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Archive for Holidays & Occasions

TIP OF THE DAY: Smithfield Spiral Sliced Ham For Easter

Why do we eat ham at Easter? The answer is below.

But eat we do! Smithfield sent THE NIBBLE its latest flavor, Smokehouse Reserve Baked Apple Spiced Spiral Sliced Ham (the flavor refers to the glaze packets that are included.

Weighing in at more than five pounds, we served it last night at our monthly editorial dinner.

The ham was so juicy, so easy to prepare (precooked, it needed only 90 minutes of heating) that two more team members are buying spiral-sliced Smithfield hams for Easter dinner.

Each pound of spiral sliced ham contains approximately 4 servings, so our group of nine went home with leftovers, planning how to use them today.

Smokehouse Reserve Baked Apple Spiced Spiral Sliced Ham is a limited edition that joins Smithfield’s lineup of spiral sliced hams:

  • Brown Sugar Spiral Sliced Ham, regular or preglazed
  • Crunchy Glaze Spiral Sliced Ham
  • Crunchy Glaze Quarter Boneless Spiral Sliced Ham
  • Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Ham, regular or preglazed
  • Pecan Praline Spiral Slcied Ham
  • Quarter Bone-In Hickory Smoked Spiral Ham
  • Quarter Boneless Hickory Smoked Spiral Ham
  • Salted Caramel Spiral Sliced Smoked Ham

WHY BUY A SPIRAL SLICED HAM?

A friend with a ham habit recommends a spiral sliced ham with the bone in. He likes the greater juiciness of a bone-in ham, the ham bone for further culinary use (see the next section), and the convenience of the spiral slices.

Our mother, a purist, preferred the uneven slices and carved her own ham. So it becomes a question of aesthetics and time (and skill) to carve. If a large group of hungry people wants their ham ASAP, go for the spiral.

A spiral ham also looks prettier standing up, with the slices fanned.

Smithfield hams are sold fully cooked and can be heated or eaten cold or room temperature. In fact, we spent so much time last night with the courses leading up to the ham, that we ended up with room temperature ham after our baking ham had cooled. It was just as yummy.

Spiral ham trivia: The spiral-slicing machine was patented in 1952 by Harry J. Hoenselaar, who went on to founded HoneyBaked Ham a few years later. His creation eliminated the frustration of navigating the ham bone and producing even slices.

Here’s more on the spiral-slicing machine.

WAYS TO USE THE HAM BONE

Except for the those marked boneless, all hams include a bone, which can be used to add smoky ham flavor to other dishes. If you don’t want to use it, ask a friend: Few good cooks will turn down a ham bone!

You can freeze a ham bone; you can substitute a ham bone for any recipe that calls for a ham hock.

  • Freeze: If you don’t have much time to think about it, wrap the bone tightly in plastic, and plan to use it within three months.
Smithfield Honey Cured Spiral Ham

Smithfield Baked Apple Spice Spiral Ham

Easter Dinner

[1] and [2] Smithfield spiral sliced ham (photo courtesy Smithfield Foods). [3] On an Easter table (photo courtesy Today I Found Out).

  • Ham Stock: If you have just a little time to think about it, place the bone in a 4 or 5-quart pot with water, carrots, celery, garlic, herbs (bay leaves, parsley, thyme), onions or leeks, and 5 peppercorns (The water should cover the bone by one inch). Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours to extract the most flavor from the bone. Stock is typically left unsalted, for flexibility in recipes. When finished, discard the bone and strain out the vegetables.
  • Beans: A pot of beans or legumes of any kind (the difference), will be even more flavorful when cooked with the bone. Make a big pot of beans and enjoy them all week in different forms: baked beans, bean dip, grain bowls, green salad, sandwich spread, tacos and burritos, for starters.
  • Congee: We love Cream of Rice porridge, and breakfast on it regularly. The Chinese version is called congee, served as a savory dish with scrap bits of meat and vegetables, and sliced scallions. Find a recipe and cook up a pot. Maybe invite friends and neighbors to brunch? If so, see if you can find a Chinese sausage to add to the congee: a wonderful flavor very different from American and European sausages.
  • Greens: The classic is collards with a ham bone. If you’ve never made this delicious dish, head to the store for the collards! You can substitute kale and chard.
  • Soups & Stews: Ham bones are added to hearty, slow-cooked soups: bean soups, chowder, lentil and split pea are the most popular.

