Ham, Egg and Cheese Muffins

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We all know that breakfast is the first meal of the day and usually eaten in the early part of the morning.  Breakfast literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night.

I’m not a really big fan of breakfast.  I’m happy with just an extra cup of coffee in the mornings.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t like breakfast foods.  Eggs, bacon, grits, and pancakes are all good.

These colorful Breakfast Egg Muffins caught my eye on Pinterest, and I wanted to give them a try.  I think they are going to change my mind about skipping breakfast.  They are easy and quick to make.

Once they are completely cooled, leftovers can be stored in a Ziplock bag in the fridge for a few days.  They are easy to reheat in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds or until heated through.  I have also frozen them and reheated in the microwave.

A glass of orange juice tastes great with these Muffins.

Ham, Egg and Cheese Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced orange bell pepper
1 cup finely diced cooked ham

9 large eggs
2 tablespoons half and half or milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a standard size muffin tin (12 cups) with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan and add the diced onion and diced bell peppers.  Sauté over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and mix in the diced ham.  Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder until well blended.  Stir in the diced ham mixture and the cheese.  Mix lightly to combine.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let cool in muffin pan for 5 minutes and then carefully run a knife around each muffin before removing.  Serve warm.

Note:
A nonstick muffin pan is recommended for this recipe, sprayed generously with cooking spray (such as Pam).

 

 

Blood Orange Marmalade

Blood oranges are a beautiful and tasty citrus fruit available for only a short period of time.  For a long time I would not buy or try these oranges because of its name which is not very appealing.  However, I’m glad I finally tried them a few years ago.

The blood oranges are so called for their red flesh and deep red juice.   Also, when ripe their skin may also be reddish on part of the orange.  The orange does not seem very sweet to me.  They are perfect in a citrus salad for their beauty and are great drizzled with a slightly sweet poppy seed dressing.

But I think my favorite way to enjoy this beautiful citrus is in marmalade.  I first discovered blood orange marmalade when someone gifted me with a jar from Harry and David Food Company.  I have been a fan ever since.

So when the blood oranges again became available, I made my first batch of the marmalade.  It is really not difficult to make at all.  The marmalade has to set for 24 hours.  Then, you can refrigerate or freeze for longer storage time.

I adapted Kraft’s Orange Freezer Marmalade recipe that calls for Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin.  Kraft’s recipe uses 3 medium navel oranges.

The marmalade is good on toast, hot biscuits, or English Muffins.  My favorite way to eat this marmalade is spread on a slice of toasted Jalapeño Cheese bread.

Blood Orange Marmalade

about 2 pounds of blood oranges
4 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup water
1 box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin (1.75 ounce box)

Wash clean glass jars (or plastic containers) with hot water or run through the dishwasher.  Dry thoroughly.  You will need six 8 ounce jars or plastic containers.

Wash and dry the oranges.  Remove the colored part of the peel from the oranges using a vegetable peeler.  Cut the peel into thin slivers, or finely chop.  Peel  and discard remaining white part of the peel from the oranges.  Chop the fruit, reserving any juice.  Mix with the slivered peel along with the lemon juice.  Measure 2 1/3 cups of the fruit mixture into a large bowl.  If needed add up to 1/2 cup water (or orange juice) for exact measure.  Stir in the sugar.  Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix water and pectin in a small saucepan.  Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Add to fruit mixture, stirring 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy.  (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Fill the jars immediately to within 1/4 inch of tops.  Wipe off top edges of containers.  Immediately cover with lids.  Let stand at room temperature 24 hours.  Marmalade is now ready to use.  Store in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.  If frozen, thaw in refrigerator before using.  

Notes:
1.  My oranges were very small and it took 2 pounds of unpeeled oranges for the recipe.
2. I usually find the blood oranges locally during January-March.

Strawberry Brownies

February is supposed to be the month of love.  Well it hasn’t shown much love to us here in West Michigan.  Perhaps, that is Mother Nature’s fault.

