As a kid I took my waffles with a chocolate chip in each divot and drowning in syrup. My sister was/is the family’s designated wafflemaker – most weekend mornings she could be found presiding over the iron, a double batch of batter in the bowl beside her, making waffles for the week.
Alas, this sister is far far away in California, but luckily I have another friend nearby to provide for my waffle needs who took waffles to a whole new level recently. She by-passed the chocolate chip distribution step entirely and just made straight up Chocolate Belgian Waffles.
They’re crispy on the outside and satisfyingly chocolate-y on the inside. Surprisingly these waffles aren’t overly decadent. Chocolatey? Yes. But not too sweet or too rich. We ate them with butter, syrup, and strawberries. Delish!
Notes before you begin:
- The special ingredients (pearl sugar and Hi-maize) are totally worth it
- I did add espresso powder.
- Substitute for Dutch-process cocoa: 1/2 cup regular cocoa powder with a bit under 3/8 of a teaspoon baking soda (the ratio is 3 tablespoons cocoa to 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup is 8 tablespoons and not 9 tablespoons).
- The batter has to sit for an hour!
- Make a full batch and keep them in a 200 degree F. oven until you're ready to serve.
Chocolate Belgian Waffles
Hands-on time: 30-40 minutes
Total time: 1 hrs 45 minutes
Yield: eight 7-inch to 8-inch round or heart-shaped waffles
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Hi-maize Fiber or unbleached all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon espresso optional
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup (4 ounces) semi-sweet mini chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate chips
1/4 cup pearl sugar, optional*
*Using flour instead of Hi-maize and omitting the pearl sugar will yield a less-crisp waffle.
Stir together the starter ingredients, and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Combine the flour, Hi-maize, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
When the starter is ready, mix in the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Add the dry ingredients, chocolate chips, and pearl sugar, mixing to combine. Let the batter rest, covered, for 60 minutes. Preheat the waffle iron to the setting of your choice during the final few minutes of the batter's resting time. Stir down the batter, then scoop a heaping 1/4 cup onto the hot waffle iron.
Close the lid and cook until the waffle's done; irons vary, so we can't give a specific time here. Transfer the finished waffle to a ready plate, and serve with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, if desired.
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I've got an easy, crowd-pleasing little savory bite here, and not much else to say except that I am, still and again, so grateful for my life.
If you're a mom, you've probably seen this post going around – about how our kids need us and not expertly executed birthday parties, cute Easter crafts, or the stress of living up to the curated perfection of Pinterest. And if you're not a Mom, the same is true – the people in your life need YOU, your presence, the way you show up, more than anything you produce or any ideal you uphold.
And I want to show up--with children, husband, strangers, clients, friends – in a way that's open to outcome, drawing from energy deeper than mine, and ready to give and receive. I do that better some days than others. Some moments that have helped me out lately:
- A family outing to Vancouver, where we played on the beach, ate lots of sushi, went on long bike rides, and enjoyed the miracle of being a foursome in the world
- Sun!! Not oodles, but enough to remind me that orb is still in the solar system
- Loretta practicing her letters all the time, on every scrap of paper in the house
- Wyatt winning a ribbon at the science fair and constantly thinking in fractions
- Starting to work on the house again
- Wyatt coming home from soccer, covered head-to-toe in mud
- Walking the labyrinth at my church and feeling renewed my calling as a peacemaker
- Spring cleaning and tossing things I don't love or need
- Aerobics with Liz, bopping to the '80's with some really fit 70 year-olds
And these biscuits. It's not warm here yet despite the fact that it's technically spring. So we're still having soup and biscuits for dinner. It could be worse.
Cornmeal Biscuits with Ham and Cheddar
Adapted from Gourmet. I usually have some proscuitto around, which is the "ham" in these biscuits. I buy the German brand of proscuitto at Trader Joe's, which is very reasonably priced and has a good balance of saltiness and fat. If you want, you can add chopped chives, fresh thyme, or green onions. These couldn't be easier – one bowl, a wooden spoon.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup. cornmeal
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped proscuitto or cooked ham
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheddar and ham. Add buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.
