Biscuit Magic

I've been thinking a lot about sleep lately.

Usually this happens when other people are busy doing it, like at 3 AM, when I am sitting up in bed feeding the baby, who then falls asleep on my breast, drooling milk.  Meanwhile, Brian sleeps peacefully next to us.

And I get up and get a glass of water, and I think, Wow, remember being fourteen?  When I could sleep for half the day and want to sleep even more? I walked around in a permanently tousled state, with my huge mess of long curly beach-blonde hair  a rat's nest of snarls, my face puffy, my lips slightly chapped.  I almost always carried around whatever novel I was reading, with my index finger curled between the pages, marking my place. 

You know who got me up back then, at the ungodly hour of EIGHT AM on the weekends?

My parents.

Do you know why? 


I have this gift.

I make amazing biscuits.
I can even bake them in my sleep.  I know this, because when I was fourteen, I did bake them in my sleep, and then climb the ladder to my sleeping loft and go back to bed.

My biscuits are not healthy food.
Unless you are talking about spiritual health, which is a thing.  It's holistic.  
It happens to involve a lot of butter.
And sometimes bacon.

I've been working on my recipe for the last 24 years, and I believe that there are no finer biscuits in the land, for my taste.  They are the perfect synthesis of crunchy golden exterior and layers of flaky, tender, soft, sweet, salty, buttery interior.  They love gravy.  They love to be the sandwichy exterior to fried chicken.  They love a simple smear of butter and dot of strawberry rhubarb jam.  

They make great fried egg sandwiches.
With cheese.
And bacon.

With an extra tablespoon of sugar and all cream instead of buttermilk, they make killer shortcakes.

But my favorite way to enjoy them is doused with honey, hot and steamy out of the oven.

This is all fantasy-land, mind you, given that I'm not eating wheat or dairy, because the baby is intolerant.  

You should eat them.

They're pretty simple.  You toss together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  You cut in a stick of cold butter, using a pastry blender or a couple of knives.  You could also use the cheese-grater trick, grating very cold butter directly into the flour and then rubbing it quickly together.  You don't want it to get warm, and you want butter pieces that range from cornmeal-grit-sized to pea-sized.  Eventually those little pieces will create the textural lattice that makes the inside of these biscuits special.

Next, you stir in a mixture of buttermilk and half-and-half.  You could also use cream, but it's important to use both buttermilk and something with a higher fat content.  The buttermilk gives the biscuits their amazing flavor, and the two milks together provide the right texture.  Cream alone makes for a very soft, almost smooshy biscuit.  Buttermilk alone makes them kind of tough.
With your hands, you'll form a ball with the dough.  I knead it a few times.  Don't go crazy with this, just get the dough together.  Roll it out, cut it into biscuits, and bake them. 

They are so good.  SO GOOD. 

Buttermilk-and-Cream Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter (very cold but not frozen)
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup half-and-half or cream

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. 

Toss together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, knives, or using the grater trick (above).  Combine the two milks and stir in to the dry ingredients.  Use your hands to bring the dough together, kneading a few times to form a ball.  Roll the dough to 3/4" to 1" thick, and use a biscuit cutter to cut out each biscuit.  I use Brian's wine glass, because it's the perfect size, and is conveniently always on the counter.  (Zing!)  Slide the biscuits on to a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes (they may need up to 24 minutes.  Depends on your oven!), or until the tops are golden.  Eat immediately.  They'll keep in an airtight container for a couple days, but they're really best on the first day.  With my biscuit cutter, I get about 8 biscuits. 

Additions:  If you'd like, after cutting in the butter and before you mix in the liquid, you can add any of the following to this recipe, to increase it's awesomeness. 

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (uh, and 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeƱos!)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese & 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled crispy bacon

Chives, green onions... any herbs you can think of!  Go wild. 


The Banana Returns

Last week I bought a jar of almond butter.

My logic was this:  If I'm going to quit sugar (hard), I'm going to need a crutch (easy).  Cut-up veggies and hummus weren't filling the comfort-food hole that Easter dug in my heart, once the Nestle Crunch Eggs were gone. 

And also, Beans has eczema. 

The midwife listed the dietary culprits that might be causing it: wheat, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, tomatoes, citrus, chocolate...

I'm still abstaining from wheat, dairy, peanuts, soy, chocolate.  I tried some wheat last week, and she flared up with eczema.  So, hm.  That's probably it.  But if not, bye-bye eggs, bye-bye tomatoes, bye-bye citrus...

Eggs went bye-bye today, actually.  

Giving up corn is no big deal.  We had polenta last night and it was great.  I'd happily give all corn up, even though Brian has suggested that we have a race; because corn is a marker food, meaning that you can check on how quickly your body digests food by eating some corn and then waiting to see when it comes out (whole, undigested) in your poop. 

