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Archive for the ‘main dishes’ Category

 

Easter is coming.  And what does that mean?  Another holiday to cook gobs and gobs of food for:  my favorite kind of holiday. 

 For some reason, ham is the traditional Easter meat.  Growing up, I don’t ever really remember having ham on Easter, though; I think we had either a turkey or a whole roasted chicken.  So ham was never really one of those food items that I grew up liking. Well, that and the only ham we did eat when we ate ham was the canned ham with a layer of goo gel around it.  It makes me shudder just thinking about it.  

Later in life, we discovered honey baked ham.  And that kind of ham I’m completely ok with.  Last Christmas I decided to finally undertake making my own ham.  So I researched a bunch of different recipes, and in the manner I cook best with, I created my own recipe based upon my research findings.  And believe you me, it was gooooood. Even my brother-in-law, who absolutely positively refuses to eat ham, liked it.  Thus, it promptly was added to my recipe box.

Don’t throw the ham bone away.  There are so many great recipes that you can make with a ham bone, such as split pea soup or baked beans.  After you finish eating, simply carve the rest of the meat off the bone and cut into little chunks.  Store ham chunks in a freezer safe ziploc bag, about 1-2 cups per bag, until ready to use.  Take ham bone and place into a large freezer safe ziploc bag, and freeze that until ready for future use.

In my opinion, and based upon my style of cooking, the key to making this recipe is to eyeball all the ingredients.  That way you can customize it to your taste buds. (Note:  This was more than enough rub and sauce for a 7lb ham, so feel free to use a bigger ham — like 10lbs — without making adjustments.)

Ingredients:
1 ham (I used a 7lb hickory smoked ham shank with bone)

Rub
2 T. brown sugar
(use measurements of the following ingredients based upon your ratio preference to the brown sugar and each other. With the sugar being the greatest amount, i used cinnamon and paprika as the second greatest amounts, then nutmeg, then cloves, then cayenne.)
ground cinnamon
paprika
ground cloves
ground nutmeg
cayenne
(i think some ground dry mustard would be good next time!)
Glaze
1/2 c. whiskey
1 c. honey
1/2 c. blackstrap molasses (cut back to 1/4 for a less molassesy flavor)
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. butter, melted
juice of 1 small orange, or of 1/3 large orange*
Instructions:
1)  Score ham in a criss-cross pattern, about 1 inch apart and ½ inch deep.
2)  Combine rub ingredients into small bowl. Rub all over the ham. Place ham into baking dish (roasting pan or a 9×13 casserole dish), cut side down and refrigerate. Let marinade for at least a few hours. 
Preheat oven to 325°.
3)  After ham has finished marinading, combine glaze ingredients in a bowl. Pour over ham. Create a foil tent over ham. 
4)  Bake at 325° until center of ham reaches 140°, basting every 20 minutes. (My 7lb ham took about 2 hours to cook.)
*try changing up the flavoring to apple, pomegranate, or pineapple juice, or even apricot preserves, although you would need to add a bit liquid to the preserves to make it a glaze consistency.

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and yet another one of my favorite soups from my childhood. i think my mom got this recipe from one of those cookbooks that schools sell as a fundraising, so i know i am not giving proper credit to someone out there. i apologize! i don’t know who you are, but i love you…because this recipe is amazing! the perfect way to warm your insides (other than a shot of whiskey!) on a cold winter evening. you can serve this with bread, but i normally don’t just because of the carbs in the potatoes: it’s not exactly a bread-dipping soup.

 

ingredients:

4 c. potatoes, peeled and sliced
¼ c. chopped onion
2½ c. water
1 tsp. salt
¼ c. butter
¼ c. flour
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. dry mustard
1½ tsp. soy sauce
2 c. milk
1 tsp. fresh parsley
1 to 2 c. shredded cheddar (the original recipe calls for 12oz. velveeta, but i don’t like to buy processed foods)
2 c. milk

 

instructions:

1)  in a dutch oven pot, add the first four ingredients (potatoes through salt). Bring to a boil; simmer for 15 minutes.

2)  while simmering, melt butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and stir with a whisk until blended.  add pepper, mustard, soy sauce, 2 cups milk, and parsley; whisk to combine, until flour lumps are dissolved into the milk. cook, whisking constantly, until smooth and thick.

