Webcam in the Grand Place

Hey, I just saw this tweet and had to share! You can view the Grand Place in Brussels, live! Just click this handy link and enjoy!!

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▶ Belgium, the movie [Full HD].divx – YouTube

▶ Belgium, the movie [Full HD].divx – YouTube.

I just found this documentary on YouTube.  Very informative!  Just thought I would share!

Mama’s Biscuits/ When I’m Gone

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See that???  That is what comfort looks like.  And when I bite into one, that is the flavor of the homeland (Louisiana).  Well, at least one of them 🙂

These are homemade biscuits that I made the other day- the ones my mama makes.  I’ve always loved them.  When I was growing up, my older brother and I would get up and make these sometimes on Saturday mornings before anyone else was awake.   And we hated to cook back then.  IF THAT TELLS YOU ANYTHING.  They would rarely last long enough for the last person to wake up.  Of course, food rarely lasted more than about an hour at best in that house- I had 3 brothers!!

These homemade biscuits became even more important to me when I moved to Belgium.  It was then that I discovered that self-rising flour (the main ingredient in these biscuits) is not a very well-known or well-stocked item in many grocery stores there.  I’ve heard that it can be found at the larger supermarkets like Carrefour World (comparable to Wal-Mart Super Center) and Makro (comparable to Sam’s Club); however, for me, going to these larger supermarkets is a luxury I cannot afford due to lack of transportation.   So, my biscuit options became:  1) go without OR 2) improvise.  Obviously, going without mama’s biscuits is not an option for me, so I had to figure out how to make them.

WHAT IS A BISCUIT?

If you’re still scratching your head, wondering, “What kind of biscuits are these?” you’re probably not from America.  So please let me explain.  In the photo above, there is a chocolate chip cookie taunting you with deliciousness in the upper left corner.  According to Americans, it is a cookie, NOT a biscuit.  The golden puffs of bread on the plate are biscuits.  These particular biscuits in the photo are known as “drop biscuits,” simply because balls of biscuit dough are dropped onto the baking tray.  This same recipe can be used to roll out and cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter.  To each, his own.  I’ll explain the rolling and cutting process a little bit later.

HOW TO EAT BISCUITS- SOUTHERN FOOD CULTURE

Biscuits are a well-loved part of the food culture in the Southern United States.  Biscuits are commonly added to a plate of what is known as “soul food” (items such as fried chicken, pork chops, collard greens, kale, mashed potatoes, black eye peas, rice and gravy, okra, fried green tomatoes, etc.).  Suffice it to say that soul food is a VERY big part southern culture.  Probably an even better-known depiction of biscuits is having them as part of a big hearty breakfast including fried or scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, grits, etc.  The biscuit can be used as somewhat a sandwich bun to put these breakfast items in as well.  Biscuits are also served as a breakfast meal on their own merit, with toppings such as syrup, molasses, honey, jelly, and the very southern “Red gravy.”  Biscuits and gravy (not red gravy) can be considered a poor man’s meal as well.  Pretty much any gravy will do, but a popular one is white gravy with ground sausage mixed in.  My personal favorite way to eat biscuits is fresh out of the oven, with absolutely no toppings or other food, just picking one up and taking a bite 🙂

Now that your appetites are whetted, I’ll give you the original recipe (seen in the photo above), and then I’ll give you another recipe which I used when I had no self-rising flour.

ORIGINAL RECIPE- MAMA’S BISCUITS

I don’t know if there is any actual name for these, but since my mama gave me the recipe, I’m naming them after her.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (about 230 degrees Celsius).

2 cups of self-rising flour

1/3 cup of oil

2/3 cup of water (or milk)

Mix until dough is uniformly moist and thick (similar to bread dough).  This should take less than a minute.  If you over-mix the dough, it will become tough.  You may need to add slightly more water or milk depending on your climate.

Grease your baking tray.  The oil you get in an aerosol can will do just fine.  You can either drop onto a baking tray in 2 or 3 inch balls (they do not need to be perfectly round); OR you can roll out the dough and cut into circles and place those on the tray, about 1/4 or 1/2 inch apart.  Bake for about 15 minutes.

Tip:  If you move your oven tray to the lowest rung, you can get the crispy crust on the bottom of your biscuits 🙂

Tip:  For golden brown biscuits, bake for 10 minutes, then take out the tray and lightly spead oil, butter or margarine on the top.  Put them back in the oven for 5 more minutes or until golden 🙂

WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE SELF-RISING FLOUR:

Though at the moment, I can’t find the exact recipe that I used while in Belgium, I did find another very similar one online called “Baking Powder Biscuits.”  Personally, I stay away from dairy as much as possible, so I would substitute the milk for water.  Also I’m not convinced that it matters whether you use a solid fat like butter or if you use oil.  I’ve used both and enjoyed them either way.  Though this recipe somewhat describes the rolling out/ cutting process, I feel that if you’ve never seen it done before, you may need more clear instructions, so they are below.

