Simple advice for a better life.

Easter Baked Ham

Diets and Watson Smoked HamEastern Europeans love their Easter Ham, along with the Kobasa (smoked pork sausage), eggs, Paska, and all the other goodies, they arrange in their Easter Basket for blessing,  and then feast on it, during Easter Sunday brunch.

I call it Easter Sunday brunch, because by the time all the Easter Sunday morning church services are over (at least 3 hours), and by the time  everyone greets each other with the special Easter Greeting, “Khrystos Voskres – Voistynu Voskres” ( Christ Is Risen, Indeed He Is Risen – in Ukrainian), or “Chrystus Zmartwychwstal – Prawdziwie Zmartwychwstal” – in Polish, you do not get home until about 10-11 AM, if you are lucky to live fairly close to your church.

Also, the fast has not been broken yet, so no one had breakfast yet, until you get home from church, and dig into that Easter Basket (that is why all the food tastes so great on Easter).

Today I will share with you my experience with selecting and preparing my ham for Easter.

My family and I love smoked meats, so of course I shop for smoked ham, rather than honey ham, or glazed ham.

I look for the “butt” section of a ham, rather than the “shank” section, since the butt section has more ham meat, and less bone (remember ham is priced per pound…bone or meat…).

Also, I try to look for ham that does not have too much fat on it, but you do need some, at least on one side, to flavor the ham during baking.  I do not trim the fat before baking, but do it afterward.

All the hams you find in the store, are basically precooked already, and all you have to do is to spice them up to your own taste, glaze them if that is your choice, and bake them long enough to warm them up all the way through.

According to the package directions, if you allow about 20 minutes of baking time per pound, your ham will be totally baked all the way through.

Since most hams are too salty for my taste, I precook it before baking, by placing the ham in a large pot of water, adding a couple of bay leaves,  few garlic cloves, NO SALT, bringing it to boil, and cooking for about 20 minutes.

This process not only draws out some of the salt from the ham, it also provides me with ready stock for my sauerkraut soup, which I always prepare for Easter Sunday early dinner (it tastes great, after eating all “dry” meats and breads for brunch), and of course some more of the same for dinner, plus few additional dishes.

After the ham has been boiled for 20 minutes, I stud it strategically with chunks of fresh garlic, sprinkle some black pepper over it, drip some canola oil over the top,  place it in an open roasting pan, add a cup of water, and bake it per the above instructions per pound, usually at 350  degrees F.

The aroma of the baking ham is very trying, since I usually bake it on Good Friday, a very strict fast day of the 40 day Great Lent,when not even dairy products are permitted,  so you know how enticing this must be to smell something this good, and not being able to taste it.

Once the ham is baked, I cover it with aluminum foil, to keep it from drying out, while it is cooling, to be ready to cut a portion for the Easter Basket arrangement.

I add the juices from the baked ham to the broth I saved from precooking the ham before baking, which adds a lot of flavor to the stock for the sauerkraut soup.

Now you know my method for selecting and preparing my Easter Ham.

Please share your comments, and experiences, with your ham preparations, since I am always willing and ready to learn something new.

Happy Easter!

Passover foods -  Matzoh chocolate CandyIf you have been checking out my previous posts, and printed out some great recipes to try out for Passover, you will be happy to know that I saved a fabulous one for this post.

I am told that this recipe for Chocolate Toffee Matzos has been mentioned, several years back, on the  Dallas Morning News, and my friend was so kind to share it with me.

As you know, I only post recipes I try myself, and post my own pictures of the finished product.

This recipe calls for few simple ingredients, takes only minutes to complete, and the outcome is unbelievably rewarding.

You will definitely make these for your family and friends for any occasion, not just for Passover.

I was able to fill two 13 x 18 cookie sheets, thus the total piece count depends on the size you select for your serving pieces.  In total, you will end up with about 2 lbs. of candy.

