Jan 19, 2011

Ham and Sweet Potato Hash

I like breakfast foods almost any time of the day, and this is a nice change up from traditional breakfast foods. I especially like the mix of sweet and savory in this hearty dish. Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons light cream
10 ounces ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large eggs

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid and microwave for about 6 minutes, until the potatoes are tender but not overcooked (stir the potatoes halfway through cooking). Afterwards, drain off any excess liquid and set the potatoes aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes and the cream. Using the back of a spatula, press the potatoes into a somewhat even layer and let them cook without stirring, for about 2 minutes, so they can start to get nicely browned. Flip the potato hash mixture, one portion at a time, and lightly repack into the skillet to let the potatoes brown on the other side. Continue this flipping process every few minutes until the potatoes are nicely browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the ham and lightly repack the hash into the skillet. Using the spatula, make 4 shallow divots, about 2 inches wide, in the surface of the potato mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper and then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Let the mixture cook until the eggs are set to your liking, about 5-7 minutes. Serves 4.

Jan 15, 2011

Easy Microwave Caramels

I LOVE caramels, especially soft caramels! I love the sweetness, the butteriness, and the smooth texture. So I'm thrilled that I can now make my own homemade caramels, thanks to my friends Elisa and Angie (see Elisa's recipe here). And these are some of the best caramels I've ever had.

In the past, I've been afraid to try making something like this. Candy making intimidates me. But I shouldn't have worried. This recipe is a lot easier than I expected. I tinkered with the microwave times the first couple of batches to get the desired consistency I was after, but now I've got it down. I am in heaven!

1 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1 pint whipping cream
Dash of salt
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 2/3 cup cream in a microwave-safe bowl (it needs to be a deep bowl because the caramel mixture bubbles up quite a bit, and you don't want it to spill over into the bottom of your microwave; I use the liner from my slow cooker) and mix until blended. Cook the mixture on high power for 9 minutes, then stir in 2/3 cup more cream. Cook the mixture for another 9 minutes. Then stir in butter, vanilla, and the rest of the cream (butter should be completely melted). Cook for another 8 minutes. Check to see if caramel is cooked to soft-ball stage by dropping a little in a cup of cold water. If necessary, continue cooking the caramel one minute at a time until it is done. Pour into a well-buttered 8 x 8-inch pan and allow to cool and set up. Cut the caramel into pieces, wrap, and enjoy! By the way, I found that a local store sells caramel wrappers, which I hadn't known were available. They are pre-cut and clear, which makes the wrapped caramels more attractive, especially compared to wax paper.

NOTE: cooking times may vary depending on your microwave. The times above work perfectly for MY microwave, and I've made these caramels about a dozen times now. But I know that a few people have tried this recipe and ended up with overdone caramel. So I'd suggest maybe reducing the cooking times a bit and using the cold water method mentioned above to test whether the candy is at the soft ball stage. You can always cook the caramel longer, of course, but there isn't much you can do when it is overcooked. However, once you have the times down, this recipe is VERY easy.

Jan 8, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

This is my kind of recipe. Just a few ingredients, easy to prepare, and really tasty! I had this tonight, along with my baked beans recipe. The world seems brighter after such a delicious meal! (I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com)

1 5-pound pork roast (shoulder or butt)
Salt and pepper
2 (12 fluid ounce) cans root beer
1 28-ounce bottle barbecue sauce (you can use your favorite; I used Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory and Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce)
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
Hamburger buns, lightly toasted

Season with salt and pepper and place pork roast in a crockpot; pour root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours (the actual length of time may vary according to individual slow cooker). Drain well. Remove pork from the crockpot, take out any fat or bone, shred, then return to slow cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce, garlic salt, and onion. Add a little water, if necessary, to add moisture. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Serve over hamburger buns. (Not sure how many this serves. I'd guess that it makes enough for about 20 sandwiches. But you can use a larger pork roast, if need be.)

Jan 3, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes

I was assigned to do a potato dish for our family Christmas party this year, so I thought I'd try to find a good basic recipe for scalloped potatoes, and this is it. Cheesy and potatoey and filling. Plus it allowed me to practice on my new mandoline. This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (5 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 bay leaves
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the potatoes, broth, cream, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves. Transfer the mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Gently press the potatoes into an even layer and sprinkle the cheddar over the top. Bake until the cream is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.