3)  add milk mixture to potato mixture.  add cheese and remaining 2 cups milk; stir until smooth. simmer for about 5 minutes.

 

yields: 6-8 servings.  freeze leftovers in an airtight container.

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So I’ve talked about how my husband is not a huge fan of vegetables. For the most part, he is a good sport about eating them, even if they aren’t as mushy as he’d prefer. I mostly think he does this to spare the heartache of listening to me give him a lecture on the nutritional benefits of veggies. However, as much as he loves me, there are certain vegetables he absolutely positively will not touch,  no matter how mushy they are or how much cheese I put on them.  Cauliflower is one of these.  This past Christmas, a friend gave me a cookbook written by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica Seinfeld. It’s called Deceptively Delicious.  The main trick she does is steam and puree certain veggies and then use the puree to sneak into dishes:  like pureed beets into pancakes, pureed sweet potatoes or butternut squash into spaghetti sauce, or cauliflower into soup.  Last week I received a cauliflower head in my CSA box.  Not wanting it to go to waste (and not wanting to eat the whole thing myself), I decided to copy Mrs. Seinfeld’s cauliflower trick.  So in this soup you get double the benefits.  Only after hubby ate a couple of bite of the soup did I tell him the secret ingredient; he said he couldn’t even taste it, and that he loved, loved, loved the soup. Success!

 

Ingredients:

olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloved, minced or pressed
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
4 red potatoes, diced
2 broccoli crowns, chopped
broccoli rabe (optional; I had it in my CSA box, so I threw it in here to get rid of it)
1 cauliflower floret, stems removed, and chopped
3 T.  olive oil (or butter)
3 T. flour
2 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
salt
pepper
tabasco sauce (or paprika)

Instructions:

1)  In a stockpot over medium heat, “caramelize” your onions for about 10 minutes.  Add garlic; cook another 5 minutes.

2)  Pour in broth; bring to a boil.  Add potatoes to pot; boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

3)  Add broccoli and cauliflower; return to a boil.  Turn down to medium heat; steam 10-15 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Turn down to a low simmer. 

4)  Using a slotted spoon, scoop broccoli and cauliflower into a blender or food processor.  (I left a few little chunks of broccoli in the soup cuz I like it a bit chunky.)  And it’s ok if you get little pieces of onions and potatoes in the processor.  However, if you would like for your entire soup to be creamy, place all the soup into the fodd processor or blender.  (You can even use an immersion blender, if that strikes your fancy.)  Process until smooth.

          a)  if you processed only the broccoli and cauliflower, leave the puree in the blender until after the next step (step 5)

          b)  if you processed the whole soup, you can return it to the stockpot and leave it, covered, on a low simmer.

5)  In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add in flour; stir quickly with a gravy whisk (or regular whisk) to combine.

6)  Add milk to flour mixture; whisk until lumps dissolve.  Pour in pureed broccoli and cauliflower to milk mixture; stir to combine.  Pour into stockpot with rest of soup.  Add extra milk if you desire it to be thinner.  Heat through, then remove from heat.  Stir in cheese until melted.

7)  Season to taste using the salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce (or paprika).

Yields 4-5 one-cup servings.

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The Best BBQ Spare Ribs

 

 A couple years ago, after my husband and I bought our barbecue, we decided to break it in with spare ribs.  Of course, we didn’t know anything about barbecuing spare ribs, like how long it takes until they are so perfectly done that the meat falls right off the bone (apparently it takes hours and hours). So our first attempt was a miserable failure.  A few weeks ago we were watching an episode of Sam the Cooking Guy, a show local to the San Diego area, and he made these ribs that looked to die for.  About a week or so later we were grocery shopping and passed the rib section of the meat counter.  And our memories harkened back to that episode of Sam the Cooking Guy.  All we had to do was wordlessly lock eyes, and my husband grabbed the best looking rack of the bunch.  The ingredient list is my own creation. But I followed Sam’s vinegar-baked methodology, which takes considerably less time to cook than the regular way. 

 

Ingredients:

brown sugar
paprika
chili powder
ground mustard
red pepper flakes
cinnamon
nutmeg
white vinegar (the cheap kind)
barbecue sauce (plain, unflavored)
honey or apricot jam

 

Instructions:

1)  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Rub into both sides of ribs.  Allow to marinade in the frig 3-5 hours.

