grilled apple, brie, and christmas ham with turkey giblet dressing

apple brie ham grilled sandwich.JPG

After Christmas we always enjoy the leftovers, and I try to find creative and delicious ways to use them up. I boiled the turkey carcass to extract a broth which I made into Jamaican Black Bean Soup. So I adapted this panini sandwich recipe from Better Homes and Gardens to use up some turkey dinner leftovers: ham and spicy giblet dressing. This sandwich was salty, sweet, tangy, and spicy. All my favorite combinations!

Grilled Apple, Brie, and Christmas Ham with Turkey Giblet Dressing
Makes 3 sandwiches

2 slices ham cut into 1″x 3″pieces
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced into wedges then sliced thinly
Half small round of Brie
6 slices sourdough bread
1/3 cup turkey giblet dressing

On three slices of bread, spoon the dressing evenly. Top with ham pieces, about 5 per sandwich. Add the brie slices about 2-3 per sandwich, then about 4 of the apple slices. Cover with the remaining 3 slices of bread.

Cook’s Note: In the original recipe cranberry sauce was used instead of the giblet dressing.

Butter the outside of each sandwich and place on a hot griddle or panini press. Grill until golden brown on the outside, the cheese is melted, and the dressing is hot. Slice in half and serve at once.

Serving Suggestion: serve with a hearty soup such as a lentil soup or the Jamaican black bean soup.

spaghetti alla carbonara


We were expecting company for dinner, but  the guest list suddenly expanded from two to five. Which is okay because there was enough chicken to go around–the Lemon-Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes. I had also planned on making spaghetti alla carbonara, and two vegetable dishes. This carbonara does not have a cream sauce, for which I was grateful. Sometimes a cream sauce can be just too heavy for this dish. It should be light and salty. I do like the salty flavors from that bacon and ham generously crumbled and chopped and tossed in the pasta. I doubled this recipe for 8, so halve it for four.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (adapted from food network)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes


1 pound dry spaghetti  (preferably whole wheat)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 strips bacon, crisped in the microwave then crumbled
1/2 cup Canadian bacon or ham, chopped (about 6 slices)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 large eggs
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh basil, shredded, or use Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped coarsely (optional)


Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian “al dente.”) Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Microwave the bacon to minimize spatter. Do not discard the fat. When the bacon is crisp set aside to cool. Pour the rendered fat into a large skillet. Add the Canadian bacon. When it is slightly browned, add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Return the cooked bacon to the pot. Combine. Turn off the heat.

Coat cooked spaghetti in bacon fat. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Use a pair of silicone tipped tongs to toss the pasta. You may need to add a bit of olive oil. To add the sauce in the next step, do NOT turn on the heat.

Make the sauce. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Pour the egg/cheese mixture onto the pasta. This is done off the heat to ensure the eggs don’t scramble. That would be a tragedy! The heat from the pasta cooks the egg. Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Cook’s Note: I did not get much sauce, probably because I doubled this recipe.

Add seasoning. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt.

Serve. Mound the spaghetti alla carbonara into a large serving plate. Garnish with basil or parsley, if desired. Add more cheese if desired. This carbonara was zesty from the Parmesan cheese, chewy because of the aal dente pasta, and a bit salty and crunchy from the ham and bacon. The egg sauce binds to the pasta so that the Parmesan flavor came through with every mouthful.


easter dinner for two

easter dinner for two
easter dinner for two

This dinner for two featured a ham with five-spice cherry sauce and included three vegetable dishes: broccoli-grape salad, citrus- roasted asparagus, and green beans with mushrooms. All the recipes were adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. I could not find a small enough ham so I bought a boneless smoked pork butt and adapted the recipe. I added the ground ginger and ramped up the five spice powder. Five spice powder is a Chinese spice available from Asian grocery stores

ham with five spice cherry sauce
ham with five spice cherry sauce

Ham with Five-Spice Cherry Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes


1 tablespoon whole cloves
3 pound smoked pork butt
1 cup peach preserves
1/2 cup chopped tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons five-spice powder


Preheat oven to 325˚F . For easier clean up, line a 9 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Put the pork butt in the pan.

