Boxing Day bake

Emeril’s Christmas morning breakfast bake

Happy Boxing Day!

Happy Boxing Day!

My most-excellent husband made this one for me, so I’m pretty much just reporting on the results and noting a few things for other awesome people out there who want to make this for their loved ones.  First, this is a great way to use up leftovers from a Christmas dinner.  Hence, this is a Boxing Day bake.  D used leftover ham in place of the Canadian bacon.  Leftover ham?  Who has leftover ham?!  We had to leave later that day for D’s parents’ house, so we needed to use things up.  Plus, the seasoning on the ham gave the casserole some extra flavor.  D also substituted two 10 ounce packages of spinach (thawed, drained, etc) for the fresh baby spinach.  I think we could have gotten away with just one package.  This was a lot of spinach.

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

It was good, but it still would have been good with less spinach.  As for other substitutions, instead of the 6 ounces of Gruyere, D used some leftover cheese from the charcuterie plate my brother and his girlfriend brought as an appetizer.  Had we not already bought bread for this recipe, we could have used the leftover toast from that appetizer as well!  This was very tasty and easy.  I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to get out of town and use up some leftovers.  In fact, we made a similar breakfast bake the day we left the vacation house this summer.  I used up some random veggies, eggs, milk, and deli cheese that way.  Funny how you can remember things without knowing that you’ve remembered them.

Remember how I mentioned that we had to leave that day?  Well, we took this on the road with us.  No, we didn’t sit in the car and eat casserole.  We took in down to D’s parents’ house where it was well-received also.  However, I must say that this dish isn’t very good after about a day or so.  The ham gets dry and tough.  On day three, I threw out most of a slice and discouraged his brother’s girlfriend from eating it.  I wouldn’t have done that on day one, that’s for sure.  Make this for a crowd, but don’t expect the crowd to eat it for days on end.

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Mini Ham and Cheese Quiche

Yet another recipe that is not online...

Yet another recipe that is not online…

So these mini quiches seemed like a lot of trouble to go to while I was making them.  Unless you are planning on using these as appetizers go ahead and just make one big quiche using this filling.

The unique part of this recipe is that rather than using a pie crust, you use slices of bread which you squash down with a rolling pin and cut into circles.  This was yet another point at which I though it was a lot of trouble, and wasted bread (and unnecessary calories!), for some little quiches that would be perfectly happy in a pie crust.

With all the irksome aspects of this recipe, the quiches were kind of addictive.  They were small enough to just keep popping them in your mouth… until you realize you have eaten nearly half a loaf of bread and start to loathe yourself a little bit.

Since once again, the recipe is not online, here you go:

Ingredients:

2 melted tablespoons of butter

12 slices white bread, flattened with a rolling pin and cut into little circles

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup diced ham

1/4 cup shredded white cheddar

1/4 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degs.  If you happen to have a mini muffin pan, make sure you cut the flattened pieces of bread into small circles.  I only have a normal muffin pan so my circles pretty much took up the entire piece of bread.

Brush the inside of each muffin cup with butter, fit a bread circle into each cup and shape it like a little bowl.  Then brush each piece of bread with butter.  Pop that into the oven and bake until the “crusts” are golden brown.  About 20 minutes.

Mix the remaining ingredients up in a bowl.  Once you have your nicely browned “crusts”, fill each cup with a little of the filling.  They really don’t hold much, even when you are using a full size muffin tin.  It does work out pretty well to have just enough filling for the prepared crusts.

Bake until the filling is set. About 15 minutes.

*adapted from Everyday Food, issue 47, November 2007, pg. 68.

Let them cool slightly, then enjoy!

Vermonts-giving

A Very New England Thanksgiving starring B and G

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

not pictured (or discussed): nightmare radicchio slaw

We’ve got a holiday treat for you, dear readers.  A joint post about a joint meal!  B and I cooked this one when I visited her in Vermont.  I did sort of demand a ham for my visit.  B, being awesome, was happy to oblige.

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Ham, spinach and cheese puff, and herbed mashed potatoes

Mmmm….ham…  I wish ham was a Thanksgiving thing for my family.  sigh.  I’ll let B describe how to make the ham.  I will have to add that we almost didn’t make the ham at all because the pilot went out in B and the bear’s oven, and we couldn’t figure out how to get it lit.  D figured it out via text message.  Good thing, too.  I googled how to cook ham in a slow cooker, but I wasn’t very optimistic…  Oh, B!  How do you make that ham of yours?

B here!  D is a handy guy!  G didn’t mention this, but in addition to not being thrilled about the crockpot ham options, our ham also did not fit into  the crockpot so we could have had to do some pre-cooked carving.  Let’s just say, disaster averted.  Thanks for the help, D!

