A Twist on the Traditional Easter Ham

Some people like slices of ham, with vegetables on the side. If you’re looking to shake things up a bit, or to stretch a ham with the use of vegetables in a casserole, or if you need to have your vegetables mixed with meat and cheese in order for a small person to eat them, this recipe is for you.

Grease a 9×12-inch Pyrex dish with butter or olive oil spray. Fill the dish with: 2 pounds of ham, cut into 1-inch cubes, 1 pound of potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, and 1 pound of this amazing cheese. Make sure the three ingredients are mixed together evenly. Bake for 90 minutes at 350 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to verify that the ham is completely cooked before serving. Some people like a little salt and pepper on this dish, but I’m happy to eat it plain.

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…and on Friday, God Created Leftovers

Tomorrow, the adults in my household will be observing a fast, so we’ll be “eating only one full meal, and, if necessary, two much smaller meals.” I think that means leftover salad and a hard-boiled egg.

Children and the elderly are exempt from fasts, so it’s good that we have leftovers of the non-salad type for the under-five member of the family: a burger, a pork cutlet, and the tomatoes and the carrots from the beef stew.

On Saturday, I’ll be making these amazing cupcakes for my mom’s birthday, although I’ll probably modify the icing to be a chocolate cream cheese concoction. I’ll try to post a new recipe in the next few days. While you wait, you might check your local library for this gem. Some recipes require a lot of time and a nicer kitchen than I have, but many are completely doable by the average home cook. I recommend Rob’s coleslaw.

The Perfect Grass-Fed Burger

This is more of a cooking tip than a recipe.

Many of us are used to the corn- and soy-fed meat that’s so easy to find in grocery stores, and when we switch to a more healthful type of red meat, such as the grass-fed ground beef I get from Pure Sprouts (or order online from La Cense), we have to take extra care to ensure that we cook these delightful burgers properly.

Take 1 pound of ground beef, fully thawed in the refrigerator. Form it into four or five patties. Place the patties in a skillet, drizzle them with olive oil (ensuring that some olive oil goes beneath the patties as well), and sprinkle them with salt. Cook over low heat until things start to sizzle, then flip the patties, reduce the heat to very low, and cover the skillet. Half an hour of cooking will give you well-done burgers; reduce the cooking time for other levels of done-ness (at your own risk! ). Et voila! I prefer them without a bun, but I am feeling tempted to try them on one of these with a bit of Brie.

Barbecue-Seasoned Beef Stew

Here’s an easy stew to make with either ground beef or a cut of beef, plus all those root vegetables you have left over from the winter.

Peel and cut root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, parsnips, etc.) into chunks (2×2-inch chunks work best). Place cut vegetables into a Dutch / French oven along with 24 ounces of strained tomatoes, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 tablespoon of garlic salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of paprika. Add 2 cups of water, stir, and place on stove, covered, over very low heat.

Brown 1 pound of ground beef or a diced muscle cut of beef in a skillet. Use a bit of olive oil if necessary.

When the beef is cooked, add it to the Dutch / French oven, stir again, and leave the lid slightly tilted. Simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally and monitoring to ensure that the liquid does not evaporate completely.

Note: Feel free to add less sugar or honey and/or a spicier pepper than paprika if you prefer a more chili-esque flavor to your stew.

Nick and Nick’s Egg Salad Club Deluxe

For more than a decade, I’ve been going to a diner near the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 44th Street in Manhattan called Red Flame. Because of the names of two of the guys who work there, I have always thought of it as “Nick and Nick’s,” which has led to confusion when I’ve asked friends to meet me there. I forget that “Nick” isn’t written anywhere on the sign.

Recently, director Whit Stillman asked an interviewer to meet him outside the Harvard Club, but then took the interviewer to lunch down the block, at Nick and Nick’s. Why? The Cobb salad is cheaper there.

My favorite Nick and Nick’s entree, which I had again last night, is the egg salad club deluxe. “Deluxe” because it comes with fries. It’s simple to make, but oh, so, good:

Hard-boil eggs (put 8 raw eggs in a pot, cover them with water so the water goes an inch above the tops of the eggs, and put the cover on the pot; turn the heat on high, and turn it off as soon as the water boils; let the eggs sit with the cover on for 15 minutes; rinse them in cold water and take off the shells). Let the shelled, hard-boiled eggs sit in the refrigerator long enough to get cold (several hours). Dice the chilled eggs.

Fry up some bacon. I use only nitrate-free bacon from pastured animals procured by Pure Sprouts; Good Earth Farms seems to be a good alternative for those of you not lucky enough to live in my area.

Toast several pieces of white bread ever so slightly. Coat one side of each slice very thinly with mayonnaise. Make the sandwiches with toast, lettuce, tomato, diced eggs, and bacon. Slice diagonally; hold each half together with a decorative toothpick, if desired.

Other people have posted some great recipes for fries online; feel free to try my deep-fried parsnip recipe (with potatoes instead of parsnips). When you make this for dinner (or lunch), consider it a little tribute to the best diner in Manhattan.

Emile Henry: Not Just for Lasagna

I received an Emile Henry dish from my parents last year, and I just wanted to share two easy recipes that roast delightfully and look beautiful served in this oven-to-table dish.

