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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2010-01-31

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy


There is some serious snow out there! I haven't gone outside yet and frankly might not even do so today. Whenever I do I'll be taking pictures! I do have to say that we are so blessed to not be dealing with the level of storm that our neighbors to the south and east are - watching the news and hearing that so many thousands of people are without power and may be for a up to a week, while I'm snug and cozy in my apartment, reminds me of the blessings in my life.

Knowing that we were getting a ton of snow this weekend, I figured it would be a good time to make some soul-warming comfort foods to enjoy while the white stuff fell. Right now I have some beef bourguignon (otherwise known in my house as 'beef yum yum') on the stove. This morning's breakfast consisted of...homemade biscuits and sausage gravy.

I love biscuits and gravy. There's not many things in life I don't love, of course. But biscuits and gravy? What a fabulous treat.

I hadn't attempted biscuits from scratch prior to this morning (I usually use Bisquick). And in retrospect I don't know why I never went all the way and made the effort - they're super easy!

Start with two cups of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar. Mix it together in a bowl.

Add 1/3 cup of shortening. In my case I used softened butter because I figured it would give the biscuits a better taste. In hindsight, it was a good choice.

Use a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the shortening or butter into the dry mixture. Or if you have a food processor it would make the job a lot easier. As we know from a previous post, I don't have one. I need one. If you want to donate one I'd be more than happy to accept it.

Sidenote: I got to use my pastry cutter for the first time today! It was super fun!

Once you have a texture approaching coarse meal, add a cup of milk and stir until everything's mixed together.

Don't overstir, just until everything's incorporated. At this point I let the dough sit in the fridge for a while and I worked on my gravy.



Once the sausage was cooked, and I'll be covering that in a bit, I floured my marble cutting board and turned the dough out onto it. I only kneaded a few times - again, being careful to not overwork the dough.

Then I patted the dough out and used my trusty tumbler to cut out biscuits. I've found that I like patting the dough rather than rolling in the case of biscuits I've made in the past. I placed the biscuits in a greased 8x8 pan (I could have used a bigger pan and will in the future!) and baked them in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Voila! Beautiful, buttery and golden.

Now on to the gravy.

I should have used less sausage, let me put it out there right now. Normally I use half a pound if I'm cooking for the two of us and the biscuits and gravy are the main dish. Today I used a bit more, and I have no idea what possessed me.

Brown the sausage, breaking it up as you go along.

Once the sausage is nice and brown and crumbled up, sprinkle (or, if you're me just dump in unceremoniously) 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour.

Stir everything together and cook for a few minutes until you reach a nice tan color.

Add two cups of milk. I heated it in the microwave for about a minute prior to adding it so it wouldn't be going in cold and therefore take that much more time to heat through and begin to thicken.

Then just stir it all up and let it simmer and thicken. Add plenty of black pepper too! I find that it doesn't need salt (and that's saying something because I love the salt shaker a little too much) because the sausage is usually salty enough.  Still, to each their own.  Season to taste, I guess I should say!

Pretty soon, the gravy was gravy and the biscuits were baked. And here's how it all looked when chow time came...

Mmmmmm! Talk about scrumptious! As I said, I should have used less sausage because I like more gravy and less meat. But it's all a matter of personal preference of course.  Either way it's yummy and downright sinful.

So sit down, pull up your chair and tuck into a big ol' plate of this deliciousness.  Then allow the food coma to take over and just drift off into naptime.

You're gonna need to be rested once it comes time to shovel all that snow.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Happy Friday!

Hello, Company Girls and other friends!

In this my neck of the woods we're gearing up for SNOW. Granted, not as much snow as the areas to our south, but snow nonetheless. As I type this I'm hoping to be able to cut out of here early - it seems like many people are already sharing my thoughts and it's only 9:45 right now. We'll see...