So ham. Not being a beef eater, I have a thing for ham.  A big thing for ham.  It is one of the reasons I ended my days as a vegetarian.  The other reason was bacon… so same thing in the end.  The bear’s mother makes an awesome ham.  She uses an old school recipe from an old school cookbook called Yankee Magazine’s Favorite New England Recipes.  

Basically, you put the ham, cut side down,  in a pan lined with foil, making a little bowl around the base of the ham.  Then you pour in a cup or so of apple cider, or Coke, or ginger ale.  Then you cover it with another bit of foil and seal it together with the other piece of foil so the ham sort of steams in the sweet liquid.  I can usually fit the ham in my dutch oven and still fit the lid on so I often do that instead of the foil. Then you let it bake at 325 for hours, 20 minutes per lb of ham.  At the very end, you crank the heat up to 400 0r 450 and you glaze it.  To glaze you have to take the ham out and carefully score the skin in a diamond pattern so that glaze can stick.  Then mix up about a cup of brown sugar, a couple table spoons of dijon mustard and just a little splash of apple cider.  The glaze should be really thick, just wet to the point where the sugar is starting to dissolve a bit and stick together.  It’s really just a splash or two, maybe 2 -3 tablespoons tops.  Then drizzle it on and put the ham back in the oven to get awesome.

G also mentioned a gravy… Once the ham is out of the oven there will be a ton of liquid.  Some drippings that have come out of the ham and a lot of the cider left from cooking.  Additionally, some of the brown sugar and mustard from the glaze has gotten into it so the flavor gets pretty awesome.  I usually start the gravy in a brand new pan and just get the drippings into it however you know how.  I usually use a turkey baster.  Get some heat going underneath it, not too high.  And slowly whisk in several tablespoons of flour or corn starch.  It varies depending on how much drippings you have.  If you don’t whisk and slowly add the flour in you are going to get lumps.  You can also make a slurry if needed of your flour in some more cider instead, which should help with your lumping.  And there you have it.  Ham.  Ham gravy.  Good stuff.

On to the sides!

Spinach-and-Cheese puff

puff in B's lovely Le Cruset

puff in B’s lovely Le Cruset

G here.  The spinach puff was basically a way to make creamed spinach for a crowd.  It has nutmeg in it, which reminded us of how Rachael Ray always says that’s the secret to all of her spinach recipes.  Is it, Rach?  You tell us constantly.  The secret is out.  At this point, the secret would be to omit nutmeg.  Oh, and I have to recommend assigning a towel in your kitchen to be your “spinach towel.”  Otherwise, you can wind up with a random green-stained towel.  The first time I saw anyone on TV wring out spinach with a towel, it was a green towel.  That could not have been a coincidence.  Anything to add, Ms. B?

B here! I enjoyed the spinach puff, although I did sort of expect it to be a little bit more puff…  As in more soufflé like.  But it was a nice texture as is.  And it’s nice being able to eat spinach without a giant puddle of spinach liquid pooling on the plate around it.

Herbed mashed potatoes

maybe not the greatest picture.

maybe not the greatest picture.

G’s back.  The mashed potatoes were pretty much B’s gig.  I really liked the herbs.  I thought it made for brighter mashed potatoes.  The challenge with Thanksgiving foods is to cut through all the richness.  At some point gravy tastes like turkey tastes like stuffing tastes like potatoes.  If you don’t mix it up a little, it’s so rich it’s bland.  The herbs play that role here.  I loved these potatoes.  How was it to cook them, B?

B again.  It was like cooking… mashed potatoes.  Since we had the spinach puff on our table we opted to go with milk rather than half and half to cut the richness of the meal just a little bit.  Don’t worry, I still used the butter!  Also, since we had the scallions for the radicchio slaw… we used those instead of chives.  These taters were good!  Even better when smothered in gravy!

G again.  Well, we don’t need to belabor the point about how nasty the radicchio slaw was.  That’s been handled elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that that cider gravy will cover all manner of sins.

Oh, and the wine was a 2011 Cakebreads Chardonnay.  Cakebreads is hard to find in the Midwest.  This was not only available, it was only $40!  I think D and I paid double that the last time we bought a bottle.  Ah, Vermont.

Finally, there was dessert.  Having come all the way to the ancestral homeland of Ben and Jerry’s, I had to indulge.  So I tried many, many flavors.  My favorite flavor is Coffee Caramel Buzz (formerly known as Bonaroo Buzz), but my favorite combo is Phish Food and Peanut Brittle.  Since returning to Chicago, I’ve learned that you can only get one of those three, Phish Food, in town.  Sigh.  Guess I’d better go back to Vermont…  Will you have me, B?

B says… Maybe… I suppose I could pencil you in for 2014… 🙂

Sweet and salty sandwich

Grilled ham and cheese with pears

Plus, it pairs nicely with carrots...see what I did there?

