Tuesday, March 25, 2014


In light of recent events, well sales really, I have been asked to update and add more pictures to this post from last year, so here goes. 

HAM!!!!  I love HAM!!!  In my head, okay, out loud really, I sing Ham-a-lam-a-ding-dong!!  every time anyone says ham.  I love ham more than anyone I know.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say I love ham more than everyone you know too.  It's sooooo yummy; I can't understand people that don't love ham.  I think the people that don't like ham, haven't had good ham.  I did a quick search and all the recipes I found call for cooking the ham for 3 to 4 hours.  Unless you have a 20 pound ham, there is no way you should ever cook your ham for 3 or 4 hours.  Well, if you're really trying to make ham jerky, they by all means, cook away.  Hmmm.......ham jerky?  That sounds interesting.  I do have a dehydrator......Sorry, I digress; back to it.  

Ham is SUPER easy to make and then it's a show stopper.  The house smells wonderful and you look like a rock star when you pull it out of the oven.  I have to say that I learned this from my dad.  He makes super tasty ham and keeps me in frozen stock should I run out at all time.  THANKS, DADDY!!  I still have to call him every time I make it just to be sure I didn't forget anything.  Pick out a good sized ham for your family.  It's just me and my husband at our house right now and we like to eat leftovers for lunch.  I get an 8-10 lb ham when they go on sale (I'm a cheapskate.)  That's enough for our dinner and lunch as well as a nice big meaty bone chunk for ham and beans and a good sized chunk to slice and freeze for breakfast sandwiches. 

If your grocery store has a ridiculous sale ($0.68 per pound!!!) like ours did the other day, call all of your friends and family and hook them up too because you're nice like that.  Just know that by the time you are done, you may look like a ham drug dealer with all of those beauties  in the trunk of your car (yup, that's  really 17.)    

I prefer the shank end, that's the pointy one, but if you're all about that bass, go for the butt.  Get whichever end you want; both are delicious.  DO NOT, under any circumstances, get a precut or spiral cut ham.  You will never be able to get moist ham if it has already been sliced.  Now, if someone gave you a spiral cut ham for Christmas, that was nice.  Never look a gift ham in the mouth.  Slice it off the bone and freeze it for sandwiches or reheat the slices in stock.  It's about the best you can do.         

Ok, you brought home a ham, now what?  Check your oven racks and adjust to make room for your ham BEFORE you preheat it to 350-375 degrees.  For planning purposes, figure about 12 minutes per pound.  It will need to rest for about 15 minutes after baking.  Unwrap your ham and take that little plastic thingie off the bone end.  Place it in a baking pan/dish, NOT a cookie sheet; you will have a giant mess in your oven, I learned. 

 Be sure the fattiest side it facing up.  It will baste the rest as it cooks.  Score the whole thing in a grid pattern about 1/2 inch deep.  If you want to be fancy, cut it in a diamond pattern so it looks pretty later.  Don't sweat it too much, you just want to give the oh-so-tasty fat a way to come out and make some yummy gravy. 

 What?  You've never heard of ham gravy??? Oh my!  It's the most wonderful concoction that you will ever taste.  Once you've had ham gravy, you may throw the ham away and just get a big bowl and spoon to eat gravy.  It is life changing!!

Get out some yellow mustard (no need for the fancy stuff) and brown sugar.  Squirt mustard all over the ham like you would a corn dog, then pat brown sugar onto the mustard.  You can premix it all in a bowl first if you want, but this is how Daddy always did it and I hate to wash dishes. 
 How much?  However much you want.  Cooking is NOT baking.  Add a little of what you like, forget the junk you don't.  It's great!  Generally I keep putting sugar on until it starts falling off.  Put the ham into the oven.  No foil needed.  

Bake it for 45 minutes or so then pull it out. It should already look pretty tasty.  

                         Hello, Beautiful!

 Grab some tongs and pull off the really thick parts of fat and any dark hard rind.  DO NOT throw it away.  That would be a tragic waste!!  

Just put it in the bottom of the baking pan to keep adding to your yummy dripping collection.  If the juices are threatening to overflow, use a spoon or turkey baster to draw the deliciousness out and put it into a pan to make gravy later.  Don't be surprised if someone sneaks a sample of the bark while you are busy taking pictures.  If you want it to be really pretty, put more mustard and a little more brown sugar on at this point.  

Pop the ham back in the oven for another 45 minutes or so.  Poke a thermometer in a nice meaty part and take its temperature.  Be sure not to touch the bone with your thermometer.  Again, a recipe search shows you want a temperature of anywhere from 140 to 150 degrees.  I shoot the gap and aim for the middle.  Anywhere around there is fine.

