Tag Archive: ham

Savory Breakfast Muffins

Cracked Egg by vicviciniI really need to make more time for blogging. Wait no, I just need more time, in general. More often then not, I’m left wondering “…where did all my time go?” but I already know. Such is life, where I barely have time to do anything anymore and it’s almost depressing (notice I say almost) but suddenly amidst all this – it’s Summer!! Can I get a hip, hip hooray? 😉 I’m not thinking “yay, it’s Summer,” I’m more like: “thank GOD it’s Summer,” and I’ll be thinking that all this week until the wow effect of this wonderful season wears off.

So what’s good about Summer? Everything you forgot about over Winter. Sunshine, popsicles, sidewalk chalk, iced tea, picnics, bubbles, watermelon, need I go on (because I have a tendency to do that…) I’m not exactly sure why I love Summer so much, I just know it’s not Winter, and how blessed that is.

I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of traveling lately and on my travels I also got to stay with family 🙂 It was on this last trip that I discovered The Gourmet Kitchen: Mushrooms, a semi-old South African illustrated cookbook sitting on a back shelf. After flipping through the first few pages, I thought I’d just write down the recipes that I wanted to make and get to it later, but I quickly realized that I wanted to make every single one! Don’t you hate it when that happens? So far I’ve made 7 recipes from this cookbook made for mushroom lovers: (1) mushroom omelet , (2) duck, mushroom & black bean stirfry, (3) savory mushroom & cheese muffins (these ones!), (4) spicy bean, mushroom, and chorizo stew, and (5) marinated mushrooms. Coming up next week: mixed mushroom tempura! Yessss.

So back to my issue with time. Now that I’ve returned from my travels, I find myself more often on the go than chillin’ in the crib. More than that, my day starts first thing in the morning, like everybody else who have kids 🙂 Introducing…the breakfast muffin!?! These aren’t your greasy calorie bombs you’ll find in Starbucks, I’m talking homemade, no guilt goodness of the best kind. I really can’t take sugar, or pastries (unfortunately), or super sweet things in the morning either so this is a godsend for me 😛 And when it comes to these muffins, thBellaere’s room for experimenting. I added the ham and chives to my recipe here, I also used more cheese and an extra egg on my second batch, just for fun 🙂 I don’t really find (or I guess look) for buttermilk anymore, so I ended up making my own instead (with milk & water, or milk & vinegar) to make the recipe.

The star ingredient in these superstar muffins? The mushrooms. It’s too easy of an answer, especially with all that talk about mushroom cookbooks, but the “proof is in the pudding,” as they say, or in this case it’s in the batter because mushrooms add a whole lot more than taste. For one, you don’t add any additional butter, just what you cook the mushrooms in so already, it’s a tad bit healthier 🙂 Secondly, mushrooms contribute moisture and pack a lot of taste for being as small as they shrink too after sizzling in butter for 5 minutes.

My advice? Substitute mushrooms in for the next ingredient you can’t seem to find in the grocery store. I throw thinly sliced mushrooms into soup, pickle them like cucumbers, and use them whole as dippers in broth & cheese fondue. There’s such a thing as mushroom pate, and if you’re fresh out of steak (or the cash required to get those hunks of meat), fry up some portobellos just like you would a filet. Like most things, mushrooms get better when they’re cooked in wine, sherry, or marsala. I do my portobello “steaks” with red wine sauce, as I pretend to be a pro at this whole vegetarian thing 😉

Breakfast Muffins with Mushrooms, Ham, and Fresh Chives


3 Tbs. butterSavoury Muffins

150g or 5oz of mushrooms, chopped

250g or 9 oz flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

75g or 3oz grated parmesan or gran pardona cheese (or more, if you prefer)

100g or 4oz ham, cubed or sliced

1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

250ml or 8fl. oz buttermilk

salt & cracked pepper

1 egg

(1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. (2) When the pan is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring 0cassionally, until the moisture evaporates, 5-6 minutes total. Remove from heat and mix in the ham and fresh chives. Let cool uncovered. (3) Prepare a muffin pan or put 12 paper muffin liners on a baking tray. (4) In a large bowl, mix together the baking powder and half of the grated cheese. (5) In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is just combined. It should be a little lumpy. (6) Scoop a generous spoonful of batter into each of the muffins liners, they should be about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese and a dash of salt & cracked pepper. (7) Bake the muffins 24 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and a fork comes out clean from the middle. Transfer to a wooden board to cool. Reheat muffins for breakfast or eat cold on a busy day!

Makes 12 muffins

chivesMy question: What’s your go-to breakfast dish?

I’m talking about the meal that lights your fire. For some, it’s dried fruit & muesli, for others it’s a classic omelet. I’m pretty predictable in that I don’t want to do much of anything in the morning, let alone eat so if there’s going to be breakfast, it better be hot.

