Ham Loaf with a Cheese Crust

In which I praise home economists.

Picture this.  You are cleaning up from your Sunday dinner.  Your family has devoured the Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin.  They have eaten all of the Cooked Cranberry Salad.  Their bellies are now full of Mama’s Apple Pecan Pie.  The Bread and Butter Pickles are back in the fridge, but what are you going to do with all that leftover ham?

With everyone already planning for Thanksgiving (and the holiday that comes after that that I don’t want to mention because it’s just too soon), now is a good time to start working on menu planning and leftover planning.  So let’s sharpen up our home economist skills and put those leftovers to work for you.

I know, I know.  There are ham sandwiches that can be made, both hot and cold.  Everyone has been yammering for scalloped potatoes.  (Not at my house, but my mom did make some especially for a classmate of mine once in high school.  She is amazing about things like that).  The bone can be used for bean soup or thrown into greens or made into red beans and rice (my kids’ favorite option).  At some point, however, you always end up with these little pieces that no one wants to eat because they are the wrong shape or size, they are too thick or thin.  They languish there in your fridge and cry out to you when you open the door.  You know that you should do something with them, but you aren’t sure of what.   I have (or rather my great-grandma and other brilliant home economists have) a solution for you.  Ham loaf in a cheese crust.DSCN2926Just say those words aloud.  It’s ok to alternately smile and gag.  It’s not something we are used to seeing in our menu rotation.  There are reasons for why this recipe has fallen out of fashion.  My kids would argue that taste was one of those reasons, but I think they were having an exceptionally picky day. Side note:  I mentioned to Nick what I was writing about and he said “Oh, right, that weird stuff.”

When I looked at the title of the recipe, the images of what this recipe would be was something more like a meatloaf with a thick coating of cheese and breadcrumbs surrounding it, so that every slice looked like a drawing of rock layers from elementary school science class.  As I read through the recipe I realized how wrong I had it.  This was going to be a pie.  A pink pie with an orange crust.  A study in contrasting colors and textures.   I’m never sure about the texture of ground ham.DSCN2931When this recipe was originally published, there were not the variety of cheese cracker options that are available today.  I’m not sure if this qualifies as progress.  I stuck with Cheez-Its original flavor.  Getting out the blender or food processor seemed like dishes I didn’t feel like doing so crushed the crackers with a combination of the potato masher and my hands. It makes lovely pictures, but a crumbly crust.

All in all, this was not a bad recipe.  A little on the salty side, but it’s ham and cheese crackers, so you’d expect as much.

Ham Loaf in Cheese Crust

Tweedle Beetle Banana Bread Battle

In which Julia Child makes her first appearance.

When I shop at a certain grocery store, they almost always have bananas in their reduced produce bin.   I can get an enormous bag of bananas for 99 cents.  There is never anything wrong with them except that their skins have some brown spots.  The bananas inside are perfectly lovely and ripe.  However, we can only eat so many bananas in a day or two.  The rest of them find a nice home in my freezer until I’m ready to take them out and do something amazing with them.  Unfortunately, I’m not always very creative and that something is almost always banana bread.  I have a delicious recipe that I normally use from Todd English’s Olives Dessert Table Cookbook.  This blog is not about Todd English or the incredible recipes he has published, though…

In my collection of hand-me-down recipes, I was blessed with a number of banana bread recipes.  My normal process for recipes is to scan them all in and rename them all then do a quick comparison to see if the recipes are exactly alike. You would think that with the thousand or so recipes I have that there would be more repeated recipes than there actually are.  I had a long debate with myself about how to handle repeated titles and variations on recipes. There are some cases where it makes sense to do a taste test and figure out which recipe is actually better.  But in the case of things like ham loaves or egg foo yung recipes, I’m not sure I’m up to making more than one version at a time.  If we have to do things like compare which gingersnap recipe is better, as long as I have enough molasses and time, I’ll gladly make 20 versions and try them all.  In this case, I made the banana breads a few weeks apart.  I made small loaves and froze some of them for eating later on.

Ok…Banana Bread #1.