 Most ham has already been cooked before you buy it. If it's not up to temp, put it back in and check again later.  If it's done, pull it out.  Collect all that delicious goodness at the bottom of the ham in a pan to make gravy.  Tent the ham with foil.  Let it rest for at least 15 minutes, but feel free to sample some of the dark "bark" on the edges, then cover it up!  It can sit for up to an hour in the tent, but DON'T cut it until just before you serve it.    

Sometimes it's gorgeous and looks like that one up there, but sometimes is't not as pretty and looks like this one from last night.  Can't win 'em all, but not to worry, both still taste amazing.  Pretty is as pretty does. (Yes, Mom, I was listening all those years.)     

 Ham gravy is the easiest gravy to make.  No, really.  You won't know exactly how much deliciousness each ham will give you, so I can't tell you exactly how much thickener you need.  Mix about a tablespoon of cornstarch with a little cold water in a small bowl.  Don't just throw straight cornstarch in on the drippings, you'll have yucky lumps.  If you already did, strain the drippings and get out the clumps of starch.  Try again, no big deal.  Add some of the cornstarch slurry and bring it to a boil.  Be careful.  It doesn't usually happen, but if you cook on high like I do, it may kind of foam up and threaten to spill everywhere.  If this happens, just pick the pan up off the burner and stir it do cool it down a little.  Once it dies down, replace it on the burner.  When it comes to a boil, the cornstarch has done all the thickening it's going to do.  If you like it, great!  Time for dinner.  If it's too thin, add some more cornstarch slurry and bring to boil again.  Repeat this as many times as necessary.  If you accidentally get it too thick, just add a little water to thin it.  
Don't forget to make mashed potatoes!!  AFTER the ham has rested for at least 15 minutes, ok we only make it about 10, but try to wait.  

Slice your ham in nice thick chunks and enjoy.  If you think you are starving, make a giant plate like my husband's.  Be sure to get plenty of that awesome ham gravy.  If it spills all over your plate, opps!  Don't worry, no one will judge you if you lick your plate rather then rinse it before it heads to the dishwasher.      
Only slice what you will eat at that meal.  The less time between slicing and eating, the more moist and delicious your ham.    

Leftovers: (well, assuming you didn't eat it all) If you want lunch tomorrow, go ahead and make it.  If you don't, you have a few options.  My husband makes killer breakfast sandwiches every morning before work.  (I know, I am a very lucky girl.)  We leave the bone and a good portion of meat attached and freeze it for ham and beans later.  We slice the rest into sandwich slices and lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper.  You can make layers if you need to, but don't forget the waxed paper or you will have one big chunk.  After they are completely frozen, you can put them all into gallon zipper bags.  Then when you need one or two, you can get just what you need rather than a big chunk.  

I used some of my leftover ham and some roasted potatoes w/ onions from anther dinner and a nice fresh egg (thanks chickies!) to make this skillet breakfast this morning.  And of course where there is ham, Eggs Benedict is soon to follow. 
Variations:  The beauty of cooking is that you can pick and choose what you like.  If you want to be super fancy, you can add pineapple rings, cherries, and/or cloves before you bake it or after you remove some of the fat and rind.  There are a skizillion recipes for glazes if you want one; when it's so good by itself, I see no need, but to each his own.  Now, quit playing on your computer and go cook something awesome!!       

Got some pics of your ham......well, the one you cooked anyway?  I'd love to see them or hear your suggestions and comments.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Honey, get the bail money ready

So I waited too long to eat and was becoming hangry. For those of you that don't know me well, I get a little cranky when I an hungry and by a little cranky, I mean zero to hateful bitch in 0.2 seconds, hungry + angry = the term hangry. So anyway, back to my story. I stopped in at my local Chinese restaurant for lunch, because as a woman of leisure, I can just do that now. As soon as I opened the door and all of those tasty aromas assailed my senses I knew. I knew I had waited too long to eat and was hangry. Doing my best not to growl at the kindly lady at the register, I couldn't decide what I wanted. Another side effect of being hangry is a total lack of concentration and loss of any ability to make a rational decision.  As the roaring of the masses of people was screaming in my ears I hastily pointed to a tasty looking picture and shoved some bills at the poor woman.  She gave me my drink and I sat down to wait......for eternity!!!  I tried to kill time by checking my phone.  Nope, no one called me because everyone else is at work.  Ok, Pinterest.  Nope, nothing new in the last 5 minutes there.  I. am. STARVING!!!  Did they have to kill the cow or something? Haha haha, I hear a woman.  As I am frantically trying to distract myself from gnawing into my neighbor's lo mein, there is this one table of extremely loud laughers.  Now, when I am hangry, everything seems to be amplified, especially obnoxiousness.  This woman had the most annoying laugh and was laughing hysterically at everything anyone said within a 50 mile radius.  I was going to kill her.  I tried to focus on something else Ha hahahahaha!  Stay calm, food will be here soon. Hahahahahaha.  I don't think I can take it Hahahahaahah.  Just a little longer Hahahaha.  That's it!! She's toast!  I'm climbing over my table and I grab her stupid hair and shove her ugly scarf into her gaping maw silencing the hideous laughter.