I married the right man.  He wants to eat a bunch of corn with me and then see who poops it out first.  Dreamy. 

The recipe I'd intended to post this week was for Oat Biscuits, which are little hockey pucks of grainy-seedy goodness.  I've made them a half dozen times in the past few weeks, sometimes with oat flour, sometimes with no flour, sometimes sweetened with honey, sometimes not.  The recipe I like best is definitely the most hippie-crunchy, but it has eggs in it, dammit.  I chose to make it unsweetened, the way I take my oatmeal, and without flour, because I really like it crunchy and dense, and not tender and fluffy.  My goal was to make something that I could eat in the truck on my way to the gym in the morning, to use as a quick energy-meal before my workout.  I didn't want something that I'd be tempted to snack on later. 

I know I'm making this sound really appealing.  That's the point, though-- they were supposed to be functional health food, and not something I'd reach for in the afternoon.

Except, even without fluffiness or sweetness, I still reached for them, because toasted, they're like a really nutty whole-grain bread, mated with a cracker.  Yum.

Also, how pornographic is the title of this post? 

It makes me think of an old client of mine, who once said that if he were stranded on a desert island, all he'd want would be a jar of peanut butter, because he could either eat it or fuck it.

And I said, "Remind me never to make a PB&J" at your house.


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup Scottish Oatmeal (Bob's Red Mill makes a great one)
1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (toast for 7 minutes at 350 or so, until fragrant)
1/2 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut flake
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder, for the heck of it
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

Preheat your oven to 350.  Grease a standard muffin tin.  In a medium bowl, toss together the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and almond milk until combined.  Stir the egg white / almond milk mixture into the oats and seeds until well combined.  Scoop about a quarter cup of the mixture into each muffin hole (BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I'M CALLING THEM.  Also, The Banana Returns!) and press down firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon.  If you skip this, they will fall apart after you bake them, because they are crumbly as all get-out.  Bake for 25 minutes. 

Notes:  adding 1/4 cup honey to the wet ingredients makes these sufficiently sweet.  You can also cut the rolled oats down to 1/2 cup, and the flax down to 1/4 cup and add 3/4 cup oat flour, to make these tender and fluffy and more biscuity/muffiny.  If you do that, bump the baking powder up to 2 teaspoons. 

I'm not responsible if you follow this recipe and discover that these are little hockey pucks made of oats and seeds. 

Unless you like them like that, which I do.

In which case, I'll take full credit.

Photos to follow. 


Challenge Resumed, and A Treat

Monday was April first.

New month, new week (sort of.  I believe the week begins on Sunday, but I'm willing to let that slide), new challenge.
Game on.  Back on the scale.

Aaaaand... I gained six pounds in March. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaand... I've already lost three of them, because that's how water weight works.

I feel really good.  Not eating wheat, dairy, chocolate (Easter 1, Tasia 0.  Number of bags of mini eggs demolished: 2), or peanuts.  No more alcohol.  That wine the night before Easter wasn't even fun, because of course, I still had my glass in hand when Beansy woke up, angrily demanding nipple.  Ugh.

Anyway.  I assume that by next week, all of that residual weight will be gone, and we'll be back in the business of finding my abdominals under that layer of fatty fat fat.

I also wrote yesterday.  (Back pat, back pat!)
Beansy and I went to Powell's today and got Vegetable Literacy for me, and board books for her.  Then we went home and listened to Toddler Pandora and lay on the bed and read books and it was great. 

While she was napping, I made Date Bars.  

Basically, these are homemade Lara bars.  There are five ingredients, total, including salt and cinnamon.  They are breathtakingly easy and amazingly delicious.  I'm avoiding sugar, but I'll make an exception for dates.  

They make a great pre-workout snack, which I need at 6 AM when I am sneaking around the kitchen getting ready to go to the gym.  For some reason, every sound from the kitchen is amplified into the bedroom, but the reverse is not true.  And it's impossible to hear anyone talking from any other room.  Our house has a weird dynamic.  So there is no pre-gym coffee-grinding, and I feel like I sort of need a muffler for my breast-pump.

The way these bars work is that you pit ten medjool dates.  Look for dates that have a crisp sugary exterior, like you'd imagine date-bacon to be, and are otherwise squishy and soft.  Bigger dates are better.  You toss the pitted dates into your food processor with roughly an equal amount of walnuts (I did this by weight, but think it works out to about 3/4 cup chopped), and about half THAT weight (1/2 cup) of dessicated unsweetened coconut.  You shake in 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and throw in a fat pinch of salt, and then blitz everything together for two or three minutes, until it's almost a paste.  You roll this paste into a log and slice it into six even medallions, which then you can shape into bars, or truffles.  Whatever floats your boat.