I swear you'd think they were giving something away at the store. I only popped in to Whole Foods to grab a juice and muffin like I do on many mornings. Normally it's an in-and-out type of thing and I'm sitting at my desk 5 minutes later. Not today, oh no. I waited 15 minutes in the express line - the other lines were up through the aisles. At 8:30 in the morning! Insanity. I was told by a coworker who stopped at the nearby supermarket prior to coming in that there was almost no parking and not a cart to be had - and the folks who were using carts had them full to almost overflowing! Of course we're going to have to go through it after work, not because we're panicking but because we don't have anything in the house to eat! Yikes...

In other news, we visited Rob's dad last night and his mood seems to have improved greatly. He's still confused about time and about what's real and what's only something he dreamt about, but I'll take confusion any day as long as he's in good spirits. Oh, and we have at least an extra week as per the head nurse's guarantee to Rob the other day. She's certain they'll need to keep him for at least that much longer. What a blessing that is, especially since the weather is messing with our plans.

This weekend we'll be hunkering down. We'll be packing. We'll be cleaning. We'll be watching old episodes of Lost so I can catch up. I'll be cooking and taking pictures. And it'll be a good weekend.

I hope everyone else has a good one as well!

Oh, and since Rachel Anne suggested we post recipes today, here's a couple of posts involving my absolute favorites. Enjoy!

Mind-blowing Pasta Bolognese
Boeuf Bourguignon - it'll change your life
Amazing Apple Dumplings

Linking up to:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

C is for Cooking

...that's good enough for meeeee...C is for Cooking, that's good enough for meeeee....

Sorry.  I typed that title and immediately Cookie Monster popped into my brain and he was singing "C is for Cookie" only with the word "cooking".  And now he won't stop.  Please make him stop.

While he continues singing in my brain, I'm going to share a secret with you.

Oooooh, a secret.  Yes, I know you're on the edge of your seats! Here's my secret. Ready?

Are you suuuuure?


*looks both ways and over shoulder*

*drops voice to a whisper*

I like to cook.

I KNOW! Right? Shocking, especially since there's a whole category of this blog dedicated to my little corner of the wide, wide world of culinary arts.

Cooking is one of my greatest joys in life.  It is immediately followed by eating, of course.  But more important than eating what I've created is watching others enjoying themselves while eating something I've prepared with them in mind.  Whether it's a simple, soul-warming plate of spaghetti and meatballs or something large-scale like a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for a dozen people...I just love to cook and to give to others.  I love watching people tuck in to a big ol' plate of Jen Love. 

And really, I feel that food taps into a part of the soul that few other things can touch.  Some of our best and fondest memories occur around the table - family dinners, holidays, celebrations.  And how many times do you find yourself remembering a certain restaurant and saying, "Oooohhh, I remember that place, they had the best _______!".  Everyone has at least one of those places.  The places you remember because you had something special there, something that stuck with you.  I want to have a place like that one day!

And since I'm feeling very tired right now and more than a slight bit wonky (throat's a little sore, tummy's a little upset), I'm going to shut up and show you pictures of dishes I've made which haven't previously made it into the blog:

I made this last Valentine's Day for Rob - my version of Disney's Polynesian Resort's Tonga Toast.  Thick-sliced bread stuffed with bananas and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. 
It's a scandal on a plate.  Although at the Poly it's usually...more...crisp.  Lesson learned.

My first, and definitely my best, attempt at homemade Italian bread.

Another version of bolognese, this time courtesy of Alton Brown.  I still prefer this version - much less time was spent actively working on the sauce than in this instance.  I might still post on this, I have all the pictures.

A strawberry shortcake concocted for Rob's birthday.  It sort of got away from me and before I knew it I had a monster on my hands.

But my oh my, isn't that pretty?

Well gobble, gobble.  She and I became very close friends as I deftly slipped pats of butter between her skin and meat.  She wasn't so attractive before she went into the oven...

...but oh my goodness did she have it going on when she came out.  Whew! Almost makes me want to cook another one.  And how did she repay me for the makeover I bestowed upon her? She gave me an ache in my arms that bothered me the whole evening and following day.
Seriously.  She was a big girl.

