raisin sauce for that easter ham

Raisin sauce for ham wasn’t a family tradition. It was somebody else’s tradition that they shared with me years ago. Or more precisely, they said they would really like to have that with ham but didn’t know how to make it.

So I monkeyed around with it and came up with the recipe I’m about to share with you. Having done research over the past few years again on a raisin sauce for ham mine is different because I add onion, and I use the Wondra quick dissolving flour and not cornstarch. I also add both a dried mustard and a grainy mustard, allspice as well as cloves, a bouillon cube, and a little hot paprika.

What you end up with is a savory sweet sauce for ham. It complements the smoked salty nature of a ham rather well.

Here’s how I do it:

* 1 cup dark raisins
* 2 cups water (hot with a bouillon cube added)
* 3 Tablespoons Wondra flour
* 1/3 Cup brown sugar
* 1/4 Teaspoon dry Coleman’s mustard
* 3 Tablespoons grainy mustard like Grey Poupon Country Mustard
* 1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/4 Teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/2 Teaspoon hot paprika
* 4 Tablespoons butter
* 1/2 Sweet onion diced
* 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar or maple champagne vinegar

Chop up the onion and toss it in the sauce pan with the butter. As you are cooking the onion down and it starts to get translucent, add the raisins.

Then add the water with the dissolved boullion cube, add the sugar. When the sugar is dissolved add the flour – and yes I pretty much stir continuously at this point. Next add the spices and the mustards (powdered mustard and the grainy mustard), and finally add the vinegar.

A lot of people when they’re making the sauce will serve it right at this point. I don’t. I turn off the stove and I put the lid on the saucepan and I let it sit for at least an hour. I reheat it gently when I am ready to serve my ham and all you do is put it in a gravy boat and let people spoon what they want over warm ham.

Oh and I changed up my ricotta pie this Easter. I toasted up pine nuts and chopped pistachios and added them to the ricotta mixture before baking!

Happy Easter!

snow day minestrone

Another snow day…I do not know what it is about snowy days that makes me want to cook, but it does.  It’s like another form of nesting, I suppose.

So today I decide one more last hurrah for the winter soup of it all.  I have a bunch of leftovers, a bunch of fresh vegetables, and a bone and gizzard bag in the freezer for Instant Pot bone broth.

The first step was loading the following into my Instant Pot: 1 roasting chicken carcass I had frozen for such a purpose and 2 packets of frozen necks and gizzards saved from other chickens.  To that I added a bunch of celery ribs (cut in half only), a chunked red onion, 4 or 5 carrots, cut in half.  I add 1 bay leaf, a small handful of Juniper berries, quatre epices, salt, pepper, herbes de provence.  I add water half way up my 8 quart Instant Pot and I set to manual and 50 minutes.

When the 50 minutes are up, I turn the Instant Pot off and let it de-pressurize by itself.

Meanwhile I take my big dutch oven (8 quarts) out and get ready to add stuff to it.  I recently got a new dutch oven because my large vintage Dansk was getting a bit shabby.  I replaced it with a Sur Le Table Lightweight Cast Iron Dutch Oven and so far so good.

Into the dutch oven I put: 1 drained can of Goya chick peas (15 oz), 1 can of Hunt’s Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (14.5 oz do NOT drain), 2/3 cup Israeli couscous (dried not cooked), 1/2 cup orzo (dried not cooked) , a few ribs of celery chopped up (over a cup), four carrots rough chopped, 5 small to medium red potatoes chopped, 1 red or orange or red bell pepper, chopped small, an end of a solid piece of Parmesan grated rind and all (I save odd bits of cheeses and cheese rinds for cheese sauces and other uses like this), some more oregano, basil, thyme, a couple solid dashes of sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, leftover roast chicken shredded, and a smoked sausage (or kielbasa) cut into manageable pieces.

When my  Instant Pot was de-pressurized, I removed all of the bones, gizzards and cooking vegetables and strained my broth into the stove top dutch oven. I brought my broth and veggies and pastas (orzo and couscous) to a boil on a medium low heat (uncovered), stirring frequently.  I then put the lid on my dutch oven and turned off the stove.  There it will sit covered until about 40 minutes before dinner time at which time I will warm up on a low flame to serve.  Add a green salad on the side and it’s a wonderful winter or end of winter snowy day dinner.  If you have any fresh biscuits or a crusty bread, even better.

Buon Appetito!

baking day: banana bread and collecting cookbooks

I made pumpkin bread the last time around and this time I decided to make banana bread. My banana bread is a little different from some recipes but I think it’s delicious.

Start with preheating your oven to 350°.

Next, your ingredients:

3/4 of a cup of butter, almost melted

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Four eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dark raisins

Five large bananas mashed up

The first thing I do is in a medium bowl is mash the bananas. I have a hand potato masher that works nicely for this chore. I try to use very ripe bananas the flavor is better.

