Christmas 2011

Christmas this year, though not surrounded by the hustle and bustle of my crazy family, was still centered around the food. As it should be. Even though it was only me and my hunny, I still went all out to try and bring in the feeling of being home. I made ham, and green bean casserole, garlic mashed potatoes, a salad, cornbread, and macaroni salad (even if we did forget to eat that). Oh yeah, and used my new Cuisinart Toaster Oven (Thanks Mom in Law!) for an apple pie.

For these big holiday meals, I’ve found that I should have paid more attention to my Mom when she was cooking, because I have called her a lot knowing what I want to make and not having any idea how to do it. Here’s the lowdown on ham:

Buy a ham. (obviously – don’t want to insult your intelligence here, but just stick with me…) Don’t buy the smoked ones, or the spiral cut ones. Buy the one that your instinct tells you is going to be way too much of a pain to cook. It will have one side that is flat and the other will have a big bone in it. It tends to be sitting in a center aisle freezer in your grocery store.

If you don’t already have them on hand, you’ll need whole cloves, dark brown sugar, a jar of maraschino cherries, and a 14 oz can of sliced pineapple (the rings). Oh, and some toothpicks.

So, to put it all together. Take the ham, put it in a big pan (I’m running the risk of rhyming here…) flat side down, and make slices into the ham, creating little squares, just through the fat. In the corners of these squares, put the pointy side of the cloves. After you’ve done that, take the pineapple rings, and using the toothpicks, pin them around the ham. They don’t have to cover it, but they work to flavor the ham and help keep it moist. And then, take the maraschino cherries and pin them into the center of the rings. Finally, take the brown sugar and rub it into the exposed parts of the ham. It creates a yummy glaze.

Once this is all done, cover the pan with foil, and stick it in the oven at 350 for one hour. At the hour mark, take the foil off, and leave it in the oven for another 30 minutes. The fatty part of the ham should be crispy and pulling away from the ham, your cloves will be falling out. Those crunchy skin pieces? They’re the best part.

So, how ’bout a leftovers recipe? Of course you can make some yummy ham sandwiches…but what about Mac and Cheese with ham and broccoli? Doesn’t that sound so much better? I used the recipe from Macaroni and Cheesecake, in which she cooks the noodles in the milk and then adds the spices and cheese. I changed it up a little bit though, I added ham and broccoli which I sauteed in some olive oil with onions, and I also did a half and half mixture of milk and heavy cream. I’m thinking she was right about the milk though – the cream is too thick, and I had to add a lot more milk at the end. From previous experimentations, I have found that gruyere and cheddar cheese taste really good together, so I did that too. You all should try it! It makes pretty tasty leftovers too…

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Christmas Cookies

This past week, I went south of my little town to hang out with a girlfriend of mine. The initial instinct was to do some crafty beading projects as part of an upcoming endeavor of ours, but when I got there we had some other things to take care of first. Like decorating Christmas cookies.

This holiday season hasn’t been the greatest for me, because it’s the first one that I’m away from home. It’s been very difficult. It was nice to be able to go down there and hang out with someone familiar and get out of the house for a little while though.

My Music City friend had made a very large batch of sugar cookies and used her ginormous box of cookie cutters to make different festive shapes. Then she proceeded to make an even bigger batch of frosting that begged for coloring. Do you realize how hard it is to make brown frosting?? But we got it done, because gingerbread men and teddy bears can’t be anything but. And somehow managed to come up with a sparkly silver frosting in the process.

I think our little visit was good for both of us. Even though she gets to go home with her new hubby, we are both accustomed to being home and making sugar cookies with our families. New traditions in a new place though. If you can’t tell, I’m very thankful to have someone I know near by. I love my hunny, but I can’t stay cooped up in this cute little house all the time.

Looking at these photos… We made a lot of cookies!! Thankfully she was taking them home with her to pass out to some friends and family too.

 

 

Muffins, Bread and Breakfast

This weekend was pretty laid back and relaxed, and it was perfect. I got to spend time with my hunny, and made some tasty treats for us to enjoy.

It all started with blueberry muffins. Don’t tell him – but they’re healthy! I got them out of the Eat What You Love  cookbook that I’ve mentioned on here before. They use Splenda with just a little bit of granulated sugar, and they’re just slightly golden when they are done – but they’re moist and the blueberries pop in your mouth. Delicious!

