Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Ham What I Ham and That's What I Ham

So I JUST did a post, but I have all this free time (well, at least I did... today is the last day of it for a little while) and I just want to share the fun things I've learn with cooking! In my previous post, I talked about cooking chicken ahead in the crock pot. I also wanted to tell you about the wonderful world of cooking ham ahead as well.

A couple years ago was when I REALLY started getting in cooking, not just baking. I was fairly fresh into the "real world" after graduating from college, and I actually wanted to learn things that actually interested me (crazy how that works out) in a non-classroom setting. Cooking has always been one of those things for me. Anyway, though I had a little more time than when I was in school, I didn't usually have time to cook still. So I made time!

Hanging out at my old apartment

Sundays were the only free day of the week to give me enough time to cook. I started with inviting a few friends over to eat what I would make, and it kind of grew to a family dinner time with my friends on campus. We would eat, play games, and chat the night away - I LOVED it!!

During these times, I began this relationship with the crock pot. She was so laid back, so caring to my food, and she didn't mind if I left food in her all day (and still is, by the way). Since dinners were growing to more people, I needed ideas on what to feed people. Two of the recipes I share today are from those times - so good and easy, I just keep coming back to them!

Easter Ham


• 1 whole ham (that can fit in your crock pot)
• 1 20oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
• 1/3 cup maple syrup

If you want, start by lining your crock pot with aluminum foil - sometimes it helps with clean up. Put your ham in there, dump the pineapple and syrup on top, and cook on high for about 6 hours. 

Easy, right? And super good! I usually have us eat ham for dinner that night. One time I made homemade mashed butternut squash to go with it - Oh Mylanta, seriously SO GOOD!!!

After we have had our fill that night, I take the meat off the bone, stick it in a freezer baggie and freeze it for meals later. These are my favorites!

Potato Soup with Ham and Cheese

  • 2 cups red potatoes (which I usually use 3-5 potatoes, and not always red), peeled & cubed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • cayenne pepper (haven't used because I don't have any in the cupboard)
  • black pepper
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cooked, cubed ham
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (at LEAST one cup - add more like 2 cups if you love cheese like I do!)
  • fresh chopped parsley or chives for garnish, if desired (which I never have on hand, so I also haven't used yet)

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain; reserve 1 cup of the boiled potato liquid for later. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in your onion to cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in flour, then sprinkle pepper on it. Cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring. Add potatoes, reserved liquid, milk, and salt. Mix it good. Add ham chunks and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Add cheese and stir until melted.

Ham Sandwiches

I've tweaked this one a lot, so here is what I would say for ingredients:

• Ham
• Mustard
• Brown Sugar
• Some sort of roll or bread
• Maybe cheese - like provolone slices

Here is what I did: I defrosted enough ham that would fit in my Little Dipper (a mini crock pot - kind of cute in a kitchen appliance sort of way, and this was my first time using it so I was excited). 
How cute!!
I started with 2 tablespoons of honey dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons brown sugar and let it cook for a while. I would keep coming back to it to taste and add mustard and brown sugar enough to thoroughly cover the meat enough. I had a hard time keep away! I kept eating pieces of the meat all afternoon!

I had it in the crock pot for about 4 hours, but you can do less than that. Everything is already cooked, so it's simply a matter of warming it all up and making the flavors blend together. The original recipe can give you a full crock pot of this you need to make it for a lot of people and don't have a whole ham already cooked up. But the Little Dipper size was PERFECT for feeding just Malcolm and I!
Pre-melted cheese on the sandwiches

Anyway, after it was all done, and Malcolm came home from climbing, I heated the oven to about 300º or so (doesn't really matter, it was just to melt cheese) and toasted slices of bread. I situated the bread on a cookie sheet, piled on the ham goodness, and added a slice of provolone cheese to each pile of ham. I bake them in the oven just so the cheese would melt, and then gobbled those piggies up! These are definitely up for tweaking to your delight, but a great recipe to use that ham up!

Split Pea Soup
(from Yahoo!


• 1 package dried green split peas
• 1 large onion
• 2 tsp minced garlic
• 3 large carrots, diced (Can I be honest? I admit I don't exactly know what "diced" looked like. I just kind of chop them up to fit my fancy. Kuddos to you who actually know!)
• 3 celery stocks, diced
• 5 cups (40 oz) chicken broth - which you can make yourself!
• 1 or 2 potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
• 1 package ham hocks OR use the ham hock/bone thing from the ham you cooked up for the meat
• salt and pepper

Put everything in your crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours or low for 11 hours - go until the peas are very soft and falling apart. Remove bone, but keep the meat in there. To be honest, I haven't quite got how long everything should cook for down yet. I usually cook it all too long or don't add enough liquid or something because it almost always has turned out kind of pasty. Don't get me wrong, it's still good!