I’m a sucker for the American classics and would choose bacon and eggs (and tomatoes, lots of tomatoes) over oatmeal, any day. The thing is I never have the time and if there’s somebody making breakfast, it’s unfortunately not me 😦

Is some of this sounding familiar? Try making these muffins the night before and you won’t have to stress, just nibble them on your way to work or in the middle of class, like I end up doing…





Kale Ceasar Salad

salad-carol-scottSo it seems we find ourselves in the New Year (yay!) and yet in the depths of Winter…still. Oh but it’s not so bad, right? And there’s of course more than comfort food around to lift our spirits 🙂 I am happy to remember all those winter foods that weren’t in season and weren’t around, even a couple months ago. And somehow, I’m now hungrier – all the time! 😦 Mostly, I just end up wanting to make soup, but it’s good to diversify. And this brings me to my post.

So, is salad in season? No. But Kale is. I know what you’re thinking. Salad. Bor-ing. Ceasar, bleh – but no, I promise you this is worth the effort. Because, let’s just be honest here – caesar is awesome – emperor actually, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for anchovies BUT then there’s CAESAR (I am trying to make my point, although I may just end up being redundant, but seriously) there are other perks to the wintertime salad. First, you cancaesar_salad scratch most fruit off that list because, darn, it’s just not ripe or even available and the first rule of any caesar is that it’s all about salty. In the absence of sweeter fillers, it’s good to add a go-to-protein or two to the salad that’ll contribute some texture and quantity. My choice: cubed cheddar cheese (instead of Parmesan) and ham, but the recipe I used suggested roasted chicken too. Remember, science (as reported by the Business Insider) just debunked 5 of the silly myths about meat that are out there so now we know that it is healthy, a great source of protein, our bodies can (and do) digest it well, and that it does not cause disease, or make you fat. Thank you, science.

Julius_Caesar_Coustou_LouvreThe secret ingredient here? Brown rice. I know I hate rice too, hate it. It’s the absence of something, I think, what’s it called? Oh yeah: flavor. But what’s the second rule about making a caesar salad? (I’m totally making this up, but still) It must have carbs. CARBS, say what, how can that be a rule?! Ask the Romans, they invented this. I’m only kidding, this dish is very American so I think it’s safe to assume that for it to be a caesar salad, there must be some carbohydrates in it. So the typical caesar has croutons and I try to avoid these tasty little treats full of empty calories (darn!) You know what packs a ton of (not empty) wholesome calories and can count itself as a good carb? That’s right, rice. Brown rice happens to be holier than thou when it comes to getting whole grains. Well thank god it’s good for something. I first came across this recipe in last September’s Cooking Light. Granted it called for quinoa, but brown rice is just as good.dressing

The labor intensive part of any salad is in the processing or chopping of all the raw veggies. The bad news? Caesar dressing from the store is over-rated and has waaaay too much sodium in it. The good news? You can make your own in about 24 seconds if you have handy some of the classic ingredients like a couple anchovies (yes, those slippery little suckers), olive oil, light milk or creme fraiche, and lemon. For me, the key to saving time in making this recipe lies in using a blender to puree everything – but this can just as easily be hand-chopped and mixed well.

I’ve included a quick & easy infographic from Women’s Health that breaks down all kinds of salad dressings you can make in 3 minutes, like a boss. Talk about easy, so you aren’t required to make creamy, salty dressing if you don’t want to; Greek, Honey Mustard, and Asian Dressing would all go just as well here 🙂

salad dressings

Kale Caesar Salad with Brown Rice, Bell Peppers, and Ham


(for the salad)Brown-Rice

4.7 dl (about 2 cups) brown rice

1 bunch of kale (any color)

1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed

3 bell peppers, seeded & sliced

2 red onions, thinly slicedkale

500g (or 2 cups) cubed ham

5 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

2 anchovies, packed in oil

2 Tbs. hot water

1 lemon, juiced

1 dl (1/2 cup) creme fraiche or light milk

1/2 dl (or 1/4 cup) olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs. English (or Worcestershire) sauce

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the brown rice according to package instructions and let cool completely. (2) Wash the kale and remove the stems, chopping the leaves and putting all greens into a large salad bowl. (3) Add all the other chopped salad ingredients including the brown rice, cheddar cheese, onions, peppers, ham, and tomatoes. (4) To make the dressing, combine the anchovies, hot water, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, creme fraiche, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Pulse until the dressing is creamy and smooth. Season to taste with plenty of salt & cracked pepper (5) When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and heap into bowls, no bread needed, garnished with more cracked pepper and a wedge of lemon. 🙂

Serves 4

cheeseYou’d be amazed just how much I made of this and just how fast it all “disappeared.” I really planned for leftovers but caesar is another one of those things that gets really good by just chillin’ in the fridge. Amazing.