If I were eating chocolate these days, it would not be above me at all to melt a little bit of 72% dark chocolate to dip these in.  Because that would be BAD ASS.  If you do this, let me know how it turns out.  Make sure to use a dark chocolate, because the bars themselves are quite sweet.

Date Bars

4.5 oz. (10) pitted medjool dates
3 oz. (3/4 c.) chopped organic walnuts
1.5 oz. (1/2 c.) shredded dessicated unsweetened coconut
1/2 to 1/4 tsp.  cinnamon
fat pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz for 2-3 minutes, until well combined.  The resultant mass should stick to itself lightly.  Squeeze into a log and slice into six equal medallions.  Shape them into bars or truffles.  Store in the fridge, or wrap them individually in plastic wrap and tuck them in a freezer bag and freeze.  They'll keep for a week in the fridge, or for months in the freezer.  I like the frozen texture better.  

Each bar has 198 calories. 


30 Day Challenge Resumed

I took a hiatus from the 30 Day Challenge.

Let's be real.
I quit.

I ate a lot of bananas slathered with almond butter.  I got drunk a couple of times.  I had a few perfectly baked molasses cookies made with rye flour.  They were good.  It was all good, at the time, and then it felt like shit later on. 

Meanwhile, I kept up my gym workouts and dragged my hungover ass out for runs.  Beans made it through the end of her Four Month Regression and emerged her happy bubbly little self.  We spent forty-five minutes today making high-pitched trills and squeals back and forth at each other on the bed.  Life is good.

But I realized something this morning as I trotted down the three flights of concrete steps from the parking garage to the gym:  I quit the challenge because I didn't care enough about my goals. 

I mean, I'd like to see my abs again, but this is not a huge motivating factor in my day-to-day life.  My weight is fine where it is.  Yes, I'd like to lose the last few pounds, but I mean, I don't really care that much.  So what, then, do I really care about, that I'd like to challenge myself with for thirty days?

Well, I'd like to make sure my diet is as clean as possible.  I went through What to Expect The First Year and read up on postpartum nutrients needed for making really superb breastmilk.  They are:  3 servings protein, 3 servings vitamin C foods, 2-3 servings green and yellow veg, 2 more servings other fruit and veg, 5 servings calcium-rich foods, 5 servings grains, and 1 serving iron-rich food.  I'm writing this from memory, but that's basically it. 

I can use this as motivation to stop eating so many goddamned bananas. 
How gold-plated are my problems, that I'm worried about how many bananas I'm eating?


I ate my last banana tonight.  It was number four today.  There will be no more bananas, and we're out of almond butter.  This is kind of a big deal.

The bigger deal is that I want to get back to my writing. 
And this should be my challenge. 

But I don't want to start this challenge until April 1, because my mom is coming later this week and I don't want that to get in the way right at the start.

So the deal is, when she's gone and Easter is over and I've eaten all of Bean's candy, I'm going to start writing every day, for at least one hour (1 nap +15 minutes). 

And until then, no bananas.


30 Day Challenge: Day 5

I am exhausted.

Beans screamed for two and a half hours in the very early morning.  Not hungry, not wet, no spider bites, not placated by a gum-rub.  We bounced and walked her until she finally fell asleep again, but I could feel today's sharp edges extra-keenly. 

No gym this morning... but we did make it out for a five mile run.

And I didn't have any sugar.  


30 Day Challenge: Day 4

Right, so.  I wasn't going to have sugar today.

But then I got home from running Beans to grocery shop, which is a five-mile round-trip, and on the way back it's all uphill with forty or so pounds of groceries stuffed into the bottom of the jogging stroller... and I caved.  I needed a snack, and so I ate the last piece of that zucchini and sweet potato bread.  I will spare you the list of things I ate today-- it was similar to yesterday. 

I did have a great workout this morning. 

2 mile warm-up
BOSU crossover crunch:  4 sets of 25 each
1.  EZ-bar triceps pressdown:  4 sets of 20 @ 40 lbs.
2.  Rope triceps extension:  4 sets of 20 @ 70, 60, 50, 40 lbs. (5 reps at each weight, approx.)
1.  Arnold press:  3 sets of 15 w/ 15 lb. dumbbells
2.  Plank knees-to-elbows:  3 sets of 25 each
3.  Lateral raise:  3 sets of 15 with 15 lb. dumbbells
4.  Supine hip raise / leg drop:  3 sets of 25

I love plank variations.  Planking is great for the transversus abdominus, which is the long swath of core musculature underneath your rectus abdominus (your external abdominals).  The TA is responsible for stability and endurance, and when it's strong, it takes a lot of pressure off your back and facilitates easier movement between the upper and lower body.  It also tightens down as it becomes stronger, giving you a leaner, narrower waist.  Plank also works the glutes, the shoulders, and the chest. 

