Easy

IMG_2892

I can make biscuits in my sleep. Easy.

You've heard this soapbox before, but one of my biggest cooking tips is to master a few things and keep doing them, over and over. You'll start feeling more comfortable in the kitchen, you might start improvising on your standards, and you'll get faster. For me and my set, speed is important in the kitchen. Most "30 minute recipes" involve a lot of prepared food. Even then, I don't trust them to be 30 minutes. The more laborious route is simply to cook more. That's what makes you quick.

I am still laid up with a broken bone--no cast, no surgery, just instructions to "stay off it." In my slowing down and "taking it easy" as the doctor admonished, I have felt the waters of goodness and awareness running downhill, pooling up inside me, around me.

Loretta has spent a lot of time brushing and braiding my hair. She's never seen me sit around so much or be so accessible. What is better than feeling those little hands on my scalp? Someday I will dream about it.

I have practiced the "Meditation of Sound," lying on the couch and listening to sounds in the house, sounds on the street, and letting them wash over me. There are so many sounds I've never paid attention to.

The kids are now doing almost all the dishes. I have fantasized about this! (And yes, my cooking is their bondage. More pots and pans than your average household.)

And of course I am dreaming about getting back on the trails and on my bike, alone or with friends. I miss it in a visceral, longing kind of way, and don't think I'll take it for granted again. At least not for a long time.

I hope something comes easy for you today--tonight's dinner prep, awareness of your own automatic in-and-out breath, or the love you feel for yourself when you look in the mirror or go about your work.

Feta and Green Onion Biscuits

These biscuits were definitely on the "pro" side of the list.

But along with the pros, there were some cons this week. My spiritual director loaned me a rock to meditate with. On the outside, it's gray, bumpy, and rather unattractive. On the inside, it's a brilliant blue stone. She said life is like that, and we have to remember that it's a package deal--the ugly with the beautiful.

IMG_0048

The principal of my kids' school, one of the best leaders I've ever known, is getting promoted to the district level and won't be there next year. I cried a few times.

My dad lost his job of 30 years. It's a long and personal story, and obviously, a sad one.

I keep thinking of the bombing victims in Boston and those two lost brothers. The Catholic sister I was with last weekend would say the "blessing seed" deep inside them, the one that everyone is born with, was mangled somehow. 

But underneath the bumpy grayness, there's been some brilliant blue. Some of the things that made me smile this week:

  • Walking into the bathroom and seeing 4 years worth of Guinness Book of World Records on the floor. 
  • Seeing my clients find some sparks of light in some previously dark corners.
  • Getting a call from my nephew Ezra asking how my dog Padre was doing. I could bottle that little voice and sell it.
  • Taking photos with my new camera. Yancey said he didn't know it would make me this happy.
  • Bringing home an outfit for Loretta and her wearing it 3 days in a row. Home run. (She's getting picky these days.)
  • Sitting with my spiritual director on her deck in the sun, listening to the birds and knowing, in that deepest place, that I'm not in control of anything.

Some weeks, the cons outweigh the pros. Or they barely even out. Whatever kind of week you've had, I hope you can see the polished brilliance, still inside no matter what.

IMG_0066

good dog

P.S. Oh yeah. The food. These are a riff on my classic biscuits, and will elevate any soup to divine heights. The feta adds some moisture that makes them even fluffier, if that's possible, and the green onions add beautiful little flakes of color.

Feta and Green Onion Biscuits
Makes 6-8, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. I doubled the batch for 6 people, and we had none left over.

2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 c. (1 cube) cold unsalted butter
1/2 c. coarsely crumbled feta
1/3 c. finely chopped green onions
3/4 c. cold milk
flaked salt and milk for tops

Preheat oven to 450.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in butter with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until butter is in pea-sized lumps. Add feta and green onions and gently mix with your hands.

Add milk, and mix with a wooden spoon until mixture just holds together. Knead a couple times in the bowl, then let dough rest for a minute or two.

Flour a work surface. With a rolling pin, roll dough out into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Fold short ends toward one another, then roll out again until dough is about 3/4" thick. With a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place them close together in a pie plate on a cookie sheet. Roll out remaining dough the same way and cut out the rest.

Brush tops with milk, then sprinkle lightly with flaked or coarse salt. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tops are golden brown and biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot with butter.

Mile-High Biscuits

mile-high biscuits

Wyatt wandered upstairs this morning and, noticing my distraction, said, "I guess I'll make myself a piece of peanut butter toast." "No, don't! I'm making biscuits"! He slapped his thigh--"yes!-- and ran downstairs to tell Loretta. Ah. Sunday mornings.

