Monday, March 9, 2015

Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

What is it about biscuits that makes them so irresistible? Well... good biscuits, that is. I have no problem resisting canned biscuits of any variety.
Seriously. Get those things away from me.

But no, good biscuits are so... just so.... Yum.

I think it's particularly difficult to find a whole wheat version that doesn't closely resemble a hockey puck in texture and a cardboard box in flavor. These are good wheat biscuits. I love them with a smear of butter and a dripping of honey, and they are the perfect complement to soup. I also suspect they would be delightful smothered in sausage gravy... My husband would probably approve.

While these include a mix of whole wheat and white flour, they are a great compromise between completely refined flour and completely whole grain, which gives them a great heartiness without compromising the fluffy texture one hopes for in a biscuit. But what really sets these apart from other wheat biscuits is the cream cheese. It brings a great flavor into the mix. I love, love, love these biscuits!

And my favorite thing is that I can whip up a big batch and freeze them after cutting into desired shapes to have fresh biscuits any time. Take THAT Pillsbury!

Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 oz. (3 Tbsp.) light cream cheese
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
4 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 c. cold buttermilk

Dice the butter and cream cheese into 1/2 inch pieces and place in the freezer for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
Put both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a food processor. Pulse 3 times to combine. Drop cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse until mixture looks like coarse meal.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add buttermilk. Stir with a spatula until the dough comes together. Put dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 8 to 10 times. Form dough into a 9 inch disk and roll out (or pat down as I generally do) to 3/4 inch thickness. Be careful not to overwork.
Cut out 12 biscuits and place on baking sheet. If freezing for later use, stop here and freeze on baking sheet one hour before removing to a zip-top freezer bag for storage up to 3 months. If baking immediately, place baking sheet on middle rack in oven and bake at 450 for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and turn oven down to 400 degrees. Bake for another 12 to 15 minutes. The bottom of the biscuits should be golden brown when done.
If baking from frozen, increase initial bake at 450 to 8 minutes, then proceed as above until biscuits are done.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Creamy Chicken Soup with Wild Rice

In the week after my baby was born this past fall, we were treated so kindly by friends who brought meals to keep us going while we adjusted to this new person in our lives. Ever since this soup was brought to us, I have been obsessing over it.

My husband and I kept shoveling it into our mouths and picking out ingredients. The usual suspects were there; carrots, onion, celery, chicken. Wild rice, which was obvious, since it was chicken and wild rice soup. Then there were so many scrumptious surprises. Corn! Mushrooms! Almonds! Was that a wheat berry? Nom nom nom.

Here it is, four months later -- wait, really? Yes. Four months. And I'm still geeking out about this soup. Spring is here in the Pacific Northwest. The blossoms are out, the temperatures are warming up, and I might be the only person here still making soup. This is THAT good.

When I begged asked for their recipe, I wasn't at all surprised to find that it was from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. That woman has a gift. Her recipe calls for just wild rice, which is lovely, but the friends who brought us soup had used a blend that had regular rice, wheat berries, AND wild rice and I have to say that it made a gigantic difference to me. So I found a rice blend at the store that had all of the yummy things I was looking for. You can obviously use regular wild rice if that's what you like or have available.

Since it's still bitterly cold in some places (like, hey Texas, what's up with the snow this year?) I think you need this soup. Snuggle up and enjoy it! I swear it's worth the effort.

Creamy Chicken Soup with Wild Rice
from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1/2 c. butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. celery, sliced
1/2 c. carrots, sliced
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
3/4 c. flour
6 c. chicken broth
1 lb. cooked, cubed chicken
2 c. cooked wild rice blend or cooked wild rice
(we use the whole grain Royal Blend from Rice Selects)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 c. slivered or sliced almonds (I prefer slivered, but I've used sliced in a pinch and it was still great)
2 c. half & half

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot and sauté until onions are translucent. Add corn and mushrooms, and sauté for a minute or two more. Stir in flour to coat veggies, continuing to stir until the flour has absorbed the moisture in the pan and no longer smells raw. Pour in chicken broth and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let thicken slightly. As the soup thickens, be sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
When mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of your spoon, add in chicken, rice, salt, curry powder, mustard powder, parsley, pepper, and almonds. Then add the half & half and let simmer (NOT boil) for about an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pot.