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One of my food goals for 2012 was to try my hand at making gnocchi from scratch. I love these little potato dumplings, whether served with a simple marinara sauce, sage and browned butter, or lamb ragu. I bought a gnocchi board just to encourage myself, but it languished in the pantry for a few months awaiting the right opportunity. Last weekend, that opportunity came.
I spent a recent weekend with my friend Christie in Eastern Washington, and Saturday was gnocchi making day. We went over to the home of her friends Pete and Jewel late in the morning. Jewel is a cook of extraordinary calibre, and was gracious enough to teach us how to make Pete’s mother’s gnocchi, also known as Cavatele, or “sinkers” – a reference to the lead sinkers put on fishing lines. Gnocchi can have that effect, filling the tummy surprisingly quickly.
Jewel had done some advance work in the kitchen. A crockpot of sauce burbled on the counter. A cauldron of potatoes boiled on the stovetop. And the large center island was already stacked with eggs, flour, bowls, and utensils.
When the potatoes were done, we peeled them while they were still hot, then shot them through a ricer into a bowl of flour. We sifted and stirred this mixture with our hands until the potatoes were incorporated into the flour and cooled enough to not cook the eggs. Jewel warned us not to mash the potatoes into the flour, so we tried to use a light touch.
She dumped this mixture onto the counter, created a well in the center, and cracked eggs into it. After salting the eggs she stepped back and let us mix the eggs into the flour with our hands, smashing and kneading until we had a ragged but cohesive pile.
Then it was our turn to step back while Jewel kneaded the dough until she judged it smooth enough, but not too stiff. The dough rested under a bowl for half an hour, while we rested on stools around the counter and engaged in the sort of relaxed conversation that happens best in a warm kitchen during the pauses in a cooking project. Kitchen wisdom was shared. Ideas were batted back and forth.
Soon the dough was ready and we began by rolling it into snakes, then cutting these snakes into inch-long nuggets. I felt my brow furrowing and my tongue poking out between my teeth as I tried to follow Jewel’s swift movements. She took a piece of dough and, pressing two fingers into the middle, gave it a sort of roll and a flick on the counter top, set aside a gnocchi with the characteristic dimple in the middle, then made another and another. My hands struggled to copy her practiced motions, but after a few tries, using the gnocchi board for assistance, I had it – more or less – and began to produce a series of irregular dumplings.
Jewel started boiling the gnocchi while Christie and I made more. When she decided that they were perfect – plump and firm but no longer chewy – she drained the gnocchi and mixed them with sauce. We all got a little sample bowl of gnocchi and one of her meatballs to enjoy. Our gnocchi were good, but I nearly burst into applause after my first bite of meatball. Truly, it was worthy of a standing ovation. But this was only a teaser to whet our appetites for later.
We returned that evening for dinner, to gather around a long table set with a big pan of saucy gnocchi, meatballs the size of my fist, Italian sausage, garlic bread, grated cheese, and an extra pitcher of sauce. We laughed, and talked, and ate. I felt proud of our efforts, as I slowly savored the pillowy gnocchi. Everything on the table was incredibly delicious, but more than that; it was made and served with love.
“Do you ever write about how food is more than just food?” Pete asked as he gazed down the loaded table in my direction.
May I never write about anything else.
Jewel’s Cavatelli (Gnocchi) Recipe
3 to 5 medium red potatoes
3 to 5 cups flour
3 to 5 eggs
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
Start with cold water. Boil 3 to 5 medium red potatoes with skins in unsalted water for 25 – 30 minutes. Peel potatoes while still hot.
Place 3 to 5 cups of flour in kneading bowl. Rice the skinned potatoes into flour bowl and slowly add flour. Sift potatoes and flour through fingers until cool; do not mash together.
