New Year’s Pork Roast

Herb and Spice Crusted Pork Roast

I know a lot of folks who serve pork for New Year’s Day. If you want to dress up your pork roast, try using a simple herb and spice rub. It adds so much flavor.

I made this rub recipe for a pork roast and really loved the way it came out. I added some cinnamon, because I was serving the roast with home made applesauce. I thought it would all work well together.

I was not disappointed. The flavors worked very well together.

You can also use this rub on pork chops, if you aren’t making a whole roast.

If you aren’t serving pork, this rub also works well on poultry or lamb. Used it on a turkey breast and it was very tasty.

 

 

Herb and Spice Crusted Pork Roast

The Rub:

2 T. coarse sea salt

1 T. paprika

1 T. dried parsley

1-2 cloves minced garlic

2 t. fresh grated ginger

2 t. cinnamon

2 t. fresh ground pepper

Combine all the rub ingredients.

1 pork roast- I used a 3 1/2 pound pork sirloin roast- bone-in.

Spread the rub over the roast, pressing in to help it stick. You can do this a day ahead, then just wrap the roast and keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. Place pork roast in a roasting pan and bake in a 350 degree until pork reaches an internal temp of 145 degrees. Depending on the size of the roast you are making this will take about 20-25 minutes per pound, but a long, narrow loin will take less time than a rounder roast.

This rub is also nice on poultry. Maybe I’ll try it on duck the next time.

Mini Cream Puffs

Mini Cream Puffs

If you want to surprise someone with a very special sweet treat, you could make cream puffs. These are a bit of work, but the end result is so wonderful. I think they are worth the effort, especially for special occasions. These would be a big hit at any New Year’s party.

You start by make a pate a chou, or cream puff pastry. This is the same dough used to make eclairs. It is a combination of water, butter, milk and flour- cooked on top of the stove, then enriched with the addition of eggs. The dough is piped onto baking sheets and baked until puffed, golden and crisp. Once cooled, they are filled with sweetened whipped cream or, more traditionally, a custard filling. You can serve them as is, or top with chocolate or dust with powdered sugar.

The size you make your cream puffs is really a matter of personal choice. I decided to make mini puffs- about an inch in size. I find them a fun size to serve at a party.

You can also split your puffs and fill them with a savory filling, instead. A crab salad would be a tasty choice.

 

Homemade Cream Puffs

1 recipe Cream Puff Pastry (Pate a Chou)- recipe follows

Egg custard- for filling, or sweetened whipped cream- recipe follows

Chocolate Ganache- for topping- recipe follows, or just use melted chocolate.

 

Start by making the dough. This recipe will make 3-4 dozen mini cream puffs.

 

Cream Puff Pastry

¾ c. water

¼ c. milk

¼ t. salt

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter

1¼ c. flour – unbleached or bread flour preferred

4 large eggs

Extra milk for brushing

 

In saucepan, heat together water, milk butter and salt into a full boil. Butter has to be melted. While stirring, dump flour into saucepan, stirring constantly. Mixture will form into a ball. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking dough, while stirring, for another minute or two. Place dough in an electric mixer and allow it to cool down a little before adding the eggs. Mixture has to be at 140 degrees F, or below, before you start adding the eggs. I use the paddle attachment and beat the dough before adding the eggs. This cools the dough down faster. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until each is fully incorporated. Beat until dough is shiny. A spoon, lifted out of the batter, should leave a peak that does not fall down.

 

Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. I used a silicone liner and was happy with the result. Don’t grease the pan. Using a piping bag, squeeze the dough into 1-inch balls on the baking sheet- leaving a little room in between.  Using a little milk on your finger, smooth down any peaks on the puffs.  I missed a few and did get a couple that had cracks on the top. The smoother the balls look, the nicer your puffs will look. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 375. Bake puffs 5- 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. Tap the shells. They should sound hollow. Turn off the heat and leave oven door open a crack, allowing them to dry completely. Cool before filling. Makes 3-4 dozen.

