Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Eight Days of Ham
Day Five

On the Fifth Day of Hamness
we had Amish Ham Loaf.
And this time we have perfected the recipe.
It has only taken us four years.
Of course, given that we only make ham loaf
once a year, 
one could argue that we have a fast learning curve.
Or one could argue that we like to refer to ourselves
in the Royal We.
Yes, We do.
You may now bow down in our presence.
Yes, we like that.

 The ingredients for the new and IMPROVED! Amish Ham Loaf:

  •         1 pound fresh ground pork
  •         1 pound ground ham
  •          ½ cup bread crumbs
  •          ½ cup Graham crackers, crushed
  •          2 eggs
  •         1 tablespoon brown sugar
  •         1 tablespoon onion, minced
  •          1 teaspoon honey mustard
  •         1 teaspoon salt
  •          1/8 teaspoon pepper
  •          ¾ cup heavy cream
  •       2/3 cup brown sugar
  •         1 teaspoon dry mustard
  •          2 tablespoons apple jelly
  •         2 tablespoons honey
  •          ½ cup water
  •          ¼ cup cider vinegar

Trim the skin, fat and connective tissue from the ham.  Pulverize in a food processor before adding to the ground pork and the remaining ham loaf ingredients.  Mix well.  Turn out into a baking dish, patting into a 2" deep shaped loaf.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes before proceeding with the next step. (Total bake time is 2 hours.)

Meanwhile, mix together the sauce ingredients. Pour over the ham loaf when there is one hour left to go.

In the last half hour, cover the ham loaf with foil, to prevent excess burning.

 The ham loaf is out of the oven and ready to be served.

And what do you know?  
After four years, we finally have the recipe right.  Good for us.
We are so proud of ourselves. 
We would like to thank the little people...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Eight Days of Ham
Day Four

On the Fourth Day of Ham
we had more ham salad

The ingredients for the chunky potato soup are:
2 slices bacon
¼ cup onion, diced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups turkey stock
2 cups mashed potatoes
Dash hot sauce
½ teaspoon dry thyme
¼ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 medium potatoes
½ cup Half-and-Half

Cheddar cheese, grated, for garnish
Fresh chives, chopped, for garnish

Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes, about 1 centimeter in size.  Place in a microwave-safe dish and add a splash of water before covering and microwaving on high for about 5 minutes.

Dice the bacon and sauté over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Remove the cooked bacon and set aside to drain on a paper towel.  

Leave about two tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pot and sauté the diced onion over medium heat until softened.  Add the flour to the pot and stir while cooking.
Add the turkey stock to the mix. Stir well.

Next, add the mashed potatoes, hot sauce, dry thyme, Old Bay Seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.

Then add the cooked, diced potatoes to the pot and pour in Half-and-Half.  Allow soup to slowly cook over low heat for about 30 minutes.

Garnish the soup with some grated sharp cheddar cheese, crisp bacon and chopped green onion if desired.

At this point I was too busy trying to multi-task to take pictures, as I had to make the mashed potatoes from scratch while I was working on the rest of the ingredients for the soup. At any rate, the soup was finished and the peasants danced for joy.

 Garnish with grated cheddar, chopped chives
and the cooked, diced bacon.

Pair with a ham salad sandwich
and this is a hearty meal for a cold
winter's evening.
The Eight Days of Ham

On the third day of ha-am, my true love gave to me,
a lovely ha-am salad.

Thank you. 
I won't quit my day job.
And no it doesn't pay anything.
Thanks for asking.
Now I'm depressed.

Happy now?

Into a container, mix:

4 cups minced ham
1/4 cup diced onion
1 rib celery, diced
4 tablespoons pickle relish
1 teaspoon honey mustard
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sugar

Mix well and adjust seasonings o taste.

Ham salad sandwich with Grippo's Bar-B-Q potato chips.

I'm a happy girl.  
Even if I do have to order the chips on line.

The Eight Days of Ham

On the second day of ham we decided 
to make it simple with ham sandwiches 
and soup (not shown).

my goal in the past  has been to not repeat a
ham dish during this fest.

However, certain people have expressed
an unnatural desire for 
ham salad all the time no matter the time.

We shall see.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Late Christmas Gift to You

Christmas morning dawned bright and clear
this year.
It was also in the mid to upper 40s.
Not a day suitable for snow.

