Matthew’s Three-Ingredient Biscuits

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I’ve enjoyed some fantastic homemade biscuits in my life. With no disrespect to other great biscuit makers in my family, my grandma Vember’s were the best. It must have been the grandma love she handed her biscuits, affectionately known as “hoppy toad” biscuits, presumably because they were small and so good they quickly hopped off the pan.

Recently, I’ve had her biscuits on my mind, and I’ve come to realize I’ll never make — or likely eat anywhere — biscuits like hers again. But I’ve had this nagging hankering for delicious homemade biscuits, and I’ve been on the hunt for a simple recipe that satisfies the craving when it hits.

My wife Molly makes delicious homemade biscuits that go great with a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, jam spreads or a drizzle of honey. But Molly will tell you that I have one complaint about those biscuits, mostly when I’m the one cooking them: I don’t like using shortening, also known as lard. It has an oilyness to it that just “burns my biscuits.” I don’t enjoy working in it with my hands, and I don’t enjoy cleaning the measuring cup that contains it. So, I’ve been searching for an ingredient replacement, and I think I’ve found it.

No one recipe has delivered exactly what I’m looking for, so I can tell you that this specific recipe is probably out there in some form, but I’ve created my own version of it as a mashup of pieces from others. The only required ingredients: Flour, Milk and Butter. Be patient with these biscuits. You’ll have to try them several times to arrive at just the right combination for your taste and your oven. And when you do, I expect you’ll be quite pleased.

These biscuits offer light, flaky layers and a savory, buttery taste to boot. They make great biscuits for sandwiching toppings like bacon, sausage and eggs. They’re great with jelly. I even love eating them plain, and because of the butter included in the recipe, there’s little need for slathering extra butter when they come out of the oven. See what you think, and let me know if you like them as much as I’ve come to.

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Ingredients

2 Cups Self-Rising Flour

1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (one stick, and it doesn’t actually have to be unsalted)

1/3 Cup Milk (you might have to test out this amount, depending on the consistency of your dough)

Yield: About 10 Biscuits

Directions

1. Cut your cold butter into cubes and toss them into your flour in a medium to large mixing bowl.

2. Use your hands, a pastry cutter or two forks to fold your butter into your flour.

3. Once your butter and flour are mixed, incorporate the milk slowly, until all three ingredients are blended well. You may need extra milk if your mixture is too dry, but you don’t want it to become too sticky either.

4. Form your dough into a large ball. Flour a flat surface and the outside of the ball.

5. Roll out your dough on the flat surface, then fold the dough over on itself and roll it out again. Repeat as many times as you like for more layers in your biscuit. You’ll see how many layers you want after your first time baking these biscuits. If you don’t want layers, roll out and don’t fold the dough.

6. Roll the dough to about an inch thick for thicker biscuits, or about a half inch for thinner biscuits.

7. Use a biscuit cutter or a circular cup to cut your biscuits. Flour the rim to keep from sticking. (You can also parcel out the dough in little balls and then flatten and form with your hands. I like a cutter to keep the biscuits more uniform in size.)

8. Place your biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet (You have butter in your biscuits to help with sticking).

9. (Optional) You can brush the tops of your biscuits with melted butter before putting them in the oven or midway through cooking for browner tops and an extra buttery flavor and texture.

10. Cook in a 450-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, depending on the desired doneness.

More #FoodieScore Biscuits: Molly’s Three-Ingredient Biscuits

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5 Easy Tips for Stellar Homemade Shrimp & Grits

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I discovered the glorious flavors of Shrimp & Grits as a teenage foodie who often visited Charleston, S.C. Many places in the city (and throughout the South) serve the dish, and several make it very well, but every version is different. Some restaurants serve the shrimp aboard cheese grits. Others top the bowl with a seafood gravy. Chefs even add bacon, sausage and other flavors to their renditions.

 

As I began cooking more as a bachelor in my 20s, I started experimenting with Shrimp & Grits in my own kitchen. It’s a dish that really lends itself well to creativity, which is a must when I’m cooking. As I’ve shared before on this blog, a hard-and-fast recipe is not my friend, and that’s why I’m not a baker by nature.

There are so many ways to do Shrimp & Grits well, so you really must figure out what you like best. Here are five quick tips to help you concoct your own Shrimp & Grits. You just might decide your way is your favorite.

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1 – Pick the right shrimp and the right grits for you.

Some folks will want to get fresh-from-the-sea shrimp, where available, and some kind of locally ground grits. Me? I actually prefer quick-cook grits (you can dress them up, big time) and frozen shrimp (for the flexibility of making them whenever you like). The way I see it from experience, you can poorly execute fancy and expensive ingredients, or you can hit a home run with simple ingredients.

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2 – Season the shrimp first.

You should cook your shrimp in a separate sauce pan from your grits and any other toppings (you’ll add the shrimp simply to the top of each bowl of grits before serving), and seasoning is a must. The most tongue-popping flavor in the whole dish should come from your seasoned shrimp. I like to use a half a lemon, a ½ teaspoon of paprika and a ¼ teaspoon of salt for each two servings. Add them to the pan and stir around your shrimp for while-cooking marination, over medium heat. As a rule of thumb for me, I like to prepare about 10 shrimp for each serving of Shrimp & Grits, cooking them just until they get light pink all over.

