Ham, Pear, Goat Cheese Spinach Salad

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Hey there– I picked up one of those heavy, foiled wrapped spiral hams at the market last week, the kind you glaze with caramel and serve on a platter pink and salty.  It was for a Saturday brunch with friends– along with mimosas and yeasty waffles.  And the happy news is that there were leftovers!

So Sunday lunch turned into a green leafy salad with slices of that ham, pear and a few extras to round out the plate.  With a toasted chunk of whole grain bread, it was a cozy lunch sitting around the coffee table on a quiet Sunday.

HAM, PEAR, GOAT CHEESE SPINACH SALAD
5 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup farro
1 pear, cored & sliced
10 slices of ham
sprinkle of crumbled goat cheese
pecans
dried cranberries

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. cider vinegar
2 tab. maple syrup
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.

Layer the ingredients for the salad on a platter.  When you are ready to serve the salad, put the ingredients for the dressing in a container with a tight fitting lid and shake it until it is thoroughly blended.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and dig in!  (makes 2 dinner salads)img_4775

Anticipating Christmas!

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Hi friends– I don’t know about you, but I’m an big anticipator.  I get a whole lot of joy imagining all the “Christmas” coming up this month.  Here’s what’s on my mind and heart:

#1. Today, I’m picking up my sis to Christmas shop.  We’ve been Christmas shopping together since we were 8 years old, pooling our $6 to buy all the family gifts!  We talk and shop and eat our way across town! The best.

#2. Bringing home the Christmas tree that Larry’s strapped to the top of the car.  I love that bit of piney green in the house with all the well worn ornaments.

#3. Listening to Christmas music, cranking up the Messiah while I put cookies into the oven.

#4. Evenings celebrating with dear friends, hearing Christmas plans and hopes…

#5. Hugging all our kids as they come in the door to stay.  They come from far and wide–so we have people piled high sleeping in every room of our small house.

#6. Decorating cookies with the grand-girls, sprinkles flying in every direction.

#7. Christmas Eve lunch with our parents, kids and grandkids, sitting down to share a big meal with the people we love most.

#8. Our big crazy Christmas Eve supper at my bother Mark’s house. Fifty of us all catching up, giving hugs, taking pictures…

#9. Christmas night tapas (thanks to our years in Spain) by the fireplace with the kids, a quiet end to Christmas.

#10. Tranquil moments through these weeks ahead, to thank God for his son come to show us his great love, to sing, to pray, to rest in Him.  God is good.

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Thank you margaretbergart.com for the reindeer.

Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna

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Hello all–I know you’re maybe thinking ahead to Christmas (we put up our tree last night–all those beloved, slightly tattered ornaments coming out of boxes– love it!),  but I wanted to send out one more Thanksgiving-ish recipe before it’s all sugar cookies and Christmas hams.

My extended family meet up for Thanksgiving the weekend ahead.  We don’t do turkey. We’ll all have turkey with other in-laws on Thanksgiving day.  This year it was a couple kinds of lasagna.  And I like this veggie laden version–cheesy and a bit sweet from the butternut squash.  It was a fine Thanksgiving meal at the table with my mom and assorted nieces and nephews…  (and we did finish off with pumpkin pie!)

BUTTERNUT SQUASH & SPINACH LASAGNA

1 smallish butternut squash
3 tab. olive oil
garlic salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups shredded spinach leaves
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup parmesan romano
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
9 no-cook lasagna noodles (Barilla is good)
1 cup parmesan romano
1 cup ricotta
2 cups mozzarella

Peel the butternut squash and remove the seeds.  Then chop it into smallish chunks.  In a bowl mix the butternut squash chunks with 3 tablespoons olive oil, a few shakes of garlic salt and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper. Spread the squash on a baking sheet and scrape the oil out of bowl over the squash.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until the squash just starts to brown around the edges.

While that’s cooking, wash and dry the spinach leaves, remove stems and cut them to shreds.

To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet and then stir in the flour and parmesan before it browns.  Stir in the milk 1/2 cup at a time with a whisk to reduce lumps.  Continue until all the milk is combined and then simmer on low 3 or 4 minutes more until the sauce sauce thickens.  Add salt as needed (I did 1/2 tsp.)

When the squash is cooked, put the lasagna together in a 9″x 13″ making dish. Start by coating the bottom of the dish with about 1/2 cup of the white sauce.  Lay down 3 of the noodles and then layer on 1/3 of the spinach, 1/3 of the squash, 1/3 of the ricotta dropped in little dollops across the pan, 1/3 of the white space, 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the parmesan.

Repeat that layering 2 more times to make 3 equal layers.  Cover the baking dish with foil (not touching the top of the lasagna).  Bake it covered 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Remove the foil and bake 5 or 10 minutes more until the top in nicely browned.

