Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Hammy Mac'n'Cheese and Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

Ham. Mac and Cheese. Tomato Soup.

The trifecta of yummy. They harmonize like a bunch of carolers, don't they?

I had lots of leftover Christmas ham, some elbow macaroni, milk, and lots and lots of tomatoes from the garden. Picked up a block of medium cheddar cheese, and a great 2DG experience was on the way!

Now, I need to 'fess up here. I made the Hammy Mac'n'Cheese Tuesday night using the leftover Christmas ham. I used Elise's Simply Recipes version of Macaroni and Cheese, and it calls for a really interesting way to make it. Basically, you cook the elbow macaroni in milk, using about 2 cups of milk for each cup of macaroni. Sounds odd, I know, but I brought the milk just to a boil, put in the macaroni and simmered it for about 12 minutes, and diced up about 2 cups of ham. At about the 10 minute mark, I melted about 4 Tbs of butter and then added about 2 cups of shredded cheddar and grated some nutmeg and a little pepper. When it was good and melted and gooey, I added the ham and the cheese mix to the macaroni and stirred it all together. A good sprinkle of bread crumbs on top, then into the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. It was quite tasty!

On Wednesday, I worried that the cold snap we are having here in Orlando would be bad for all the tomatoes still on the plants out in the garden, so I went out and picked any that were at least beginning to turn pink. I came in with  1.25 lbs. of Juliets and 5.50 lbs of Romas. So...the ripest ones from that batch and the ones I already had in the house became soup, to go along with the Hammy Mac'n'Cheese.

I diced a medium/large onion and about 3 cloves of garlic. Browned these in some olive oil until they were soft, added the diced tomatoes. I didn't dice all of them...maybe a few pounds.  I added about a cup of chicken stock, and then dissolved about a Tbsp of cornstarch in about a half cup of stock and set it aside. I let the soup simmer for a little while, then stirred in the reserved stock/cornstarch and some chopped fresh oregano, marjoram and basil. (I saved a little basil for a garnish.) I let it simmer on low for half an hour or so, then turned it off and let it cool a little bit before carefully purreeing it with a stick blender. I thought I'd need to strain it, but I didn't, so it was a slightly thickened.

I served it garnished with some ribboned basil and diced tomatoes. And the Hammy Mac'n'Cheese, of course!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fried 'Mater Sammich

Tomatoes. Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.

There are not many things on this planet I love more than fresh homegrown tomatoes. Yesterday I had a tomato sandwich for lunch. Just slices of a fresh ripe tomato on toasted whole wheat bread slathered with mayo. Mmmmm...

So tonight, it was Fried Tomatoes for dinner. Now, I know southerners use green tomatoes when they make Fried Green Tomatoes, but that's not for me. My mom used to make fried tomatoes using ripe tomatoes from our huge garden (usually about 200 tomato plants every summer, among all the other veggies), and she just dredged hers in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and fried til the outside was a little crisp.

I did that tonight, but I also took a different approach. After I dredged them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, I dunked them in an eggwash and then coated them with panko breadcrumbs mixed with Mrs. Dash Seasoning.

Then I fried them in a hot skillet with vegetable shortening, and served them on a Martin's Potato Roll topped with shredded Mexican cheese mix. And allow me to add...Michael, who does not share my affinity for the tomato, ate his entire sammich, loved it, and said it was like a burger!

BTW...this does qualify as 2DG...the tomatoes were fresh from our garden, but the rolls were left from burger night, and the cheese from some fajitas.

Plate up and enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cheesy Biscuit Turkey Pot Pie

Here's a really excellent way to use up two types of leftovers...Thanksgiving turkey and last night's Baked Potato Soup.

First off, let me just say that the turkey I used for this dish was from Thanksgiving, but Michael had frozen it on Friday. I did not use turkey that was just hangin' out in the fridge for over a week for this dish!

Secondly, this is one of those double 2DG wins! I used last night's Baked Potato Soup in the filling for this dish.

Here's how it went...
Similarly to last night's soup, I cooked some chopped carrots, onions and celery in 3 T butter for about 10 minutes to soften them.  I added some chopped fresh parsley, rosemary and oregano from the garden while the veggies were cooking. Then I sprinkled about 1/4 c. flour on them and stirring constantly, cooked the mix for about 2 minutes. I gradually stirred in 2 c. chicken/turkey stock combined into a nice gravy. then I added about a cup of last night's soup, and stirred it and let it thicken up. While that was simmering, I chopped up the remaining turkey and got about 3 - 4 cups out of it. This got added to the filling, along with a few handsful of frozen peas. Let the bubble away while the oven preheats and you work on the cheese biscuits.

If you don't have buttermilk on hand, make your own "sour milk" by putting 1 Tblsp vinegar or lemon juice (I used lemon juice) to a cup, and fill the cup with milk. Stir and set aside for about 5 minutes so it can "sour". Meanwhile, combine 2 c. flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Add 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese and toss to coat cheese mix with flour mix. Dice 3/4 stick of cold butter and combine with flour/cheese mix, using pastry knife or fingertips until mix is course.

Before you add the sour milk to the flour, get your filling into your baking dishes. I managed to get 3 good sized individual servings and 1 deep dish pie plate out of mine. When that's done and you're ready to put them in the oven, go back and finish the biscuit dough. I recommend this because the acid in the sour milk will activate the leavening power of the baking powder and soda, so I always wait until the last possible second to add the milk to the mix, since I don't want all the rising power of my biscuits to be used up before I even get them in the oven.

To finish the biscuit dough, add the sour milk to the flour/cheese mix and stir until just combined and a loose dough forms. Drop the dough by spoonsful (I use an ice cream scoop) onto the fillings in the dishes.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 35 - 40 minutes until the biscuits are nice and brown. I rotated mine front to back and top to bottom after 20 minutes to ensure even baking.

Mike asked me to make a few individual pies so he could give them to his grandmother and 2 friends, so I did that and also made a bigger one for the two of us. I filled all of the dishes at the same time, using a big ladle, to make sure I'd have them all relatively even. I also did all the biscuits at the same time too, to make sure they were all fairly even.

If you have any leftover cranberry relish, serve it up with this!


Baked Potato Soup

It's a cold night. I have potatoes, celery, carrots and onions to put to use. So...Baked Potato Soup it is!

"Bake" 4 - 6 medium potatoes,about 1 1/2 pounds, in the microwave oven (pierce them all over with a fork first).

Chop about 1/2 cup each of carrots, onion and celery. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large pot over medium low heat. Put in chopped veggies, cover and cook until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle,reserve two, peel the remaining potatoes, or leave some peel on, as desired, add to veggies and mash with a potato masher.

Stir in 1 c. chicken stock and 1 1/2 c. milk to veggies and potatoes, salt and pepper to taste. I also added a pinch of nutmeg. Let simmer for about 20 minutes.

While soup is simmering, cook 4 or 5 pieces of bacon in the microwave, covered with a paper towel, for 1 minute per slice. When cool, drain and crumble. Add about 2/3 of the bacon to the soup, along with about a Tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary and the reserved baked potatoes, chopped. Continue to simmer until you are ready to eat, which should be fairly soon after smelling all of this! You may need to add about another 1/2 c. of milk prior to serving. (I did.)

Serve topped with a little more crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar.