Monday, March 30, 2015

Joey's Favorite Crustless Ham and Cheese Quiche

  Every year, for Easter, my family has a fabulous brunch. Our menu usually includes several breakfast casseroles, quiches, fresh fruit salad, french toast casserole, bagels and muffins with cream cheese and jam, assorted danish, hash brown potato patties, and even a sliced ham and various other breakfast meats. Oh, and of course we have many different kinds of fruit juice, and champagne for mimosas. It's always quite a spread!! Sounds awesome, doesn't it? As always, we each contribute something to the event. Usually, I make a couple quiches, and a couple Tomato Pies. Sometimes I make Onion Pies too (which I absolutely love).
 So, recently, I was thinking about our Easter brunch, which put me in the mood for a quiche. I looked in the fridge, just to see what ingredients I had on hand. I scrambled some eggs, threw a few things into a pan, stirred it all together, popped it in the oven, and boom, there was my quiche! Now, I rarely ever follow a recipe when I'm making a quiche, but here's the thing... It was SO tasty, I thought, ok wait, let me remember what I did.. this one was a keeper! So I quickly wrote down what I did while it was still fresh in my mind. Since then, I've made this exact quiche so many times I don't even need to follow the recipe. It's now one of my go-to dishes and it's one of my all time faves. I love the fresh basil, I love that it has 2 kinds of cheese, and more than anything else, I love the garlic. It really makes the entire dish!
 So don't worry about a pie crust this time. If you can scramble some eggs, you can make this quiche. It's really amazing, and it's just the thing for your next brunch. Even if it's not a special occasion, it's still pretty fabulous for an easy dinner or a light lunch. I hope you'll give it a try!

2 tbs butter
1 small onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 or 6 slices deli ham, diced
4-5 large cloves garlic, (about 2 tbs minced)
10 large eggs
1/4 cup milk, half and half, or cream
5 or 6 slices Swiss cheese, diced (plus more)
5 or 6 slices white American cheese, diced
8-10 fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add diced onions, peppers, and ham. Saute until the onions and peppers are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes more, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until very well combined. Stir the cheese and basil along with the ham and veggies into the beaten egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
 Spray and glass Pyrex pie plate with cooking spray. Pour the egg mixture into the plate. Place on a baking tray, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place a little more Swiss cheese on top. Bake for few more minutes until the cheese is melted and the center is set. Remove from oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

So, you may ask "why is there no crust to this quiche?" Well, it makes it the ideal dinner when one is restricting carbs from one's diet, of course. But if you'd like to make it with a crust, go for it!
Yes, I know it's quite a bit of garlic, but seriously, that's the beauty of it. It's AMAZING!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Joey's Ginger Ale Glazed Ham

 I recently had some friends over for dinner and because I wanted to try out an idea for a ham glaze. I know many people like to glaze a baked ham with maple syrup and brown sugar or pineapple, but I always wanted to do a ham glazed with ginger ale. I figured, since I already use ginger ale to make Hot Ham, why not make a glaze for a baked ham too? So I did what I always do.. I threw a bunch of things in a pot and tasted it, figuring I'd tweak it here and there until it was right. I got it right on the first try!! I wanted it to hit certain flavor notes (a little sweet and a little tangy) but I definitely wanted the ginger ale to be the star. And that's exactly what this glaze is. Yum! Now I know it may seem a bit daunting to cook a big ham for dinner, but seriously, it's one of the easiest things you could ever make. You just pop it in the oven and let it cook! And everyone is always SO impressed! My sister, Jeanie, said she makes ham all the time, just to have on hand, and it goes really far because you use every bit of it. After you finish eating all the meat off the bone, then you use the bone for soup! (mmm.. ham bones make some of the BEST soup.)
 So if you're planning a holiday meal, or even just to have it on hand, instead of doing a maple glazed ham, try this ginger ale glaze. I KNOW you will love it. I promise you your guests will too!

1 10-12 lb fully cooked shank or butt portion half ham
A few cups ginger ale (NOT diet, preferably Canada Dry)

For the glaze:
2 cups ginger ale
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown mustard, such as Guldens
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 cup dark brown sugar

Heat oven to 325ºF.
The ham is already cooked, so you're really just glazing it and slowly heating it through. Remove the packaging and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make long shallow cuts about an inch apart, all going in one direction, then do the same thing in the other direction, making a criss cross pattern. (You really don't have to do this, but it looks nice on a serving platter) Place the ham (flat side down) on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour a few cups of ginger ale into the bottom of the pan, just about an inch or two, just to keep the ham nice and moist while it's in the oven. Cover the roasting pan tightly with heavy duty foil, or with a lid if you have one. Place the ham in the oven, and let it roast for 20 minutes per pound. Check on it about halfway through, and add more ginger ale to the pan if needed. In the meantime, make the glaze. In a small pot, mix together the glaze ingredients. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it reduce until it begins to get syrupy and a little thicker. During the last half hour of cooking time, remove the ham from the oven. Remove the foil and brush the ham generously with the glaze. Place it back in the oven, uncovered, for the remaining 30 minutes. Feel free to glaze it again when it comes out of the oven. Tent it loosely with foil and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes before carving it. Serve with extra glaze.

