Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hams, Hams Everywhere

Welcome to my adventure in Ham Land. I have decided to take on the challenge of helping you to decide what type of ham to cook for Easter. A few years ago I thought that a ham was a ham - all pink and precooked. Little did I know that I would soon be thrust into the world of meats. A tiny part of me is even a qualified butcher. I worked along side our butcher Rocky (he has been cutting meat for about 50 years) for about a year and a half and sometimes have to fill in here and there. So I have learned a thing or two about meat or about the different cuts of meat, should I say. I am getting off subject, back to the hams.

A ham is actually the pigs butt and back leg. There is a shank side and a butt side to every ham, and hams are HUGE. Sometimes one whole ham can weigh up to 25 lbs depending on the size of the pig. The hams we are all used to are the smoked hams - precooked, pink, some are spiral cut. I am slightly bias but I do feel that our Old Fashioned Smoked Hams are the best on the market. Maybe its the smoking process or maybe it's the way we raise our pigs - the good old fashioned way, either way it's one of my favorites.
 A few years ago however we found several of our customers where asking about a FRESH ham, not as in 'not frozen' but as in 'not smoked.' I have heard of so many people cooking this special type of ham so I decided to try it out myself. I found a great recipe, modified it to my liking and stuck it in brine to begin this new, FRESH adventure. I found out fresh hams are delicious, but they do NOT taste like a ham. When I bit into my super moist fresh ham I didn't experience any smoked flavor what so ever. It was just like biting into a yummy pork roast - granted I even made this great sauce out of the apple cider drippings and I loved every bite, but something was missing for me.

I found out that when I want HAM, I want an Old Fashioned Smoked Ham. But if I want to sweep my family members off their feet with something new I will cook a Fresh Ham. Both are wonderful in their very own unique way.

 I cooked this ham in my oven, but since it didn't fit in my dutch oven very well I used the inside part of my crock pot. You could even use a 9x13 cake pan if necessary.

 I put about 2" of water in the bottom.
 Covered it tightly with tinfoil and placed in the oven at 350 degrees. I have a convection oven that automatically changed the temperature to 325 degrees. I let it cook for about 3 hours and then checked on it. It looked good, heated all the way through and I could have easily taken it out and sliced it for dinner. But I waited because something special happens when you wait.
 Back into the oven it went for another 3 hours, covered back up tightly with tinfoil. When I took it out this time the meat was literally falling off the bone. I could stick my fork into the extremely juicy ham and it was just falling apart - delicious.
Here it is on my plate and my favorite way to eat it.

APPLE CIDER FRESH HAM coming tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quick tip about baking with Sucanat

Due to my Step-Grandpa having a heart attack a week ago Sunday and my sweet baby girls first birthday party 2 days ago, my mind hasn't been on my blog :-(. 
But with all the craziness going on around here I did find time a little while ago to take on one of my son's favorite hobbies - baking cookies. In an attempt to make my cookies healthier ( like all that yumminess could ever be considered "healthy") I decided to switch things up a bit.  I used some whole wheat organic flour and some sucanat - trying out all the great bulk foods my mom is now carrying. I of course used our healthy - free range eggs, sea salt, peanut butter and the best butter in the world - no shortening here - YUCK! All good ingredients, right?

Did I mention these were the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top? Maybe not the healthiest choice to begin with :-).

 Here is a picture of them before I tried to make them "healthier"

While these cookies were mixing I did notice a funny smell, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.My cookie dough mixed great and cooked up just fine. I carefully watched them bake because the dough is much darker than normal. 
 Once I removed them from the oven I could hardly wait to take a bite of my delicious cookie concoction... I wish I could say they were all I had hoped for. 

They weren't.

They tasted just like a molasses cookie with a chocolate kiss on top. Needless to say, I thought I really liked molasses. Maybe I do, but not in my Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss cookie. It was the down fall of the century for me right next to burning all of my cookies for my then boyfriend/ now husband. For the record I am a much better cook now.

In an attempt to rectify the situation I decided to make a batch of Oatmeal cookies for my hubby with the whole wheat flour and sucanat. This was met with surprisingly better results. Something in the oatmeal must have absorbed some of the molasses because they were really good.

So in closing, beware when you are using sucanat when baking.

I will be trying out lots of other things in the near future but I think the next time I want my favorite cookie I won't be using sucanat.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Bestest Breakfast!

Who doesn't like waffles or pancakes of some sort? 
My family loves them, especially Ty & Aurora. If you are looking for something quick, easy, and a whole lot healthier than Bisquick...look no further!

Cinnamon Waffles ~ Perfect to top
 with butter and maple syrup... heavenly.
I came across this great recipe in Sheryl Shenefelt's, C.N. book "The Guide to Healthy Eating". What a fantastic book by the way Click here to read more about the book or purchase it.

