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Refried Beans by guest cook Deborah

What bad recipe starts with a pound of bacon – um not a one!

So this has been quite a week around here, my father-in-law has been in the hospital (none covid related) for 10 days. Thankfully he is home now and doing fine but we have had several family members staying with us over the whole ordeal. I didn’t make anything “new” to share with you but we definitely made and ate well and currently my husband is in the kitchen making us all breakfast with his self acclaimed famous home fries. He has definitely stepped up his game with them, they are excellent.

My sister-in-law is a huge help while she is here and wants to help out in whatever capacity. She knew I was working all week and I KNOW she wanted to make something since she loves to cook as well. I put a pork butte in the slow cooker with no real plans; Deborah had a plan she wanted to make burritos. I personally have not used pork butte for burritos but I totally “get it”. I have only had canned refried beans and that’s all I have in the house; so off to the store she went.  When she announced she was making homemade refried beans I told her she HAD to take pictures; which is another passion of hers. So this week I give to you a Guest Cook recipe and photos.

what bad recipe starts with a pound of bacon – um not a one!

You know the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” well my husband; while making breakfast; started talking smack about him winning the chocolate chip cookie contest we had several years ago; that everyone in the house except him remembers that I won. Well challenge accepted we are having another one today, I told him to take out the butter it’s on! We are going to do a blind taste test with my niece, sister-in-law and daughter being the judges. I’ll report back next week with my winnings; I mean the winner.

Refried Beans

Ingredients
  

  • 1 package dry pinto beans rinsed
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 pound bacon cooked, fat reserved (optional) Oil, or lard any oil will work but some add more flavor than others.

Instructions
 

  • cook the bacon however you want, we really only need the fat from it. I cook my in the oven on a rack. Save the bacon for breakfast sandwiches or BLT's or crumbled some of a salad. Or eat it right out of the bag.
  • cover the beans with water and let them boil uncovered for 2-3 hours, make sure to keep them covered with water.
  • dice the onion and add it to a large saute pan with the bacon fat. saute till they are golden brown, not burnt
  • using a slotted spoon take a couple of spoonfuls and add them to the onions and using a potato masher, mash the beans into the onions, You don't need to mash them all completely flat. Continue adding and mashing until all the beans are added to the pan. Add some of the leftover bean liquid to your pan until they are the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes.
  • taste and adjust the seasoning with salt

Scalloped Potatoes

Good morning and Happy Easter!

I hope everyone is hanging in there, I know I say that every week now but I don’t know what else to say. I am going on week 5 of working from home, I think I have left my sanctuary maybe 5 times over the last month. The last time it was for my husband he injured himself and ended up having surgery; he is fine and not taking it easy as instructed insert eye roll here. 

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You can sprinkle a little of the cheddar cheese on top – I did not in this picture. My mouth is watering as I am typing and looking at them – they are SO good!

How will you be spending your Easter this year? How much different will it be for your family? Will you be having some sort of virtual Holiday? We have been doing virtual happy hours with some friends and family and it is fun for now but it will get old soon. Though I am sure we will continue to do so with the ones who live far away. We have always done pancake breakfast with my kids and in-laws. Then everyone would disperse and come back later for Easter dinner. This year will be a little different, no plans for breakfast and dinner will just be with the kids. I am still going to set the table so it will be a little special. 

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I used a mandolin to slice my potatoes but it is not necessary

Since this is a cooking blog I should probably talk about cooking a little right? We all like ham and don’t really have it too often so we will be having ham, these scalloped potatoes, carrots and roasted asparagus for dinner. I am still thinking about what to do for dessert; it will have to be something that I have all the ingredients for since all of our stores close to us are closed today. Yeah I know I should have planned better but I can be pretty resourceful when it comes to using what I have on hand.

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preheat oven to 350’F

Ingredients

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions – making a roux

In a small sauce pan, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add all of cold milk at once stirring with a whisk; season with salt and cayenne. Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk and it thickens a bit. Reduce heat and stir in cheese.
Place a half of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish. Pour half of cheese sauce over potatoes.
repeat with second layer of potatoes and cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for an hour at 350°F

Braised Leeks and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

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OK so maybe the title didn’t grab your attention but let me tell you these were melt in your mouth delicious. A few weeks ago I was going through a bunch of recipes and making my grocery list.  Sometimes this works out fabulously and sometimes not so much. I was a little to over ambitious with how many things I had wanted to make and so I started crossing things off my list.
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I was planning on making something with leeks; changed my mind but never crossed them off the list. SO now I had the leeks and nothing else to go with them. What to do! Well firstly they sat in the fridge for a week, then my yankee ways set in and I needed to use them before they went bad. I don’t buy them very often and when I do it is usually for potato leek soup. I wasn’t feeling it so I decided to try a recipe I saw online for braised leeks and Parmesan.
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If you like leeks you will love this, if you have never tried leeks you will love this. If you have always saw them in the store and thought. Why are they so big and what the hell do you do with them. Pick them up and make this; you will love it.
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Braised Leeks and Parmesan Cheese