Make sure you use regular ginger ale and not diet. You want the sugar because it will caramelize and your ham will be gorgeous!
After you make your criss cross cuts, you can stud the ham will whole cloves, if you like. I did, just because it looks pretty and it's kind of a classic thing to do. If you're not going to present the entire ham on your dinner table, then you don't even have to bother with the criss cross slices or the cloves.
After the ham is gone, wrap the bone tightly with foil and store it in the freezer until you're ready to make soup!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bailey's Irish Cream Cake

 This year, for St. Patrick's Day, I knew I wanted to bake something using Bailey's Irish Cream: A, because I love it, and B, because I had just enough left in the bottle to use as an ingredient. I know I already have Bailey's Cupcakes (which are amazing, btw) but I was hoping for something a little different this time. Then I found this Bundt recipe and I thought, well ok then! Let's give it a try!
 Now, it's true that I only ever bake cakes from scratch, and rarely do I ever use a cake mix, but this recipe is an exception to that rule because it uses the cake mix as an ingredient instead of just mixing it up as directed on the box, know what I mean? That still counts as baking from scratch, doesn't it? I'm standing by it!
 This cake is easy to make and is SO tasty! The pecans get all nice and toasty and the glaze is just heavenly. Actually, the glaze is one of the things that drew me to the recipe in the first place. There are many recipes that just throw 1/4 cup of Irish cream into the batter, but this recipe has 3/4 cup in the cake and then another 1/4 cup glazed over the top. If we're having a Bailey's cake, I want to be able to taste the Bailey's! And I knew having the glaze would drive that home. I made it for a group of friends and several of the group came back for seconds! It's just that delicious.
 So if you're a Bailey's fan, you should give this cake a try. It's the perfect thing to have after you have your corned beef and cabbage, or any holiday meal! Enjoy!

1 cup chopped pecans
1 (15.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
6 tbs flour
4 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup white sugar
tiny pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over bottom of pan. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, and flour. Mix in eggs, 1/4 cup water, oil and 3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur. Beat for 5 minutes at high speed. Pour batter over nuts in pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto the serving dish. Prick top and sides of cake. Spoon glaze over top and brush onto sides of cake. Allow to absorb glaze. Repeat until all glaze is used up. To make the glaze: In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup Irish cream.

The original recipe called for an 18.25 oz cake mix. Since most brands of cake mix have been downsized to 15.25 oz, I have added 6 tbs of flour to the recipe. If you have an 18.25 oz cake mix, then by all means omit the flour. You could also purchase a second cake mix, add 6 tbs of it instead of just plain AP flour, and then save the rest in an airtight container for the next time.
Not a fan of pecans? Use a nut that you like! Hazelnuts? Walnuts? Anything is fine. Not a fan of nuts at all? Just leave 'em out!
Btw, I added a a few drops of rum extract to the batter. Why? Because I like it!
When you make the glaze, be sure to stir it constantly for the full 5 minutes. You don't want the sugar to burn. Also, be very careful when you add the Irish cream to the SCREAMING hot glaze. It'll bubble up quite a lot, kind of like when you make caramel. Be sure to use a pot that will accommodate that.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Roast Beef with Gravy

 I was recently watching Trisha Yearwood's cooking show and she made a roast beef "Sunday Supper", just like her mother used to make. It reminded me of how my Mom used to do the same thing. Every night, Mom would have dinner on the table, and we would all sit down together as a family to eat. Very often, she'd make a fabulous roast beef, usually with browned or mashed potatoes, a few vegetables or maybe some creamed onions, and of course home made iced tea. Even as my siblings grew older and started families of their own, my Mom would still make a Sunday Supper, and everyone would come over for roast beef. I'm honestly getting a little misty-eyed just thinking about it because they are such fond memories of Mom and my family. I guess this is probably the reason I love to invite friends over for Sunday dinners.
 So, since it was my Mom's birthday over the weekend, I figured I'd make a roast beef dinner, and Trisha's Mom's recipe seemed like the perfect one to try. It's really very simple and only requires just a few ingredients. I didn't make any potatoes with it, but just some of the fabulous onion gravy and some braised vegetables. Just the smell of a roast beef cooking in the oven brought back so many wonderful memories.
I think maybe Mom was smiling down on me today. I hope so.
Thanx, Mom.