So far this month, we have suffered through the Polar Vortex (snow and very bitter cold temperatures) and then freezing rain that caused mass power outages and school closings for days.  My neighborhood was without power for over two days and it was not fun.  Thankfully, I have a gas fireplace that provided some heat in the freezing temperatures.  Hopefully, the remainder of February will be more kinder to us.

Below is an icy tree in my backyard after the freezing rain and a rabbit eating an apple I tossed out for them.  The third photo is courtesy of Andrew Sietsema who has an apple orchard in the nearby Fruit Ridge area in NW Grand Rapids.

The ghost apple was caused when the rotting apples slid out of their icy shells to leave behind a nearly entire apple “ghost”.

Because, we do have Valentine’s Day to look forward to, here is a recipe for Strawberry Brownies.

These strawberry brownies are so simple and easy to make and are a pretty pink.  As pretty as they are, the brownies are delicious to eat as well.  The main ingredient of this recipe is a strawberry cake mix.  After the brownies are baked they are topped with a glaze made with powdered sugar and water.  I made two batches of the brownies for this post.

Strawberry Brownies

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 box Strawberry Cake Mix (without pudding in the mix)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Strawberry Extract (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, and strawberry extract with a stand or hand mixer until combined.  The batter will be thick.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Be careful not to over bake.  Remove from the oven when the brownies are just set.  Allow the brownies to cool for 10 minutes; lift carefully from pan using ends of parchment to lift.

Mix the powdered sugar, water and vanilla extract until smooth.  Add just enough water until thick but spreadable.  Spread evenly over the warm brownies.  Allow to cool and the glaze is set before slicing into squares.

Notes:
1.  The brownies can also be baked in a 9 inch square baking pan.
2.  Recipe is adapted from Family Savvy.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Valentine’s Day is next month and I like to cook a special dinner and make a special dessert for the day.  This year I’m making a favorite chocolate and peanut butter pie.  I’ve been making it for holiday dinners for a few years now.

This pie has three delicious layers: a chocolate cookie crust, a no-bake peanut butter filling, and a chocolate ganache topping.  This is an amazingly decadent and rich pie.  If you love peanut butter and chocolate, this is the pie for you.

The recipe is adapted from a favorite food blogger and cookbook author Jennifer Segal (once upon a chef).  Please visit her web site for beautiful photos of the preparation process.  In April 2018, her first cookbook, Once Upon a Chef, The Cookbook:  100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes was released.

I bought my hardcover copy from Amazon for $17.58.  It is also available for the Kindle.  My local library has it available in hardcover and electronic resource format.  Perhaps, your library does also.  I can recommend this cookbook.  It has amazing recipes and beautiful photos of the food.  I hope you get a chance to read it.

This is an easy recipe to make even with the three steps required to make it.  It is almost a no-bake recipe, except for the quick 10 minute bake of the crust.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Crust

4  tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
2 cups finely ground chocolate wafer cookies, such as Nabisco Chocolate Wafers (see note)

For the Peanut Butter Filling

1 cup cold heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Topping

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter.  Add the chocolate and stir until melted.  Add the cookie crumbs and stir until evenly combined.  Press the cookie crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the rim of an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then cool on a rack.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.  Set aside in the refrigerator while preparing the rest of the filling.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar and mix until well blended.  Add peanut butter and vanilla, beating until combined.  Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl as needed to ensure that the ingredients are fully combined.    

Add one-third of the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture and beat on low speed to combine.

Add the remaining whipped cream and using a large rubber spatula, fold until evenly combined.  Spoon the filling into the crust, smoothing the surface.  Refrigerate uncovered for about 1 hour.

Place chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on low heat for 20-30 second intervals.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir with a spatula and repeat in 20-30 seconds intervals until the chocolate is completely melted.  Stir until well blended, then let cool to just warm, stirring occasionally.  Spread the chocolate topping over the chilled peanut butter filling.  Return to the refrigerator and chill uncovered for an additional 3 hours.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the rim from the pan by gently pressing upwards on the bottom while holding the rim in place.  Slice and serve cold, garnished with chopped peanuts if desired.

Note:
It takes about 40 cookies from a 9-ounce package to make 2 cups ground cookie crumbs.