In the knees-to-elbows variation, it also works the rectus abdominus and the obliques, so you get a more complete abdominal workout.  To perform it, start in plank, with your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders, as though you were about to do a push-up, on your toes.  Draw your shoulders back away from your ears, squeeze your butt nice and tight, and make sure your back is flat.  Draw your abs in tightly. 

Bring one knee up under the body and across toward your opposite elbow.  Squeeze the belly in tightly, and then return that foot to starting position.  Complete the same movement on the other side.  Alternate sides, driving each knee toward the opposite elbow (see if you can touch!  It's hard!), until you have completed 25 reps on each side.  Take a 30 second break, and then repeat. 

Tomorrow:  No sugar.  Right?  I think we have a play-date with our neighbors across the street.  And I need to cook some chicken for snacks.  I love having pieces of cold oven-fried chicken or cold braised chicken in a little glass dish in the fridge to snack on.  It's much better than this banana-fixation I seem to be harboring.  


30 Day Challenge: Day 3

Yesterday was amazing.
I asked my friends Candy and Tom to be Beans's grandparents.
They said yes.

Candy and I went on a three-mile walk with Beans up to the top of the volcano and then, on the way back down the hill to her house, after talking about the recent ups and downs with my and Brian's parents, I asked her if she and Tom would be willing to be Beans's grandparents, because Beans could use some really awesome close-by family, and we're short in that department.  When Candy said yes, Beans broke into a huge happy smile in her stroller, and we all got goosebumps.  Meant to be.

Brian came over a little later, after Tom showed Beans a bunch of chimes and bells and lights around the house.  We all took turns bouncing and soothing her and showing her various things.  Brian and Tom and Candy had drinks in the kitchen while Beans slept in my arms, and then we went home and I made breakfast for dinner. 

Here is what food looked like yesterday:

2 bananas & 2 tbsp. almond butter (400)
oatmeal with chia seeds and flaxmeal (300)
3.5 oz. pork shoulder, leftover from our Cuban feast (225)
coffee with halfy and a peanut butter cream at farmers' market (150)
1 cup Cuban black beans with sofrito (200)
rice crackers and 1 tbsp. almond butter (200)
scrambled eggs with kale and a tiny bit of cheddar, bacon, sweet potato and scallion hash, and a cup of almond milk (500)
scraped the rest of the almond butter out of the jar, mixed it with a dab of honey and flaxmeal (150)

I still haven't totally kicked sugar.  And I didn't do better today.  Today...

banana & almond butter (200)
frozen slice of zucchini and sweet potato bread, which is amazing, with almond butter (500)
coffee with almond milk (30)
muesli with almond milk (350)
3 pieces of oven-fried tabasco chicken, a green salad with miso-herb sauce, half a red pepper, some cucumber slices, and a quarter cup of hummus (600)
another slice of that crazy bread, with sunbutter (500)
a piece of cold chicken (100)
coconut-curry red lentil and yellow split pea soup with rice (400)
fig newtons (300, ugh)

I'd like to not eat sugar tomorrow.  A lot of my problem the last couple days has to do with not sleeping much.

I did have a great workout this morning.  It was SO hard.  I was dizzy most of the time.

1 mile run to warm up
circuit the following six exercises:
1.  bulgarian split squats:  15 reps each side with 40 lb. dumbbells
2.  weighted burpees:  20 with 15 lb. dumbbells
3.  t-lunges:  15 reps each side with 40 lb. dumbbells
4.  deep butt-kick jump squats:  20 reps, unweighted
5.  side lunges:  10 reps each side with 40 lb. dumbbells
6.  weighted jumping lunges:  20 reps each side, with 15 lb. dumbbells

I managed to get 3 full sets in, and do a fourth set of just the strength moves, skipping pylo for time.

I had intended to do 5 sets.  There was just no way.  But I had only intended to do 10 reps on each side for the strength moves, and with the 40s, I could mostly do more, which was great! 

Important Tips!

Set goals you can reach, and then make a point of reaching them.  If you can exceed them, do that.  I almost never set a goal of 5 sets without making it through those:  I like to finish all of my sets for that extra sense of accomplishment.  Even a small feeling of pride will carry me a long way through the day. 

Also:  remember that cardio is for suckers, and real physique change comes through dietary changes and lifting heavy weights.  Really.  I promise.

And on that note, I really need to start making changes.   I'm going to try to go no sugar starting again tomorrow.  Wish me luck.