Saturday, April 11, 2015

The After Easter Ham Bone Proves Its Worth

This year for Easter dinner, we  bought a smoked pork picnic shoulder with a bone.  I made   a glaze of currant jelly, coarse mustard and brown sugar, and a chutney of rhubarb, dried cranberries, vinegar and spices.  Incredibly good. 
Ham, Glaze and Chutney recipes

The only changes I made was parsley instead of watercress, which I couldn't find, and I substituted craisins for currants in the chutney because I was out of currants.  We loved the chutney.  We had a 7 pound ham, as we were only four people .

Rhubarb, by the way,  can be hard to find in some supermarkets.  The clerks don't know what it is and even the people in the PRODUCE department may be unfamiliar with it.  Chances are your grandparents grew it if they had a garden..

The reason I got a ham with a bone (besides flavor) was that a ham bone with bits of meat is a wonderful flavor enhancer for bean, pea or lentil soup.  I made bean soup, using the ancient Better Homes and Garden recipe from an old cookbook I found at the book drop at the recycling center.  It was straight forward and I added fresh thyme instead of dried, and added a few tablespoons of chopped parsley.  Did not add potatoes.  Aren't beans starchy enough?  Used some leftover chicken broth and the rest water.  Cooked the beans (after soaking) with the ham and thyme, as well as a bay leaf, then added onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cooked for half an hour until the beans were done. I browned 2 strips of thick cut bacon and added it to the soup for extra flavor.   Add parsley before serving.  I could have added the ham skin when I first cooked the beans if I hadn't already ditched it.  I'm sure it adds a lot of flavor and never knew about this possibility because so few hams actually have the skin anymore.  Another virtue of the old fashioned ham.  Naturally we had ham sandwiches and ham and eggs before the soup

I was out of Bisquick, so I made biscuits from scratch, using buttermilk.  Yesterday to serve with the soup on the 2nd day (it was even better), I bought a package of "baby grands" biscuits at the supermarket.  Yikes!  Those suckers are pricey.  We decided we actually like the Bisquick biscuits best.  Maybe I'm just used to them. 

The soup tastes better on the second day.  Made salad out of the leftover asparagus and green beans and even garnished it with a leftover hard boiled egg.  You can never eat too many veggies.  The leftover chutney tasted wonderful on cottage cheese. 

The ham extended Easter another few days and gave good value.  I got 14 servings out of a $9.00 ham or 64 cents for a serving of quality protein.  Not bad. 

The Cheeseparer

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicken Enchilada Bake

I ran across this recipe--think I followed a link to the blog, and thought:  This looks cheap!  This looks easy!  This looks quick!  Can't get much better than that.  I had all the ingredients except the enchilada sauce.  Normally, I would have made my own taco seasoning, but I actually wanted to try it to see what was in it and how it tasted.

Here is the original recpe:  Chicken Enchilada Bake By the Country Cook

The old saying, haste makes waste came into play.  I actually didn't read "10 ounches mild green chili enchilada sauce."  Nope.  Read "10 ounces of  mild green chilies."   I bought 8 ounces because I didn't want to buy 3 cans  and  when I came  home with the taco seasoning and the chilies, then, and only then, I realized (with a few expletives) that I should have bought 10 oz. mild green chili enchilada sauce.

I wasn't going back to the store, so I decided to wing it and make my own.  My neighbor had recently given me some hot red peppers that came with her weekly produce (one of those co-op deals), and I needed to do something with them.  Soooo....

Sauteed  1/3 onion and one small seeded red pepper (removed the pith, too, as that sucker was HOT!).   Once the veggies softened I added  a clove of chopped garlic, the 2 cans of mild green chilies, and a little chicken broth.  Salt and pepper.  I sampled a bit,  and it tasted wonderful-spicy, but not too spicy.  Added the taco seasoning and the chicken and the soup and the cheese (I always have a bag of shredded Mexican cheese in the fridge) and  mixed it all up.

I mixed the Bisquick with water and dumped it in the casserole.  I could tell it was going to be hard to spread, so I got out my offset spreader and sprayed it with PAM and made short work of spreading the base.

The Food Network has provdided good hints over the years, and the offset spreader (great for frosting) and spraying Pam or its equivalent on any tool or measuring cup likely to  become sticky are cool things to know about. 

Sprinkled the rest of the cheese on top and baked the casserole.  This was GOOD, moderately spicey and it provided two dinners and a main course lunch for the two of us.

I try to keep chicken pieces in the freezer as well as having the soup on hand and always Bisquick.  Bisquick can save your life.  The dish was not keep-a-box-of-kleenex-on-the-table spicy.  You get the picture.   If I made it again in the summer when the herb garden was in full flower,  I'd sprinkle a bit of cilantro or chives on the casserole for color.  The little bits of red pepper did look nice on the inside.

Once the weather gets cool again, I'm making a pot of chicken and dumplings.  Right now, New England has been in the 70's and there's no call for hearty fare yet.

Happy Cooking!

The Cheeseparer

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Smoked Pork Chops on the Grill

Sometimes pork chops are dirt cheap.
Did you know your grill can become a smoker?  Build a modest fire on one side of your grill, add some wet chips (your choice of flavor) thgat you've soaked.  Put the chops on the side of the grill with no fire.  Put the lid on, and barely open the vents.  We also used a bit of apple wood which is particularly good with pork.

To start with, I put a rub on the chops.  We're having a German meal, so I used carraway seeds, granulated garlic, white pepper, a pinch of ginger and some paprika.  Stash the the "rubbed" chops, covered,  in the fridge for a couple hours.

The pork chops take about 2 hours to smoke, and when I sneaked a bite---heaven!