Stuffing.  That's all I have to say about that.  
Oh, and I wish it was Thanksmas again tomorrow.  Thanksmas being smack between Thanksgiving and Christmas when we invited friends over for turkey and the rest.  It was a delicious night.

Anyway, that's just a sample of what I love to do.  I wish I had better pictures but one thing I'm becoming more serious about is taking better pictures of my food.  Because my food deserves it.  And looking at cooking and photography blogs is starting to make me jealous, while at the same time giving me some great inspiration.

Well, time to go to sleep... cooking cooking starts with C....

Shut up, Cookie Monster!


Linking up to...

Jenny Matlock


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Misadventures: My Worst Day Ever

You know, I was thinking today that I named this blog using the word "misadventures" but haven't blogged about many misadventures.  Granted, there was this weekend's couch situation, but that was about it as far as misadventures go.

So let me tell you a tale.  A tale of woe.  A tale of blood and rain and a twisted knee and a failed Calc test.

The tale of My Worst Day Ever.  And yes, it deserves the caps.

The year was 1998 and I was a fresh-faced lass of 18.  At the time I was a freshman at Temple University and working part-time in an office in Center City, Philadelphia.  It was spring semester and I had a Calculus class that was completely killing me.  On the day in question I had an exam which I was not looking forward to and then I had to go to work. 

I was looking super cute in a crisp white shirt, camel colored pants and brown heels which I was just breaking out for the first time.  It was an outfit I was very proud of.  I guess I figured if I couldn't pass my exam (and let me not lie to you - I knew I wouldn't), I would at least look nice for work.  Off I went to the bus stop...

...only to be promptly horrified when the bus pulled up and I saw my reflection in the windows.  Because what I didn't notice at home was that my blouse was almost totally see-through in daylight.  So right there I was mortified and self-conscious.  I had a whole day of walking around with a see-through blouse ahead of me.  But there was the bus, and here I was about to be late for school if I didn't get on.

In hindsight, I should have just gone home.

I went to school and took my exam, leaning over my desk the whole time so as to conceal my womanly parts (of course I was wearing a bra, but I'm not okay with having my lingerie on display for all to see).  And you know what? I ended up getting a 10 on that exam.

A 10.  Out of 100.  How I passed that class with a C I'll never understand.

Who gets a 10? I almost wished it was a 0.  A 10 means that even the professor was like "Whoa, I have to take some pity on this person and throw them a bone".  It was not a good time for me.

After the exam I left for work, having decided that I would simply walk around the office with file folders held up to my chest all day.  Yeah, that would fool them into not firing me for being dressed inappropriately.

Not long after arriving I was asked to make a hand delivery.  Now, let me clarify something here.  Hand deliveries were not new to me.  I used to make them all the time.  So you'd THINK I would have kept, I don't know, a pair of sneakers on hand for just such an occasion.  But not 18 year old me.  Oh, no.  I was stuck walking 10 blocks in what turned out to be the single most horrifically uncomfortable shoes ever created by man.  I'm serious when I say that I may as well have been walking barefoot the whole way - in fact, it probably would have been less painful.  That's how much agony I was in within just a couple of blocks.  Of course I didn't have any cash on me and had yet to discover the joys of the ATM card so I was stuck taking the Shoe Leather Express.

I wasn't really all about thinking when I was 18.

However, despite the pain, I got there in one piece...slowly, but in one piece.  Then it was time to walk BACK.

Of course by this time the day had become somewhat warmer, so I started to get a little bit sweaty on my return trip.  Still, my office building was in my sights and I was focused on making it there.  I was totally, 100% focused on just getting back to my chair, where I could take a load off of my aching, throbbing feet.

Perhaps I should have stopped focusing on my building and instead paid a lil' more attention to the sidewalk because OOPS! I tripped and fell, twisting my knee in the process.  I also managed to end up with tiny bloodstains on my camel colored pants from the skinning of my knee.  Of course people saw this happen and flew to my aid, but that just made me feel like more of a loser.  Now I was in pain all over, from my scraped hands to my knee to my feet.  And let's not forget about my bruised pride while we're at it!