Donna Clark - Cooking at Clark Towers

Ingredients
  

  • 3-6 leeks
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Instructions
 

  • Cut the ends and the dark green leaves of the leeks off and discard, cut he leeks in half lengthwise. Place in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, then run under the faucet to remove any sand that may be lingering in between the layers. Peel off thick outer layers and discard.
  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet that will accommodate all of the leeks in one layer. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, and cook, shaking the pan and moving them around with tongs, until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Using tongs, turn the leeks over and cook on the other side until they are lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Turn the leeks back over so that the cut side is down. Peel off the outer layers if they are papery, as they will not soften when the leeks are braised.
  • Pour in the wine and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan, then add enough water or stock to come just to the top of the leeks. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until the leeks are thoroughly tender when pierced with a knife. Most of the liquid should have evaporated by this time. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.
  • Using tongs, turn the leeks so that the flat side is up. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, pour it off. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the leeks. Place under the hot broiler until the cheese has melted and is beginning to color. Remove from the heat and serve

Notes

Adapted from New York Times
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Three Apple Slaw

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Slaw – who knew that little four letter word causes a love hate and tolerate feeling. Why is that?
IMG_4248.JPGI personally like to try all kinds of slaw wherever I can find it. My husband is on the other end of this, maybe not all the way to hate but more in the lines of tolerate. Probably because I make it and put it on his plate 🙂
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The other night I paired one of his favorite pork chops alongside an apple slaw, the apple slaw was the only side dish so there was nowhere to hide. I thought it was delicious, him not as much but remember he just tolerates slaw. He literally only likes the one I make with my BBQ pulled pork sandwich. When he assembles his sandwich the ratio of coleslaw and pulled pork is almost laughable for someone who tolerates coleslaw.
IMG_4251.JPGThis slaw has a lot going for it. It is crunchy, light, flavorful and it comes together easily with the only time portion being slicing the apples into sticks. Which didn’t take that long at all and you should make this.
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Three Apple Slaw

Donna Clark - Cooking at Clark Towers

Ingredients
  

  • 1 honey crisp apple
  • 1 gala apple
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce - I used sriracha
  • 4 inner celery stalks thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup celery leaves
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, poppy seeds and the hot sauce in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cut the apples lengthwise into quarters and discard the cores. Thinly slice the apple quarters lengthwise and stack the slices. Cut lengthwise again into thin sticks.

Notes

Pork chop
place the chops on the counter so they come up to room temperature. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat your pan with some olive oil and add the chops, leave them to brown on one side without moving them for about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of your chop. Turn and repeat the process until your chops reach a temperature of 145' F
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine

Chow Chow relish – water bath canning

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Chow Chow Relish

 

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Washing the days harvest

While it may be the end of summer for some, I am not going down without a fight. My garden is still giving me lots of veggies; it even has finally snapped out of it and we have fresh garden tomatoes. I have made a ridiculous amount of kosher dill pickles. My zucchini plants did not do well this year, maybe a dozen in total and only two of the were the HUGE ones.  I gave my Dad one so he could make his lasagna he loves. My daughter used up the other one and made something new to us but a keeper.

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sterilizing the jars in my dishwasher

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cut off the ends and toss, then slice as you want them, I do way more chunks then spears

 

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Heating up the water while I prepare the cucumbers and the pickling spices

Last week I mentioned that I was going to share a recipe that my daughter made a couple of weeks ago with the super large zucchini and some other garden goodies. While I don’t have any pictures of her ingredients and process but I did teach her how to can some of her chow chow relish.
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I did take pictures of the last canning I did with the cucumbers so I will share those photos with you. Canning using the water bath method is actually pretty easy and you can use this method with quite a few ingredients though not everything you grow or make with the veggies.

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about to go into the boiling water

Here is how the recipe described what chow chow is. It is finely minced pickled-vegetable relish that walks the line between tangy and sweet in each zippy bite. For gardeners faced with the daunting task of tackling a late-summer squash surplus, chow chow can quickly become a lifesaver. Looks like I will be buying more mason jars for next years harvest.