This was one of my discovery recipes for family dinners. I still make it! What good memories! It brings me back to seeing a glimpse of what the early church was like in Acts 2:42- 47,
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." 
Did you notice how they devoted themselves to breaking bread (essentially sharing meals) together? That when they opened their homes to eat together as the body of Christ that they had glad and sincere heart, they praised God, and simply enjoyed one another? I think we all desire to have that kind of fellowship! I think, if we are honest with ourselves, we may not want to always be social or get outside of our comfort zones to let people into our homes (I know I'm not - I always put forward the excuse that my house it too tiny to have people over). But the reality is that, when we actually do let people come into our homes and into our lives for the purpose of sharing a meal and sharing our lives with one another, then our hearts actually expand to see the grander picture of Who God is, what He's doing, and actually be thankful for what He has given us!

Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." We need to be in a habit of coming together and encouraging one another - why?

Hebrews 3:13, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." The reason we need to keep coming together is to keep us from being jaded to sin in our own lives! Maybe that's why the Church that I've seen developing all of America is one of "self-feelgoods" and focus on all those other non-essentials other than the reality of Jesus and what He has done for us. Maybe to fight the urge of the American dream, we need to eat more meals together! Okay, maybe stretching it a little bit, but you do get my point? God created us to be social people in need of one another - whether we think so or not - so we can encourage one another to running after our ultimate need of God.

So, a small tangent, but one that I think is important. Last fall I did a study on fellowship, and it opened my eyes more to what it really is. I suggest studying for yourself what the Bible has to say about fellowship.  Ask HIM what your next step to developing fellowship is. And if it's sharing a meal with some brothers and sisters in Christ, you at least have some ideas from here on what to feed them!
Okay, this is what my split pea soup looks like. Like I said earlier, it tastes better than it looks!!

The Chicken Crossed the Road to Get to my Crock Pot

With going on campus, and even with being home in Durango more consistently & making meals for the Hubbers and I, I've been looking into making easy, affordable meals. I've discovered the best thing for cooking on a busy schedule - precooked meat! But not precooked in the store, precooked at home.

Malcolm and I on vacation - I don't think there is a better picture that captures the true us!

Today I wanted to tell you about cooking chicken. I buy a whole chicken, which is usually around or below $5. At home, I stick the whole shebang in the crock pot, sprinkle it with paprika, then let it cook on high (or low) until it's done - which I usually peel away at the chicken with a fork: if the meat peels away easily and I don't see any pink then I call 'er done.

After it's all cooked, then I pick away the meat and stick it in a freezer baggie. After that I stick the chicken in the freezer and take it out when I need it. When I do need chicken for something, I usually stick the bag in the microwave for 1 minute increments until it has thawed enough to loosen enough chicken that I need. Then I stick the rest of the chicken back in the freezer until I need it.  

The bones and everything else (I mean EVERYTHING that is not meat) in a bag to save for later. The reason I keep the leftover stuff is so I can make my own chicken stock - and it's not difficult AT ALL!! 

 Chicken Stock:
(original recipe I found at


• Chicken "leftovers"
• Water
• Salt
• Pepper
• Bay Leaves (I've done both crushed and full leaves)
• Parsley
• Carrots
• Celery
• Onion

You can add or subtract whatever you want to, but the point is to infuse the water with flavor. (You can't subtract the chicken carcass, however. If you take that out, then you don't have chicken stock. :)

What I do is put everything in a pot, then fill it with enough water that it won't bubble over when you start boiling it it won't get all over your stove top. Once you get everything in the pot, set it on high and let it boil for a while (to be honest, I have no clue how long I let it simmer/boil, but for at least a few hours).

Once it's been cooking for at least 3 hours, then strain it out. I usually set a big bowl in the sink, then a colander on top of that. I dump the whole pot through the colander into the bowl, then I strain the liquid a couple times to eliminate any major bothersome chunkies.

Bowl of broth... in case you were confused.

Following that, I can it. I've done both water bath and pressure canning, and pressure canning is suppose to be the safer route. Some sites say to freeze, then other don't say anything. So I'm trying with this new batch not freezing (I lost a few jars to the freezer last time). If we die of some sort of food poisoning, you'll know what happened.


Chicken stock has become one of those things I need to keep on hand because it is SO versatile in cooking. My FAVORITE easy recipe that needs chicken stock is....

20-Minute Noodle Bowls (for about 2 people)
(from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 15th Edition - click here for a similar online recipe)


• 14 oz chicken (or beef) broth
• 1/4 teriyaki sauce (the best is Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce)
• 1/4 water
• 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
• 2 3oz packages ramen noodles (any flavor, cause you don't use the flavor packet)

Combine broth, water, and sauce in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Then add you veggies and your noodles. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 3 minutes. Then serve it up! That easy and they are really tasty too! 