2)  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place ribs, in a single layer, in a jellyroll pan or casserole dish. Pour vinegar into dish until filled about 1 to 1½ inches up the side. Cover tightly with foil. Cook at 400° for an hour and a half. About one hour through, check the level of the vinegar to make sure it hasn’t all evaporated. If it has, add more vinegar.

3)  Right before ribs are done, combine barbecue sauce and honey or jam in a bowl. Heat your barbecue grill to medium heat. Place ribs on grill, then baste the face-up side with barbecue sauce. Grill for about 3 minutes, then flip ribs over. Baste more sauce on the face-up side. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip one more time and cook another minute longer.  Remove from grill and serve immediately.

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everyone who knows me knows how proud i am to be irish. granted, i am a typical american mutt (or melting pot, if you will), but still i like to point out the fact that my great grandfather immigrated over from ireland, and while his irish blood has been watered down with every other ethnicity by the time it’s reached me, i still like to claim, “i have irish from all my grandparents, so that makes me at least half,  right?” RIGHT???  thank you for the validation. 🙂 

maybe it’s the freckles on my face that, as a child no matter how hard i tried to rub off or cover up with makeup these “imperfections” they never disappeared, cause me to identify more closely with my irish heritage. or maybe it’s the natural strawberry red highlights in my brown hair, an exact color that is hard to find here, but in ireland i saw every where i turned. or perhaps even it’s my desire to belong to a group of people that have been (no matter how long ago in history) outcast by society, a desire to belong to the minority in order to give a deeper purpose behind my passion for helping those society has a prejudice against.  but as small of a trace as that blood may be in my body, there is something irish there that causes my soul to leap in dance when i hear an irish jig, to ache when it hears an old irish ballad, and to laugh and sing and shout along with irish drinking songs. and it even (much to my best friend’s amusement) caused me to exclaim under my breath the second i stepped off the airplane in dublin, “oh. these are my people!” (i know, BIG dork.) but i will proudly claim my irish heritage ’til the day i die.

besides, they have great beer and damn good whiskey.

with that said, ANY recipe that has beer in it, in my book, cannot go wrong. so when a co-worker (also irish) brought for lunch one day this soup she had made, i knew i had to have the recipe. it comes from a cookbook called The Irish Pub Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson. I’ve only made two of the recipes so far (the second recipe, brown soda bread, i will post tomorrow, so that you can make it to accompany the guinness stew), but the rest of the recipes in it look to die for. i made some adjustments to this, so it’s an “adapted from” recipe — among other changes, i HAD to throw some whiskey in there…for good measure…and to make my ancestors proud of me. 🙂

 

ingredients:

1 lb. beef sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes (i am completely clueless when it comes to red meat, so don’t feel restricted to sirloin. this last time i made it, i bought a rump looking thing, and in my opinion, the meat was more tender than i remember the sirloin being.)

salt and pepper to taste

flour for dredging

4 T. butter

½ c. olive oil

1 c. chopped onions

2 c. beef stock (the last time i made this, i actually used chicken broth, and it tasted just fine)

2 c. Guinness (or any stout or porter will do. a chocolate/double chocolate stout would be delicious!)

½ c. irish whiskey*

5 carrots, diced

4-5 medium sized potatoes (you can even mix this up with a sweet potato or two. the original recipe called for 4 parsnips and 1 turnip)

3-5 springs fresh thyme, depending on what your tastebuds tell you

 

instructions:

1)  season meat with salt and pepper.  dredge in flour.  in a stockpot, melt butter with oil over medium heat.  cook meat 5-7 minutes, or until browned.  add onions; cook for another 3-5 minutes.

2)  add broth, guinness/beer, and whiskey (and go ahead and take a shot of whiskey to warm you up on this cold winter night). bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low.  simmer 30 minutes. (if you are making the brown soda bread recipe, make it now during this 30-minute down time.)  add remaining ingredients.  simmer for 45 minutes, or until veggies and meat are tender. feel free to add more salt if you feel like it needs it.

 

get creative with your veggies and herbs. try adding celery, or parnips and turnips like the original recipe calls for, or even leeks. experiment with other green herbs, like tarragon or marjoram. maybe even a bay leaf or two. i’ve even seen other recipes use lamb instead of beef, if you feel like forkin’ over the dough to buy lamb.

serve and devour heartily.