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covered with boiling water for 15 minutes

 

Chow Chow Relish

Donna Clark - Cooking at Clark Towers
great on hot dogs and burgers

Ingredients
  

  • 2/3 pound tomatillos minced (about 2 cups)
  • 11/2 pounds squash minced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 pound red onions minced (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower minced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup spice blend recipe to follow
  • 11/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 11/2 cups raw sugar

Instructions
 

  • Placed minced vegetables in a colander over the sink or a large bowl and toss with the salt. Mixing until well combined. Let the vegetables rest overnight, allowing excess water to drain off. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly and gently removing the excess salt. Pat dry.
  • Place the spice blend in a square of cheesecloth and secure with a piece of string to make a small pouch. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and spice bag.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables become tender and start to form a slurry, about 40 minutes.
  • Remove the spicebag and ladle the chow chow into airtight glass jars. Filling each jar about three-quarters full. Chow chow will keep refrigerated for up to a week. To keep longer using the water bath method and store up to 18 months or longer if kept in a cool, dry place.

Notes

Spice Blend
1 cinnamon stick, halved
3 bay leaves, torn
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole juniper berries
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dill seeds
Place all the ingredients in a lidded jar and shake to combine
Adapted from Summer Squash by Sarah Baird short stack vol 15

Garden Salsa

This week was not spent in the kitchen and most of my garden tomatoes are still not ripening. I literally had to google what the heck is wrong with them. Apparently my original thought was completely wrong. I thought my plants were so large and the roots and earth were not getting enough heat. I did not know that some varieties will not turn red on the vine if the temperature is above 85’F.  I had no idea I thought the heat is what they needed most. IMG_4209.JPG
There are a few other factors such as they are spending too much time growing larger plants, leaves and flowers than ripening their fruit. That makes sense to me. We did end up cutting them back a bit; being careful not to lose any of the tomatoes so maybe in a week or so they’ll reward us?  Thank you google!
IMG_4216.JPGMy grandfather had a huge garden in the backyard; I can see him sitting in his chair drinking a Miller beer just watching over it for hours. I wonder when plants were not doing what they were supposed to be doing who did he ask?

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Seed them so your salsa doesn’t get too wet

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chop them as uniform as you can

We have been picking a few cherry tomatoes and some roma tomatoes. So I spent yesterday morning on making some salsa with my onions, tomatoes and jalapeno. My green peppers were too small to pick just yet and I had other garlic I needed to use up before I dig into mine.

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keep the tomato and green pepper roughly the same size –  everything else smaller

Garden Salsa

Donna Clark - Cooking at Clark Towers
quick and easy garden salsa, everyone will love

Ingredients
  

  • roma tomatoes; seeded and chopped
  • green peppers; seeded and chopped
  • yellow onion; peeled and diced
  • jalapeno; seeded and diced
  • garlic cloves; chopped fine
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • balsamic vinegar - a dash or two
  • 1-2 packets of sweet and low

Instructions
 

  • the amounts you use for each ingredient is totally up to you. I will give you an approximate ratio so it will be well balanced.
  • 12 roma tomatoes, 2 green peppers, 4 jalapeno, 6 garlic and 2 onions seemed to make a nice amount of salsa and the ratio seemed to work out nicely
  • adjust for how you like your salsa. want it hotter add more jalapeno or leave the seeds and veins in them.
  • add the sweet and low and a few dashes of the balsamic vinegar
  • finish it off with a little salt and pepper to taste

Notes

the sweet and low may sound a little odd but even that little amount brings a brightness to the salsa. I would suggest trying it without it and then add it and you will see.

Summer Garden Salad

 

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Pretty hot this weekend – so far hottest this summer. Not only the heat but the humidity damn its gross out there! My phone is telling me that it is 91’F out and it also says it feels like 98’F. That means it is gross out there and hopefully you can stay inside with the air conditioner on or you are somewhere near a lake, pool or ocean. I am fairly certain that even I would go into the Atlantic ocean; which I very rarely ever do, it’s way too cold; if I was crazy enough to head to Hampton Beach today.

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Cooking on hot days is not really enjoyable and neither is eating on hot days so that generally means something light and easy. Friday night my husband made us salads and then we went out for ice cream. They counterbalance each other right?

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Best if you can make this first before you start whatever you are serving it with so it has time to meld and let the veggies soak up the dressing.

Summer Garden Salad

Donna Clark - Cooking at Clark Towers
quick and easy summer salad
Prep Time 30 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 small clove of garlic minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup sliced cherry grape or like tomatoes
  • ½ medium cucumber halved, seeded and sliced thin
  • ½ medium yellow summer squash quartered and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ medium sweet onion sliced thin
  • Kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • 1 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh basil

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  • Add the next diced/sliced 5 ingredients; stir well to combine.
  • Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  • Stirring occasionally before serving.
  • Garnish with basil.