Here are the basic ingredients. I did drift from the recipe just a bit - but basically because I used what I had on hand. 
2 cups whole grain Spelt flour
* I used some of the sprouted whole wheat flour we now carry in our bulk foods.
1 2/3 cups whole yogurt (plain)
* I used Thomas Organic Creamery's Vanilla yogurt (one of my fav's, plus we also carry that as well).
3 eggs
1 tablespoon coconut oil - melted
* I have made it with both coconut and sesame.
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2 tablespoons filtered water

Combine spelt flour and yogurt and let soak over night (I did this the first time but figured since I was using the sprouted flour it wasn't necessary the next time around, plus I wanted to make several batches for the freezer).

 After everything is all mixed in, they are ready to cook.
I believe my favorite part of making the waffles is putting them in a big ziplock bag and freezing them. Then in the morning instead of fussing over breakfast, I can take them out and pop them in the toaster. 
What a quick and easy breakfast for my family. Knowing what we put in our bodies is so important and being able to make something that tastes this good is even better.
If you are looking for an alternative to eggs, cereal and oatmeal - try these out. You won't be disappointed. 

*Super happy to be able to get most of these ingredients directly from my mom. If I didn't work for her, I would be getting home delivery for sure!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot

I must be on a pork craze or something. Everything that I have been making for my blog turns out to be pork. Coming soon will be, Breaded Pork Chops, Melt in Your Mouth Pork Loin Roast, Pork Tenderloin, Fresh and Smoked Hams... the list seems to be endless. I do know a lot of people who do not eat pork. I can eat it knowing where it came from (John Henry's Meats,  of course), what it was fed (mixed grains such as corn and oats - even some nice alfalfa hay not old food from a restaurant or any soy, which puts my mind at ease) and how it was treated (humanely and able to enjoy many days out rutting around outside). So my conscience is clear and I feed my family pork on a regular basis. 
While I was pregnant with my daughter Aurora, I could hardly stand the taste of poultry. We pretty much lived on beef and pork for 9 months. I am so glad to be back to eating chicken again but have so many recipes to share from those days. I hope you enjoy them.

Pulled pork in the slow cooker is super easy and relatively fast. Other than letting the pork cook on low during the day you can have the rest done in about 5-10 mins. 

Below you will see my pork roast - pulled pork is best made out of the pork shoulder (this is also called the pork butt or boston butt, the words are used interchangeably but they refer to the bone in shoulder part of the pig) . This cut of meat is bone in and is nicely marbled with fat. Cooking it with the bone adds a lot of flavor and the fat marbling gives you moist and juicy pulled pork.

I typically season my pork butt with Lemon Pepper, garlic powder (if you had fresh garlic that would be even better.  I didn't have any on hand so I used the powder) Salt and 1 Med to Lg Onion - sliced.
 Place half of the sliced onions into the bottom of the crock pot with a little bit of water and seasonings.
 Put in your roast and remaining onions and apply seasonings liberally.
 Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hrs depending on the size of the roast you purchased. Wait a minimum of 6 hours before removing the lid to check it. I have read that every time you remove the crock pot lid you need to add 20 mins to your cooking time because it loses so much heat. I have found this to be mostly correct - in my earlier cooking days I was checking the roast every hour and it took forever to finally get done.
 You will know when the pork roast is done by sticking a fork in it. If you twist the fork and all the meat starts to fall apart it is ready to go. My husband hates onions but the roast will not taste anywhere near as wonderful if I didn't include them in the cooking part. So I scrap them off, shred the meat - basically pull it apart with a fork and remove the bone. Then I add some barbeque sauce to taste. Bring on the buns and lets have a picnic, some raw veggies and some homemade dip makes this meal a winner for my family.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Brining

After being sick for a little over two weeks I can not tell you how happy I am to have meals in the freezer and easy recipes on hand. When you have kids the best thing you can do for your family is to plan ahead. I believe my husband and kids have survived on homemade chili and chicken most of the week. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures - this week I have a cooking tip. 

I have several customers tell me about how they brine their turkey for Thanksgiving. I recently made a pork loin roast with a salt and brown sugar brine. Both are delicious.

This week I decided to bake some boneless skinless chicken breasts. I have tried to get the temperature right so that they aren't dry but are fully cooked. Let me just say - this is super tough to do. But that all changed when I took out 4 pieces of boneless skinless breast and brined them overnight in a 1/2 cup of sea salt, a gallon of water in a large bowl. The next day I made them for dinner for my family. I butterflied 2 of them, rubbed pesto all over them, and then rolled them up. The other 2 I did not butterfly, I just rubbed pesto all over the outside. I wasn't sure if cutting them would affect the purpose of the brine. I am pleased to announce that even the butterflied chicken turned out delicious and very moist. I baked the chicken breast uncovered in a glass dish at 400 degrees for about 20 - 25 mins. I wanted to check if they were done without taking them out and cutting them up because they didn't brown a lot . I grabbed my meat thermometer and checked to see if it registered 170 degrees for the internal temp. I think I am going to be investing in a new thermometer very soon. It was close enough so I took them out and covered the dish with tinfoil. I let them sit, fully covered for about 15 more minutes. I know that with pork and beef - if you cover them after you take them out of a hot oven they will cook a little bit longer. I decided to give it a try with the chicken. It worked great! Even my husband and kids commented on how moist the chicken was. They ate on these for about 3 days and even warming them up didn't dry them out. I am definitely sold on brining.