Add 3 to 5 unbeaten eggs to well made in mixture after cool. Salt eggs. Knead until smooth.
Cover 1/2 hour. Roll out into a snake 1/2-inch thick. Cut 1 inch long pieces. Press with two lightly floured fingers in center and roll open like large macaroni to form cavatelli, little hot dog bun-shaped dough rolls
Let dry 10 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water. Drop the cavatelli in large pot of rapidly boiling water, boil for approximately 30 minutes. Add a handful at a time so the water keeps boiling. If you let the water cool down they get gummy. Be sure to use lots of water when you cook and stir gently but often.
Drain and mix with spaghetti sauce and serve or keep warm in oven until ready.
Serve with spaghetti sauce and meatballs.
From the first time I made macaroni and cheese, I’ve used this basic recipe, with the sauce you simply stir up. We were not a big macaroni and cheese family, and never had any version from the box until college, when the hot pot was our main cooking apparatus and I had an ingenious roommate.
I think I might have originally found the recipe in a kids’ cookbook, but I don’t really remember. The recipe served me well for years, particularly in a poorly equipped kitchen in graduate school. And I just thought this was how mac and cheese was made. It was years before I learned that most macaroni and cheese recipes start with a roux made into a cream sauce.
As I progressed in the kitchen, I started working on recipes made with béchamel sauce, white wine based sauces, an onion soubise, exotic cheeses and the like. But for simple meals, I always came back to this method. And I’ve really decided I like it better. It’s very creamy, very cheesy, and of course could not be simpler. So now I make it with cheese only, or flavorful add-ins.
This version is my favorite, and based on a macaroni and cheese served at a favorite restaurant. I am sure they use a great more expertise and skill in making it, but I manage to get the flavors I love spot-on. I like corkscrew-y cavatappi pasta, but regular macaroni, or shells, or farfalle work equally well. Once you have this simple, basic recipe down, you can alter it however you please – with different cheeses, added spices, bacon or roasted chicken … the possibilities are endless.
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese with Country Ham and Leeks
Serves 6, 8 as a side dish
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine or chicken broth of the same amount]
8 ounces uncookedelbow macaroni or cavatappi noodles
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces white cheddar cheese
4 ounces fontina cheese
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces country ham, finely diced
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish well.
Slice the white and palest green parts of the leek in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons. Rinse the leeks very well in a colander under cool running water and shake to drain. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat and add the leeks, with a little water clinging to them, and stir to coat. Pour in the white wine and 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are wilted, transparent and soft, about 20 minutes. If needed, add a bit more water to prevent sticking.
Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to package instructions in well-salted water. Drain and return to the pan off the heat. Stir 2 tablespoons butter into the pasta to melt and coat to prevent sticking. Leave to cool.
Grate all the cheeses and toss together. In a bowl, whisk together the milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Shake well for at least a minute until the flour is completely mixed with the milk.
Toss together the cooled pasta and the most of the grated cheeses, reserving a few handfuls for the top of the dish. Stir in the leeks and diced country ham until evenly distributed. Pour over the milk mixture and stir thoroughly until well mixed. Spoon into the buttered dish and spread out to create an even surface. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and bubbling and heated through.
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Looking back over recent posts, I noticed a distinct lack of meat-and-potatoes, stick-to-your-ribs food. In fact, the entire month of March had somehow been, if not meat-free, then certainly meat light. So a return of seasonably chilly, windy weather had me thinking meat-and-potatoes comfort food. Happily, a big bunch of kale in the fridge gave me an idea for taking it in a healthy direction too.
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. The winter vegetable is excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. Besides all that, it just tastes good. Milder than its relatives broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, kale adds a pleasant bitter bite to dishes that plays well with – and stands up to – other big flavors.
I already had sausage in mind for this dish, and the kale made me decide to lighten that up a little too. I chose turkey kielbasa, lower in fat and calorie count. Another advantage of sausage, turkey or otherwise, is that its big flavor means you don’t need a lot of it. I used 6 ounces for this dish that generously served two, with some leftovers.