About this time the kindly lady that took my order brought an entire plate of lusciousness right to my table and it was all mine and that was when I thankfully realized I was only staring at the obnoxious laugher and I had not done any real damage.  My lunch was perfect.  I devoured it with all the gusto of a prize pie eater on the 4th of July.  There may have been some growling, but no one said a word about it.  

Whether it was because the beast had been fed, or the beast staring at the obnoxious laughers scared them into quietness, I cannot say, but I can say that it was much more peaceful by the time I had eaten half of my lunch, than before.  Thankfully no one was injured in the feeding rituals of my hangry beast, but for a few seconds I was pretty sure I was going to jail.  Perhaps I should set aside a small fund for this purpose.  Unfortunately, you never know when you might need it.    

And look!  This was my fortune.  Hmmmm

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Make your own damn lunch!!

So I'm loading the dishwasher the other day wondering, once again, what I'm going to do with myself.  I know I will have to do something or I will go crazy and take everyone with me.  It occurs to me that as my ideals were changing over the last 3 years of living on the ranch, my view of the roles that men and women play was not.  Perhaps I should look into that.  

I find value in making my own things.  I like knowing where my food comes from.  (Okay, I still have trouble help raising calves then sending them off to the butcher, but I know this is how it goes.  I'm a farmer until it comes time for killing, then I'm a vegetarian.  This is why we seek our opposites as mates.  Someone has to be the nurturer and someone has to be the butcher, but I'm way off usual.)

Back to my food.  I love knowing where my food comes from, but I'm not fanatical about it.  I still love those cheap frozen pizza and yes, I eat that cheese from the can that makes those cool flowers on your crackers.  Yup.  Love it!  Ok so if I want to be closer to my food and control the quality of what we eat, it takes time.  If I'm going to make more and buy less, I'm going to have to give up something.  Time.  It takes time to do these things.  In retrospect,  this is really harking back to our grandmother and great grandmother's generations.  When there were not convenience foods and drive-thrus.  You wanted it, you made it.  Wait.  Didn't I always say I never wanted to be like that?  I mean those women didn't have a choice, they were forced to stay in the kitchen.  How many times did I hear Coach Berry say, "You've come a long way, Baby.  Don't let anyone ever push you back into the kitchen.)?  Didn't I learn that I had to be a strong, independent, self-empowered woman?  I can't stay at home gardening, canning, and making things and still be self-empowered.  Can I?  I can't ask my husband what he wants for lunch and then just make it for him.  He can make his own damn lunch!!  I am woman hear me roar!!

Oh, wait.  He didn't tell me or even ask me to make his lunch.  Sometimes I like to make him things he wants and likes.  I find value in doing things myself that I could pay others do, probably better and in less time, for me.  Does this make me any less self-empowered?  No it does NOT!!  (I know, a lot of exclamation points today.  Sorry, Mrs. Igert.)  I can do those things so long as I choose to do those things.  No one is forcing me to make them lunch or churn my own butter, I choose to do so and there is nothing wrong with that.  I can have a job outside of our home or I can make my job in our home, or I can do both.  It is a choice I have and I am independent enough, empowered enough, to do whatever I choose.  

It occurs to me that I have learned a lot about myself in a relatively short amount of time recently.  Everything I thought I knew, is not what I thought it was.  I am still struggling with my place, but at least now I know there are more options than I had ever considered before.  Now that I have figured out what I will allow myself to do and think, on to new and better things.

I love food.  I always have.  I love talking about food, eating food, taking pictures of food, and most importantly, sharing food.  Food=Love for me.  Here's what I made today.  I want it to be summer so badly, but there is still snow, so I made it summer in the kitchen.  Nothing says summer like a fresh BLT.  Ripe tomatoes, crispy bacon, crunchy lettuce and toasty bread.  Well, I had to improvise.  Here's how you can too.  I decided that while I am figuring out what to do with myself, I should stock the house with quality ingredients and not junk.  This means when I am hungry, I have to do something about it.  I can't just grab some junk and veg out on the couch.  This is helping me move through this.....whatever it is better than moping on the couch.

January tomatoes need some help so slice them and lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  I used a toaster oven, but whatever works for you.  Drizzle them with olive oil, salt, pepper and basil.  Broil them to concentrate their flavors.  Let them go as far as you want.  You can add a little Parmesan cheese if you like.  These are very tasty, and I could make a meal of just these too.

