sausage
1 TBL extra virgin olive oil
2 red peppers – chopped
2 yellow peppers – chopped
1 medium or large yellow onion – chopped
1 jar prepared pasta sauce (or homemade if you make your own)
1 clove garlic – crushed and thinly sliced
1 splash of Italian red wine for deglazing (Sangiovese is the bomb in this)
1 box Barilla Plus Penne Rigatte pasta
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste

Remove italian sausage from casing and brown in the olive oil
Add garlic, onion, red and yellow peppers and pepper flakes- saute for 3-5 minutes
Deglaze the pan with wine – making sure to scrape up the “brown bits” with a wooden spoon
Add pasta sauce to veggie/sausage blend
Check seasoning and add sale or red pepper flakes as needed
Reduce heat to simmer

Prepare pasta per instructions in the box
Drain pasta
Add sauce/veggie/sausage blend to pasta and stir well

Serve with a green salad and crusty Italian bread