I'm so happy to have you here with me sharing the delicious journey I have chosen! I am Carrie, a mom on a mission to find bliss in the kitchen. At least, as long as my kids allow me to. More of a baker than a cook, you'll find I love experimenting--baking is sort of like a mad scientist experiment, anyway, isn't it? It doesn't always turn out the way I plan, but that's part of the fun. ;)
Disclosure: As a Sabra Tastemaker, I was compensated for this post, as well as provided with free product. All opinions remain my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who help make this blog possible.
I love my job, but the work week is tough. It’s hard to find inspiration in the kitchen after a full day in the office, followed by a 40-minute drive. By the time I arrive home, all I want to do is park my butt on the couch and relax. I’m spent. Unfortunately, I can’t do this; I have a family counting on me. (Which is probably fortunate, too, because, when left to my own devices, I can be shamefully lazy.) Forge on, I must!
This quesadilla came from one such night when my husband was working his winter second job and I just didn’t have it in me to prepare the typical meat, potatoes, and veggie meal. I looked at what I had in the fridge–which, thank goodness, was filled with a recent shipment from Sabra Dipping Co.–grabbed the tortillas, and got to work. In no time we had a deluxe treat–something a little more than the usual, but still meeting the fast and easy requirements for Monday-through-Friday. The best part is that you make enough filling for three quesadillas, so you have leftovers to work off of the next time around. Weeknight dinners have been solved. You’re welcome.
Which meals do you turn to when the week has been long and you’re just too tired to think?
Certain foods are expected to be paired with certain times of year. Burgers always make me think of long summer days spent swimming at my grandparents’ cottage at the lake and chasing fireflies at dusk. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the turkey. Pile on the stuffing and mashed potatoes, please. And when it comes to Easter, there is no finer pairing than ham. We may not always celebrate Easter on Easter (yes, my family is weird), but you can be guaranteed that when we do, ham is what’s for dinner.
It’s not every day we have ham. So when Jones Dairy Farm asked me if I wanted to make one of their hams and share it with my readers, I jumped at the opportunity. I usually am visiting someone else’s house for Easter instead of playing hostess–it was my turn to spin the tables around. I’m glad I had the chance to show how foolproof it can be, especially when you’re starting with a high quality hog. Jones Dairy Farm makes it so easy!
We couldn’t believe how BIG our ham was. It weighed in somewhere around 16.5 lbs and measured nearly 14″ long. We named it–because we’re a little strange around here–Hamilton Porkington I. The kids couldn’t wait for me to cook it up. It was torture waiting until I had the time to plan a proper feast.
Feast day came and we prepared. My wall oven is too small for my roasting pan–the downside to not having to bend over–so I actually own an electric roaster. It’s something like a huge crock pot that normally lives in the basement when it’s not being used. I unwrapped Hamilton and took him in for all his glory. Wow! Now that was a piece of meat! The aroma already was enticing without heating him up! Because the ham is fully cooked, the time it spends in the oven is just really to reheat it. You don’t want to use too high of a temperature or cook it too long or you’ll dry your ham right out, which would be a very sad thing. So let’s not do that, okay?
After preheating my roaster, I placed Hamilton fat side down on the rack, covered, and set the timer. When there were 40 minutes left of heating time, I added the glaze, brushing it on a second time with 20 minutes remaining. The leftover glaze goes on top right before removing from the roaster to ensure a little bit of sweetness remains. It’s not necessary–you certainly don’t have to glaze your ham at all–but it’s a nice little touch of specialness.
When you’re ready to carve, put a towel on your counter and place your cutting board on top of that. This helps in two ways: it’ll stabilize your cutting board and catch any drippings. If you have a cutting board with channels in it, I highly recommend using that. My biggest cutting board does not. Let your ham rest for 5 minutes before carving for maximum moistness.
Despite my knife skills class at The Culinary Institute of America in February–including a lesson on carving ham–I’m still a novice. It’s going to take a bit more practice to get the hang of this. Luckily, there is an excellent video on Jones Dairy Farm’s website to help you when it comes time to carve. I know I referred to it several times before I pulled my knife out. The most important part is to ensure your knife is sharp. Otherwise, you run the risk of cutting yourself in the process, and nobody wants that to happen.