While they are getting yummy, butter your bread and toast it in a skillet.  I had leftover bacon so I heated it up along side the bread.  Fry some up if you don't have leftovers.  I put a slice of provolone for smokiness and one slice of Munster for ooey gooey goodness on my bread.

Meanwhile mix up a little mayo (NOT Whip) mustard and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  It isn't the prettiest sauce ever, but it tastes good.  When your cheese is nice and melty, add the bacon, tomatoes and a piece of lettuce or baby spinach and top with your sauce.  I had a avocado sitting around so I sliced it and added it to the pile too.  Take second to admire your handwork, then chow down.

*Just a note:  This was kinda hard to eat unless you use a knife and fork, but who eats a sandwich with silverware?  Definitely not first date food, but it was soooo worth the mess.  

While I have some avocado and tomato out, I figured I should make some guacamole too.  I didn't have any peppers, so I just used a little adobo sauce from the chipotle in adobo I keep in the freezer and it was just enough.  The rest of the tomato and avocado from the sandwich, another avocado, green onions, cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic, and a splash of lime juice.  You can make yours as chunky or smooth as you like.  Now, where is that margarita?    


Monday, March 3, 2014

Chickens? Umm, no thanks!

We moved out onto a little ranch called The Bustin' Ass Ranch in the openness of Kansas a few years ago.  Little did I know how my life would be forever changed by this.  It started slowly; we adopted a stray cat, added a few dogs, then a cow.  I grew up knowing that chickens are the nastiest things on the planet (Thanks, Mom!)  They are dirty, peck you, peck each other and they are nasty, nasty birds.  One day my husband says we should get some chickens.  (He eats more eggs than anyone I know.)  I told  him when he ordered them that I wanted nothing to do with any of them.  I wanted nothing to do with any part of their care, raising, butchering, None. Of. It.  He agreed to this.  A few drinks over a rare chicken breed magazine one night the next week 50+ mystery breed (whatever didn't get ordered that day) one-day-old baby chicks were delivered to us.  Yeah, they MAIL live birds to your house!  Can you believe it?  So we have all these little puff balls and if that wasn't enough, I hatched another 15 or so mutts with my class at school.  Now they are all ours: 69 baby chicks and no mamma hens to take care of them.  A crash course on raising baby chicks thanks to and we're off. 

Less than a week in and I find myself with a box of baby chicks in the kitchen (My kitchen!! Where I prepare food!! That I eat!!) cleaning off their pasty butts (this is a technical term I learned from my new friends at BackYardChickens)  because they don't have a momma to do it for them and someone has to do it or they may die.  This has become my job, but I'm really not sure how.  They are pretty cute and they do need someone to take care of them so it is only natural that I do it, I guess.  They get bigger fast and really don't need all that much care after a month or so, less than cats or dogs really.  I find that I actually like them.  Since we got the mystery pack, we have every kind of chicken you can imagine.  We have red ones.   
 We have red ones, blue laced somethings, polka dot ones, ones that look like owls, some road runner looking birds, some with feathers on their feet and legs and everything in between, every color, size and shape.  Our coop is like a chicken UN.  
Turns out Mom may have gotten this one wrong.  (Sorry, Mom!)  They aren't nasty; they are actually very calming little things.  After a long day at work you grab some kitchen scraps and head out to the coop.  Just a few minutes watching them peck around and you can feel your blood pressure drop and find yourself more relaxed than you have felt in a while.  AND not throwing all those scraps into the landfill makes my little Girl Scout heart happy.  A few years later and I am looking for that magazine again.  Spring is coming soon and I'm ready for some new chickies!         

Unexpected Unemployment

So it seems that I am currently unemployed.  I didn't want to go along with some things I didn't believe were right and it was just easier to get rid of me.  Oh well... Now what to do?  I thought I would rush out and find another job, but after a week I realize that I am never going to fall into line with administrators looking to make a name for themselves at the expense of children, teachers or anyone else, for that matter.  If I get another job like the ones I've had for the past 10 years, the job I knew I was meant for from the age of 9, there's always going to be someone telling me to do things I don't believe in, someone making decisions based on what they want rather that what is best for children.  At the end of the day I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I always do what is right for kids.

Soooo now what???  It occurs to me that my lifestyle, how I view myself, and my place in this world is all changing.  I seem to be a some crossroads in my life.  I grew up knowing I would always be a teacher and I would never, ever be a house wife or anything oppressed.  Now, I'm not so sure who I am or what to do next.  This is my journey.  I'm not sure where it will lead, but I'm going to find out.  Feel free to come along.