 

*trivia of the day:  did you know there is a difference between WHISKY and WHISKEY?  the word spelled “whisky” (with no “e”) is reserved only for that made in scotland — scotch.  whiskEy, on the other hand, is the rest of the stuff:  whether irish, canadian, or american (like jack daniels).  now, here in america you may not see labels abide by this rule (in fact, many american distillers scoff at this scottish snobbery and will use whisky–no “e”–on their labels just to spite the scotch distillers), but in the UK (and especially among scotch distillers who want to distinguish between scotch whiskey and “the other stuff”) that is the general rule to follow. so i will trust them — i mean, for pete’s sake, they invented the darned stuff anyways so they would know! so if you go into a bar and order whiskey, they’ll pour ya a whiskEy; but if you want whisky (no E), you have to ask for scotch. tricky stuff, this alcohol. and then there’s bourbon, which is also whiskey but a specific kind of whiskey — think back to your geometry class days:  by definition, a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. it’s like that:  bourbon is a whiskEy, but not all whiskEy is bourbon…and most certainly whisky (scotch) is not bourbon at all! now that i have you all thoroughly confused, go ahead and take a shot of whatever whiskey/whisky/bourbon you have on hand…then it will all make sense in about 5 minutes.

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(adapted from Cooking Light)

the original recipe called for asparagus and peas. i didn’t have either on hand (hubby doesn’t like asparagus anyways); instead i used broccoli and green beans, as that is what i had from the farmers market. so if you do like and/or have asparagus and peas, use those instead. or, if you really like veggies, add all four! (whoa! gettin’ kinda crazy over here with all these veggies!). other veggies could very easily be substituted or added in. i decided to start with the basic this time.

ingredients:

8 oz. rotini, penne, fettucine, or linguine (i had tri-colored rotini on hand)

1 broccoli crown, chopped into bit-size pieces

½ – 1 lb. fresh green beans, diced (hubby doesn’t care too much for green beans so i cut them really small. but you could leave them whole or just cut in half)

olive oil

1 c. chicken or vegetable stock

1 ½ tsp. cornstarch

1 T. butter

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

½ c. half and half

juice of 1 lemon

½ c. shredded parmesan or asiago cheese

salt

freshly ground pepper

a dash or two of cayenne powder

instructions:

1)  cook pasta according to instructions. drain; set aside.

2)  in skillet, saute veggies in olive oil until desired cruchiness (or mushiness, as the case may be. if you prefer it on the mushy side, add some broth to steam them a bit). place into separate bowl and set aside.

3)  whisk together broth and cornstarch; set aside.

4)  add butter to skillet over medium/medium-high heat.  add garlic; saute until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. add broth mixture. bring to a boil; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. add cream and lemon juice. stir with whisk to combine; remove from heat.

5)  add cheese and stir until melted. stir in veggie mixture. add pasta and toss to combine. serve with shredded parmesan cheese on top.

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my mother-in-law makes this AMAZING tortellini soup. (my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.) i was craving it one night so decided to try my best at recreating it. the bad part — i forgot to write the recipe down! i thought that i used another soup recipe as a skeleton, but now that i look at it, it doesn’t seem at all similar to what i made. so i’ll have to go off of my taste bud memory and the picture to do the best i can. here’s my best shot:

 

ingredients:

olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

4 c. chicken/turkey broth (or vegetable broth, for a vegetarian option)

1 c. diced tomatoes (maybe about 2 large tomatoes–add more to your liking)

spinach, fresh leaves or frozen

swiss chard (or double the spinach if you don’t have this/don’t want to buy it)

salt

pepper

cayenne powder

paprika

parsley (optional)

cheese ravioli or tortellini/tortolloni

shredded cooked chicken or turkey (optional)

 

instructions:

1)  in dutch oven pot set over med-high heat, saute onions until lightly golden brown. add garlic; saute about 1-2 minutes longer.

2)  add next 9 ingredients (broth through parsley — if using frozen spinach, don’t add until step 3). bring to a boil; simmer for 20-30 minutes.

3) add ravioli/tortellini ( and frozen spinach, if that’s what you’re using, and optional chicken). cook for whatever length of time is on the pasta box.

 

if you like your food spicy, try adding a serrano pepper or two.

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