Cooking

Dehydrating Vegetables

Dehydrated Vegetables

Do you ever buy a bag of potatoes, only to toss half of them away because they got mushy? Maybe your onions starting sprouting well before you could go through the whole bag? I hate when that happens. An easy solution could be to dehydrate them.

I have dehydrating on my mind this week. I found myself with some extra produce and I didn’t want it to go to waste. I also started a challenge to not spend any money on food for the next month. That made not wasting food more important than ever.

I started by dehydrating 2 large stalks of celery. I just washed them well, chopped them up and placed them on the dehydrator trays. They filled my dehydrator, but once dried, I had little more than a cup. I case you were wondering- an entire bunch of celery is a stalk- one individual piece of celery is called a rib. I can use my celery is soups, sauces and stews. I can also powder it up and use it in salad dressings, marinades, rubs and dips.

After dehydrating celery, I decided to dry some carrots. Unlike the celery, carrots needed to be blanched before dehydrating. That helps the carrots to hold their color better and gives you a better finished product. I peeled and sliced the carrots. Then I steamed them for about 6 minutes. Once cool enough to handle I placed the carrots in the dehydrator. Left them in over night and woke up to crispy carrot slices. These can also be added to soups, when making stock, stews, etc.

I preserve a lot of food by dehydrating it. Once you get over the initial investment in a dehydrator, the cost to dry food and to store dried food is pretty minimal. I got a very nice dehydrator for $30. Not a big investment at all.

Dried fruits are probably the most common home dried foods. Apples, grapes, pineapple, strawberries and cherries are among my favorites. But the dried vegetables are so useful and versatile, I enjoy them as much as dried fruits. I think you will, too.

Drying Vegetables

Most vegetables should be dried at the lower range if you have an adjustable thermometer on your dehydrator-around 125-degrees. Important to know with vegetables, is that some of them need to be blanched first. Blanching is just steaming the vegetables for a few minutes and draining, if needed, before drying. Blanching kills certain enzymes, prevents browning and assures a better end product.

Vegetables that need blanching include green beans, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, greens, winter squash, corn and beets; this is not a complete list, but a good start.

Vegetables that do not require blanching include onions, celery, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, cucumbers and garlic and also herbs.

Broccoli and cauliflower do not dehydrate well.

Tomatoes are probably the best vegetable to dry for the home gardener and cook. They are so easy to make and so tasty. Just cut plum tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Lightly spray the trays with non-stick spray and place the tomatoes cut side up for the first 12 hours. Turn them over after that until they are dried. I like them pretty crispy, so I dry them thoroughly. Still, just to be safe, I keep them in the freezer to keep their color and flavor longer. After a year tomatoes will darken if stored at room temperature. Larger tomatoes can also be dried. Just cut them in slices and squeeze out the seeds. Cherry tomatoes are just cut in half and squeezed to get out the seeds. With small cherry tomatoes I just make a cut large enough to get out the seeds and leave them whole.

How do you use them?

Veggie chips-zucchini and cucumber slices can be used instead of chips in dip.

Powders- Tomatoes, celery, onion, pumpkin and garlic can all be powdered and used to flavor soups, stews sauces, cheeses, dips and more. I add powdered veggies to pasta dough. Mushroom powder is one of my favorite ingredients.

Reconstituted as fresh- potatoes in casseroles are wonderful. Corn, onions and carrots all re-hydrate exceptionally well.

Dips- Peppers, onion and celery all add great flavor.

To thicken sauces- Shredded zucchini, peppers, onions, celery and tomatoes all work well this way. If you want a lower carb or gluten free alternative to thicken a sauce, dehydrated veggies, especially in powder form, work great.

Soups and Stews- almost any dried vegetable is used this way. Easy to just let them simmer together until tender and all their flavors will enrich your stock

Chowders- Corn and potatoes are great in these dishes

Dried vegetables are best stored in a cool, dry place- I often freeze or refrigerate them for best shelf life.

Vegetables in photo: Starting left with bright green and going clockwise: Celery, potatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. In the center- mixed sweet peppers.

Pantry Challenge-Inventory and Expiration Dates

Garbanzo Beans

Part of the challenge of living off of just the food you already have- is knowing what food you actually have. I think I have a pretty good idea already. I inventory my pantry every year. I also have a freezer that needs to be manually defrosted a couple of times a year. That really helps me to stay on top of what I have and what I don’t have.

Even then, I sometimes get a surprise or two. I went through my pantry yesterday to do an inventory. I am sure there was a reason I bought garbanzo bean/fava bean flour. I don’t recall it at the moment, but there it was in my cupboard. It has now been moved to the front and will be used in some dish in the near future. Or perhaps a friend who uses it will speak up and take it off my hands.

I also started keeping “like” things together in my pantry. Canned fruits and jams together, condiments and olives in another area. Baking supplies all roughly in the same area. Helps to find things, but also to keep an eye on what you have plenty of, and what you need.

Expiration Dates

When you do an inventory, be sure to look at expiration dates. Move the older food to the front of the cupboard, so it will be used first. Expiration dates on canned goods are not the indicator of whether the food is still OK to eat. It will just let you know which can of black beans is older. A lot of factors will determine if the food is still safe.

First, the expiration dates on canned goods are kind of meaningless. Canned goods last for years and years (if properly stored). Manufacturers are required to put dates on canned goods- so they do. They use dates that are well before when the food might go bad.

