desperate cheese biscuits

When Saucy is at a complete loss as to what to serve for a meal she pulls out this biscuit recipe. Buddy and Loopy know these to be "desperate biscuits," in short meaning the mere appearance of the flaky cheese biscuit at the dinner table is Saucy's white flag, her surrender. She had no more ideas on this day, for this meal. Today you get {blank} served with cheese biscuits.

It's all she's got because for whatever reason, she had some cheese on hand and since she always has baking staples, she can pull these out of her magic hat and somehow scrabble a meal together.

Today these were served at lunch with tomato soup. It was one of those days, and then some.

She supposes that she can trace this recipe back to ninth grade home economics. The origin would then be Mrs. Jackson, her teacher. She winces a little when she recalls Mrs. Jackson's jovial smile and patient nature up until the moment that Saucy used her seam ripper twenty five too many times on a sample zipper, prompting the teacher to elicit a promise from Saucy to never, ever take Home Ec again as it would be impossible for her to master sewing. "You excel in the kitchen, dear. Your work with the sewing machine is quite another matter."

In retrospect Saucy now realizes the comment was probably made in jest but she internalized it, and she never quite recovered from it. As an adult she is still stymied by the act of threading a sewing machine and she avoids any stitchery that involves mechanics.

She can, however, make one hell of a light, fluffy biscuit. In fairness these should be called "Mrs. Jackson's Biscuits" but Saucy holds a grudge and they are known as the desperate cheese biscuits.

In a medium mixing bowl sift together:

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (sharp is best)

Make a well in the centre and pour in a mixture of:

3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup cooking oil

... notice that it's not pictured as "a mixture" because as Saucy said, it was one of those days, and then some. She could not even find time to whisk.

Lightly and quickly mix the liquid into the dry ingredients without overworking the dough. Turn it out onto a cutting surface. You might have to use your fingers to smoosh it into one big piece if it doesn't turn out that way. No biggie.

Use a biscuit cutter (or the open end of a glass or jar) and cut your biscuits nice and close together. You'll do this to minimize waste of the dough because in order to keep the biscuits light and fluffy, you want to avoid having lots of scraps to work into another piece.

That's why sometimes when she's really, truly desperate, Saucy doesn't even use a biscuit cutter. She uses a knife and cuts that chunk of dough into squares and bakes them like that.

She just wanted to look a little more put together today.

(Oh, and take note of the strange orange hue of that little cutting board. Saucy cannot remember what she sliced that left it that shade but she needs to get over to the dollar store, pronto, for a replacement less these photos make you ill. That is just nasty).

When there are just a few scraps left, gingerly piece them together and cut the final biscuit.

Place your biscuits on a baking sheet... this one is specially for biscuit baking. Sounds fancy and extreme, but Saucy found it for four dollars at Winners years ago and the slightly textured surface really does a nice job of browning the bottoms.

If you're feeling fancy you can melt 2 tablespoons of butter and brush it on the tops of the biscuits before baking but they'll brown up nicely if you don't. They're just a little richer and flakier if you do.

Bake these at 425 degrees for fifteen minutes. Makes about ten, depending on the size of your cutter.

See the difference after baking? These biscuits bake up so light and flaky. Look how big they got! Saucy swears she didn't rearrange them for the picture, they really do rise up that much.

So, the next time you're just desperate for an idea as to what to serve for lunch or dinner, whip up these biscuits.

You'll look like a hero, even if you can't thread a needle to save your life.

veto's birthday cupcake trifecta

Veto asked for two things for his birthday: creamsicle cupcakes and key lime cupcakes. That was easy. Saucy had some other things going on in the kitchen so she made it a sort of cupcake threesome.

That sounds positively pornographic!

The creamsicle cupcake has been seen before on this blog in different incarnations but this one was a little different. Instead of swiss meringue buttercream, Saucy made a hi-hat seven minute frosting using this recipe from Martha. The cake was golden sponge with the old warm Jell-O poured through a straw into the baked cupcakes trick, giving the cake a sweet gooey orange middle. Before adding the sprinkles, the hi-hat frosting was dipped into melted orange candy melts from Wilton.

