Thursday, August 25, 2016

Making Thyme...Biscuits

First, I just wanted to say that I'm doing okay as far as the political debate addiction goes.  It almost killed me yesterday when the AP article about the Clinton Foundation was tossed around, but I persevered and posted a picture of the kitten.  Yay!



Whilst trying to avoid writing about poor journalism and the gullibility of society during a political campaign politics, I decided to turn my attention to my herb garden and come up with something good for dinner.  The herb garden has suffered almost as much as the rest of the garden this year with the awful heat and dryness, but Will dumps Frodo's water bowl out every morning over the top of it, so it's a little bit better.  I did lose the dill and parsley (between the zebra swallowtails and summer in middle Georgia, my dill always struggles) and one of the sages, but everything else is at least trying hard.  Only the lemon thyme and lavender are truly flourishing, and so I decided to grab a few sprigs of the thyme to add to some biscuits for supper.

When I first got married, I kept a mental list of all the things I wanted to do differently than my mother, because I was twenty-four and that's what one does.  One of them, for some bizarro reason, was to find a different biscuit recipe.  To this day, I can't figure out why.  My mother's biscuits are small, round pieces of Heaven and to claim otherwise would be to lie like a rug.  I went through about seventeen different recipes before realizing I was being an idiot and going back to her recipe.  I do make a few changes:  I use all purpose flour instead of self-rising and I use buttermilk in place of whole milk.  I also knead the dough lightly eleven times (I don't know why eleven...it's just the magic number) in the bowl and she doesn't knead it at all.  I think it makes better layers to knead it. ANYWAY, I used that recipe (found below) as the base for these luscious little yum yums.

First, I put the thyme on a plate and took pictures of it because it was beaaaaauuuutiful (please sing this as you read it.  I'll wait while you go back and sing.)  Lemon thyme is a more yellow green than English thyme and last year, I actually had a few variegated sprigs in the clump in the garden, although none this year.  Boolaid.   It's still beautiful, really, and it has a nice lemony scent and flavor (but it's not sour, which is always so odd. Like, you expect it to be sour because...lemons, but no.)


Next, I stripped the leaves from the stem.  In a stew or sauce, I might not strip the leaves, but the stems are a little tough from the heat (or something...I sound knowledgeable, though, don't I?) and I only wanted tender bits.  Then I took a picture, because beaaaaaauuuuuttiful!


I minced the leaves next.  Thyme leaves are very small and probably would have been fine whole. However, I really wanted to get as much lemon flavor into the biscuits as possible.  In case you were wondering, I used about a tablespoon and a half of thyme.  I probably will use more, maybe two tablespoons, packed, next time.  Then I cut up my butter and compounded it with the thyme.  (This is a fancy way of saying "smashed it up with a fork until it was all blended.)  Before doing so, I fell on the floor with the beauty of the green leaves against the yellow butter and white plate and red table. When I got up, I took pictures.  YOU WILL NOW SEE TWO ANGLES OF THYME AND BUTTER.  (It's okay, you're going to see two angles of biscuits in a minute.)



Right?  How beautiful is that?  Then I made a car out of compounded butter.  Not really, but it sort of was shaped that way, and so I took a picture of it.  Because I'm not right in the head.


You know it looks like a speckledy car.

After it chilled in the fridge a while, I cut it into the flour of my regular biscuit dough and made the dough normally.  Except that it was kind of speckledy.  And also, I cut the biscuits with a tiny round cutter I usually use for making crackers.  I made them small because if they tasted bad, I figured we wouldn't be as sad if each biscuit was only two bites.  (We take our biscuits seriously.)  Be advised that my hands are always this wrinkly.  They have been since I was a little girl.  I'm finally growing into the age of my hands, I guess.  Huh.  Also, yes, I do always hold my pinky out when I cut biscuits.  Because I am FANCY.



We had these last night with supper along with salmon, rice, and steamed carrots.  They were a big hit.  We decided that they would be awesome with a little cheese thrown in...maybe parmesan or something kind of subtle.  And I think I'll try to make shortcakes out of them to serve with strawberries or blueberries later...it's just adding sugar to the dough, essentially.  I couldn't take pictures because it clouded up around sunset and the light died, so I saved out some really pretty samples for breakfast and picture taking this morning.  I did find that the lemon taste was stronger today, but the texture was the same as next-day biscuits always is (not as great as fresh), so I think I might try to refrigerate the cut-out biscuits covered for a few hours or even overnight to try to let the herb oils get all infused in the dough.  (I don't think "infused" is the right term.  Permeated into? Something like that...) In any case, I paired the biscuits with homemade blueberry jelly and strawberry jam and they were faaaaantastic.  



And beautiful!  Aren't they pretty??  Many thanks to Phil Smith for my inlaid serving board, which I use for everything from staging biscuits to serving cheese. You can find his work and the work of other talented Georgia artisans in the link above.

For those interested, Mama's biscuit recipe (with small changes by me) is below.  Don't even bother trying to find a better one.  You won't and then you'll be sad because of all the wasted thyme.