And then there’s the potato. It gets a bad rap, due in large part to it frequently being deep fried or served with mountains of butter and sour cream. But on its own, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, the much maligned potato has a lot going for it. The site goes on to say that the potato’s phytochemicals levels rival those in broccoli.
And the results? Satisfyingly meaty and potato-y, with plenty of greens to make it a complete one-pot meal. Nothing complex or delicate here (unless you count the nice little something added by the tarragon, a last minute decision). And uncomplicatedly delicious.
Braised Kale with Potatoes and Sausage
Generously serves 2, with possible leftovers
1/2 pound kale
1 pound potatoes, about 3 medium, peeled and cubed
6 ounces kielbasa or smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch coins
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup dry white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine or chicken broth of same amount]
Rinse kale under cold running water, shaking off excess liquid. Tear from thick stems and rip into largish pieces. Discard stems. You want about 8 cups packed of the torn kale (this will seem an alarmingly large amount, but it cooks down considerably). If you use pre-washed, pre-chopped kale, often sold in bags in the produce section, go by volume rather than weight. Set aside.
Place potato cubes in a microwaveable lidded container and microwave until just tender, about 2 to 4 minutes (or longer, if necessary – potatoes vary wildly in how long this takes). Set aside.
Heat a large, lidded nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté sausage coins until browned, turning frequently, about 5 or 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with slotted spoon. Add potatoes and onion to pan, drizzling in more oil, if needed. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, stirring frequently to keep onions from burning. Push vegetables to the side and add garlic and tarragon. Cook until fragrant, stirring, about 45 seconds.
Add broth and wine to skillet. Add kale in big handfuls, tossing to coat with liquid. Again, the amount of kale will seem alarming, but work it all in, cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low. I have a glass-lidded skillet, and at first, the kale was pushing up against the lid. That’s OK. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The kale will reduce quite a bit in volume. Stir in the sausage, along with any accumulated juices, and cover the pan again. Cook until kale and potatoes are just tender, another 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You’ll note there isn’t a lot in the way of liquids left at this point; they will have mostly been absorbed by the potatoes and/or steamed off. But everything will be coated with a nice, light, flavorful glaze. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve.
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We met at the Seattle Art Museum on a Saturday morning last month, my friend Cindy and I, to see the Gauguin exhibition. It may have been only a few days short of spring, but you wouldn’t have known it. Just as I was parking, huge, fat flakes of snow started falling. As I rushed toward the museum, I pulled my hood forward over my face and the wet, sleety snow plastered the front of my coat and pants.
Once safe and dry inside, we marveled at the swirling snow outside the tall windows. Museum staff broke into Christmas carols and chattered hopefully about maybe, just maybe, getting to go home early if the snow kept up.
Inside the warm, windowless galleries of the exhibition, the only weather was created by Gauguin’s glowing paintings of Tahiti. The tropical scenes of beaches, fruit, and bathing women exuded warmth and light. The deep, saturated colors were in sharp contrast with the grey and white world just outside.
By the time we left the museum, the snow had disappeared, leaving an ordinary, cold, windy March day. I’d have been happy to leave this dreary weather behind for a few weeks in Tahiti. But I had to console myself with a tropical fruit smoothie that tastes of sunshine.
So throw some fruit in the blender, and imagine yourself lying in a lounge chair, one foot dangling off the side, toes digging into the soft sand. A warm, salty breeze wafts over you, and the sound of the surf lulls you into dropping your book and closing your heavy eyelids for just a moment.
The easiest way to make this smoothie is with pre-cut, frozen bags of fruit. Take what you need, and leave the rest in the freezer for next time the urge for a taste of summer hits. It is refreshing, nutritious, and the perfect fuel for tropical dreams. You can substitute grapefruit for the orange, add a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt if you’re feeling frisky, or even a handful of finely chopped kale if you’re feeling particularly virtuous.