Pair a muffin with some fruit and eggs for breakfast, and you’ve got a fantastically healthy, delicious and energizing breakfast. I even got to eat some of that yummy pineapple I mentioned in my last post.

And then I made this bread. I’m calling it BAM Bread. Banana, Apple and Mango Bread. When I bought the mangoes with the pineapple the other day, I planned on putting it in muffins or something. Well I found a recipe for a Mango Lime Bread. I used that and instead of the “plump golden raisins” it called for, I put in 2 mashed bananas. Baked it for the same amount of time, added everything else the same and it turned out simply beautiful. Oh, and tasty. I wouldn’t post it if it wasn’t tasty.

Here’s the recipe.

How to Choose and Cut a Pineapple

I was in my local grocery today, and they had a sale on pineapples and mangoes. Oh how I love these fruits. I really should be an island girl. I love the food, I love the weather, the culture and the ocean. I can’t understand how anyone can live there and not love the ocean, or the food, or the culture. My mom is native Hawaiian, my dad wants to be native Hawaiian, and therefore I have no problem infusing it into my culinary lifestyle. So back to the pineapples.

While there on vacation this year, we bought a pineapple from a roadside stand, brought it back to our surf shack, cut it up and bagged it for enjoyment later. Well, after a couple hours snorkeling with the turtles, the salt water and the sun really saps your energy. Pineapple? Perfect replenishment. Therefore – that little pineapple promptly disappeared between me and my hunny. Sorry dad.

So the grocery store! I was picking out my pineapples to take home and cut up, and I noticed a lady admiring them, who looked completely clueless. She picked one up, looked at the price, looked at the pineapple, and looking disappointed, set it back down. I don’t think it had anything to do with the price. I don’t think she knew what to do with it.

So I’m going to help all you people out who haven’t had the lovely opportunity to visit the islands or been shown how to handle a pineapple. Because I think everyone should be able to enjoy this sweet fruit. Ocean available or not.

Step 1: Choosing your pineapple. Simple. Smell the bottom. Not the pointy part, the other side. It should smell, well, like a pineapple. Sweet and slightly tangy. If it doesn’t, or it smells sour, possibly doesn’t have a smell at all, put it back. Then after you find one that smells good, grab one of the leaves on the top that is in the center of the spiky-ness, and pull it out. If it’s ripe, it will pull out rather easily. Otherwise it will be extremely difficult and you may even need two hands.

Step 2: Taking it home and preparing to cut it up. Ok, here comes the easy part! You’ll need only four things. Your pineapple, of course. A large cutting board, preferably one that has the little ridges around the sides to catch the juices. If you’ve gotten a ripe pineapple, it’s going to be juicy. A large serrated knife – like a bread knife, and something to put it all in. Pineapple doesn’t last long enough in my house to put it in a Ziploc container and then have to wash it, so I put it in a gallon size bag.

Step 3: Cut off the ends. First cut off the spiny end, or the top. Just lay the pineapple on its side, and slice down about 1/4 inch from the bottom of the spines. Then do the same exact thing to the other end, the bottom of the pineapple. Now you have a cylindrical shape with a flat top and bottom.

Step 4: Cut off the rinds. Stand the pineapple up on one of its new flat ends, and cut down just underneath the skin, attempting to follow the natural curve of the pineapple. Go all the way around, cutting off the skin in strips. Then go back and cut off strips where there are any additional round circles with the spines in the middle. You will want to cut strips off, even if there are only one or two, because that part of the pineapple will be sour and not very tasty.

Step 5: Cut out the core. Now there are two ways to do this, you can cut around the core the same way you did with the skin, or you can do it a different way that I find a little easier. With it still standing on its end, cut the pineapple in half. Then lay it down, cut side up, and cut the core out in a triangular shape. Do the same to the other half.

Step 6: Cut it in chunks. Now that the core is cut out, just cut the pineapple long-ways in strips, and then cut the opposite way to make chunks. Good luck not snacking as you’re cutting.

And that’s that! You have a perfectly chunked, juicy, delicious pineapple. It will be worth the time it took, I promise. And if you’re like me, wishing the summer was back already, you’ll enjoy it imagining you’re sitting on the beach, basking in the sunshine after swimming with sea turtles.

