Category Archives: Recipes

Ham and Beans

Today, dear friends, we weep.    I have used up, in many delicious and satisfying ways, the glorious 14+ lb. Christmas Ham I bought for Holiday 2012.  Yes, I bought more than fourteen pounds of pure heaven cured pork for just the two of us on Christmas day.  Still, a 14+ pounder?  Yus.  Why?  Leftovers; 5 meals using every single bit of that gigantic hunk of pig ambrosia.  And now it is gone.   And,It.Was.Good.

Did I mention that Mr. Man’s friend since high school is the cop that always pulls inside store duty on Christmas Eve?  I didn’t?  Oh.  Yes, thanks to Mr. Man and his amazing network of friends, I get the hunney-bake-hook-up with a discount that would make all of you weep and gnash your teeth.  Makes my holly-day as I’m trying desperately to hold in my “Squeeee” while still inside the store.

Ham & Beans is just about the easiest thing in the EN-TIRE world to make and it is soooo good and I am surprised at how many folks just don’t know it.  Please.  Do not let yourself to be one of these unfortunates any longer.

Now for the ham in the beans you can use just about any old ham type thing you can find, so never ever throw away a ham-bone from a whole ham. You can freeze the dang thing for close to six months and still use it just fine. In the absence of a particularly fine ham-bone  get some nice meaty ham hocks at the grocery. Now it’s my very own opinion, but having the bone in there makes the richest broth. Now if you’re really in a pinch or just don’t want to fool with fishing out the bones & the fat, then use as much diced ham as you want, but you won’t get the same flavor, just sayin’. It’s all personal preference but I make them like my Grandma from Kentucky (say it “CANE-TUCK-EE) made ’em.

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Now that you have some prime pork available, get a 1 lb. bag of either navy beans or great northern beans. Both are nice white beans, navy beans are little, great northern beans are big and I figure that’s why they’re called great northern beans instead of lesser northern beans, although I’m pretty sure they’re isn’t anything called a lesser bean.

Now, you can fool with the beans over night, soaking and rinsing and I’ve done that many times, but for my purpose this day, I decided to use the slow cooker because I decided I needed to eat this during the week.

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I thoroughly rinsed and picked the beans over, put them in the pot first, laid that choice pork on top and added the following:

1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 Clove Garlic, chopped or mince
1 teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes (or pepper to taste if you don’t want a little kick to it)
1 Tablespoon Parsley
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 cups of water

Stick a lid on it, turn it on low and head out the door for work.

When you get home, you’ll want to pick out the bones and the larger pieces of fat and I do this using tongs but a slotted spoon will work fine to scoop out the shrapnel. Most of the meat should be gone off the bones, floating in your beans, but some might be clinging, so give it a hand & scrape it back into the pot. The meat chunks should break up easily with the back of your spoon.

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You don’t have to serve this immediately.  Pop the lid back on and keep it at low or set your cooker on the ‘warm’ setting if you have it.  It makes an awful lot and my own self, personally, I think it’s one of those things that’s even better the 2nd time as leftovers. Heated up beans with ketchup! Yum!

Oh, & just so you know the baking soda in beans does three things; 1) Makes the broth a bit creamier; 2) keeps the beans from splitting and; 3) reduces the gas making factor of the beans.

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Ham and beans makes me wish I was in the North East right now getting whomped by snow!  Not much better when it comes to winter fare; leisurely sopping it up while watching Old Man Winter deliver one of his occasional TKO’s.   Stay warm, stay safe and stay fed!

That’s enough.

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Make ’em a sammich!

“A sammich is not just a sandwich, it is not just a meal. Sammich is a term reserved for only the holiest and mightiest of all sandwiches. A sammich is a true work of culinary art; a feast on a bun, if you will.” – Urban DictionaryDSCN0095

Twenty plus years ago, before Al Gore gave us the interwebz, when my Littles were still, well, little, the two best places to find new recipes were in cookbooks at the library or on food packages.  Now I could find hundreds to try in the same 60 minutes it took me to find one or two at the library while the Littles enjoyed Story Hour and I enjoyed the quiet in my own head.  This isn’t one of those, though, I remember that I found the root of what would become the “Mighty Sammich Loaf” on the back of a package of frozen bread dough.

