Tea Time: Digestive Biscuits Recipe

If you have ever been to England, you probably know the tea time staple: McVitties digestive biscuits. Crisp and substantial, sometimes covered in chocolate, these are a unique treat somewhere between graham crackers and shortbread…but really, quite different from both. They are getting easier to find here in the US, but I stumbled upon a copycat recipe and decided to give it a try. Verdict: amazing. These are light and crispy and exactly what you want with tea. I expect they will be on regular rotation in our house.

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Digestive Biscuits

Makes 12-14 cookies. I recommend doubling the batch as these go fast!

3⁄4 cup whole wheat flour

1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄4 tsp salt

1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1⁄4 cup wheat bran

5 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons brown sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons half-and-half

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, bran, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar with a pastry blender. Mix in sugar with the hand pastry blender (food processors or mixers will work, but the crumb and texture will not be as flaky in the final product). Mix in fats with the pastry blender. The mix at this point should be crumbly and uniform. Mix the vanilla in the half-n-half and add to the mix. Mix with pastry blender until it is uniform and resembles soft, crumbly playdoh. Do not overwork the dough.

Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes to make it easier to handle. Roll out dough between two pieces of waxed paper to approximately 1/8″ thickness. Cut into rounds with cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Transfer to cookie sheets with silpats or parchment. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes (adjust the baking time up to dry them out more if the biscuits are too soft and fluffy), or until golden. Let cool on wire rack.

Optional: spread the backs of the cooled biscuits with melted chocolate and let harden.

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Hummus & Bread

We are on a few culinary kicks. First off, cooking on a one burner induction hotplate. With the kitchen out of full function (and soon to be worse when we rip of countertops, backsplash and add more cabinets!) we are trying to utilize our grill and oven more. Enter: no knead bread. I have read this recipe for years now and decided to give it a try. We are hooked. My modification is using half whole wheat flour and half regular bread flour. Perfect hole-y inside, chewy outside and beautiful to look at.

No-Knead Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour (I use half whole wheat, half bread flour)
  • oat bran
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt

Bake in a cast iron pot with a lid. See method hereIMG_2835[1].

Next up: something to go on that bread, hummus. To be honest, I have never really loved hummus. It was ok, but this changed my mind. It rocked my world and is all I want to eat! With veggie stick, by the spoonful, and best of all, on fresh bread (see above!) Matt’s thrown together version of a fresh lemon pesto hummus is wonderful.

Lemon Pesto Hummus

  • 2 cans beans, drained (garbanzo, white or a combo of the two)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or more to taste…it should have a lemony zing!)
  • 1 cup-ish of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Optional: sun dried tomatoes

Method: In food processor, blend all ingredients until very smooth. If too stiff, add more olive oil.

All We Did (and a recipe)

After a week back in the office (hello water taxi/bus commute!) I envisioned a weekend of progress on our remodel. Finish the closet drywall, take down the plastic and start priming and painting walls. Right?

Ha. We spent the weekend in glorious slow mode. Sleeping in. Drinking coffee and taking long walks to the beach. We went to two beaches on Saturday and one on Sunday (can you tell we love living on an island?). Spent 3+ hours walking, listening to the waves, picking up agates, sea glass and driftwood. It was magical. We brought home bags of glass. All perfectly frosted and in a beautiful array of colors.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning and sorting glass, cleaning and drying driftwood, and cooking. And sitting in the hot tub. Bending/squatting down on the beach for hours does wear out your back and legs. We made our favorite soup with fresh made chicken stock, and ate in front of episodes of Parenthood and It’s Always Sunny.

The renovations did not get touched. We continued to navigate around the plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling. I did not make any mobiles. Progress on those projects will get tackled this week while we feast on delicious leftovers.

Kale, Sausage, Bean Soup

Our favorite go-to, especially with fresh kale from the garden. Awesome with a hot baguette.

  • 1 package sausage, out of casings (we like spicy Italian)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 32 oz can tomatoes (diced, or if whole, cut into pieces with juice saved)
  • 16 oz chicken stock
  • 16 oz water
  • 2 bunches fresh kale, destemmed and ripped into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 2 cans garbanzo or white beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oregano
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parsley
  • Parmesan rinds (optional but totally amazing if you have them)

Cook sausage out of casings until golden, remove and set aside. Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook until tender. Add tomatoes and juice, stock, parmesan rinds, oregano, parsley and kale. Simmer until kale is wilted. Add beans, sausage, basil and extra water and simmer until kale is tender.