Second, how the cans were stored is a much bigger factor in whether the food inside is still safe to eat. Cans stored in a damp basement, or a too hot garage are not going to last as long as canned goods stored in a cool, dry place. Rust on the outside of a can is a warning sign that the can has not been properly stored or is too old. Obviously, bulging cans should be disposed of.

Third, the food may still be safe to eat, but quality goes down over time. Think of expiration dates on cans, not so much as a date for when the food is unsafe, but a time when the food may start to lose some of its flavor and color. You can safely eat the can of peaches that “expired” six months ago, but they would be a little better looking if eaten sooner.

Taking Stock

Last year I had to replace my refrigerator. I cleaned out both the fridge the freezer while waiting for my new fridge to arrive. When I was cleaning out my freezer, I found a lot of ginger root. A whole lot of ginger root. Seems about every time I would go to the Asian grocery store, I bought more. Don’t get me wrong. I love ginger and use it frequently. But this was well over a pound of ginger. I haven’t bought any ginger all year- and I have used up quite a bit of my stash.

It’s a good idea to take stock, every now and then. Do an inventory of what is in your cupboards and in the freezer and fridge. It will help to reduce food waste in the long run. Use what you can, and donate what you won’t. If some things need to get tossed, then toss them. I hate food waste, but don’t want anyone to get sick from eating food that has been around too long.

My goal, as I go on the adventure to skip the grocery store for a month (or longer?) is to learn something more about how to reduce food waste. Maybe a better way to keep on top of the foods I have. Better ways to keep produce fresh, easier ways to keep an eye on the inventory. I will also need to get creative the longer the challenge continues.

More to come. Thanks for all the feedback on social media yesterday. This is going to be a lot of fun.

The Pantry Challenge

Canned tomatoes

Do you ever think about how long you could go without buying more groceries? What would you have after a few days, weeks? After talking about it with a few friends, I have decided to take the challenge. For the month of January I will not be going to the store. I will use what I have here and make it work.

I have a pretty well- stocked pantry, so I don’t think it will be a problem, but I know as the month goes on, it will be trickier. Fresh fruits and veggies are the biggest issue, but I should be able to work with what I have frozen, dehydrated and what I canned.

So why do this? Partly to see how prepared I would be in case of an emergency. If something happened, could I get by, and for how long?

Part of it, too, is about food waste. I know I buy things, put them in the freezer or pantry, and forget about them. I think most people do that sometimes.  Estimates are that American families throw out between $1,000 and $3,000 worth of food annually. Anything to bring that number down is a good thing, right?

This is a perfect time of year for me to do an inventory. I have some time off before I go back to teaching cooking classes. I have time to really see what I have and where I am lacking.  

The Inventory

I will pull out all the foods in my pantry, to see what I have to work with. I will also look at expiration dates. While canned goods last a long time past those dates, quality starts to suffer over time. I will set aside anything that is getting close to its expiration date, and try to use it in something. It’s a good idea for all of us to do this, at least once a year.    

The inventory will also expand to the freezer and fridge. In the next few days, I will defrost the freezer to see what I have. I will admit to having a better idea of what is in the pantry, than what I have in the freezer. I tend to toss all sorts of stuff in the freezer, always with a plan to use it later. I am pretty good about labeling, but I always come across at least a few mystery items.

My mother was great about her spare freezer. She kept a notebook on top of it, and would mark down when she froze something, and when she took something out. I like to think I will do the same after I do my inventory, but we’ll have to see how that works out. I start out good in the beginning, but get sloppy after time. My goal is to at least get an accurate accounting of what I have.

So what rules have I set up for myself? Pretty simple- I won’t buy food for a month.  The only time I would buy anything is if I need something for a cooking class. That is for work, so I feel that is not cheating. I also want to up the ante, so to speak, by having people over at least once a week. That will get more interesting as the month progresses.

I will be posting updates as the month goes on. I might even extend the no-shopping challenge into February, but I will wait a while before deciding that. I hope you will enjoy reading about this adventure. Maybe join me on it? Or perhaps, at the least, be a dinner guest at some point.   

Happy New Year!!

Recipes for Leftover Ham

Ham and Swiss Calzone

Of course, ham makes a great sandwich, but there are a lot more things you can do with it.

If you enjoyed a ham over the holidays, you may find yourself with leftovers. Here are some recipes for all that ham.

Ham is versatile and can be used in all sorts of dishes. Added to soups, stir fry, breads, salads and omelets, it adds a wonderful smoky flavor to every dish. And of course, the ham bone can flavor a whole pot of soup.

So here are some recipes you might want to try.

Ham and Swiss  Calzones

4 c. flour

2 c. rye flour

2 T. sugar

2 t. salt

2 packages quick-rising yeast

2⅓ c. hot water

2 T. oil

2 lb. thin sliced ham- more or less

1 lb.  sliced Swiss cheese

Thousand island dressing- recipe follows

1 egg , beaten

Set aside 2 cups of the all-purpose flour. Combine remaining flour with the other dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in water and oil and gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover dough and let rest 20 minutes. Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll one piece into a 8 -inch circle. In the middle of the dough place 1 1/2  ounces of the Swiss cheese, a spoonful of the dressing  and 2-3 ounces of the ham. Brush the edge of the dough with water. Fold over the dough in half and press the edges to seal. Brush the edge again with water and roll the edge over again. It will give you a prettier look and seal the calzone better. Repeat with remaining dough and fillings. Place calzones on greased baking sheets- or on a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper liner. You will end up with 12 calzones in all. Only put 4 on one baking sheet. Cover and let rest 15 minutes while preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Before placing calzones in the oven brush with beaten egg and make a few slashes with a knife to help steam to escape while baking. I put 2 baking sheets in the oven at the same time and switch them halfway through baking. Bake in a preheated 400-degree for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. If baking 2 at once switch them after 10 minutes or so. Cool slightly before eating. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers. Makes 12.