I have a list of 14 daily habits that I aspire to. (Those of you who are my friends in the offline world are NOT surprised. And you might even be rolling your eyes right now.) One of them is, "Do one kind thing for a friend or stranger." This morning I decided that my one kind thing would be to make biscuits for my children.

In my perfectionistic past, this would not have counted. No way. It would have to be delivering a handmade gift, buying lunch for a homeless person, or letting someone cry on my shoulder. Those are all worthy things, of course, but so is being in the moment with my children. I'm their mother, yes, but they're also my friends. I listened to this podcast recently and was blown away. Especially by this idea of parenting, first and foremost, as a relationship. Relationships mean time spent. It means both parties get their feelings hurt sometimes or let each other down. And it means doing kind things for one another, which is so often forgotten in relationships that mean the most to us.

Wyatt plus biscuits equals love

Of course I would have made my children breakfast. I do every day. But I don't always do it in the spirit of relationship. I've been mediating on this quote lately from Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you are peaceful, if you are happy, whatever you do will be an offering for the people around you.

Making the bed in the morning (that's another of the daily habits I aspire to), sweeping under the table for the umpteenth time, listening without judgement to my clients, friends, or strangers. All of that can be an offering if it's coming from my own peace and happiness. 

I've given my biscuit recipe before, but it was a slightly different technique. I've moved onto this because it's less handling of the dough so therefore even lighter and higher! Impossible! I have made these so many times that, not counting the cooking time, they're almost as easy as making eggs and toast. Once you've made them a few times, you'll say the same. And you will become famous in your own household.

Mile-High Biscuits

2 c. flour
1 Tb. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tb. (one cube) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3/4 c. cold milk

Preheat oven to 450.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Drop butter in and cut in with your fingertips until mixture has pea-sized lumps of cold butter all through it. Pour the cold milk evenly over and mix quickly with a wooden spoon, forming a ball. Let dough rest for one minute. It should come together quite easily in a ball. Add a dab more flour if it's too sticky or a tiny splash more milk if it's too dry.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Quickly pat into a disc, then fold the disc over on itself once. Pat again into a disc about 3/4" thick and 8" in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut disc into 8 equal wedges. Place wedges in a pie plate or small cookie sheet about 1/2" apart and bake until golden on top but not burned on the bottom, 10-14 minutes, checking frequently after 10 minutes.

Cornmeal Biscuits with Ham and Cheddar

ham and cheddar biscuits

I've got an easy, crowd-pleasing little savory bite here, and  not much else to say except that I am, still and again, so grateful for my life.

If you're a mom, you've probably seen this post going around--about how our kids need us and not expertly executed birthday parties, cute Easter crafts, or the stress of living up to the curated perfection of Pinterest. And if you're not a Mom, the same is true--the people in your life need YOU, your presence, the way you show up, more than anything you produce or any ideal you uphold. 

And I want to show up--with children, husband, strangers, clients, friends--in a way that's open to outcome, drawing from energy deeper than mine, and ready to give and receive. I do that better some days than others. Some moments that have helped me out lately:

  • A family outing to Vancouver, where we played on the beach, ate lots of sushi, went on long bike rides, and enjoyed the miracle of being a foursome in the world
  • Sun!! Not oodles, but enough to remind me that orb is still in the solar system
  • Loretta practicing her letters all the time, on every scrap of paper in the house
  • Wyatt winning a ribbon at the science fair and constantly thinking in fractions
  • Starting to work on the house again
  • Wyatt coming home from soccer, covered head-to-toe in mud
  • Walking the labyrinth at my church and feeling renewed my calling as a peacemaker
  • Spring cleaning and tossing things I don't love or need
  • Aerobics with Liz, bopping to the '80's with some really fit 70 year-olds

kitchen still life

with kids in Vanouver

spring is springing

IMG_2632

And these biscuits. It's not warm here yet despite the fact that it's technically spring. So we're still having soup and biscuits for dinner. It could be worse.

Cornmeal Biscuits with Ham and Cheddar
Adapted from Gourmet. I usually have some proscuitto around, which is the "ham" in these biscuits. I buy the German brand of proscuitto at Trader Joe's, which is very reasonably priced and has a good balance of saltiness and fat. If you want, you can add chopped chives, fresh thyme, or green onions. These couldn't be easier--one bowl, a wooden spoon.

2 c. flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar
1/2 c. coarsely chopped proscuitto or cooked ham
1 c. well-shaken buttermilk 

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450. Butter a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheddar and ham. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2" apart onto baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.