Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the bacon fat and pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Southron Spinach and Plum Salad

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Game of Thrones Series Week 3

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all get to spend some time with the mothers or mother figures in your lives and make them feel appreciated. They deserve it.

It’s time for another GoT recipe you guys! I hope you’ve been keeping up with the series, if not I’ll post the recipes that I’ve done so far at the end of this post so you can play catch up. Before we get to the food, I’ll say a few words about my favorite parts of last Sunday’s episode:

  • I know that they’re a crazy family, but I just love the scenes between the Lannisters, especially when Tywin is involved. He’s undoubtedly a bad person, but he’s got a strong dose of pragmatism and resolve to survive at all costs that definitely makes him one of the show’s strongest and charismatic characters. So the Lannister’s are out of dough, huh? Never thought that day would come. As I watched the scene between Tywin and Cersei, I thought it was a great conversation between a rich father facing bankruptcy and his privileged, spoiled daughter who’s always been given everything she wants. I loved Tywin explaining the “facts of life” to Cersei and making her aware that she has to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak in order for them to survive as a family.
  • I’m really curious whether or not Daenerys is really going to get the epic battle for the Iron Throne that she’s dreaming of when it seems like every episode just puts up another roadblock/reason for why it’s not her time to invade Westeros and “take what is hers by blood and fire” (God, she used to get on my nerves when was forever saying that in season 2). I know that because she has the dragons, we’re going to get some kind of fancy special effects-laden scene, but I’m not altogether convinced that GoT is going to end with her as the supreme ruler of everything and everyone.

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  • Then of course, there’s Sansa- poor, poor Sansa. Now, not only is she dealing with Little Finger ( who is not only responsible for Joffrey’s death, but pretty much…everything that has to do with the major fallout ofKing Jon Arryn’s Hand- which is also the entire reason that the plotline of GoT got started in the first place) she’s also stuck with her crazy aunt who still harbors  jealousy for her mother and all the things Catelyn had that she never could. And, she has to get married AGAIN to her younger cousin. Sheesh. Sansa just can’t catch a break to save her life. I have a feeling that Sansa is going to end up doing something very drastic and heroic to save herself when this is all said and done- she’s been through too much without having the opportunity to defend or protect herself from all these people who keep wanting to harm her. I hope to God that one of those drastic things is shooting an arrow through Littlefinger’s head.
  • I really liked the short, but powerful scene between Cersei and Oberon. I don’t feel pity for her generally, but I felt for her situation as woman trapped in a ‘man’s world’ while still struggling to maintain her dignity and self esteem- even if it means causing pain and abuse to those weaker than she. I’m still thinking about that line: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” It gives me chills because of just how true it really is
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  • Finally an episode with Bran scenes that I can get into! Their escape from Craster’s Keep was pure suspense and satisfaction-especially Bran using his powers through Hodor to get them out of there. Now I finally see the merit behind all those creepy times that his eyes roll back in his head and he sees those weird visions. (Random fact: rolling eyeballs give me pure goosebumps. I just don’t like looking at it.)
  • Too bad Bran and Jon didn’t get to see each other again. I feel like a Stark family reunion (what’s left of them anyway) would be full of so much feels and emotion after all they’ve been though. At least Jon got to see the direwolf again. And at least that horrible Karl jerk got his- from both Jon and one of the women he’d been victimizing. It was a solid call to burn that hell hole to ground. Burn it and bury it forever.

Spinach Salad4

Guys! I’ve made a discovery- turns out, there’s a Game of Thrones Cookbook. A real one. Actually more than one- there’s an official one: A Feast of Ice and Fire, then there’s an unofficial one : The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I was at an outlet store in my hometown a few weeks ago, and I came across the unofficial cookbook on a shelf priced for only $3.99 (that was marked down from an original price of $19.95). Now, you really can’t beat that, can you? So of course, I bought the cookbook (…along with a few others that were also too discounted to not buy. I collect cookbooks like some people collect stamps; there’s never too many. Don’t judge me.)