Banana Bread

1/2 cup margarine
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sour milk
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup nuts
3 mashed bananas

45-50 minutes at 350

Banana Bread #2

Banana Bread 2

Banana Bread 2

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
3 small or 2 large bananas
1 tsp baking soda
2 TB sour milk
2 cups flour
1/2 cup nuts

1 hour at 325.

These are others of those recipes where you have to know how to make it in order to follow the recipe.  Basic method for quick breads, cream the sugars and fat together, add eggs and bananas, mix the dry ingredients on the side and alternate adding them and the milk.  Add the nuts at the end.

So which was better?

#1 is textured more like a sandwich bread.  It’s a bit dryer and very much unlike other banana breads I’ve had.  It has a definite crust.  There was nothing wrong with it, but butter or cream cheese made it much better.

#2 is similar to most of the banana breads I’ve eaten before.  The texture is moist and cake-like. There is no discernible crust except on the very edges.  It reminded me of watching Julia Child at my grandma’s house when she was making some muffin or something and said “It’s so good, it hardly needs butter” as she slathered an enormous amount of butter on whatever it was she was eating. My kids definitely preferred this one.

In the battle of these two banana breads, #2 is #1.

Chicken New Boston

In which we say “NORM!”

I Googled Chicken Old Boston just to see if there was a reason that this recipe was called Chicken New Boston.  Even searching for Chicken New Boston yielded nothing on the first search page.  So this recipe may be new information for everyone.

So what do we think of when we think of Boston? Some people think of sports (we try not to acknowledge those teams).  Some people have the experience of Matt Damon’s Boston or the Boston of the New Kids on the Block.  There is the Boston of baked bean fame and the Boston of the Tea Party.  Boston clam chowder.  Ivy League Colleges covered in actual ivy.  Then there is the Boston in Cheers.  Let’s talk about that Boston because we’ve been watching that on Netflix sometimes and it helps make my metaphor better.DSCN2715You know how on Cheers there are the people like Norm and Cliff?  They are that gritty side of Boston.  The working class people from working class neighborhoods.  Old Boston, if you will.  If you were to imagine dinner at their houses, you’d imagine a roast that has been simmering all day.  Maybe a nice plate of spaghetti.  Food that is practical more than pretty.  Food that will keep you going in cold weather.

And then there is Diane.  There is no way she would sully her insides with that sort of food.  She’s lofty and above it all.  She represents that other part of Boston.  The part of Boston that embraces new food and new culture.  Chicken New Boston is something that Diane may whip up in her kitchen while wearing a ruffled apron.  DSCN2716I did not wear a ruffled apron while making this dish.  I think I was barefoot…

 

Chicken New Boston is a breaded chicken in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, artichokes and sherry.  Conceptually, it’s delicious.  Realistically, I had a hard time keeping the cornflakes on the chicken.  It might just be a me thing.  The sauce was amazing (even with the cream o’soup). It’s the sort of sauce that you’d want to mop up with bread or eat on top of noodles.  It’s sophisticated enough to make me feel like I should’ve put on my pearls.  Chicken New Boston

 

Halloween Treats: Popcorn Balls

“John, do we have any pumpkin left in the freezer?” I called from my secure place on the couch.  Unless it had somehow turned into something that resembled apples, he was pretty sure we didn’t.  “Maybe downstairs?” he suggested.  I decided that was WAY too much effort.  Instead, I just scrolled through all of the recipes searching for a perfect Halloween treat.  We were about to have a group of tweens and early teens descend upon our house for pumpkin carving and bonfire, so I figured it was the perfect time to test out one of 4 popcorn ball recipes.

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My friend’s mom made the pumpkin in the background. It’s handmade paper.

Does anyone even still eat popcorn balls?  I remember getting the ones as a kid, they were rock hard, but at the same time were sort of like Styrofoam.  Maybe making my own would be better.
img_2865Now for the scary stuff before we get into this too far.  Sugar syrup is HOT and STICKY.  This means, if you are not careful, not only could you burn yourself, but it’s hard to remove the heat from your skin quickly.  If you don’t remove the old maids (unpopped kernels) from the popcorn, you may run into some pain.  If you have dental work, the syrup will harden and stick in your dental work.img_2867