I usually add chicken too. If raw, I let it marinate in a bowl with teriyaki sauce and a little apple cider vinegar for about an hour or so before I cook it up in a pan. I like to leave some of the marinade in the pan so it kind of does a boil/fry thing. Then, once the noodles and veggies are done and served up in bowls, I add the chicken on top. If precooked chicken, I douse the chicken in teriyaki sauce for a while, and then stick it in with the rest of the the noodles and veggies for the last minute of cooking (since the chicken is done, but usually not hot from coming out of the freezer - go figure).

With the rest of your already cooked chicken, you can make many a different meal. Our usuals around these here part are chicken enchiladas, homemade chicken and green chili mac n cheese, and this potato/chicken country gravy/ cheese thing (sounds weird, but tastes decent enough - and cheap). But you can replace it for various meals that need cooked chicken - like pot pies, pasta, etc.

Next time, I'll tell you about ham... oh so delicious! Sorry Israelites, you probably won't be able to eat those meals!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Let Them Eat Cupcakes

I haven't blogged in a while - I figured this would happen. After going into the full swing of campus ministry hasn't left me much time to think outside of ministry (which is completely fine to me)! Adjusting back to ministry has been a little bit of a challenge - including my first couples weeks coming home and crashing on the couch. I would barely want to cook, let alone blog about it!

Students at DCC
Though the work has been exhausting, I still am blessed and excited to have outlets to bake!

One of the new challenges this semester has brought in my baking has been baking dairy-free. Both my good friend, Hedy, and dear student, Meghan, can't have dairy - thus I gladly adjust! I could be selfish, look at all the recipes that need dairy, and tell myself, "Well, it's only going to be one person who can't eat them. Everyone else will like them!"

Hedy with her reason for not having dairy - totally worth it!
But what if I have that attitude in other areas of life? For example, almost any time I prepare for a talk either at Connect or at a retreat, I struggle with myself on whether I should or shouldn't share the Gospel - even if it's only a few verses on what Jesus did for us. "Everyone here is already a Christian, " I think. "They know this already. I could use the time to speak on the main point."

The main point?! Jesus IS the main point, right?! Why on earth would I leave out the Good News just because the majority already knows? Not to mention, should we as Christ followers ever be tired of hearing how God Himself came to earth, lived a perfect life in the midst of temptation, died for OUR imperfect lives, and rose HIMSELF from the grave to conquer death?! I think not! (If I were an old English man, I would say NEIGH!)

So, just like I would accommodate any talk I have to share the Gospel for even that one who needs Jesus' free gift, I will gladly find and bake recipes without dairy! And boy have I found some GREAT recipes!!

First, I said earlier how I would tell you about the Babycakes Mini Cupcake Maker - today is the day my friends.
Behold, the cupcake maker!

I REALLY LIKE my cupcake maker! Seriously, baking is so easy and fun. I don't have to worry about preheating and then, even more important, turn the oven off before leaving the house. You plug it in, let it warm up (which takes about 5 minutes or less), and then dump in your batter. You can make around 40 or so cupcakes for one cake recipe. In the summertime, it makes baking in the heat far more tolerable then turning on the oven. AND you can make more than just cupcakes! Sometime I'll add some of those recipes at a later time, but now, unto the dairy free goodness!!

Applesauce Cake
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups applesauce (I kind of make these heaping, or even add an extra 1/4 or 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I used regular oil)
  • 2 eggs
I just dump it all in a bowl and mix, then bake it up at 350º! There is a frosting I tried once that you can also try that you can find on the link above. It's a little too tart in my opinion for the "spiceness" of the cake.  Make sure if you go off the website's recipe that you read the comments below.

Nairobi Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup water (I used mint chocolate soy milk once and it was great)
1. Preheat oven to 350º and grease either your cake pans or line cupcake pan or do what you need to for what your making.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, cocoa powder, 3/4 cup water, and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl and beat it up (with a mixer not your fists). Then add the eggs, vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup water and beat it again.
3. Baking  it in oven should take about 30 minutes in cake form, and shorter as cupcakes I imagine (I make these in the cupcake maker, and they take about 5 minutes). Bake until an inserted tooth pick come out clean.

Then I made this frosting with it, which I changed from this recipe:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) shortening (Crisco)
  • ¼ cup chocolate soymilk (or almond milk, but I bought a mint chocolate soy milk)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened pure cocoa powder
  • ½ t. vanilla 
Mix it all together to where it's well mixed and fluffy looking.

Pie Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 (21 ounce) can pie filling
Mix it together and bake in a greased pan at 350º for about 40 to 50 minutes. I really love this recipe! It's easy and tasty, and you can use any can of pie filling - I've used cherry and mixed berry so far. If you want more of the fruit, make sure you fold it and not use your mixer. I use the mixer - I like the broken up fruit stuff. 

Chocolate Crinkles Cookies:
(from The Great Cookie Book, but you can also find the same recipe here)


  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350º.  I greased my cookie sheets. Roll dough into one inch balls. Coat each ball in confectioners' sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Let me tell ya, these are AMAZING and a huge hit! PLEASE make them!!