HOW TO ROLL OUT AND CUT YOUR BISCUITS

First you should make sure you have some wax paper or some aluminum foil.  Tear a couple of sheets, approximately 2 feet long each, and lay them side by side horizontally, overlapping the edges by about 2 or 3 inches.  Lightly dust this surface with flour (whatever flour you’re using in your dough).  Then put your entire batch of dough on top.  Lightly dust the top of your dough with flour also.  Lightly dust your rolling pin with flour.  I find it’s easiest to just put the flour in the palm of your *clean* hand and rub it on the rolling pin.  Gently start rolling the dough.  If it the dough sticks to the pin, lightly dust some more flour on it.  The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick after it is rolled out.  Ideally, you will have a biscuit cutter which is about 2 inches in diameter.  Cut the biscuits as close together as possible.  As you pick each one up, holding it flat, gently toss it from one hand to the other, just to shake off the excess flour.  It doesn’t need to be too precise.  Place the biscuits about 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart on the baking tray and put them in the oven.  Pick up the remaining dough, knead together slightly, roll again, and cut again until there is no dough left.

Tip:  If you are in another country where biscuit cutters are not sold, perhaps you will be able to find a round pastry cutter.  I found a pack of 3 in different sizes at a great store called Casa (similar to a Bed, Bath & Beyond).

Tip:  If you have no desire to buy a pastry cutter or biscuit cutter, or rolling pin, you have another option!  Find a sturdy drinking cup.  You can use the outside as your rolling pin, and you can use the open end as your biscuit cutter.  I discovered this when I was in college and had no money for kitchen items.

WHEN I’M GONE

Anna Kendrick’s video for the song “When I’m Gone” shows a brief scene of her making biscuits by cutting out the dough with a cup.  Since it’s a cool song and the video shows an old southern diner with biscuits, and since I missed the biscuits when I was gone, I feel like this is the most appropriate place to put the video.  Enjoy 🙂

Pensacola Beach, Florida, USA

Well I’m back!

You may have wondered what I have been up to.  Well I am in the USA at the moment.  I haven’t traveled quite as much as I initially planned; however, I am taking enough photos to make up for it.  On a recent trip to Pensacola Beach, Florida, I had the opportunity to be alone watching the sunset.  It was pretty much one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in a really long time.  Why don’t you join me in taking in all of this beauty?

These are a progression of shots taken as the sun was going down.

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Ukranian Chocolate

I have an adopted brother from Kiev, Ukraine.  His name is Tim and he is one of my favorite people on earth.  For my birthday this year, he brought me a box of Ukranian chocolate from the chocolate factory near his area.  Anyone who has met me more than once should be able to tell you that chocolate is probably one of the best things to buy me, for any reason, ever.  What can I say?  He’s a smart guy.

Ukranian Chocolate

Now that I live in Belgium, I have honed my chocolate tastes pretty well.  There are a lot of people who say that the chocolate from their country is the best, but I’m pretty sure Belgium still has them all beat.  That being said, my expectations for Ukanian chocolate were good, but not as good as Belgium 😉  Well I opened the box to discover a gold mine.  These were hazelnut truffles 🙂

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You can see that after my first bite, it was good, but nothing too different there.  Then after the second bite, the hazelnut was revealed.  Yummy!

Now I love Ukranian chocolate.  Let’s do this again next year, Tim!

The Brussels Airport Express Bus Line

I’ve been doing a bit of research for my friends who will be visiting Brussels this coming week and I thought I would share with you a visual representation of the stops on the Brussels Airport Express Bus Line.

You can see it here:  12_1.gif (2472×550).

This will be handy for anyone flying into Brussels Zaventem Airport, who doesn’t want to dish out a lot of moolah for a taxi.  Take the MIVB/STIB Bus 12 toward Luxembourg on weekdays before 8pm for only 4€ to the major stops in the EU Parlaiment area.

If you are arriving after 8pm on a weekday or on a weekend or a holiday, take MIVB/STIB Bus 21, which will get you to the same places; just not as an express bus (meaning you will make all the stops indicated on the yellow line represented in the picture).

Manneken Pis

Yes, you read that right. The word “pis” here refers to exactly what you might think. This little guy (it is a very small guy) pees in front of a crowd year-round while people take pictures of him. Imagine how embarrassing it must be for him to be dressed up in cute doll outfits and pee for an audience for centuries. But alas, this is his destiny:

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This was his Ascension Day outfit in case you were wondering. The other day he was wearing more traditional garb. If you visit Brussels, you can find postcards and posters which display many of his outfits at once.

For a summary of his history, go to the Visit Brussels website by clicking here.