Friday, December 28, 2007

Comfort Food

It's cold and gray outside and I had way too much ham left over from Christmas. I was inspired to make a baked bean dish with some of my leftover ham. I modified one of my favorite baked bean recipes and let it cook in the crock pot most of the day.
Baked Beans with Ham
12 oz beans (navy, white beans, cranberry beans- whatever is on hand)
1/2 medium sized onion chopped into a 1/4 in dice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs Worcestershire
1/4 tsp dried mustard
6-8 oz smoked ham

Soak the beans overnight (or a quick soak by boiling water and letting them sit a few hours). Cover them with 1" water above the beans in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. You know they are done when you blow on a bean and the skin curls up. In a crock pot (or dutch oven if you want to use the oven) put the rest of the ingredients including the ham and add the beans along with 1-2 cups of the bean cooking liquid. I originally cut up the ham before adding it to the pot but I think next time I might leave it one large piece and cut it up before serving... I think the meat would have less of a chance to dry out since it is pretty lean. Cook in the crock pot on high for about 4 hours or so until the beans are very tender. Check for seasoning, might need a little salt.

I also have recently discovered (and it did take me a long time) a relatively new service the library provides by letting you reserve books and delivering them to your library of choice sending you an email when they arrive. So right now I have a pile of whole grain cookbooks and I ran across a few interesting looking cornbread recipes. I have yet to find "the one" as far a cornbread recipes go but this came pretty close. I think next time I will cut back on the sugar slightly- it was good but maybe a little sweeter than it needed it to be.

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups polenta (not instant)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (or as little as 2tbs) brown sugar
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup of add ins (whatever you prefer, corn, diced sauteed vegetables, chiles)

Preheat the oven to 350. Soak the polenta in the buttermilk overnight. Mix all the dry ingredients together and sift. Melt the butter and mix in the honey and then quickly whisk in the eggs one at a time trying to not let the butter stand still and get too cold. Mix the egg mix and the polenta into the dry ingredients, stir to combine and add the corn. Grease a pan of your choice (I found that it fit nicely into a 11x7" dish but you could always use a large cast iron skillet or 2 round pans. Bake until the center bounces back and if still unsure the skewer, when inserted into the center, comes out clean.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Recipe Old Memories...

So with a big break and a full refrigerator I have a long list of things I want to make. I'm starting with what needs to be used up first... I had lot's of roasted peppers and ran across a recipe in Sunset Magazine the other day for Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip. I thought it looked like a great way to use up all the roasted red peppers I had. It's not normal for me to just follow a recipe with out any improvising or substitutions, but surprisingly I did and aside from adding a little more salt I left it just as it was, and it was great.
When I was still living at home there was this great little deli that made really great veggie sandwiches on Dutch Crunch rolls. I loved them and I think what I loved most about them was this roasted red pepper spread that they put on it. At the time I had no idea how it was made, but one taste of this dip and I knew! It's amazing to so unexpectedly discover something so familiar. Kind of like when I met my husband I suppose. (that's another story) I might have to tackle some dutch crunch rolls and work on recreating that sandwich.

A Perfect Day To Begin Blogging!

I have been thinking about starting this blog for a long time now. I have been waiting for some inspiration and time to get some postings together... to get off to a strong start. I think what held me back most, was what to name my blog. This is so much more than just a name, but an identity and a direction for the blog. My husband recently has gained a strong interest in photography, and while he's been photographing dinner for a long time, food seemed to be a great subject for him to practice on. This became an exciting project we can do together.
In my professional life I teach baking and pastry at a culinary school, but there seems to be a huge gap between cooking professionally, in a professional kitchen, and cooking at home for yourself and loved ones. It's a whole different world to entertain and throw a dinner party for 8 than it is to spend a night working the dinner shift in a professional kitchen. I come from a family who likes food and does cook, but I didn't have anyone to learn from so I don't really have a lot of family recipes and traditions to draw from. Part of my starting this blog is to journal my experiments in the kitchen and to create my own dishes and traditions to pass on to my children. A kick start to start my blog (aside from the two week vacation I am currently on) was finding out about TasteBook on 101 Cookbooks. One of my goals is to work towards putting a book together from posts I create on my blog. Also, when someone asks me what I cooked for dinner or what I've been cooking (and this happens all the time from friends and family) I can just tell them to look on my blog! I have seen so many great blogs out there and have been tremendously inspired about them I look forward to creating one of my own.