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Easter Ham Soup

I started posting recipes on my blog because it’s a convenient way to keep them documented, and one of the first recipes I shared was Easter ham soup. I finished the Easter leftovers yesterday, so this is this year’s soup recipe:

Sauté in warm olive oil: 1 small yellow onion, diced; 1-2 carrots, sliced in nickel discs; 1-2 cloves garlic, minced.
Add seasoning: kosher salt to taste (I end up using 3 tsp); 1 tsp parsley; 1 tsp oregano; 1 tsp thyme; 1/2 tsp basil; freshly ground pepper.
Add: ham hock; other leftover ham, cut into chunks; 1 can diced tomatoes (no salt); 8 cups water; 1 tsp Louisiana or Cholula hot sauce.
Bring to boil; reduce to simmer. Simmer, simmer.
Remove ham hock to a cutting board, and pick off meat and add meat to pot.
Add: 1 lb lentils (rinsed). Simmer another 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Serve with warm, crusty bread or a grilled cheese sandwich and fresh fruit.


American AppleCherrPear Pie

American apple pie

Well, this was supposed to be a Pi Day post and I did not get the option to schedule publishing. Now you have time to run to the market for your ingredients and make an American AppleCherrPear pie for National Pi Day.

Happy Pi (Pie) Day! This year I created a new fruit pie recipe based on a family favorite. The town where my Aunt Bonnie & Uncle John & cousins and Grandma & Grandpa lived had a landmark called Bun’s Bakery which served a Delaware, Ohio-famous chappleberry pie. You can figure it out the pie is a decadent fruit combination of cherry + apple + blueberry. Nothing against Bun’s creation nor blueberries, but I don’t like blueberries in pie. I adore blueberries fresh or in a pancake or a muffin, but not so much in pie. So my twist on Bun’s signature pie is apple + cherry + pear. I consulted my Grandma’s 1950s edition of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook to combine a few tried-and-true pie recipes. I always make a homemade pie crust and am baffled that Food Network personalities claim frozen is just as good. It is not. Start this Pi (Pie) Day recipe with a proper homemade pie crust.

Homemade Pie Crust

Sift together: 2 cups flour + 1 tsp salt.
Cut in: 2/3 cup shortening.
Add and toss lightly with a fork to mix dough: 6-7 Tbs cold water, adding and mixing 1 Tbs at a time.
Gather dough into a ball and knead a couple times. Divide dough into two portions; form into disks; wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate to chill until ready to roll.
After making pie filling, roll first portion of dough onto floured board; roll out enough that dough will hang over edge of pie dish. Roll pie dough onto rolling pin and lift gently to transfer rolled dough to pie dish. For fruit pie, I prefer to use a deep pie dish. Fill with delicious apple+pear+cherry mixture. Roll out second portion of dough; transfer rolled dough to top of pie. Fold extra dough under and pinch to seal two crusts; crimp the edges to make a pretty crust; cut slits in top of pie to allow steam to escape.

AppleCherrPear Filling

1 cup frozen pitted dark sweet cherries
1-2 fresh pears (Bartlett); pared, cored, thinly sliced
2-3 fresh baking apples (Granny Smith); pared, cored, thinly sliced
Zest from 1 navel orange
1/4 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup sugar (can substitute turbinado raw cane sugar or organic coconut sugar)
2 Tbs unbleached flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch kosher salt
1-2 Tbs butter

Measure frozen cherries into bowl. Add orange zest + almond extract; lightly toss to mix; set aside.
Prepare fresh pears and apples by paring, coring, thinly slicing. Add sliced pears and apples to cherry mixture.
Mix together: sugar + flour + spices + salt. Sprinkle sugar mixture over fruit; lightly toss to evenly coat and mix fruit.
Spoon fruit mixture into bottom pie crust; spoon 1-2 Tbs remaining juices over top of fruit; dot with butter. Place top pie crust; fold extra dough under and pinch to seal two crusts; crimp the edges to make a pretty crust; cut slits in top of pie to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 400* for 50 minutes. Check pie at 25-30 minutes; when pie crust is golden cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning; continue baking. Cool pie on wire rack.

