Recipe: Cheddar Biscuits

Ingredients

Biscuits

  • 2 1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 4 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sharp (yellow) cheddar cheese, shredded*
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Dash of salt

*Better/higher quality cheese will yield better results. Sharp cheddars have more flavor, and full fat is also better.

Butter mixture for biscuit tops

  • 3 tbsp. salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • Dash of paprika

Directions

Preheat oven to 400*F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet (with Pam or butter) or line the cookie sheet with parchment paper, then set aside. In a medium bowl, add together Bisquick and butter and use a pastry cutter (or fork) to cut the butter into the Bisquick—the butter should be broken up into pea-sized chunks through the Bisquick. Add the shredded cheese, milk, garlic powder, and dash of salt and gently mix together by hand—don’t over mix, because it will make the biscuits tough. Drop 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto the cookie sheet, being sure to keep each biscuit a few inches apart so they don’t expand into each other while baking. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly golden brown. While the biscuits are baking, stir together the warm, melted butter with parsley flakes, garlic powder, and a dash of paprika. Brush the butter mixture onto the tops of the fresh-out-of-the-oven biscuits, and sprinkle with just a bit of salt, if necessary.

Yields: 1 dozen

Total cooking time: Approx. 20 minutes

Cheddar Biscuits

Cook’s Comments

When I was a kid, Red Lobster was a near-weekly dinner staple (along with Olive Garden and Max & Erma’s—clearly, we dined high class in small town 1990s Indiana). I loved getting a big ol’ batch of popcorn shrimp with a baked potato (I’d scrape all of the salt off the side of the potato, and let the butter from the potato pool on my plate so I could dip the shrimp into it); however, it was those fluffy, cheesy, garlicky Cheddar Bay Biscuits that really made my night. This recipe I shared here is pretty spot on and it’s very easy to make. Do yourself a favor and go whole hog on this—get a good, sharp cheddar cheese (I am actually quite fond of Cracker Barrel brand) and don’t try to cut calories with margarine or skim milk—your taste buds will thank you.

These biscuits are fluffy on the inside, slightly crunchy on the outside, and absolutely perfect fresh out of the oven, right after the luscious melted butter mixture has been brushed on (in fact, I’d argue that the butter on top is what actually really makes these shine).

Recipe: Crab Rangoon

My mom’s been craving Chinese food lately, so deciding on tonight’s dinner of beef with broccoli and snow peas was very easy. I’d yet to try out my deep fryer, so I decided this meal would pair up perfectly with fried crab rangoon, those deliciously golden-brown wonton pockets filled with cream cheese, flaky crab meat, and green onion. They’re easy to make, and any excess filling can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. Now, it’s important to understand that I used a deep fryer to make these. You can fry foods without a fryer, typically by heating oil in a pot on the stove while carefully monitoring the temperature (I’ve done it before—it’s a little terrifying and you have to be incredibly careful), and you can also do no-fry methods by utilizing some sort of fat (butter, cooking spray, etc.) and an oven. But for this recipe, I’m using a deep fryer, so keep that in mind (maybe one of my Technique Tuesday posts in the future will explain how to fry foods without a fryer…).

Serves: Many
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: Approx. 5 minutes (or until golden brown)
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: Deep fryer

Ingredients

  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 1, 8 oz. package Philadelphia cream cheese (I used the version with 1/3 less fat)
  • 1-2 cups canned crab meat, drained and flaked/small pieces (I found this chilled at the fresh seafood counter at my local grocery store)
  • Approx. 1/4 cup green onions, finely diced/chopped
  • Approx. 1/4 tsp. grated ginger root
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Small bowl of water (for sealing the wontons)
  • Vegetable oil or other frying-safe oil (canola, safflower, peanut)

Be sure to taste the mixture to see if you have the right balance of ingredients. If you like a crabby wonton, add more crab meat, and if you like to taste more of the cream cheese, then add less crab meat. Add more or less ginger as desired.