1 banana, sliced
1 cup mango chunks
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1/2 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon ground flax seed
Combine all ingredients in blender, or use immersion blender to blend until smooth.
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Spring is here (even if it's gone back to more seasonal chilly weather). But I still have a ton of winter squash sitting in the pantry. And they're not getting any younger....So I decided to make one of my favorite lunches – a hearty farro salad with roasted delicata squash, baby spinach, goat cheese, a sprinkling of dried cranberries and toasted squash seeds, and a light vinaigrette.
I began by roasting the squash since that takes the longest. Just olive oil, salt and pepper is all you need. The roasting brings out the sweetness and the squash has a lovely nutty flavor. We also roasted the seeds as they are really lovely – I like them even better than pumpkin seeds.
Then I cooked up a mess of farro – a lovely ancient grain that is a living ancestor of wheat (it's official name is emmer wheat) that has a truly scrumptious nutty flavor to it and a nice, slightly chewy consistency.
I had some fresh herbs on hand, so I chopped those up and tossed them into the farro, too, since you can't go wrong with fresh parsley, basil, and dill.
Then I put the salad together on a bed of baby spinach, topping it with some chunks of chèvre, some of the roasted delicata squash seeds and a small handful of dried cranberries for added hints of sweetness. I drizzled olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper over it all and tucked in.
Farro Salad With Roasted Winter Squash, Spinach & Chèvre
2 large delicata squash (you can also use a single good-sized butternut squash or other winter squash)
1-1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
3-4 cups salted water or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons each chopped parsley, basil, dill, thyme or cilantro
A bunch of baby spinach (you can also use arugula or watercress and the amounts are really up to you!)
Handful of dried cranberries, cherries or raisins
Handful of roasted pumpkin or squash seeds (optional)
Goat cheese (aka chèvre, as much or as little as you like)
Freshly ground black pepper
Vinegar of your choice
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Toss the squash with several teaspoons of olive oil, sea salt and black pepper then spread in a single layer on a heavy baking sheet. Roast, turning often, for 15-20 minutes or until soft but still toothsome (you don't want the squash to fall apart in the salad.) Remove from the oven and let it cool.
While you're roasting the squash, cook the farro (please note that these directions are for the semi-pearled variety which takes about half as long to cook as the other kind.) Rinse the farro in several changes of water, then add it to the water or broth. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until it reaches the desired consistency – the grains should still have some nice chewiness to them. Then drain the farro and place the grains in a bowl.
Toss the farro with olive oil (or walnut or pumpkin seed oil if you've got those on hand – they're even better!) until combined and season to taste with the sea salt and black pepper.
Wash and dry the herbs and the baby spinach (or whatever greens you're using). Then mince the herbs and toss with the farro.
Compose the salad starting with a bed of the greens, then a layer of farro, then a layer of roasted squash. Dot with goat cheese and toss on the dried
cranberries and roasted squash seeds. Drizzle with some olive oil and vinegar, then sprinkle lightly with sea salt and give it all a few grinds of black pepper.
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Life is made up of a series of memories; some big, some small, some clearly life-changing, and some seemingly inconsequential. My wedding day, the births of my children, the loss of loved ones … all clearly consequential. But the little memories … like singing the soundtrack to "Grease" with my sisters while we played on our childhood swingset or selling candy bars outside the grocery store or riding our bikes in the park … turns out that those are just as consequential. We just don’t always realize it in the moment.
I was playing around on my computer the other night and distractedly watching "American Idol," when two of the contestants come on stage and begin singing "Islands in the Stream," a duet originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In an instant I was transported back to my childhood, in my parents’ room, where my sisters and I used to stand at the foot of their bed, with our toes jammed between the mattress and boxspring, so that when we’d lean forward, the edge of the mattress would catch our calves and we’d suspend there, bobbing forward with our arms outstretched. We’d sway back and forth, mock-gliding over the mattress singing "Islands in the Stream" at the top of our lungs … with all the wrong lyrics, I am sure.