The thing I adore about this recipe, especially now that I’m cooking for just two, is that it’s a sure fire way to use up good cuts of leftover meats.  In this case, it’s the next to last of the Christmas ham, and oh what an awesome hunk of pure porcine pleasure was that hunney of a baked ham!  (Wink! Wink!)

To make this “Mighty Sammich Loaf” you will need:

  • One loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed
  • DSCN00781/4 cup honey mustard salad dressing
  • 8-10 oz ham, chopped
  • 4 oz. baby swiss cheese
  • One egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T. heavy cream or half and half (optional)
  • 1 T. sesame seeds

The great thing about using frozen bread dough is that you can take the loaf out of the freezer in the morning.  Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, spray it with non-stick cooking spray, wrap it up, stick it in the fridge and it’s perfectly thawed without having risen any by the time that you get home from work!

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You will need a parchment lined baking sheet and a rolling pin and some dusting flour.  Roll the thawed dough out to a 14″ x 10″ rectangle.  If you just start rolling the dough length-wise, it will widen perfectly on it’s own.  Stretch corners to maintain the rectangle as best you can.

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Transfer the rectangle to the baking sheet and layer the meat, dressing and cheese down the middle.  Using a sharp knife, make 7-8 diagonal slits in the dough from the edge of the filling to the edge of dough.  I fold my ends in a bit to prevent seepage of the filling during baking, but you can cut it off and just seal the ends well.  I love bread, so I always save the extra thick end pieces for myself!

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Beat the egg with the whipping cream or half and half, adding the cream isn’t necessary, but I like the extra sealing power. DSCN0090Brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg and starting at one end, pull the dough strips up and over (don’t be afraid to tug on them) and tuck them under the loaf.  Weave the strips to create a pretty bread and then brush the whole loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

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Pre-heat the oven to 400° while you let the loaf rise about 15 minutes over a hot water pan, OR, because I hate leaving out my besties, lazy and easy, I fill one side of my double sink with hot water and lay the baking sheet over it for an easy-steam.

It won’t get gigantic or rise a bunch, but a brief rest over this tiny hot tub very much improves the texture of the loaf.DSCN0093

Pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes and bake until golden.  Let it rest about 5 minutes before cutting.  You can cut it in 1″ strips for appetizers or big hunks for dinner.  It warms up well the next day if you happen to have even one single piece leftover for lunch.

You can use any combination of meat, dressings and cheeses to create whatever type of loaf you’re craving.  Leftover Sunday roast?  Saute some onions and peppers, and use ranch dressing and Monterrey Jack cheese for a Philly Loaf.  Corned beef plus well drained kraut and 1000 Island and it’s an incredible Reuben Loaf.   Very versatile and no one needs to know it’s the last of the leftovers except you!

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Meatballs and Murder

Aaah, the meatball.  That all purpose comfort food staple generally associated with Italian cuisine but versatile enough to morph into almost any ethnic version of itself.  Who hasn’t grabbed a few from the slow cooker at a potluck with them swimming in Barbecue sauce or found joy in taking them to the islands; Hawaiian style over rice.  Making a brown gravy, slopping in some sour cream and they become a fabulous Swedish import; the Volvo of weeknight menus at the family table.

A pound of lean ground beef, an egg and about a half a package of saltines, neatly pulverized with my hand blender, all mushed up.  I don’t season the meat because I always sauce up my meatballs and the sauce is always the star of the show!  Form a half a dozen balls, place in an 8 x 8 baking dish, cover with foil and bake it at 375° for about 30 minutes, or to the nearest “Wheel of Fortune” commercial break after 30 minutes are up.

