Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Dinner 2011 (Apricot-Glazed Ham, Scalloped Potato Gratin with Fresh Herbs, Roasted Asparagus, Popovers, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake)

Overall, this was a pretty successful meal. Though I'm definitely starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the whole holiday meal preparation thing. I feel like in doing the meal prep that I miss out on a lot of the celebrating. My cooking/baking mojo has generally been off since the Christmas dinner disaster, so I'm not entirely surprised that I wasn't totally into prepping this meal. But I think it's time to rethink how to do this altogether. I want to make the meals, but I'm thinking it's time to find some shortcuts and other ways to make these holidays a lot less stressful.

The ham and potatoes were great. They were both really flavorful and satisfying. The asparagus and popovers, however, didn't quite work out as well. I think I may have overloaded the pan a bit, so while they tasted good, the asparagus didn't crisp up at all, so the texture was a bit floppy. And the popovers didn't pop. So they were more like popunders or deflated souffles. I'm not sure if it's because I doubled the recipe or because I forgot to preheat the pans, but, again, while they tasted good, the texture was off. I missed the crispiness of the outside of normal popovers. (It worked when I preheated the pans. Here's the success story.)

The cake worked out well. Though, as I've discovered today, it's even better once it's been refrigerated. I used Greek yogurt rather than the sour cream the original recipe calls for since that's what I had in my fridge. I also used fresh pineapple since I thought the kids would enjoy eating the leftovers for a snack. I also didn't put the almonds in since my mom doesn't really like almonds. I'd be interested to try making it again with the almonds included.

Apricot-Glazed Ham
Courtesy of Taste of Home


1 boneless fully cooked ham (6 pounds)
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 cups apple cider or juice
1/4 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons mango chutney
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup packed brown sugar

Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Score the surface of the ham, making diamond shapes 1/2 in. deep; insert a clove in each diamond. Pour cider into pan.

In a small saucepan, combine the preserves, chutney and mustard. Cook and stir over medium heat until preserves are melted; brush over ham. Press brown sugar onto ham.

Bake, uncovered, at 325°F for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 140°F, basting occasionally with pan drippings. Cover loosely with foil if ham browns too quickly. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.


Scalloped Potato Gratin with Fresh Herbs
A variation on this recipe from Bon Appétit


3 pounds potatoes (I used baby red potatoes)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated Gruyére cheese (about 5 ounces)

Fill large bowl with cold water. Working with one potato at a time, peel, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and place in bowl with water. Combine cream, butter, and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Mix all herbs in small bowl. Mix salt and black pepper in another small bowl.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Drain potatoes, then pat dry with kitchen towels. Transfer half of potatoes to prepared baking dish. Use hands to distribute and spread evenly. Sprinkle with half of salt-pepper mixture, then half of herb mixture. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining potatoes, salt-pepper mixture, herb mixture, and cheese. Pour cream mixture over gratin, pressing lightly to submerge potato mixture as much as possible. (DO AHEAD: Can be made 6 hours ahead.) Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Remove plastic wrap before baking.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover gratin tightly with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until top of gratin is golden and most of liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes; serve.


Roasted Asparagus
Courtesy of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)

2 pounds fresh asparagus
Good olive oil
Kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and, if they're thick, peel them. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 25 minutes, until tender but still crisp.


Courtesy of


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spray a popover pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place pan on center rack of oven and preheat for 2 minutes.

Blend flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until it looks like heavy cream, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Cut chilled butter into 6 even pieces. Place 1 piece of butter in each cup and place pan back in oven until butter is bubbly (about 1 minute).

Fill each cup half full with batter and bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325°F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.


Pineapple Upside Down Cake
A variation on this recipe from Simply Recipes


1 cup of firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
20 ounces of pineapple slices

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 Tbsp cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups of sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
4 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream

Start by making the caramel topping. Take brown sugar and butter and combine and melt in a saucepan on medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbly, this should take several minutes. (After sugar melts, don't stir.) Pour mixture into a 10 inch diameter stick-free cake pan with 2 inch high sides. Arrange pineapple slices in a single layer ontop of the caramel mixture.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk the flours, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and butter together until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with sour cream in 2 additions each, beating well after each addition. Pour cake batter over caramel and pineapple in pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Egg in a Hole

For Easter breakfast, I made some cinnamon buns, bacon, and, in staying with thhe theme of the day, tried my hand at making egg in a hole (a.k.a. egg in the basket). I saw this recipe and thought it looked fun and easy. It was very tasty. I think I'd only had runny eggs one other time in my life (I'm usually a scrambled eggs kind of girl), so if you like sopping up egg yolk with your toast, this is perfect for you.

The original recipe calls for serving the egg in a hole with some berries and yogurt, which I think would go together fabulously. As soon as the berries are in season, I'm totally making the complete recipe.

