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Friday, October 29, 2010

Ham Stacks

Here's another fairly simple sandwich-as-a-meal idea. It's pretty involved for a sandwich, but is robust enough for dinner (and is easy in comparison to most other evening meals). Forgive the crumbs. Somehow at the time I thought they would make the sandwich in the photo look oh-so-appetizing.

This is another idea Bob gleaned from one of the many restaurants where he has worked. You will need the following ingredients:

Sliced French bread (we usually buy it from Costco, but you could also use Texas Toast or any other thick-sliced, fluffy bread)
Softened butter (we find that magic butter is perfect for this)
A small amount of grated parmesan cheese (we use 1/2 to 3/4 cup to make sandwiches for all of us, but you may require far less)
Deli sliced ham (we buy black forest hams and slice them ourselves, but you can just as easily ask the deli to shave it for you). You'll need about 1/8th of a pound or maybe just a little more per sandwich; I actually weigh it out on our kitchen scale and measure about 2/10ths of a pound per sandwich
Sliced Swiss cheese
Sliced tomatoes
Clean, torn lettuce leaves
Homemade thousand island dressing

You'll find that the method for making this sandwich has many similarities to our BFB recipe.

1. Butter one side of each slice of bread. It probably goes without saying, but you'll want two slices per sandwich. Sprinkle a bit of grated parmesan cheese on top of the butter and press it into the butter so it will stick (I use the back side of a small metal spatula to do it). For an example of what this should look like, see here. Set the bread aside for a few minutes.

2. Put the ham into small "stacks" or piles, portioned for each sandwich. Set the stacks aside.

3. Put the bread slices cheese side down on a hot griddle (I usually set it at 350 degrees). Let them cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the griddle and set aside.

4. Put the ham stacks on the griddle and let them cook until they turn ever so slightly brown. Then flip them over (keeping the stacks intact) and place a slice of Swiss cheese on top. The cheese should more or less cover the ham. Leave on the griddle until the cheese has melted, then carefully remove, keeping the ham and cheese in their "stack" formation.

5. Assemble the sandwiches. The cheesy side of the bread goes to the outside; place the ham on the inside of one slice of bread and the lettuce and tomato on the other side. Drizzle with homemade thousand island dressing (see below).

Don't be intimidated by the homemade dressing. It takes no more than five minutes to make, and includes ingredients that you are almost certain to have in the fridge. We usually put all of the makings on the counter and let everyone make their own. Here's the dressing recipe:

Thousand Island Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon finely minced white onions
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 dash black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well. Place dressing in a covered container and refrigerate for several hours, stirring occasionally so that the sugar dissolves and the flavors blend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Roasted Broccoli

I never thought that I would find a brocoli dish that my kids can't get enough of. But this is it. No matter how much of it I make, they're always left wanting more.

Part of the problem is that the broccoli shrinks up quite a bit. I start out with what seems like ridiculous amounts of florets and by the time they're cooked, it looks like almost nothing. So think big. You'll love this side dish.

Roasted Broccoli
A great deal of broccoli florets (I, of course, buy the large bag from Costco and use as much as 1/3 of the bag at a sitting)
A little bit of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons for a large amount of broccoli; go slowly. You don't want to over do the olive oil or it will make your final product mushy).
Whatever herbs or spices you feel inclined to add. I usually add about a clove of minced garlic and some salt and pepper.
2-3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the olive oil over the broccoli in a large bowl. Toss with the seasonings until the broccoli is evenly coated with oil and seasonings. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for ten minutes, then remove from the office and toss again. Return to the oven for another ten minutes, or until the broccoli is slightly browned. It should be a little bit crisp. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with grated parmesan; serve it while it's hot.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pasta Carbonara

A disclaimer: This is not the pasta carbonara I learned to make in Italy. That pasta carbonara was basically scrambled eggs and bacon over pasta. Don't get me wrong; it still has a special place in my heart. This version, a recipe I learned from Bob, is a fancier and more indulgent sister. It's a family favorite. It's rich enough to just be an occasional treat, but it's delicious enough that you'll want to make it again and again.

Did I mention that it's also pretty easy to put together?

Pasta Carbonara
8 slices of bacon, diced
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
½ pound of mushrooms (12), quartered
1 package of spaghetti noodles (8 servings)
1 pint of heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Cook the bacon until crisp; drain. Add the green onion slices and mushrooms and sauté into butter (we usually reserve a few green onion slices for a garnish). Add heavy cream, parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until thick. Toss the drained noodles in the carbonara sauce. Top with a little grated parmesan and sliced green onions.Serves 8.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Salsa with an Edge

There's snow on the top of our tallest local mountain tonight. We know that our warm fall won't last long, and the tomatoes will freeze any day now. Here's a recipe for one last gasp of good weather. I found it a few years ago in Cooking Light magazine. It's a fun combination of flavors, even if it does require remarkable amounts of chopping.

I've made this with any number of different fruits. Peaches are very tasty, but a little sloppy. Apples add a nice crunch and are oh-so-very tidy. This is a salsa with a little bit of everything--sweet, savory, hot, you name it. It's great with Fritos or tortilla chips.

Salsa With and Edge
2-3 chopped Roma tomatoes
1 cup chopped Granny Smith apples (or use mangoes, pears, peaches, or other fruit)
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup fresh corn kernals
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, stirring well to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes 4 1/2 cups.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chicken Bow Tie Pasta Salad

You won't believe how good this salad tastes. My friend Amy brought some by one day for me to try. It was heavenly! Bob and I opened it for just a taste late that night; I was planning to take it to work for lunch the next day. By the time we finished tasting, the salad was half gone. I've made it several times since.

This recipe makes enough for a crowd. We served it at a recent family party and it was a huge hit. We actually enjoyed two very similar versions at two family parties in a row. My aunt made a salad very similar to this for my mom's 80th birthday party, but omitted the chicken and substituted the almonds with cashews. Both version left people wanting more.

Chicken Bow Tie Pasta Salad

4 cups diced chicken
2 Tablespoons green onion
¾ teaspoon pepper
2 cups bowtie pasta
1 8 oz. bottle Kraft Cole slaw dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
Dash of thyme
Pinch of ginger
Mix the above ingredients and refrigerate overnight or move on to the next step immediately.

1 cup diced celery
2 cups halved red grapes
1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained
2 cups apples, diced (Amy recommends one golden delicious apple and one Fuji apple)
¾ cup slivered almonds

Toss lightly and serve. This recipe makes a large quantity, but it also holds up very well for several days.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ginger Cookies

To me this is a perfect fall cookie recipe. The spice reminds me of harvest time somehow, and even the color is right for the season. This recipe comes from my friend Kip (see here), and as his headline suggests, they are big and soft. They have a lovely ginger snap flavor, but are much more luxurious to eat.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Yields approximately 24 cookies.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Clam Spaghetti

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that putting this dish together is easier than opening a bottle of Ragu.

This pasta dish has a very light flavor (except for the somewhat copious amounts of garlic). It's a lighter pasta than either red sauces or cream sauces--just perfect for the end of a busy day.

Clam Spaghetti

2 Tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
2 six-ounce cans minced clams, undrained
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained

Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add onion; saute until it's transparent. Add the garlic and saute until it turns brown (but before it turns bitter). Add salt and pepper. Add clams and white wine; simmer for 4-5 minutes. Toss with hot spaghetti and top with parmesand cheese.