If you want to use regular yeast use warm, rather than hot water. Also, allow a little more time for the dough to rise the first time, about 40 minutes. Everything else will work the same.

Thousand Island Dressing

Combine equal parts of ketchup, mayo and sweet pickle relish. You likely need at least a cup for this recipe. I made extra so the sandwiches could be dipped in extra dressing, if desired.

Tortellini and Ham Salad

¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. red wine vinegar
1 t. fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. sugar, optional
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
12 oz. mushroom or cheese tortellini, cooked
1½ c. diced ham or turkey ham
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 c. sauteed, sliced mushrooms, cooled
4 green onions, chopped

Parmesan cheese, optional

Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl and whisk to blend well. Add next 5 ingredients and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side. Serves 4.

Corn and Ham Saute

1 T. oil

1 small onion, diced

1 c. diced ham

4 c. corn- fresh or frozen

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In pan cook onion in oil until tender. Add the ham and cook a few minutes longer. Add corn and continue cooking until corn is heated through. Season to taste and serve. Serves 3-4.

Ham and Swiss Bread Florentine

3 ¼ c. flour

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1 package quick-rising yeast

1 c. hot water

1 T. oil

¼ c. Dijon mustard

6-8 oz. sliced ham

4 oz. sliced Swiss cheese

1 large bunch fresh spinach, rinsed and steamed a few minutes to wilt, drained well.

Set aside 1 cup of the flour. Combine remaining flour with the other dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in water and oil and gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Roll dough into a rectangle about 16 x 8. Spread mustard down center middle of dough. Top with meat slices, cheese and spinach. Cut one-inch wide strips of dough from filling to edge on both sides. It will sort of look like fringe. Alternating sides, fold strips up and over the filling at an angle. Carefully lift loaf onto greased baking sheet and place at an angle. Cover with a towel and place sheet on top of a roasting pan half-filled with simmering water for 15 minutes. Bake in a preheated 400-degree for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly before slicing. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

Note: The variations for this bread are almost endless. Some favorite combinations are Corned beef and Swiss with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing., roast beef and cheddar, chicken, broccoli and cheese, Spinach with ricotta or feta and onions, pizza, assorted fillings. You get the idea. Use your imagination and have fun. Just be careful not to overfill, or the bread will be hard to move, use fillings that aren’t too runny and always use cold fillings.

If you want to use regular yeast use warm, rather than hot water. Also, don’t let dough rise over boiling water. After kneading cover dough and let rise 45 minutes. Punch down and assemble as in original recipe. Cover with a towel and let rise until dough looks puffy, about 40 minutes. Bake as directed above. These breads can also be frozen.

Ham and Corn Chowder

 I was looking for a quick soup for dinner the other night. Inspiration hit when I came across some corn in the freezer. I had blanched and frozen it during the summer at the peak of  corn season. I had a little ham in the fridge I was wanting to use up and the pairing was a natural. I started by sauteing an onion in a little butter. Once the onion was tender I added a peeled and diced potato, the corn, the diced ham and about 2 or 3  cups of chicken stock. I covered the soup and let it simmer until the potato was tender, about 15 minutes. I then took 4 tablespoons of flour and put it in a jar. I added a cup of milk, put on the lid and shook it until the flour was well mixed in. I poured the flour mixture into the pot and brought the mixture up to a gentle boil. I stirred it as it thickened up. I cooked it for a few minutes and adjusted the seasonings adding salt, fresh ground pepper and a dash of hot sauce. I also added some chopped parsley. The end result was a  wonderful chowder that took almost no time at all. Sometimes the best dishes come from just looking at what we already have. In this case some frozen veggies and a bit of leftover ham.

Ham and Veggie Stir Fry

2 T. oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced thinly

1 c. sliced cabbage

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

1 sweet red pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips

2 c. sliced bok choy

1 1/2 c. cubed cooked ham

2 green onions, trimmed and sliced

1/2 c. whole almonds

fresh grated ginger- or powdered, to taste

soy sauce to taste

dash of hot sauce

Heat oil in wok or skillet and cook onion and carrots for 3 minutes. Add cabbage add garlic and stir fry 2-3 minutes longer. Toss in the pepper and bok choy and cook 3 more minutes. Add ham, green onions and almonds along with seasonings and soy sauce and cook until ham is heated through. Serve over hot cooked rice or pasta. Serves 3-4.

Ham with Brussels Sprouts

I started by trimming the Brussels sprouts and cutting small ones in half. I quartered the larger ones. I heated a little butter in a skillet and added 3 cups of prepared Brussels sprouts. I cooked them until they were getting a little color on them. I think their flavor is enhanced by sauteing. I then added 1 1/2 cups of diced cooked ham and 1/2  cup of water. The water helps steam the sprouts so they are tender. I like Brussels sprouts tender. You can skip the water, if you like. The water evaporates quickly and as soon as the ham starts to brown a little the dish was pretty much done. I added a little freshly ground pepper- but it didn’t need salt. I also served it with fresh grated Romano cheese. You could serve it as is or toss in some cooked pasta with the ham.  Simple and really good. You might even get a Brussels sprout hater to give this one a try.