Here's what our complete breakfast looked like:


Egg in a Hole
A variation on this recipe from Real Simple


2 slices good bread (I used marble rye from Linvilla Orchards)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 large eggs
Kosher salt and pepper

Spread the top of each slice of bread with ¼ tablespoon each of the butter. Using a round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut a 2½- to 3-inch hole in the center of each slice of bread, reserving the cutout pieces.

Heat the remaining 1½ tablespoons of butter in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place the bread and the cutouts, buttered-side up, in the skillet. Crack 1 egg into each hole. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until the underside of the bread is golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the egg to desired doneness, 1 to 2 minutes for a runny yolk.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

Perfection. It was exactly what we needed on a lovely Spring evening. The chicken had that wonderful charcoal grill flavor and a delicious crust. And the mustard-tarragon sauce on the greens paired perfectly. I added garlic bread (a loaf of Italian bread that I cut length-wise, then drizzled each half with olive oil, and then sprinkled with garlic powder, fresh parsley, salt, and pepper) that I wrapped in aluminum foil and tossed on the grill to heat up after the chicken was done and resting. I am loving my new grill.

Grilled Chicken with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt, divided, to taste
Lemon pepper
Olive oil
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons minced shallots
Black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups gourmet salad greens

Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and lemon pepper and then drizzle with olive oil, on both sides. Place chicken on grill; cook 6-8 minutes on each side or until done.

Combine salt, black pepper, shallots, and next 6 ingredients (through sugar) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Serve chicken over greens with sauce.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Slow-Cooker Asian Pork with Snow Peas, Peppers, and Soba Noodles

Tasty. Easy. Lots of leftovers. I followed the note at the bottom of this recipe and tossed the chopped pork with sesame seeds before adding it to the slow cooker. I really liked the extra burst of flavor it added.

Slow-Cooker Pork with Snow Peas, Peppers, and Soba Noodles
A variation on this recipe from Real Simple


1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Sesame seeds, to taste
12 ounces soba noodles
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed
Chopped roasted peanuts, for serving

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, stir together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, oil, ginger, and crushed red pepper. Toss pork with sesame seeds, add to slow cooker, and toss to combine. Cover and cook until the pork is tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total cooking time).

Fifteen minutes before serving, cook the soba noodles according to the package directions, adding the bell peppers and snow peas to the water during the last minute of cooking.

Meanwhile, transfer the pork to a medium bowl; set aside. Pour the cooking liquid into a large skillet and boil until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pork and toss to combine. Serve the pork over the noodles and vegetables; sprinkle with the peanuts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tex-Mex Barley Bake

I'm pleasantly surprised by this dish. While I was making it, I just wasn't sure I'd like it. But really, it's just like eating tasty innards of a burrito, topped with crunchy, cheesy nachos. There ain't nothing wrong with that.

Tex-Mex Barley Bake
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


2/3 cup pearled barley
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/4 cups milk, warmed
3 cups shredded pepper jack cheese (about 12 ounces)
Salt and pepper
2 cups crushed tortilla chips

In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil; add the barley, lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl and let cool. Reserve the saucepan.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425°. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat; add the sugar snap peas, scallions and 1/2 cup water. Boil to evaporate the water. Stir into the barley with the corn, black beans and tomatoes.

Using the same saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour for 1 minute; slowly whisk in the warmed milk and bring to a simmer, then cook for 1 minute more. Stir in 2 cups cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir this into the barley mixture; transfer to a shallow 3-quart baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake for 18 minutes. Sprinkle the chips and remaining 1 cup cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and the chips are toasted, 10 to 15 minutes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jambalaya with Chicken Andouille

When I started cooking, one of the first things I ever made on a regular basis was jambalaya. It's one-pot and easy. But, given how often we used to have it (I would guess it was about once a week for over a year), I haven't made it in years. When I saw this recipe, I wanted to give it a shot again.

I tweaked the recipe a bit since I couldn't easily find turkey anywhere (weird) but did find some tasty-looking chicken andouille. It made it nice and spicy, which I think my tried and true one from years ago was actually lacking. I do think this could have used a little more liquid since my rice was a bit on the crunchy side. Overall, it was good though.

Jambalaya with Chicken Andouille
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
I package (12-13 ounces) chicken andouille sausage, chopped
2 tablespoons sliced green onions

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in bell peppers and next 5 ingredients (bell peppers through black pepper); sauté 1 minute. Add rice; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Add turkey and sausage; cover and cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Springtime Pasta with Bacon and Goat Cheese

Perfection. I will be making this over and over.

Springtime Pasta with Bacon and Goat Cheese
A variation on this recipe from Southern Living


1 (16-ounce) package pasta
1 cup frozen sweet peas
1 1/2 cups fresh snow peas
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
8 radishes, cut into wedges
2 large carrots, grated
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
6 thick bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding sweet peas and snow peas during last minute of cook time. Drain.

Whisk together lemon juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss with pasta mixture and add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.