Directions
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, crab meat, green onions, ginger, sugar, and salt and pepper, then stir vigorously to combine. Lay out the desired amount (meaning, however many you plan to eat) of wonton wrappers on an ungreased baking sheet. Put a small spoonful of the cream cheese and crab mixture in the middle of each wonton wrapper. Dip your fingers in the water and run them along the edges of the wonton wrappers. Fold over each wrapper from one corner to the other, forming a triangle, and press the edges together to seal. Fry in hot oil until golden brown (I used a Breville deep fryer with vegetable oil, and I fried them at about 330*F). Once done, remove and place on a plate covered in a few layers of paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Plate and serve.

These little Chinese restaurant appetizers fry up golden-brown and bubbly and they’re perfect as a party snack or an appetizer. If you want to make them a little fancier, replace the crab meat with lobster, or change how you fold the wontons to create a different presentation.

Recipe: Banana Bread

We almost always have a bunch of bananas in the kitchen to grab as a light breakfast or a quick snack for work. It’s a longstanding tradition in my house to make banana bread with the two or three bananas that inevitably get left behind to turn into mottled brown, mushy versions of their formerly selves. When I was in college, my mom passed the recipe on to me and, during my junior year, there was a new loaf of banana bread sitting out on our kitchen counter just about every other week. It’s a great way to make use of yucky old bananas and a slice or two of this sweet bread makes for a great snack or breakfast, much like the bananas it’s made with.

Beautiful golden brown loaf, cut while it was still warm. The slices are spread with a little butter, just the way I like it.

Serves: Many
Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, mashed bananas (about 3 medium-sized bananas)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions
In a small pot over medium heat, melt the stick of butter/margarine. Remove from heat and cool slightly. In the meantime, mash the bananas in a large bowl and mix in the sugar and eggs. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and sift (I just run a fork through the mixture repeatedly a few times). Pour the sifted mixture into the large bowl with the banana mixture. Add the melted butter and stir together the ingredients until completely combined (mixture will be a little lumpy and it will be a pale creamy yellow color). Pour into an oven-safe, greased, 8″x5″ loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes at 350*F or until tester (use a knife or fork) can be stuck in the bread and come out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then remove and let cool on a plate or rack for 10-20 minutes. Wrap in waxed paper and foil to keep it fresh. Slices can be served plain or spread with a little butter.

I love getting a slice of banana bread spread with a little butter served with a glass of skim milk for breakfast, and it’s great as a snack too. It keeps well and you can even freeze it and thaw it out for later (make sure it’s wrapped up tightly though and placed in a freezer bag. It’s easy to make, it makes great use of bananas that are too ripe to eat as is, and it’s really delicious.

Recipe: "Cowboy Caviar" (Veggie Salsa)

I got this recipe from my best friend, Emmie, and her family, and it quickly became my go-to dish for picnics, parties, and summer snacking. I can’t, for the life of me, remember where its name came from, but it’s essentially a chunky vegetable salsa served best with tortilla chips. When I first encountered this dish, Emmie and I were preparing it for a Stanley Cup party at her place back in 2009 (the Pittsburgh Penguins were the champs that year! So awesome!). I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the ingredients at the time (I’d never had avocado, I wasn’t a fan of tomatoes, and I was pretty sure I’d hate the black beans), but Emmie insisted it would all come together perfectly and I’d love it—and she was right. It’s chunky, packed with flavor, and a great way to get your vegetable serving for the day.
 