Saucy's not gonna lie. They tasted great and Veto lurrved them, but the dipping part with the candy melts wasn't a walk in the park. The mixture was too thick and even thinning it with vegetable oil didn't create the exact consistency desired for a perfect hi-hat topping. They looked nice and the first one or two dipped up nicely but the candy melts just don't stay liquid for too long and remelting them is prohibitive once they get a little of the frosting in them. No worries. Now you know. Hi-hats are best dipped in a mixture of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil.

The key lime cupcakes were fairly standard as well. Saucy grated lemon and lime peel into some of that golden cupcake batter used for the creamsicles (she's very tricky and often turns a batch of 24 cupcakes into two or more varieties). After cooling she placed the cupcakes in a caddy overnight. The tops got a little "sticky" with condensation and that was the perfect surface for holding lime sugar sprinkles. It was easier that sprinkling before baking (less mess and waste) and she only had to roll the outside rim of the cupcake into the sugar. This made a nice little frame for the lemon-lime buttercream (Saucy's trick: flavour your frosting with Kool-Aid powder).

The last batch were a necessity. There had to be some sort of chocolate in the house. Actually, Saucy had some leftover brownies without frosting that she wanted to do an experiment with:

She chopped the brownie bits and folded them into the cupcake batter before scooping. This created a more dense batter that could withstand the next step: sprinkling the tops with sliced almonds and chocolate chips before baking. Do that on a regular cupcake batter and they'll sink in, not stay up on top.

It didn't matter that they baked up all gooey and crunchy looking on top... Saucy covered those bad boys with a buttercream ring and an inverted mini brownie. A quick drizzle of melting chocolate and a sprinkle of Skor bits was the final touch on this Mega Brownie Masterpiece Cupcake.

Because as Saucy says (and so does Frasier Crane)... if less is less, then think about how delightfully more that more would be!

eleventh grade

Loopy starts back to school tomorrow morning as a junior. Only two years of school left. Where has the time gone? Saucy swore she'd never ask that aloud. It seems she is asking herself that almost daily now.

Do you remember the excitement of picking your first day of school outfit? Like it was yesterday. Only Saucy's was a little different: Jordache jeans and a snappy pink shirt with an alligator on it, the collar carefully popped.

This is Loopy's back to school look. Not the shoes. God, no, not the shoes. The shoes are Saucy's and while they could be worn for the photos, more sensible shoes will be worn to school tomorrow. Sensible sandals from Wal Mart.

Saucy remembers grade eleven as being her very favourite year of high school. She hit her stride, she knew her way around. She had nice friends and the pressure of senior year and graduation and all of the decisions that were on the horizon were so far off in the distance that her biggest concern was where exactly she should tie her bandana - upper arm or knee?

Saucy never remembers having skin quite so beautiful as Loopy's. Even with all her babysitting money spent on Stridex pads and 10-0-6 lotion. What she wouldn't give to smell those smells again.

Loopy was allowed a little back to school spray tan. Saucy digs the idea of sunless bronzing but all things in moderation. Nobody wants to be orange. Back in the day it was lay out in the sun with your Hawaiian Tropic or baby oil. Later you would smell like Noxema, but even that odor is a fond memory now.

If you wanted an instant glow in the eighties, you applied Quick Tan. Your striped gams were a dead giveaway. Things are so much easier for this generation.

Saucy swore she'd never say that, either.

If you wanted highlights, you got Sun In hair treatment and only the lucky ones went truly blonde. The rest of us had red highlights to complement the orange between our fingers from applying the QT.

There were no teen-friendly fashion stores where we could find reasonably priced versions of runway fashion. Saucy could never have conceived of shopping at Forever 21 or accessorizing at Claire's. Back in high school in the eighties, you bumped into your twin around every corner and you all smelled the same. Like Giorgio Beverly Hills, probably.

What was your favourite year of high school? You can't flake on the question and say you hated them all. You had to have a favourite.

What was the best of the worst, then?

Loopy technically NOT "owling." Owling is the new planking. She's got the pose, but she should be set up on a fence or a high object to be owling.

She's been looking forward to school since the first day of summer vacation...

...even more so after we found the outfit.

Today we had makeovers at the Benefit counter and this is the result. A lightly winged eyeliner and a nude lip. Apparently it will be "the look" this year. She had to get "the look."

Saucy is loathe to admit it but she's thrilled school is starting again. She likes the schedule, she likes the rhythm of the week. She gets so much more accomplished when she's pressed for time.

Especially blogging. This weekend she's going to show you Veto's birthday cupcakes, a book review, a couple of cute things and... a giveaway.

