Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Candy

Photo stolen borrowed from Chef in Training

I am famous within my circle of family, friends and church friends for making truffles every Christmas.  This year, I added a new one, Cake Batter Truffles, which I found at Chef in Training (via Pinterest, my newest obsession).  Oh my goodness!  They taste just like licking the beater.  I can rave about them, since they are a found recipe and not my own creation.  My niece, Ashley, and my daughter Jen and I made our traditional candies and Jen documented the proper way to dip truffles. 

Things to remember when working with chocolate/candy coating:
1) Water is the enemy.  Chocolate and candy coating is basically powder suspended in fat.  Add water, even a drop, and all the powder will try to clump to it.  That means don't melt it in a double boiler, because steam can ruin your chocolate without you ever seeing it. For the same reason, you don't want to chill your centers, because once you take them out of the fridge, condensation can form on the centers from the change in temperature.
2) Overheating/scorching. Chocolate/candy coating doesn't look melted when it melts.  Stir it often so you know when it melts.
3) Thinking hotter chocolate/candy coating will be more liquidy than cooler chocolate/candy coating.  When white chocolate/candy coating is first melted, it is too thick to coat properly.  Temper it as described below before dipping.

First you must buy high quality coating.  Please don't use 'bark' coating.  It's not reliable and the flavor is awful.  Wilton Candy Melts are good quality and easy to use, but I prefer Ambrosia brand which is sold in 1 lb. blocks at Woodmans.  Be sure to get candy coating, not real milk chocolate, because real chocolate is much harder to work with.  There's a whole process of  melting and cooling to a fairly exact temperature or your chocolate will be dull and/or grainy.  So candy coating is the way to go. 

Cut the chocolate (from here on I'll refer to candy coating as chocolate), by cutting it on a thin angle.  Don't try to cut it in squares, it won't cut or melt well.  Place your knife at an angle to the corner of the block of chocolate and cut it in thin 1/4" or so pieces.  It will fall into shards, that's what you want.  Scoop it up, put it in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup and put it in the microwave.  Heat it at 50% power (any hotter and you'll scorch the chocolate) and stir EVERY 30 SECONDS.  The reason you're using a 2 cup measure is: a) it's narrow and deep, which is helpful for dunking the centers; b) it only holds 2 cups so it won't solidify while you're in the middle of dipping, and c) glass holds heat, which helps keep the chocolate melted.

Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, stir it gently and lift up a spoonful and pour it back into the measuring cup from a height of several inches.  This is called tempering and is essential when working with white coating.  The dark chocolate coating comes out very liquidy, almost like chocolate syrup and is very easy to work with.  The white chocolate coating needs to be tempered.  As you stir, lift and pour the white coating, over and over, it will become thinner and more liquidy, and much easier to work with.

Now it's time to start dipping:

Drop one in:
Dunk it:

Scoop under it with a meat fork and let the excess run off:

Gently touch the bottom of the candy to the edge of the measuring cup.  The surface tension of the coating will help pull off excess coating.  If you don't do this you will end up with a large puddle of coating at the base of your finished candy.

Let the candy roll off onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Use the melted coating still on the fork to "touch up" any fork marks.

Add sprinkles while the coating is still wet.

Put it on your dessert table.  Be prepared to refill the plate frequently.

Want the recipe?

Cake Batter Truffles
Slightly adapted from recipe found at: Chef in Training
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix, dry
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons sprinkles, plus extra for decoration
16 ounces white candy coating
Beat together butter and sugar using an electric mixer for 5 minutes.  Add flour, cake mix,  vanilla and salt and mix thoroughly.  Add 3 Tablespoons of milk.  If needed, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, to make a dough with the consistency of play dough.  Knead in sprinkles by hand.  
Using about a half tablespoon of dough for each, form dough into 1/2 inch balls and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Set balls aside for 15 minutes at room temperature to firm up.
While dough balls are resting, melt candy coating in the microwave in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir between intervals. 