The mechanics of this are simple. Pop the corn and have it in a large bowl. Boil the syrup ingredients together until they reach the hard ball stage, 260 degrees. Pour the syrup over the popped corn and mix thoroughly.  Before the syrup becomes hard, but after it’s cool enough to handle, grab handfuls of the popcorn and pack it like you would a snowball.  If you have never packed a snowball, then maybe like a really large meatball.  If you haven’t done that either, then I’ll explain.  First you need to stand on one foot.  Now take that other foot and slowly place it behind your head.  As you are spinning in a circle, put enough popcorn in one hand to fill it.  Then take your other hand and place it on top of the hand with the popcorn in it, covering the popcorn.  Now, as you say the magic words, “Pop, pop, until you stop, stop.  I’ve got to hop, hop” pat your hands together.  Magically a ball will form.  (and if you do this, please post a video in the comments)

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This photo was really just to show off the needle felted acorns I made.
Popcorn Balls (4)

Popcorn Balls

1 cup Karo Syrup (Corn syrup)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 t. vinegar

Boil together until the temperature reaches 260 degrees (hard ball stage).  Add 2 TB butter, Stir until butter has melted, Pour over about 4 quarts of popcorn (about 2 batches in our air popper).  Mix until coated and form into balls.

Deviled Hot Dogs

In which an American classic gets twisted.

I just saw a chart the other day for how hot dogs are eaten in other places.  Probably unsurprisingly to you, this recipe was not on there.  This recipe also sparked a lot of discussion about what makes something “Deviled”.  Is it the addition of mustard?  I mean, deviled eggs and deviled hot dogs have that in common.  But then I ponder about things like any “Diablo” recipe and those tend to include chilis.  Is there actual criteria when naming something “deviled” or is it just an adjective that people assign willy-nilly?DSCN2650First of all, you should know that this recipe scared us.  I had suggested to my brother that we make this recipe for his kids when they came to visit, he declined.  I had the recipe in my head, however, so I had to make it.

It’s hot dogs cooked in a cream sauce with pickle relish and onions and green pepper.  Well, we think it’s green pepper.  Technically the recipe says “gr. pepper”.  After I had added the 3 TB of green pepper, it occurred to me that it could’ve stood for “ground pepper” because it seems weird for green pepper to be measured that way, but then I remembered that in Iowa when my mom was growing up ketchup/catsup was considered spicy.  3 TB of ground pepper is a lot of black pepper for any recipe (with the exceptions being something HUGE or something like pastrami) and most of the other recipes that have “gr. pepper” make it obvious that the reference is to green pepper. DSCN2651Suprisingly, this recipe was not as bad as we thought it was going to be.  It was actually kind of good, but I think it helps that we got good hot dogs.  In hindsight, I wish we had butter toasted the buns.  It would’ve added a little crispy element.  Instead, it’s all sort of white and squashy and like the comfort food you never knew you needed.  Because we didn’t know, we served these with our normal ketchup and mustard on the table, but this is an up to your taste sort of thing.DSCN2653

For a fun variation, add cheese to the cream sauce.  It’s like a cheddarwurst.

We had a lot of sauce leftover that I secretly used in a creamy pasta dish later in the week.  Don’t tell the kids.

Deviled Hot Dogs

Applesauce Date-Nut Loaf

In which I finally get around to posting a recipe with dates in it.

Finally I am posting a recipe that includes the dates that the blog was named after.  (See About Page for further details).  It seems to me that dates have fallen out of favor as a normal ingredient except in things like energy bites.  I have so many “new” recipes that call for them, that I was excited to see a large resealable bag of them at Costco.  I have to be careful with dates since there are dried dates that are rolled in oat flour to prevent them from sticking.  DSCN2829Quick breads are great.  They are easy to make, they are easy to store.  They are delicious warmed up with butter, spread with jam, spread with cream cheese.  My kids eat them, but only if I’ve sliced the loaf for them.  John pointed out that it’s because without being sliced, he feels like the bread might have another purpose.  Then went on to say something about “It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread because when the bread is sliced you know you can eat it.” Maybe I just need to start leaving “Eat Me” signs around my kitchen like in Alice in Wonderland?

