White Leftovers... Ham, Cauliflower and Chard Casserole.

I was really running with a theme last weekend.  I made marshmellow's, white pizza and then this... more white.
Maybe it's the winter thing.  Truth be told, it's all kinda getting me down.  I know that some friends in Montreal are begging for snow and I'd be happy to oblige.  I really would.  January is the hardest month for me, if only because it's the longest.
Maybe it's the Ham that D cured and roasted - that came out a little too salty (live and learn - we're gonna change the formula next year  - try Nigella's cooking it in coca cola thing) and now we're looking for things to do with it that don't involve eating big hunks of salty ham tout seul.

Maybe it's that anything covered with creamy cheese sauce is appetizing anytime all the time.  I guess when it's white and cheesy you just can't go wrong.  Even better if it's just a little gooey and just a little runny and with just a hint of nutmeg and pepper sauce.
Or Maybe I'm just feeling all weird and 'just-getting-over-the-stomach-flu-ee'.  I think that what I really need to do is go for a good long run.  Feel the wind through my hair (let's clarify that I really meant wind and not blustering cold air), the pacing of my breath and my shoes hitting the pavement.  Maybe I'll just wait until tomorrow when it's not -19 C though....

Either way... this white stuff is celebrating the middle of January, the leftover new year's ham, making it to Valentine's Day and a long weekend.  'Cause Damn... we really need something to celebrate right now.

Ham, Cauliflower and Chard Casserole
serves 4 - 6

3 cups of cooked ham, diced
4 cups cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 med/sm bunch of chard, stems removed and sliced thin
1 med onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup + 1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup +1 tbsp flour
3 3/4 cup milk, warm
3 cups (about) med/sharp cheddar
2 tbsp Worcestershire
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt
2 dashes of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Have a large 9x13 inch baking dish ready.
Heat a large pot and add in a couple of tbsp of oil.

Add the veggies and saute for about 10 min on medium to low heat.  Add in the diced ham and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add in the flour and stir together until it's well mixed and bubbling just a little bit.  Slowly, stirring the whole time, add in the warm milk.  Stir with a whisk until the sauce begins to thicken.  Once thickened, add in the cheddar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, mustard, salt and nutmeg.  Stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
Place the veggies and ham into the baking dish.  Cover with the cheese sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan or crushed bread crumbs if you want (that would be nice!).  Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and just turned golden on the top.
Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with Rice, potato... I don't know... whatever... have it all by itself.

Spice Cupcakes

Things have changed.  I used to have the best job - I still have the best job actually but part of what made it the best job has changed.  I used to get to see my BFF (to coin my daughter's term) KT almost everyday at work.  She worked in the same place I did... until December 31st that is.  We used to get in a little giggle or a little bitch session for a couple of minutes or so pretty much everyday.  If I ran out of tokens for the subway (or I rode my bike to work and by the end of the day it's raining... let's say) we had a little stash that we shared so neither one of us would be stuck.  Often I would come in to work to find some little treat or 'give-away' on my desk... my BFF was just thinking of me.  If I made something that I knew she would love then I would bring it in and leave it on her desk - just enough to get her and her Big G through a couple of days.  It also provided me with some much needed adult taste testing.
Well, she left for early retirement (she's in her later thirties after all!) on December 31st.  I had some trouble saying goodbye because I'm not really saying 'goodbye' AND because I hate goodbye's.  Like, I mean HATE.  So, now that we are in the middle of January I am trying to adapt to all of those wonderful things mentioned above missing from my everyday work experience.  It's been two KT-less weeks at work and there is a big hole, I won't lie to you.  I've been trying to keep myself beyond busy whilst at work.  That seems to help.

She does live nearby though so we have been able to console ourselves with being able to meet for a quick coffee break or a lunch a couple of times a week.  We also meet up regularly for a little girls night or, as was the case this weekend, a girls shop.  In this case it really was 'girls' because we brought along kid #1 for some retail exposure.  Kid #1 seems to love fashion almost as much as KT and the two of them decided that Kid #1 needed to do a shop with the 'less adventurous' Mom/BFF in the background.  It made it much more fun for me (kid #1 and I didn't fight... not even once!) and we even got a middle of the afternoon 'snack' (snack for Kid #1, drinks for Wanda and KT).  A fantastic time was had by all and we are going to repeat it.  I also happened to mention that I would be making these little puppies today

Blue dots bought on our shopping excursion p.s.
and KT has generously accepted my request to taste test them for me.  We'll be meeting up to share the cupcakes and I'll be sneaking in a little friend time...
So, I still feel kinda sorry for myself - really happy for my now early retired BFF.  My desk is rather bleak and empty and I'm giggling to myself now at work but at least we can still share everything else... and I'll let you know what her feedback is on the Cupcakes.

