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.

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