Enjoy topped with grated Romano cheese and hot pepper flakes.

 

 

Tuna Pasta

Although the vines may not look like much, the tomatoes on them are oh so good! (I guess next year we need to right-size cages so the tomato plants are actually supported!)

With another dose of rain on the way we picked two huge bowls full of red goodness. One bowl turned into dinner, the other into sauce for the freezer. Cooking two different meals at the same time helps us streamline putting up food (a feat we are still figuring out) so that none of this harvest goes to waste.

This year our favorites were Old Germans and Milanos. We planted 15+ varieties and are going to plant more selectivly next year with just our favorites. Old Germans are a great heirloom slicing tomato with epic flavor. Perfect for tomato salad with feta or mozzarella. Milanos are a good Roma for sauce…much like San Marzanos but seem to do better up here in the PNW. Finally, Sun Sugars have become our favorite cherry variety.

Dinner was our favorite: tuna pasta. Sounds simple, is simple, but really far from ordinary. It is good any time of year with cherry tomatoes, but with a variety of fresh picked flavors and high quality tuna in olive oil, it is divine.IMG_7433[1]

Tuna Pasta

2-3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

½ yellow onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans tuna, packed in olive oil

Olive oil

Fistful of fresh basil

Salt and pepper

Stabby pasta of your choice (we like penne and rigatoni)

Fresh Romano or parmesan cheese

Hot pepper flakes (optional)

Preparation: In medium sized skillet, cook onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook until tender. Add tomatoes and oil from the tuna, and simmer until water is mostly evaporated and tomatoes are falling apart. Cook pasta separately in salted water. While pasta cooks, add tuna to tomato sauce and heat through. Tear basil into sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over pasta with ample cheese and hot pepper.

Tales from Belize: B’s Deli

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Our first drive through San Pedro was in the back of a taxi. We worked our way through the maze of one way streets, past the main round about and proceeded north out of town. There were many things to take in, but one detail stuck out in my memory: a little red food stand that was upgrading it’s front waiting area with fresh, white gravel. And then I forgot about it.

A few days later, Matt and I were on a quest for fry jack.  If anything sums up our trip it is the discovery of this delectable food: Cheap, delicious, filling and uniquely flavored to Belize (at least in my mind). What is it, you ask? Picture a cross between Indian fry bread and an elephant ear. Sometimes plain (dipped in honey or sugar) and sometimes stuffed, with exciting combinations like egg and ham or beans with chicken. Sometimes the stuffed jacks are filled then fried, other times just folded over the filling after the dough is golden brown. All are good.

We had sampled fry jack at other places but were in search of the San Pedro version. We were walking along and saw a small red food stand with a handwritten butcher paper sign indicating that our desired breakfast was made fresh inside. B’s Deli. We stepped up, ordered one, and had a seat. Only after we were sitting there playing peek-a-boo with an adorable 2 year old did we realize this was the same place that had only that week added the gravel floor.

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The fry jack did not disappoint. Fluffy and golden and stuffed with chicken and beans. What a breakfast. When we asked how much, $2.50 came as a surprise…Belize dollars. $1.25 for that delicious plate of fried fresh goodness. We were coming back.

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The next day we brought mom and dad. Four fry jacks all around (this time two of ham and egg and two of chicken), more peek-a-boo and full tummies afterwards.

Now the next morning was our final day on Ambergis, so of course we had to make one last trip. You can never have too many fry jacks! We walked up and the woman at the counter was happy to see her repeat customers. We told her that her fry jack was THE best and she asked us if we wanted the secret. She wrote down her recipe and invited us inside to learn how to make them.

We found space in the back of her tiny deli…the whole building was not more than 8×12, and learned the secret to her golden puffy dough. It was only then that we learned how lucky out timing was to eat her fry jack…she had only been open 5 days!

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If your adventures take you to San Pedro on Ambergis Caye, go visit B’s Deli. It is located on the North side of town, across the street from a bicycle shop almost at the bridge. Look for a red building with white gravel. The bubbly woman cooking there is great to talk to, her adorable “hurricane” daughter will bring a smile to your face, and the fry jack is delicious. I cannot wait to have another.

