Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Having ham for Easter?

I plan to make a big meal for our Easter dinner. We are quite traditional in our eating habits and will dine on a spiral baked ham with all the trimmings including the easy sweet pickle peaches recipe from several years back.

Once Monday rolls around, I'll have a whole lot of leftover ham. I have a number of recipes that I routinely use with ham leftovers, from ham and cheese muffins to a cheesy ham and potato soup. And I do love a good ham sandwich with mayonnaise, like my mom used to make.

But this season, there's a new recipe to add to our ham leftover line up -- a ham and cheese quiche of sorts packed with vegetables.

I made Veggie Filled Ham and Cheese Pie twice now, and both times my husband and I have gobbled it up. We had it as a main dinner course one night with fresh fruit as a side dish. And it's so very good warmed up in the oven or microwave for a quick and filling breakfast.

I didn't have ham leftovers when I tried the recipe, so I used deli ham; it was wonderful.

This is a simple egg pie recipe made in a pie crust. I used a refrigerated pie crust the first time and a frozen pie crust the second time; I prebaked each for about 5 minutes before pouring in the filling. I used a regular size pie crust, but when I make it again, I'll use the deep dish size frozen pie crust so I don't have to throw out leftover egg filling.

The recipe I started with used fewer vegetables and different cheese, but I chose ingredients I knew my husband and I would enjoy. In addition to spinach and mushrooms in the original recipe, I added a variety of bell peppers and chopped onions.

I didn't want to buy an entire package of spinach or mushrooms for the small amount I needed, so I went to the salad bar at my favorite grocery store and got the spinach, mushrooms and mixed bell peppers. The vegetable ingredients don't have to be precise measurements for this dish, so I just eyeballed what I was putting into the salad bar carryout container. The first time I made, it I used the bell peppers available on the salad bar: green, red and orange. The second time I used red, orange and yellow. It's so economical to buy the fresh vegetables this way. For about $1.50, I got the spinach, mushrooms and peppers I needed for my pie.

I also sauteed my mushrooms, onions and peppers in a little olive oil before adding to the pie because I knew that would enhance the flavor, and it did! While the mushrooms were cooking and the pie crust pre-cooking, I cut up the ham and mixed the egg filling. It really takes just a few minutes before it's ready to pop in the oven.

There are so many ways to vary this recipe according to your family's tastes. I'm sure it would be delicious as a meatless pie, for instance.

Veggie Filled Ham and Cheese Pie
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fat-free half-and-half or milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese (divided)
  • 1 frozen pie crust (deep dish)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup mixed bell pepper cut into strips or diced
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushroom slices
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • Olive oil for sautéeing
Cook pie crust for 5 minutes at temperature recommended on package. Set aside. Turn oven temperature to 350.
While crust is cooking, saute mushrooms, onions and peppers in a small amount of olive oil.
With a whisk, beat eggs, flour, salt and half-and-half until combined.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese in bottom of partially cooked pie crust. Top with a generous layer of spinach leaves. Arrange sauteed vegetables to cover spinach. Pour egg mixture over all. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until top is golden.
Lisa Boykin Batts

Sweet Pickled Peaches
  • 2 16-oz. cans peach halves
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon each whole cloves and whole allspice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
Strain juice from peaches and pour into large pot; reserve peaches. Tie cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks in a spice bag. I make one out of cheesecloth. Add sugar, vinegar and spice bag to juice in pot. Let come to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour in peaches and cook an addition 5 minutes or until peaches are heated. Remove spice bag. Let cool, then refrigerate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Easter Treats

I love Easter candy.

One year, I gained about 5 pounds from eating way too many Russell Stover strawberry cream eggs. I kid you not.

I buy jelly beans and yellow bunny Peeps and Brach's chocolate marshmallow rabbits. It has to be Brach's. I added a new bag of goodies to my shopping cart this year, Hershey's Cookies and Cream eggs. Those are for the children. I prefer some peanut butter in my miniature eggs. Think Reese's.

Which brings me to today's column.

I made my own chocolate covered peanut butter eggs last week, and they were delicious and very, very easy to make. Too easy, in fact, because it's very tempting to make them again.

There are no complicated ingredients or instructions with this recipe; it's a wonderful one to make with children because they can help form the eggs.

Those of you who read my column might recall an almost identical recipe two years ago for a chocolate peanut butter ball candy, or buckeyes, at Christmas. You could use that same recipe, in fact, and just make the candy egg-shaped instead of round.