Once the coating is melted and smooth, temper it by lifting up spoonfuls and letting it drizzle back into the bowl.  It's ready to use when it flows like cake batter ; ).
Drop a ball into the melted chocolate.  Scoop under it with a 2 pronged fork and encourage excess to run off by touching the bottom of the fork on the side of your bowl. Place truffle back on the cookie sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat with remaining balls until finished. 
Keep cake batter truffles in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.  Makes 40 - 50 truffles.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Creamy Potato Soup

I wish I had a photo that would give you the smell of this soup.  Creamy, thick, filling and satisfying.  It's what we had for dinner last night and what my husband had for lunch today.  He snagged the entire tub of leftovers - not that I blame him.

It's one of the quickest from-scratch soups ever.  Here's how to make it:

That's all you need for this soup.  Peeled diced potatoes, chicken broth, minced onion, seasoned salt and white pepper go in the pot:
Cover it and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to keep it from boiling over and cook until the potatoes are tender; about 40 minutes.  Then it's time to add the cream cheese.
Just cut it up a bit as you plop it in.  Then I hit it with my immersion blender.
If you don't have an immersion blender, a potato masher works very well.  Or you can use your blender or food processor.  Be careful while pureeing. If you overdo it, you'll get a gluey texture. Make it as pureed as you like; I keep a few chunks for texture. 
Serve with a salad and bread.  We didn't bother with either.  Just dove in.  Yum.

Creamy Potato Soup
Slightly adapted from Shawn H's recipe #150863 at

4 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese*, at room temperature
Optional toppings: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar, fresh chives/scallions

Place broth, potatoes, onion and spices in a large pot.
Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally until potatoes are tender.
Mash potatoes to desired puree.

*Note: Normally I use reduced fat cream cheese, but full fat was what I had on hand. Both full-fat and reduced-fat cream cheese work well in this recipe; I don't recommend using fat-free. It has an odd non-melty quality.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Nick!

Today is Nick's 85th birthday.  I baked a bundt cake for him and put a simple glaze on it.  If you've been reading my blog for very long, you'll remember that bundt cakes and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love bundt cakes, they hate to leave the pan.  Their reluctance to leave their pan has resulted in mayhem like this:

which necessitated last minute creativeness like this Trifle:
It was truly yummy, but I don't need a repeat.  That NONSTICK pan was oiled and floured and still - disaster resulted.  All because bundt cakes like to stay in the pan.  I had to devise a way to form a crust that would  s-l-i-d-e  out of the pan.  And patience.  I need to let it cool down.

So here's my Super Duper Bundt Pan Solution:  equal parts all purpose flour and vegetable oil.  Just stir them together and paint the inside of your bundt pan with a pastry brush.  (Be sure to smell the pastry brush to avoid the garlic bread pastry brush).  Add your batter, bake until done.  ALLOW TO COOL at least 40 minutes on a rack before unpanning. The caps are for my benefit.  I'm sure you'll be patient and let it cool without needing such a stern reminder. 

Let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then make the glaze:

Cake Glaze
2 cups confectioner's/powdered/10X sugar
2 Tablespoons white corn syrup (clear Karo)
2 Tablespoons hot tap water
1/2 teaspoon your choice extract (almond, lemon, orange, vanilla, mint)

Place sugar, syrup and water in a large microwaveable bowl.  Stir to moisten.  It will be clumpy. Microwave 30 seconds on high.  Stir and scrape down the bowl.  Microwave 15 seconds on high, stir.  Repeat until it becomes smooth and pourable, about the consistency of pancake batter.  Don't let it boil.  Stir in the extract.  If you're using lemon or orange extract, adding 1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange rind (or both!) is very good, but I wouldn't use it with other extracts.
Place the cake, still on the cooling rack, over a plate to catch drips and spoon the glaze over the cake, spreading it with the back of the spoon to cover as much or as little as you like.  Let it set up at least 15 minutes before moving to your serving plate.

This glaze sets up with a shiny, dry finish.  The underneath stays soft; almost fudgy in consistency.

