Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread

 

parmacheese parmahamParma is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Parma is famous for its Prosciutto di Parma. The whole area is renowned for its sausage production, as well as for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some kinds of pasta like gnocchi di patate, cappelletti (or anolini) in brodo and tortelli with different stuffings (potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms or chestnuts). Prosciutto or Italian ham is an Italian dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced and served uncooked. This style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto.

There’s a reason why these foods developed in the Emilia region. It’s one of the few areas of Italy that isn’t mountainous, so there are plains and pasture. The farmers of the region were able to raise cows and therefore produce milk and with milk came butter, cream and cheese. Add ham to the dairy ingredients and you have the central core of the region’s cuisine.

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Parma is also home to one of Italy’s longest established pasta factories, Barilla. The Barilla Center for the Propagation of Gastronomy has several state-of-the-art kitchens for demonstrations and a large auditorium for lectures, as well as a huge library of books on food and cooking, some as early as the 15th Century.

Prosciutto is made from either a pig’s or a wild boar’s hind leg or thigh. Prosciutto may also be made using the hind leg of other animals, in which case the name of the animal is included in the name of the product, for example “prosciutto cotto d’agnello” (“lamb prosciutto”).

The process of making prosciutto can take from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham. First, the ham is cleaned, salted and set aside for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully, so as to avoid breaking the bone and to drain it of all liquid. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt and is hung in a dark, well-ventilated area. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham and the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until thoroughly dry. The time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to 18 months.

Prosciutto is sometimes cured with nitrites (either sodium or potassium), which are generally used in other hams to produce the desired rosy color and unique flavor, but only sea salt is allowed in Protected Designation of Origin hams.

Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), certain well-established meat products are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The two famous types of Italian prosciutto are: prosciutto crudo di Parma, from Parma and prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs’ diet. The prosciutto di San Daniele is darker in color and sweeter in flavor.

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Sliced prosciutto crudo in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto, wrapped around grissini or melon. It is also eaten as accompaniment to cooked spring vegetables, such as asparagus or peas. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream or in a dish of tagliatelle with vegetables. It is used in stuffings for meats, as a wrap around veal or chicken, in a filled bread or as a pizza topping. Saltimbocca is an Italian veal dish, where thin slices of veal are topped with a sage leaf before being wrapped in prosciutto and then pan-fried. Prosciutto is often served in sandwiches and sometimes in a variation of the Caprese salad with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese. The name “Parmesan” is often used generically for various versions of this cheese. It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna) and Mantua (in Lombardy). Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name as a protected designation of origin. According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created during the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to the product produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to an even earlier time.

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Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass-fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years and cheese is produced daily. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Whole milk from the morning milking is mixed with naturally skimmed milk (which is made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats.

Starter whey is added and the temperature is raised to 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Calf rennet is then added and the mixture is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically into small pieces and the temperature is raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided in two and placed in molds. The remaining whey in the vat is traditionally used to feed the pigs from which “Prosciutto di Parma” is produced.

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The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt, imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number and the month and year of production is put around the cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves and the cheese and the shelves are cleaned manually or robotically every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this time.

At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every wheel. The cheese is tested by a master grader who taps each wheel to identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Wheels that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio’s logo. Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm (7–9 in) high, 40–45 cm (16–18 in) in diameter and weighs 38 kg (84 lb).

Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos or eaten sliced as an appetizer. It is often shaved over other dishes like salads. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup.

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Prosciutto Parmesan Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the prosciutto in the skillet over medium heat until just brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the skillet and set the prosciutto aside on paper towels. Drain the skillet of any remaining fat.

Add the cream the skillet and heat on low. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese in small amounts. When all the cheese has been melted, stir in the peas and prosciutto.

Allow to heat for 2 minutes more. Add the drained pasta and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

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Cheese and Prosciutto Panini

Ingredients

  • 4 whole slices Italian bread
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Unsalted butter

Directions

Cover two slices of the bread with a layer of  grated cheese. Generously grind black pepper over the top.  Place two slices of Prosciutto di Parma over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top.

Cook in a panini maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or:

In a large frying, add enough butter to provide a generous covering, about 2 tablespoons. Heat the butter over medium-low heat until foamy.

Add the cheese sandwiches, pressing them onto the pan; slowly fry, regulating the heat so the butter does not burn.

Once light brown, turn the sandwiches over and press down with a spatula to compress slightly. Brown the other side.