Such a simple little memory and yet it’s etched in my mind. Because it’s more than the ordinary event of singing a song with my sisters. It was a matter of being together, of laughing, of loving, and of feeling at home. Those are consequential, life-altering sorts of things wrapped in a silly little memory and tied together with a country song.
Every morning, our boys come bursting into our bedroom. The baby is usually already there by that point, drowsily enjoying a morning feeding. But the older boys don’t wake drowsily. They wake with a lightening bolt and go 0 to 60 in the moment they open their eyes. They fly into our room in a flurry. They do not stick their toes between our mattress and sing a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet. They mostly just make animal noises and shout things like underpants.
They climb into my armoire. They climb under the bed. They jump on top of the bed. (Just imagine if you released a couple of monkeys into an enclosed space … it’s exactly like that.) Every so often we can convince them to climb under the covers for a snuggle. And sometimes we’re inclined to just send them back to their room because the activity level far exceeds what we’re prepared to handle that early in the morning. But those morning memories, of waking to a family that loves them … those memories matter.
This weekend we’ll be making more memories, the kind that add a bit of mystery and magic to childhood. Though I’ve expressed my half-hearted support for the Easter bunny, he will be visiting our home, hiding eggs, and leaving a basket filled with soft, stuffed-bunny toys, bubble wands, chocolate-dipped marshmallow Peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and animal crackers hidden under the cellophane grass. We’ll color eggs and make a coconut-covered bunny cake with shoe-string licorice whiskers and a jelly bean nose. It’s tradition. And tradition matters, too.
For Easter dinner this year, we will most likely enjoy slow-roasted lamb with a fresh mint sauce, along with roasted red potatoes, roasted asparagus, and slices of warm French baguette.
Our family prefers lamb over ham, but for many families, ham is the star of their traditional Easter feast. With that in mind, I came up with this ham and corn chowder, which would make perfect use of leftover Easter ham. This satisfying soup is worth making, even if you don’t have leftover ham on hand! It’s hard to go wrong with sweet kernels of corn in a warm, creamy broth. Use fresh corn, cut from the cob, if corn is in season or use frozen when it is not. I used frozen corn kernels and it was perfect.
Ham and Corn Chowder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 15-ounce cans vegetable broth (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 cups ham, diced (approximately)
2-1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
6-8 green onions, sliced
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional sliced green onions, for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly golden and tender.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for another minute or so. Whisk in the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. (The broth should begin to thicken slightly.)
Add the ham, corn, green onions, potato, and half and half to the pan. Bring the soup to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Ideally they should just be beginning to break down (to add extra thickness to the soup) but not so mushy that they’re falling apart.
Season with the paprika and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm, garnished with additional sliced green onions.
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Easter snuck on up me this year. Actually, all the special occasion days have: Pi Day (didn't make a pie), St Patrick's Day (didn't make anything green), Mardi Gras (no King Cake – OK, I probably wouldn't have made one anyway but still....), and so on.
It didn't help that we've had rain off and on for the past three weeks and it's been more winter than spring whereas winter was more spring than winter. So my seasonal timetables are all messed up. And now it's April. Yikes.
I am surfacing long enough to realize ahead of time that Easter is this Sunday. When I was a kid, we didn't do the whole Easter bunny/egg hunt thing at my house. Easter was more about Jesus and dressing a little more nicely on Easter Sunday in new spring clothes. As an adult, Easter is still about Jesus for me but I also enjoy a good chocolate egg here and there, primarily the Cadbury mini eggs with the hard shell coating and milk chocolate inside.