Next I grease and flour two pans – I think the dimensions are 9″ x 5″ but don’t hold me to that. I grease with butter and with almond meal (almond flour– I use it a lot in baking). If you don’t have almond meal in your pantry just use flour.

Put the pans to the side.

And a second bowl, mix together with 2 tablespoons of other flour or almond meal your raisins, chopped pecans, dried cranberries

Throw your butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for almost a minute. Add it to a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Cream until smooth add your vanilla and your eggs, mix again. Next add the mashed bananas and your cardamom and cinnamon.

After that is smooth and well mixed, add in your salt, baking soda, baking powder and give it a stir. Add in your flower one cup at a time. Once the batter is well mixed if you have been using a hand mixer switch to a regular old-fashioned wooden spoon and stir in the nuts and dried fruits.

Split your batter equally between your two pans and dust tops with granulated sugar. Next, place next to each other but not touching in your preheated oven.

The banana bread cooks for about an hour, and when a toothpick comes out relatively clean your bread should be done. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pans before removing from pans and cooling completely on baking racks before wrapping up. You can freeze a loaf or not. They last about a week. Or less depending on how hungry everyone in your house is!

Ovens are funny so sometimes it’s a little less time sometimes it’s a little more time. I don’t remember what it was that I baked and wrote the recipe down and posted, but the time I listed for me worked perfectly with my oven yet a reader wrote to me that with their oven it took a little more time.

Baking is not completely an exact science when it comes to ovens and cooking times. And there’s also trial and error. And it also depends on the home cook. I am more of one that uses recipes as a guide and I will wing it a lot. If it’s something I make often enough, I will try now to write the recipe down.

My problem is that a lot of the women of older generations in my family that taught me to cook from the time I was a small child didn’t actually use recipes. Maybe they had the basics on an index card, but more often than not it was straight out of their head and you learn how things were right by the feel of batters and doughs and what not. So that is kind of the way I learned. Some things had recipes and exact measurements, and some things just didn’t. Homemade pasta, for example, was one of the things that didn’t have anything written down. It was just passed from person to person how to do it.

My mother has a great collection of wonderful cookbooks, and what I learned from her includes having a great collection of wonderful cookbooks. It was my mother taught me to check out the regional cookbooks that various Junior League chapters and ladies aid societies and women’s church groups would put out.

For example, decades ago at this point (like around 1980), the Philadelphia Orchestra West Philadelphia Women’s Committee put out a wonderful cookbook called The Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook. I still have it in my cookbook collection today and it has wonderful recipes including one from my mother! I don’t recall ever had anything from the Philadelphia Junior League, but I do have a cookbook called The Philadelphia Cookbook of Town and Country circa 1963 that was by Anna Wetherill Reed. This cookbook has many wonderful recipes including for oldschool cocktails like a Philadelphia Old Fashioned cocktail and a recipe for Fish House Punch attributed to State In Schuylkill.

As far as the regional cookbooks go I have a couple from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a few southern Junior League cookbooks (like Charleston, Virginia, and Shreveport Louisiana). Sadly, as far as my regional and fundraising type cookbooks go the one that was the largest disappointment is the one that was put out by the Devon Horse Show a few years ago called Appetizers at Devon. I never fell in love with any of the recipes. I guess maybe it just reflects the changing style of the women’s committees in general all over today versus days gone by. A lot of these women don’t get into their kitchens, they order out, they buy prepared foods, they have boxes of portioned out foods delivered like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and what not, they use caterers, they go to restaurants.

One of the best cookbooks and most fun that I have the counts as a regional cookbook is Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen. These are recipes compiled by the Saint Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church Women’s Auxiliary in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Those ladies started putting out a cookbook in 1973, and the addition I have is the fourth edition from 1997. If you can get your paws on a copy, and you like Greek food, this is an amazing cook book and the recipes are easy to follow.

I even have a cookbook from the Italian market in Philadelphia. I have course, also have a nice selection of cookbooks from the professionals like Ina Garten and the New York Times. I have also mentioned in prior posts that if you can get your hands on volumes one or two of The American Contry Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbooks put out years ago by the Maynards, they are wonderful as well.

A new cookbook I am going to suggest that everyone go to Amazon to get (and it’s going to be released soon because I just got my shipping notification) is by Delaware county native Elisa Costantini and her son Frank Constantini. It’s called Italian Moms: Something Old Something New 150 Recipes. I also have her book Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table which was self published.

Enjoy your day!

hummus tahini

With the exception of a few short days between the flu and flu related viruses I have now been sick off and on but mostly on since the 28th of December. (On the news when they run through the list of people who are susceptible to flu, especially if they forget to get a flu shot, I’m right up there.