Plus, it pairs nicely with carrots…see what I did there?

If you like things that are sweet and salty, then you’ll love this sandwich.  If you like fruit and cheese paired together, you’ll love this sandwich.  If you like ham, you’ll love this sandwich.  If you’re willing to substitute swiss cheese for gruyere, you’ll feel like a cheapskate, but you’ll still love this sandwich.

It’s quick and easy, too.  The hardest part is waiting for the pears to get ripe enough.  What is it about pears and taking too long to ripen!  sheesh…

And with that, we bid October 2003 adieu.  It’s been real.  Hello November 2007!!!

In which G flashes back to her pregnancy

Chef’s Salad

Those blobs are dressing

Those blobs are dressing

I was terribly swollen toward the end of my pregnancy.  My face was pretty puffy.  I couldn’t wear my rings or watch.  But the real problem was my legs.  It got worse over time, but it ended where there wasn’t much of a taper between my lower thigh and my toes.  These weren’t even cankles.  They were thankles.  There was no ankle bone to speak of and a noticeable ridge just before my toes.  I wore D’s shoes to the hospital.  They were a man’s size 9.  My foot is normally a 7.

Where is she going with this?

The amount of salt that was in this lunch meat and cheese-based salad made my legs swell up in a way I haven’t experienced since my pregnancy.  I got that familiar tightness in the skin.  I had to keep my feet elevated.  I even went to the doctor because I thought there might be something seriously wrong with me.  There wasn’t.  Just way too much salt.  (shout out to D’s family: I managed to move the ongoing salt discussion to the internet!)  I think this recipe would be best with leftover home-cooked turkey and leftover home-cooked ham instead of buying chunks from the deli.  There’s nothing you can do about the salt in the swiss cheese or the bacon.  On that note, I didn’t even add the bacon!  I could have exploded from water retention if I added the bacon.

The dressing is, however, creamy and lovely without being too fatty.  It uses reduced fat sour cream and light mayonnaise.

However….I think this recipe (which I found while trying to find a link to the recipe from this issue) looks vastly better!  This one has such a better ingredients list, and, really, avocado is better than no avocado.  I mean, I added the tomato to this salad myself.  It was originally just bacon, lettuce, ham, turkey, cheese, and some green onion.  Lame.  Plus, this other recipe I found uses buttermilk and cider vinegar, which probably winds up tasting much more interesting than sour cream, mayo, and lemon juice.

So spare yourself a glimpse into the life of a pregnant woman in her third trimester and make your chef’s salad using home-cooked meat, where possible, and try this more-interesting recipe instead.

It’s a potato

Baked Potato Bar

G here, kicking off the potato post.  The post-tato!

Peer and Pedro Potato or Sven and Salvador Spud

Peer and Pedro Potato or Sven and Salvador Spud

I took the Scandinavian toppings and the Tex Mex toppings.  The Scandinavian one had smoked salmon, sour cream, and chopped green onion.  It was great.  Smoked salmon is delicious and sour cream is a natural choice for a baked potato.  The Tex Mex one has black beans (which are dry), goat cheese (which is pretty dry), and salsa.  The salsa isn’t juicy enough to make up for the rest of it.  It was quite dry.  I wound up scraping all of the stuff off of it, adding butter and sour cream, and adding the toppings back.  There’s really not much to report here.  If I was going to have smoked salmon, I’d want it on a bagel.

G out.

B here.

I don’t have fancy names for my spuds, but if I did, this one would be Giovanni.

Not my best photo here...

Not my best photo here…

This one consisted of ricotta, spinach and pepperoni.  Instead of using frozen spinach as called for, I sautéed up some fresh baby spinach with garlic, because obviously any kind of spud that can call itself Italian needs some garlic.  I also chose to mix my spinach in with my ricotta like you would for a lasagna filling.  And I used turkey pepperoni, which may have been a mistake.  It was fine really, but I think it would have been tastier with the real thing.  I also think a small amount of marinara would have gone a long way here.  Like G’s Mexican potato, it was a bit dry.  Overall, the flavor was pretty enjoyable, but maybe not to the point I would think to make it again.

And what the heck, I may as well follow through with this naming thing to the end of the post. So here is Jake Spud, the All-American Quarterback potato.

IMG_0690

This one was really classic!  Melted cheddar, peas and cubes of a really delicious ham I had made earlier in the week.  This is the one that reminded me of dinner as a kid.  The melted cheese sort of helped keep the peas in place, but not enough so you didn’t still have to chase a few around the plate.  The obvious solution: MORE CHEESE! I think I am far more likely to make this one again  than the Italian one.  I could see it being a really satisfying dinner on a night when the Bear I live with is at a work function (this happens a lot).