I also like the Cadbury caramel eggs with the liquid caramel inside a milk chocolate shell. Alas, however, I am indifferent at best, dislike at worst, all other Easter candy. The ones I'm indifferent to are all the candies you can get at any other holiday except at Easter, they're pastel colored and egg shaped. But Peeps? Oh no. They're marshmallows without Rice Krispies. And dyed marshmallows at that. Plus they come in weird shapes. I don't enjoy the visual of sinking my teeth into a gummy, stretchy, dyed bunny head or a baby chick; no real self-respecting bunny or chick would actually be any of those colors nor would I bite their heads off either. Sorry, Easter bunny, not in my kitchen.
But I do like to pay homage to my annual bag of Cadbury mini eggs. Last year for Easter, I made Chocolate Easter baskets using pretzels coated with chocolate to form a mini basket for my favorite Easter candy. This year, I took inspiration from two different blogs, Will Cook for Smiles using the Rice Krispies treat recipe to form baskets and Chef in Training's blog for the Nutella addition. This is a really simple and easy recipe to make. For the basket shape, I used a pan I got from Sur La Table that makes a well in the center. But you don't need any fancy pans to make baskets. If you don't want to freeform shape baskets by hand, turn a mini muffin tin over and shape the warm Rice Krispies mixture around each cavity. Then gently slip them off when they've set a bit. You can also use a regular size muffin tin if you want a bigger size basket. If you have kids, this is a fun recipe to make with them, especially for little ones.
I've made some slight modifications to the recipe and instructions I found (see below) as adding the Nutella into the melted marshmallow/butter mixture almost made the mixture seize and made it difficult to incorporate enough Rice Krispies into it. So I suggest warming up the Nutella first to get it to blend more easily without having to cook the marshmallow mixture more than necessary. If you overcook the marshmallows, your Rice Krispies treats will get too hard when they cool.
Nutella Rice Krispies Easter Baskets
5-6 cups Rice Krispies (I never measure, just add however much you can get in there)
1 10.5-ounce bag mini marshmallows
1/4 cup butter
1 cup Nutella
Melt butter and mini marshmallows over low heat until just barely melted, stirring constantly.
Warm Nutella in the microwave at 30-second intervals until it's liquid but not too hot. Add to the barely melted marshmallow mixture and stir to incorporate. Take off the heat and add Rice Krispies.
Work quickly to form the baskets using a turned-over mini muffin pan. Shape gently, let cool, and then turn right side up. When completely cooled and set, fill with your favorite Easter candy.
A few years ago, I was in charge of preparing an Easter lunch for my family. We were a small group that year, and decided on classic Southern brunch food – grits, fruit, ham. But a whole ham would have been more than enough food for our group. We would have had leftovers for years. But most of the smaller hams on the market are pressed hams, and I am not into that. And I didn’t want to serve pre-sliced pieces from a plastic package either.
I was standing at the deli counter, contemplating whether or not there was some kind of compromise I could work out. And then I saw the Canadian bacon. They sell it sliced, like any deli meat, but of course behind the counter, they have it in whole chunks.
It took some explaining to the deli supervisor, but I went home with a big chunk of cured Canadian bacon. I realized I could treat it both like a ham and like bacon, baking it with a sweet, sticky glaze and serving it sliced.
And it was a hit. Perfect for a small gathering, and perfect with the classic brunch accompaniments. You can slice it thick or thin, as you like, but basically serve as you would ham. If there are any leftovers, it is amazing on sandwiches or try an eggs benedict – the tangy, sweet edges on the bacon add a special touch.
Glazed Canadian Bacon
Serves 8 – 10
2 lbs. Canadian bacon, one piece, unsliced
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cane syrup, molasses or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Generous grinds of black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking dish with parchment or non-stick foil.
Place the piece of Canadian bacon in the prepared dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cane syrup, mustard, mustard powder, ginger and pepper. Brush half the glaze over the bacon, spreading along the sides and ends. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the baking dish.
Bake the bacon until it reaches and internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This should take about an hour. About 20 minutes into the cooking time, spoon the remaining glaze over the bacon and continue cooking. When the bacon is done, leave it to rest for 5 minutes or so before slicing and serving. It can be served warm or at room temperature.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Mustard and Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon