picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

Love asparagus? Love a meal that’s ready in less than half an hour?

Then you’ve come (virtually) to the right place!

After a super-busy afternoon of shopping for plants (more on that in a future gardening post) and visiting the animals at our local farmers market/petting zoo, we arrived home hungry and with not very much food in the house, and with what I had in the fridge I was inspired to create this:

Asparagus fritatta

25-minute asparagus frittata

You will need:

  • a large oven-safe skillet or frying pan (I prefer non-stick)
  • a pot of boiling water to blanch asparagus
  • 1/2 pound fresh (preferably local!) asparagus
  • 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • oil or cooking spray for pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Boil water and blanch 1/2 pound of asparagus to your preferred tenderness, then cool quickly with cold water. (Full disclosure: I cooked the whole pound and ate half of it while cooking the frittata. It was delicious, but there were consequences.)

2. Mix eggs, ham, milk, chives, and salt and pepper in a bowl while preheating oiled pan. Turn broiler to high.

3. Pour egg mixture into preheated pan and arrange asparagus spears on top.* Cook for 2-3 minutes on top of stove, then transfer to oven. Cook on middle rack (10-12 inches from the broiler) for about 10 minutes, until middle is set and top is nicely browned.

4. Cut into wedges, serve, and enjoy!

Molly ate her frittata with relish. Figuratively. Not literally, because that would be really gross. Although she would probably love it; we are talking about a kid who dips dill pickles in vanilla yoghurt.

Molly enjoying

Molly enjoying her frittata with figurative relish.
©PicklesINK 2013

Ian was also a fan, although you can’t really tell from his expression. He is actually enjoying the frittata, just not the act of getting his picture taken. I’m pretty sure he took up photography just to make sure he could always be the one behind the camera.

Everyone enjoying

Ian, Ben, and Molly at the dinner table.
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben, as is often the case, took some time to warm up to the idea:

“What’s for dinner?”

“Asparagus frittata!”

“I don’t like that!”

“Yes, you do.”

“No I don’t! What’s in it?”

“All things you like. Eggs, ham, asparagus.”

“I don’t like asparagus!”

“You like ham and eggs.”

“I want JUST eggs! Is it like scrambled eggs?”

“Yes.”

“BUT I don’t LIKE scrambled eggs [damnit, it was a trick question!]! I only like boiled eggs!”

“You like frittata. It’s eggs with ham and asparagus in it.”

“I don’t like them IN it! Can I have the asparagus BESIDE it?”

“Fine.”

“And the ham beside it?”

“NO!”

“OOOOHHHHHHHHH!!! BUT I don’t WANT it IN it!!”

“YOU’LL LIKE IT!”

“NO I WON’T! I WON’T LIKE IT AND I’M NOT GOING TO EAT IT!!”

*10 minutes later*

“Mmmm….this is really good. I like this dinner. Actually, mommy, I LOVE this diner!”

Me: *headdesk*

Ben enjoying

Ben LOVING his ham frittata with asparagus, as requested, beside it.
©PicklesINK 2013

~ karyn

*You could also chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces before blanching and mix them with the rest of the ingredients. The full spears can get a little stringy when broiled and Molly found them hard to chew, so I will probably do that next time. It’s much prettier with the whole spears though!

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A ham-tastic series of recipes

My family often eats ham on New Year’s Eve. This year we were up at the chalet and I was in charge of groceries so I (deliberately) went a little overboard and got an enormous bone-in, spiral cut, cooked ham.

For the dinner itself, I heated the ham in the oven and served it with two salads, a green salad with diced apple and celery and vinaigrette, and a chopped cherry tomato and avocado salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

For dessert I made Dump Cake, which is a classic kid-chef-friendly recipe. I’ve seen the recipe a few places with a few variations (ie. adding nuts or chocolate chips), but the basic instructions are: Dump into a baking pan, in this order (without stirring, but try to spread the layers evenly), 1 can undrained crushed pineapple, 1 can fruit pie filling (I used strawberry rhubarb), and 1 box yellow cake mix; top with 2 sticks of butter each cut into 12 slices; and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. It comes out as more of a cobbler than a cake and is absolutely delicious, hot or cold.

When I came home, I had about 2/3 of the ham, including the bone, left, and I have made making the most (so to speak) of the leftovers, and let me tell you, they have been tasting souperheheheh.

I started by cutting the ham off the bone as closely as I could and dicing it. I used about half of that ham to make my first soup, ham, leek, and potato. Sadly, I was engrossed in the process and forgot to take pictures of that one. Please take my word for it – it looked a-FREAKING-mazing.

Ham, Leek and Potato Soup

Ingredients (all amounts are VERY approximate)

  • 3 cups diced cooked ham
  • 3 cups 1/2″ cubed Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled
  • 3 stalks leeks, finely chopped and WELL rinsed
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • combination of about 1/3 milk to 2/3 water to just cover ham and vegetables

Cook the leeks and ham in a little bit of oil in large pot until leeks are soft and slightly browned. Dump everything else into the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a gentle simmer. Leave it alone for an hour or so. Come back and add some cream and a cornstarch slurry if you like a thick soup. Serve with a really lovely artisanal bread, preferably potato scallion or whole garlic clove or the like.