Swedish Yellow Split Pea Soup

1 lb. yellow split peas, rinsed

2 qts. Boiling water or stock

1 bay leaf

2 c. chopped onion

2 c. sliced carrots

1 tsp. dried marjoram

1/4 t. ginger

dash nutmeg

1/2 t. pepper

1 T. salt, or to taste

2 cups diced ham

Note: you can use 1 teaspoon liquid smoke if omitting meat.

Combine peas, boiling water or stock and bay leaf and simmer, covered, about an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Add remaining ingredients, except diced meat and salt, and cook, covered, over low heat for about 30 minutes. Add meat and cook 1 hour more, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Serve with a pumpernickel bread. Freezes well. Serves 6-8.

Ham and Cheese Strata

12 slices bread, crusts removed if desired – I used rye
6 slices cheese – I used Swiss
1/4 c. diced green onions
1/2 c. chopped sweet pepper
2 c. diced cooked ham or turkey ham
3 eggs
2 c. milk
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Place six slices of bread on bottom of 2-quart oblong casserole. Top each slice of bread with a slice of cheese. Top cheese with the onions, peppers and ham. Top with remaining bread and cut each “sandwich” in half diagonally. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over sandwiches. Cover dish and let stand several hours or overnight in the fridge. Bake uncovered in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed and set. Serves 6.

Ham and Swiss Quiche

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

1½ c. shredded Swiss or Gruyere Cheese

4 t. flour

1 c. diced cooked ham or turkey ham

3 eggs

1 c. milk or half-half or evaporated milk

2 T. fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ t. salt

¼ t. dry mustard

Dash of hot sauce

Toss cheese with flour in a bowl and place in pie crust. Sprinkle the ham over the cheese and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl beating well to combine. Pour over the ham and cheese mixture and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn down heat to 350-degrees and bake until knife inserted off-center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Makes 1

Note: This quiche freezes well. After adding the fillings just wrap in heavy foil and freeze solid until ready to bake. When ready to bake unwrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake as with the fresh version, but add another 10-15 minutes to the baking time. If you don’t want to freeze the pie pan, you can line the pie pan with foil before you add the crust. Once it is frozen you can remove the frozen quiche from the pie pan and wrap, returning to freezer. When ready to use unwrap and put the quiche back in the pie pan before baking. You can also use a foil pie pan.

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

1½ c. shredded cheese – I used Havarti

4 t. flour

1½ c. diced cooked ham

12 oz. asparagus, trimmed, cut in ½- inch pieces and steamed 3 minutes

4 eggs

1 c. milk or half and half

2 T. fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ t. salt

1T. Dijon mustard

1 t.  hot sauce

Toss cheese with flour in a bowl and place in pie crust. Sprinkle the ham and asparagus over the cheese and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl beating well to combine. Pour over the ham and asparagus mixture and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn down heat to 350-degrees and bake until knife inserted off-center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Makes 1.

Note: This quiche freezes well. After adding the fillings just wrap in heavy foil and freeze solid until ready to bake. When ready to bake unwrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake as with the fresh version, but add another 10-15 minutes to the baking time. If you don’t want to freeze the pie pan, you can line the pie pan with foil before you add the crust. Once it is frozen you can remove the frozen quiche from the pie pan and wrap, returning to freezer. When ready to use unwrap and put the quiche back in the pie pan before baking. Or, if you are planning on freezing it, you can use a foil pie pan.

Cabbage and Noodles

Cabbage and Noodles

Cabbage and noodles is not a glamorous dish and it never will be. That’s fine with me. It is a dish that will always remind me of my childhood.

My Mother would make cabbage and noodles as a side dish, at least a couple of times a month. I loved it. I think of her every time I make it. It is, for me, a favorite comfort food.

One reason it tasted so good, is that Mom took the time to caramelize the onions and to let the cabbage brown some, too. That added another layer of flavor to the dish. Simple and very tasty.

A lot of people I know will be having pork for New Year’s Day. That pork is often served with sauerkraut. I like sauerkraut, but I like cabbage and noodles even more.

I used green cabbage this time, but you can use red cabbage, or a combination. Cabbage and noodles can be a side dish or even a main dish. You can play around with adding other ingredients. Sometimes I add cooked bacon, or leftover ham.

So here is my Mom’s recipe for cabbage and noodles.

Happy New Year to all.

Cabbage and Noodles

1 onion, chopped
Oil
4-6 cups chopped cabbage
4 c. cooked noodles
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh or frozen chopped parsley
Heat oil in skillet and cook onion until wilted and a little brown. Add cabbage and stir fry until cabbage in tender and starts to turn a little brown. Stir in noodles and cook until heated through. Season to taste and toss in parsley. Serves 4-6.

New Year’s Brunch

Amaretto Pear Blintz with Candied Almonds

You can enjoy brunch all year long, but I really like brunches for the holidays. If you want to plan a special brunch for New Year’s Day- or any day- I’ve assembled some of my favorite brunch recipes.

I like to include both sweet and savory dishes. I also have coffee, tea and juices for drinking. Mimosas are always a good idea, too.