Spice Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
from The New York Times Thanksgiving thing
makes about 10 cupcakes


1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs

1 pkg (4 oz) Cream cheese
2 tbsp unsalted butter
dash of salt
3 cups (or so) icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 oz melted white chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare a cupcake tin with 10 - 12 liners (just in case)
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt.  Set aside.
In another bowl mix together the molasses and milk.  Set aside.
In a third bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add in the sugar and continue to beat together until well mixed.  Add in the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.  Alternate adding the milk/molasses mixture and the flour, mixing well after each addition.  Begin and end with the flour.  Place a heaping spoonful of the batter into each muffin cup, filling to about 3/4 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Cool completely before icing.

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, butter and dash of salt until they are well mixed and creamy.  Add in the icing sugar until well incorporated.  Add in the vanilla and the melted chocolate.  Mix well.  Ice the cupcakes once they are completely cooled.  Maybe add a little blue ball on the top - or a silver one, or gold or purple or whatever...

My dark hued Lemon Bars

Usually my christmas baking list consists of Cappuccino Flats and lemon squares with maybe a little something extra on the side just to add some variety.  This year however, I had a cookie exchange party to go to.  I decided to try some new recipes for that (and didn't want to share my cappuccino flats cookies!) and after it was all said and done I had waaaaayyyy too much baking goin' on.  I just couldn't bring myself to do the lemon bars because they are special to me and need to be appreciated fully on their own.

I don't know why but I love the whole lemon/sweet thing.  Maybe it's the colour, maybe the tartness or maybe even the lovely savouriness of the crust.  I don't know, I just love it.  I need to try making lemon curd and getting that into my repertoire.  (that's just an aside as I'm thinking with my fingers here)  So just a couple of days before Christmas I had these organic meyer lemons that I got from the food box and they were dying because I hadn't used them up.  I had to get moving so I went ahead and zested and juiced them and then froze the lot of it 'cause I just couldn't bring myself to make anything else sweet at the time.
Ok, sorry I did't realize at the time that I left the stupid stickers on the lemons!

This past weekend though we were more or less (and most lusciously) housebound thanks to no dance class, no piano lessons, 10 cm of snow and two really tired parents.  This left me with lots of time to get these lemon bars finally looked after.  Good thing too because a couple of days after that I came down with some sort of cussing stomach bug that had me off food for about 36 hours.  I'm really trying to stay positive (this year) so all I'm going to say is that there is always a silver lining and stomach bugs are a great short term weight loss strategy.  Done and Dusted.

For the record, I didn't have the appropriate amount of granulated sugar for the lemon crap so I substituted some muscovado sugar which admittedly isn't as sweet AND changed the colour a little.  So I feel somewhat cheated and I think that I need to make them again just so that I can be sure that I've 'done right' by the lemon bars... I'll keep ya posted.

Lemon Bars (adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)
makes about 36 squares

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp salt

1 cup fresh lemon juice
zest from all the lemons used to get the fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs
2/3 cup flour

Icing sugar for dusting.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an 9x13 inch baking dish with butter. (Truth be told I used a little less than the 9x13 by rolling up some aluminum foil but it was a bit of a stretch so I wouldn't exactly recommend it - just use a slightly smaller pan if you want to go 'less')
In a large bowl combine the butter, sugar, flour and salt.  Cut everything together until it forms a crumbly ball.  Place the dough in the greased pan and press down until it's covered the bottom of the pan and is packed and looks like a crust (!).  Bake for 15 - 20 min or until the crust is just browning at the edges.
Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

In a large bowl combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, sugar and flour.  Whisk until everything is incorporated and the sugar has dissolved.  Pour into the slightly cooled pan with the crust in it.
Bake the whole thing for 30 - 35 min.  Until the lemon stuff looks 'set'.  Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 min.  Once the squares are cooled, dust with icing sugar and cut into squares.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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