Nick and Anna. Two of my very favorite people.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pretty Jewelry

A couple days ago, I shared the World's Ugliest Necklace.  Here's a necklace and earring set I'm proud to admit I made:

They were inspired by the pleating on this dress and shoes:

I bought them at Your Best Friend's Closet.  The dress was brand new and still had the $330.00 price tag on it.  I got it for $70.40 and the shoes for $8.30.  AND I had a full punch card, so I got $10 off.  Woo-hoo!
Would I lie?
I wore them to the Schlachtfest at the Donauschwaben with Walt's parents, Anna and Nick.  They have been members since shortly after immigrating to the U.S. in 1952.  Schlachtfest is a fall harvest festival and the food centers around pork, which is traditionally slaughtered and preserved in the fall.  We had a nice time talking with their longtime friends.
Anna, Walt and Nick

Anna, Nick, Ellie and Ingrid

There was plenty of German food. Appetizers were rye bread, liver sausage, head cheese, cracklings and dill pickles. Dinner was cabbage rolls, sweet sour cole slaw, boiled potatoes, Hungarian wurst and pork roast with gravy.
 After dinner came the coffee and cookie parade!  The jugend (youth group) carried platters piled high with homemade cookies and pastries, circling around the room to music before delivering to each table.  They also were our waitresses, dressed sweetly in traditional attire. 
The Cookie Parade

 They also performed several dances, songs and poem recitations in their ancestrial dialect.  I wasn't surprised to learn that they had earned the Silver Award (2nd place) in the championships.
Me and Walt.  I'm wearing the jewelry I made.  My hair is NOT red.  I don't know why it looks like that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

World's Ugliest Necklace

I recently made the world's ugliest necklace and I did it on purpose.  It's all because of this little guy:
Asa is my grandson and he was making my daughter's life a bit uncomfortable.  He'd be nursing away and get distracted by something across the room.  Which can be painful as he turned his head to look.  At my daughter's request, I made a necklace for her to wear while nursing. 

I made it extra long without a clasp so she can toss over her head with one hand, while holding a screaming baby in the other arm.  It's designed to facinate a nursing baby so he doesn't turn away from mommy's chest.

I used as many different colors, shapes and textures as I could from my bead stash.  Which is considerable.  My husband once asked if I was trying to get on Hoarders.  Once.  He got The Look.  But I digress.

I strung the necklace, knotted it well and then strung a second strand through and knotted it well.  I was worried that Asa would somehow break a single strand and choke on a bead.  Which presented another worry - that thread is very durable and a baby is not going to break it.  So, it can't be left within reach of a baby or his toddler big sister (who thinks it is the prettiest necklace she has ever seen), due to the danger of strangulation.  So mom keeps it well out of reach.  She's a great mom. I'm very proud of her.

Now I'm thinking of another version.  Perhaps a bracelet-like beaded focal strung onto ribbon which can be untied to wash the ribbon or change out the focal.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Three Winning Crockpot Recipes

It's canning season, which means even though I'm cooking all day, I have very little time to cook dinner.  So, I've been using my crockpot for several meals each week and I've found three that are easy, inexpensive and delicious. 

The first is a variation on a recipe that was very, very salty the first time I made it.  So I changed it up a bit and omitted a second salty seasoning package.  If you like lots of salt, you can add in a package of Au Jus mix.

Cube Steaks with Gravy for the Crockpot
2 lbs. cube steaks
1 can Low-Sodium Golden Mushroom Soup, undiluted
1 can Low-Sodium French Onion Soup, undiluted
1 envelope Brown Gravy mix

Spray the interior of your crockpot with non-stick.  Lay the cube steaks in one layer, arranging to overlap as little as possible.

Combine soups and gravy mix in a small bowl.  Pour over.

Cover and cook on low 8 hours.  Very, very good served hot sandwich style on hearty white bread.

Chicken Cordon Bleu for the Crockpot
I made real chicken cordon bleu when I was young and insane childless in my early 20's.  It took forever to prepare, but was heaven to eat.  First you had to pound the chicken breasts very thin, then layer on ham and swiss cheese, then roll them up, bread them, saute them and finally bake them.  It took  F O R E V E R.  One day, I vowed never again!  However, every now and then I'd get a hankering and buy some frozen ones, hoping they'd satisfy.  Trust me, those little frozen bundles don't even come close. 

