Ah, The Smell of Cinnamon in the Air

October 18, 2009 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

stuffed baked apples 003  Okay.  So I’ve moaned about getting our first snow a month before usual.  I’ve also griped about missing out on the beautiful spectrum of autumn colors that usually precedes that first snow fall.  And the morning of this writing, I look out my study window to see a low, heavy blanket of gray clouds which seems to be threatening me personally,  “You’d better quit whining or we’ll really let loose with something for you to complain about.”  

So, I’m turning over that proverbial new leaf – as in flipping pages in a book, not as in making a bad pun about those poor, tired green bits of foliage still hanging limply from every tree limb in sight:  I decide to stop whining and instead search my larder for ways to bring a little snap and color to the dinner table.  With a rather ordinary main dish such as Glazed Baked Ham, I opt for a lively mix of  Stir Fried Pea Pods with Yellow Peppers and Jicama, some Roasted Russets and Sweet Potatoes, a  pan of warm Cheddar Spoon Bread, and a serendipitous version of Over-Stuffed Baked Apples for dessert.  Fall colors may be fickle, but fall flavors have never been more reliable.

Pork truly has become the “other white meat” – even when it’s pink, as in cured hams.  Todays product is available in ultra lean versions, loaded with niacin, phosphorus, selenium, and thiamin, and also offers healthy amounts of potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, Vitamib B12, and zinc.  To serve 4-6 people, depending on appetites, the simple baked ham main dish calls for: 

Hormel 81 half-ham              1/4 C honey               1/4 C cider vinegar

2 TB water                                           2 TB dry mustard            2 tsp paprika 

Line a small roasting pan with foil and place the ham in the pan.  Combine the honey, vinegar, water, mustard, and paprika; mix well.  If you are using yellow mustard from the squirt bottle, omit the water.  Brush the ham surface with the glaze.  Bake as per package instructions – usually at 325°for 20 minutes per pound. 

Slide the potatoes into the oven with the ham for the last hour of baking time: 

2 cloves garlic, crushed                                                            1 TB olive or canola oil

4 medium russet potatoes                                                 2 large sweet potatoes 

Mix the oil with the garlic in a large bowl and let stand while preparing potatoes.  Wash, dry, and cut the russets into eighths, lengthwise, then halve each wedge crosswise; peel and cut the sweet potatoes into similar size pieces.  Toss all potatoes in the bowl with the oil, then spread onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  Give them a stir half-way through the roasting time.

For the stir-fried veggies

2 yellow sweet peppers            2 C Chinese pea pods                 1 C peeled, cubed jicama 

Very simply, wash, core, and slice the sweet peppers into strips; cut the strips in half crosswise.  Wash and trim the pea pods and cut them in half crosswise.  Spray a non-stick skillet liberally with canola oil cooking spray and set it over medium heat.  Add the pepper strips and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.   Next add the pea pods and jicama to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 3-4 minutes.  

This spoon bread is a slightly lightened take-off on a version I have cooked for company for years.  To produce smiles for an everyday supper, assemble: 

2-1/2 C evaporated skim milk                      1 C yellow cornmeal                      1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking powder                                    1/2 tsp cayenne                        2 Tb butter

1 C  grated extra sharp cheddar             3 eggs, separated                   

Heat 1-1/2 cups of the milk in a heavy saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.  Remove from heat.   In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, salt, and remaining one cup of cold or room temperature milk.  Stir this mixture into the scalded milk very gradually, then return it to the stove and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Remove from heat immediately and stir in sifted baking powder, cayenne pepper, butter, and cheese. 

Beat the egg yolks until thick and creamy, and very gradually stir some of the warm cornmeal mix into the egg yolks, then stir the egg yolk mixture back into the cornmeal mixture in the pan.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the batter.  Pour the batter into a well-greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.  Bake at 400° for 15 minutes, then at 350°for  another 30-35 minutes.  This is so good, I can’t find the words. 

My dessert inspiration came from a bag of baked-goods scraps I collect in my freezer throughout the year to use as the base for Zelda’s Christmas Pudding.  (More about that in a few months.)  I happened to have a few leftover oatmeal raisin cookies in that stash, so I concocted the stuffed baked apples from the following: 

6 apples, cored                         1/4 C maple syrup                              1/4 C brandy

2 large oatmeal raisin cookies              1 C coarse-chopped raw almonds            2 -3 tsp butter 

Place the apples in a shallow casserole dish with an oven-safe cover.  Pour the maple syrup and brandy into the pan around the apples.  Bake apples at 350°for 30 minutes. Crumble the oatmeal raisin cookies to make about 1 cup and mix these crumbs with the almonds.  Remove apples from oven, uncover, and stuff each apple generously with the crumb mixture.  Dot each apple with a tiny dab of butter and spoon a bit of the pan sauce over the filled apples.  Bake another 15-20 minutes.  Serve warm.

You  already have all the spices you need baked into the homemade oatmeal cookies, and you get a  nice substantial chaw with each savory bite of sauce-basted, raisin-studded filling.  

The moral of the story?  If we can make lemonade from lemons and a tasty dessert from slightly past-their-prime cookies, then we can expect some good things to come from seemingly unappealing climatic conditions.  And lo, the sun sparkles brightly against an azure autumn sky as I compose these final lines.  God sure takes good care of us –  even us whiners.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , .

Fall Falls Short The Wounded Healer

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