When done, transfer the sandwiches to a paper towel to drain. Cut in half diagonally and serve.

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Arugula-Prosciutto Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese, for topping

Directions

Place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round.

Transfer the round to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or another upside-down baking sheet; slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl with the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the pizza from the oven, brush with the olive oil mixture and top with the ricotta and mozzarella.

Return the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven.

Toss the arugula and shallot in a large bowl with the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Top the baked pizza with the arugula salad, prosciutto and shaved parmesan cheese. Cut into slices and serve.

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Summer is a wonderful time to entertain and enjoy the outdoors with your friends. Serving appetizers and drinks are a great way to entertain when it is hot. You want easy to prepare recipes so you are not in the kitchen for hours and you want to use simple, common ingredients that you usually have in your pantry or refrigerator. Below are a few of my easy to make suggestions.

Mediterranean Bruschetta

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped oil cured Italian olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; except the bread slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lightly grill the bread slices and then brush them with olive oil. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto each bread slice and arrange on a serving plate.

Oven Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash Rounds

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Homemade Marinara Sauce, (see recipe here)
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 2 medium yellow squash, ends and neck trimmed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the squash into ¼ inch thick slices.

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In a plastic bag, combine the flour, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

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In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.

In another shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place the squash slices in the bag with the flour and shake until they are coated.

Next, place each slice in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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Place the squash rounds on the prepared baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Marinated Cheese

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4-ounces of cream cheese, quartered
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 packed teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pitted black and green Italian olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted crostini, pita chips or crackers for serving

Directions

Place the cheese quarters in a medium container. Sprinkle the thyme, lemon zest, olives and sun-dried tomatoes over and around the cheese. Sprinkle the cheese with a little sea salt.

Pour the olive oil over the mixture. Squash the mixture with a fork and cover the container. Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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Bring the cheese mixture to room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Put the marinated cheese mixture into a serving dish.

Arrange crostini, pita or crackers around the dish with a couple of small knives for serving.

Tuna Dip

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Serve with fresh celery, radishes, carrots and thin, crispy crackers.

Makes 8 servings.

  • 8-ounces canned tuna
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, washed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, parsley, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break it up.

Turn the speed to low speed and add the olive oil mixture, a little at a time, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a small serving bowl and chill. Serve with fresh-cut vegetables and crackers on the side.


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This coming weekend is Memorial Day and the official start of BBQ season. That means lots of ribs, burgers, steaks, kebabs and corn on the cob. If you are going to invite friends over, it will take some planning. What if you are not in the mood for cooking for lots of folks this weekend? Well don’t. You can still have that BBQ shindig, but for just 2 or 3. This is what we will be having at our Memorial Day BBQ.

Grilled Ham Steak with Pear Topping

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For Two

I am not a huge fan of ham steak, but my husband is, so over the years I have worked on making ham steaks taste good. I learned that to make the meat tender, it is important to marinate the steaks overnight. To avoid a dry end result, cook them quickly on the grill and make a flavorful topping. Here is my recipe and it works for us.

Ham Marinade

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  • Juice of one orange – (save the orange rind for the braised carrot recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 fully cooked boneless ham steak (1- 3/4 pounds)

Pear Topping

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  • 1 Bartlett pear, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup of pecans

Directions

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the marinade ingredients. Add ham; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat an outdoor grill. Brush the grates with oil

On a sheet of heavy-duty foil large enough to hold the diced pears, place the diced pears and pecans in the center of the foil. Dot with the butter and sprinkle on the brown sugar and ginger.

Close the foil into a package and place on the grill  Cook for 10 minutes before placing the ham on the grill.

Drain the ham from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Rotate the pear packet on the grill.

Grill the ham steak over medium-hot heat for 3 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the reserved marinade.

Remove the pear packet and spoon the pear sauce over the ham.

Cheddar Cornbread

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt and pepper; make a well in center of flour mixture.

Whisk together the  buttermilk, honey and eggs. Add to the flour mixture and gently incorporate the dry ingredients. Mix in the cheese.

Place the butter in an 8-inch baking pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove the pan from oven and tilt to coat bottom and sides.

Pour the batter into the buttered pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cornbread cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Braised Carrots and Fennel

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ lb carrots (1 fresh bunch; about 6 or 7) – cut into matchsticks
  • 1 fennel bulb – ends trimmed, bulb cut in half, each half cored and cut lengthwise in 1/8″ slices
  • 2 strips of orange zest – 1″ x 4″ long
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a mortar
  • 5 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Directions

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Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the butter, olive oil and honey. Stir well and add the carrots, fennel, orange zest and fennel seeds.