This morning I awoke to find it snowing.
A late Christmas present, if you will.

As I know that I have a few readers
who are obsessed with the white stuff,
I thought that I would share this late gift.


 Fat, wet snow flakes fall.

 The garden gains winter interest.

 "My" barn is back in there, somewhere.

 Winter architecture.

Minx was determined to go outside,
so I finally let him.

Notice how he kept close to the house.
A few snowflakes fell on his head
and then he bolted back to the door.
Smart kitty.

Hope you enjoyed your brief glimpse of winter.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Eight Days of Ham 
Day One

Yes, it's that time of year once again.
And this year my dear husband received not one,
but two hams.

So we will be having two Eight Days of Ham marathons 
in the next few months.
Fortunately, we now have a larger refrigerator,
so we can store one of the hams until spring.

By then we might - maybe - feel like
looking at ham again.

We started off with the smaller of the two hams.
This is a ten pound ham. 
The second ham is fourteen to sixteen pounds.
Both are bone-in, fully-cooked hams.

I decided to use this one first as it was spiral-sliced.

It came with a granular spice mix.
The directions said to mix it with sugar.
First I brushed honey over the outside of the ham
and then sprinkled the mix over the top.

Cover with foil and bake in a 325 degree oven
for 45 minutes.
Uncover and continue baking for 15 minutes.

Well, that's according to the package directions.
Why do I keep listening to the directions?
The ham never warms up in that amount of time.
Silly me.

Note to self:
come back and read this blog post
before cooking the next ham.

Meanwhile, I had made homemade creamed corn
by melting one tablespoon bacon joos (fat) and 
one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet.  
Toss in two slices of fully cooked bacon that have been diced.
Add in two tablespoons of finely diced onion 
and saute for about five minutes over medium-high heat.
Add in about two cups frozen corn and heat through
before pouring in about two to three tablespoons
half and half or heavy cream.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for about two more minutes before
removing from heat.

Add a bit of water to some of the spice and sugar mix
and heat in the microwave to make a glaze for the ham.

And Christmas dinner is served.
Simple but filling.

Thus ends the First Day of Ham.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays

From the Foodie Home to Yours

May all your gifts be joyous.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pantry Staples - Cooking Oils

I now proudly present to you the second in this exciting series of essential cooking ingredients.

Yes, it's yet another riveting installation of pantry staples.

No.  Not those kind of staples.
Who writes these scripts?
Have you been typing on my computer again?

Cooking oils? Er, these are not cooking oils. 
Please, do not attempt to cook with these oils.

Next slide, please...

There, that's much more like it. 
Here we have unsalted butter, margarine and bacon joos 
(or bacon fat for those of you who don't watch Sandra Lee). 

Unsalted butter is the butter of choice.  This way you can control the amount of salt in the recipe.  You don't know how much salt the butter company has added.  But you know how much you put into the recipe.  Capice? 

Tub margarine is only used at our house for buttering bread.  And for the oddball recipe that insists that butter will not work in it.  Otherwise I only use butter in recipes.

Bacon joos (blame Sandra Lee for that moniker) is kept in the fridge until needed and then brought out and used in recipes that benefit from the richness of that bacon goodness.  Usually only a tablespoon or so is needed.  I use this for potatoes, pot roasts, macaroni and cheese, etc.

And here we have the rest of the cooking oils 
and fats that I keep on hand. 
Clockwise from the back left: 

Canola oil, use for shallow frying
Used vegetable oil for deep frying
Extra virgin olive oil, use for sauteing
Extra virgin olive oil that is kept out on the counter in an old green wine bottle that has been    fitted with a pour spout.  The dark green bottle is necessary to keep the light from breaking down the oil.
White truffle oil, use for finishing a dish.  This imparts a slightly earthy, mushroom flavor.
Sesame oil, used sparingly in Asian dishes.  This is a strongly flavored oil. Keep this in the fridge.
Olive oil in an aerosol spritzer 
Spray flour and oil in a can for the odd time I bake and need to grease and flour a pan.
Spray oil for coating pans
Mineral oil for sealing cutting boards*
Shortening, used in baking

*Okay, technically this is not a cooking oil.  But I do keep this in my kitchen, so I am including it.

In addition to these,
one can also find various flavored oils
in the store.