I'll cook some carrot and onion in a bit of oil and then add some white wine,a big jar of saurkraut, drained, and a grated potato.  Usually grate in an apple, too, but we have none so I'll use a bit of agave nectar.  Add more wine, cook a while, and serve the chops with the saurkraut, mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Major yumminess.     We're having an Indian Summer Day, so it was perfect to watch the Ryder Cup and smoke the pork chops.  Now the Red Sox and Yankees are playing the last game of a disappointing season, but the new Red Sox rookies are tremendous.  Really inspiring.  I expect good things in 2015.  From worst to first to worst to first?  Now that will be historical.

Bon Appetit! 

The cheese parer. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Going Bananas with Banana Waffles

Come home from a rare week out of town and the milk is sour.  I recall tossing a ripe banana into the freezer before we left.  Looks like we'll be eating banana waffles.  Sour milk makes great pancakes and waffles.  I always assume everyone know this, but maybe not.  I thawed the banana gently in the microwave, peeled it, and tossed it into the batter.  Mashed around a bit until pieces of banana were distributed.  Heat up the waffle iron, fry some bacon and get out the maple and strawberry syrups.  We're weird.  We like cottage cheese with our pancakes and waffles.  Quite yummy.   No one was ready for lunch before 1:00.  #1 son makes banana-chocolate chip pancakes and waffles, but that's too decadent for me.  And remember, you just pop the overripe banana into the freezer, skin and all.  When  you have three of them, you make banana bread.  We waste nothing in this household. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Even the Wall Street Journal Carps about Food Prices

I couldn't believe the WSJ, a publication that prints a section called "Mansion" every Friday, had a story last week complaining about food prices.  After I read a bit, I realized the woman involved was entertaining 200 guests and serving lots of expensive booze, so naturally the price would be a concern if one is not "made of money" as the saying goes.  Sticker Shock at the Supermarket?

Meat prices are  high, cereal is high, honey will be going through the roof.  What's a shopper to do?  Eggs are still a bargain, and a good omelet (try spinach) or quiche is always within reach.  The Boston Globe's recipe section today (September 3rd) had a quiche with tomtoes and basil featured.  We're going to eat one of those tonight.  Tomatoes and basil from the garden and shredded mozzarella from the grocery story.  The grated cheeses are frequently on sale.  Don't get carried away, as they don't last forever.  Never tried freezing them.  If you've done this successfully, let me know. 

It really pains me to pay $4.00+ for a loaf of decent bread.  I have a good recipe for food processor bread that is easy (just 10 minutes max of total concentration) and tasty.  I invested in a special bread pan for it, as it makes two loaves.  Eat one, freeze one.  Food processor French bread

We're been using tomatoes from the garden in many recipes, and I've tried some new kebab meals that have been successful, both with chicken and with pork.  There was also a fab orzo salad with eggplant, fennel and zucchini.  I'm not a big fan of zucchni which is basically tasteless, but it was o.k. in the salad and also in a vegetable crostata the next night with a whole wheat crust. 

The recipe was for tomatoes,  zucchini and eggplant, and I added some spinach.  It called for fresh mozzarella which I didn't have quite enough of, so I added feta.  Unless you are baking, use the ingredients as a guide.  Of course I made the crust exactly according to instructions. and it was tender and tasty.  Keep your whole wheat flour in the fridge and it will stay fresh. 

Hope this gives you some new ideas.  Think Quiche, Crostata and Kebabs.  Less meat and lots of flavor.  And if you cater a party for 200, serve chicken not beef!  

Bon Appetit! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fresh Corn Griddle Cakes

Now that fresh produce season is in high gear, this recipe is cheap.  I always buy stone ground corn meal--so healthy and delicious.  One of the things I like about this recipe is that the corn meal mixture is NOT gunked up with a lot of sugar.   Here is the way our dinner looked.

I had problems chopping the onion (crying jag) so dumped all the coarsely chopped ingredients into the food processor.  This makes for a soupier salsa, but still good.  Couldn't find quesco fresco  but did find a very reasonable grated mixture of REAL Mexican cheese for chump change, and it will be perfect for the pork tacos we're having on Monday.

My garden has fresh mint, basil, parsley, chives, sage, oregano (great to Mexican cooking), tarragon, thyme and rosemary.  Orange cherry tomatoes we have to pick daily.  I dumped a few of them into the salsa.  They're little pops of color and flavor.

Here is the recipe from the New York Times.  Make the salsa early, and you can also prep the batter and dump the wet and dry together when  you're ready.  Really tasty.  Filing, too.  And cheap.

Fresh corn griddle cakes

I use Bob's Red Mill stone ground cornmeal.  Makes all the difference. I like the yellow, but the white is good, too.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mediterranean Bread Salad

With the produce coming in fast and furious, consider making a bread salad.  You will need half of a baguette,  and if you can find a reduced price day old one, so much the better. cut in 1/2 inch cubes and toast with a bit of olive oil in a 425 degree oven for 5 - 10 minutes. 

6-8 tomatoes, from the garden (or someone's garden) if possible, cut into one inch chunks.
4 oz. baby spinach, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced really THIN!
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped basil, fresh, of course.
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Mix tomatoes thru basil in a large bowl.  Save all tomato juice from chopping.  Dress with 2 T. balsamic vinegar (I use white) and 3-4 T. olive oil.  Toss in bread cubes and toss well to miss ingredients.  Salad can sit a few minutes for bread to absorb juices.  Just before serving, sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Serves 4-6. 

Although it seems counter-intuitive, the salad can be eaten with sliced bread.  Serve a soup or a hearty dessert.

Enjoy!    I like to eat the soggy salad the next day.