But still I walked on.  Rather, limped on.

Once I got back to my sweet, cool office, I settled in with some clerical duty or other, while propping up my injured knee.  It was definitely swollen, but I did manage to get most of the blood off pants so all wasn't completely lost.

After an hour or so of lamenting my fate, I was asked to do the unthinkable.  They needed yet ANOTHER hand delivery.

I couldn't believe it.  Didn't they see me? Didn't they see the pain, the anguish? Didn't they have souls? Or at least some cab fare? I mean, seriously.  I look back on this day and wonder why in the heck they couldn't have taken some pity on me.  It wouldn't have cost them that much, either.

But no.  I had to walk.  So I walked.

This one wasn't so far as the one before so I figured it would be okay.  And as long as I took it slow, it really wasn't terrible - maybe my feet had numbed by then, I'm really not sure. 

Then I started my return journey.

You see, at some point during the course of the afternoon, what started off as a heart-breakingly beautiful spring day became a decidedly more cloudy one.  Cloudy and humid.  And when I left to walk back to my office, it became not only cloudy and humid but rainy.

And me with no umbrella.  And a blouse that was see-through when it was DRY.

I trudged back to my building, the rain mixing with my tears.  I mean, seriously.  Had anyone ever been as ill-used by fate as I?

Finally someone took pity on me when I opened that great big wooden door and staggered into our reception area.  "It's 4:30, why don't you leave early?" I was told.  Gee, thanks, I thought.  They probably figured I'd scare any clients who came through.  They were probably right, too.

Still, when I settled into my seat on the El, all seemed to be better.  The rain had stopped (of course it had) and things were clearing up.  The pain in my feet had moved into more of a numbness, which was a blessing really.  My knee had me limping horribly but it got me out of work early, and I'd been hurt worse before.  All I wanted to do was rest.

I removed the clip from my hair in order to more comfortably lean my head back against the wall of the train.  And then the most magical thing happened.  Somehow, the clip bounced OUT of my hand.  Landed on the floor.  Slid a few inches across the floor to the door.  And fell out of the train.

All while I reached for it in a kind of horrified slow motion.

But it was no use.  My hair clip was now the property of the area under the Spring Garden El station.

Looking back, I guess that's what finally broke me.  That darn hair clip.  I started laughing...quietly at first, then building.  But it wasn't mirthful laughter - more like the laughter of the insane.  I mean, really.  Let's recap the events of the day:

- Left the house in see-through clothing
- Failed an exam in an embarrassing fashion
- Walked many blocks in excruciating pain
- Fell in public, ruined pants, hurt knee, embarrassed self even more
- Treated everyone up and down 15th street to a wet t-shirt style peep show
- Lost hair clip in an amazing feat of hair clip hijinx, leaving wet hair hanging about face in a crazy lady style

And in case you're wondering, there's a gajillion crazy people riding the El so no one even noticed that I was laughing the laughter of the insane.

Then I had to hobble down, like, a million stairs once I got off the El because back then there were no escalators or elevators at my stop.  Par for the course.  But it was okay at that point - I just wanted to get home to my Mommy and have her hug me and tell me it was all over.

And I'm sure she would have hugged me and told me it was all over and maybe even poured me a refreshing beverage while I iced my knee.  If she wasn't so busy falling over laughing at me.  And to this day, every time I so much as MENTION My Worst Day Ever, she starts crying with mirth, begging me to tell the story, and saving the real gut-busting laughs for the part where the hair clip jump out of my hands and out the door of the train.

12 years later and I wonder if that clip is still under the station platform somewhere.  A casualty of my Worst Day Ever.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Couch Baby

We spent the majority of our time this weekend at the new place, getting things settled.  Well, if not settled, at least...less unsettled.

We stopped off at the supermarket on the way to the house in order to grab something for dinner, and by the time we pulled into the driveway, Rob's brother had arrived.  So had snow.

