Friday, March 28, 2008

Easter Dinner

Easter Sunday we had my whole family over for dinner. Luckily we had purchased a good-sized ham a few days prior for a good price because it was not spiral cut. Now the question was, how do we cook it? We have done a lot with pork recently, Corinne comes up with some amazing marinades and sauces, but glazes were new to us. I did some research (thanks!) and decided on a small spin-off of a few recipes I had found. I would not call this recipe healthy though, not with the amount of sugars that are in it... but this was a special occasion. I sure wasn’t going to celebrate the resurrection of Christ with the tofu Corinne was previously referring to!

To start with I took the ham and put it in a roasting pan and scored the top of the ham (in a criss-cross pattern) with approximately 3/8 inch-deep cuts. In a bowl I mixed about a ¼ cup of olive oil with 1 teaspoon of dried sage. With a basting brush I brushed the mixture all over the ham, making sure it permeated the score marks. The ham was then placed in the oven at 300º F while I prepared the glaze.

We liked the idea of a Maple Mustard glaze so we threw together:

½ cup of maple syrup (butter flavor!)
½ cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of spicy brown mustard (Guldens, #2 and that aint bad)
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

I added the maple syrup to the bowl first and slowly mixed in the brown sugar to avoid any lumps. After all the brown sugar was mixed in, I added both of the mustards and the nutmeg. After the ham cooked for an hour I pulled it out and applied the glaze onto the ham with a silicone spatula. (It was way to thick for the basting brush.) I covered every bit of the surface and filled the cuts that had opened up with glaze. (I still had quite a bit of glaze and I later tried to make a gravy with it using white wine to deglaze the pan. That turned out horrible because of all the olive oil that had fallen into the pan and burnt.)

I placed the ham back in the oven this time at 375º F. After an hour I pulled the ham out and let it cool for about 15 minutes. When I finally went to put the meat fork into it to steady it for slicing…the fork effortlessly plunged all the way into the ham…the meat was so soft and tender! I give credit for the tenderness of the meat to the fact that the ham was not spiral cut before hand. Its too bad though… I'm going to have to buy more hams to prove this theory! ;)

The glaze on it was absolutely fabulous, I expected the mustard flavor to be a little stronger but it turned out much better then I had hoped for. Everyone was fighting for the end pieces that had the most glaze on them! It was easily the best ham I have ever eaten.Stumble Upon Toolbar
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Friday, March 21, 2008

Healthy Eating

A few months before we got married, we were told by our doctors that we needed to shape up, basically... we had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high everything! Years of fast-food and store-bought packaged meals had definitely caught up. We absolutely loved going out and having a huge, over-portioned plate full of whatever-we-were-in-the-mood-for plus dessert, or, staying in for a movie and eating an entire extra-large pizza, by ourselves. But, we had to start eating healthy... And, where, might I ask, can you find inexpensive, healthy, ready-to-eat food? I'm talking good, hearty meals here, not carrot sticks. We had to learn to cook... and not only cook, but cook healthy.

Me, cook? I had plenty of creativity in other areas - I love poetry and music, I'm great at painting... but, cooking? I was definitely lacking on culinary creativeness. Daniel, on the other hand, loved cooking, he was good at it, but wasn't aware there was a difference between healthy cooking and, well, unhealthy cooking. 2 cups of oil you say? Sure, if it tastes good. Bacon you say? We'll make two packages, for breakfast, plus eggs with cheese, toast, and lots of butter.

This was going to be tough! But we had to. I'm not exactly healthy myself. I'm out of shape, for goodness sake I love to eat and you can tell! But we surprised ourselves with how much we've discovered regarding healthy cooking and we hardly even notice the difference.
One thing we've done is designate a fish-night... you'll probably see more on that later... We are still working out the kinks on that one (For one thing, I don't like much fish, and because of that, we have no idea how to cook and eat it).
We've also switched to nothing but olive oil... which most chefs will tell you to cook with anyways, but we stay away from bacon grease and even canola oil... because olive oil has more healthy bang-for-your-buck. (and the best flavor, in my opinion)
We have also, mostly with Daniel's help, learned to combine spices and herbs to make something taste good.... instead of using salt. This has been our best accomplishment so far. We were eating loads of salt before! When we do use salt, we use it sparingly... I've been meaning to invest in a good sea salt. It doesn't have as much sodium but you still get a nice salty kick.