This recipe is even easier than the frozen ones, and far better all around.  It hits all the flavor and texture notes of the labor intensive version.  The chicken stays moist and tender, the cheese is melty, the ham is sweet and salty and the stuffing mix adds the crisp breading texture and flavor.  Best of all, this is a plop and cook meal.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 slices deli ham, or sandwich slices
6 - 12 slices swiss cheese, enough to cover each breast
1 can low-sodium cream of chicken soup (the cheese, ham and stuffing mix are salty)
1 (6 oz.) box chicken stuffing mix
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Spray your crockpot with non-stick.
Combine milk and soup in a bowl.  Pour half into the bottom of the crockpot.  Add chicken in one layer, arranging to overlap as little as possible.
Place a slice of ham on each breast, then cheese.
Pour remaining soup mixture evenly over all.
Sprinkle evenly with stuffing mix.  If your mix comes with a seasoning packet, sprinkle it over.
Drizzle with melted butter.
Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours.  Note: any stuffing that falls into the gravy will soak it up.  If you like wet stuffing, you'll love it.  If not, don't spoon the gravy from the bottom of the pot over the stuffing when you serve it.

Beef Strogonoff for the Crockpot
If you've ever made strogonoff, you know it's easy but tricky and expensive.  The expensive part is the original recipe calls for beef tenderloin aka filet mignon.  The tricky part is getting the beef cooked just so.  Cook beef tenderloin too long and it gets dry and tough.  This recipe solves that with stew meat.  Stewing meat is a mixture of cuts, mostly chuck, which is very flavorful, but chewy.  The long, moist cooking makes stew beef nice and tender.  Like many of my recipes, this is one I found and changed to make better.  In this case, I added a tiny bit of bacon and browned the meat.  Doing this added tons of flavor without much expense or time.  I browned the beef the night before and refrigerated it.  The next morning, I just tossed everything in the cooker and turned it on.  If you're short on time, you can omit the browing step, but the flavor won't be as rich.  The sour cream is added at the end, without cooking, so it doesn't curdle.  I like it better without.

1 lb. beef stew meat, cut in about 1/2" chunks
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 strips bacon, diced (I cut my bacon with kitchen shears right into the pan)
1/4 cup water

1 can low-sodium Golden Mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup sour cream, plain yogurt or cream cheese (optional)

Pat the beef dry with paper towels.  Season the flour with salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the beef and toss to coat.  Shake off excess flour from beef and throw away the extra flour.  The extra makes it easier to coat the beef.

Heat a large, high sided pan over medium heat.  I use my dutch oven - the high sides help trap the spatters. Add 1 - 2 tablespoons oil, enough to coat the bottom well, and allow to heat a few seconds.  Add the chopped bacon.  Cook and stir until bacon is almost crisp.  Remove it to a paper towel lined heat proof bowl with a slotted spoon.

Working in batches scatter some beef in the hot oil.   Don't crowd the pan.  Putting less meat in will let it brown faster.  It usually takes me 3 batches to brown up one pound of meat.  Cook without stirring for at least 3 minutes. Turn over a piece and see if it's browned, if it is, stir them all to brown the other side.  When both sides are browned, remove with slotted spoon to the paper towel lined bowl.  Add more oil to the pan if needed and brown up all the beef. 

After all the beef is browned, if there are any burnt patches are on the bottom of the pan, scrape them off and throw away or your gravy will taste burnt.  Add water to the pan and stir to scrape up all that browned goodness.  (The French call it fond, Emeril calls it The Love).  Remove the paper towel from the bowl and discard.   Add that browned lovely liquid to the beef in the bowl. It may have thickened a bit from the flour left in the pan, and that's ok.
At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the beef for later use.

The next morning:
Spray your crockpot with nonstick.  Combine all ingredients right in the crockpot.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours.
JUST BEFORE serving, quickly stir in the dairy.  Don't cook it or the dairy may curdle. 
Serve over hot cooked noodles.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Epic Fail Trifle - Making Something Wonderful Out of an Uh-Oh

Unbeknownst to her, Julia Child was my childhood mentor.  I spent hours watching her cook in grainy black and white while all the other children were playing outside after school.  I admired her aplomb, when after dropping a steak on the floor, she blithely picked it up, rinsed it off and proceeded to finish the dish.

See that photo above?  Epic failure.  It started with a great idea.  Mix up a chocolate fudge bundt cake, add a can of raspberry pastry filling then pop it in the oven.  Later, people would swoon as they tasted the raspberry filling in the moist, chocolatey decadance of the cake.

Reality intervened when I turned said cake out of the pan while it was still a trifle too warm.  It tore at it's weakest part, that lovely filling.  Which now looks rather gruesome.  What to do?