 

Custard Filling

 

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1⁄3 cup sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Using a whisk, combine milk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat on stove top. Allow milk to scald (heat to the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan. Remove milk mixture from heat, preferably to a burner that’s turned off.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of scalded milk mixture into eggs using whisk, then introduce eggs into milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking milk mixture constantly. Immediately return pan to heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Do not allow to boil. (If you find that you have egg white strands in custard, feel free to pass it through a fine-mesh sieve into a different bowl now.) Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool before using. Makes 3 cups.

 

To fill the puffs, using a small piping tip with a pastry bag, filled with the custard. Squeeze filling in on the bottom, squeezing until it feels full.

 

Once cream puffs are filled, top with melted chocolate or chocolate ganache. I just dipped the tops of the cream puffs in melted chocolate. The chocolate hardened into a thin, crisp shell of chocolate on the puffs, adding a fun crunch.Filled puffs should be stored in fridge until ready to serve. They can be frozen.

 

Chocolate Ganache

4- 6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped- or 1 cup chocolate chips

2 oz. heavy whipping cream

 

In saucepan, heat chocolate and cream together until just heated through. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. You can also do this in a microwave safe bowl, in the microwave for about a minute. Remove and stir until smooth. Makes 1 cup.

 

 

 

 

Bird Seed Wreaths

Birdseed Wreath

If you feed the birds, like I do, you might enjoy this idea.  My friend Dale posted a recipe for making these bird seed wreaths on my wall. I had recounted my frustration on trying to fill my bird feeder on a very windy day. He thought these might be a solution. He was right. They are also fun to make.

 

This recipe comes from a website called Garden Answer.

My first attempt, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. The wreath, while pretty, was a little crumbly. The birds still loved it, though. I didn’t hang it up, as the original post suggested. I have a porch with a wide concrete ledge, so I just put it on the ledge. It was gone in a day and a half.

I decided to try again, this time following the recipe. They came out great. Nice and sturdy.

I made two different sizes the second time. I made one large one, then made a second batch of the seed mixture and made 12 smaller ones as well. Not only are these a nice way to feed the birds, it can be a fun craft project for kids and they would be a nice gift for a bird lover.

Once dried, you can tie a ribbon on them and hang in a tree- or just hang on a hook. I have several shepherd’s hooks in my yard and would use them.

Not sure how well they would hold up in rainy weather, but should hold up well on snowy days.

So here is the recipe. You could add some peanuts or dried fruit for more variety.

Bird Seed Wreaths

2 packets unflavored gelatin- or two tablespoons

1 c. warm water

6 T. light corn syrup

1 1/2 c. flour

8 c. bird seed

Grease a full sized Bundt pan or 12 small ones. You can use a non-stick spray or lightly brush with oil. Set aside. In large bowl, combine the gelatin and warm water and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the corn syrup, then the flour and mix well. Stir in the birdseed and make sure it gets evenly coated with the gelatin mixture. Press mixture into prepared pan. Press firmly. This part is important. Pressing firmly gives you a firmer final product. Allow the wreaths to dry for 24 hours before un-molding. To hang you can tie on a ribbon or place on a hook. You can also place them on platform feeders.

Smaller version

Allow to dry a full day

You can make different sizes

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.

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 ten 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.

Scrooge 2.0

I was thinking the other day, about how popular the story, A Christmas Carol, still is today. Charles Dickens first published the story in 1843. Dozens of versions of the story have been made into movies.

When someone is called a Scrooge, we certainly know what they mean. It isn’t good.

But, if you think about it, it is kind of unfair to old Ebenezer.

He was an awful person. Stingy, cold and uncaring. But he changed. Isn’t that the whole point of the story?  In Scrooge’s case it took three ghosts to wake him up. The point is, he woke up, before it was too late.

So I think we all have the chance to choose which Scrooge we want to be. We can be the first Scrooge, who makes poor Bob Crachit work long hours, for little pay, and cares more about money than people. It is a pretty lonely life.