As a result I have become the master of sick food. It has not been a month where I have been overwhelmingly starving. And the foods I have been eating have been pretty basic. A lot of chicken soups, in particular. (I have to tell you having an Instant Pot to make bone broth, soups, and stews has been a god send.)

I am not a big giant sandwich eater for lunch most days so things like yogurt and hummus have also been up there on the list of things which have tasted good to me.

I love hummus tahini. My mother has been making it since we were little. When we were little it was a sure sign of company coming over because it was one of her “go to” hors d’oeuvres kind of things.

I have never really used a recipe to make my hummus. I just watched what my mother did for years and then I have created my own recipes as an adult.

I made it again today and I think it’s extra delicious this time, so I decided to commit the recipe to paper, or blog. (And yes I still have that draft of that unfinished cookbook on my computer desk top and this recipe will be added to it.)

Hummus Tahini Ingredients:

1 extra large can of Goya chickpeas – 1 lb. 13 oz. DRAINED

1 large sweet onion rough chopped

4 large cloves garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 large red bell pepper rough chopped

Juice of two large lemons

A couple of dashes of Cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Approximately 1/3 cup Tahini paste (you can add more or you can add less – truthfully it’s a matter of personal taste)

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

Olive oil and sweet paprika to dress the hummus before refrigerating.

A food processor or a blender that works like one. (I have a Breville blender it seems to do everything except take out the trash.)

Now to put it together…

I put into the blender the red pepper, onion, garlic, cumin, cayenne. I then add a couple of dashes of salt and pepper to taste and blend well.

Then I add the pine nuts and blend well.

Then I add the chickpeas, and blend well again.

Then I add the tahini paste in three parts because it’s a pain to work with and blend some more.

I taste it and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary, and also may add a little more lemon juice or a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar if I don’t think the acid balance is right. The thing about hummus is there is a balance to the acids you add, and when people omit the acid it doesn’t taste as good.

I will also tell you that I know some people who blend the tahini paste and lemon juice first to break down the tahini and make it more pliable. I do that sometimes too, but also breaking the adding of adding tahini in three bits also makes it manageable.

When my hummus tahini is velvety smooth, I put it in its own container and I dress the top of it with a few swirls of olive oil and sweet paprika. I then refrigerate until cold.

Hummus is fabulous with pita bread of course, but also goes well with carrots and other vegetables. it also makes a great base to a vegetarian type sandwich if you are so inclined.

Truthfully hummus is one of my favorite things especially for lunch. And not just when I’m not feeling well. I will buy prepackaged hummus tahini but I still think nothing is better than making it yourself and it’s so simple and takes very little time.

Enjoy!

mmmm, that smells good!

I have never had the flu eight or nine days before… before now, that is. And I have had enough chicken soup to cluck. And yes, I make my own soup and bone broth (thanks Instant Pot!) so I know what is in it. Needless to say, I have made a serious dent in my freezer soup supply.

I need to eat something different for dinner, so since the Giant Peapod delivery got through yesterday’s snow and this morning’s roads (yes I do treat myself to this once in a while, no judging), my version of beef stew/ boeuf bourguignon is in the oven now doing the low and slow for a couple of hours.

This recipe will probably seem a little disjointed to some because it’s more like a guide to creating your own version versus a hard and fast recipe that is written down with precise measurements. Sorry, but it’s like when I am making fresh pasta – the measurements of flour I use depends on how the dough feels to me as I put it together.

It’s not hard to make this. It’s a 2 lb pack of stew meat, veggies, one can of crushed tomatoes, half a container of cooking broth, wine, herbs, spices, garlic salt and pepper. I used Herbes de Provence primarily. The fresh vegetables I used this time were mushrooms, two onions (one red and one sweet white), parsnips, small red potatoes, carrots, celery.

I tossed the beef cubes in a bowl with Wondra flour (yes the stuff that is the trick to a less lumpy gravy is also tremendous when you need to toss meat or chicken in flour for browning), Herbes de Provence, garlic, and a little kosher salt.

For this recipe I brown the meat in a combination of olive oil with a little added walnut oil. You go lightly on the walnut oil or the taste will overwhelm your dish. It’s just a couple small dashes and it adds a different flavor layer when you’re cooking.

I browned the beef for like 10 minutes in my big vintage Dansk stew pot or Dutch oven whatever you want to call it, and then added herbs and spices. The additional spices I added included cumin, sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika (I keep both in my spice rack so it really just depends which I grab at the time), fresh black pepper, a little additional dried rosemary, and a nice pinch of the red chili pepper blend I get from Los Poblanos in New Mexico.