Passover foods -  Matzoh chocolate Candy - close up

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. of Matzoh (approximately 10 – 12 sheets
  • 1 cup butter (or margarine)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips (1bag)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1 cup toffee candy bits

Directions:

  1. Line two 13 x 18 x 1 cookie sheet pan with aluminum foil (to protect your pan for getting very messy)
  2. Cover the bottom of the lined cookie sheets with Matzoh (start with whole ones, then break the additional ones into smaller section as needed to cover the whole bottom of the cookie sheet).
  3. Place butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan.
  4. Bring it o boil on a medium heat, and cook it for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it gets all foamy and begins to coat your spoon.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  6. Remove from the stove, pour gently over the Matzoh layer.  I used a gravy ladle to scoop the mixture onto the Matzoh, then used the back of a spoon to spread it evenly all over the Matzoh.
  7. Place it in the preheated oven,  on the middle rack, and bake for about 3 minutes, or when you see it bubbling.
  8. Watch your oven carefully, since this mixture burns very quickly.
  9. Remove from oven.
  10. Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips over the hot Matzoh in one pan, and save the second half for the next pan.
  11. Place the cookie sheet back into the oven, and bake for another minute, to soften the chocolate chips.
  12. Remove from the oven, and using the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate evenly all over the Matzoh.
  13. Sprinkle the chocolate with 1/2 of the chopped nuts and toffee bits.
  14. Set aside to cool completely.
  15. Follow the same process for your second pan of Matzoh.
  16. Once cooled completely, and he chocolate is totally set, you may break it up to any size pieces you wish, and store in a refrigerator, in an air tight container.

Vegetarian Matzoh LasagnaPassover is a religious holiday for the Jewish people, but besides the spiritual part, the secular part includes lots of delicious food.

Most holidays, no matter if they are religious or secular, include large gatherings of family and friends, and lots of food to share with everyone.

Since this is the season for Easter and Passover, I will be sharing some of my recipes with all of you to try out, and would like to hear your comments.

Even if you do not celebrate any of these holidays, you still can try the recipes and enjoy the food.

Today I will share another recipe from Andi, for Vegetarian Matzoh Lasagna, which she prepares for their Passover gathering.

I modified this recipe slightly, since I used fresh veggies, as I did not have the veggie crumbles, on hand. I also used spinach and carrots, instead of mushrooms.

This recipe makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Matzoh Sheets (I used 5)
  • 15 oz. Ricotta Cheese (I used Park Skim)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 tsp. Basil
  • 1/4 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 8 oz. chopped spinach, frozen
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. of Canola oil, or margarine
  • 1/2 cup cubed carrots, frozen
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 24 oz. jar of Ragu ( I used Perego Chunky Veggie Sauce )

Directions:

  1. Warm  up a frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add oil, and saute the onion and garlic.
  3. Add the chopped frozen spinach, and saute until thawed.
  4. Microwave the carrots until thawed (45 seconds).
  5. Mix the Ricotta Cheese, 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese, 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese, salt and pepper, Basil and Oregano.
  6. Add egg, and mix it in.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Mix the spinach with the carrots, add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Set aside.
  10. Use a square 8 x 8 glass pan, spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom.
  11. Wet two slices of Matzoh sheets with water, and lay over the sauce.
  12. Place 1/2 of the Ricotta Cheese mixture over the Matzoh Sheets.
  13. Spread some tomato sauce over the cheese, and top with 1/2 of the spinach/carrot mixture.
  14. Wet one more piece of Matzoh Sheet with water.
  15. Place it on top of the spinach/carrot mixture.
  16. Spread the remaining Ricotta Cheese mixture, sauce and spinach mixture.
  17. Wet two more pieces of Matzoh sheets with water.
  18. Place them both over the spinach mixture.
  19. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the top and sides of the lasagna casserole.

Vegetarian Matzoh Lasagna ready to bake

20.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan Cheese over the top of the lasagna.

21.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

22.  Bake lasagna on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes.

Vegetarian Matzoh Lasagna fully baked

23.  Sprinkle the remaining Mozzarella Cheese over the top, and bake for 10 more minutes, or until cheese melts,and browns slightly.

24.  Remove from the oven.

25.  Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

If you are not planning to serve this meal the same day, do not add the Mozzarella cheese until reheating before serving.

Enjoy.

One Step Sponge CakeAs Christians are preparing for Easter, the people of Jewish faith are preparing for Passover.

Previously I posted about the traditions of Easter, which my family and I celebrate, and Passover traditions, which my friends shared with me (click on the above highlighted  words to read the posts).

My friend Andi, shared her recipe for a One Step Sponge Cake, she bakes for their Passover dessert, served after Seder.

This is my first cake baking experience with using Matzoh Meal, instead of regular flour, even though I did bake a flourless chocolate cake before.

Needless to say, the cake came out delicious, and its flavor reminds me of Lady Fingers cookies.

One Step Sponge Cake - serving piece (plain)

This cake may be served plain, or with your favorite accompaniments.

One Step Sponge Cake - serving piece

I enjoyed my piece with Blueberry Syrup under it (the bottom of the cake was deliciously saturated), plus a little drizzle over the top, and a bit of whipped cream.  For those of you who “worship” chocolate, I bet some chocolate syrup, or hot fudge, would be even better than blueberry.