Amaretto Pear Blintzes with Candied Almonds

Blintzes:

4 (8-inch) flour tortillas, I used whole wheat

2 oz. milk

2 T. butter

Filling:

4 pears, peeled, cored and sliced

½ c. brown sugar

2 T. butter

2 T. Amaretto

1 t. cinnamon

1 t. vanilla

Pinch of salt

Almonds:

¾ c. sliced almonds

½ c. sugar

¼ c. water

½ t. cinnamon

Place tortillas in shallow dish and drizzle the milk over them. Try to get some milk on each of the tortillas to soften them. While the tortillas are softening, prepare the filling. In medium skillet, combine pears with the rest of the filling ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Set aside. Combine almonds with the sugar, water and cinnamon in medium skillet. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Cook until liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Pour almonds onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet or foil. Spread out and allow nuts to cool.

Place butter in skillet and start to heat up the pan. While pan is heating, divide pear filling among the 4 tortillas. Place filling along center of tortilla and fold up edges over, to cover the filling. Heat the tortillas, seam side down, in the pan until golden, turning to toast evenly on both sides. Remove from pan and place on serving plate. Top with some of the candied almonds. Serves 4.

 Steak and Pepper Omelet

oil

1 small onion, sliced

1 small red pepper, seeded and sliced

1 c. cubed cooked steak

3-4 eggs

2 oz. cheese- cut in small pieces or shredded*

salt and pepper to taste

dash hot pepper sauce

Heat oil in skillet and cook onion until golden. Add a little salt to the onions while they are cooking. Add pepper and cook until tender-crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat same pan adding more oil, if needed. Beat eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper and hot sauce to your taste. Pour eggs into hot skillet and swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Using a spatula lift eggs a little and tip pan to allow uncooked egg to get to surface of the pan. Once omelet is almost set place some of the pepper mixture on one half. Top with the steak and cheese. Using a spatula gently fold the empty half of the omelet over the fillings. Allow to cook one more minute and slide onto a serving plate.  Top with the remaining pepper mixture. Serves 2.

* I used Pepper Jack cheese because that is what I happened to have. Use any cheese you like.

Fresh Blackberry Scones

 2 c. flour

1/3 c. sugar

1 T. baking powder

¾ t.  salt

6 T. chilled butter

2 c. blackberries, fresh preferred, but you could use frozen

1 t. orange zest

2 large eggs

1/3 c. heavy cream or half and half

Mix dry ingredients together in bowl and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Toss in berries and zest. Beat together eggs and cream and stir into flour mixture. Mix very gently to avoid bruising berries. Use 1/2 cup ice cream scoop to scoop batter onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a little extra sugar, if you like. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 22-24 minutes. Makes 10-12.

Blueberry Sweet Rolls

3-3 1/2 c. bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/3 c. evaporated milk
6 T. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 egg
6 T. butter, melted

1/2 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. grated lemon or orange peel
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

In bowl combine 1 1/2 c. of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt. Heat together the milk and 2T. of the butter until warm and add to the flour mixture, beating 2 minutes. Add egg and beat 2 minutes longer. By hand stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed until dough becomes moderately stiff. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat and cover. Allow to double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down, cover, and let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 14×8 inch rectangle. Brush dough with the melted butter. Combine the remaining sugar, peel and cinnamon and sprinkle over the dough. Top with the blueberries and press the berries into the dough. Starting at the long side roll up dough jelly roll fashion and seal edge by pinching. Repeat with second roll. Cut each roll into 12 slices and place 12 rolls in greased 9 inch round pans. Cover pans and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. While rolls are warm, you can top with a powder sugar glaze, if desired. Makes 24.

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

1½ c. shredded cheese – I used Havarti

4 t. flour

1½ c. diced cooked ham

12 oz. asparagus, trimmed, cut in ½- inch pieces and steamed 3 minutes

4 eggs

1 c. milk or half and half

2 T. fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ t. salt

1T. Dijon mustard

1 t.  hot sauce

Toss cheese with flour in a bowl and place in pie crust. Sprinkle the ham and asparagus over the cheese and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl beating well to combine. Pour over the ham and asparagus mixture and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn down heat to 350-degrees and bake until knife inserted off-center comes out clean, about 30 minutes more. Makes 1.

Note: This quiche freezes well. After adding the fillings just wrap in heavy foil and freeze solid until ready to bake. When ready to bake unwrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake as with the fresh version, but add another 10-15 minutes to the baking time. If you don’t want to freeze the pie pan, you can line the pie pan with foil before you add the crust. Once it is frozen you can remove the frozen quiche from the pie pan and wrap, returning to freezer. When ready to use unwrap and put the quiche back in the pie pan before baking. Or, if you are planning on freezing it, you can use a foil pie pan.

Scotch Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs, well chilled

1 pound breakfast sausage

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup fine bread crumbs

Vegetable oil for frying

Peel eggs and set aside. Divide sausage into 6 portions. Roll each egg in flour and with hands press a portion of the sausage around each egg. If the sausage sticks to your hands, dip your hands in a little water to make pressing the sausage easier. Dip sausage-wrapped eggs into beaten eggs and roll in bread crumbs. Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees.  Cook each egg in oil about 4-5 minutes or until sausage is cooked and browned. Drain on paper toweling. Serve warm. Makes 6.