Question: what IS the actual difference between Official and Unofficial in this context anyway? I read the caption on the cover of the book that reads: “This book is unofficial and unauthorized/ It is not authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO.”

So…does that mean that the other is authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO? How does that even work? I don’t understand.

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Anyway, official or unofficial, this cookbook is pretty awesome, guys. The recipes are the perfect blend between medieval and still modern enough for the average cook to be able to easily recreate them. I’ve already made a few that I’m super pumped to review and share with you, the first of which being this delightful salad. I’ve never had a salad with plums in it before, but now that I have, I’m pretty much sold on making it a regular occurrence for when I eat salad from here on out. It adds such a special sweetness that is evenly balanced with the acidity of the lemon and orange flavors in the tangy dressing. Throw in some diced chicken or other type of protein, and you’ve got one winner of a meal here.

One of the things I love best about the cookbook is the little introductions that they author gives at the beginning of every recipe that serve to link them to their relevance to the book series. I thought that I could include it in my posting of the recipe here as well.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s  GoT post- stay tuned for next week’s recipe. I’ll give you a hint into two words: Baratheon. Pork.   😉

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

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Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Recipe Courtesy of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

“After a fine day or tourney, Sansa joins the royal court at the riverside for a feast. It’s a magical evening where simply joys and the beauty of the night seem all the more enhanced. This salad of spinach and plums is both healthy yet provides a sweetness to complement the flavor of the night for the young Sansa, who has no idea how far away such lovely times will seem in the months to come.” (A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29 -Sansa)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 4 plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil

Directions

1. Arrange the spinach and plum wedges on 4 plates.

2. Whisk vinegar, oil, juices, zests, salt, pepper, and basil in a bowl.

3. Drizzle approximately 1/3 of dressing over spinach and plums on plates. Remaining dressing may be refrigerated.

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Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

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‘Sup you guys! I’m super psyched to be participating in my second Fiesta Friday Link-up. Last week was my first time and it was a real blast to get to look through all the wonderful goodies that everyone brought to the party. A huge thank you to everyone who came and checked out my Blueberry Crumble Muffins and made me feel so welcome. You’re all awesome, and I intend to make myself pretty comfortable at this here party. Jess is definitely here to stay.

Today, I have my mind on 90’s Nostalgia. Specifically 90’s cartoons. I know everyone probably says it about their own decade of their childhood, but I really do feel like the 90’s was just a really great period for children’s cartoon characters and tv shows. These days, little kids may not even know who Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck are. The chances of them recognizing the French cartoon Madeline are even slimmer. And I’d be very surprised to meet a kid under the age of 10 who knew who could give me the names of all the Power Puff Girls. All of the above is sacrilege, so far as I’m concerned.

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Do any of you guys have small children in their families or circle of friends that’s into the cartoon Strawberry Shortcake? I worked in a daycare at my church for several years with little girls that loved her, and my mom has kids in her Sunday school class that were huge fans of hers.  Not that I blame them; SS is pretty cool so far as cartoons go. I even liked her when I was young. However, what I find to be interesting about the whole thing is that the SS of today is nothing like the SS us girls had when I was little. For one, they don’t even look alike.

My first exposure to SS was through a board game that me and my sisters loved to play together when we were little, called Strawberry Land. I found a picture of it online (much to my surprise), and maybe one of you guys who grew up during the 90s, or had kids who did, may recognize it as well:

Strawberry land

See how much things can change in the space of 15 or so years? She looks nothing like the SS we see now, right? 90s SS always looked ready for a tea party, whereas today’s SS is somewhat tom-boyish, I think. But for me, this was SS- long hair, frilly dresses and curtsies. I actually kinda miss that game now that I think about it. There wasn’t much to it- I think the rules had something to do with color matching, but I don’t remember the details. Can I be perfectly honest?  I just loved SS as a cartoon mainly because I thought the girls were all really pretty and wanted to look and dress like them every day of my life- big hair, tea party dresses, curtsies and all. Then, I also just liked the food aspect of it. Three cheers for childhood nostalgia.