Then I add the onions, followed by the celery, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms. I add a little more salt and pepper to the vegetables. Everything browns together for a little bit (like 10 more minutes) and then I add the tomatoes (1 28 ounce can of crushed) and a half of a bottle of wine. Only a couple of gifted and too upscale reds for stew were in the wine rack so today I used the Rioja Rose I keep in as a Sangria base. And a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. (I almost forgot!)

I let the alcohol cook off the wine slightly and then I added half a container of Swanson cooking broth. I also add a couple of pieces of orange peel (2″-3″ each- no white.)

I then turned off the stove and put into the pre-heated oven (covered and at 300°.)

It’s now in the oven for a couple of hours on a cook time timer which will shut the oven off completely when it hits two hours. This dish cooked covered in a slow oven, means flavors will meld together nicely.

I love stews and hearty soups in winter. Thanks for stopping by!

Biscotti Two Ways

Christmas always means biscotti, or should.  Only my inner Italian hadn’t made them in a few years. So, I decided to drag out my recipe and tweak it. Biscotti, also called cantuccini, are Italian biscuits that originated in Tuscany if memory serves (traditionally almond or anise) .

They are twice-baked, oblong,crunchy, and delizioso.  The word originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning “twice-cooked.” They are also so truly uncomplicated and simple to make that I reminded myself today I should make them more often.

I updated my recipe and tried a new twist.  I created Cranberry-Almond and Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti.  And yes they are that good.  I blame Ancestry.com for making me remember my Italians today!

Without further ado:

BISCOTTI TWO WAYS

BASE RECIPE:

8 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

1  cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 large eggs

2 cups flour

Coarse sprinkling sugar (you know the sparkly fancy holiday stuff – Home Goods always has it!)

To turn them into Cranberry-Almond also add:

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup sliced almonds

1 teaspoon anisette or ½ teaspoon anise extract

To turn them into Chocolate-Pistachio also add:

1 teaspoon coffee extract

1/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

3/4 cup chopped fine pistachios

4 oz (1/2 bag) Heath Toffee Bits

2 teaspoons cinnamon

How to mix it all together and bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line pan with baking parchment paper or use silicone baking sheets (I use commercial sheet pans from Chicago Metallic with silicone liners I bought separately – I do NOT use dark pans they burn everything – aluminum – silver only.  Also known as Uncoated Large Jelly Roll Pan, 16-3/4 by 12-Inch)
  2. In a big bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, extracts, and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  3. Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdled. At low speed of your mixer, add the flour, stirring until smooth; the dough will be sticky.
  4. REFRIGERATE the dough a couple of hours wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. ( A lot of recipes and chefs say you do not have to, but I refrigerate a lot of my cookie doughs before dividing and baking.) Allow to warm up about 15 minutes before dividing and shaping.
  5. Plop the dough onto the baking sheet. Divide it in half with a knife(carefully, don’t mess up your silicone baking sheets, parchment paper, or pans), and shape it into two approximately 9 1/2″ x 2″ logs, about 3/4″ tall. Straighten the logs, and smooth their tops and sides- I use my fingers and the back of a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with sparkle sugar and press that in top
  6. Bake the dough for 25 minutes. Remove it from the oven.
  7. Using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the logs, making sure to cover the sides as well as the top. Softening the crust just this little bit will make slicing the biscotti much easier. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
  8. Wait 5 minutes, then use a sharp serrated knife to cut the log crosswise into 1/2″ to 3/4″ slices. Be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan; if you cut unevenly, biscotti may be thicker at the top than the bottom, and they’ll fall over during their second baking.
  9. Set the biscotti on edge on the prepared baking sheet. Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes (NOTE: Chocolate ones took almost 32 minutes on the second bake), until they feel very dry and are beginning to turn golden. They’ll continue to dry out as they cool.
  10. Remove the biscotti from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool. Store airtight at room temperature; they’ll stay good for weeks.

 

You will get about 30 biscotti a batch depending on size. Sometimes a couple less, sometimes a couple more.  Depends on the dough Lincoln logs.

Buon Natale!

 

deluxe pumpkin bread

Let the madness begin! Almost time for Thanksgiving! This morning I made the cranberry orange relish and this afternoon, pumpkin bread.

I somehow managed to pinch a nerve in my neck/shoulder so it has been slowwww going.

Here is the recipe for the pumpkin bread:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves, cardamon

3 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 cup canola oil

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar – I prefer light

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 cup dark raisins

1/4 cup minced candied ginger

In one mixing bowl combine all the dried ingredients

In a second mixing bowl combine all the wet ingredients with the sugars.

When the wet ingredients and sugars are mixed, stir in the dry ingredients. Then fold in the nuts and dried fruit and candied ginger.

Pour into two greased and floured 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 50 to 55 minutes (or more- today my oven took 1 hour and 5 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

YUM!