Monday, December 22, 2014

Ham and Potato Soup




I decided to make a baked ham. Not for any occasion, not because I had company. Not even because I like ham. Just because. It was really delicious. Smoky, salty and just perfect was the result. 

Days later just perfect had grown quite old. I was pretty sure if I ate one more ham sandwich I would die. Death by ham. Not a bad way to go, but there had to be a solution.

 Potatoes are always a good cure for what ails you. The absence of potatoes created a famine. That should tell you how impressive they are. 

Ham and potatoes are a natural combination. The ham is salty, but the potato just soaks the sodium right up. This soup is really a great combination of flavors. The smokiness of the ham can be tasted throughout the soup and makes the potatoes and broth so rich and delicious. Not to mention, this can whipped up in about 20 minutes. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of ham, cubed 
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic minced
3 medium russet potatoes, cleaned and chopped
2 12 ounce cans evaporated milk
12 ounces of milk
salt and pepper to taste

Start by sauteing the ham in the butter over medium heat. I like to use a heavy bottomed sauce pan for this. After the ham chunks get a slight sear on the outside, add in the onions and garlic.

 Let this sweat for just a few seconds before adding the potatoes. If you wish, you can peel the potatoes, but I rarely feel the need to peel potatoes. Add these to the pan and let them saute in the butter for a few seconds. 

Add in the evaporated milk and regular milk and stir the pot. Cover this slightly and let the soup cook until the potatoes are tender. I add a heavy hand of salt and pepper at the end to add extra flavor. 

If this or any other soup seems a bit weak or just needs a little extra something in the broth, add just a teaspoon of chicken base and it will make a world of difference.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Raspberry Pear Crisp


The Christmas season is upon us! This really is the most wonderful time of year to gather with friends and family to share special treats and memories. One of my favorite winter desserts is a fruit crisp. A crisp usually has oatmeal on the top and cooks up to be like a crumbly cookie eaten with a pie like filling.

Not only is this a delicious way to eat fruit and stay warm, this is a terribly easy dessert to make for any potluck or occasion. The most important thing is having fruit that goes together nicely. I really love pears and raspberries. The fruit layer of the crisp creates a nice sauce that is perfectly sweet and tart to make your taste buds dance the Nutcracker. 

When looking at the crisp layer ingredients you may think there will be far too much of it for the amount of fruit you have, but do not worry! The crisp layer really sets up nicely over the fruit and it creates a nice balance. This is an adaptation of the Barefoot Contessa's crisp recipe. It is perfectly buttery, sweet and chewy from the oatmeal. I know you and your friends will just love it.

Ingredients

Fruit filling
12 ounces of raspberries, fresh or frozen
5 green or red pears, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 lemon juiced
1/4 cup flour

Crisp
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold butter, diced


First, combine the pears, raspberries, lemon juice and zest, sugar and flour. Stir this well. You can peel the pears if you like, but I don't find it to be needed once the crisp has baked up.


Mix the flour, sugar, salt, and oats for the crisp in a large bowl. Make sure this is well combined before the butter is added.


Using a fork or pastry cutter, combine the butter into the dry ingredients. This takes some muscle and a few minutes of your time. You could also use a food processor to make this. When the crumbly topping is ready, it will look like wet sand. The goal is to have the butter mixed evenly in small pearls through out the dry ingredients. You should be able to squeeze these ingredients into a ball and have it hold a loose shape.


Sprinkle the crispy topping over the fruit. 


You will see there is a generous amount of the crisp topping, but you will not mind. Trust me.


Bake the crisp for 50 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven. You will know this is ready when the top is golden brown and the fruit in the center should be bubbling.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Salt Dough Ornaments



 

 Today is December first. That means Christmas decoration lovers can no longer feel guilty about having their trees and snowmen out for the last month. I love Christmas and the decorations that go along with it, but anytime before Thanksgiving is just too soon for me.

But now it is time!

I am adding a new decoration this year: salt sough ornaments. This is one of the first things from Gingerlocks' Kitchen that you cannot eat. I suppose you could eat them, but they would be gross. The addition of so much salt makes them shelf stable and not very tasty.

 This year was the first time I made these myself, but I did grow up having a few on the tree. They are super easy to make and you can cut out, color and decorate them however you choose. 

Many people like to add dye to the dough, but I made a "red" batch that never looked quite right. I would recommend putting some acrylic paint on the ornaments once they have been baked and cooled to get the look you really want.

Ingredients

2 cups flour, plus more for rolling out
3/4 cup salt
1 cup of water


Combine the flour and salt. Then add the water slowly. Add half and mix well before adding the rest of the water. This should look like cookie dough when you are ready to let it rest in the refrigerator.


When the dough is able to come together in a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes in the fridge to let the dough firm up.


 After letting the dough chill, sprinkle the counter with a good amount of flour. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch width. If the dough is too thick, your ornaments will be crazy heavy and will not stay on the tree.


 Once the dough is rolled out, choose the cookie cutter of your choice and cut out the shapes. Keep re rolling the dough until all of it is used up. Make sure you poke a hole is a sturdy corner to hang these pretty things.


Place the cut out dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake these in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes at 300 degrees. Make sure the ornaments are firm, but do not brown. 


Once these are cooled, paint them with acrylic paint or you can add glitter or other sparkly adornments of your choice with some craft glue. 

I hope you try these out and have so much fun with them!