Every night I assemble dinner with the six o’clock news as background and watch the “Wheel” while it’s all perking away.  I love word puzzles and I have discovered that word games are about the only thing Mr. Man will play at parties.  As a matter of fact, last Saturday we were at a party and Catch Phrase (the hand held electronic version) got whipped out.  Keep in mind, that no one is ever fully sober when we start playing games.  Ever.  Which insures that no matter what we play, hilarity will ensue.   Although we had not played it before, Mr. Man and I played quite well and there was only one clue that Mr. Man was unable to get a guess on from anyone; Penitentiary.  It was a lot of fun and I’d definitely play again.

So back to the meatballs.  Have you ever had them with mashed potatoes?  Yes?  No?  Well, until Mr. Man, I had never heard of it.  Meatballs and mashed potatoes was a childhood favorite of his and about a year into our courtship, he asked me to make them and my immediate thought for the sauce was ‘onion gravy’, thinking that WOULD be good.

No.  He wanted them with red sauce.  He does not like Italian food, at all, so I found this quite perplexing.  Ohhh-kaaaay.  Skeptically,  I did as he asked and it was freaking good and got slapped on the ‘winter comfort food’ list and considering how it’s not been above freezing here for a week, that’s what got served last night.

Because I am all about my two best peeps, lazy and easy, after the original 30 minutes are up on the meatballs, I pour about a half a jar of sauce on them, turn them and then put the foil back on and return them to the oven for another 15-20 minutes.  The fewer pans to clean, the better, mostly because the dishwasher we have is me.

Every time we sit down to Meatballs and mashed, Mr. Man says “Steve Cannaday”.  Why?, you may ask.  Because it was in grade school that Steve Cannaday’s mother served Mr. Man meatballs and mashed potatoes for the first time.   Buddies since Kindergarten, they lost touch after Steve murdered his wife, Melissa.  Stabbed her to death for reasons not known to Mr. Man.  No one heard from Steve after he got sent up, not one word has ever trickled through the grapevine of what happened to him.  Is he still alive?  Did he ever get out?  What?  Nothing.

As usual, the serving of Meatballs and mashed last night caused us to go over the same story of Steve and wondering what happened and as I was clearing the dishes I said to Mr. Man, “Oh!  Next time we play Catchphrase, all you have to do is say “Meatballs” and I will say “Penitentiary”.  Won’t that freak everyone out?!?!?

Carry on.

Chicken Tortilla but not quite soup

If I went back to the 1950’s, smartphone in hand, and told my Mother that I had access to all the information in the entire world, but I mostly use the device to watch my bank accounts like a hawk and look up recipes, I’m pretty sure she’d whack me, call the police and get a lifetime supply of condoms for my Dad, just in case I wasn’t a lunatic and she’d just been blessed with the advance knowledge that her not-to-be-born-until-’63-daughter would never work to her full potential.

Yes, I get the e-mails from Ziplist and Pintrest and Bisquick and Allrecipes and Campbells with the new time-saving, budget friendly, quick weeknight dinner appeal.  Yesterday, I clicked on one; Campbell’s Chicken Tortilla Soup.  It looked wonderful and it’s 22° outside here.  At noon.  Seemed like a good fit for the evening meal.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup? Stew? Chili?

Quick run through the grocery after work to grab the stuff and home to throw it all in the crock pot, blast that baby on high and sit back and wait for deliciousness.  It was very, very good, just not as pretty as the picture on the box made it look.  Ugh.

It was more work too, because, please, I am not throwing raw-ass chicken in a slow cooker with a bunch of canned goods for only two hours.  I can’t afford to miss work for two days while the salmonella passes.   The taste was really good but it was definitely NOT soup.  The consistency was more chili.  Open a bag of Fritos and that was our meal.  No complaints from Mr. Man.  Not that we care if he did, just sayin’.

So I just reviewed the recipe and I’ll tweak it around next time to make it more of a soup and also to make a lot less of it!  One of my biggest pet peeves is the people that review a recipe telling you how they changed everything and now it’s better.  Really?  That would make it a different damn recipe now, wouldn’t it?

Enough for now.