Posted on: January 11, 2013 Posted by: Cole Ruth Comments: 6

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?

Finished soup.
Finished soup.

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.

The fancy topping.
The fancy topping.

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
Breakfast sausages
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.

Hurrah! No biscuits required.
Hurrah! No biscuits required.

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!






6 People reacted on this

  1. […] Here’s the resulting menu for those who want to follow along: 1. Red Beans and Rice 2. Open-faced sausage, egg and tomato jam sandwich 3. Spinach salad with baby spinach, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, and curried eggs 4. Vietnamese bánh mì Sandwich 5. Broccoli and Rice 6. Cheesy Potato Tacos 7. Squash soup with biscuits […]

  2. I just learned recently that Natural Flavors can include MSG b/c of the way the FDA classifies additives. If they are synthesized from an originally natural substance (in this case, glutamic acid, an amino acid that occurs naturally in our bodies and in foods), they don’t have to declare them artificial, even if made in a LAB and isolated from the rest of the amino chain that makes them metabolizable by the body.

    That is some F*ed up BS!

    1. Re: MSG, there’s a lot of info out there now showing that it’s not as bad was thought, but there is no excuse for hiding it in “Natural Flavors.” (Any time that term appears, we should be skeptical. If they’re so natural, why not say what they are?) I actually bought a bag of “mozzarella cheese” at the .99 Cent Store but when I got home, I realized it wasn’t even cheese! I’m not sure it even had dairy in it at all. Disgusting. Whoever wrote cheese on that package should be ashamed. At least if it was called, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheese,” those who buy it would do so knowingly. I’m also frustrated with the use of high-fructose corn syrup, which shows up insidiously in everything lately. Sure, it’s written in the ingredients, but until Michael Pollen’s book, I never would have thought to look for it in bread or canned carrots!

  3. I forgot to say, this soup looks so good. I am really into squashes and sweet potatoes and yams lately. So naturally sweet and delish, I hardly even think about dessert…

    Re. MSG. I had a pretty severe toxic reaction to it after Xmas, it was in a smoked ham I didn’t know about. I have always been sensitive to it and avoid it on any labels, but since that event (flat out sick for 4 days, felt rotten for a week), I have been doing more research. Turns out there’s tons of big-food-media washing about MSG. The history of it is fascinating. It’s the taste associated with umami, and glutamic acid occurs in so many foods that have this flavor–mushrooms, marinated or stewed meats, ripe tomatoes, fermented foods, seaweed, etc (many of my favorite stuff!)–that they try to say that the extracted, synthetic version of it–MSG–is safe. And glutamic acid IS safe, generally, b/c it occurs in a chain of amino acids that are processed through your bloodstream in a way that balances any of them from being harmful. But, taken alone, it’s an “excitotoxin” which means something that affects your neuro-cells, often causing cellular damage, in part b/c once it’s isolated, the acid is processed by your stomach instead and goes directly to your system in a more intense way than when it’s naturally occurring. A lot of people become sensitive to this–and it’s not an “allergy”, it’s simply a reaction to what is technically a toxin. As it’s been synthesized and put in everything (b/c it acts to deepen and complement flavors, and often can mask cheap ingredients) people are developing overloads of it that can then actually cause you to react to even naturally occurring glutamates. An event like I had can then trigger an extreme reaction to even tiny doses. Pretty scary stuff, feeling that horrible–literally like I’d been poisoned–and then knowing that it’s legally allowed to be hidden in TONS of ingredients, as long as it’s not the sole substance (i.e., autolyzed anything). I can send you a link w/ more ingredients if you’re interested.

    Bottom line for me is prepare as much from scratch as possible (especially stock, which is often FULL of it, even the “natural” brands) and read everything. If it’s not an ingredient I know and can grow or touch, forget it.

    Of course, I’m the canary in the coal mine. Not everyone needs to be as careful as me. But, shouldn’t we know for certain what’s in the food sold to us? Hell yes. (Hey, maybe it’s the Cole mine? 🙂


    1. I rarely use anything with MSG in it. The bullion I bought at the dollar store contains it, but the bullion I usually buy does not. Aside from which, I try not to use bullion – I make my own stock and freeze it and mostly use that. That said, I haven’t had a reaction to MSG but not putting any ingredient on the label is unacceptable.

    2. Oh! And re: this soup. I actually think it tasted even better the following day when I strained it through a tea towel and simmered it a while longer. It concentrated the flavors so it became this intense distillation of Kabocha. You end up with what feels like waste (the vegetable pulp you strain off), but the resulting clarity of flavor is worth it.

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