Pasta Salad easy tasty crowd pleaser

I wonder if there are people who are not BBQ’ing this weekend? I can safely say that even when we didn’t have company over we had a BBQ. Weather has so far never stopped us – huh KP? Think pouring rain, no lights, umbrella with drinks in hand and SO many laughs. Food tasted great I think? We were incredibly soaked but we were making memories!
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Even with all the outdoor parties, the unofficial start of summer and the great food out on the grill please take a moment to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day maybe even take in a parade! A day on which those who died in active military service are remembered.
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I will be making this pasta salad to share with the fam along with BBQ shrimp, steak tips and lobsters. I might even make a potato salad since we have a lot of protein and not a lot of sides. We’ll see what I come up with later today.
IMG_4070IMG_40711 box of pasta such as campanelle, cavatappi or similar; cooked as directed – I use Tri-Colored Rotini
1 Can of small Black Olives drained
Container of cherry tomatoes – cleaned and sliced in half
Container of Feta Cheese
1 Carrot – grated
I like adding sliced salami or pepperoni – but this can be omitted
Ken’s Zesty Italian dressing

Make the pasta according to the package directions. After straining the pasta and while it is still warm add some dressing to toss with the pasta and marinate it.
IMG_4072In a large bowl toss everything else together and toss till its mixed all together.
IMG_4073Just before serving add a little more of the dressing and give it a quick toss again!
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Scalloped Potatoes – must try

So I am going to go out on a limb that when I posted this recipe 4 years ago; none of you made it. Do you want to know how I know. I googled my blog while I was at the store to make sure I had what I needed and noticed I left out an ingredient hmmmmmm. Not my first time and probably won’t be my last. But a couple of my close friends that read my posts called me out on missing ingredients before and no one said anything this time.

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You can sprinkle a little of the cheddar cheese on top – I did not in this picture. My mouth is watering as I am typing and looking at them – they are SO good!

As you can probably tell I don’t make these very often; not because they are not crazy good; only because there are rich and creamy which so they would not be your weekly go to if you wanted to watch what you eat. I was trying to come up with a way not to deter you from wanting to try these. They truly are worth making/eating once in a while

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I used a mandolin to slice my potatoes but it is not necessary


Ingredients
4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
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Directions – making a roux
In a small sauce pan, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add all of cold milk at once stirring with a whisk; season with salt and cayenne. Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk and it thickens a bit. Reduce heat and stir in cheese.

Place a half of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish. Pour half of cheese sauce over potatoes.

repeat with second layer of potatoes and cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for an hour at 350°F

 

Macaroni & “Cheese” butternut squash

I mentioned a bit ago that I heard you could make a pretty decent macaroni and cheese using butternut squash. A few years ago I would have told you you were crazy. Now I am coming around; so much so I tried it. I looked around the internet for a few recipes but decided to make my usual one and replace most of the cheese with the butternut squash. I was still a little skeptical but what was there to lose?
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I will advise you that if you are going to have your family or anyone for that matter try your new recipe I would not tell them what was in it.  I find that if you tell them it’s different or lighter or different in anyway, their senses are on high alert and they are sure to find or even look for something different with it.
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Case in point; my husband was home when I was making my lighter macaroni and cheese and when it was finished I just brought over a fork full and gave him a bite. First reaction was “mmmm good” I had to ask him what he thought it was. He looked at me a little funny and said “macaroni and cheese” but I think my comment made him add “of some sort” I had to confess it was made with squash and very little cheese. Oh and I also used rotini that was made from Chickpeas.  If you haven’t tried chickpea pasta I really think you will be pleasantly surprised. I have made 2 dishes with great success.

You might be thinking why chickpea pasta it has less carbs than average pasta, more protein and more fiber. So it is just a little better for you than ordinary box pasta. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any at either of my local stores my boxes were bought by my daughter when she visited one of Mario Batali’s Eataly. Looks like I will have to go and check it out.

Macaroni and “Cheese”

Small onion – diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves – minced
2 pounds cubed butternut squash – I used frozen
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
box of chickpea pasta
4 ounce gruyere cheese – grated
few drops sriracha sauce
Parmesan cheese – a small amount for grating on top
1/4 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

saute onion for a couple of minutes in the olive oil.  Add garlic saute another minute. add mustard, nutmeg, butternut squash, stock and milk still squash is softened.
Remove from the heat and using either a stick blender or however you puree your soups. puree the mixture and then add the cheese, season with salt and pepper to your taste.
place in a baking dish and grate some Parmesan cheese and a little seasoned panko bread crumbs.

Per 11 ounce serving
215 Calories – 12g Fat – 14g Carbs – 16g Protein