Ta-da! There you have it! Easy, peasy, and so darn tasty!
Now I know you want your own ham, too, for your Easter table! The folks at Jones Dairy Farm have graciously offered to send one to one of my readers and all you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter box below. This contest will run through Friday at 11:59PM to ensure there is enough time to get your ham to you before the holiday. Good luck! Note: contest open to residents of the United States only.
While my palate could be much more refined than it is, there’s one thing that’s universal regardless of its cuisine of origin: bread. Flat or fluffy, soft or crunchy, bread in all its forms is wonderful.
Years ago, I took a History through Fiction course that focused on books set in Eastern Asian countries. The concept was simple: learn a little bit about a culture by the books set in and written by authors who have lived it. Memoirs of a Geisha, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee,The Ramayanaand A Passage to India were just a few of the works we read. The instructor, a former member of the CIA, always had the best stories to tell. Because of her, I came very close to minoring in Asian Studies. What would I have done with that? I’m not sure. But she captured my interest and had me wanting to know more. It wasn’t just the content–it was her teaching style that attracted me. I enjoyed every minute in her classes.
But back to the History through Fiction course. This was a night class at a regional campus for UCONN and, as such, took place right around dinner time. Our teacher thought it would be fun if we had an Asian-themed meal during one of the classes. This was before the explosion of options came to my town–no Thai, no Hibachi, and definitely no sushi. No Indian food either. If you wanted pizza or pasta, you could toss a stone and find a place to go, but there wasn’t a whole lot else to pick from. The idea of eating something other than Chinese take-out seemed quite exotic. And a little scary.
The class voted and chose Indian for our meal, which had to be retrieved 30 minutes away. (See! I told you! We were a barren wasteland then!) I had never seen Indian food before, so I had no idea what to expect. And, to be honest, I have no idea what I ate. The colors and aromas all mixed together in my memory. But I did learn one thing–naan is awesome. That night, I became addicted to it. And many years later, when I discovered it was available in the grocery store for enjoyment at home, I thought I had struck gold. Woohoo! It has become the base of many lunches and dinners (and breakfasts and snacks) ever since.
Like most other things, making naan at home is much more economical than buying it at the store. I managed 10 flatbreads with this recipe and it probably cost me no more than $2 to make. Hard to argue with that kind of value! They freeze well for later use and are great to have on hand for quick pizzas, sandwiches, dipping in hummus, and just plain eating. There isn’t a lot of active work involved, just some waiting for the dough to rise and then standing at the stove when cooking them off. It’s easy enough that I’ll probably show my nearly-9-year-old how to make them soon. She’s looking forward to it!
These ladies also took on the naan challenge this month:
I cannot wait to see their results! As always, I’m eternally grateful for those who take part in these challenges with me. It’s always more fun when you can share something new with great friends!
Next month’s First on the First challenge will be Mille-Feuille
Also known as Napoleons, these are little pastries that consists of layers of puff pastry and pastry cream and/or fruit. They’re delicate and delightful and I’m really looking forward to tackling them! Please do come back on May 1st to see how they worked out!
Author: adapted from http://food52.com/blog/8434-homemade-naan
Recipe type: Bread
¼ cup hot tap water (you don’t really want it above 100 degrees Fahrenheit or you’ll kill the yeast)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 cups bread flour, plus more for the work area
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup warm whole milk (again, not really above 100 degrees Fahrenheit; a quick hit in the microwave should be sufficient)
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Stonyfield Organic Smooth & Creamy Whole Milk Plain yogurt)
¼ cup unsalted butter
In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water and sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Add the yeast, stir, and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium mixing bowl or 4-cup measuring cup, combine the milk and yogurt. Once the yeast mixture is frothy, stir it into the milk/yogurt, then add to the dry ingredients.
Turn the mixer on to speed 2, mix and then knead the dough for 5 or so minutes, until you get a smooth yet somewhat sticky dough. (You can add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time if, after kneading for a few minutes, it’s too sticky that it won’t clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be stuck to the bottom of it; if it’s too dry to come together, you can add more warm water 1 Tablespoon at a time–try not to do these unless absolutely necessary, as they can throw off the balance and mess up the dough.)
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, transfer the dough ball to it, cover with plastic wrap, and set somewhere warm for 1½ hours (I usually set my oven to the lowest temperature then shut it off once it reaches that, so it’ll hold some warmth for proofing without being too warm).