Get it?  You get it?

Sigh.  Go make some biscuits, y'all.  Add some thyme to your butter and tell me how it goes...

The Best Biscuit Recipe
                    printable recipe
Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (a little less if you're using salted butter)
1/4 cup (half a stick) cold butter
1/2-2/3 cup buttermilk (depending on humidity)

Directions:
1.  Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
2.  Cut butter into cubes and use a pastry blender or fork to cut into the 
     flour.  
3.  Making a small well in the center, add buttermilk 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix
     with a fork, using a light hand.
4.  When the dough is almost completely mixed, but there is still flour on the
     sides of the bowl, knead eleven times to pick up flour and create layers.
     I knead by folding the dough gently in half and pressing it lightly to the 
     sides of the bowl.
5.  Turn out onto a floured surface (I use about 1/8 cup of flour) and roll to 
     about 3/4 to 1 inch thickness.  Cut out with one smooth motion--DO NOT
     TWIST your cutter 
6.  Place on a cookie sheet so that the biscuits are not touching, but are very 
     close.
7.  Brush with melted butter.
8.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 9-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Addiction

This morning I got a call from my brother.

"Dude," he said.  "Why?"

That's all he had to say, because I immediately knew what he was talking about, which was that I had engaged in a Facebook political debate with somebody with whom I should know by now I should not.

"It's like a drug!" I wailed, and I was completely serious.

Political debate is, for me, like cigarettes.  I smoked from the time I was eighteen until the year before I got pregnant with River, which is a lot of years.  Fifteenish, with a couple of years off for Jeffrey's pregnancy and the year or so after that.  I didn't enjoy it.  I didn't enjoy the taste of cigarettes at all.  I didn't like the way they made my lungs and sinuses feel.  I didn't like the way they made me smell.  I didn't like the money I spent on them.  BUT.  I also loooooved smoking on the first warm day of spring, driving with the windows down.  I enjoyed smoking my way through long phone conversations with far-away friends or chats around a fire pit.  I liked kicking back with the hubs at the end of a long day with a companionable smoke on the back patio.  BUT.  I knew cigarettes were bad for me, I knew smoking would eventually kill me, and I wanted to quit for years.

I don't enjoy political debates on Facebook.  I don't like it when loved ones call me a "libtard" or smear the candidate I support.  I don't like it when I spend precious minutes researching non-biased information to share only to have the person on the screen say, "You are a shill."  Or "I have to go with my gut on this."  I don't enjoy having people I respect treat me badly or show me sides of themselves that I truly, truly don't think they'd show me in person.  (Because, if they did, we couldn't be friends.)  AND YET--there is a part of me that just craves it.  I crave the clash.  I crave the research.  I crave the moment when I've done my research and the person I'm debating has nothing to say and either shuts up or insults me.

But...it's not good for me.  It's just NOT.

The negativity can drag me down and put me in the dumps all day long.  I can get so sidetracked on researching and coming up with zingers and comebacks that I will look up and realize that it's lunchtime or time to go pick up the kids and nothing has been done around the house.   It's probably not good for business given that I live in a conservative (NOT an insult, just a truth) area.  And I've come to realize that Facebook is just not the place (FOR ME) to have the debates.  Debates should be done in person, with people who are just as informed as you are, and who are not willing to insult you to your face.  I've discussed this before, on Facebook, on the old blog, with random people in Walmart--it's just NOT GOOD for me to debate on Facebook, and yet I keep going back to it.  Seriously, it has to stop.

So, what's a girl to do who loves politics and who, moreover, believes that political discussion is healthy for a growing republic?

I...uh...don't know.

Currently, I've decided that it's best to just stop, at least until the election is over.  I'm going to try to go cold turkey, like I did when I quit smoking the last time.  Just stop it with the political stuff.  Post only about gardening and writing and the HORROR that I feel that the lady who wrote for Breaking Bad  is going to be writing a reboot of Anne of Green Gables.  (I feel like the raspberry cordial scene could go dreadfully, dreadfully DARK.)

Or...my new kitten.  LOOK!  Here she is:



Her name is Lyra and she is about ten weeks old.  She is insane.  She wrestles with my potted plants, is the Destroyer of Lego Worlds, plays with rocks she knocks off my desk, and would STILL make a better president than Donald Trump.  

Recovery is a long process.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Resolved: I Will Overcome the Hartwell Syndrome

It will surprise none of you who know me even a little bit that I do things differently than other people.  It's part of that whole "folded fitted sheet thing."  That, or I'm a total bad-ass rebel.

That, or I'm a little whackatoodly.

It could go a lot of ways, really.

The point here is that, if given an opportunity to go down a completely different path, unless somebody can convince me that I'm not under any threat of A:  spiders, B:  tornadoes, or C:  lately, it's been bears, but it vacillates between those and pumas...well, I'll take that path.