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, homemade or from your local creamery. Just say “with ice cream” because this is my American AppleCherrPear pie. “A la mode” would be too fancy and, well, not American. Thank you, Bun’s Restaurant, a small-town America establishment, for many happy family memories and the inspiration. 

Latte Sprinkles


Awhile ago Hubby gave me my own home cappuccino machine for a “Just Because” gift. Isn’t he sweet? I can now make my own perfect mug of vanilla soy latte and never more crave an over-priced coffee from the McCoffee Shop.


I even make my own special spice blend to sprinkle on my coffee concoction. It’s simple: Grate nutmeg + grate cinnamon stick. I tried a coffee-bean-grinder-turned-spice-grinder, but I get a finer grind by using a hand grater. Fold a piece of wax paper to make a crease; grate spices on the wax paper; transfer grated spices to a little dish…


Then use a small kitchen funnel to transfer grated spices to a shaker. This adorable rooster is from the Jacques Pepin collection at Sur la table. I asked Mom for the salt ‘n pepper shakers for Christmas, but I don’t often set out salt ‘n pepper shakers. So I put my latte sprinkles in this guy so I can have him greet me every morning. It’s a clever idea to make use of a broken set too.


Super Cutie Cherry Muffins


For my birthday Mom gave me a set of mini muffin tins to add to my kitchen collection, and she included  the printed recipe for cherry muffins. I had seen the Food Network and country singing star bake these muffins on Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, so I was excited to try them. Naturally, I made some adjustments and now I have a recipe which I can call my own. Today I made these cutie muffins with a bright pink cherry to share with the sisters at Inspire Women, and I was flattered when my treat was called, “Divine.” This is my creation:

Cream together: 1/4 cup softened butter + 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 1/2 cup brown sugar.
Add and mix: 2 eggs.
Add and mix: 3 Tbs maraschino cherry juice + 1/4 tsp almond extract.
Sift together: 1 cup unbleached flour + 1/4 tsp baking powder.
In 3-4 batches, add and mix dry mixture into creamed mixture.
Stir in: 1/2 cup pecan pieces.

Scoop muffin batter into mini cupcake tins lined with mini cupcake papers. (Pampered Chef small scoop is the perfect size to portion 2 tsp batter.)
Lightly press 1/2 maraschino cherry into each mini cup of muffin batter.
Bake @ 400* 8-10 minutes, until muffins are lightly browned on top.
Dust hot muffins with powdered sugar.
Remove individual muffins to wire rack to cool.
Makes about 3 dozen mini muffins.

Serve with love! Package these cutie muffins in a basket to give for a gift or share at a ladies’ gathering. They are so super cute and yummy!

New Year’s Black-Eyed Peas

Happy New Year’s Eve! Last night I soaked the beans, and today I made a big pot of black-eyed peas to ring in the New Year. While I started with my Big Pot o’ Beans recipe (November 2013 archives), this variation is quite a departure from my original soupy beans. This is my new recipe:

1 lb dried black-eyed peas, soaked and strained;
4-6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces;
1/2 small/medium yellow onion, diced;
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced;
2 Tbs tarragon vinegar (or red wine vinegar);
1 15 oz can tomato sauce (I prefer Trader Joe’s organic);
2 cans water;
1 tsp coarse salt;
1 tsp paprika;
1 tsp Tony Cachere’s creole seasoning;
1/2 tsp ground cumin;
1/2 tsp ground ancho chili pepper;
1/2 tsp dried oregano;
1 bay leaf;
1 Tbs Louisiana Hot Sauce.