Once the hour and a half has passed, flour your work surface well and transfer the dough to it. Cut into 10 equal portions then let sit for 30 minutes so the dough can rest and relax the gluten a little.
Melt the butter and get out a pastry brush.Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Roll out the portioned out dough to ovals/circles roughly the size of your skillet.
Brush the tops with melted butter.
Place 1 in the preheated skillet, butter side down, then brush butter on the top.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the edges are dry and the surface is bubbly.
Flip and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes. When done, the bubbles will be browned but the rest of the naan will still be pale.
Remove to a plate or wire rack to cool.
Repeat with the rest of the naan.
Naan can be stored in a large zip-top bag for up to 3 days or wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.
I love a good sandwich. Growing up, my dad was a master sandwich maker. All he had to do was ask and I was game. I’d watch as he toasted bread and layered meat with cheese, tomato and lettuce, and his spread of choice. Sometimes they were open face sandwiches, slipped under the broiler for a little melty goodness. Other times, they were on English muffins, which remains one of my favorite building blocks for sandwiches to this day. Always, they were delicious. My dad–the sandwich man.
These days, while I’m still a sandwich fan, it’s easy for familiar combinations to become old and tired quickly. I mean really, I eat a sandwich most days of the week for lunch? How many different ways can you make a sandwich? When ennui sets in, it’s time to shake things up a bit and think outside the box. Take the tried and true original pieces and swap them out for something a little more exciting. And that, my friends, is where this wrap comes in.
Yes, a wrap is a sandwich in a rolled-up form. And by selecting a flavored tortilla for my base–in this case, sun-dried tomato–we’re already breaking a case of the blahs. The chicken is a stand-by, for sure, but the roasted tomatoes give it a bit of oomph. Store-bought tomatoes taste so bland this time of year anyway–roasting gives them a flavor boost that is addictive. Then some chopped olives for a little bit of brininess and cheese, of course–have to have the cheese–and you have yourself a sandwich. Almost. Once you’ve assembled all your filling components, you have a tough decision to make. The piece-de-resistance comes next–the spread, the dressing, the mortar that holds it all together. And after you’ve put so much work into your masterpiece, you don’t want to waste your efforts on something boring. Go for something a little different, a lot of tasty, and easy to procure. You want Hidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch.
Hidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch is transformative, with its zesty twist on the Ranch you already love. Peppercorn, garlic, and onion give it a nice little bite that makes you want to take bite after bite after bite. It’s addictive. Soon, you’ll be pouring it on everything. I highly recommend French fries. In the meantime, let it use its powers to bring your sandwiches to new heights of enjoyment. You’ll wonder how you ever got by without it before.
In a cast iron skillet heat ½ Tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) EVOO over medium high heat. Sprinkle salt over the chicken and cook, flipping once halfway through the cooking time, til there's no pink left and cooked all the way through (you may have to cook it in 2 batches, in which case you'd use half the salt for each batch). This should take 5-7 minutes per batch. Set aside.
In an 8x8 baking dish, spread out the cherry tomatoes and toss in the other ½ Tablespoon EVOO. Put in a cold oven, set temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake for 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Drain and set aside.
Lay out 4 wraps.
Divide the lettuce into 4 portions and lay out a line of it in the middle of each wrap.
Over the lettuce, place 4 or so chicken breast strips (about 4 ounces of chicken for each wrap).
Sprinkle ¼ of the olives over each wrap.
Spread out ¼ of the roasted cherry tomatoes over each wrap.
Sprinkle ¼ of shredded cheese over each wrap.
Drizzle 2 Tablespoons of Hidden Valley® Cracked Peppercorn Ranch over each wrap.
Fold over the flaps (left over center, right over center) and secure with toothpicks.
Eat right away or wrap with plastic wrap and bring to work for lunch.
You can use leftover or pre-cooked chicken, as well. The wraps taste just as good with cold chicken.
From dressings and dips to sandwich spreads and side dish solutions, the special blend of herbs and spices makes Hidden Valley the perfect addition to any recipe. For more delectable ranch recipes, visit www.hiddenvalley.com.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Hidden Valley Ranch. The opinions and text are all mine.