Sunday, April 11, 2010

Southern Biscuits

Life is so much busier than it used to be. I apologize if this comes across as whining -- I don't mean it to, I'm just trying to re-adjust.

My working at Geneseo as Web Communications Manager is the first time in almost a decade that I've had a 9 to 5 job (well, 8 to 4:15). It's certainly the first time since I got married that I've had a job like this -- which is a big change.

Then again, it's always about big changes, right? I went from living in NYC being single, to living in rural Upstate NY, married with two little kids -- insta-family. It was my choice, and I would do it again -- but it was a big change.

And from the moment I moved Upstate, Shane had the full-time jobs and I picked up things here and there: freelance writing, adjunct teaching, even a short stint as office support in a church, which added a bit of income to our bank account. Lots of times, I worked multiple jobs at once, but the money was never hot and the benefits were non-existant, as was the professional pride & respect. It's no fun to give your work 110% and have the powers that be shrug in response. Nor is it fun to keep asking yourself, "Why am I wasting the time and money it took to get a master's degree on this stuff?"

But it was flexible, so I could get the kids to & from school, cook, get laundry done, go to the gym, blah, blah, blah, fishcakes.

But the pay was low. But it was flexible. But there were no benefits. But it was flexible. But I wanted more.

And somehow, the stars aligned and got the job I have now: Good pay! Fantastic benefits! Growth potential! Professional pride & respect from colleagues! (Well, maybe I'm deluding myself with the respect but I'm going roll with that delusion. )

But, not as much flexibility as I used to have. More flexible, I think, than most jobs but not as much as I used to have.

The reason I write this is that I just don't have the same kind of time to do non-work stuff anymore. And we -- my husband and kids -- don't have the time together the way did before. (Shane's job had ramped up its responsibilities as well.)

This isn't a situation unique to me or us: it's a work-life balance equation, and people all over the world struggle with it. (Though it appears that some countries are more supportive of working people and working families than my country is, which is a shame.)

The point of all this is I am increasingly vigilant for opportunities to spend time with my husband, with my kids, with my husband and my kids. Fortunately, cooking is a pretty decent way to accomplish this (and teach Kian & Sadie a few things along the way).

I've put an increased emphasis on "Sunday Dinner" -- a sit-down-at-the-kitchen-table-for-a-little-fancier-than-usual-meal, dedicated to the food on our plates and to each other. (Tonight, is lasagna, some homemade brown bread I'd frozen and probably a salad. Nothing overly fancy but a step up from the weeknight stuff.)

So two Sundays ago (the kids alternate their weekends between here and their mom's house) I made .... something I don't remember, but I do know we made buttermilk biscuits from scratch to go with it.

Both Kian and Sadie love biscuits, but especially Kian, and when I know the kids are crazy about something, I usually persuade them into making it with me. ("Do you want biscuits?" "Yes!" "Do you want to help make them?" "No." "You can't eat any if you don't help make them." "OK, fine, I'll make them.")

Initial resistance always strikes me as funny because they always get *really* into it -- who gets to add what ingredient, how many turns someone has had stirring, who gets to cut the dough, etc., etc., etc. Joyful screaming usually comes into play, too.

So we made and ate biscuits at dinner. It was great.

And then we were all onto the next thing.

Southern Biscuits (recipe from Alton Brown)

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don't want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. (We used a drinking glass -- LR) Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that's life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.