Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday ham

Please don’t let the dark edges on this ham fool you; it’s not really burned. And the family and friends gathered around my table on Thanksgiving night didn’t mind the appearance of the ham one bit. In fact, they competed for the dark edges of caramelized glaze.

I didn’t cook a turkey last week. Instead, I had a simple meal of glazed ham, layered salad, double baked potatoes, green bean casserole and yeast rolls. No one complained. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I got so many compliments on a meal — the ham, in particular.

I’ve cooked spiral hams many times, but I’ve never added a glaze. My son really wanted me to try a glazed ham, so I read a few recipes and adapted them to come up with a very simple, yet delicious, glaze that includes honey, butter, sugar and a dash of ground cloves.

The preparation is simple and involves lining a pan with aluminum foil for quick clean up and taking the ham out of the packaging. Once you’ve mixed and heated your glaze and brushed some all over the ham, it’s time to put it in the oven. I followed the minimum cooking time for my fully cooked ham (which weighed in at 9.7 pounds) and glazed it every 15 to 20 minutes. I used two timers to keep up with the overall cooking time as well as the glazing.

To apply the glaze, I used a silicon basting brush and added it in small applications to the surface of the ham. I also brushed some in between the slices as they started to fall apart during baking. I had only a little bit of the glaze left at the end of the baking time. Once the juices started accumulating in the bottom of the pan, I used them to baste the ham as well.

The result for me was a delicious mix of honey smoked ham with a sweet honey glaze. The dark edges intensified the sweetness.

I’m also including a longtime favorite recipe for the layered salad I’ve made for many years. My husband and I love this salad and enjoyed the leftovers the next few days, along with a slice of ham!

This pretty salad, along with the honey-glazed ham, will make nice additions to your holiday table this season.

Ham Glaze
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • A dash or two of ground cloves (if desired)
Mix all ingredients in saucepan and let come to boil. Remove from heat.

Cook ham according to package directions, basting with glaze every 15 to 20 minutes.

*Note: This was plenty glaze for my 9.7-pound ham.

Layered Salad
  • 1 head lettuce cut and torn into bite-size pieces (can also add other greens)
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup radishes (if desired; I don’t use anymore)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, cooked 1 minute and drained
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 pieces cooked bacon, cut into small pieces, or bacon bits
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Place lettuce in bottom of trifle bowl or large glass salad bowl. Next, layer celery, green pepper, red pepper, green peas, radishes and 1 cup cheddar cheese. (Layer so red is between the green vegetables and looks pretty when viewed from the side).

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream and sugar. Spread over top of salad, being sure to seal the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Add some herbs for easy rolls

If you’re cooking the Thanksgiving meal tomorrow, you probably already have your menu planned, your groceries tucked away and maybe even a casserole or two chilling in the refrigerator.

In case you don’t have your dinner rolls purchased yet, I have a simple recipe you can make on Thanksgiving Day, or any day for that matter.

With frozen dough for rolls, you can customize tasty herb rolls that not only smell wonderful but also taste wonderful! But you must get started early to allow enough time for the rolls to defrost and then rise.

There's a herb roll recipe that I’ve made many times over the years that combines several herbs in the yeasty dough. The rolls smell wonderful as they rise and then bake. I remembered that smell and used three herbs for my easy herb rolls.

For my pan of 11 rolls, I simply melted two tablespoons of butter and then mixed in 1/2 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme and oregano. Then, with a pastry brush, I brushed herb butter on the risen rolls and baked them.

The rolls were delicious! I've made them three times in the last few weeks and will make them again soon, I’m sure.

Editor's Note: There's been some confusion over an ingredient in last week's food column. For Dameron's Cranberry Salad, I used one large (6-oz.) box of strawberry Jell-O.

Easy Herb Rolls
  • 10-12 frozen dinner rolls (Not ready-to bake; I used Rhodes brand.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (plus more to prepare baking dish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Take rolls from freezer and place in baking dish that has been prepared with butter; leave enough room between rolls to allow space to rise. Follow package directions for rising.

Melt butter and mix in herbs.

Once rolls have risen (about 5 hours), brush on herb butter, making sure to brush butter between rolls as much as you can and around the sides to coat.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Remembering at the holidays

When Thanksgiving rolls around next week, Agnes and Buddie Page will certainly be remembering, fondly, the many holiday meals they shared with their son, Dameron. Many of those dishes were made each year at the holidays and are still very special to them.

Agnes sat down recently and wrote all about the passion for cookbooks, recipes and trying foods that she shared with her son, and she let me read those pages. In her writing, she poured out her heart and her grief, which is still very fresh, since Dameron’s death in April 2011 at age 35.