Totally. Awesome.

the mystery of the mandolin

When Saucy and Veto were married in 2004 they were showered with great gifts. They carefully opened each wrapped parcel, admired it, and made a careful note of who sent it... and sent thank you cards. Now, Saucy isn't going to get all soapbox on you today and chirp about how nobody sends nice thank you's anymore... why, it's almost becoming a long lost art. But having being raised by The Fan who placed a pen firmly in Saucy's hand when she was old enough to utter the phrase "thank you" it was without any discussion that notes would be sent out, pronto.

The other thing you might know about Saucy is that she really, really likes giving gifts and even more than that - she is not afraid to admit - she loves getting gifts. She is grateful for gifts. She can tell you, to this day, who gave what for a birthday or a wedding gift and she always thinks of the gift giver when she uses the whatever it is. She is particular that way and she also tends to hang onto items if she is particularly fond of the gift giver, even if the item is not in style or useful anymore.

Hell, she got rid of the first husband she didn't like anymore but she kept the cookware from his great aunt because she really liked the lady. The cookware wasn't even that great but the aunt was super nice.

Enter: the mandolin. For those of you not in the know, a mandolin is a handy kitchen slicer that allows you to quickly graze through just about anything with the speed of a hummingbird and the sharpness of a Japanese Ginsu knife. It's especially handy for slicing potatoes and there one sat amongst the rubble of pastel tissue paper after all the wedding gifts were opened... without a gift card.

The mandolin sent Saucy on an investigative bender that would have made Cagney & Lacey tired. She cross-referenced her invitation list to the list of gifts more than a few times. She contacted the store where the wedding registry was and there was no record of the purchase to follow.

It was a true mystery. Saucy was mortified that she wasn't able to send a proper thank you for the slicer. She thinks about it every time she uses it, including today, when she made homemade potato chips. She almost feels guilty using it, having never properly acknowledged the gift. She really is thankful for it.

It slices Yukon Gold potatoes perfectly evenly without fear of bloodshed. Today Saucy made work of six peeled spuds in about three minutes. They key to perfect potato chips is even slicing - they cook up evenly to a crisp perfection.

After slicing, immediately place the potatoes in very cold, heavily salted water (see the ice up in there) and let them soak for a minimum of thirty minutes, up to an hour. This removes the starch and allows for a much crispier crunch.

Drain the slices thoroughly and remove all water before frying - here, Saucy lays them out in small batches to pat dry on clean tea towels. She kind of works in batches, from the ice water to the strainer, to the towel, to the oil... which is heated to about 400 degrees. They fry up in seven to ten minutes depending on how many slices you put in the fryer. Saucy just fries in light canola oil, by the way. Any light vegetable oil is nice for this job...

... the last stop being a couple of layers of paper towel laid over an old clean tea towel. This is where the excess hot oil will fade away leaving a very crispy chip.

Can you just about reach out to taste them? Are you or are you not thankful for the gift of the mandolin right now? Saucy bets you want one now, too. It's damn handy. You really should ask for one.

By the way, these chips were seasoned with a little mixture of seasoning salt, garlic powder, paprika and a touch of cayenne pepper. You can adjust your seasoning to taste but simply sprinkling white vinegar and some sea salt on these chips is so, so good. So good.

Today's chips packed lots of heat, as Loopy is deeply in love with the cactus fries at Boston Pizza. She concocted the perfect version of their dip using equal parts Caesar salad dressing and sour cream with a "shake shake" of grated parmesan cheese. Loopy wanted you to know she said "shake shake," and that's her accurate measurement.

Anyway... Saucy just wants to send one more thank you up to the universe to whoever sent the mandolin to her and Veto's wedding, she thinks about your anonymous self every time she slices with it.

time for some wisdom of the ages

As she finds herself deep in the middle of Loopy's teen years, Saucy is often wont to reflect on her own time at the same age... all knock-kneed and unglamorous. She and Loopy often drive around town listening to the music of Taylor Swift and Saucy is reminded of so many incidental moments in passing... things she hadn't thought of in years... things that seemed monumental at the time.

This year, Loopy survived the ups and downs of sophomore year. She, like so many other girls, got dumped by a boy over text messaging. She learned to navigate the social landmines of Facebook and learned to stay the hell away from Chat Roulette, lest she see something her tender eyes will never unsee. There have been mean girls and Miss Swift is right: all they're ever gonna be is mean.