Speaking of no salt, which was one of the only ways to make Daniel eat anything remotely healthy, I'm even finding ways of making Daniel eat his veggies! We've discovered that he likes balsamic vinegar (he's never liked any vinegar) and he discovered that he actually likes squash and zucchini. Why not combine them? I love roasted veggies, when I saw a recipe for braised balsamic veggies from Ilva at Lucullian Delights, it reminded me of balsamic roasted veggies. I jumped for joy and decided to try it myself. Her recipe included fresh sage, and combined tofu with the veggies... we were already having a protein that night and I think I will have to work on Daniel some more before I can get tofu past his mouth.
I used every color of veggie I could get my hands on... the first time I used a white onion, the second time we did it, I used a red. They say you should eat lots of different colored veggies/fruits because it's healthier... so I did my best... Just look at those pictures!

Balsamic Roasted Veggies
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1 zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 carrot
2 red and/or green bell peppers, seeded and cut into eighth (I used red for color)
1 onion
1 tomato
Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
freshly cracked pepper
1 Fresh Herb of choice: sage, oregano, basil, parsley, or the like.

Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Now, chop up your veggies. Slice the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch slices, then cut the slices in half. I sliced the carrot on a 1/4 inch bias. I sliced the carrots thinner than the squash because it takes the carrots a little longer to get soft if they are too thick. Now, seed/de-rib the pepper then cut the pepper, the tomato, and the onion into eighths.
Place all veggies in bowl, grind some pepper and drizzle with olive oil, mix with your hands (tongs or two wooden spoons works too - but your hands are you best tools). Rinse hands, of course.
Place sheet of foil in shallow roasting dish, spread veggies into pan. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with chopped fresh herb of choice (I used sage, but my favorite is basil).

Place pan on top rack in oven for about 20-25 minutes... I checked on them after about 10 minutes to see how they were doing, but don't open the door too often or you'll let all that good heat out. If you want, you can turn the oven to broil for the last few minutes to get nice smoky edges on the vegetables.

Since it's just Daniel and me for dinner most of the time, I often have unused veggies or even veggies that I cut in half then stored for later use. I used tomatoes the second time, as you will see in some of the pictures... Really, most any veggie will do. It is a fantastic way to use up those extra or about-to-go-bad veggies, and I must say, they are fantastic cold, piled on wheat toast spread with a little hummus... Mmm!

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First things first, "us" includes me, Corinne, and my husband, lets just call him Daniel. We are typical newlyweds, we got married last November and our relationship just keeps getting better. It's amazing when you have been in hum-drum relationships all your life and then you meet someone you just can't keep away from. Even sitting in a room together and doing two separate things is wonderful... Its almost pathetic really. Anyways, Daniel and I just love doing things together... anything!
It wasn't until we were living in close proximity of each other that we discovered cooking together. He has a great sense for taste and smell combinations and I have the technical know-how. We also both love the finer things in life, nights of cheese-plates and wine pairings, fondue, tapas, all that good stuff! We live pretty modestly, but you wouldn't know it, we try to scrimp and save, but we grab things up when they are at good prices... Who said college students and newlyweds can't afford fine living?

Our dream is to start a restaurant, but we are far from that and have a lot to learn. Hopefully, this blog will help us record our progress, our life together, tips on living well (even on a budget), recipes, wines and spirits, books... everything! We will give you all we know, so that you may enjoy the delights of fine living and fine food.

And of course we can't wait to meet you!Stumble Upon Toolbar

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