Agnes said she learned to cook from her mother. “I was the daughter that was always in the kitchen watching my mother cook and helping whenever she would let me,” she wrote. And Dameron learned from her. “During Dameron’s childhood, the two of us spent lots of time in the kitchen making cupcakes, candies and all sorts of party goods for school, church, 4-H or whatever the occasion.”

As an adult, Dameron continued reading cookbooks, saving recipes, taking cooking classes and watching cooking shows, his mother said.

“He was always sharing new ideas he had learned with my sister and me,” Agnes wrote. “He loved to try complicated recipes, unlike me who is always looking for a simple and quick recipe to try.”

When the holidays rolled around, Dameron would visit from his home in Chapel Hill. At Thanksgiving, he and his mother would work ahead to make all of their favorite dishes.

“We had so much fun decorating the dining room for the holiday and choosing as many different tableware, dishes and accessories as possible,” she wrote. “We wanted every table setting to be different for every meal.”

The Page family shared a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and one of their favorite side dishes was Dameron’s cranberry salad. I gave the recipe a try last week, and my husband and I both loved it and kept going back to have another bowl over the weekend. The congealed salad is similar to one I’ve made for years, but Dameron’s addition of apple and crushed pineapple to strawberry Jell-O and whole berry cranberry sauce makes it even more delicious!

I hope you’ll try the congealed salad, if not for Thanksgiving, then for another occasion.

And, thank you Agnes Page for sharing your story and your recipes and for reminding me and my readers how thankful we should be for family and good memories.

Dameron's Cranberry Salad
  • 1 16-oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 large box strawberry Jell-O
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup finely chopped apple (Dameron used Granny Smith)
  • 1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans*
Dissolve Jell-O and cranberry sauce in boiling water. Crush cranberry sauce while you stir. Add remaining ingredients. Chill until firm.

You can also add in oranges or fresh cranberries if desired.

* I used walnuts because I was out of pecans.

Submitted by Agnes Page in memory of her son, Dameron Page

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sweet potato bread

Over the last several weeks, I’ve watched many farm trucks go by filled with sweet potatoes from this year’s harvest.

I love cooking with sweet potatoes, and I love that so many are grown right here in Wilson County. North Carolina leads the nation in growing sweet potatoes, and Wilson, Nash and Johnston are all big acreage counties, according to Billy Little, agriculture extension agent. Little said 8,000 acres of sweet potatoes are grown in Wilson County.

At my house, we enjoy sweet potatoes baked and dressed with a little butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. One of my favorite side dishes for Thanksgiving is a sweet potato casserole topped with pecans (no marshmallows!) I also add diced sweet potatoes to my vegetable soup and even pot roast. They have a wonderful, sweet taste and pack a nutrition punch with beta carotene, vitamins A and C. Sweet potatoes are also rich in fiber. According to the N.C. Sweet Potato Commission, a medium sweet potato baked in its skin has 4 grams of fiber. That’s more than an envelope of instant oatmeal.

To highlight sweet potatoes, I tried a new recipe for sweet potato bread and really enjoyed it. I started with a basic recipe and changed it around, using white whole wheat flour, adding a few spices, cutting back on total sugar and subbing brown sugar for some of the granulated sugar. As a finishing touch, I sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar on top before placing the loaf pan in the oven.

The bread is very dense and flavorful and has a gorgeous brown crumb with an orange tint. And I love the spice combination; I was very glad I decided to add ground cloves at the last minute. The overall effect reminds me of zucchini bread.

Reggie and I had our first slice, still warm from the oven, topped with cinnamon butter. (Just soften the butter and mix in some cinnamon or cinnamon sugar.)

This is not a very sweet bread but is just right for a breakfast bread, I think. If you want a sweeter bread, go up a half cup on the sugar.

As a side note, I cooked my sweet potatoes in the slow cooker. I had cooked them that way a few weeks before when I made sweet potato muffins and had great success. I washed the potatoes and placed them in the crock, on a piece of aluminum foil — to make cleanup easier in case the sweet juices leaked out. I cooked them on high for three hours, then checked for doneness, piercing the middle with a toothpick. I left them in about another 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes were cooked through. I think this is a great way to cook a baking potato or a sweet potato. The flesh was wonderfully moist and cooked through. After the potatoes had cooled just a bit, I wrapped them in aluminum foil to use the next day.

Sweet Potato Bread
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (could use all-purpose or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato, lightly mashed
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • cinnamon sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugars and canola oil until combined. Add in eggs, then flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix in juice, sweet potato and pecans until combined. Pour into 9X5-inch loaf pan prepared with baking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.

Bake for approximately 1 hour. Watch for burning around edges, but make sure bread is cooked in the middle. Cool slightly, then remove from loaf pan and wrap in foil to keep moist.

Warm bread is delicious with cinnamon butter. To make, mix a little bit of cinnamon or cinnamon sugar into softened butter.

Adapted from Allrecipes