Monthly Archives: April 2014

Ham & Asparagus Soup

Who doesn’t need to use up some of the leftover ham from Easter?  I swear the weather this weekend also helped dictate what I ended up making.  It has been rainy, raw and just plain chilly, kind of like a fall day.  It also helps that one of my favorite soups is creamy ham and asparagus.  It is so satisfying, it is simple to make and warms you from the inside out.   I also make this when I have leftover asparagus; I guess pretty much any excuse works for me.

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I do know many people who are not soup people, I don’t get that at all, and I kind of feel bad for them? Maybe they have never had a good tasting soup?  Maybe when they were little soup was their meatloaf & peas (two of my childhood nightmares) I do like peas now but I still refuse to eat meatloaf.  I love meatballs but no loaf.  It’s a mental thing I know. That must be it!  On the other spectrum  I have had a few people come up to me at work while I was re-heating my yummy soup for lunch and really want to make homemade soups but have had terrible luck so have given up; which is really sad.  I have had a soup class and hope to again – I will help and or convert as many as will let me.

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Passing it on – My son was looking around the kitchen to see if we had any canned soups.  I convinced him that he could make a delicious tomato soup, fairly easily and would taste a million times better than anything he could get from a can.  I got out all the ingredients and while sitting at the island working; I guided him through the process.  He wanted to make the soup all on his own, that’s my boy!

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If you have some things to use up in the fridge and a little time I believe soup is a great way to feed yourself and your family.

Creamy Ham & Asparagus

1 ½ Cup fresh asparagus

2-3 carrot, julienned

2-3 tablespoons butter

2-3 small white or 1 large onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons butter (equal to your butter)

2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup fully cooked ham, cut into bite size pieces

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Trim asparagus and place in a saucepan, cover with water and cook till just crisp-tender.  Drain and set aside

In a heavy saucepan, sauté carrots in butter for 3-5 minutes; add onions and garlic and sauté a couple of minutes longer or until tender.

Stir in flour; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes, add broth, ham and reserved asparagus.

Reduce heat and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Slight variation – You can also add a couple of potatoes if you wanted a little heartier soup, you could also add your favorite herb to change it up a bit.  If you add raw potato, cut them up small and simmer long enough to cook them probably 20-30 minutes.  Increase the chicken stock for a lighter soup or a little more milk.  if you wanted a really creamy soup, substitue 1 cup of half and half for 1 of the cups of milk – BUT do not boil the soup once you add the half and half. You can let it simmer to heat through but do not let it boil.

Happy Easter – Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting

Sorry this is a day late, we have been without internet for 4 days UGH!

 

Today like the last 30 years has started off with a pancake & sausage breakfast to support our local Rotary Club.  Let’s just say I would rather just donate money than actually attend and that is all I will say about it. My in-laws have been going to this event since they moved here in the late 70’s and we, I mean they just cannot break from tradition. I do say this lovingly.

Carrot Cake w/cream cheese frosting

Carrot Cake w/cream cheese frosting

I only added a few nuts and I was too distracted and ended up cooking it a little longer than I should have.  It was still very moist and yummy!

Later today I will be having family over for Linner, late lunch early dinner as I have called it for many years.  It is I think the first year that I didn’t hide eggs for the kids.  Which is kind of funny since they really are not “kids” anymore 21 & 23; but they always insisted that eggs be hidden.  When they were little I used to do a treasure hunt all over the house and yard for them depending on the weather.  I have a feeling if my daughter was home; she would insist on me hiding some for her and her brother to find.

Another tradition we started many years ago was we played four square in the driveway on a huge course with one of those huge plastic balls you see in those bins at the grocery stores.  We have had some crazy games over the years, not only on Easter, but I think that is when it started. We have had marathon games lasting 6-8 hours with everyone playing at some point from as young as 4-5 to as old as 70-80.  It would get pretty crazy at times but always full of laughter.  I do definitely miss playing with my brother, may he rest in peace.  Our main goal was to get him out of the servers’ box not sure how but he had a knack of always being in it.

Yesterday while out getting stuff for dinner I picked up a bag of used golf balls so that we could smackem’ down the driveway; the 3 of us sent all 48 through the woods and down the 1000’ driveway.  We do this periodically, afterwards we walk the driveway hunting for the.  Alex mentioned that we should have done this for a hunt when they were little.  Dad and I could send the balls down the driveway and then send the kids out to find them, whoever found the most would win a prize.  Excellent idea why didn’t I think of that!  This year I think we were only 14 shy of the 48 sent.  Not too shabby!

Today’s menu not unlike many others will be Ham, not the spiraled one, I’m probably on the short list who is not a fan all the ones I have ever had have been so very dry, I go for the monster shank or butt ones, always juicy. Smashed roasted baby potatoes, steamed zucchini and summer squash and I am going to make carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Have a wonderful day doing whatever it is your family does on this beautiful (this year) Spring Easter Sunday!

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Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting

4 Eggs

¾ Cup apple sauce

¾ Cup vegetable oil

2 Cups Sugar

2 Tsp vanilla extract

2 Cup AP flour

2 Tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

½ Tsp Salt

2 Tsp ground cinnamon

3 Cups grated carrots

Optional

1 Cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350’ grease and flour 9×13 pan

In a large bowl beat together eggs, sauce, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in carrots. If using nuts fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.

½ Cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional

1 cup chopped pecans

Make frosting: in a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You can also stir in some chopped pecans in this if you would like.  Frost cake once cooled.

