I said it before, “I’m NOT a great cook,” but I enjoy it when I am in the mood. However, I demand a certain criteria – simple and fast! One obstacle that contributes to my ineptness in the kitchen is that I am SIMPLY SLOW! As a result, simple and fast recipes take me a long time. Because I am so self-conscious about my cooking-challenged disabilities, I prefer to cook alone – unless the helper is as handicapped as I am.
As recorded, our Thanksgiving feast was the essence of simple and fast, but we didn’t have many guests (2) at our table. For the Christmas week, I would be serving the multitudes, and I was SCARED! Now I have super-talented cooks for daughters-in-law, but they had their hands full preparing for December 25th. And, like M. Thenardie in Les Miserables, I felt it was crucial for me to be “the master of the house,” including the kitchen. This meant that I create dishes I am confident in cooking – which aren’t many. Even doing that is no guarantee of success, but it ups the odds! I also like to try a couple of new recipes to surprise and maybe even impress my guests.
To accomplish this cooking plan, I needed to prepare dishes ahead of time so I could create in solitude and take my time. That meant being more organized that I usually am, but I am happy to report that I DID IT! I cooked up my fast and easy lasagna and chili before our California kids arrived, and I also whipped up a NEW sauce to go with Christmas Day’s ham dinner. I found this recipe in Costco’s free cook book , and I want to share it with you.
Ham with Apple-Cranberry Salsa
1 spiral-sliced hickory-smoked ham
4 medium cooking apples (I used Granny Smiths)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup butter
1 cup walnut pieces (I used pecans)
1 cup dried cranberries (I used cranberries – tee hee)
1/2 cup PURE maple syrup
1 packet of spiral ham glaze mix
Follow directions on packaging to cook the ham. To prepare the salsa, core and chop apples. Toss with lemon juice to keep from browning. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts or pecans and cook, stirring until walnuts/pecans smell “toasted.” Stir in apples, dried cranberries, maple syrup and ham glaze mix, stirring well to dissolve the glaze mix. Bring to a boil. To serve, spoon salsa over ham slices. Makes 12-16 servings. YUMMY!
I created another delicious recipe from that cook book for our Christmas Day salad that you might like to try.
Baby Mixed Greens with Apple Pear, Pecans and Feta
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. orange juice
3 T. finely chopped pecans
2 T. honey
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 c. loosely packed baby mixed greens
1 apple pear (I tripled the recipe, and I used Red Anjou pears AND Gala apples because I couldn’t find the apple pears AND because some of my pears ripened too much.)
1/3 c. pomegranate seeds or dried cranberry (I used cranberries)
1/3 cup feta cheese (I’m not a big fan of feta, so I used the more flavorful bleu cheese)
To prepare the dressing, combine olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, pecans, honey, and salt and pepper to taste in a salad bowl. Mix until well blended. Add greens and toss to coat with dressing. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Top with apple pear slices. Sprinkle with seeds or cranberries and cheese. Makes 4 servings.
To save time, we just tossed all the salad ingredients together with the dressing and loaded up the salad plates. It wasn’t as pretty, but it worked and was DELICIOUS!
Yet another recipe I want to share is also from the good old Costco cookbook. I served this dish the Wednesday before Christmas just before we ventured out into the cold to visit Temple Square. Chilli would have been the better choice, but I planned that for a simple Christmas Eve meal. Most of the fam LIKED this dish, but I LOVED it!
Thai Chicken Fettuccine
1 T. vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 c. piquante sauce
1/4 c. chunky peanut butter
2. T. honey
2 T. orange juice
1 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. ground ginger
3 c. hot cooked fettuccine (the recipe says this equals 16 oz. but 8 oz. actually added up to 3 cups!)
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional – I didn’t add this only because I FORGOT!)
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes until it’s lightly browned, stirring often. Stir in picante’ sauce, peanut butter, honey, orange juice, soy sauce and ginger. Cook and stir until chicken is cooked through. Add fettuccine. Toss the mixture until evenly coated. Top with cilantro if desired. Makes 4 servings.
I doubled this recipe, too. And I cooked the sauce ahead of time, reheated it before mixing it in with the fettuccine. I was nervous about the amount it created, so I stretched the sauce to cover more noodles. DON’T do that!
The final recipe from this illustrious source is the casserole G.E. and I mixed together for Christmas morning breakfast. This wasn’t a bake ahead, but it was easy to throw together. (I can cook with G.E. in the kitchen without getting nervous as he is less experienced and slower than I am!)
Hearty Egg Casserole
1 28-oz pkg. frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes (about 6 cups) – we opted for O’Brien hash browns as they are G.E.’s favorite.
1 8 oz pkg. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (2 cups, and it was worth the time saved to buy the pre-shredded cheese!)
10 eggs, well beaten
1 c. reduced-fat sour cream (We used full-fat ‘cuz it was Christmas, for heaven’s sake!)
1 c. skim or low-fat milk
2 T. honey Dijon mustard (optional – we used it. YUM!)
1 t. salt
1/4 t. ground pepper
Sliced red onion (optional – the O’Briens includes onion)
Parsley sprig (optional – why bother?)
Mixed greens (optional – what for? We served with Lehi Roller Mill Raspberry Muffins!)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Evenly coat a 13 X 9 (3 quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Evenly spread potatoes in the baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, sour cream, milk, mustard, salt and pepper until thoroughly blended. Pour over potatoes. Bake until puffed and browned and no visible liquid egg remains, about 45 minutes. (We should have cooked it 50 minutes in our oven.) Garnish with onion and parsley. Serve with mixed greens OR muffins! Makes 8 servings.
Over all, the meals were well received. The boys were happy I served my traditional au gratin potatoes – made with good old mushroom soup, canned milk and cheese – along with boring but good green beans simmered with browned onions.
Because of the craziness of preparing dinner for 19 people, I used frozen Rhodes Rolls, and they were fine, but next time I will ask one of my daughters-in-law to whip those up ahead of time.
The big reward was spending more time helping my daughter-in-law wrap gifts and playing with the grandkidlet instead of constantly cooking in the kitchen. G.E. did spend an inordinate amount of time washing up dishes, and his repeated request is to use paper plates! But most everyone pitched in to lighten the load, and we hope all had a great time visiting and renewing our love for one another.