The first is almost embarrassingly simple, but it’s a great way to serve a simple fruit in an elegant way for company: Peel and core 6 – 10 medium apples, then cut them into roughly five pieces per apple. Place the apple pieces in the dish and sprinkle them with cinnamon. Roast in the oven for 60 minutes at 350 degrees.

The second recipe is a go-to recipe in my family for occasions that demand a dairy-free potato recipe. I vastly prefer butter to vegetable spread in my mashed potatoes, but roasted potatoes are just lovely with olive oil. Wash and peel 8 large potatoes, then cut them into roughly five pieces per potato. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil with 2 tablespoons rosemary and 1 teaspoon of Himalasalt. Put the potato pieces into the bowl and toss them well, ensuring that they’re completely coated with the olive oil mixture. Place the potatoes into the Emile Henry dish (or a Pyrex baking dish if you don’t have an Emile Henry dish) and pour any remaining olive oil mixture over them. Bake for 90 minutes at 350 degree, uncovered. Peek into the oven occasionally, and if you see the potatoes getting brown too quickly, cover them with foil.

Neither of these recipes is complicated, and I love the fact that the work is all done once you put the dish into the oven–plus, they look great when served in a fancy oven-to-table dish. Pick a meat entree (like my chicken salad), and you’re all set for a feast!

Cheating

As I’ve mentioned before, when I cook, I take a whole food (a vegetable, fruit, meat, or fish) or some combination of whole foods, and I saute/fry/bake/roast it with a combination of seasonings and/or acid and/or fat. Occasionally, however, I cheat. If you’re pressed for time, there’s no shame in short-cutting by cooking a main ingredient or two with a well-chosen commercially prepared sauce. I use only glass jarred sauces, because I’m concerned about the BPA lining in metal cans, and I write down the ingredients so I can try to mix my own version when I have more time and more ingredients on hand.

Here are three of my favorite “cheating” recipes:

Sesame Ginger Pork Chops

Place four boneless pork chops (roughly 3/4 inch thick) in a Pyrex baking dish. Cover with Annie’s Naturals Organic Sesame Ginger salad dressing. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Confirm done-ness of pork with a meat thermometer.

French Shrimp

Gently heat 1 pound of cooked, deveined shrimp in a skillet with 1/2 bottle of Annie’s Naturals Organic French salad dressing. Pour the whole skillet into a 9×9-inch Pyrex baking dish (can you tell I love my Pyrex?) and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Serve plain, over rice, or over egg noodles.

…and here’s one for the vegetarians:

Indian-Style Rice and Beans

I’m not of Indian descent, so this is not an authentic recipe. However, the sauce is richly seasoned with south Asian spices.

Rinse 2 cups of lentils and remove any non-lentil bits that may be present. In a Dutch / French oven (like this awesome one my parents gave me), heat the lentils to a boil (slowly–you never want to blast the heat on a Dutch / French oven… get there slowly with a slightly tilted lid) with 3 cups of water and 1 container of this amazing tikka masala sauce. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 60 minutes. Check the lentils periodically to ensure that the liquid hasn’t boiled away. Add more water as necessary, but don’t add too much–you don’t want them to get soupy.

While you are cooking the lentils, prepare 2 cups of rice according to package directions.

Serve lentils over rice.

Allow Me to Sing the Praises of Super Flour

I clicked over to Jen Maan in Amman’s blog the other day and found an amazing cupcake recipe. I’m not going to steal it; I’ll let you click over there and read it yourself.

I will, however, add one note: I have a relative with celiac disease and a few young relatives with food allergies, so I like to work with recipes that can be modified to be suitable for family gatherings. Additionally, I prefer a gluten-free lifestyle, so I bake gluten-free 99.9% of the time.

I am happy to report that you can substitute Living Intentions Sprouted Super Flour (gluten-free and dairy-free) for the flour in this recipe, and it tastes amazing. This flour does contain almonds, so it’s not suitable for people with nut allergies, and I didn’t try making the recipe with dairy substitutes, but if celiac is your only dietary issue, you can totally make these cupcakes and LOVE them. (Yeah, I didn’t give up cupcakes for Lent.)

Simple Sausages and Apples

This hardly qualifies as cooking, since the quality of the ingredients almost entirely determines how good it tastes, but I have loved this dish since I was a child. It’s a great thing to put in the oven if you have work to do and want to get dinner squared away before getting started on your work.

You’ll need a pound of pork sausage links (the breakfast kind); I get mine from Pure Sprouts. If you are lucky enough to live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, you can get yours there, too. If not, Organic Prairie is a good substitute. Yes, they’re expensive; non-factory-farmed pork is expensive. It also tastes much better, is better for the environment, and is less guilt-inducing because the animal had a good life before it became your dinner.

Slice five or six medium to large Fuji apples. Place them in a large Pyrex baking dish and cover them with the breakfast links. Pour maple syrup over the whole thing and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees. I like to bake it covered for 60 minutes and then uncovered for another 30. If the pork isn’t done by then (use a meat thermometer to check), you can re-cover it with foil and bake another 30 minutes.