Toss until the slices are well coated with the oil. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the fennel starts to soften, tossing occasionally.

Add the orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss quickly and reduce heat to between medium and medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Uncover the pan. Raise heat to high and fast-simmer until the juices have all evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove orange zest and stir in the dill.

Lemon Coconut Cupcakes

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20 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 18.5 oz pkg. Lemon Supreme cake mix
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and very soft
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Cupcake liners

Coconut Topping

This frosting is very stable and does not melt or weep at room temperature like many standard whipped cream frostings or change in any way under refrigeration.

  • One 8 oz pkg low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 cups cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • Sweetened shredded coconut

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Coat muffin cups with cooking spray and place a cupcake liner in each.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake ingredients. Then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.

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To make the frosting

Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and coconut extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times, while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.

Spread each cupcake generously with the frosting and top each with sweetened coconut. Press the coconut lightly, so it sticks to the frosting. Chill until serving time.


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Now that summer is here in my part of the world, the swimming pool is in full swing. I know that it is probably not summer hot in May where you live, but here is it about 85-86 degrees every day. The 90s will be here next month. This time of year, I like to invite friends over for swimming and either lunch or a BBQ supper. Lunch is a good idea because it can be served easily poolside and most of the food preparation can be done in advance. Seasonal soups are always a big hit with my friends. I usually like to prepare a sandwich or a salad that complements the soup. Here are some of my ideas for lunch that you can make for your family or for guests.

Corn Chowder

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the vegetable broth, chili powder and the thyme. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender. Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.

Serve in individual soup bowls with any or all of the garnishes.

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

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For each sandwich

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Place the eggplant on the bottom half of a ciabatta roll. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese and the roll top.

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Wrap the sandwich in foil and place on a baking tray. Bake the sandwich for 15 minutes or until hot and the cheese has melted.

Cut the sandwich in two and serve with Tuscan peppers and olives.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 6 oz can  tomato paste
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil for garnish

Directions

Combine the  first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in salt and pepper and the cream. Return the pot to low heat and warm the soup. Do not boil.

Serve in individual soup bowls with basil for a garnish.

Shrimp Pie

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Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated or frozen deep dish pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay (seafood) seasoning
  • ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1⁄2 cups grated cheddar cheese or your favorite cheese
  • Hot sauce, a few dashes

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie pan coated with cooking spray and flute the edges. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Cook the shallots in the butter for 1-2 minutes over moderate heat until tender, but not browned.

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Add the shrimp and stir gently for 1 minute. Sprinkle on the seafood seasoning.

Add the wine, raise the heat and boil for a minute. Allow to cool slightly. Stir in the roasted red peppers.

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Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the cream, tomato paste and hot sauce. Gradually fold in the cooled shrimp mixture.

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Spread 1 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the pie crust.

Pour the shrimp mixture into the pastry shell and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

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Bake in the upper third of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pie has puffed and browned on the top.

Cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

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Grilled Lamb Chops

For the steak seasoning, I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning, but use whatever seasoning you like.

For 2

Ingredients

  • 4 loin lamb chops, 1 ½ lbs and 1 ½ inches thick, fat trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • 2 lemon quarters

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Directions

In a zip-lock bag combine the lamb chops, oil, lemon juice and steak seasoning. Close the bag and mix well. Refrigerate the lamb chops overnight.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat and oil the grill rack. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Transfer the lamb chops to the grill. Cook 5 minutes,; turn and cook 5 minutes. Remove to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon quarters.

If making the potatoes on the grill leave continue to cook them while the lamb chops rest.

Grilled Potatoes

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Boil the potatoes in water for 6 minutes, until slightly cooked but firm in the center. Drain potatoes in a colander. Dry on paper towel.

Place the olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and mix well.

Place a piece of heavy-duty foil on the opposite side of the grill from the lamb chops. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the foil. Cook for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking..

Cucumber Tomato Salad

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled if bitter, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Place the cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Toss to distribute the salt evenly around the cucumber.  Let sit for 20 to 25 minutes while the salt helps pull excess moisture out of the cucumbers. Then rinse off the salt, drain the cucumbers and dry them with paper towels

Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion. Refrigerate until serving time. When ready to serve, dress the salad with some of the ranch dressing.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, chopped herbs, onion powder, paprika, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Mix until well combined then cover and place into a refrigerator for at least 30 before serving so the flavors have time to mingle.

