Ham Delights

Last week, I hosted  a baby shower for two friends at our house.  Two moms, three babies.  A set of twin girls and baby boy!  I can’t wait for them to be here!  In typical fashion with this group,  the shower was really more of a cocktail party than a traditional baby shower.  The moms-to-be were good sports, sipping their Perriers, as the party went on around them.  Love those girls!

I decided to make these little bite-size ham biscuit things my mom makes for the party — it was in the evening and called for heavier hor d’oeuvres than I probably would have done during the day.  They are really simple to make, and so good.  It’s basically ham and swiss with melted butter poured over them.  The ultimate comfort food.  They are also great for a party because you can pile them up on a tray, making them great finger food!  Put these on the list for your next get-together.  I know it’s like a zillion degrees outside, but these are great for winter holiday parties as well. 

  • 2 packages of small party rolls (try finding them at the Pig; Pepperidge Farm makes good ones.  look for the kind that come in an aluminum tray, wrapped in plastic)
  • 1 lb very thinly shaved ham
  • 1 package of shredded swiss cheese
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1 splash worchestershire
  • 1 – 2 tbsp poppyseeds

Preheat oven to 350.  Take the rolls out of the package and using a bread knife, cut the rolls in half, treating them as one large roll.  Top the bottom roll with ham and then swiss.  Put the top of the roll back on and put the rolls back into the aluminum tray they came in.  Cut the individual rolls at this point, now that they are back together in the package. 

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and the rest of the ingredients together over low heat and whisk well until thoroughly melted and mixed.  Pour the mixture over the rolls, using a brush or spatula to cover the top of the rolls well. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on the top.  Serve immediately while hot.

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Fresh Popcorn

This is kind of a silly post, but I had to share one of our favorite snacks/appetizers/anytime food.  It’s freshly popped popcorn.  Not the microwave kind (which I don’t really like), but the fresh kernels popped on the stove in oil.

The popcorn gets so much hotter, crunchier and more flavorful when done properly on the stove and it really takes no more time than microwaving a big bag.  And you get a LOT more popcorn.  And it’s cheaper.  I could go on and on why it’s better for you.  But trust me, just try this the next time you need a casual appetizer, especially for a large group.  You can make as little or as much as you want and it’s so worth it!  YUM.

Freshly popped popcorn

  • 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (doesn’t have to be exact; eyeball it.  More oil for more flavor)
  • salt

In a heavy saucepan, pour in the tablespoon of olive oil and the kernels and cover with a lid, leaving it ajar just a bit to allow steam to get out, but not enough that popcorn will fly out.  Heat the pan to medium heat and let the popcorn do its thing.  When the rapid popping slows to 2 seconds between pops, take it off the heat so it won’t burn.  Usually takes about 5 minutes total.

Salt well, shake and serve!

Black Bean Dip

If you are looking for a healthy, delicious offering to bring to your Memorial Day BBQ, this is the perfect recipe. My husband asks for it all the time and while it’s originally designed as an appetizer, the leftovers work great as a side dish for lunches, too. 

It’s super-healthy, colorful and makes plenty for a large crowd. And the best part — it’s so easy, you just dump a bunch of cans together and go! Happy Memorial Day!

Black Bean Dip

  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of black-eyed peas
  • 2 cans shoepeg corn (the shoepeg part is important)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • as much chopped cilantro as you like ( I use about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 5 tbsp lime juice
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil

In a strainer over the sink, drain the corn, beans and peas, rinsing well to remove any of the canning residue and sodium.  Dump into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the tomatoes, Rotel, onion, cilantro, cumin and mix well.

