Category Archives: Holidays

An Itallian Birthday

I even made menu's for the Birthday Party, Using my Dads name, Jerry, in Italian to create his own resteraunt.

I even made menu’s for the Birthday Party, Using my Dads name, Jerry, in Italian to create his own restaurant.

No, we are not Italian, but my Dad’s favorite place to eat is Olive Garden, so I wanted to create his own Italian restaurant for his birthday, complete with Menus. These were fun to make and each guest had one. Since I, of course, do not know a lick of Italian I found this groovy site on the internet that helped me change my English words to the language of love.

My inspiration for the recipes came from an old hardcover Italian cookbook my mom picked up for me from an estate sale. Inside is a handwritten message from the original purchaser to his mother

“To My perpetually chubby Mom. Christmas 1958. From your always hungry son.”

I bet she couldn’t hold back the tears when she opened up this very thoughtful gift from her son on that Christmas morning. I imagine that the whole family gathered that year and enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared by Mom.

In the same spirit, I wanted to make a meal that would let my Dad know just how much he is loved by his family. I even talked my teen into playing the very important role of our Waiter.

My bashful teen was a very helpful and convincing waiter

My bashful teen was a very helpful and convincing waiter

There was a nice spread of appetizers, Bruschetta on toast

Stewed tomatoes, Balsamic Vinegar, EVOO and quality Parmesan Cheese made this a very simple appetizer

Stewed tomatoes, Balsamic Vinegar, EVOO and quality Parmesan Cheese made this a very simple appetizer

An Italian Deviled egg recipe from the Pudgy Mom’s cookbook that included anchovy and cocktail sauce. I found that a lot of the authentic recipes included anchovy’s.

Italian Deviled Eggs. On a plate of fresh lettuce leaves straight from Ma's Garden

Italian Deviled Eggs. On a plate of fresh lettuce leaves straight from Ma’s Garden

I couldn’t forget the stuffed mushrooms at Dad’s party as these are a favorite of his. Good thing I had a whole other 9X13 pan because these buggers disappeared fast!

Stuffed mushrooms with italian sausage, cream cheese, parmesan cheese topped with bread crumbs

Stuffed mushrooms with italian sausage, cream cheese, parmesan cheese topped with bread crumbs

Of course we had to have these colorful Caprese Skewers. I loved how they looked on my antique cake plate

Pretty Caprese Skewers. Simply cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozerella balls

Pretty Caprese Skewers. Simply cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella balls

How lovely it all looked on the table. I must say, I was pretty proud of myself!

All apps

We could have stopped there, but I had a main course planned. Veal Picatta. I’ve never even eaten this dish before, but when I read the recipe I knew It had to make an appearance at our event. It was served with a side of my Creamy Pesto Pasta recipe. I even made the Pesto!

Dad is testing my batch of homemade Pesto. With his complete approval, it made it's way to the Creamy Pesto Pasta recipe

Dad is testing my batch of homemade Pesto. With his complete approval, it made its way to the Creamy Pesto Pasta recipe

I had assumed that I would be able to find veal at my local grocery store…NOT! I have to order it from a meat market…$60.00 later, we would all have a 40z serving. I’d never made it before and the pressure of making sure I didn’t make a mistake at that price almost broke me, but I stayed focused and this was the final result.

Veal Picatta and Creamy Pesto Pasta

Veal Picatta and Creamy Pesto Pasta

Everyone seemed to enjoy this dish, but to be honest, I’m pretty sure I used too much lemon and chicken could have easily replaced the veal for a less expensive and just as tasty dish. My lovely family, though, only offered compliments.

Whew, success! We all had a great time and I know that this is an Italian Birthday that my Dad will remember for years to come.

Look, Dad has gotten so caught up in the theme, he's talking with his hands like a real Italian

Look, Dad has gotten so caught up in the theme, he’s talking with his hands like a real Italian

After all the clean up was done, I had to give props to my little guy as he was so good and stayed out of mommy’s way while I was busy in the kitchen.

My little guy, not a fan of the veal, but a great sport anyways

My little guy, not a fan of the veal, but a great sport anyways

The day was a lot of planning and work, but it truly was labor of love. The best part was having my boys, Mom, Dad, Grandma Marvetta and Uncle Doug together to celebrate a very special man, our Figlio, Marito, Papa and Poppi (son, husband, father and grandfather)

Boun Compleanno!

 

 

 

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Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham, sharp cheddar cheese, spicy brown mustard and refrigerated biscuits are a tasty dinner sure to please the family and help you use up the leftovers.

As the holidays have come to an end, I find that there are many tasty ingredients in my refrigerator worthy of being showcased. With a bit of help from store-bought biscuits, an impressive and easy meal was made. Once you’ve tried these, the filling options are endless! I simply served these pockets with a side salad for a complete and nutritious meal.