You know, the snow I was convinced we were getting none of.  The snow that we were only supposed to get an inch of when I first checked the weather upon waking up Saturday morning.  The snow that then changed to 3 inches, and then 4.

Okay, 4 inches.  No big deal.  But still a pain when you're moving things around outside.  Also a pain when you're only stopping at the store for dinner fixins and you're surrounded by frantic, screaming people, gathering whatever leftover bits of stale bread and almost-curdled milk they can steal from someone else's cart.

Maybe it wasn't quite that bad.  But there were a lot of people there and it was a new store and I was overwhelmed so it seemed that bad.  Plus I was with Mr. I Hate Supermarkets On Principle, which didn't make me feel better.

Anyway, back to the house.  So Bill (that would be Rob's brother) gathered more of his things which had been sitting in the house for goodness knows how long, and Rob got the rest of the trash out of the attic, and I...did other things which didn't involve lifting stuff or getting sweaty.

I'm so glad I'm a girl.

Eventually, my husband, the love of my life, had one of his potentially most disastrous ideas.  Ever.

"While Bill's here, why don't we take these two couches upstairs?"

Let me explain.  The couches in question sat in the den.  Our sectional, which we plan to bring with us or else I'll pretty much die because I love this couch upon which I currently sit, would never ever fit upstairs in our "hanging out" room, aka the third bedroom.  We just wouldn't be able to get it through the door.  So we figured we'd move the couches from the den into the upstairs room, and put the sectional in the den so we can still snuggle and watch TV.  It's the perfect snuggling couch.

 "While Bill's here, why don't we take these two couches upstairs?"

Innocent enough question.  But I felt a cold lump in my stomach just the same.  That lump was apprehension.  It's like Future Jen tried to get me to stop the madness before it started.  Future Jen was screaming and pleading with me to just move the loveseat upstairs and put the bigger couch in the garage.  But did I listen? No.  I went along with the plan, the entire time thinking I'm so glad I'm a girl.

After removing the railings and some huffing and puffing, the loveseat went upstairs and into the bedroom with no problems other than forcing it through the door a little bit.  Even then I was laughing and pretending we were giving birth to a giant sofa as we pushed and pushed.  Because at that point it was a joke.  It was easy to laugh at that point.

Then we gave birth to the biggest, most solidly built and destructive sofa ever.

Look ma, no hands!

It took an hour, two doors taken off their hinges, a hole in the bedroom wall, a ripped up doorframe and a broken 2x4 at the bottom of the sofa to get that bleepity bleeping couch into that room.  This is because there was nowhere to take the back end of the thing but into the bathroom and the bathroom and bedroom doors aren't directly across from each other, but several inches off.  This resulted in a solidly wedged couch and three very unhappy people.  Not to mention some minor cosmetic damage to the house which we plan to fix prior to my father-in-law getting home.

Towards the end it became a matter of sheer determination to get that stinking thing into the bedroom.  We'd gasped and groaned over the damage we'd caused.  We'd decided that it would be ok for now to break the sofa in order to get it into the room (seems silly, no? Not when you're actually in the belly of the beast).  I had even grunted and pulled and pushed along with them, but to no avail.

Finally, it was all out war.

Rob cursed and yanked and hard as he could on his end.  Bill let out a prolonged, otherwordly grunt from the bathroom end and started throwing himself against it (seriously, he's a wiry fella, don't let him fool you).  I was kinda scared, to be honest.  But it worked.

And then we died of exhaustion.  The end.

What really happened was that we decided that when it's time to sell the house, the couches go along with it.

I think back on the joke I made when we were moving the loveseat, comparing it to birthing a baby.  In light of all the work that's been going on over the past few weekends and most especially yesterday, I've decided that if it comes down to giving birth to a baby or having to move furniture...

I'm so glad I'm a girl.

Snow is pretty.  Imagine several inches of it.

How was YOUR weekend, blog friends?