When you begin cooking, drain off soaking liquid from beans. Then start by frying chopped bacon in large soup (“bean”) pot. When bacon is crisp, drain off most of the rendered fat. Add a little olive oil to the bean pot; Sauté onion; Season with 1/2 tsp salt; Add garlic. Increase heat; Add 2 Tbs vinegar; Scrape brown bits off bottom of pot. Add strained black-eyed peas; Season with another 1/2 tsp salt; Stir! Add tomato sauce; Add 2 cans water; Stir! Add the rest of the spices and Louisiana hot sauce; Stir! Heat to boil; reduce to simmer. Simmer, simmer, simmer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Happy New Year! Wishing you joy, health and prosperity!

Lanie’s Pimiento Cheese


Since last month’s Inspire Women Inner Circle was a dessert fest, today I wanted to take something more substantial to share with the ladies. Pimiento cheese sandwiches on mini Hawaiian rolls sounded like a good autumn sandwich, and they were a hit! Here’s the story of my affair with pimiento cheese…

I had never heard of pimiento cheese until I lived in Memphis – it’s a southern thing. A friend wanted to buy a pimento cheese sandwich at the gas station convenience store, so that was a disgusting introduction, imo. I was re-introduced to this southern spread by my father-in-law who buys a certain pricey brand. And then one of my colleagues brought her famous dill pimiento cheese spread to an office pot luck, and I was inspired that I too could make homemade pimiento cheese. I tweek my friend’s recipe to make it my own by mashing softened cream cheese with the mayo for a little tang, and I serve pimiento cheese spread on mini Hawaiian rolls. This is my recipe:

16 oz (1 lb) sharp cheddar cheese block, shredded (I used a blend of 2 Trader Joe’s sharp cheddars. It is important for the recipe to buy block cheese and shred it on a box grater.)
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup real mayo
4 oz jar pimientos, strained and chopped (Reserve the pimiento juice.)
1-2 Tbs fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
Finely ground black pepper
2 packages mini Hawaiian rolls

Start straining the pimientos so they will be well-strained. Shred the block cheddar with a cheese grater. Mash together softened cream cheese and mayo to achieve a consistency which will mix into the shredded cheese. Add the shredded cheese to the cream cheese/mayo and mix; add the chopped pimientos and mix; add the chopped dill and mix; add seasonings and mix. Add 1-2 Tbs reserved pimiento juice to thin cheese spread to achieve desired consistency.

Notes: If time permits, make the day before so the flavors may get acquainted; pimiento cheese is even better the next day. Serve on mini Hawaiian rolls or with Wheat Thins.



Pumpkin Muffins


Because I adore pumpkin recipes for fall, I wondered if I could modify my award-winning applesauce muffins (August 2016 archives) by substituting canned pumpkin. Yes! Here is my updated recipe:

Cream together: 1/2 cup softened butter + 1 cup sugar.
Mix in: 1 egg.
Sift together: 2 cups unbleached flour + 2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda + 1+1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1 tsp ground nutmeg + 1/4 tsp ground cloves.
Measure into measuring cup: 1 cup canned pumpkin.
Alternately add and mix flour mixture and pumpkin into creamed mixture, beginning and finishing with dry mixture.
Measure into glass measuring cup: 1 cup dried raisins (I’ve been favoring golden raisins). Pour boiling water over raisins and let fruit soak to plump. Strain plumped raisins and fold into muffin batter.

Scoop muffin batter into cupcake tin lined with cupcake papers. (Pampered Chef large scoop or an ice cream scoop is a perfect size for portioning muffin batter.) Bake @ 375* 20-25 minutes, until muffins are lightly browned on top and the toothpick test comes out clean.
Remove individual muffins to wire rack to cool.

Note: I had only a dozen cupcake papers, and the recipe makes 15-18 muffins, so I portioned the extra batter into mini cupcake papers. (Pampered Chef mini scoop is the perfect size for portioning mini muffins.) I don’t have mini cupcake tins (Santa, baby…), so I stood the cupcake papers in a pie dish to fill and bake them. Bake mini muffins 15-18 minutes, until muffins are set on top. Super cute for quick breakfast or little snacks!

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