Swordfish and Zucchini Kebabs  

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For 2

Ingredients

Swordfish

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil olive oil
  • 1 Swordfish Steak, 1 inch thick (about 12 oz)
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Black pepper

Kebabs

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed
  • 10 squares of red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 skewers

Directions

Place swordfish in a glass dish, sprinkle with lemon zest and black pepper, scatter garlic over the fish and pour olive oil over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

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Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1 inch pieces. I had 10. Remove 2 red onion rings from a large onion. Cut each ring into 5 –  one inch pieces.

Remove the garlic from the fish and cut the fish into 10 – one inch pieces.

Tread 2 skewers, alternating fish, zucchini and onion. Pour the dripping from the fish marinade over the skewers.

Heat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Place the skewers on the grill and close the cover. Lower the heat to medium. Cook about 12 minutes until the fish is cooked through, turning the skewers halfway through the cooking time. Serve the kebabs over spaghetti.

 A New Way To Cook Pasta

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Angel Hair Pasta 

I have read several articles about cooking pasta in a skillet with less water. I made a full pound of spaghetti for this recipe to test this non-traditional procedure for cooking pasta. The leftovers will not be wasted. It worked very well. The pasta cooked quickly and was perfectly cooked. You do have to stir it often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is definitely an energy and time saver, without loss of flavor.

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Ingredients

Pasta

  • 16 oz thin spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Place pasta in a dry 12 inch skillet (if pasta is very long, such as spaghetti, break the stands in half). Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 6 cups cold water.

Place over high heat and cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep pasta submerged, until pasta is almost al dente, about 7-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta.

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Tilt the pan and spoon off the liquid that pools at the edge of the pan into a bowl, so that very little is left in pan. Add remaining ingredients to the pasta.

Return just enough cooking liquid to the pasta, tossing them with the spaghetti. Serve with the swordfish kebabs.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

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Use this sauce for the meatballs and eggplant recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft over medium to low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute; be careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid.

Cook for 25 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 7 cups of sauce.

Neapolitan Meatballs

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I call these Neapolitan meatballs because this is how my grandmother made them. She grew up in northern Campania before moving to America.

Makes 16 meatballs

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 thick slices firm, hardy white bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add the bread to a medium mixing bowl and pour in the milk. Add the onion and garlic, stir and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bread mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don’t overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough.

Divide the mixture into 16 equal pieces and shape them into meatballs.

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You can brown the meatballs in a skillet in olive oil until brown. Or, you can put them on a foil lined baking pan and bake in a 350 F oven for about 25-30 minutes until brown.

Place the meatballs in a medium-large sauce pan or skillet and cover with some the homemade marinara sauce. Simmer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan

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This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Italian Romaine Salad

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
  • ¼ of a small red onion, cut into rings

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the greens and onion in a medium salad bowl. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.


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This time of year is great for baking. Spring has its own flavor profiles. Winter is a time for cinnamon, nutmeg, spice and chocolate. Spring is the time to shed those heavy flavors and transition to lighter flavors such as citrus, herbs and berries. This is the time to lighten up desserts and have a little fun trying out new flavor combinations. I do all our baking – breads and desserts- but I don’t like very sweet things, so our breads and desserts tend to be on the savory side or fruit based.

Fig Scones

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These are not your typical scones. Instead of butter, the recipe uses cream. I serve them with lemon curd. You can also dust them with powdered sugar before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces dried figs, diced small
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pecan Sourdough Bread

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) fed sourdough starter, room temperature
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

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Directions

Mix all of the ingredients (except the nuts) in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment.

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Add the nuts, kneading until they’re evenly incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours.

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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a long loaf. Place the log into a long stoneware baker that has been lined with parchment.

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Cover the loaf, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it springs back very slowly when lightly pressed.

Place the covered stoneware baker into a cold oven, set the oven to 400°F and bake for 40 minutes. Take the cover off and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.

Check the bread. The internal temperature should be about 190°F when measured on an instant-read thermometer. If not, bake for a few minutes longer.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack. Yield: 1 loaf.

Blackberry Galette

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Ingredients

1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature or make the cream cheese pastry recipe below

Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 8 ounces cold cream cheese, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cold milk

Filling

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and thyme and pulse about 5 times to evenly distribute the thyme. Add butter and pulse until it is the size of peas.