Let the lasagna sit 10 minutes to meld together before cutting into it.  Enjoy it hot and savory!!

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Lemon Zucchini Bread

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Hello cooking buddies–  It’s been a quiet week for me here.  Staying with my dear Mom as she recovers from a couple hospital stays last week.  Mostly I’ve been sitting and working on some unnamed Christmas gifts (just in case any of the recipients are reading… I mean you Laurel!)  We watch old movies and eat soup.  A unique and actually sweet time with Mom.

So all I have to share with you is a luscious lemony loaf of bread I made a few weeks ago for friends.  It’s tender and tart and looks a little bit like sunshine on the plate.  If you’re looking for something sweet to give away this Christmas, you might just like this pretty bread.

LEMON ZUCCHINI BREAD

Bread:
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unflavored yogurt
2 tab. lemon juice*
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tab. lemon zest (peel)*
2 cups grated zucchini (2 smallish zucchini)
1 tsp. vanilla

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tab. lemon juice*
2 tab.grated lemon peel*

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To start out, grate 2 smallish zucchini with a box grater (largest holes) to produce 2 cups of grated zucchini.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl stir together the canola oil, yogurt, lemon juice, eggs and sugar until blended and smooth.  Then mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.  And finally fold in the zucchini and vanilla.

Spoon the batter into a standard loaf pan (9″x 5″) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes until a small knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the bread rest a few minutes while you stir up the glaze.  Whisk together the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  If you like it thinner, stir in the 2nd tablespoon of lemon juice.  Drizzle over the cake.  And sprinkle the lemon peel on top.  Enjoy!

*One large lemon or two smaller lemons should be enough.

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Bittersweet Thanksgiving

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Hello friends– I’m wondering about your Thanksgiving.  Was the turkey tender, the cranberries tart?  Did you eat too much pie and was there a baby or two to pass from lap to lap?

We had a sweet day with our kids in San Francisco and all our son-in-law’s extended family –with a new baby, some memorable pecan pie and an after dinner walk up the hill to see the sunset over the ocean.

But this week we also had an alarming health scare in the family.  Hospital stays, anxious nights and prayers for God’s love and mercy.  The difficult side of life.  I’m hopeful for a good recovery and thankful to be back home with my mom tonight.

Here’s a few of my favorite memories of the week up north (grand-kids, grandparents and that pie!) :
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Thankful Ani & Brian for the days with you and that baby Lois.

Baked Bacon & Eggs

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Good morning!  I meet with a group of young moms (MOPS) every other Tuesday– and each time we meet they fill tables with eggs, muffins, fruit… It’s a breakfast banquet.  Last week, this is was my little contribution.

It’s my go-to egg dish–So easy– and you can change it up.  Take out the bacon & chilis and substitute any omelette-ish ingredient you are partial to– ham, mushrooms, avocado, peppers, spinach, broccoli, sausage…  It can be different every time.  The secret ingredient here is cottage cheese– makes it creamy and smooth! I hope you like it.

BAKED BACON & EGGS
6 strips of bacon
5 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
2 cups grated cheddar (I used colby jack)
4oz. can mild green chilis

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Cook the bacon until it’s crispy.  Drain on a paper towel and then break it up into small bits.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until they are frothy.  Then stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, cottage cheese, cheddar, chilis and prepared bacon.

Pour it all into a 9″ pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray– and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and cook for 20 minutes more until the eggs are set and a little browned around the edges.  Best eaten hot from the oven!

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Caramel Toffee Pecan Cake

 

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Hi all– Thanksgiving gone– was yours a good one?  We had the day with our daughter and all her husband’s dear family up here in San Francisco.  Good times talking around the table, passing babies from lap to lap and sampling Brian’s mom’s incredible pecan pie.  It was a sweet day all around.

And here is another pecan dessert– a little simpler than pie and large enough to feed a crowd.  There’s all those nutty pecans and sweet bits of toffee to give a little texture to this tender cake.  I think it would finish out a Christmas dinner ahead just fine.

CARAMEL TOFFEE PECAN CAKE
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
5 eggs
3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
8 oz. bag toffee bits
1  1/2 cups pecans, chopped (save out a few to top the cake)
1 cup caramel sauce*

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil, sugars, and eggs with an electric mixer.  Then beat in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally use the mixer to blend in the milk and continue to blend on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Stir in the toffee bits (save out a couple spoonfuls to sprinkle on top the cake) and the chopped pecans (save a few of those for on top too).

Spoon the mixture into a bundt pan or tube pan and bake at 325 degrees for 80 to 90 minutes (long time!)– until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

When you’re ready to serve the cake, drizzle on the caramel sauce and sprinkle toffee bits and pecans on top.

*The recipe I worked from told how to make your own caramel sauce from scratch.  You can mix up your own favorite1 — but I’m happy with store bought caramel- just easier!

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