Or we can be the second Scrooge. Scrooge 2.0, if you like. This is the guy who learns to love again. He learns to care and to find a generosity of spirit. According to the story, he lived the rest of his life that way. Better late, than never.

So what makes someone the new and improved version of Scrooge?

Well, the obvious stuff is to be generous. Which does not have to mean giving money to people. You don’t have to give money away. Heck, you might not have money to spare. But if you can afford too, sharing some of it is a nice thing to do.

It is about being generous in spirit, though. Spending time with someone who needs the company.

It could mean donating your time to a charity, or just helping out a friend.

It means trying to accept people who think differently than you. This one can be hard- trust me.

It means not assuming people are poor because they are lazy. There are lots of reasons folks may be down on their luck.

It means being more patient.  This is one I need to work on- especially in traffic!!

It means treating people with love, rather than hate.

It means trying to find value in people- even if it isn’t always obvious.

It means being a little less judgemental.

Be nice to kids.

Be nice to animals.

It means loving yourself. You deserve to be loved.

 

I know there are plenty of the old Scrooges out there. Call me an optimist, I think a lot more people are like the new Scrooge. The Scrooge who knows what really matters in life. Most of those people didn’t have to be visited by three ghosts to figure that out, either.

I am also not sure we can change other people to be more caring and loving, at least not as easily as Dickens did. Dickens had three ghosts to help him out, after all.  But we can work on ourselves. In the end, only we are responsible for how we treat other people.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in the post- dream Scrooge world? Surrounded by people who open their hearts to others, people who give, not for recognition, but just because it is the right thing to do.

I know those people are out there. I know a lot of them. I am blessed to have a lot of people like that in my life. I hope you are, too.

 

Happy Holidays.

Easy Homemade Cashew Brittle

Homemade Cashew Brittle

If you need a great food gift- perhaps something to bring to a holiday party- this brittle might just be the answer. This is also a great option when you just don’t have a lot of time. It is fast and easy to make.

I was given this recipe at a craft show a few years ago. The brittle is cooked in the microwave. No special thermometers or equipment required. Just a glass bowl and a few minutes of your time. It could not be simpler.  It is really good, too.

You can use other nuts, if you prefer, or peanuts. You can add a little cayenne pepper, if you want a spicy version. You can also dress it up with a drizzle of chocolate, once cooled.  So many ways to enjoy it.

 

Stored in a covered container, in a cool, dry place, the brittle will stay crunchy for weeks.

 

 

 Homemade Cashew Brittle

2 c. cashews*

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. corn syrup

1/8 t. salt

1 t. butter

1 t. vanilla

1 t. baking soda

Butter or oil a large baking sheet and set aside. In a 3-4 quart glass bowl combine the nuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from microwave, stir well and return to microwave. Cook 3 more minutes in microwave. Remove and stir in butter and vanilla, stirring until butter has melted. Return to microwave and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in baking soda. Stir until well blended and pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Spread out quickly, then allow to cool. Once cool, break into pieces. Store in a cool, dry place. I normally store it in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

* I used salted cashews but feel free to experiment with other nuts

Note: Use high power setting on microwave.

 

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

It is the time of year when a lot of people are baking cookies. I thought I would share one of my favorite cookie recipes with you. It takes the chocolate chip cookie to another level. Kind of dressed up for the holidays.

These little cookies are delicate and full of flavor. I will admit to being a big fan of shortbread cookies.I make a lot of different shortbread cookies for Christmas. This one is always on my list.

 

These are enhanced with mini chocolate chips and just melt in your mouth. I leave them as is, but you could add a drizzle of melted chocolate, if you like.