Served in Tostitos Scoops chips

Serves: Many
Prep. time: 10-20 minutes
Cooking time: No cooking necessary
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 lime, juiced (or approx. 2 tbsp. bottled lime juice)
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 avocados, chopped
  • 1 (14.5 or 15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes (I like to drain some of the liquid from the can, but it’s not necessary)
  • 1 (14.5 or 15 oz.) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (14.5 or 15 oz.) can yellow corn, drained
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions
Add the black beans, corn, red onion, tomatoes, and avocado to a large bowl. Be sure the red onion pieces are small, because the flavor is very strong and getting a huge chunk of red onion in your mouth is not very tasty. Gently stir the ingredients together to mix, being careful not to crush the avocado. Add the lime juice and salt and pepper, to taste, and stir a little more to mix. Add cilantro if desired (my mom hates cilantro, so I only add it if she’s not around to eat it). Serve with tortilla chips or pita/flat bread.
It keeps for 3-5 days in the fridge (though my dad will keep eating it for a week or more)—the avocado will start to brown fairly quickly, but while the mixture may not look as appealing after the first day, it’s just as tasty! If you use fresh limes, I highly recommend keeping the zest and using it in another dish. It’s such a shame to waste such a delicious ingredient. I’m planning on using the lime zest from today to make mini lime cheesecakes tomorrow—recipe to follow, of course!

Close up of those delicious veggies

This salsa is delicious, and pretty healthy (if you don’t eat too many tortilla chips with it). It’s great for parties (I made it for a Super Bowl party during my junior year of college and it was a big hit), but it also works great as an easy summer snack.

Recipe: Black Bean Hummus

So, since my spicy chickpea hummus was such a success, I decided to make a black bean hummus for my family to snack on this week. The recipe is almost identical to the spicy chickpea recipe, but the addition of paprika adds a new flavor and the use of some of the liquid from the can of black beans makes this a creamier, less dry hummus.

Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: No cooking necessary
Difficulty: Easy
Special Equipment: Food processor

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 15 oz. canned black beans
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, fresh or bottled
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. tahini (or 2 tsp. sesame seeds and 1 tbsp. sesame oil )
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika

(Recipe and ingredients for flat bread for dipping can be found here; this time, I had premade pita chips and baby carrots)

Directions
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and serve with pita/flat bread, bell pepper slices, or “dippers” of your choice. Refrigerate leftover hummus.

Like the spicy chickpea hummus I made before, this hummus is spicy and flavorful and makes for a delicious snack.

Recipe: Spicy Chickpea Hummus with Flat Bread

So, I’ve been looking for filling, healthy snacks to try and I’ve heard a lot of good things about hummus. I’ve never really been a fan of hummus—most of my experiences with it involve a school dining hall or restaurant buffet, and it’s either chalky and flavorless or it’s watery. However, one of my favorite restaurants from college had a black bean hummus and chickpea hummus dish on their menu that I tried once at a tasting and really enjoyed, so that gave me hope that I could come to like it. Obviously, the jarred stuff and the junk turning grey next to the dressings at the salad bar are not what a “hummus beginner” should be eating, so I thought I might like it if I made it myself. I found a recipe by Rachael Ray here (not my favorite TV personality, and I’m not a fan of her abbreviation “EVOO,” but she’s made some tasty stuff), and after a few alterations, I whipped it up and it turned out great!

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 7-12 minutes (for the pita/flat bread chips), no cooking necessary for the hummus 
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

For hummus:

  • 1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 2 tbsp. tahini sesame paste, or 1 tbsp. each of sesame seeds and sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste (I used a dash or two)
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil

For  pita/flat bread chips:

  • Pita or flat bread of your choice (I used Schwebel’s Old World Flat Bread – Wheat)
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder or garlic salt
  • Ground cayenne pepper
  • Oregano

Directions
For the hummus: Combine all of the ingredients together in a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. Transfer to a small dish and serve with pita/flat bread chips, vegetables, or other “dippers” of your choice. Refrigerate any leftover hummus.
For the pita/flat bread chips: Preheat the oven to 400* F. Combine a dash of each dry ingredient in a small bowl with olive oil and brush onto the pita/flat bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake in oven for 7-12 minutes, until slightly crispy. Pull or cut bread into pieces to create chips and dip them into the hummus.

This hummus is very filling and so flavorful. The ground cumin, coriander, and cayenne add spiciness and intense flavor, and the lemon juice helps lighten and brighten the taste. Served with warm pita chips and crisp veggies, like orange and green peppers, and it’s the perfect snack!