Ingredients:

  • 10 whole eggs
  • 2 cups sugar, granulated
  • 1 cup Matzoh Meal ( Cake Meal – see TIP below)
  • 1/3 cup Potato Starch
  • Juice of one lemon, or orange, and some rind of the same fruit
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Break the whole eggs into a large mixer bowl (I use a fork to remove the white, stringy part of each egg, attached to the yolk, but it is not necessary, if it does not bother you).
  2. Beat the whole eggs, for at least 20 minutes, or until the bowl of almost full (the mixture will be thick and frothy)
  3. Add sugar, and salt, and keep on beating.
  4. Add Matzoh Meal (Cake Meal), and keep on beating.
  5. Add lemon/orange juice and rind, and beat some more.
  6. Add Potato Starch.
  7. Beat for one minute longer, or until mixed in.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Position oven rack on the middle of the oven.
  10. Pour the cake batter into an ungreased, 10 inch tube pan (see TIP below).
  11. Bake for 1 hour.
  12. Remove from the oven, turn upside down on funnel, and cool in pan.
  13. Remove from pan, place on a serving platter, ready to serve.
  14. Cover well, for storing, to prevent from drying up.

TIP: I was not able to find Cake Meal, and according to Google search, it consists of finely ground up Matzoh, so I placed several broken up Matzoh sheets in a food processor, and made my own Matzoh Meal.  I used about 8 oz of Matzoh sheets, for 1 cup of Matzoh Meal.  Much cheaper as well, since ready made Matzoh Meal costs $3.95 a box (probably 12 oz).  I paid that much for 6 – 16 oz. boxes of Matzoh.

Also, this recipe specifies NOT to grease the pan for the cake.  I was kind of skeptical about it, since the cake pan I have always gives me problems with removing cakes from it, so I did grease it with vegetable shortening, and dusted it with some Matzoh Meal.  The cake still had to be loosened up around the edges for easier handling.  It did not slide right out, as I expected.

Irish Potato Pancakes -  served with sour creamSaint Patrick’s Day is almost upon us, and lots of celebrations coming up, as  everyone is feeling Irish that day.

My son-in-law is of Irish decent, and as always, he and my daughter are hosting a party for family and friends.

Since he is my favorite son-in-law, I decided to prepare an Irish recipe, and post it on my blog, for all of you to try out.

Potatoes are a very popular vegetable for the Irish, so I will be sharing a recipe for Irish Potato Pancakes, which I found in a “Simply Potatoes” cook/craft book.

They were quick and easy to prepare, and great tasting as well.

I loved the bacon flavoring, and the tangy taste created by the cheddar cheese.

Vegetarians may omit the bacon, and add their favorite shredded veggies.

These potato pancakes may be served with sour cream, apple sauce, or with breakfast sausage and eggs.

This recipe makes about 12 medium size pancakes.

Irish Potato Pancakes - served with mixed fruit apple sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices uncooked bacon, cut into small pieces (vegetarians may replace with favorite veggies)
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded potatoes (raw)
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes, cooked (great way to use up leftovers)
  • 1 cup Bisquick mix
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 whole egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole or low fat)
  • Canola oil for frying

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet, fry the bacon and onions, until browned.
  2. Remove from pan, and set aside.
  3. Discard bacon fat.
  4. Peel 1 large, or 2 small potatoes.

Irish Potato Pancakes - grated as for hash browns

6.  Grate the potatoes, using the “large eye” grater side.

7.  In a large bowl, add the mashed potatoes,  grated potatoes, bacon and onion, Bisquick mix, cheddar cheese,

and pepper.

8.  Using a spoon, mix all in, until well  incorporated.

9.  Fold in the beaten egg, and milk.

Irish Potato Pancakes - batter ready for frying

10.  The potato pancake batter is ready for frying.

11.  Add about 2 Tbs. of canola oil into your non-stick frying pan, and heat up on medium heat.

Irish Potato Pancakes - frying

12.  Place an overflowing 1/4 cup of potato pancake batter into a pan, flatten slightly into pancakes, and fry for

about 2 minutes on each side.  I turn them over for the first time, when the edges start getting golden and little

craters form.  For best results, use a wide spatula for turning them over.

13.  Once both sides are nicely cooked, remove into a serving platter, and continue with the rest of the batter.

For best results,  serve as soon as done.  However, they are still great reheated in a toaster oven, or in a pan.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

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