 

Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

1 c. butter (no substitutions), softened
½ c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
¼ c. cornstarch
½ c. mini chocolate chips
2-3 T. granulated sugar
With electric mixer beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla until well mixed. Stir in flour and cornstarch and then stir in chips. Form into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheet. Pour granulated sugar on a small plate and dip bottom of drinking glass into the sugar and use this to gently flatten down the cookies. Press small indent in each cookie with a teaspoon. Bake in a preheated 300-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies start to brown on the bottom. Cool on sheets 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Makes about 3 ½ dozen.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

This Christmas “tree” has become a tradition around here. I make one as a gift for a dear friend every year. If you are looking for something to serve for Christmas morning, or even as a dessert option, I suggest you make this coffee cake. The recipe actually makes 2 “trees,” so you can have one to give- and one to keep. Or perhaps, one for Christmas Eve and one for Christmas Day.

The dough is prepared, then chilled before rolling. You can do that a day, or even two days, ahead of time. The rolls are filled with a pineapple and cream cheese mixture and are very tasty.

The rolls are arranged in a tree pattern before baking. Then, after baking,  the “tree” is topped with a light glaze and gently sprinkled with red and green sugars. So pretty, and not that hard to make.

Here is the recipe.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake

Dough:
4-4 1/2 c. bread flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
2 packages active dry yeast
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
Filling:
1 lb. Cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash salt
1/4 t. vanilla
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple in its own juice drained and squeezed dry
Topping:
11 Maraschino cherries, halved
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. milk
red and green sugars

For dough in large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with the sugar, salt and yeast. Heat together the milk, water and butter until very warm. Add to flour mixture and beat 2 minutes. Add egg and 1 more cup of flour and beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining dough to make a stiff batter, about 1 cup. Cover bowl tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days before using. For filling combine all ingredients for the filling except the pineapple and beat until smooth. Stir in pineapple and set aside until ready to use. Remove dough from fridge cut in half. Roll out one piece on lightly floured surface into a 10×11- inch rectangle. Spread with half the filling, leaving an inch at the end of 11-inch side. Roll up from eleven- inch side. Use thread or dental floss to cut through dough in 1-inch pieces by placing thread under roll and crossing ends. Pull outward and thread should cut through dough. If you aren’t having any luck you can always use a knife, but they tend to flatten the rolls. On a greased baking sheet arrange the slices (you should have 11) into a tree shape. Start with one on the top and then a row of 2 below then 3 and then 4. The last roll will serve as the trunk. Cover dough with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. When dough is risen, about 1-2 hours bake in a 375- degree oven for 15 minutes then cover edges with foil to prevent over browning and return to oven for 10 minutes more. Cool on wire rack. Place half a cherry in the middle of each roll. Make a glaze with powdered sugar and milk and drizzle over. Sprinkle with the sugars. Makes 2 trees, 11 rolls each. Can be frozen up to a month ahead . defrost in a 350 -degree oven for 10 minutes and apply toppings.

Fig Kolachy Cookies

Fig Kolachy

These cookies really speak to me about the holidays. I have fond memories of making these delicate cookies with my Mother every Christmas. I still make them.

I often make them with a cherry filling, but have also used blueberry, apple or nut fillings. I decided to make a batch with fig jam, for a change.

I made my own fig jam, ( recipe follows)  but you could use store bought, if you prefer. You can also finish off the cookies with a light dusting of powdered sugar, if you like. I really love the way they taste. Something rich about the cookie. Perfect end to a holiday meal.

 

Fig Kolachy

Dough

3 sticks butter

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

3 cups flour

Fig Jam– recipe follows

Powdered sugar, optional

Mix dough ingredients together and chill well before using.

Roll out chilled dough into squares or circles. Spoon a little fig filling into the center and pinch 2 ends or corners together. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until golden on edges. Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Makes 4-5 dozen.

 

Fig Jam

1 lb. dried figs
2 c. water
1-2 c. sugar- I used 1 cup, but use according to your taste
Zest of 2 lemons
2 t. cinnamon
Chop up figs and place in saucepan with the water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Add sugar, zest and cinnamon and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking. Puree mixture and set aside to cool.

 

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