Yields 8 Pockets

Ingredients:

1 Package of large refrigerator biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands biscuits)
2 cups diced ham
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
Spicy Brown Mustard
1 egg
water
sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, make your egg wash by whisking 1 egg and a splash of water to thin, set aside. Lightly flour surface. Roll a refrigerated biscuit to a 6 inch circle. Smear a thin layer of mustard in the center. Place 1/4 cup diced ham and 1 oz cheese just off from the center. Dampen bottom edge of biscuit with either water or I used the egg wash as it was next to me. Fold in half gently so not to tear dough. Gently seal with a fork. With a sharp knife, make 2-3 slits in the top. Lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the dough is a golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve.

These are so easy and will disappear just as quickly as they were made. I did, make a few with ham, diced green apples, cheese and Dijon mustard. These were the kids favorite! Other ideas for filling would be pizza sauce, fixings and mozzarella cheese. Or, as a friend of mine suggested, use pie filling, and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar for dessert.

Baked Ham with Honey Dijon Glaze

Baked Ham with Honey Dijon Glaze, just may replace your traditional Holiday Ham

It’s mid-October and already time to begin thinking about our holiday plans. Just yesterday, Dad and I sat in my dining room (he came to hang up a shelf, Thanks Dad!) enjoying his first cup of Chai with me. This spicy, warm and creamy tea seemed to inspire a discussion about the upcoming holidays. As we leisurely visited and sipped our Chai, I found that little voice in my head saying “Sheri, you need to try out some new recipes to treat the family this year”.

After all of these years, Mom has perfected the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. There is comfort and warmth when we enjoy these time-tested traditional family dishes. We work together in the kitchen as if performing a well-rehersed dance. I treasure these days, full of pride as my role in the kitchen has graduated from prepping the vegetables to a true partner, one to be consulted or trusted to actually make the mashed potatoes.

Okay, so back to the ham. My shopping place had a great price on bone-in smoked ham. I got a 6 1/2 lb piece for about $8.00. A steal, as I knew it would produce many meals for my family. I already planned to save the bone for Split Pea Soup and Ham for later. I quickly bought it and it sat in my fridge for 2 days, taunting me! See, I’ve never had to make the Ham, Mom always had that dish mastered, decorated with the pineapple, cherries and cloves and some years a honey-baked one that was presliced. Since this one was pre-cooked and simply only needed to be heated, I shouldn’t have been intimated, but a large piece of meat can do that!

I went to the trusty web for inspiration. What I found was a ton of sweet glazes using orange juice, pineapple juice, lots of brown sugar and often cloves. I do not prefer these super sweet sticky glazes, or sugary crusts. A bit discouraged, I was about to resolve to simply heating the smoked ham as was. Then, it dawned on me! A while ago, I made Honey Dijon Pork Chops that my kids and I raved over! I knew I would utilize many of the flavors I’d used with the pork chops as they were savory and had the perfect amount of sweetness; the ultimate combination. The result was, what is now, our favorite ham recipe. This perfectly juicy baked ham with its beautiful golden crust, is a blue-ribbon winner! Mom, we just may have a new Holiday Ham recipe.

So began the creation of what I consider to be possibly the very best ham I have ever eaten (sorry Mom!).

Recipe:
1 Bone in smoked ham already cooked
1 cup white wine or apple cider
1-2 cups chicken stock
Fresh herbs if available (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme and sage still on stems)

Glaze ingredients:
1/2 cup Apple cider
1/3 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Honey

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.Unwrap ham, carefully trim off excess fat, taking care not to cut into meat. Make diagonal score marks into the tough outer layer of ham. In a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the ham and cover tightly, place on a rack (I have a rack about 1/2 high) in roasting pan. Pour in broth, wine (or cider) placing herbs around ham in liquid. Cover and bake.

Now it’s time for a bit of math. For every pound of ham, plan to bake 15 minutes. I had just over 6 pounds of ham, so I figured about 1 1/2 hour plus about 5 more.

After the ham was getting cozy in the oven, I leisurely began making the simple glaze. In a small sauce pan, whisk all ingredients together and heat over medium heat. Careful not to let it burn, stir occasionally and allow to gradually thicken. After about 20 minutes or so, it should have the consistency of tomato soup. If not, let cook down longer. Keep on low simmer stirring occasionally when desired results have been obtained.

During the last half hour of cooking time is when you will begin basting your ham with the glaze and a basting brush. Remove from oven, bast liberally, return to over with lid off. Repeat 2 more times every ten minutes.

Remove ham from oven, bast one more time and let sit on cutting board or serving plate for 10 minutes before carving. I’d had high hopes of using the juices in the bottom of the roasting pan for a sauce, but found it too salty from the ham. The wine and herbs perfume the ham perfectly and keep it so juicy it didn’t need a sauce anyways. Don’t forget to save the bone for Split Pea Soup and Ham for another day.