Making the eggs consists of mixing the peanut butter filling and shaping and cooling the eggs before dipping them in chocolate.

I've done a lot of chocolate dipping in recent years, but I had a breakthrough moment with this recipe. I placed an egg in a large spoon and dipped it into the warm chocolate. I rolled the egg inside the bowl of the spoon until it was coated. Then I transferred each egg to a large piece of wax paper and let the chocolate firm.

I made my eggs several sizes. I really like the smaller ones. The larger ones are easier to decorate, though, and would work well for personalizing with a child's name.

The recipe makes quite a few eggs, so I delivered about a dozen to work. They were the perfect size to fit in colorful cupcake holders.

I stored my candy eggs in the refrigerater. Some of my family members ate them while they were still cold, but I prefer to leave them on the counter for a few minutes.

Either way, it's chocolate and peanut butter, so how can it be bad?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
With an electric mixer, blend softened butter and peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar and milk until mixed. Shape peanut butter mixture into egg shapes. Can be various sizes.
Place eggs on a cookie sheet or in other container and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Once eggs are chilled, place chocolate chips and shortening in microwave safe bowl and cook for 1 minute. Stir. If the chips don’t melt, put back in at 15-second intervals. Don’t overcook.
Dip eggs in chocolate and place on wax paper to firm. I placed my eggs in a spoon for dipping. Roll the egg in the bowl of the spoon until coated.
Once the chocolate has hardened some, they are ready to decorate.
Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No more calls home

I called my parents' phone number just now. No one answered. In fact, a recording came on informing me the line was no longer in service.
I knew some things would be hard. I knew it would be hard to walk back into the church for the first time after the funeral, and it was. I knew it would be hard to drive by and see the front door closed and to walk into an empty house; it takes my breath away when I realize Mama won't be sitting on the den sofa when I walk in.
But I didn't expect it would be so hard, so emotional, to cancel their phone service. I really didn't. I called the phone company Monday morning, just four weeks after Mama's death. No need to spend the extra $35 or so for a phone no one was using, right? We all have cell phones we can use when we're at the house. So I made the call. One more thing I could check off my list.
"My mother died last month, and I want to cancel her phone service." That shouldn't be so hard.
Before I had spoken two sentences, the tears started. I choked up and couldn't even talk for a few moments.
The customer service rep was so sweet when I apologized for my tears. "It's OK," she said.
We talked for a few minutes and she transferred me to the correct operator. The first person must have explained my emotional state to the next operator because when she picked up my call, she made reference to my parents' death. She was so kind as well. She asked me a few questions, and we took care of the business at hand. She asked me about the weather and tried to distract me. She was very sweet to the blubbering daughter on the other end of the line.
"They have had this number for almost 50 years," I told her, still sniffling but remembering how long they had been at the house.
Actually, they got the number in 1958, the operator said. That's the year they got married. That means they could be reached at that number in the short time they lived in an apartment before moving to the home they built and raised their family in.
How many times have I dialed that number? 243-4527. How many times have I thought it odd that the first three digits add up to 9, so do the next two and the last two?
How many times have I found comfort from the voice on the other end of the line? I was calling home.
When I was finished, I e-mailed my sister and told her the job was done.
I told her I want to fast-forward to the "it gets easier" part everyone tells me about.
Susan said maybe it will start getting better bit by bit. I sure hope so.

Bakers needed

All you bakers out there, it's time to put those recipes to good use. In the process, you'll be helping a good cause.

Imagination Station is holding ChiliJam again this year and would love to have some goodies to sell for dessert.

Homemade bake sale items such as cakes, pies, cupcakes and cookies are all welcome, said Robin Hauser, development manager for Imagination Station.

Hauser said volunteers will cut the cakes into individual slices that can be enjoyed at ChiliJam March 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

Please don't contribute items that need to be refrigerated, she said, and leave a note with the recipe's name, the baker's name and phone number and whether the cake or dessert contains nuts.

"Some sugar-free items would be great!" Hauser said.

Items can be delivered to the museum March 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with curb service offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The treats can also be delivered to the fairgrounds on the morning of ChiliJam.

This is a wonderful opportunity to help out our science museum. Think how many times your children or grandchildren have enjoyed their visits to Imagination Station, and imagine future trips with wonderful exhibits funded from such projects as ChiliJam.

I'm including some past recipes to give you some ideas for submitting treats to this worthwhile project.