Pastry Triangles

Friday night was supposed to be a dinner party with good friends. After a rough, long week it was something Matt and I were looking forward to. Then our guest cancelled. We pressed on and made it a great evening for two. And to be honest, we needed that anyway.

We had a huge vat of chili simmering all day on the stove to go with yogurt cheddar cornbread. To stick with the southwest theme Matt wanted to make fried dough for dessert. Fried dough? I guess you could say I was skeptical. I guess I should learn to ignore that default response. His experiments are usually amazing.

This one was the best yet.

I love how well Matt understands ingredients. He understands ratios and ingredient properties to a degree that I don’t even consider when cooking. Interested in learning that yourself? He credits most of his knowledge and insight to two book series. He claims that if you want to truly become a high caliber kitchen stud, these two book series are the only references you need. He has collected these classic collections from thrift stores and garage sales over the past 10 years.

  1. Foods of the World series
  2. The Good Cook series

Both are from TimeLife in the 1970s.

Last night’s epic dessert was not a recipe, but rather a creation based on technique and insight from these books. They look like beignets, but don’t have yeast. Ingredients like pie dough but added eggs, less fat ratio and are kneaded to develop gluten. They really are just a fried dough of Matt’s own creation. And they were EPIC. Light and clean, with flaky layers and caverns of air pockets perfect for scooping up whipped cream. The simple dough paired perfectly with the honey glaze, especially when the glaze itself was elevated with an unexpected (and utterly exquisite) pop of flavor from rice vinegar.

We served them on our blue china plates with a side of fresh whipped cream.

Pastry Triangles with Honey Glaze

Serves 4-6

Dough
1 cup flour
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs to ¼ cup water

Powdered sugar

Cinnamon

Honey glaze

Cut butter into ¾ cup flour. After dough starts to stick together, add additional ¼ cup and incorporate. Add salt and egg yolks until incorporated. Add 2 Tbs water and incorporate, kneading in additional flour and water until dough does not crack around edges (like and pie dough would). Kneed well (5-8 minutes by hand) and make dough into a ball and chill for at least an hour. While chilling, make the honey glaze.

Roll chilled dough flat, folding over on itself at least 15 times (think puff pastry), final rollout flat very thin (just under 1/8 inch) and cut into random triangles.

Fry dough in oil heated to 375 degrees until dough puffs and is golden brown.

Dust pastry with powdered sugar, honey glaze and fresh cinnamon. Serve hot with fresh whipped cream for dipping.

Honey glaze
¼ cup water
1/2 sugar
2 tbs honey
1 tsp rice vinegar

Dissolve ingredients in small saucepan until sugar fully dissolves. Cool before glazing pastry.

Comfort Food Favorites

Now these are staples of our family’s holiday table. They are not the tried and true “been there since great-grandma-whoever” but they are SO GOOD that we can’t have a holiday feast without them. In fact, they are so popular that every guest also requests the recipes. And they are vegetable dishes…totally healthy! 🙂

First up: Carrot Puff. My grandma introduced this to our family 10 or so years back and it is a stronghold year round. We have made it with carrots, or squash, or sweet potatoes…or a combination. We have made it in a Dutch oven over a fire. In deep round dishes and big flat 11x17s for picnics. It is best hot but we have been known to eat it cold. It tastes like vanilla pudding so even the pickiest of vegetable eaters will gobble it up.

Carrot Puff

  • 2 lb carrots or sweet potato or squash or mix of all – peeled, cut into cubes, cooked till tender ~ 20 min boiling
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 6 Tb flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together in blender, adding cooked carrots a little at a time. Blend till smooth. You may need to do in 2 batches and mix together. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 about 50 – 60 min until firm in the middle and golden.

Next up? Super awesome corn bake. Again, this one is pretty versatile in the veggie department. Sometimes we add cubed summer squash. Sometimes not. It is great either way!

Baked Corn (and squash if you choose)

this makes an 8×8 pan or so…….

In large bowl:

beat 2 eggs
add:
1/2 cup milk
salt, pepper
2 Tb flour (~ 4 if you add squash)
1 Tb sugar
1/4 c melted butter
2 -3 Tb onions chopped small
1/2 c grated parmesan
1/2 c grated cheddar (I probably use more)
add: a pound of corn / squash cubes mix and pour into greased 8×8 pan Bake 350 about 45 min. Done.

Enjoy!