Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ham leftovers?

I’m sure some of my readers have some leftover Easter ham in the refrigerator. And if that’s the case, I’ve got an easy recipe for you to try.

I often use my ham leftovers for omelets, ham and cheese muffins or even a ham and veggie pie I shared in my food column last year.

But I’ve also made ham and cheddar biscuits several times since I discovered the recipe last spring. The recipe is so easy, starting with a biscuit baking mix.

I mixed up these biscuits before my oven had preheated last week, using packaged diced ham and shredded cheese. But even if you have to dice and shred yourself, you can put this recipe together in just a few minutes.

The first few times I made the biscuits last year, my family ate them up so fast I had to make a second recipe.

When I made them again last week, I made a few changes to make the biscuits a little more moist. I liked the change. My son and I ate them for lunch the first day, along with some fruit, and the next morning, I warmed one in the microwave for 10 seconds and enjoyed it for breakfast.

And if you like to think ahead, make enough to freeze for later use.

Ham and Cheese Biscuits
  • 2 1/4 cups biscuit baking mix (I used reduced fat Bisquick)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced, cooked ham
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix baking mix with milk to form dough. Stir in cheese and ham.

If you want smaller biscuits, drop by tablespoonsful on prepared baking sheet. I wanted bigger biscuits and used my muffin scoop.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Reheat for 10 seconds each in microwave.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hot cross buns

For many Christians around the globe, it's a time-honored tradition to eat hot cross buns on Good Friday. Various histories I've read claim the rolls date back hundreds of years, perhaps even to pagan times when their significance had an entirely different meaning.

The spicy rolls packed with dried fruit are either topped with a cross of white frosting or emblazoned with a cross cut into the roll just prior to baking. The cross is meant to remind Christians of Christ's crucifixion.

Various folklore claims the rolls can fight off illness and evil and will never get moldy because of the protection of the cross.

Hot cross buns were not a tradition for my family when I was growing up, and I've only had them a few times, including several years back when I made a batch myself.

Last year, newspaper publisher Morgan Dickerman shared a delicious shipment of hot cross buns from a bakery in Colorado with our staff. The rolls were delicious and had special meaning because we ate them on Good Friday. I decided right then that I wanted to share a recipe for hot cross buns in my food column for this Easter.

I read many recipes over the last few weeks before deciding on the ingredients for my hot cross buns. My first decision involved the dried fruit to use. Most recipes call for currants, some for raisins, others for a mixture of dried fruits. I opted for golden raisins for my buns. The golden raisins had such a variety of pretty gold tones and added a nice touch of color to the rolls. They also aren't as obvious as their darker counterpart, which is a good thing for me because I really don't like raisins!

Then I had to decide on spices. The first recipe I read only used cinnamon. But I saw a number of other recipes that use a combination of spices including cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. I love cloves, but I was afraid the spicy taste might overtake the rolls. So I ended up using a teaspoon of cinnamon and a 1/4 teaspoon of both allspice and nutmeg. I measured out the spices and put them in a small container, stirred them up and smelled them before adding them to my flour. The aroma was wonderful and not too over-powering, so that's what I went with.

Since I had only used one dried fruit, I opted to put the zest of both a lemon and an orange in my rolls. The faint hint of citrus added a nice touch.

I cut a cross into about half of my rolls before baking. I experimented with scissors, a straight-edge knife and a serrated knife. I had the best luck with the serrated knife.

After the rolls had baked and cooled, I put a sugary glaze cross on each one. The rolls with the cross cut into them definitely had the neater cross.

My hot cross buns were absolutely a hit at my house. They were delicious the day I made them and equally good the next day, cut in half and toasted.

If you'd like to start a new tradition at your house to mark the significance of Good Friday, give these rolls a try.

Hot Cross Buns
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon bread machine yeast
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoons allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 to 1 cup golden raisins
Egg wash:
  • 1 egg white
  • Splash of milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons milk
Pour milk, butter, sugar, salt, 1 egg, egg white, bread flour, spices and yeast into bread machine bowl in order recommended by manufacturer. Start dough cycle.

If your machine has a timer for adding nuts or other ingredients, add the raisins when the timer beeps, otherwise, add the raisins in the last few minutes of the final knead cycle.

When dough cycle is complete, remove dough from bowl and place on a floured surface. Divide the dough in half, then in half again to have four pieces. Roll each quarter into a log shape and divide into thirds to form your rolls.

Place rolls in 9x13 pan that has been prepared with butter. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover dough and let rise in a warm place for around 45 minutes. (When I am rising dough, I put a cut of boiling water in my cold oven to create warmth and steam before putting in my pan of dough.)

After they have doubled in size, cut a cross into the top of each bun. Then whisk one egg white with a splash of milk and brush on rolls.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool.