Don’t leave a ham bone where a dog can get at it: Cooked bones can splinter and get stuck in their throats.

MORE FROM SMITHFIELD

WHY WE EAT HAM ON EASTER

The paschal lamb or an easter ham?

Lamb is a traditional Easter food because Jesus’ last supper was the Passover meal, which includes a ritually sacrificed lamb.

In Europe, lamb is commonly served at Easter, based on the tradition of the Passover feast, and fitting commemoration of Jesus, the “lamb of God,” who, as a Jew, would not have eaten pork.

So why is ham so often served at Easter?

Convenience: Prior to modern times, salted pork would last through the winter and ham would be ready to eat at Easter, before other fresh, quality meat was available [source].

Before refrigeration, pigs and cows were slaughtered in the fall. Since it took a fair amount of time to butcher these large animals without modern tools, the cold winter temperatures helped to keep the meat from going bad before it could be properly aged to develop their flavor [source].

By Jewish law, the sacrificial lamb could be up to a year old. Sometimes, based on how the dates fell for Passover and Easter, spring lambs born 6 to 8 weeks earlier could be slaughtered for the holiday.

 

Green Salad With Ham

[4] Make this rainbow salad with leftover lamb (photo courtesy Shockingly Delicious | Smithfield).

RECIPE: RAINBOW SALAD WITH LEFTOVER HAM

Transform leftover ham into a colorful salad, packed with fruits, vegetables and ham chunks.

This recipe, featured by Smithfield, is copyright Dorothy Reinhold, Shockingly Delicious.

Ingredients For 1 Luncheon Salad

  • 1 head of bok choy
  • 1 red or reddish apple, such as Fuji*
  • 1 bunch purple grapes
  • 2 slices ham, cut into chunks or strips
  • 3 mini bell peppers or 1 large, ideally red, orange or yellow
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla-infused olive oil†
  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar (substitute sherry or wine vinegar)
  • Fresh chives
Preparation1. CHOP the bok choy into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl or plate.2, CUT the apple into quarters, removing core, and cut it into chunks to add to salad. Add grapes to salad. Cut 1-2 slices of ham into strips and add to salad. Cut mini peppers in half, removing stem and seeds. Cut into small chunks and add to salad. Add blueberries to salad.

3. DRIZZLE the olive oil on salad, followed by the vinegar. Using a kitchen shears, snip chives in tiny pieces atop salad.

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*You can substitute any apple you have. Fuji apples are sweet, juicy and crisp with an undertone of spice. It can be yellow-green with red highlights to mostly red in color. It is a cross between two American varieties, the Red Delicious and the Ralls Jennet, a popular breeding apple that was grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson. The Fuji apple was developed in Fujisaki, Japan in 1939 but wasn’t introduced to market until 1962 in Japan, and not until the 1980s in the U.S., where it has become one of the the country’s favorite apples.

†Most of us haven’t infused a vanilla bean in olive oil. Substitute any flavored oil you have: basil, garlic or rosemary.

 

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TIP OF THE DAY: Piñata Cake

Our job includes a lot of research, which often turns up surprising things.

One of this is piñata cake, a concept that originated in the U.K. and is also popular in Australia.

We also found it in Germany, called surprise cake.

You don’t hit a piñata cake with a stick. It’s when you cut into the cake that the treasures (candy) spill out.

The treasures are theme candies that fill a “secret” center well in the cake. The well is cut after the layers are baked, so you can place anything in the well without fear of melting.

(If you’re in the chips, silver dollars would be nice!)

The uncut top layer then goes on top of the well layers, and the whole cake is frosted.

A four-layer cake is recommended to have enough room for lots of candy to tumble out.

You can make them in any occasion. We’re keeping a recipe for a Valentine’s Day: a red velvet cake in red and pink layers, filled with Valentine candy.
 
IT’S EASY!

“We can’t stress enough just how easy these cakes are,” says The Whoot in Australia. “Everyone will think you must have gone to so much effort.