Fudge and Oat Bars
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups uncooked quick oats
  • 1 (12 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray.
Cream softened butter and brown sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla then stir in flour. Add oats and mix well. Batter will be sticky. Press two-thirds of mixture into pan to make an even layer.
For filling, pour chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter, vanilla and salt into saucepan and heat slowly just until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture over batter in pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Crumble remaining oat mixture over chocolate and nuts; it will not completely cover.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes until brown.

Chocolate Brownie Cake with Glaze
  • 1 (18.25 oz.) package devil’s food cake mix
  • 1 (3.9 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Add eggs, sour cream, oil and water and beat at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Scrape bowl and beat at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean and cake pulls away from pan.
Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely.
While cake is cooling, mix glaze ingredients. Drizzle glaze onto cooled cake.

Satiny Chocolate Glaze:
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour chocolate chips and butter into microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir until chips are blended. Mix in honey and vanilla extract.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Home Cooking

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I got several calls from readers who wanted to purchase a church cookbook as a gift. Local cooks love church cookbooks, and there's a new one in the area to add to your collection or to give as a gift.

Bailey Baptist Church has published "Women On Mission Centennial Cookbook," recognizing the church's 100th birthday.

The three-ring binder cookbook has 133 pages of favorite recipes from WOM members.

I immediately marked a number of recipes to try when I first thumbed through the cookbook and stopped at the grocery story during my lunch hour to buy the ingredients for the very simple Jiffy Peach Cobbler. The recipes takes less than five minutes to assemble and has only four ingredients: a can of peaches, some brown sugar, a Jiffy cake mix and some butter. As suggested by contributor Nan Bissette, I served the hot cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. My family really enjoyed this last-minute treat.

But there are many other recipes through the book that I also plan to try including Debbie High's Sparkling Summer Tea made with tea, lemonade and ginger ale; Julia Duncan's Tastes Like Lasagna Soup; and Janice Harris' Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole.

Another recipe that caught my eye was Barbara R. Jones' Garden Burger. At first glance, I guessed this was a vegetarian burger, but in fact, the beef burger is dressed up with mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and onion. Jones' note says the burger is very moist. I'd love to try this.

Jeff and Tammy Norris' Chopped Barbecue Chicken also sounds like a recipe my family would enjoy. The chicken is first grilled before being chopped and blended with seasonings. Reminds me of one of my husband's favorite dishes -- chopped turkey barbecue.

I'm always on the lookout for new bread and muffin recipes, and I'd love to try Holiday Morning French Toast from Annie Ruffin and Tar Heel Hush Puppies contributed in memory of Daisy Brooks Privette.

The dessert section in this cookbook is a good one. There are plenty of cakes and pies for the novice cook who needs ideas or the more experienced cook who wants a challenge.

I could easily picture a slice of Judy Murray's Chocolate Cake covered with a cream cheese and Cool Whip frosting, and her Everyday Fudge Cake will probably make it to my table one day soon.

There are chocolate pies, fruit pies, frozen pies, pecan pies and even an Old Fashioned Egg Custard Pie in memory of Theora Tapp.

And if you like to bake cookies, you're in luck and can find a variety, including Joan Goodman's Oatmeal Cookies that are served as sandwich cookies with marshmallow creme filling.

Put it all together, and you have a nice, serviceable cookbook to use as a springboard to some new menu items.

One of the nice additions to this cookbook is the use of photographs at the beginning of each recipe section. It adds a personal touch and gives a glimpse into the history of the church.

Proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will fund Women on Mission projects.

Books are $12 each and can be purchased by calling Roberta Workman at 235-2764 or church secretary Barbara Liles at the church, 235-3663.

Jiffy Peach Cobbler
  • 1 15-oz. can sliced peaches
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
  • 1/4 cup butter
Spray square glass baking dish with Pam and pour peaches, including juice, in dish and add brown sugar over top of peaches. Sprinkle cake mix on top.
Cut little blocks of butter to completely cover cake mix.
Bake at 350 degrees until mixture bubbles and cake mix is brown on top.
Delicious served with ice cream on top while cake is still hot.

Nan Bissette
“Women on Mission Centennial Cookbook”

Honey-Mustard Chicken
  • 2 1/2 to 3-pound fryer, quartered
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Remove skin from chicken and arrange in baking dish.
Stir together honey, mustard, soy sauce, salt and pepper in a small dish.
Brush chicken with half of the honey-mustard sauce.
Place chicken in 450 degree oven and immediately turn oven temperature back to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes. Baste chicken with remaining honey-mustard and put back in oven about 30 minutes more or until chicken is done.