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3 – Use milk or cream in the grits.

But start with water. I’ve found that for each serving, I like to start with a ½ cup of grits and 2 cups of water, and cook on medium heat. The grits cook more quickly and without scalding in water. Then add the creamy ingredient later. I like about ¼ cup of cream or milk for each serving. You will really taste the difference when you add this step. So much more flavor than water alone. The other value in adding the milk or cream later is that as the grits cook and thicken, the creamy ingredient will help thin them back out a bit before serving. You don’t want to serve watery grits, but you also don’t want them to get sticky. The cream, especially, helps keep that from happening.

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4 – Whisk, don’t stir, your grits.

Like the milk or cream, using a whisk has a major impact on the texture and creamy nature of your bowl of grits. If you stir with a spoon, the mixing process just isn’t the same.

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5 – Add flavoring ingredient(s).

We like cooked beef sausage, chopped into smaller pieces and sautéed in a separate sauce pan, and then a topping of a little grated cheese. Bacon is also a great topping (because who doesn’t love bacon?). These types of ingredients add a little extra flavor without overpowering the shrimp, and they add a little something nice to the presentation as well.

Homemade Snow Cream

My mom always made us snow cream. Living in the South, we didn’t get the right kind of snow often, so when we did, it was imperative that we break out the sweetened condensed milk (brand didn’t matter), regular milk, sugar and vanilla. I would help, and eventually, be the one to make it in our family. Really, all you needed to know was the ingredients. And of course, what exactly is the right type of snow.

You’ll need the soft, fluffy, clean kind. (No yellow or orange.) The kind that crunches softly beneath your feet as you pack it down when you walk. The best way to gather it is by taking a large bowl or two outside, along with a large spoon, and scooping it from a flat surface high off the ground. If it looks clean, the ground will do in a pinch. But you’ve probably got a car around, and the hood or top of a car is usually a clean enough place. You don’t want to scoop the bottom layer of the snow anyway. Scoop off the clean top layer. Bring it in the house, after you’re finished playing outside, and get out your ingredients. I’ll tell you how to make it, below. It’s very simple, but I never measure. Today, I did, just for our readers. It helps to measure when you’re starting out with something new. You can tweak from there. 😉

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Snow Cream Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

1 1/2 cups regular milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 large bowls full of snow

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl about 3/4 full with snow.
  2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the regular milk. Stir.
  3. When the mixture becomes more runny, add more snow until the bowl is about 3/4 full again.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla.
  5. Add more snow as desired, if you want it less sweet, but you don’t have to.

Enjoy!!

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Fresh snow on Jan. 7, 2017

Creamy Homemade Ice Cream

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My fondest childhood memories of ice cream fit vividly into two categories. There are the Sunday afternoon trips to Dairy Queen in Dallas, N.C. And there are the summer afternoons at home when mom and dad would churn homemade ice cream in our kitchen in a one-gallon Proctor-Silex machine.

It seems like the flavor in our house was always cherry. That’s Dad’s favorite, and one we all could enjoy, too. But the method of churning that my parents shared with me during a Fourth of July weekend cookout this year (and the one they’ve used for years) can be adapted for any flavor you like. They made cherry and vanilla batches this time, and a neighbor who heard about their ice cream making and decided to try his own made a flavorful batch of banana pineapple.

Your first question might be where you can obtain an ice cream churn. The simple answer, of course, is Amazon.com, where you can purchase a wide variety of models, beginning at about $25.

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Here’s what you do next for basic ice cream, and you have the choice of adding what you like to personalize each batch.

Ingredients

10 cups milk (This can be a combination of milk, cream or other similar liquids, but you should stick to 10 cups or fewer of liquid if your machine is a similar size to my parents’ to give yourself plenty of room in the canister for the mixture to expand as it churns and freezes into ice cream. You should also be careful to not use more than 2 total cups of fat, such as a whole milk or cream, so that the mixture doesn’t thicken and turn into more of a butter-like substance. Also be aware that any extra juices you add to make a specific flavor should be part of the 10 total cups of liquid and not in addition to it. For example, you can add cherry juice for a cherry flavor. That amount of juice should be part of your 10 cups of liquid ingredients.)

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (if making basic vanilla)

Dash of kitchen salt

You will also need a 10-pound bag of ice and a container of ice cream salt for use in the ice cream-making process, NOT in your liquid mixture that will be part of what you will eat.

 

Steps

1. Mix your 10 cups of milk and cream ingredients and allow that combination to chill together in your fridge for just a bit.

2. Once you have chilled the mixture, pour it into your canister, which will go inside the ice cream tub. Then place the dasher in the canister and the lid on top. You can also go ahead and place the motor on top and secure it.

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3. Surround the tub with an ice and ice cream salt mixture. Use eight parts ice to one part ice cream salt. Alternate layers of adding them until the tub around the ice cream canister is almost full.