Surf & Turf and Asparagus Risotto

My daughters last dinner at home before heading back to Japan was simple, delicious, expensive but worth every penny!  She wanted lobster since she cannot get a Maine lobster in Japan and since we are true New Englander’s that is the only kind of lobster we like. Trust me I have tried lobster in the Caribbean on several occasions from Cancun to Anegada and several places in between.  The only reason we keep trying it, is people rave about it at this location or this restaurant on this island etc.  So when we mention that we are from New England and we really only like Maine Lobsters they try very hard to build up what they experienced and that we just HAVE to try it.  So on a few occasions we bend and order it; YUP there is still nothing like cold water New England Maine lobster.

Cancun Surf & Turf 2013

Cancun Surf & Turf 2013

 

Anegada Lobster 2012

Anegada Lobster 2012

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Steak is also something my daughter doesn’t really have a chance to enjoy being in so far from home.  So for this meal we bought our most favorite cut of meat Delmonico Ribeye.  Added a little Adobo, fresh cracked black pepper and a little kosher salt and that is all you need; oh and cook it to medium rare and then it just melts in your mouth.  My mouth is watering right now!

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Lobster is very easy to make, generally one per person is fine.  Fill your largest pot with salted water cover and once it comes to a rolling boil add a lobster or two at the most, cover, set a timer for 12 minutes.  Remove from the pot and place on a platter or baking sheet with side, they are messy so if you have as a nice a husband as mine he will get all the meat out of the shells for you.  The mess stays on the tray and you can just toss; take the trash out of the house immediately or better yet make and eat this alfresco.

 

Risotto though time consuming is worth the extra effort.  I added asparagus to this one because we all love it except for my son but he doesn’t mind it as much in this form.

Risotto 

1 ½ Cup Arborio Rice

1 Quart Chicken Stock

½ Cup White Wine

1 medium shallot or small onion chopped finely

3 Tbs unsalted butter

1 Tbs Olive Oil

¼ Cup grated Parmesan Reggiano

1 Tbs chopped Parsley

Kosher Salt to taste

Bunch of Asparagus trimmed and cut into bite size pieces – boil in a little water just till tender but still crisp; remove to ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Heat the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, then lower the heat so that the stock just stays hot.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped shallot or onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until it is slightly translucent.

Add the rice and stir briskly with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. Sauté for another minute or so; until there is a slightly nutty aroma. Don’t let the rice turn brown.

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Add the wine and cooking while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed. Add a ladle of hot chicken stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process.

Note: It’s important to stir constantly, especially while the hot stock gets absorbed, to prevent scorching, and add the next ladle as soon as the rice is almost dry.

The rice will take on a creamy consistency as it begins to release its natural starches. Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn’t done, you can finish the cooking using hot water. Just add the water as you did with the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring while it’s absorbed.

Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs butter, the parmesan cheese and the parsley, and season to taste with kosher salt.

Risotto turns glutinous if held for too long; you should serve it right away. A properly cooked risotto should form a soft, creamy mound on a dinner plate.

Being Frugal – It’s a good thing

Last weekend my refrigerator was severely overloaded; my house was full of people and I had a lot of “different” ingredients leftover after it was all said and done. I really hate throwing food away so I try to use up whatever is left over before it goes bad.  I love finding a recipe, buying the ingredients, making and eating whatever it may be.  I am sure I am not alone in this where you find yourself with some ingredients that generally are not found in your fridge very often.  I had some leftover Buttermilk, Blueberries (I forgot to put them out) and some Heavy Cream.  I was reading one of my magazines that I subscribe to this last week and came across a couple of recipes that uses some of my leftover ingredients; I guess it was meant to be.

 

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins

 

Blueberry Scones

Blueberry Scones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I made Blueberry Muffins and Blueberry Scones this morning and they are both really delicious! I have actually never made scones before. I have no idea what I was waiting for, they are very easy to make and they don’t have to be pretty; though I am sure I could have measured them out perfectly and formed them just right.  I did not, I just plopped them on the baking sheet and put them in the oven; 20 minutes later YUM!  Let’s just call my scones rustic and I am OK with it.

Blueberry Muffins

2 Cups AP flour

¼ Cup sugar

1 ½ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Baking Soda

½ tsp Salt

2/3 Cup Buttermilk

½ Cup Sour Cream

2 Eggs

3 + 2 TBS melted butter

1 6 ounce container blueberries

Sugar in the Raw for dusting after baking

Preheat oven 400’ grease 12 muffin cups, set aside

I tend to use my stand mixer for majority of my baking, but you need to be gentle with these dough’s, you don’t want to over mix them and you will need to fold in the blueberries so they do not turn to mush. With that being said, I used my stand mixer creature of habit.

Add all the dry ingredients to your bowl and stir together; set aside. Whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs and 3 Tbs butter.  Add to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened. Do not over mix; batter should still be lumpy.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Filling each three-fourths full; bake 18 minutes or until golden brown.

 

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Brush with remaining butter and sprinkle with Turbinado Sugar aka Sugar in the Raw. Don’t stress over this, if you don’t normally use it you don’t need to buy any just use regular sugar.

On our honeymoon 25 years ago we were introduced to sugar in the raw on the island of Barbados and have been using it every morning ever since; in his coffee and in my tea.

Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Make sure to let the muffins rest the 5 minutes so they don’t fall apart but do not wait too long that they become soggy.

Blueberry Scones

2 Cups AP flour

1 Tbs baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 Tbs sugar

5 Tbs cold unsalted butter

1 6 ounce container of blueberries

1 ¼ Cup heavy cream

Gently whisk dry ingredients together. Grate the butter on the course side of a box grater and add to the dry ingredients; gently toss to combine.  Fold the blueberries into the dry mixture.  Make a well in the center and pour the heavy cream in. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not over mix.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and form into mounds.

Preheat over 400’ either use parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.  Bake 16-20 minutes or until tops are barley golden brown.

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