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Okay, so now for the real strawberry shortcake aspect of this. I had some spare strawberries that were getting a little soft/mushy in my fridge that I really didn’t want to see go to waste. I went searching for some recipes to try out, and stumbled across this one on the blog Two Peas and Their Pod. They have a pretty solid reputation for good eats, so I decided to give these a try. I think they turned out okay. They are cookies- not ‘shortcake’ in the way that we think of flaky, crumbly cake that we think of with the real thing. However, the flavors are pretty good and I could see using these for strawberry ice cream sandwiches, or for a strawberry ice box cake as well. Overall, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but not a disappointment either.

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Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Two Peas & Their Pod

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 cups diced fresh strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl.

4. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.

5. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle cookies with turbinado sugar, and bake until golden brown, about 22 to 25 minutes.

6. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool.

 

 

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Blueberry Crumble Muffins

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It’s the first day of May, and for me that’s really good news. Why? Well, besides the fact that Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Cinco De Mayo is coming up pretty soon ,  I’ve always just really, really liked the month of May a lot. My birthday is in September but if I had a choice of when I was born, it would be in the month of May. If I was engaged to be married (which I’m not, nor am I evenly remotely close to being), I would want my anniversary to be in the month of May. If I had any children (I definitely don’t, my 1 year old niece is plenty, k thanks), I would want at least one of them to be born in May. It may be random, but I’m just really fond of May.

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So, because May feels like a holiday to me, I decided to put up some random facts and trivia about it:

  • May was once considered a bad luck month to get married. There is a poem that says “Marry in May and you’ll rue the day.” (Ummm, okay. Never mind about the wedding part I said earlier. Eh, Just kidding, I don’t care about superstitious nursery rhymes.)
  • May 11th- Eat What You Want Day (Great ‘holiday’. I personally think that it should ‘celebrated’ every day, but that’s just me.)
  • The United Kingdom celebrates May as the National Smile Month. (Awww, that’s schweet).
  • Celebrities I love that were born in the month of May: George Clooney, Emilia Clarke, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Henry Cavill, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Ian McKellen, Jamie Oliver, John C. Reilly, Kim Fields, Dule Hill

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See, all that proves that May is just full of all kinds of goodness. What about you guys? Anyone have a birthday in May? How about a wedding anniversary? Any great May stories to share? I’m all ears.

Okay, now onto the food.

True story: I actually didn’t use to like blueberries. I know, right?  The heck was the matter with me? I can’t really explain it, but the taste of them just wasn’t my cup of tea, whether it was raw blueberries or the flavor of blueberry baked goods.

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Luckily, I got over all that foolishness and found out that blueberries were friggin delicious. They’re even better when made into baked goodies. Those, I just can’t get enough of. Like blueberry muffins; pretty much one of the best snacks, breakfasts and sweets ever, right?

This recipe is another one of the ones that I tried out when I first began cooking for myself. It was huge hit, and I’ve made them several times over the past few years with great results every time. These blueberry muffins aren’t your typical ones either; for one, they’re flavored with lemon zest, which is such a great flavor contrast to the sweetness of blueberries. the best part though, is the crumble streusel topping that’s baked on top. I could eat that stuff all on it’s own. I could also see these muffins made with other types of berries too- raspberry or blackberry would probably be just as good.

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Blueberry Crumble Muffins

Recipe Courtesy of Great American Baking

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Streusel

  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, softened

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly spray a 12 cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. For the muffins, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Place the blueberries in another medium bowl. Sprinkle the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture. Toss to coat the blueberries.

4 . Place eggs in a medium bowl and beat lightly. Add the sour cream, oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix well.

5. Pour the sour cream mixture over the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Gently fold in the coated blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about half full.

6. For the streusel, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon zest and butter in a small bowl. Mix well. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter in the muffin cups.

7. Bake until lightly golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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