“It has a very festive look and you can make it in colors to suit any theme.”

The only caveats are:

  • You need to bake a dense cake. The cake circle needs to be hardy to hold the sweets in the well.That means no no airy cakes, angel cakes or sponge cakes.
  • Don’t cut too wide a well. The perimeter needs to be sturdy enough to hold up the cake.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF PIÑATA CAKE

    A 2015 article in London’s The Daily Mail says that “Asda kicked off the trend last year with their Smartie pinata cake and Lakeland [a manufacturer] soon followed, selling all the paraphernalia needed to create ‘surprise’ cake.”

    Asda is a supermarket chain in the U.K., that first created the cake for sale in its stores.

    After the success of the cake, Asda printed the recipe on its lifestyle website.

    The first cookbook with a piñata cake recipe seems to be Cakeology by Juliet Sear, published in 2015.

    She notes that piñata cakes had become popular in the past year, i.e., 2014.
     
    PIÑATA CAKE FOR EASTER

    For a holiday in which the Easter Bunny brings baskets full of surprises, piñata cake this makes a great holiday cake.

    Carrot cake, the favorite of the Easter Bunny, is both theme-appropriate and dense.

    If you have the frosting skills, you can you can make a basket weave frosting, turning the “piñata” into an Easter basket filled with Easter treats.

    Of course, piñata cake works for any holiday, any occasion, any theme colors. The decorations on top can be as simple or ornate as you wish.

    Ask someone else to cut the cake, and be the first to see the surprise.

     

    Pinata Cake

    Pinata Cake

    Pinata Cake

    Pinata Cake

    Some of the many ways to create a piñata cake. Links to the recipes are below.

     
    RECIPES

    Here are the recipes in the photos:

  • Cake #1: piñata cake recipe in spring pastels, from Australia’s In The Playroom.
  • Photo #2: a glamorous piñata cake recipe* from Germany’s Dr. Oetker, which calls it a surprise cake.
  • Cake #3: a rainbow piñata cake recipe from Bakers Corner, Australia
  • Cake #4: The secret well. Photo courtesy Cakeology.
  •  
    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAKES IN OUR CAKE GLOSSARY.
     
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    *The recipe is in German and uses Dr. Oetker baking products. We present the photo as a guideline for the most elegant piñata cake we found. You can cut and paste the recipe into Google Translate if you want a translation.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Easter Toast

    Easter Toast

    Arla Blueberry Cream Cheese

    Easter egg toast. Use the same concept for Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine and other “holiday toast” (photos courtesy Arla USA).

     

    Make Easter egg toast as a holiday treat.

    These were made with blueberry cream cheese from Arla USA, maker of cream cheese spreads in blueberry, herbs & spices, peppercorn, original and lite.

    You can bring these toasts ready-made to the table, or bring the individual ingredients for an assemble-your-own activity.

    Use the same concept for Christmas toast, Independence Day Toast, St. Patrick’s Day toast, Valentine toast, and so on.
     
    RECIPE: EASTER TOAST

    Ingredients

  • Toasted bread of choice*
  • Cream cheese(s) of choice, e.g. plain and flavored, room temperature
  • Fruits of choice, e.g. apple slices, blueberries, grapes, raspberries
  • Vegetables of choice, e.g. bell pepper strips, chives/scallions, grape tomatoes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the fruits and vegetables into halves, coins or matchsticks, as desired.

    2. CUT the toast into ovals using a large, sharp scissors. You can buy oval cookie cutters, but we printed out an oval template, cut out and placed over the toast as a guideline.

    3. ASSEMBLE and serve.

     
    USES FOR THE TOAST TRIMMINGS

    Don’t toss the toast trimmings. If you’re not the type to nibble as you cook, then:

  • Pulse them into breadcrumbs.
  • Use as croutons to top soups and salads.
  • Toss into omelets or garnish scrambles.
  • Make a savory parfait: cottage cheese and/or plain yogurt layered with toast bits and herbs.
  • Top an open-face sandwich.
  • Feed birds.
  •  

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    *Avoid thick slices or dense breads stuffed with dried fruits and nuts. They’re not as easy to cut into neat ovals.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Decorate Snacks With Candy Melts

    With Easter coming, you may want to get a bit craftsy.