Add cream cheese and pulse until a dough begins to form. Add milk and pulse until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 12-inch round. Fold the round in half, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and unfold the round.

In a bowl, lightly stir together the berries, lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar and flour.

Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered around the edge.

Fold the edge up and over the filling, forming loose pleats.

Brush dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with the  remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream or frozen yogurt.

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread

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This savory bread goes very well with scrambled eggs or an omelet.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt (omit if you use salted butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from about 1 pound of zucchini), squeezed dry

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust the bottom with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and rosemary.

Beat the eggs in a mixer until frothy. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the melted butter, olive oil and milk. Stir in the lemon zest and grated zucchini.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes. If you gently press down on the surface of the loaf, it should bounce back and a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and then remove the loaf from the pan to cool on a rack.

Healthy Fruit and Oat Bars

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These easy-to-make granola bars are lower in fat than many commercial snack bars and don’t have any of the additives or preservatives. I store them individually in zip-lock snack bags in the freezer. My husband is a golfer and he loves to put one in his bag on golfing days.

12 bars

Ingredients

  • ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apricots, berries, cranberries, etc.) chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or nuts of choice, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Use a silicone dessert bar pan and coat with cooking spray. Place the pan on a cookie sheet

In a large bowl, whisk the egg substitute, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract.

Stir in the oats, dried fruit, nuts and flour.

Divide the mixture evenly in the pan and flatten each slightly with a spatula.

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Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool; turn out.

Put each bar in a zip-lock snack bag and place bags in a larger freezer bag to store in freezer.


hamcover

So do I. There are many possibilities for using up this holiday classic. I rarely make baked ham – only when I have company and I know they like it. This year, I made Italian Baked Ham for Easter dinner. You can see the recipe here. I had plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches during the week before my visitors went home. My grandson also likes to just snack on ham. I also had plenty of leftover ham to make the following three meals that we will have in the upcoming week.

hamgratin

Ham and Potato Gratin

I served this with a green vegetable.

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes or 1 lb, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon pepper sauce (Tabasco)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan heat 1 tablespoon butter and saute the onion and garlic until they are golden. Remove to a small bowl.

In the same saucepan melt the remaining butter on medium heat. Add the flour to it and stir constantly with a whisk for about 2-3 mins until the roux is well toasted.

Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth. Add the salt, black pepper and pepper sauce. Continue mixing until bubbly and thickened.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the grated cheese. Whisk until the cheese is completely melted.

Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the sliced potatoes on the bottom of the dish; top with 1/2 the ham, then 1/2 the onion mixture and half the parsley. Drizzle on 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of paprika.

Make another layer with 1/3 of the sliced potatoes, the remaining onion mixture, parsley and ham. Drizzle on 1/3 of the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon paprika.

Top with the rest of the potato, cheese sauce and the remaining paprika.

Bake covered with foil for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

hamsoup

Split Pea Soup

This soup is hearty enough for dinner with some good bread, especially pumpernickel.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups dried split peas
  • 2 quarts good quality vegetable broth or water
  • Leftover ham bone
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, diced

Directions

In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Return the peas to the stock pot and add the broth, ham bone, onions, garlic, pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the bone; cut off the meat, dice and return the meat to the soup. Add the salt, celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender Remove the bay leaves before serving.

hamreuben

Ham Reuben Panini

Adding a salad makes this a complete meal.

For each sandwich you will need:

  • 2 thick slices sourdough bread
  • 4 oz leftover, thinly sliced baked ham
  • 2 oz sauerkraut, drained
  • 2 slices swiss or provolone cheese
  • Russian Dressing, recipe below
  • Pickles, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle the ham with a little water, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and steam it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Take the ham out of the oven and unwrap it. Spread each slice of bread with Russian dressing. Layer one slice of bread of the slices of ham, sauerkraut and slices of cheese, then top the sandwich with the remaining slice of bread (dressing-side down).

Brush the bread with a little olive oil.  Place the sandwiches in a panini press and cook according to directions

Or cook on a stove top pan

Put the sandwiches in the pans and weight them with a lid or heat proof bowl topped with something heavy. Cook until the first sides are crisp and golden about 7 minutes then turn the sandwiches. Cook until the second sides are also well toasted and the cheese is melted. Lift the sandwich onto a cutting board. Cut each in half diagonally and serve with pickles.

Russian Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced dill pickle
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix well and refrigerate until needed.



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