 

Breakfast on the Go

My hunny is in the Army. That means he gets up before the sun comes up and comes home after it’s gone down. At least in the winter time. Not allowing himself a lot of time in the mornings to get ready to go in the name of sleep, he doesn’t always grab something for breakfast and ends up spending money. This isn’t going to work for me. So I made him a solution. Two actually.

The first one I made is essentially an Egg McMuffin, but it took a tenth of the time to make the batch, and I can freeze it! The second one is essentially a hot pocket with sausage, hashbrowns and egg inside. And I can freeze that too!

Both of the recipes I got from my new addiction, Pinterest, as links to others’ cooking blogs. The breakfast pockets (the first picture) was from BudgetGourmetMom.com, and the sandwiches were from Macheesmo.com.

So here’s the skinny on them:

The egg sandwiches are so simple. Get 12 english muffins (2 packs), slice them and lay them out on cookie sheets so they can be toasted. You need 12 large eggs and a muffin tin next. Crack one egg per pocket in the tin. Bake the muffins at 350 for 10 minutes, and the eggs at 350 for 20 minutes. Meaning, cook them at the same time and take the muffins out first. Grate up some good cheddar cheese, and when they’re done, combine the three – muffin, egg and cheese. The tricky part that I wouldn’t have figured out: If you’re going to freeze these for on the go breakfast like I did, put the finished muffins on a sheet tray and put them in the freezer uncovered  and unwrapped for one hour. Then take them out and wrap them in foil. And if your hunny happens to have a toaster oven at work, he’s all set! A microwave works too, they just stay crispier when you do it in a toaster oven.

The breakfast pockets were a little more complicated, but worth it. Basically, you make a dough – let it rise. Cook up sausage and onion, then put in milk, egg, frozen hashbrowns and spices. Once your dough has risen, cut off little chunks, and roll them out flat on a floured surface. Put goodies in the middle, then fold and pinch them closed.  Bake at (you guessed it!) 350, for about 20 minutes until they get golden brown on top. The recipe that she uses for the dough is perfect because it’s just a little sweet to offset the savory of the inside goodness. And if you’re going to freeze these ones too, then do the same thing. Line them up on a sheet tray and put them in the freezer uncovered  and unwrapped for one hour. Then take them out and wrap them in foil.

Now lets see how long these last me before I have to make more to satiate his big appetite.

By the way, go to my recipes page for the breakfast pocket recipe.

Catching Up

Goodness it’s been a long week! Job hunting, working on Christmas shopping, taking care of two new kittens. I’ve been crashing into bed every night completely exhausted, and I’m still not getting everything done that I want to.

But! I did make some pretty tasty stuff this week that I thought I would share with you all. (Healthy stuff!)

Let me just say, if you’re trying to eat healthier, do yourself a favor and invest in a George Foreman Grill. You can get them at Wal-Mart or off Amazon, even at Kohl’s, Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you get the opportunity, find one with removable grill plates, because it’s a lot easier to clean. But! I digress.

The GFG makes cooking healthy stuff super easy. I made chicken on it, that was rubbed with a blend of garlicky spices, and it was moist and juicy and delicious. It’s even better when you pair it with some veggies you made in the microwave in a Ziploc Steam Fresh Bag. Oh yeah, and did I mention it takes a grand total of maybe 30 minutes to make an awesome meal?? If you’re like me and have a hunny that isn’t always home for dinner, you can make two chicken breasts and refrigerate the other one to use later in the week. 30 minutes AND you cut your cook time for another meal in half! You’ll thank me later.

I sound like an info-mercial right now, don’t I? Oh well, totally worth it.

The other pretty awesome thing that I made this week (on my GFG I might add!), were burgers! Homemade burgers! Not the kind that you open up a bag from the freezer. No. Put ground beef in a bowl and get to seasoning! I’ve found that spicy mustard and worcestershire with garlic and little bits of onions make some killer burgers. And then, I stacked it to the sky with cheddar and pepperjack cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado, bacon, and saute’ed onions and bella mushrooms. I’m pretty sure my hunny didn’t even breathe while consuming his burger in 10 seconds flat.

Oh yeah, and I made coleslaw to go on the side! That was healthy too. It came from my “Eat What You Love” book. I’ve talked about that one before too. In my berry coffee cake post. Delicious.

So the moral of the story is, that if you’re trying to eat healthier, you have to commit, and there is no rule that says your food can’t still be scrumptious.