4. Plug in the machine to start the churning process.

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5. Be sure not to put too much ice cream salt into the tub so that it gets up into the ice cream canister and ruins your ice cream. You don’t want the ice cream salt in what you will actually eat. The ice cream salt is only used to help melt the ice and transfer the cold in the ice into the canister to your ice cream mixture. It’s a scientific principle of heat transfer that my chemistry and physics-minded dad can explain in further detail if you’d like. He helped explain it to me as we made our tasty summer dessert.

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6. There should be a spout on your ice cream machine. Be sure it is pointed into a sink if you’re making your cream in the kitchen, or have it in an acceptable place if you’ve connected your machine to a power outlet outside. Eventually, the spout will flow water and some ice from the tub out of the machine entirely. You can also expect to see your tub frosting a bit on the outside. It’s a great idea to keep a towel beside or on top of the machine (but not the motor as it gets at least a bit hot) to help wipe excess condensation.

7. You will need to continue to add ice to the tub as it melts throughout the churning process.

8. When the motor and machine slow down, you’re getting closer to having completed ice cream. Mom and dad’s older machine takes about 40-50 minutes to churn a canister full of delicious ice cream. If you stop the machine sooner, you’ll have something more akin to soft serve. If you churn longer, you’ll have a thicker ice cream.

9. Unplug your machine before checking out the ice cream and make sure the ice and salt have melted down far from the top to avoid getting those items in your food.

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10. Enjoy! You can store your ice cream in the freezer for a period of time (which varies by ingredients and mixing). Be sure you remove the dasher and clean it off before storing ice cream in an air-tight container. Be aware that homemade ice cream can get hard or icy and can lose some of its creaminess if you keep it too long.

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I have a big head, but the ice cream dasher (mixer) on mom and dad’s machine is bigger, especially when covered in fresh vanilla ice cream!

Fancy Pecan French Toast for Two

French Toast

We’re big fans of the $1 specialty bakery-quality bread loaves you can buy at Walmart. The bread has a short shelf life, but that just encourages you to get creative in how you use the bread to ensure you make the most out of that $1.

On a recent Sunday morning, Matthew used slices of a French bread loaf and just a few ingredients to whip up a quick and fancy breakfast. Here’s how he made his own variation of French toast for two, using the ingredients from a simple Food Network recipe.

Ingredients

four slices of $1 loaf of bread (we used the specialty Walmart bread, but many French toast recipes call for your plain, stale white bread loaf)

two eggs

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar

1/3 cup of milk

butter

syrup

powdered sugar

brown sugar

pecans halves

Step one: Preheat your stovetop burner on medium heat.

Step two: Thoroughly mix your eggs, vanilla, cinnamon sugar and milk in a bowl.

Step three: Coat your bread slices in the sweet egg mixture.

Step four: Lightly butter (or oil) your pan and place your first two slices of coated bread into the pan.

Step five: Turn your French toast slices once, then repeat the process for the remainder of your bread.

Step six: Cut each French toast slice of bread in half and arrange as you like on a plate. With the ingredients in this recipe, you will have four half-slices each for two plates.

Step seven: Crush a few pecan halves with your hands and sprinkle on the French toast slices.

Step eight: Sprinkle your desired amount of brown and powdered sugars onto your French toast.

Step nine: Serve with the desired amount of syrup.

Matthew’s Take: When I’m cooking for people, I like to deliver a beautiful presentation when possible. There’s so much you can do to make French toast look beautiful. Powdered sugar and pecans (or any kind of nuts or fruit) can make your dish look like something you would get in a restaurant. This recipe is my take on a Food Network basic French toast formula. I added the pecans and sugar topping, but the original recipe suggests the perfect ratio of eggs, milk, cinnamon sugar and vanilla extract. You can take that basic provision and then top the toast with your favorite ingredients. I give this French toast an A+ for presentation, an A for taste and a B for cost-effectiveness. You can make French toast very cheap, with only bread, milk, eggs and a cinnamon and/or sugar ingredient. The pecans, multiple sugars and vanilla are extras that add taste, while also adding a few more ingredients and dollars to that grocery bill. The only reason I didn’t give this recipe an A+ on taste is that I used a French bread loaf that had “everything” seasoning topping on it and, although I brushed the topping off, a slight hint of flavor remained on a few slices of the bread. I would suggest using plain French bread, but I used the loaf we had in our pantry.

Molly’s Take: How do I love this French toast – let me count the ways! Not only is it fluffy, soft and deliciously moist, this French toast is covered in tasty toppings that enhance its hearty, pancake-y exterior. Now, you have to know me to know how absolutely crazy it is that I like this dish. I have a bad history with French toast (a church camp experience in which I was forced to play dizzy dodgeball in the summer heat after eating a ton of it along with chocolate milk=bad idea), and I generally dislike pancakes. Yes, I dislike – and have even used the term hate – pancakes. But since Matthew and I have been together, I’ve developed a more open mind toward them. On a recent trip, I even ate them twice! This breakfast dish reminded me of pancakes, but was so much more hearty and nowhere near as mushy as pancakes can be. It was like perfectly fluffy pancakes with a soft, yet firm, sugar-dusted exterior. Altogether, if I gave this dish a grade, it would definitely be A+.