Then, stir in the lime juice and vegetable oil, mixing well.  This is best when covered with plastic wrap and chilled overnight; however, you can serve immediately.  But only with Tostitos and a cold Corona.  🙂

Homemade Pizza with Chicken Sausage, Fennel and Sweet Onion

So, this was my first real attempt at homemade pizza and I must say, it was a serious success.  The flavors in this recipe were delicious together — those folks at Cooking Light know what they are doing.  There were a lot of firsts for me in this recipe.  First, chicken sausage.  What in the world is that?  Ask you butcher at — where else — Publix.  It looks just like italian sausage, just ten times healthier.  There was virtually no fat as they browned in the skillet.  While I’m talking about the sausage, you can break it into a lot smaller pieces in the skillet, Frank just likes them in bigger chunks.  It lots a little weird in these large chunks, but just go with it. 

Second ‘first’ — fennel. 

I bought a fennel bulb and had to Google it because I had no idea how to chop it or what to do with it.  Found this very informative video on the internet (what did we do before the internet, seriously?) on chopping fennel.  It’s a breeze, don’t worry.

Third ‘first’ — fresh pizza dough.  I had heard that Publix (am I obsessed?) makes incredible fresh pizza dough and I heard right, it was really good.  You can find it in their bakery section, in a small refridgerated case.

Fourth ‘first’ — pizza itself. 

But it turned out fabulously, please you MUST try this, I promise you’ll love it.  Serve with a salad of greens, tomato and red wine vinegar.  Let me know!

Pizza with Chicken Sausage, Fennel and Sweet Onion

  • 1 package of chicken sausages, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups vertically sliced sweet onion
  • 1 cub thinly sliced fennel (watch the video, I promise)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • fresh pizza dough
  • 3/4 cup of Gouda cheese, shredded (I bought a wheel of Gouda and shredded myself)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives (from my herb garden!)

Preheat oven according to the pizza dough label instructions, probably 450.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown sausage until cooked.  Remove from pan.  Add oil to pan and saute the onion and fennel with the salt, covered for 10 minutes or so, until tender and lightly browned.

In the meantime, place the dough on a lightly floured countertop.  Sprinkle about half a handful of flour on top of the doughball and roll it out with a rolling pin to desired thickness.

Move dough to nonstick cookie sheet.  Put the onion/fennel mixture on the pizza, then the gouda, then the cooked sausage. 

Bake for about 12 minutes or until crispy.  Sprinkle evenly with chopped chives and serve!

Turkey Pitas

Growing up, my mom would make these awesome little turkey pitas every so often, for parties and get-togethers.  I took them for granted, eating 3 or 4 at a time and having no idea what a ‘labor of love’, as she calls them, they are.   So, in my oblivious state,  I decided I would just whip up a pot of tomato-basil soup and some deceptively simple-looking turkey pitas really fast for our supper club Thursday night.  Not so fast.  3 hours later, I had 50 turkey pitas, only 8 of which were left after our dinner!  They are great finger-food, for tailgates, cocktail parties, and kids love them…you can make a bunch for lunches during the week, they save very well in a ziplock baggie.  I’m telling you, these things are totally awesome, but if you want to make a large number for a party, give yourself some time.  Also, I have to disclaim, these are really only for Birmingham foodies — I don’t know where else you can get these baby pitas in other towns.  *And yes, that is the Olympics on the TV in the background of the photo.  Shaun White had just won gold!

Turkey Pitas 

  • Party pitas from Naji’s Pita Gourmet Restaurant (205.945.6001)
  • Durkees (condiment brand, like a honey mustard sauce)
  • Mayo
  • Thinly shaved smoked turkey

Call Naji’s the day before (205.945.6001) and order party pitas (these are little baby ones).  You pick them up at their market, on West Valley Avenue.   Cut the tops off each pita with kitchen shears.  Carefully pull the pita apart to make the pocket.  Be careful, because they are thin and rip easily.

In a mixing bowl, stir together equal parts Durkees and mayo, maybe a bit more mayo than Durkees.  Then, spread a thin layer of the condiment mix on the inside of the pita (both sides).  Stuff with shaved turkey.  Eat one, then make another one.