November 9, 2017

Bacon Cheddar Chowder & Butternut Browned Butter Biscuits

Ever since Nichole announced November's Improv Cooking Challenge pairing was to be WINTER SQUASH & BACON I'd been collecting butternut bacon soup ideas... All through our "fall weather" of 100+° I thought it sounded like an Autumn-appropriate comfort meal. But the idea didn't jive with all the fellas. (I probably coulda snuck it on the table & they'd politely eat it.)
My next plan was to make rolls (they'll eat almost anything with yeast dough wrapped around it) but I remembered I wanted to make a chowder to show off my Portuguese tureen that I never get to use because I'm lazy we not fancy and usually serve soup out of the slow-cooker or from the pot on the stove.

But... because the hubster ended his work day an hour and a half across town, & the middle fella had a drum lesson after classes, we ended up dishing our soup out of the crocker & snatching the biscuits off the hot baking sheet. {{heavy sigh}}
I love that my slow-cooker made the chowder while I was fussing about with other concerns of the day. And while I'd planned on creating a biscuit with almond flour, I decided to just adapt Bob's recipe on the bag of his Red Mill® Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. Best decision, ever!
I roasted the butternut halves with a bit of bacon drippings brushed over the cut surfaces... Oh, my!
So, here you go:
 ½ c. butter
 2½ c. Bob’s Red Mill® Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
1 T. grass-fed gelatin
½ t. sea salt
2½ t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
1 c. diced roasted butternut
2 eggs
¾ c. buttermilk
Brown the butter over medium heat until it smells like caramel without the sweet. 
Chill to firm.In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients.Add chilled browned butter (cut into small pieces) and use pastry blender to disperse.
Carefully stir in squash.
Mix eggs and buttermilk. Pour over biscuit mix and gently stir to make dough.Roll to 1” thickness between plastic wrap. Cut with 3” circle cutter and place on parchment.
Brush tops of biscuits with a bit of buttermilk.
Bake in pre-heated 450° oven for 18 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before eating. (If you can wait that long!)

And now for the chowder:
Bacon Chowder

1 lb. bacon
1 small onion
3 ribs celery
3 carrots
6 garlic cloves
1 large head cauliflower
1 quart chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 t. dried thyme
fresh-ground pepper to taste
2 c. milk
2 T. tapioca starch
2 c. water
1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese

Sauté bacon over medium heat until crisp. Set aside and remove all but a tablespoon of the drippings.
In the same pan make the soffritto by rough chopping & adding the onion, celery & carrots. Mince the garlic and sauté until vegetables are tender.
Cut the cauliflower into florets. Place in crock of slow cooker and add the soffritto, broth & spices.
Cook until the cauliflower is soft.
Mix tapioca starch with the milk and add to crock with the water. Blend with immersion blender until smooth.
Crumble bacon into crock and simmer until chowder has thickened. Stir in cheese a little at a time until smooth.
Serve & enjoy!
Even the youngest fella returned to the crock for a second helping of soup! And my bread connoisseur asked for a repeat batch of the biscuits!

Check out these links to see how the other Improvers used their winter squash & bacon:

October 17, 2017

The Madness Which Comes Before Midnight

(you can't tell he had it wadded up in his pack all day, right...)
The #MidnightMadness tradition at GCU gets bigger & better & wilder & crazier every year.
(These tickets were a precious commodity --
many were turned away at the door!)
(They start planning the event more than a year ahead!) Last year was our family's first glimpse of the impressive spectacle.

My drummer's costume from a year ago was mostly thrift-store items with a little sewing/crafting added on. This year, however, we decided to complicate things by only having a children's-sized costume pattern! We'll get to that after the videos:
This is GCU's take on the whole evening. (Can you tell why they call it MADNESS?) There's a split-second glimpse of the drumline's show at about :31. I don't think my pirate got in the frame...

And this is our view from the other side of the arena. What fun!

But before all the fun, there was much hard labor in assembling the drummer's costume:
(Duncan is an excellent snoopervisor...)
Drafting an enlarged vest wasn't near as difficult at getting those boot covers big enough to disguise size 14 marching shoes!

I found these tools to be invaluable when sewing vinyl!
I used upholstery thread in the needle because I knew tugging these on & off would put a lot of tension on the stitches.
I saved a little time by using the embroidery machine set-up to stitch all 17!!! buttonholes. I covered the buttons with yellow fabric and then brushed them with gold metallic craft paints.
The welted pockets are not something I'm going to try again anywhere in the near future!!!

The sash was split in sections & stitched to wide Velcro® so it was quicker to don than winding/unwinding yards of fabric. I used my Silhouette® to cut the gold antelope logos. The belt I made from some leather yardage. I was going to embellish a large buckle with the 'Lope's logo, but since the drummer was wearing his drum all night, it would've been a waste of time...

The grey pants came from a thrift shop and got 2 cans of paint sprayed into stripes.

It was my plan to find stage make-up gold pirate teeth & to fill the drummer's fingers with rings. I got an emphatic "no" on the teeth & a "Mom, you know I won't be able to perform stick tricks with that junk on my hands, right?" I did talk him in to wearing a plastic gold (touched up with a little of my metalic paints) pirate earring.

What I was not expecting was his vision of a handful of shrunken skulls attached to a rubber knife. The skulls would have the logos from GCU's seven division rivals.
We found the plastic skulls at Michael's. A little bit of tan and cream paints gave a nice weathered touch...
I used glow-in-the-dark paint for the eye sockets. Originally I printed the logos on Silhouette® sticker paper, but they didn't stick!
We ended up using computer paper & tacky glue 'cause we were running out of time.