Mix glaze ingredients and pipe or brush on a cross shape.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pondering the tornado and life

I took a walk around my yard Sunday morning, walking slowly and thinking while I picked up small pieces of debris my husband had missed the evening before.
I wondered whose 2-inch-square piece of siding was in the grass by my newly-planted garden. Did the yellow insulation that fell from the tree in our front yard overnight come from the hard-hit house about a half-mile away? And what was that green plastic piece that looked like the color of a stop light?
All these little pieces were part of someone’s business, someone’s home, someone’s life.
The ripped bottom portion of a car title might have come from the used car lot that was in the direct line of fire when a tornado tore through N.C. 42. And what business close by uses trayformers? I have the instructions on how to operate and clean one — whatever it is.
My walk was very sobering. The entire weekend was sobering — humbling, in fact — as I realized once again just how little control I have over my life.
Like so many others, my family sat around the television and computer Saturday afternoon, watching the radar and listening to forecasters talk about the life-threatening tornadoes that were headed towards our part of the state. I stayed in constant contact with my daughter, Anna, who was in the Lucama area with her boyfriend’s family. She was worried, and I was too, and wanted nothing more than for her to be with me or to at least be safe where she was.
As the system got closer to Wilson County, and it became apparent we weren’t going to dodge it this time, we all got a little more anxious and firmed up our plans for taking cover. We decided we would sit in the hallway; it’s the same place my children slept during Hurricane Fran. I opened up the hall closet where we store blankets and quilts and told my husband, son and his fiancee, Alicia, to grab whatever they needed and to cover up when the time came.
By the time the storm was in Wilson County, we had determined by the television maps that the tornado was headed for our neighborhood — Westwood. It was really coming, and there was nothing we could do about it and nowhere to run.
Anna was safe, I learned, but now it was our turn to deal with the tornado.
I calmly walked to the back of the house to tell the latest forecast to my husband, Reggie, who was watching a DVD with our 2-year-old granddaughter, Sora. Before we finished talking, we lost power, and everything went dark. It was like a signal, a curtain rising, indicating that the show was about to begin.
It was then we realized we had almost waited too long to bring our elderly next-door neighbor to our house. But my husband headed out in the wind and the loud noise — a very loud, roaring noise unlike any I’d heard before.
And when I saw a large piece of something black and square fly way above the tree line, I knew something was very different and very wrong. Son Robert called out, “It’s here!”
Within seconds, insulation and siding and tree limbs were swirling and flying everywhere, and my husband and neighbor were running the best they could into the house with Robert hurrying them in.
We didn’t stay in the hallway long. We were curious, too curious. Robert stayed in the hall with his young family and our neighbor, but Reggie and I couldn’t be still. We peeked out windows, and I walked into the den before realizing how foolish I was to be in a room with so many windows.
And then it was over — so unlike a hurricane, which goes on for hours, but also so much like a hurricane with its destruction.
Our family and our home were spared. We had limbs and debris to pick up, but nothing more.
As the evening went on and my children and I visited homes where people had lost so much. We listened to their stories, I took notes, and Robert and Anna took photographs for me. I couldn’t believe the destruction I was seeing. The blown-out windows in homes, the trees on roofs, the look of disbelief and shock on so many faces.
Their homes and their way of life were here one minute and gone the next.
Saturday night, after my stories and photos were emailed to my editor, I walked outside to the front porch and was immediately overwhelmed once again by the smell of pine from the fallen trees.
I looked up and saw the moon and thought about the stormy sky and debris I had watched just six hours before.
So much went through my mind. Why don’t we have a battery-operated radio? Why was our house spared? Where are the people staying tonight who no longer have a home? How will they ever pick up the pieces and start all over again? Will they get help?
Then I thought of little Sora and other children who lived through the storm.
Sora definitely sensed our fear Saturday, and when she was at the house on Sunday, she ran up to me and wanted me to hold her when she realized we were watching a video of the tornado on the computer.
Saturday night, she told her Mama that the loud monster had scared her. She later told her that her daddy’s blanket and her daddy had scared that monster away. If only it were that simple.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easy side dish

I admit that I fall into a rut when it comes to cooking vegetables at my house.

We have corn, butter beans, peas and potatoes. Occasionally I make a broccoli dish. My kids convince me to make green bean casserole a few times a month, but I usually stick with the same things my mother cooked — interspersed with a variety of green salads.

I love to find a new way to get our veggies in each day and was excited to see something new on my plate at a church function earlier this month. There on the same plate with my ham, deviled eggs and congealed salad was a serving of colorful marinated vegetables. It was the first thing I tried. I loved the vinegar marinade sweetened with sugar and the mix of canned French-cut green beans, corn, garden peas and pimiento.

I immediately knew I wanted to share this recipe with my readers this month because it would be great for an Easter ham dinner. Not only is it delicious and very pretty, it can also be put together in just a few minutes then stored for several days in the refrigerator. That’s one less thing to do before dinner on Easter Sunday.

I made the recipe for my husband and me last week, and we had the dish with shrimp and baked potatoes. It was a delicious combination.

Don’t be afraid to make a full recipe when you try this. As I was told by Anne Liles when she shared the recipe with me, it keeps for several days in the refrigerator and only gets better with age!

Colorful Marinated Vegetables
  • 3 15 oz. cans French-style green beans (some cans are 14 or 14.5 ounces)
  • 1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn
  • 1 15 oz. can garden peas
  • 2 tablespoons diced pimiento
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup oil
Mix sugar, vinegar and oil with a whisk until combined.

Place vegetables in a colander and drain and rinse.

Pour vegetables in a bowl. Pour marinade over and stir to combine. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The vegetables are good for several days.

Anne Liles