Stick cloves in the pork butt. In a small bowl, combine preserves, cherries, juice, mustard, ginger, and five-spice powder. Pour over the pork butt. Gently scrape off the cherries from the ham and let it fall into the pan. This will allow the cherries to plump up while they are cooking in the fat and liquid at the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 35 minutes per pound or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160˚F on an instant read thermometer. It reached temperature after 1 hour 15 minutes. That’s it! Easy.

Cool slightly. Slice and serve with the sauce.The sauce was sweet and the cherries chewy which complemented the saltiness of the meat perfectly.

Now for the three vegetable dishes! I chose a broccoli-grape salad because I thought it had a delicious blend of sweet, crunchy, salty, and tangy. I halved and adjusted the recipe to make enough for two.

After the ham is baked, remove it from the oven and turn up the heat to 425˚F.

broccoli-grape salad
broccoli-grape salad

Broccoli-Grape Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup red seedless grapes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons lemon juice
sugar to taste
4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted (optional)


Preheat oven to 425˚F. Spread the broccoli and grapes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Roast, 10 to 15 minutes or until broccoli is starting to brown and grapes are soft, stirring once halfway through roasting time. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with red onion. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the mayonnaise with the lemon juice, and sugar. Place broccoli mixture in a serving bowl. Top with bacon and toasted almonds, if using. Serve the salad with the dressing on the side.

This next recipe called Citrus-Roasted Asparagus has a wonderful citrus flavor. For this dish, be sure to buy the spears with thick stems as they can handle roasting. I halved and adjusted this recipe for two.

citrus-roasted asparagus
citrus-roasted asparagus

Citrus-Roasted Asparagus

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

2 seedless oranges
2 lemons
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus spears
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons tarragon leaves
Sea salt and coarsely ground pepper


If you are roasting the broccoli, you can ignore this step to preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roasting the asparagus the same time as the broccoli won’t hurt it a bit.

In a small bowl, zest one orange and one lemon. From the same orange and lemon squeeze a total of 2 tablespoons juice. Combine with garlic and add tarragon. Set aside. Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Thinly slice half the remaining orange and lemon. Then, drizzle slices with about 2 teaspoons olive oil. Place on half of the baking sheet; set aside.

Wash asparagus.  Break off woody stems. Place spears on the other side of the baking tray. Sprinkle with garlic, tarragon, and citrus zest. Drizzle 2 teaspoons olive oil; toss to coat spears. Spread spears in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Tip: To trim asparagus, hold up one spear and gently bend the stem end. About 1 to 1 1/2 inches will snap off. Trim the rest of the bunch to this length.

Roast asparagus and citrus slices 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice with tongs, until asparagus is tender and citrus begins to brown. A sure sign the asparagus is tender is it will turn a bright green. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter.

While the asparagus and citrus slices are roasting, make the vinaigrette. In a small dish whisk together reserved juices and remaining 1 teaspoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over roasted asparagus, citrus, and garlic-citrus zest mixture. Sprinkle with roasted citrus slices. Serve warm.

This last recipe is savory, a delightful contrast to the sweetness of the five-spice cherry sauce and the broccoli-grape salad. I left out the olive oil because I had a pan with 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in it. I used a paper towel to soak up about one tablespoon, leaving the rest in the pan. I halved and adjusted this recipe for two.

green beans with mushrooms
green beans with mushrooms

Green Beans with Mushrooms

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5-7 minutes

1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter, optional
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (2 medium)
4 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (half a lemon)
1 tablespoons lemon juice (half a lemon)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)


Bring a small pot of salted water to boiling. Add green beans. Cook uncovered until the green beans are bright green and crisp- tender. Don’t go by time, but by sight. Drain the green beans in a colander. Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process and to set the color.

In an large skillet heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are wilted. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are browned.

Add the cooked green beans. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until heated through, tossing occasionally. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and thyme; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds, if using.

Of course, we had dessert. Flourless chocolate cake with Haagen Dazs Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream. But I forgot to take a picture!