    We’re not suggesting that you mold your own chocolate bunnies, make rocher nests of almonds and chocolate filled with your own truffles, or take on homemade Peeps.

    Rather, just decorate some of your everyday favorite snacks with drizzled candy melts in seasonal colors.

    It is as simple as:

  • Heating a drizzle pouch or two of candy melt drizzle (photo #1) in the microwave.
  • Laying cookies, potato chips, pretzels or other snacks on a baking sheet.
  • Snipping off a corner of the pouch and drizzling the color(s) over the snacks.
  • Chilling until set, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  •  
    That’s it!

    As with chocolate, candy melt brands vary by quality and price. Merckens* and Wilton are two quality brands.

    You also want to use fresh melts—nothing that’s been sitting in a cupboard (or on a retailer’s shelf) for a year.

    Here are some examples of colors to play with:

    WILTON CANDY MELTS

    Colors – Vanilla Flavor*

  • Bright Green
  • Bright Pink
  • Bright White
  • Red (vanilla flavor)
  • Turquoise
  •  
    Other Flavors† & Colors

  • Light Cocoa flavored (dark brown)
  • Mint Chip flavored (lighter green)
  • Peanut Butter flavored (light brown)
  • Salted Caramel (light brown)
  •  
    Wilton drizzle is $1.99 for a 2-ounce/56g pouch. One package covers 3 dozen mini pretzels, as shown in photo #1.

    You can buy them online or check the Wilton store locator for a retailer near you.

    Don’t buy candy melts way in advance to keep until you need them: Fresh candy melts work better.
     
     
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    *All colors of Merckens wafers are flavored with artificial vanilla, as are the vanilla-flavored colors from Wilton. Candy melts are great for decorating, and people, and some people melt the wafers into colored bark and other candy. But flavor-wise, they are no substitute for chocolate—or for hand-tinted white chocolate.

    †These are artificial flavors as well. The chocolate varieties are flavored with cocoa.

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    Pretzels With Candy Coating

    Drizzled Chocolate Potato Chips

    Homemade Cracker Jacks

    Flower Bites With  Pretzels & M&Ms

    Recipes for [1] [2] and [3] from Wilton: drizzled pretzels, drizzled potato chips and colored peanuts-and-popcorn. [4] Flower bites made with pretzels and Easter M&Ms, bound together with white candy melts. Here are instructions from Two Sisters Crafting.

     

    Merckens Candy Melts

    Merck's Candy Melts

    [5] Candy melts come in a rainbow of colors, that can be blended together to make still other colors. [6] These may look like chocolate wafers from a fine chocolatier, but they’re candy coating—candy melts—without any cocoa butter (both photos courtesy Merckens).

     

    WHAT ARE CANDY MELTS?

    Candy melts are not quite chocolate, but they look like it.

    They are made in two formats: disks/wafers to melt and then use to decorate confections (used to adhere the M&Ms in photo #4 and larger projects like these), and microwaveable pouches to drizzle (the used in photos #1, #2 and #3).

    Candy melts have several other names: compound coating, confectionary coating, decorator’s chocolate, pâté glacée and summer coating.

    Candy melts are an imitation chocolate product that substitutes vegetable oil for all or part of the cocoa butter in chocolate. In milk chocolate-flavored melts, whey powders, whey derivatives and dairy blends can be used instead of powdered milk.

    Thus, the flavor of candy melts is not as fine as chocolate. If you bite into a piece of “chocolate” that doesn’t taste as rich or velvety on the tongue, it may well be made from candy melts.

    People who think they “hate white chocolate” may have experienced white candy melts instead: artificial chocolate flavored with artificial vanilla. Sometimes, the most beautiful creations are crafted from candy melts that don’t taste as good as they should.

    In the U.S., commercial products made with confectionary coating must be designated “chocolate-flavored.”

    Why do people use candy melts if it isn’t as tasty?