While that soup was simmering, I used a little bit of the remaining diced ham to make dinner for the kids – “Dora’s Empanadas” from the Dora and Diego Let’s Cook cookbook that Molly got for Christmas from her cousins. Basically, you make a filling out of diced stuff (I used carrots, peas, ham, and grated cheese), cut circles of of refrigerated pre-made pie crust, fill, fold over pastry and seal edges, and bake for 12-14 minutes at 400°F. I put the rest of the diced ham in a large freezer bag and froze it.

Finally, I made ham stock: I put the ham-bone in a large pot, added about a handful each of roughly chopped carrot, onion, and celery and a handful of bay leaves and peppercorns, filled the pot with water, turned on the heat and left it all to simmer for hours and hours and hours. After what was probably actually 2-3 hours, I turned off the heat and left it to cool, then strained it and poured it into containers to freeze. It made about 8 cups of stock in all.

Phew! That was the end of my January 2nd.

The next soup I made was a brilliantly purple concoction that couldn’t be beet! (Okay, I’ll be honest – I did that for comic effect. It was in fact mostly beet.) I rooted around in my vegetable drawer for just the right veggies to roast for it. This thick, winter soup would be just the thing to keep you kale and hearty… All right, I’m done. For now. Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Vegetable Soup with Kale

Ingredients (again, all amounts are VERY approximate)

  • Various vegetables, emphasis on roots – I used beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, and one sad-looking wrinkly zucchini that I found in the back of the crisper – scrubbed, ends trimmed off, peeled if necessary (I peeled the onions, carrots, and parsnips but not the beets), and chopped into large pieces of 1 1/2 – 2 inches
  • mix of ham stock, water, and red wine to cover vegetables (I used about 2 cups ham stock, 1 cup red wine, about 1 cup apple cider and enough water to make up the difference)
  • 3/4 of a bunch of kale, stems included, chopped (I had used the rest in a fettucine carbonara as I couldn’t find basil – also not a bad call)
  • olive oil, salt and pepper, and bay leaves

Dump vegetables except for kale into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper. Roast in 450°F oven until soft enough to pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes.

Roasted vegetables

Some of the vegetables post-roasting.
©PicklesINK 2012

Scoop vegetables into large pot. Deglaze roasting pan with a little bit of water to get every last bit of roasty goodness and dump that liquid into the pot too. Add enough ham stock, red wine, cider, and water to cover vegetables. (This could of course be made vegetarian and/or alcohol-free using vegetable stock and/or more cider or other juice.) My ham stock and red wine were both frozen, so I just dumped in the cubes and let them melt on the stove. NB – I freeze my leftover wine before it goes bad. I have seen it suggested that you freeze it in ice cube trays and then store in freezer bags. I tried that and it leaked EVERYWHERE – wine doesn’t freeze completely and the slushy-liquidness will find the tiniest hold in your bag. Now I freeze it in plastic containers.

Roasted veg in pot with ham stock

Roasted vegetables in soup pot with frozen ham stock.
©PicklesINK 2012

Stuff all the kale into the pot on top of the whole mess (Don’t panic – the kale will shrink significantly as it cooks!)

Roasted veg soup topped with kale

Masses of kale covering everything else.
©PicklesINK 2012

Toss in a few bay leaves, put a lid on it, and leave it to simmer for a couple of hours.

Roasted veg soup cooking

Violently purple soup cooking (see how the kale has shrunk to practically nothing)
©PicklesINK 2012

When it looks and smells lovely (assuming you like beets – otherwise, when it looks and smells revolting, but if you don’t like beets I have to question your judgment in making this particular soup as I was pretty up front about the ingredients), puree with a hand blender. It should be really thick and hearty and purple and ready to stain anything it touches. If you don’t have a hand blender, let it cool, then transfer to a blender and puree, then transfer back to the pot and reheat why don’t you? Go to the store right now and get a freaking hand blender because it’s the greatest small kitchen appliance you will ever own, especially if you like making soup.

Roasted veg soup pureed

Pureed roasted vegetable soup
©PicklesINK 2012

Ladle into a bowl, top with something a little sour like sauerkraut, sour cream, plain yoghurt, or blue cheese, and enjoy.

Roasted veg soup with sauerkraut

Roasted Vegetable soup topped with sauerkraut
©PicklesINK 2012

Try not to eat it all in one sitting, though, because there is a curious physiological effect to eating a lot of beets at once. You’ve been warned.

Finally, remembering how when I said, “I have leftover bone-in ham,” my little brother said, “And you’re making split-pea soup, right? WHY AREN’T YOU MAKING SPLIT-PEA SOUP RIGHT NOW?” the final stop on this ham-venture (hmm…weak. Ham-scusion? Ham-Odyssey? No, they’re getting worse. I guess I’d better let sleeping pigs lie) was of course split-pea soup. Especially after Ben saw the last one and said, “Molly, mommy made purple soup! Your favourite colour! Mommy, will you make green soup for me?” I made it on a night that Ian was away because he claims to not like it even though I tell him over and over that all I am saying is give peas a chance…

Anyway, this was the simplest of them all.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

Ingredients

  • split peas
  • ham
  • soup

Fine, I’ll give you more than that:

  • 3 cups dried quick-cooking split peas (I used a mix of green and yellow)
  • 2 cups diced ham (remember that bag of ham I froze?)
  • 8 cups ham stock
Split peas

Dried green and yellow split peas awaiting their
tragic yet delicious fate
©PicklesINK 2012

Rinse and drain split peas and add to ham stock in large pot.