Saucy and Loopy are on a little road trip to catch Taylor and her sparking guitar in concert. She will sing about love and loss through the eyes of a teenager. Sometimes Saucy marvels at the wisdom in her lyrics and other times Saucy can't help but smile because of all there is to learn yet.

Reader, what did you learn when you were a teenager? How did you get dumped? Who were the mean girls... and to this day if you could write them a song what would you sing to them?

If you could extoll some wisdom of the ages to Loopy and her peeps, what would it be? Saucy would surely appreciate it. Sometimes, hearing it from a voice other than your own mother's is very, very helpful.

barbecue baked beans

Veto lurrves 'em.
They're quick, they're easy.
They're saucy and spicy.
You really have to try them.

Barbecue Baked Beans a la Saucy

5-6 pieces of bacon, trimmed of fat
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 - 8 oz cans baked beans in tomato sauce
1 small (approx 6 ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
freshly ground pepper

Cut the bacon into 1/2" pieces, give or take. You can't get this wrong. If you only have three slices of bacon left in the package, well, that's just going to have to work. In a large pot over medium heat, brown the bacon and the onions together until the bacon is thoroughly cooked but not crispy.

Remove the bacon and onions to drain on a piece of paper towel, removing all bacon grease from the pot. Return the pot to the stovetop over low heat and pour the beans and drained pineapple together.

Add the remaining ingredients, including the cooked bacon and onions. As for the pepper, Veto likes his beans on the zesty/spicy side so Saucy doesn't worry about adding a few extra turns of the pepper mill. A few more drops of Tabasco aren't a bad idea, either. Just do a little taste test as you go along. If you like your side dishes on the spicy side, then go for it.

Again, you can't get this wrong.

Cook lightly over low heat for about ten minutes and serve as a side dish to any grilled meat (these are especially delicious with ribs and coleslaw).

And remember, you can't get these wrong.

peanut butter ice cream pie

{for mikey, jennie's husband}

Make a peanut butter pie for someone you love today...

When Saucy was scrambling through her handwritten recipe book last week searching for Granny's slush, she happened upon this years-old note for peanut butter ice cream pie. She thought about making it for a fleeting moment... but to be honest, we've been cutting back on calories and treats around here this summer (yes, you've noticed the blog is a little light on the cupcakes of late)... and Saucy thought it not that necessary at the moment so she kept leafing through the pages, looking for other things to make and blog for you.

Later she stumbled upon this post in Jennie's Kitchen. Saucy decided that instant to crack open the notebook and make peanut butter pie. Jennie's husband died unexpectedly very recently and instead of asking for sympathy, Jennie asked for her fellow bloggers to simply make Mikey's favourite dessert in tribute this weekend. This is Saucy's version.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie

Chocolate cookie crumb crust (or graham wafer crust if you prefer)
5 cups of soft ice cream (vanilla or chocolate)
6 ounces chopped Skor bar (or Skor baking bits)
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter at room temperature

While preparing your favourite cookie crust in a freezer-proof pie dish, allow the ice cream to soften. For this pie Saucy used about three cups of good quality vanilla ice cream and two cups of Oreo ice cream.

When the ice cream is soft (but not melted) mix the Skor bits and the ice cream together. Work quickly and once it is generally mixed, pour into the cookie crust and place in freezer:

Freeze for six hours or overnight.

To make the peanut butter ganache topping, stir chocolate chips and cream in small saucepan over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Stir in icing sugar and peanut butter and blend with a small whisk. Pour over the ice cream pie quickly and smooth with a spatula. Garnish with more Skor bits or chopped peanuts. Return to the freezer for an hour before serving or until the topping is firm.

The warm ganache mixture will "flood" the pie and make a pristine, beautiful top. This is a gorgeous, delicious dessert, and it's easy to boot.

The trick to cutting this pie nicely is to remove it from the freezer for about five minutes before even trying to cut into it. Run a sharp blade under hot water before slicing and return to the hot water as you continue to cut the pieces.

It's really a dreamy dessert. It's rich, but it's worth it. Jennie wrote about putting off making her husband his favourite dessert. She wants everyone to make a peanut butter pie and share it with someone you love... and then hug them like there's no tomorrow, because there may not be a tomorrow.

But for now, there is peanut butter ice cream pie, and it will have to do.