Jackie Tapp
“Women on Mission Centennial Cookbook”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Healthy Choices

You can buy baked chicken and a salad every day at Wilson Medical Center's Cafe Court. Or maybe a black bean burger with some fresh fruit is more to your liking.

But if you'd rather have a serving of fried chicken tenders and french fries, you're in luck, too.

It's all about making choices, said Dan Cantu, director of food and nutrition services at Wilson Medical Center.

And the hospital is helping its employees and anyone else who eats in Cafe Court to make informed choices. Not only do they prepare healthy foods, in some cases they display the nutritional content of their menu items. For instance, a sign at the grill notes the turkey burger fat content is 9.5 grams with 203 calories. A veggie burger has only 2.7 grams of fat and 130 calories, but the cheeseburger jumps to 24 grams and 476 calories. A grilled chicken sandwich weighs in at 2.2 grams of fat and 146 calories.

The beef hamburger is still a very popular menu item, said Ricky Letchworth, cafeteria supervisor, but more and more people are paying attention to those fat grams and are opting for the healthier turkey, vegetable or black bean burger, he said. And to make it even healthier, they're ordering it on a whole wheat bun.

At breakfast, pork sausage and turkey sausage are each served in the cafeteria. About a third of the sales are for the turkey sausage, Letchworth said.

"We're selling more and more," he said. "People are making those choices."

Employees are also happy to see the big bowl of Apple Cranberry Salad at the salad bar. The salad is garnished with walnuts and feta cheese and dressed with fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. Letchworth sells two to three large serving bowls of the special salads each day.

The hospital has offered healthy menu items for years, but it's stepping up its efforts in order to receive a Red Apple designation from N.C. Prevention Partners. The organization's mission is "prevention first for a healthier North Carolina."

Wilson Medical Center currently has a Yellow Apple status as it implements its plan for a Red Apple, meaning the hospital will be designated a "healthy food environment." That should happen this spring.

To get there, the hospital must meet a number of goals from training food services staff on portion control, to working with outside vendors for healthier options, to labeling foods that can easily be identified as healthy.

Healthy choices will be labeled with a yellow and black bumble bee in the hospital cafeteria. Already, the bee is displayed on menu items and refrigerated beverages that are considered the healthy choice.

And soon, those who eat in the cafeteria will be able to thumb through a notebook of menu items to find the nutritional content of their meal. That process was quite labor-intensive, said Shannon Jackson, clinical dietitian supervisor. The hospital cafeteria is self-managed, and staff couldn't rely on a big corporation to supply the nutrition information.

Hospital dietitian Kay Johnson analyzed each recipe in the hospital's four-week rotation in order to calculate the nutritional content.

Employees and visitors to the hospital will soon see some more changes to the regular menu, Letchworth said. He'll be offering more healthy choices, including a healthy soup of the day, and wants to serve fish twice a week instead of three times a month, he said. Lightly seasoned vegetables will also be on the menu each day.

Jackson said they get mixed messages from their customers. Some are thrilled to have the healthy options, others get defensive and say the cafeteria staff is trying to change them.

Cantu said the challenge is to get people to eat in the cafeteria every day and not get tired of it. With 1,200 register transactions in the cafeteria each day, they need to keep their customers happy, but they also want them healthy.

Strawberry Walnut Salad
  • 1 2 1/2-pound bag spinach or spring mix or both
  • Two quart containers thinly sliced strawberries
  • One red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • Feta cheese for garnish
  • Fat-free raspberry vinaigrette dressing
Mix ingredients and toss with vinaigrette. You can easily change the ingredient amounts for a smaller salad.

WilMed Cafe Court

Citrus Chicken Salad
  • One bag spinach (or spring mix, or both)
  • 1 pound diced fajita chicken strips
  • 1 30-oz. can mandarin orange slices (drained)
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Fat-free balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Mix salad ingredients and toss with dressing. You can easily change the ingredient amounts for a smaller salad.

WilMed Cafe Court

Apple Cranberry Salad
  • 1 2 1/2-pound bag spinach or spring mix or both
  • 6 diced Red Delicious apples tossed with lemon juice if desired (don’t peel)
  • 2 cups Craisins
  • One-half red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
  • Feta cheese to garnish
  • Fat-free Raspberry vinaigrette
Mix ingredients and toss with vinaigrette. You can easily change the ingredient amounts for a smaller salad.

WilMed Cafe Court