Split peas and ham stock

Split peas and ham stock in my giant soup pot
©PicklesINK 2012

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave it alone for an hour. Puree a little (leave it lumpy) with your hand blender while whispering lovingly to said blender, “How could I ever have lived without you, my precious?” and then add the ham.

Split pea and ham soup

Mmmm…pot of simmering split-pea and ham soup
©PicklesINK 2012

Simmer a little longer to let all the flavours combine, then serve. It will thicken up quite a lot as it cools and be gorgeous and murky and pea-soupy and delicious.

Split pea soup in bowl

Bowl of hearty green split-pea and ham soup
©PicklesINK 2012

My notoriously picky eater, Ben (who has actually come A LONG WAY in the last few months) said, “Mommy, what are you making for dinner? It smells really yummy,” when he got home from school, and on tasting it, pronounced, “Mmm! This is really good! I LOVE this soup! Did you hear what I said? I don’t just like it, I love it!!” Molly said decidedly, “I DON’T like it,” and then proceeded to scrape her bowl clean before Ben was halfway through his.

I call that a win all around!

Sadly, I am now out of ham stock until I invest in another basketball-sized lump of pink goodness.

~ karyn

Have you made it through your holiday leftovers? What did you do with them?








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Holy vats of chili, Batman!

A committee that I am on at my church (okay, full disclosure: The committee to prepare for a congregational vote regarding the marriage policy, as described in a previous post) is hosting a lunch and discussion session this coming Sunday. Racked with guilt because I cannot be there for the actual discussion, I volunteered to make chili for the lunch. We have no idea how many people will actually attend, but we optimistically decided to be prepared for 40-50, so this afternoon I found myself making giant vats of chili, which actually went much more smoothly than I ever could have imagined, even with Ben’s “help”!

I had an idea for my chili, based on my dad’s recipe on which I grew up, but in order to get an idea for how many people it would feed, I asked my friend Google to find me a “fast chili recipe with beef” and then chose the one closest to my dad’s, which gave me this:

CHILI — THE FAST AND EASY WAY
2 lbs. ground beef
1 lg. onion, chopped
2 (16 oz.) cans red kidney beans
2 (16 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes (preferably Mexican style)
2 (16 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder

Brown ground beef and onions together in skillet. Transfer to large kettle. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium low heat. Cook until heated well and most of the liquid is cooked down. This can be adjusted easily according to your own taste for thicker or thinner chili.

I quadrupled the amounts and planned some modifications, adding tomato paste, corn, garlic, and red and green bell peppers and substituting ground pork for some of the beef, and reducing the amount of meat while increasing the amount of beans slightly. I also used a variety of beans instead of just red kidney beans. That left my shopping list looking like this:

5 lbs. ground beef
2 lbs. ground pork
6 bell peppers (red and green)
4 large onions
20 cloves garlic
10 cans beans (red kidney beans, white kidney beans, black beans)
4 cans whole stewed tomatoes
4 cans diced tomatoes
8 cans tomato sauce
3 cans tomato paste
1 bag frozen corn
1 packet chili powder

I got it home and started chopping, making good use of my trusty Cusinart Mini-Prep food processor (fantastic for making family meals into baby food as well as for finely chopping onions and garlic!).

Ingredients assembled: Finely chopped onion and garlic, diced peppers, and a vast array of canned tomatoes and beans.
©PicklesINK 2012

Once the chopping was done, I started cooking the ground beef and pork

Ground beef and pork cooking on the stove.
©PicklesINK 2012

and put Ian and Ben to work opening cans.

Ben pouring tomato sauce into the giant vat o’ tomato.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben next job was to find and crush the whole tomatoes, which he did with relish.*

Tremble with fear, tomatoes,
at the wrath of Sir Ben!
©PicklesINK 2012

Once all the meat was cooked, I cooked the onions, garlic, and peppers in batches, mixed them with the meat, and assembled my vats o’ ingredients.

Vats o’ ingredients: Tomato mixture, meat/onions/garlic/peppers, and mixed beans.
©PicklesINK 2012

Finally, I mixed it all together in my three biggest pots, trying to keep the ratio of ingredients as even as possible, and added liberal amounts of chili powder to each.

My 3 biggest pots barely fit on the stove together!
©PicklesINK 2012

It looked pretty good mixed together, and smells pretty fabulous simmering on the stove. I plan to add the frozen corn when it’s finished to help cool it down.

Yummy-looking pot o’ chili!
©PicklesINK 2012

Stay tuned until next week when I will hopefully hear how the congregation liked it – Same BAT-TIME, same BAT-CHANNEL!

~ karyn

*Please note that the relish was figurative. Real relish would have been gross.

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