  • It is significantly less expensive than chocolate (and kids likely won’t notice the difference).
  • For color, it is easier than tinting white chocolate.
  • It does not require tempering, but melts easily.
  • It can be thinned out to make as delicate a decoration as the user wants.
  • It hardens quickly, and once hardened, does not melt in the heat like chocolate.
  •  
    Before universal air conditioning, chocolatiers used confectionary coating to create their summer wares, including chocolate-dipped fruit.

    The white coating was often tinted pastel pink, blue and green. The products were called “summer chocolate,” not artificial chocolate.

    Again, that’s why so many people dislike white “chocolate.” Give the best white chocolate a try.
     
     
    TIPS

    There are plenty of videos on YouTube and online articles that explain how to work with the disks. However, since the ideas above use only the drizzling pouches, not much instruction is needed except: Start with a very small cut in the pouch or your drizzle may wider than you’d like.

    Here’s how to read the freshness code on candy melts bags.

     

      

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    FOOD FUN: Easter Naked Cake With Chocolate Nest

    In our first apartment, we began to bake Easter cakes. For years, we had a Nordicware lamb-shape cake mold. We baked a chocolate cake (a black sheep, as it were), frosted it in vanilla and covered it with white flaked coconut.

    One year, we out grew the lamb, gave the mold away and moved on to a layer cake. The sides were covered in white coconut and the top was green-tinted coconut, the “grass” upon which we placed our favorite malted-milk speckled candy Easter eggs.

    After years of dying coconut, and with complaints from those who didn’t like coconut cake (you know who you are!), last year we made this Speckled Easter Malted Milk Cake.

    Alas, lacking a good hand for smooth icing, ours didn’t look quite this pretty. We haven’t met anyone who can show us the trick.

    So this year, we’re minimizing the need for icing by going with a naked cake (see photos).

    A naked cake can have can have a light, uneven swath of frosting on the outside with naked cake showing through (see the nakedness here).

    Or, it can have no side frosting at all. That solves my particular challenge!

    NAKED CAKE VS. STACK CAKE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Is a naked cake the same as a stack cake? No.

    Both of these layer cakes are so newly trendy that the terms are often used interchangeably. But they are different:

  • A stack cake has zero frosting on the sides, just between the layers—and often just powdered sugar on top.
  • A naked cake has an iced top, and can have a light swath of frosting on the sides (a semi-naked cake), as described above.
  • Stack cake is an older concept from Appalachia; it was a typical wedding cake in that economically-challenged region. Each neighbor brought one unfrosted cake layer to the party (it could be any flavor), to be stacked with layers of frosting provided by the bride’s family.
  •  
    EASTER CAKE IDEAS

    We like the concept of stack cake as a modern party idea—a pot-luck cake, as it were. Here’s how to throw a stack cake party.

    This Easter, we’re not going to ask everyone to bring a layer (maybe next year, guys). So we’re making a naked cake.

    We’re currently thinking orange pound cake layers topped with a great ganache. (It’s great when you make it from the best chocolate, like Callebaut or Valrhona). Make any cake and frosting recipes you like, 2 or 3 layers. You can add fruit to the frosting layers (raspberries, sliced strawberries).

    Thanks to the video below, we’re topping our cake a chocolate nest, filled with our [still favorite after all these years] speckled malted milk eggs. It is a really easy technique.

    You can find other nest recipes made with everything from shredded wheat and pretzel sticks to Chinese fried noodles and uncooked rice vermicelli. Trust us: The chocolate nests are easier—and taste better.

    You have plenty of time to practice: All you need is sugar water, melted chocolate, two pans, a bowl and a squeeze bag.
     
     
    VIDEO: HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE NESTS

     

    Naked Easter Cake

    Easter Naked Cake

    Naked Chocolate Cake

    [1] Here’s the recipe for this Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake from Chewtown. We used the chocolate basket recipe in the video below. [2] This naked cake from Black Jet Baking Co. is decorated with jelly beans and sprinkles (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] We prefer this type of side icing on our naked cakes (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

    Here’s the recipe with measurements.

    Note that this recipe makes individual nests. For a cake of 8-9 inches diameter, use a bowl as your mold instead of the foil.

    We did not make the leaves or feathers shown in the recipe, but instead filled our basket with malted milk eggs.

      

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