Could I somehow scrape out the top and plop it on top?  Yeah, that would be appetizing.  Did I mention that I was baking the bundt cake for a couples Bible study dinner? Humiliation before 10 couples was imminent. I was out of eggs and running out of time. What would Julia do?

I made a trifle.  If you have never had a trifle, you must, must ruin a cake and make one.  It is truly decadent.  You take cake, chop it up and layer it in a clear bowl, with whipped cream mixed with pudding, and fruit or jam (or pastry filling).  Top it with more whipped cream and serve it by the spoonful.

This doesn't have it's final layer of snowy white whipped cream.
A quick search of coupons for ready-to-eat pudding and whipping cream, then off to the store.  I scooped the pudding into a bowl.  Whipped the cream and folded the pudding into two thirds of it.  Then made layers of chopped/torn cake and pudding/whipped cream in my clear bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and chilled it until it was time to leave.   I brought the rest of the whipped cream along and topped the trifle just before serving.  It looked pretty, tasted divine and disappeared fast.

Epic Fail Trifle
1 box chocolate fudge cake mix (2 layer size)
eggs, oil and water called for on mix
1 (7 - 10 ounce) can raspberry pastry filling (not pie filling)
2 packages pudding (each with 6 individual serving cups)
1 pint whipping cream
1/4 cup white sugar

Preheat the oven, prepare and bake the cake mix as directed on the package for a bundt cake, except add the pastry filling in spoonfuls on top of the batter.  Be careful to avoid sides or center post of pan.  The pastry filling will sink while the cake bakes, forming a ring of filling.
Bake 55 - 60 minutes, or until cake tests done.
Place on wire rack to cool at least 20 minutes.  NOTE: This resulted in my cake fracturing.  It may or may not for you, but since you're going to tear apart the cake anyway, it doesn't matter.
Run a thin bladed knife between the cake and pan, both the outside edge and the post.
Take a deep breath, place a cooling rack over the pan and flip it over.  It should plop out.  If it doesn't, give the rack and couple sharp whacks on the counter to dislodge it.
If your cake fractured and you have partial unmolding - good for you, less to chop.
Allow the cake to cool to room temperature.
Whip the cream, adding only enough sugar to sweeten it slightly.
Scoop the pudding cups into a large bowl.  Fold two thirds of the whipped cream into it.  Cover and refrigerate the remaining whipped cream.
Chop up or tear the cake into bite sized pieces. 
Put one third of the cake pieces into the bowl.  Spoon one third of the pudding mixture on top and spread.  Repeat until all is used up, ending with pudding mixture.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, top with remaining whipped cream and spoon into bowls. 
Be ready for silence as people mmm and yum themselves through their serving.  Smile understandingly as they ask for "just a tad more".

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I made some bracelets for door prizes for our Women's Ministry Retreat last Saturday.  Memory wire, glass beads, acrylic beads, crystals and gemstone chips made some very pretty gifts:

Handmade copper wire components added texture. I love the colors of these glass pearls together.

Looks very sophisticated on.  Hard to it give away...

This is my favorite.  Denim lapis chips, lapis oval gemstones, crystals.
Pretty in Pink

Friday, May 6, 2011

Recovering a Footstool

This footstool had seen better days.  The vinyl ripped along the top seams.  I'd been meaning to try to recover it for quite some time, but never got around to buying the fabric.  Mainly because I've never learned to sew more than a straight stitch with a machine.  Well, that and the thought of finding an upholstery weight fabric that would look good with my chairs and rug.

Spring cleaning came around and I washed the twill curtains that were hanging on my slider doors.  I ironed them and hung them.  One panel was at least 3" shorter than the other.  I've washed them before and they hadn't shrunk.  Why now?  What a waste of fabric.  I went and bought new non-twill curtains (having learned my lesson about the vagaries of twill).  I started thinking about the footstool, and the ruined curtains, and how much sturdy fabric they contained.

So I did some internet research.  Do you know that there aren't ANY patterns for recovering a drum shaped footstool?  Apparently, you throw them out and buy new.  Not this girl scout.

I wondered, I pondered, I mulled it over and thought maybe I can cut a circle of fabric for the top, and stitch it to a length of fabric for the sides, and put some quilt padding in it to fill in where the buttons were...