One 5-pound boneless chuck roast
Salt and black pepper
1 large red onion, sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
 Line a 9-by 13- by 2-inch pan or your oven's broiler pan with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil large enough to fully wrap the roast. The shiny side of the foil should be up. Sprinkle the roast on all sides with salt and pepper and place it in the center of the foil. Spread the onion slices over the top of the roast and pour the vinegar around it. Bring the ends of the foil together and fold several times, and then fold the ends together to completely enclose the roast. Pour about 1 inch of water into the pan around the foil-wrapped roast. Bake until the meat is fork tender and brown, 3 to 4 hours. Check the water level in the pan regularly during cooking and replenish it if necessary. If any juice seeps from the foil seals during roasting, save it to use in making the gravy. When the roast is done, remove the package from the baking pan and let it cool for a few minutes. Open the package carefully to preserve all the juices and transfer the meat to a platter. Cover with a tent of foil to keep it warm while you make the gravy. 
 Pour the roasting juices into a measuring cup and let the fat rise to the surface. Skim off the fat, reserving 4 tablespoons in a saucepan and discarding the rest. (If the fat measures less than 4 tablespoons, add enough butter to make up the difference.) Measure the remaining defatted pan juices and reserve. If you have less than 2 cups, add water to make 2 cups. Add the flour to the fat in the saucepan and stir with a wire whisk to make a roux. Cook over medium-low heat until the flour is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the reserved pan juices and stir until thickened. Slice the roast or cut it into chunks (it will be very tender), and serve it with the gravy.
VERY IMPORTANT: don't use a GLASS dish to make this! Use a METAL roaster pan or a broiler pan. What do you think will happen to a glass dish when it is in a 450 degree oven and then you add cool water to replenish what has evaporated?? Yup. You guessed it. The glass with break! This did not happen to me, but there are several people who reviewed this recipe and said that it happened to them. Be safe!!
Ok, now that we have that out of the way...
I used red wine vinegar because that's what I had on hand and it worked perfectly. Just sayin'!
And since I wanted it to be onion gravy, I just left the onions in instead or straining them out before making the gravy. Be sure to taste the gravy and add a little extra salt and pepper if it needs it. I also added a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.
I used two onions instead of one because I like a lot of onions. Just like Mom used to say "if you like a lot, add a lot!"

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mini Orange Muffins

 So, we're in Winter's home stretch, and everyone is wishing for Spring and sunshine and warmer weather, correct? Well, why not whip up a batch of these little gems?! Will they bring warmer weather? No. But will the deliciously fresh orange flavor remind you of a lovely sunny day? Absolutely! Seriously, wouldn't you love a little burst of sunshine with every bite? They're the perfect little punch of citrus, just sweet enough, and they're great with an afternoon tea or your morning cup of coffee. They're a snap to throw together too. Ready in no time at all! This recipe is from Martha Stewart and I will definitely be making them again!

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for tins
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
Zest and juice of 1 orange

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter small muffin tins. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 1 cup sugar and butter until smooth. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. In a glass measuring cup, combine buttermilk and baking soda and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt; add to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating until well mixed. In a food processor, grind the raisins and orange zest. Add to the batter and combine. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Remove the tins to a cooling rack. Brush the tops of the muffins with orange juice and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup sugar while still warm; let stand 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pans.

I used mini muffin paper liners instead of buttering the tins. Makes life SO much easier, I think.
If you want to make regular sized muffins, just adjust your baking time and let them go until they're done in the center and spring back when lightly tapped.
Instead of purchasing buttermilk, just add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a one cup measure, then fill it the rest of the way with milk. Microwave it for 30 seconds. It will curdle, which is exactly what you want.
 Speaking of the buttermilk, when you add the baking soda to the buttermilk, be sure it is in a large container because it will bubble up and overflow a small measuring cup. Remember when we used vinegar and baking soda to make a volcano erupt in science class? Same thing. Just be sure you have a large enough cup to accommodate it.
I wanted the muffins to be a little more ORANGEY, so I added a 1/4 tsp of pure orange extract. Just sayin'.
These muffins freeze really well, so make a double batch, store some in the freezer, and then you'll have some on hand for the next time you need a little sunshine.
Oh, btw, if you're part of the "I hate raisins" club, (and many of you are, I'm surprised to learn), be sure to add them anyway. They're ground up in the recipe anyway and you don't even know they're there. But they do add a deliciously moist texture to the muffin. Just trust me on this! Maybe I'll use craisins next time. Love them.