Reuben Strata

12 slices rye bread

6 slices Swiss cheese

12 oz. thinned sliced corned beef- or 2 cups chopped corned beef

1 c. sauerkraut, squeezed dry

½ c. Thousand Island dressing*

3 eggs

2 c. milk

½ t. salt

½ t. hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place six slices of bread on bottom of the dish. You might have to trim the bread to fit. Top each slice of bread with a slice of cheese. Top cheese with the corned beef and sauerkraut. You can use a little more or less sauerkraut, depending on your taste.  Spoon about a tablespoon of the dressing over each “sandwich”. Top with remaining six slices of bread, trimmed to fit pan, if needed. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over sandwiches. Cover dish and let stand in the fridge, several hours or overnight. Bake, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until puffed and set. Let sit a few minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Orange and Oatmeal Scones

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup very cold, unsalted butter – cut into chunks
1 egg
1/2 cup orange juice
2 t. grated orange peel
1 cup raisins – plumped and well dried
Glaze
milk, sugar, orange zest

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (double two sheets if you have them – one inside the other). Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, place flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and mix together. Cut or rub in butter to make a mealy mixture. Stir in egg and orange juice. Add orange peel and raisins. Mix to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a few minutes. Roll or pat out into a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a serrated cookie cutter cut into disks or rounds. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar and orange zest. Bake until nicely browned – about 14 minutes. Makes about 24.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Belgian Waffles

2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
2 eggs, separated
1-1/2 cups half and half- or milk
1 cup butter, melted
2 t. vanilla extract

Sliced fresh strawberries, powdered sugar or syrup

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, lightly beat egg yolks. Add milk, butter and vanilla; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until combined. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown. Serve with strawberries, powdered sugar or syrup. Yield: 10 waffles (about 4-1/2 inches).

Stuffed French Toast

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 t. vanilla

1/2 c. chopped nuts

1 16-oz. loaf French bread

4 eggs

1 c. whipping cream or half and half

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Mix together cream cheese, vanilla and nuts. Set aside. Cut bread into 10-12 1 1/2 inch slices. Cut pocket in each slice and fill with 1 1/2 T. filling. Combine eggs and whipping cream with remaining vanilla and nutmeg. Use tongs to dip the bread, taking care not to squeeze out the filling. Cook toast on lightly greased griddle until browned on both sides.  Keep toast warm in oven until ready to serve. Serve with maple syrup, warmed preserves or powdered sugar. Makes 10-12 slices.

Aunt Josie’s Cabbage Soup

Aunt Josie’s Cabbage Soup

This might be one of my favorite soups. So much flavor and easy to make, too.  It warms you up on even the coldest days.

The soup is a meal all on its own, or it can be served with crusty bread. Loaded with an assortment of veggies, the flavor is enhanced by the addition of smoked sausage. It would be a nice soup to make for New Year’s Day.

The recipe came to me through my Mother, who got it from my Aunt Josie. While I normally make it in a soup pot, it can be make in a crock pot- after the onions and sausage have been browned a little.

Ready in no time, it is a great solution when you want homemade soup but don’t have a lot of time.

Aunt Josie’s Cabbage Soup

1 T. oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 ½ lbs. Cooked smoked sausage, sliced or diced, I use turkey sausage
3 carrots, peeled and cubed
8 cups coarsely chopped cabbage, a small head
1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1 c. tomato sauce
2 qts. Water
1-t. salt or paste-type soup base
pepper to taste
3 medium potatoes, cubed
2 T. oil
1/3 c. flour
1 t. paprika

Sauté onion in oil until browned. Add garlic and sausage and cook until sausage is browned. Add vegetables, sauce water and seasonings and cook, covered 15 minutes. Add potatoes and cook, covered, 15 minutes more. In bowl combine oil, flour and paprika and stir until smooth. Ladle some hot soup into flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Repeat a few more times, until flour forms a paste. Pour this mixture into soup and simmer 2 minutes, until thickened. Serves 10-12.

This is dedicated to my Aunt Josie. Will love you and miss you . RIP

Coffee and Spiced Rubbed Pork Roast

Coffee and Spice Rubbed Pork Roast

Since so many people are making a pork roast of some sort for the New Year, I thought I would  re-post this recipe. I’ve had several requests for it in the last few days.

It is really good- with a rich blend of spices and coffee. The spice rub would also be great on lamb or beef. The rub can also be used on pork chops.

I am thinking of trying it on duck soon. Enjoy and Happy New Year!!

Coffee and Spice Rub

¼ c. ground coffee
¼ c. brown sugar
2 T. paprika
2 t. each cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, salt and ginger
1 t. allspice
½ t. cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and stir to mix well. Store in a cool place, preferably in the refrigerator. Rub can be used on roasts or on chops, steaks and smaller cuts of meat. If using on chops that are being pan fried watch carefully as the sugar in the recipe could burn.

To use the rub: several hours before cooking place the roast in a shallow pan and sprinkle heavily with the rub. Use your hands to spread it evenly and cover completely. Place plastic wrap on clean surface and transfer roast to the wrap. Fold plastic wrap to cover roast , using more plastic wrap as needed so meat is sealed well. Return to fridge for at least a couple of hours, or overnight. When ready to cook, bring roast out and allow to stand 30 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and place roast in a roasting pan on a wire rack.

For the pork roast allow about 20 minutes per pound. Larger roasts need a little less time per pound. You want an internal temp of 145. Check with a thermometer, to be sure. You don’t want to overcook the pork. When the roast is finished- remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes, or a little longer, before slicing.

