of biscuits & birthdays…

Sorry, just trying to get my wind back. I feel like I’ve been running a race. Well, it has been a busy week, with everyone catching colds, and having to comfort toddlers that don’t understand why they aren’t feeling well. Poor Bubby’s been having a hard time of it, and for the good of all, we’ve been trying to keep up with her nose.  : )

Along with that, our Emmie turned six, and we had a birthday tea that involved at least nine girls running around the house. I think. Only later did I realize that there were no princesses at this party. That’s what happens when the birthday girl is a tomboy. No official birthday games, just girls having fun playing with new presents and plenty of cake for all. And thankfully, a long nap for our kids, after all the guests left at lunchtime. Oh, that’s right, two of them went to bed early, with injuries (a scrape and a scalded lip).

The older girls have been doing their share, as I’m pretty sure Bea and Kit made the birthday cake (yes, they’re quite handy in the kitchen), and after their mom cut the cake into the shape of a horse, they did all the decorating themselves. That includes using coconut and green and black food coloring to make the horse’s mane and the grass. Also, blue jelly for the sky, and marshmallows for the clouds. I thought that part was a bit gross, myself, but the rest of it tasted great. I’ve gotta work on my psycho “clean-up” gene, as I kept interceding, trying to prevent them from dying the counter green. You see, the whole thing was put on a cutting board, so blue and green stuff kept leaking off the sides. But it looks great, doesn’t it? Not bad for a nine and ten year old.

But one upshot of this decorating job was for me to deal with, the following day. The girls were cleaning up the kitchen, and needed to empty the dishwasher. I don’t know which of them didn’t wash her hands well enough when they put away the clean stuff, but I know there was sticky silverware in that drawer. What’s more, the ants realized it, too. So, when I discovered it, I had to wash everything in the drawer and the entire drawer, as well.

On the birthday day, we actually went to the Irish for dinner, so Mrs. B didn’t have to do any extra cooking. That was nice for her, I think. Emmie was told she had to ask her dad if they could go to the Irish Pub for her birthday, so she came back and said “Daddy said ok”. Her mom reminded her that she was supposed to ASK her dad, not tell him. “I did ask! I said, Daddy, we’re going to the Irish Pub for my birthday. Do you want to come, too?”. Gosh, I love that kid.

I’ve been meaning to introduce the family to some of my cooking from home for quite a while now and decided it was time to get over the screwup that occurred with the cookies, before Christmas. So, I volunteered to cook dinner on Saturday night, figuring I’d be able to do this without being too stressed out, rather than after work on a weekday. Of course, my pessimistic gene always kicks in, if I haven’t done a lot of cooking lately, and I do plenty of worrying beforehand. Remember, my last baking episode went wrong for reasons unknown, and it could’ve just been the weather. How would you like to know you could ruin dinner, just because of the weather?

Oh, and maybe it was time that I cooked again, also, because Kit asked me if I could make pumpkin pie again sometime soon. Score! I also assured her that I’d make them pumpkin bars, too.

As it happened, I had the house to myself until dinnertime, and there was a big storm. Rain was pouring down sideways, and the good part of this was that the flies were caught in the downpour and unable to make their way into the kitchen, in search of raw or cooked chicken. So, for the most part, I was able to prepare dinner in peace.

If you’re an American, you know what buttermilk biscuits are. If you’re not American, then these biscuits look a bit like round, plain scones, but they aren’t made with sugar. I suppose you’d call them savory biscuits. Americans can’t live without them, as far as I know, and I still think it’s a crime that the Australian KFC’s don’t serve buttermilk biscuits. That’s just wrong.

Also, my family may live in the South, but we don’t cook like we’re in the South. When I say I’m cooking biscuits and gravy, then I’m making either chicken or turkey gravy, which is just like chicken or turkey soup, but thicker. Oh, and there aren’t any veggies in it. If you’re thinking of sausage gravy, either the Southern kind or the Pennsylvania Dutch kind, then I can’t help you.

I threw my fresh chicken breast fillets into a pot and cooked them on both sides, until they were lightly brown and lots of crispy stuff was on the bottom of the pan. Then I turned the stove off, put 8 cups (or thereabouts) of water in the pot to let the browned chicken flavoring loosen up and add to the yummy flavor of the gravy. I added chicken stock powder, though at home, I’d use a solid chicken base (from Sam’s) to make gravy. Then you add plenty of salt and some pepper (if you like pepper), until it tastes right to you. When the chicken had cooled enough, I cut it up into small pieces and put them all in the pot to cook. The chicken doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through, because it’ll finish cooking in the broth.

Then, while that came to a slow boil, I had my usual fight to get the oven to light, and it finally cooperated. Hooray! With that, I began to debate with myself (yes, I have lots of these arguments) over how long it would take me to make the biscuits, and should I start right away. As it was, I cut it close. Here’s the biscuit recipe, with American measurements.