Consider, if you will, resolutions.  I'm speaking of the New Year's type of resolutions, the kind wherein you vow to eat better and lose weight while there are still Christmas cookies in the house and you have to get through the championship games, Valentine's Day, and Easter before the weather heats up enough for you to get out and walk a sensible thirty minutes a day.  I fail at these resolutions miserably, usually, because it's fricking cold for two months and I am too busy hibernating to be any good to anybody, much less MY body.  So in a fit of rebellion (or whackatoodliness), last year, I decided to shake things up a bit.

Instead of pinning my "new year" on the dead of winter, I pinned it on my birthday.

Self-centered, much, Heather?

Yes.  But I think it's OKAY to be self-centered here, because...hello...it's MY resolution, right?  I'm not asking my children or husband to jump aboard my fast train to awesomeness (unless they want to.)  And I'm certainly not going to ask a bajillion other people to join me in starting the new year by shivering and starving.

My birthday is in June, y'all.  Nobody shivers in middle Georgia in June unless she caught some kind of insect-borne illness or her husband turned up the AC again while she wasn't looking.

Also, my resolution is not related to losing weight or getting healthy.  I mean, that would be nice and I'm working on doing that in a hit or miss kind of fashion, but I haven't set it as a goal for myself.   Instead, I am working on unfinished business.

There is a running joke in my family that we trot out from time to time whenever some project gets abandoned.  We call it "The Hartwell Syndrome" after a beloved and procrastinating uncle, and it has been applied to a varied list of half-finished attempts including:  houses, landscaping, out-buildings, swimming pool pavers, gardens, cars, and furniture.  I have used the term exclusively toward my male relatives, but I have come to accept that I, too, suffer from The Hartwell Syndrome.  I'm not sure if there's a cure for this disease, BUT I have given myself a year to try and work that mess out of my system, beginning with the following:


This would be my "cookbook."  No, I am not kidding.  Yes, I wish I was.  It is basically a smudged, sticky, unsorted stack of recipes in page protectors gathered from websites, emails, and magazine pages that grew too big for the binder I put it in. I go back to these recipes all the time and constantly find myself shuffling through the main courses looking for cookies (the ones here, btw, are faaaaanttttaaaassstic) and weeping bitter tears over my lack of organization.  So one project I'm working on is putting all the recipes into one file and getting it printed out somewhere.  Anybody have any good sources for cookbook printing?  I don't need anything fancy, just better than...um...this pitiful display.

Also in need of attention:  


The crochet bag, filled with at least four different projects in need of completion.  The one on top left is a blanket I'm doing for my bedroom.  It's almost finished, but will require that I purchase a few more skeins before it's done, which will mean I'll have to go to a craft store, which will mean somebody will have to come with me to prevent me from getting something else to start a new project.  I NEED somebody to drag me away from the paper aisle.  Volunteers?  The beautiful swirl of rainbow colors is the fabric strips I sewed together to crochet a rug for my kitchen.  Alas, having sewed and ironed the entire thing, I discovered that my giant rug-crocheting hook has disappeared. Because of course it has.  Once I find it, I think I can get this and the blanket finished up before the fall sets in, when I will move on to...


A super-secret cross-stitch project for Will.  I'd tell you what it was, but then I'd have to kill you.  Or at least, you know, yell strenuously at you not to tell him.  I should go ahead and tell you that, yes, that is a King Arthur Flour catalog on the table behind my cross-stitch bag and, yes, one of the recipes within is in the stack of recipes on my desk.  Also, yes, my cross-stitch bag is one of those wine bags you get at grocery stores.  Make whatever assumptions you need to make, my friends.

Moving on:  



This is a two-part Hartwell Syndrome catastrophe in that 1:  the pile of clothes on top of the tub is actually a pile of Jeffrey's old tee-shirts which I will be making into a blanket for us.  I love tee-shirt quilts.  But also, 2:  the tub is big.  It's one of those tubs into which you could conceivably hide the body of a friend who was told about a secret project.  (Gah.  Am I macabre today or what?  I blame the low pressure system sitting over us right now.  Or the chigger's I picked up during the weekend photo shoot I did.)  Anyway, this big tub is filled to the brim with all of the craft junk I didn't throw away during the Purge of the 41st Birthday Resolution (more on that later) and that would not fit into the smaller tubs which are stowed neatly in the office cabinets.  It's got fabric, clipboards, various pieces of felt, doilies, random bits of doodads for jewelry...it's stuffed.  My PLAN is to get it empty by Christmas, but to be honest, I think that I might be feverish when I say that.  Pretty sure I have chiggeritis.

I've set aside an hour a day to work on the recipes (so...many...recipes) and have made myself a Word template and everything and I can work on the crocheting and cross-stitching sitting in the car rider line waiting for the kidlets.  After I tackle the blanket and tub, I'll turn my attention to shoring up projects around the house that are still unfinished, like the laundry room shelving system and the kitchen pantry door.  And then...a year will have passed and I'll be coming up with a different resolution, filled with the pride that comes from defeating a hereditary plague and bringing joy and completion to my loved ones.

Or something like that.

What about you?  Think something like this would work for you?  Hit me up in comments about your most successful resolution strategies!