Coffee and Spice Rubbed Pork Roast

10 Easy Party Appetizers

Won Ton Appetizers

If you are looking to serve appetizers for New Year’s Eve, or for other parties, here are some easy ones that your guests will love.

Some can be made ahead of time, saving you time the day of the party.

The won ton appetizers pictured here are from left to right- Crab Rangoons, Sesame Spinach Triangles and Honey Ginger Chicken Won Tons.

Sesame Spinach Triangles

oil

1 small onion, chopped fine

12 oz. fresh spinach, cooked, chopped  and drained or 1 (10 oz.) box frozen spinach, thawed, cooked and drained

1/2 c. chopped water chestnuts

2 T. oyster sauce

2 t. sesame oil

1 t. hot sauce

won ton wrappers

Heat oil in skillet and cook onion until tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients, except won ton wrappers. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Allow mixture to cool. Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of a won ton wrapper. Moisten edges with a little water and fold over to form a triangle. Press to seal edges. Place filled triangles in 375 degree oil and fry for about 2 minutes or until golden.

Honey Ginger Chicken Won Tons

1 c. cooked diced chicken- I used thighs

1/4 c. minced celery

1/4 c. mayo

2 T. honey

2 T. dried minced onion

1 T. hoisen sauce

1 t. fresh grated ginger

salt and hot sauce to taste

won ton wrappers

Combine all ingredients, except the wrappers,  and mix well. Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each won ton wrapper. Moisten edges with a little water. Fold in 2 corners to meet in the middle. Starting at one of the remaining corners fold up and over and form into a roll. Press to seal edges. Fry in hot oil ( 375 degrees) for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.

Crab Rangoons

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese

1 (6 ounce) can crab meat, drained and flaked

2 green onions with tops, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce

won ton wrappers

Combine all filling ingredients and chill until ready to use. Place 2 teaspoons of filling onto the center of each wonton skin. Moisten the edges with water and bring 2 corners together. Bring the other 2 corners up and press all together to seal. Press all seams to seal. It should look like a little bundle.  Fry in hot oil until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.

Hot Crab Dip

8 oz. crab meat or faux crab, if you prefer

8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 c. mayo

1 T. chopped chives or green onion, optional

1 heaping teaspoon horseradish

1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 t. hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Combine all ingredients in ovenproof bowl and mix until smooth. Bake in a 300-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. You can also heat mixture in microwave for 90 seconds or until hot. You can mix the ingredients ahead of time and chill until ready to heat and serve.  Serve  with crackers, crusty breads or veggies. You can also spoon mixture into hollowed out tomatoes and broil until crab dip is hot and bubbly.

Pineapple Glazed Chicken Wings

12 chicken wings, cut into 2 pieces, save tips for another use

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can (or jar) of pineapple chunks, drained, reserving liquid- I used a pint jar- if using store bought use the 20 oz. can.

salt and pepper

Sauce:

1/2 c. apple cider vinegar

1/2 c. sugar

3 T. ketchup

3 T. sherry

2 T. soy sauce

1 t. minced garlic

1 t. red pepper flakes

reserved pineapple juice

3 T. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place wings in pan and season with salt and pepper. Bake chicken wings in roasting pan for 30 minutes. Add the onions and pineapple chunks to the pan with the chicken wings and return to the oven for 30 minutes longer. While chicken is cooking combine the first seven sauce  ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Check baking pan for any juices- Spoon them out and add to the sauce. Combine pineapple juice and cornstarch in small bowl, stirring until smooth and add to the sauce. Return to boil and stir until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Pour hot sauce over chicken and return to the oven to bake 20-30 minutes longer or until wings look nicely glazed and sauce has started to brown. Makes 24.

Brie Truffles

8 oz. brie, room temperature- I remove the rind from the brie for a smoother texture.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 stick ( 4 0z.) butter, softened

2 c. fresh pumpernickel bread crumbs*

In food processor combine cheeses with butter until smooth.  Chill mixture 30 minutes or longer. With a small cookie scoop or teaspoon form mixture into small balls. Place crumbs in a bowl and roll the balls of cheese in the crumbs to coat. Place in small paper cups and chill until ready to serve. Makes 3-4 dozen.

* To make the crumbs just place torn

Caramelized Onions “Toasts”

2 lbs. Onions, chopped

3 T. oil

1 t. salt

2 T. brown sugar

¼ c. balsamic vinegar

Dash red hot pepper sauce

Paprika

Sauté onions in oil with salt over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Onions should begin to caramelize and brown without burning. Add remaining ingredients and cook slowly another 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if needed and serve warm with crusty bread, crackers or smoked meats. Keeps in fridge for a couple of weeks or can be frozen. To make the toasts I placed a little of the onions on Wheat crackers and topped with squares of sliced Swiss cheese. Placed in a 400 degree oven until the cheese melted.

Brie with Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

2 c. basil leaves

3 T. Pine nuts, walnuts or pecans

2 T. olive oil

2 cloves garlic

3 T. Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

½ c. sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water and chilled overnight

1 T. oil

1 t. oregano

small wheel of Brie 1-2#

Combine first five ingredients in a blender or processor until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain tomatoes and chop coarsely. Combine with remaining oil and oregano and season to taste. Split Brie horizontally into 3 pieces. Spread

One layer with pesto and top with a piece of Brie. Spread with tomato mixture and top with remaining Brie. Wrap and chill overnight. Serve at room temperature or warm slightly. I warmed it wrapped in foil at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.Wanted it to brown a bit. Goes best with crusty breads.