 Or you can make your own
at home.
For instance,
if you want herbed oil,
then heat extra virgin olive oil
over medium heat and add the herbs.
Heat for 3 to 5 minutes,
making sure that the herbs
have not browned.
Take off the heat and

Be very careful if you want to make
garlic oil, however,
as there is the threat of botulism involved.
Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Each of these cooking oils has its place in 
the kitchen.
Knowing when to use each in the kitchen
is half the battle and half the fun.

The one I use the most in my kitchen is 
the extra virgin olive oil.
I don't bother with having different grades
of olive oils on hand as I think that is 
a waste of my time and a waste of 
valuable kitchen space.
Instead, I buy the good stuff
at a warehouse club so I can save money.

If I need to deep fry, 
I use vegetable oil
as I have found that canola oil 
will never give you that lovely 
dark brown color that you want
from deep frying.

So there you have a brief tour into the
world of cooking oils.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lasagna Roll-Ups

Last week I was craving Italian food,
but not the usual spaghetti and meat sauce.
No, I wanted something a bit different.
I wanted lasagna roll-ups,
with homemade ricotta cheese.
Of course I did.

Now before you panic,
ricotta is very simple to make.
An added bonus is that it can be made in 
the afternoon and be ready for that evening's meal.
What could be better?

I started with Ina Garten's recipe, but I halved the amounts.

These are the amounts I used:
2 cups vitamin D milk (otherwise known as whole milk?)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Pour the milk and the heavy cream into a heavy stainless steel pot.  Add the kosher salt.  Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Watch carefully so that the mixture does not boil over.  Stir occasionally.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat.

Add the vinegar and stir.

The vinegar will curdle the mixture, forming curds and whey.*

*Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey...

You can see it happening here.

Strain the mixture through two layers of dampened cheesecloth in a strainer over a tall bowl.

Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 20 to 25 minutes.  The longer it sits, the thicker the ricotta will be.

The whey has drained out.  This will be tossed.

And now on to the homemade pasta sauce for the dish.
I am winging it this time. so this is my recipe.
The ingredients are:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 small carrot, finely grated
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 (15 ounce can) tomato sauce**
Fill 3/4 of that 15-ounce can full of dry red wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt and sugar to taste***

**My favorite is Red Gold, but I realize that this is a regional brand and may not be available in your area.  This brand has no added salt and no added preservatives.  Test drive different brands before you decide upon your favorite brand.  Then use it faithfully like a groupie.

***I am not the boss of you.  Only you know how much salt and sugar you like.  Plus, each brand and batch of tomato sauce will be different and require different amounts of salt and sugar.  Taste, taste, taste!

Now here is the interesting thing: if you find that you have gone too far one way and the sauce is too salty, just add more sugar.  Or if it is too sweet, then add more salt.  Sugar and salt are the perfect yin and yang.

That is the one fact that I forgot to mention in my salt post the last time.  So now you know: if you have inadvertently over-salted something; just add in some sugar to counteract the salt.  It works every time.

Heat a sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and onion and grated carrot to the sauce pan.  Saute for several minutes, or until the brown bits just begin to form on the bottom of the pan.  Stir every few minutes.  There is a huge difference between caramelization and burning!

Add the grated garlic, the oregano and the pepper.  Heat for one minute, stirring constantly.  Do not let the garlic burn.  Add the tomato sauce and the wine.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Add salt and sugar to taste.

And now on to the ricotta filling.  Here I have about one cup of homemade ricotta.  To that I add one egg, about 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, 1/2 cup grated mozzarella and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.  Mix well.

Like so.

Meanwhile, soak several lasagna sheets in a baking pan in boiling hot water.  I heated the water in the microwave before pouring over the sheets of pasta.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about ten minutes, or until the pasta is pliable.

Then, take the pasta out and spread out some of the cheese mixture on top.  Carefully roll up the pasta.

Lay the rolled pasta out in a baking dish that has first been coated with the tomato sauce.  Unlike this dish.  Note the lack of sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Now it's been fixed.  Ladle more pasta sauce over the top and grate Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheeses are nice and bubbly.

Meanwhile, cut a French baguette in half and then in half lengthwise.  Grate one clove of garlic and microwave that with four tablespoons  of unsalted butter.  Brush that over the top of the cut sides of the bread.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  If desired, grate Parmigiano Reggiano over the top before baking. 

Dinner is served.  Easy Peasy.  And sodalicious.