My challenge for the new year: go-to-snacks that I can assemble in less than 10 minutes. Got any ideas for me? Please share! I guess healthy is a priority but emphasis on the easy/quick to assemble part.

Question for this post & its readers: what is your favorite salad dressing ever?!


A Little Bit of Class

Next week I’ll be moving into my own apartment (yay, finally!) a little ways out of the city so these are the last few days I’m sharing a kitchen with another household. As such, I wanted to prepare a meal for our hosts as a way to thank them for putting up with crazy students for tenants/roommates over the last 2 1/2 months. My original plans to make something big and home-style changed when I realized just how much work that involved (and what little time I actually had to be cooking this week) so instead I went for a recipe that was simple, fast, and classy–a fanciful dish if you will, that makes use of some unusual ingredients. I shall explain what I mean 🙂

My inspiration for cooking this recipe in particular came from our host’s amazing garden; in this garden there’s a beautifully huge rhubarb plant (and I mean huge) with big leaves and bright red stalks that is still clinging to life as it gets colder and colder, rainier and rainier every day :-[ I was flipping through some old recipes I’d stockpiled from the States and came across a rather unique pasta dish from Cucina La Italiana that uses fresh pasta and a Rhubarb-Dill sauce; when I saw it, I thought–this is it!!

The original recipe was vegetarian but when I mentioned this small fact to the males I witnessed some frowning and head shakes so I bulked the meal up with little cubes of ham (or as they say in Danish, skinke) which were already cooked and naturally sweet to go along with the rhubarb sauce. The Cucina recipe called for making your own pasta which I would absolutely attempt were it not for the incredible amount of time and necessary equipment you would need to do so (next time Skye, next time…) Luckily for me fresh pasta is still easy to attain and can be found in the refrigerated section of the market (and it cooks much faster than the dried stuff). The part of this recipe you must fully commit yourself to is the sauce, and it’s pretty easy in my opinion, that and it’s the most fun to make–just stirring, adding, and thickening. I love the pinkish color Rhubarb gives food and with a touch of white wine, some fresh dill, and plenty of butter I think this meal has a bit of class (love that word) and lots of deliciousness }:-)

The star ingredient in this recipe is (can you guess?) rhubarb!! If you haven’t worked with this plant before (and it is indeed a plant, looks kinda like a massive thing of lettuce but it’s definitely not) just make sure you don’t eat the leaves as they’re slightly toxic :[ the stalks however–the crispest, most colorful part of the plant–are what you should focus on; you can coarsely chop the rhubarb stalks for the sauce and cook over medium heat so the sugars will slowly release and the pieces will naturally soften too. The best part is it takes no time at all…

Ham and Pine Nut Linguine with a Rhubarb-Dill Sauce


(for the pasta)

16 oz. fresh linguine

1/2 lb. fully-cooked ham (cubed)

1 package (1/2 cup) pine nuts

1 cup golden raisins

1 bunch fresh dill, minced

2 Tbs. butter

(for the sauce)

1 cup white wine

2 medium stalks of rhubarb

2 cups cream

4 shallots, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. butter


sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Soak the golden raisins in a bowl with hot water for 15 minutes until softened, then drain and set aside. Coarsely chop the pine nuts or crush with a can while still in the bag (it’s easier:-). Thoroughly wash the rhubarb stalks and split lengthwise, split again, and then coarsely chop into smaller pieces. (2) To make the sauce, heat the cream, shallots, and white wine over medium heat until simmering; simmer an additional 2 minutes before adding all the rhubarb pieces. Let sauce cook until rhubarb is softened, about 10 minutes. Mix 3 Tbs. of flour in a cup with warm water to smooth out any lumps and then stir into the sauce. Whisking often, add 2 Tbs. butter and cook the sauce until thickened, 5-8 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. (3) In a large saute pan, melt 1 Tbs. butter and add cubes of ham, cooking over high heat to brown the sides (add a little white wine if the ham starts to stick too much). When browned, move the ham bits to the side of the pan and melt another tablespoon of butter in the center, adding all the pine nuts and stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat and mix in softened raisins and fresh dill, stirring well; let cook for 1 minute and then cover and remove from heat. (4) Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until soft, about 4 minutes, stirring to prevent the strands from sticking together. Drain pasta and return to pot, adding the ham and pine nut mixture. (5) When ready to serve, mix all of the sauce with the cooked linguine, stirring well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish plates of pasta with little sprigs of dill.

Serves 4

Well, I’m pleased to have made something as colorful and luxurious as this dish, but next week I will have to go back to utilitarian cooking :-(I won’t even have pots, or silverware hmmm…) I’m thinking with all this room for possibility, the outlook seems promising, so wish me luck!

My question: What is another sugary/sweet sauce that goes well with pasta?