 Caponata

2 small eggplants, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, about 5-6 cups

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 c. olive oil, or a little more

4 celery ribs, sliced

2 sweet peppers, seeded and chopped

1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic

3 tomatoes, chopped- or 1 (14.5) can diced tomatoes- undrained

1 c. sliced black olives

3-4 T. red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste*

Soak eggplant in salted water for at least 15 minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Set aside. Meanwhile in skillet cook onion in 2 tablespoons of the oil until tender. Add the celery and cook until the celery is tender-crisp. Place mixture in a mixing bowl and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons more of the oil and cook the peppers until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the tomatoes and cook 1 minute longer. Add this mixture to onion mixture and return skillet to the heat. Add remaining oil to skillet and cook eggplant until golden brown and tender. You may have to do this in 2 batches. Add remaining ingredients to bowl while eggplant is cooking. When eggplant is done add it to the bowl and mix well., Season to taste. Serve with crusty breads cold, hot or at room temperature. Serves 10-12.

* While I don’t have any herbs listed in the ingredients I often add oregano and basil or an Italian or Tuscan seasoning blend. I also like to add capers.

Mushroom Spread

½ lb. mushrooms, trimmed, washed and chopped

2 T. butter or oil

1 medium onion, chopped

½ t. salt

Fresh ground pepper

Dash of nutmeg

1 t. lemon juice

2 t. flour

½ c. sour cream or strained yogurt

½-1 t. dill weed

Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter or oil for 4 minutes. Add seasonings, lemon juice and flour and cook 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream or yogurt and dill. Serve with pumpernickel bread, crackers or in mini cream puff shells.

Classic Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

If you are looking for a special holiday breakfast, Eggs Benedict would be a top choice for me.

Eggs Benedict are English muffins, split and toasted, topped with some lightly browned slices of ham, or more traditionally, Canadian bacon. That is topped with poached eggs and then the Hollandaise sauce. There are a lot of variations. You can add wilted spinach, bacon, crab or even lobster, if you really want to splurge. I have a vegetarian friend who subs out the meat with some asparagus or cauliflower. Whatever makes you happy, works for me.

Here are the directions for making a classic Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict

English Muffins allow one per serving
Eggs – for poaching – you’ll need 2 for each serving
Ham or Canadian bacon
Hollandaise Sauce- recipes follow

Get all your ingredients ready. You’ll need a skillet with water boiling in it to poach the eggs. Add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar- it helps hold the eggs together better. Slice the ham, if needed, and brown it in a skillet. Keep warm until needed. I put the split English muffins in the toaster oven, so I could start toasting them when I started poaching the eggs. Next, make the Hollandaise sauce. I have included two ways to make your Hollandaise. One version is made in the microwave, the other with a traditional double boiler. Both come out great. For traditional Hollandaise you’ll need either a double boiler, or a pot with simmering water for this, so get it ready with hot water. For the microwave, just a glass bowl and a whisk. Recipes and directions for both versions follow.

Microwave Hollandaise

1 stick butter ( 1/2 cup)

3 egg yolks

1/2 T. lemon juice

pinch of salt

fresh ground pepper, optional

In microwave safe bowl, soften butter. This will take 10-15 seconds. Don’t melt the butter, just soften it. Watch carefully. It may take less time if the butter is already room temperature, longer if butter is cold. I often make a double batch, so allow a few more seconds for larger quantities. Whisk together the egg yolks and lemon juice. Whisk the yolk mixture into the softened butter. Let stand on the counter a minute or two. Place in microwave and cook on high heat for 15 seconds. Be careful- only 15 seconds at a time. Whisk the mixture and return to the microwave, cooking 15 seconds. Repeat this process until sauce is thickened, smooth and shiny. It should take 3-4 of these 15 second cooking sessions, but ovens vary. It takes a little longer if you double the batch. Don’t worry if the sauce doesn’t look smooth the first time you whisk all the ingredients together. It gets smoother upon further cooking/whisking. Season with salt and pepper to your own taste. Enjoy with Eggs Benedict or as a sauce for steamed veggies.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce

4 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
½  cup butter, melted
Salt and cayenne to taste- just a pinch of each will do.

Since I used a bowl over a pot with simmering water, I put the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl with the lemon juice and whisked until kind of frothy. If you are using a double boiler- do that in the pot from the double boiler. Once the mixture looked thick, I placed the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisked it for a couple of minutes to warm the eggs. The simmering water in the pot should not be deep enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Keep whisking so the mixture stays smooth. If you don’t, the eggs scramble and get all lumpy. Once all the butter is in, cook about a minute longer- or until sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, season to taste, and keep warm until ready to use. Don’t wait too long. Hollandaise is best used pretty soon after you make it. If it gets too thick, add a little warm water to thin it out.

To poach the eggs, place eggs, gently, in the simmering water- the stuff in the skillet that you added vinegar to. Some people like to have the water swirling when they do this by stirring it just before adding the eggs. I just put the eggs in gently, and it seems to work just fine. Use a slotted spoon to sort of fold the whites up over the eggs. Poach for about 3½ minutes. Whites should be set, but yolks will be runny. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a folded towel to get off some of the water.

To assemble the eggs Benedict, place toasted English muffins halves on a plate. Top with a slice, or two, of the ham. Then gently add a poached egg on top of the ham. Spoon over the Hollandaise and serve. A little more work than most egg dishes, but worth the effort.