~

Buttermilk Biscuits

8 cups flour

3 tsp baking soda

8 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

1 cup shortening (Crisco or butter)

1 quart buttermilk

1 egg

Cut shortening into dry mix. Measure buttermilk with egg. Stir into dry ingredients. Knead dough briefly. Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut out biscuits. Bake at 450°F (with a gas stove, that’s about 230°C) for 12-15 minutes.

Note: 1 cup butter is ~230 grams.

~

This recipe uses plain flour, if you’re in Australia, and all-purpose flour, if you’re in the U.S. Anywhere else, you take your pick. I bought a different container of flour than usual, and discovered that it contained almost exactly 8 cups of flour. Of course, I didn’t know that until I reached the bottom of the container. Had a bit of a panic attack there.

My liquid measure didn’t have quarts marked, so my calculations on 1 quart equaling 2 pints (I can never remember this) and that being equal to 900 mls came in handy. Then I realized too late that I should’ve put the egg in first and then filled the container up to 900. Thankfully, I bought two containers of buttermilk, having forgotten to check my numbers before leaving the house. I figured if I bought too much, someone could make pancakes.

We don’t have a pastry blender, so I cut the butter up with a knife, and then stirred it into the dry stuff with a fork. When that wasn’t working so well, as it’s a lot of flour, I got out the potato masher and used that. It worked pretty well. Then I began to add the buttermilk and egg mixture. I remembered, just in time, that my last cookie problems may have occurred because the mixture was too dry. I didn’t want to have the reverse happen, and screw up this one, because the dough was too wet. And I’d run out of flour, or couldn’t find any more. So, I didn’t pour all the buttermilk in, and began to mix it all up with my hands.

I don’t have any pictures of this stage of the game, because my hands were too yucky, and the family arrived home at this time, and I started to get a bit frazzled. Thankfully, one of the kids found me some more flour, and I threw a bit more into the mix, kneaded it in a hurry, and threw it onto the counter (don’t worry, it was clean). The younger kids tried to come ask me things like “What are you making?”, but I wasn’t in the mood to try and explain why biscuits weren’t cookies, and no, we weren’t having dessert for dinner. So, I asked the kids to head off, as politely as possible.

My first biscuits were a little thinner than the others, but everything cooked up fine and tasted great, I am very happy to say. They could’ve been a little thicker, but considering the rush I was in, and how worried I’d been at the last minute, things worked out. I cut out two trays worth of biscuits, stuffed them in the oven, and checked the time, not bothering with the timer. I poured the cornflour (at home, we call it corn starch) and water into a measuring cup, stirred it up, and then added it to the chicken broth, stirring as I went, to keep it from making lumps. So, the gravy was ready to go, and I had salted and peppered it to the perfect taste, sometime earlier. Finally, I managed to get the peas into the microwave, and then continued to stalk the oven, while wiping up the counter.

By this time, the biscuits were smelling nice, and I was starting to calm down and believe that it would all work out after all. The others set the table, and I reminded them to get out the jam, as I’d bought jars of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry. Then, after putting a tea towel in a bowl, I scooped all the biscuits into it, covered it, and took it to the table. Then came the gravy, and later, the peas. I settled the main ingredients near my plate, borrowed Emmie’s plate, and proceeded to demonstrate how we eat these.

I know that may sound silly, but they still think these biscuits look like scones, which are made with sugar. But they’re savory, and we eat them with gravy. And in my family, we pour peas over the top, too. So, I took a biscuit, broke it open, put the two halves on the plate, and then poured chicken and gravy over them. Once the gravy has soaked in, the soft biscuits are easy to cut up with a fork. Then I explained that my family usually eats the biscuits with gravy on the first round, and then with butter and jam for the second. Well, at home, we have apple butter, too.

When the peas arrived, everybody except Sadie tried them with peas on top. Ok, Bubby didn’t, either. She ate biscuits with butter. But Emmie, who hadn’t liked the idea of peas, admitted that they tasted good in gravy, so I thought that was a plus for the evening. Everybody loved them, and at one point, my mind was wandering, when I heard my name. I found that they’d been discussing the idea of having my mom come and visit, and bring all of her recipes with her.

Bea also paid me the supreme compliment of saying that everything that I’ve made, so far, has tasted wonderful. So, it’s nice to know I have a fan, who’s willing to try just about anything I make. I should try white chili on them, sometime soon. The little girls will be wary, though, I know. And it’s more like soup, so it’d be messy, too. Unfortunately, they’re allergic to prawns, so I can’t make shrimp’n’hotroot soup, unless I leave out the shrimp.

So, everybody rounded out their meal with butter and jam on their biscuits, and dinner was a huge success. And when I was able to sit down and eat some, too, I thought they tasted just like home.

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