Looking back, I don’t know why I chose the bag of biscuit mix. Okay, I do. I wanted something to go with soup, something freshly baked. I’ve played a lot with crescent dough in the past and it works well in a pinch, but I wanted something different. Then my eye spied the bag high up on top of the bread rack. I checked it carefully for corn syrup, then plunked it in my basket thinking that surely I could do something great with it – put jalapenos it, maybe onions, or mix sweet and savory and add the dried cranberries.
Today when I opened the bag to make Marie Callender’s Cheese Biscuits, I knew I had made a mistake. I have bought very few pre-made baking mixes in my life. I think they’re a joke. I mean, seriously, you get charged for someone to put flour and baking powder and salt in a box and shake it up? You still have to add the egg and the milk, so exactly how much time have you saved? A handful of minutes?
The reason I knew I’d made a mistake was the smell. It just smelled… fake. I double-checked the package and there, mixed in where I had not seen it before, was the list of ingredients that made up the “cheese” in Marie’s Cheese Biscuits. Needless to say, those ingredients are not usually in cheese.*
Well, I’d bought the mix. I told you, dear reader, to buy it. So I attempted to make lemons with my lemonade. I added jalapenos. It did nothing to take away the smell. I baked them. I swear, it stinks in here. I even simmered cloves and star anise and cinnamon for an hour and still the smell of fake cheese won’t go away.
I must admit – if you plug your nose, they taste pretty good. But who wants to plug their nose when they eat?! The lesson here is: you can take the mix out of the package but you can’t take the package out of the mix.
If you’re craving biscuits, and with any luck you were not able to find and buy Marie’s mix, this is a great recipe for cheddar biscuits.
How to save a meal
It occurred to me that I could make squash tacos. Or squash curry over rice. I could pickle the squash and make a rice salad. I could cut the top off and stuff the squash with sausage and breadcrumbs. And I thought this recipe sounded delicious and appropriate since the Kabocha is Japanese in origin, but it is outside of the restrictions I’ve set for myself this week.
Besides, I’ve been craving soup. Especially after all this recipe testing and eating. I wanted something simple and light.
Kabocha Squash Soup with crispy tortilla and sausage
1 small kobocha squash (mine was roughly the size of my two fists put together)
1/2 an onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of a jalapeno, de-seeded and diced
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of dried bullion
1/4 + 1/4 t. salt
1 tortilla, cut into pieces
While reading about this squash, several sources said not to peel it until after cooking because the skin was so flavorful. I thought this sounded like more work. I used a peeler to take the skin off ahead of time. But to make sure I got the flavor from it, I put it into the water below my steamer. I added 1/4 t. salt. Then I steamed the squash over the squash-skin-salt-water. It cooked very fast. Maybe as fast as 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I sautéed the onion, garlic, carrot and chile in a bit of oil. When the onions turned translucent, I took about 1/4 c. water from the squash-skin mixture and let the onion-carrot-garlic-chile mixture simmer in the squash-skin broth. When the squash was soft (it almost fell apart, but if a knife goes through it easily, you’re golden), I removed it and put it in the food processor. Then I strained the rest of the liquid from the squash-skin-salt water and poured it on the carrots-onions-etc. When the carrots were tender, and the liquid quite reduced, I put that mixture in with the squash and pureed it.
Then I returned the puree to the pot. I seasoned it with bullion, 1/4 t. salt, white pepper and a pinch of cumin. It tasted good. But suddenly the prospect of spooning a puree seemed really unappealing to me. So this is what I did next:
I took a tortilla from the freezer and put it in the oven at 200 degrees until it defrosted. I removed two breakfast sausages from the freezer and cut them up. I removed the tortilla from the oven, jacked the temp up to broil, and got out my saute pan. I used a pair of scissors to randomly cut up the tortilla and placed it in the pan. I chopped the sausage into little squares. Then I tossed the combo in cumin and oil. Under the broiler it went for a few minutes. I tossed it again, gave it another minute and ta-da.
I garnished the soup with the sausage and tortilla, along with a few of my pickled jalapenos and cracked pepper and I didn’t miss the biscuits one bit.
*After a quick google into the substance of Marie’s biscuits mixes uncovered a different bag with the words, “All Natural” on them. This is not written on my bag, so perhaps the ingredients have changed. On the bag I had, the parentheses after the word “Cheddar Cheese Bits” included: Corn syrup, Four, Corn Cereal, Cheese Powder (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, contains less than 2% Annatto (color), Lactic Acid, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Cottonseed and/or Soybean), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Turmeric and Annatto Extracts.
And those are just the ingredients in the Cheddar Cheese Bits!