Please share if there is anything special you brine or your thoughts on trying to cook your chicken breast this way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rice Cooker - Country Style Ribs

I am not sure I know a man who can resist 
BBQ Ribs. 

This is my husband's favorite meal of all time. It is something he always ordered at a restaurant when we went out, until I developed this recipe.  Now it is my favorite thing to make when we have company or if I just want to score some brownie points!

A little while back my husband's grandma bought me a Wolfgang Puck rice cooker, which I love by the way. This is my favorite thing to cook in there, but you can also use a dutch oven or any other baking dish that you can cover tightly even if you need to use tin foil. For Christmas my mom bought me a cast iron dutch oven that I can hardly wait to try out, but I haven't made it that far yet. I will however update this post when I have had a chance to make the ribs in it. 

I should mention that I make this recipe with both the Baby Back Ribs and the Country Style Ribs - in the winter I prefer the country style ribs ( they are actually sliced pork shoulder - which is also referred to as pork butt) They have a little bit of bone which is very important for flavor but they are very meaty. 

Country Style Ribs - BBQ:

1 pkg or 4 pieces of J.H. Country Style Ribs or 1 slab of Baby Back Ribs

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

3/4 cup Brown Sugar

1 12oz bottle dark Beer
(I use Guinness)

2/3 cup Thick & Spicy BBQ Sauce

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

Place olive oil in the bottom of your pan and heat.

 Pour 3/4 cup packed brown sugar in to a bowl and roll ribs - be sure to coat well. This will help to create your caramelized sauce at the end. 
Once coated, brown ribs in oil.

Once browned, add any brown sugar you have remaining as well as the beer.

Don't forget the BBQ sauce & Worcestershire sauce

 It is all foamy and ready to cook now - Secure the lid and press cook.
Or it's ready to go into the oven now.


 My rice cooker shuts off automatically when it's done - Usually after an hour.
If cooking in the oven you may want to check it after an hour as well.

 I usually start to break apart the ribs at this point. When using Baby Back ribs you do not need to do this, but the Country Style ribs have much more meat and you want to be sure you cover them with the sauce. Let stand for about 15 minutes in the sauce - it will thicken slightly. 

It is time to eat up!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hearty Beef Stew

Brrrr.... it's cold outside. Haha! Just kidding. Here in Michigan the weather changes its mind just about every hour. I had a surprise this week, we had a day of almost 60 degrees, in January to say the least. 

Almost any time of year I am in the mood for beef stew. It's warming from the inside out and oh so good. 

Here is a recipe I just made up for you. As always, feel free to be creative yourself and use whatever you have available, but this is what I did - this time at least :-) I make a large batch, we eat it for dinner and lunch the next day, then I freeze the rest for later. Freezing for later is a HUGE TIME SAVER!

*Several of these ingredients came from my own garden or something I had canned previously. It sure does save a lot of time and money when I have most of the items already prepared for this. It is also a great feeling to know where your food came from.  

 Beef Barley Stew:

4 cups *Beef Broth
3 lbs J.H. Stew Meat
2 cups *Tomato Sauce
8 cups Water
2/3 cup Lentils
1/2 cup Pearled Barley
1 small bag baby carrots
6 med. Red Potatoes
4 cups *Green Beans
1 cups *Frozen Corn
1 tablespoon Lemon Pepper
3 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Parsley
2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
Salt to Taste - I had to add about 1/2 - 1 tablespoon to mine. 

* These are items from my garden or things I have canned.

The step-by-step below: 

Be sure to try John Henry's Beef Stew Meat from Sirloin Tip.

I start my meat a little bit different- it takes a little bit longer but it isn't any more work. In my crock pot (6qt) I place the 3 lbs of Beef stew meat - and I slice 2 small to medium onions to place in there as well.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and lemon pepper (add any other seasonings you would like). Add about 1 1/2 cups of water to crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours.

Once meat is done cooking it is time to start the actual beef stew... Yay!
Start by dumping the entire contents of the crock pot into your stock pot. You will have a nice beef base. Next add the rest of the ingredients.

Dice potatoes and slice carrots and throw those in there as well.... feel free to add any other veggies you would like. 

It's basically going to look like brown water with a bunch of veggies swimming around... now simmer for a few hours and it will come to life. 

After a few hours your stew will evolve into this thick deliciousness. The barley becomes plump and all the flavors mix together. Pure heaven for those cold evenings or anytime.

Beef Barley Stew.... it's whats for dinner :-)