But the thing is, I get caught in the banana bread/pumpkin bread/zucchini bread loop.  There are so many other great quick breads out there.  Most of them can be made into either loaves or muffins.  Cooking time needs to be adjusted when changing pan sizes, of course. If I am deviating from the size pan specified by the recipe (usually from larger to smaller), I set the timer for the oven for 20 minutes and evaluate from that point, either with a toothpick/cake tester, or by sight as to how much more time is needed for a proper bake.   I used mini loaf pans and I think we got 3 loaves.  I have the other ones in my freezer.  They took about 45 minutes to bake.DSCN2837Appropriately the dates for this recipe came from my grandma’s house when we moved her a year ago.  They have been sitting in my freezer just waiting (along with fruit for fruitcakes, but that’ll be closer to Christmas).  The applesauce I used for this came from my apple trees.  It’s not heavily sweetened and was flavored with cinnamon, but not a lot.  It’s very much a personal preference or what you have on hand sort of thing.  You do not need to make your own applesauce for this recipe.  However, if you decide to, making applesauce is not complicated.

A couple of other things about this bread.  It is very dense and very moist.  Toast the nuts before using them.  It makes a difference.  This is another one of those recipes where whole wheat flour can be used in place of white flour.

 

 

And really, isn’t this a lovely loaf?
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Applesauce-Date Nut Loaf

Supper In a Bread Loaf

In which I do not make Beef Wellington

There are days where making supper is just hard.  I am crap at following recipes (before this).  I am a reforming bad meal planner and never seemed to have the right combination of ingredients in the house to make the meal that I really wanted.  I’d have to scour cookbooks and the internet in order to find something that I was in the mood for using the ingredients I had on hand.  If you don’t already realize it, this is a very bad, time consuming way to go about meal prepping and planning.  It can result in creative and tasty dishes, but ends up being very frustrating.  It seems much easier to just do take out than have to go through that stress every night.  It also doesn’t help when you ask the family what they want to eat and either no one has an idea or everyone has different ideas.  Making these decisions after a long day of making other far more important decisions is hard.  It’s a lot of pressure.  Making the decision to go through all of these recipes and make them all has taken a lot of pressure off.  I still don’t always have the right ingredients, but meal planning is significantly easier.  DSCN2433Supper in a bread loaf.  This recipe is the poor man’s version of Beef Wellington.  It is because of this recipe that I had frozen bread dough in the house for the French Apple Coffee Cake.  Had my house already been clean, my children all in school, etc, I might have taken extra bread dough and made beautiful decorations for this.  I might’ve egg washed it, made gorgeous cuts to make this into a work of art, but instead, I just did the most basic version of this dish.  Well, sort of.  The directions say “season to taste.”  For those of you that know me well, you know that my brain automatically shot in infinite directions.  “Oh, this could be good seasoned with taco seasoning.”  “Ooooohh, what about using my Krakow Nights seasoning?”  “I have some fresh herbs in the garden, but I think those might be the wrong choice.”  I settled on adding a bunch of Fox Point Seasoning.  I thought it would add flavor, but keep it true to the original intention of the dish.  I guess it worked. The kids inhaled the meal.  John took leftovers to work and was asked about it.  He said it was good reheated.  DSCN2439In order for busy people to make this dish in time for supper, there is some pre-planning that needs to happen.  The night before, get the bread dough out of the freezer and put it into the fridge.  It will start the thawing process.  When you get up in the morning, move the bread dough into a container on the counter and cover it with plastic wrap. (Speaking of plastic wrap, John told me that due to some environmental concerns, plastic wrap no longer has the coating on it that allows it to stick to anything, it now only sticks to itself.) Leave this on your counter until it’s time to actually make supper.  For this purpose, an overly lengthy rising time is not going to affect your end product enough that you will notice.  It may even allow some of the bread dough flavors to develop a little more.

 

 

 

If you cook extra ground beef, throw it in your freezer for something else.  It’s much easier to do dinner in a hurry when at least part of it is already cooked. DSCN2443Substitute chicken, turkey, pork, or whatever for the meat.  For a vegetarian version, use mushrooms, cooked lentils, or eggplant as your filling, add some sauteed greens.

This is one of those unapologetic dishes that is basic and filling.  It’s open to all sorts of interpretation.  Open up your fridge, your pantry, and your spice cabinet, get creative.  If you have a great version of this dish, please feel free to let me know about it. Supper In a Bread Loaf