So one day, I dragged out the sewing machine, the mending basket, the ruined curtains and my good scissors (that only I know where they're stored).  I took a deep breath and said to myself "Here goes".
I turned it upside down on the fabric.
Roughly cut around it.

Trimmed it closer into a circle.

Cut a length of fabric to wrap around the stool.
Pinned and stitched the two together.  Having the circle on the bottom and the long length on top made it easier to sew.

Gave it a trial fit; took it off and placed a few layers of quilt batting between the fabric and the footstool.

Replaced the cover, upended it again, and trimmed off the excess length.

Using my handy-dandy Black & Decker staple gun I tugged the fabric taut, folded the raw edge under and alternated stapling (12:00-6:00, 9:00-3:00, 1:00-7:00, etc.) to keep it evenly centered within the top circle.
Here it is.
Please comment, I need a pat on the back after that!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Holiday Leftovers: Ham

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
We had a lovely spiral sliced ham for our Easter dinner. 
I used the leftover slices to make Scalloped Potatoes and Ham.  This is pure comfort food.  Recipes like this have been around for generations.  My grandmother made a heavenly one: tender potatoes, salty ham, thick creamy sauce and onions just starting to turn sweet.  My mother used to sprinkle flour over layers of potatoes, onions and ham, pour milk over it, put it in the oven and hope for the best.  Usually it turned out runny and curdled looking - it wasn't very good. 

I spent years pouring through old cookbooks looking for a recipe that would produce my grandma's masterpiece.  The old cookbooks told me to do what my mother had done - not good enough.  Some later recipes called for using a can of cream of mushroom soup instead of milk and flour.  Creamy results, but the flavors were just wrong!  Other recipes advocated boxed scalloped potato mixes and ham.  I tried it. yuck.

So, I thought I'd just make a cream sauce like you'd make for macaroni and cheese but without the cheese and stir that into the potatoes. Yes siree, Bob!  That's what I'm talking about!  Tastes like grandma's.

The best part is the browned crusty bits around the edges...

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
1 onion, sliced thinly into half moons
4 cups potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups ham, diced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
3 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
Spray a 13x9 glass baking dish with non stick.  Why glass?  Gets those edges nicely crusty!

Slice potatoes and onions, put into cold water while you prepare the sauce.  Why? Soaking the potatoes keeps them from turning black and soaking the onions keeps their flavor from being too strong.

Melt butter in a saucepan large enough to hold all the milk.  Wait for it to stop foaming, then stir in the flour all at once.  Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Why? If you don't cook the flour, your sauce will taste like raw flour even after baking.

Add the milk, pepper and nutmeg and stir constantly until it thickens and boils.  It will get very thick.  That's ok, because the liquid coming out of the potatoes and onions as they cook will thin it out a bit in the oven.

Drain the potatoes and onions in a colander.  Give it a couple shakes to remove all the excess water.  Dump into a heat proof bowl large enough to hold the potatoes, onions, ham and the sauce.  Add the ham.  Pour the hot sauce over all.  Using a large spoon, carefully fold the sauce into the meat and vegetable mixture.  Try not to break any potato slices, but get everything evenly coated.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake 1 hour longer.

Serves 6 to 10.

I put the ham bone in my crockpot with an onion studded with a couple whole cloves, a large carrot, some whole peppercorns and a bay leaf.  I put it on high and let it go all day; then turned it to low and let it go all night.  The following day, I put the covered crock in the refrigerator to cool.  I'll use the broth and meat tomorrow to make Bean Soup. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Update on Flooring and Work Begins on Flood Damaged Basement

The upstairs flooring has been done for a few weeks now.  I had some delays in posting due to other crisies, including a broken camera, a flooded basement, the birth of our second grandchild (see previous post) and a parent's hospitalization (he's fine now).  At long last, here are photos of our beautifully done flooring.

Guest room during

Guest room after

Hallway during

Hallway after

Hallway after

Master bedroom before

Master bedroom during

Master bedroom during

Master bedroom after

Mom room after
The stairs are still carpeted as the flood damage in the basement required immediate attention.  We don't know what we'll replace it with or when but, soon I hope.

Here's the beginning of the basement renovation:
Everything is moved to one side and curtained off

I've always hated that paneling

Bead board goes up

My handy, handsome husband