Since it is a cold and snowy day as I write this post, I’m including a cute snowman from my photo archives.  The upside down snowman was spotted in my neighborhood a couple of years ago.

 

Winter Citrus Salad

Do you want to brighten up the gloomy days of January?  If so, make a Winter Citrus Salad.  I’ve been making a version of this salad for a few years now and really look forward to the winter citrus fruit.

Speaking of gloomy, Grand Rapids is the sixth cloudiest city in the US.   (According to our local TV station, WoodTV.)  When we do have a beautiful sunshiny day, we almost feel the need to celebrate it.

I was able to find oranges and grapefruit from Florida.  The blood oranges were from California.  Since I’m from Florida, I’m always happy to find Florida citrus.

You really don’t need a recipe for this salad.  Wash, peel, and slice some of your favorite citrus and drizzle with a salad dressing, if desired.  It is equally good served plain.

Winter Citrus Salad

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 navel oranges
2 Cara Cara oranges
2 blood oranges
1 pink grapefruit
Spring Mix Salad Greens
slivers of red onion
pomegranate seeds

Salad Dressing (optional)

Wash and dry the citrus.  Cut off the top and bottom and set upright on a cutting board.  With a sharp knife cut off the peel and as much of the pith as possible.  Slice the citrus into rounds and set aside.  Arrange a thin layer of the spring mix salad greens on a serving plate.  Layer the slices of the citrus on the lettuce.  Add the red onion.  Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.  Serve plain or with a favorite salad dressing.  

Here is a picture of a sunset over my neighborhood from a few days ago.  It was after one of our rare days of beautiful sunshine.

Note:
After i purchased a fresh pomegranate, I discovered that POM now markets the pomegranate fresh arils in  a 4.3 ounce size.  I used some of them for the salad in this post.  They were sweet, tart, and as crunchy as the ones from the fresh pomegranate.

 

Devil’s Food Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

This Devil’s food cake is a favorite dessert for Christmas dinner.  I have been baking this cake for many years and have always been happy with the results.  Even though it is made from a boxed mix, the resulting cake is still rich and moist.

Packaged mixes for cakes have been around for a long time, since the early 1920s.  Dried eggs and milk were at first included in the mixes.  The mixes later on had the cook add fresh eggs and milk.  I suppose to make it seem more homemade.

Christmas is just a few days away.  I love all things Christmas, especially baking treats, decorating the tree, Christmas music, and movies.  I also love the Christmas lights. We actually have some pretty light displays in my neighborhood.  A lot of the neighbors seem to have the Christmas spirit this year.

We took time one night to visit a nearby Christmas Lite Show.  It is located at the Fifth Third Ballpark where our local minor league baseball team plays.  The light show is West Michigan’s largest, animated, drive-through light show.  The show has almost two miles of lights, tunnels, and animated displays.

This spectacular light show originated twenty-one years ago.  It has become a fun family tradition for many.  According to the booklet handed out with our ticket, over 50,000 visitors of all ages visited the Christmas Lite Show last year.  There is a charge per car but some of the proceeds are donated to the Grand Rapids Veterans Home.

Anyhow, if you are looking to make a cake for Christmas, try this one.  It is dark, chocolatey, and moist.  It turns out perfect every time.  The chocolate cream cheese frosting is creamy and smooth and is the perfect compliment to this cake.

Devil's Food Cake With Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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For the Cake

1 Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix (15.25 oz size)
1 cup water
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
3 large eggs

For the Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
4 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 box Domino Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

4 ounces (1/2 cup) Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Chips, melted and cooled

Prepare the Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the sides and bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with butter or spray with cooking spray.  Line with parchment paper.  Set aside.

With a mixer, blend the cake mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds).  Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Evenly divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.

Bake in center of oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from pan and discard the parchment paper.  Cool completely before frosting

Prepare the Frosting

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Gradually beat in the confectioners sugar on medium speed until blended.   Add the vanilla, salt,  and the cooled melted Hershey’s chips.  Mix until blended,  scraping mixing bowl as necessary.   Add milk, if needed.  Frost the layers and side of the cooled cakes immediately or store covered in the refrigerator.

Note:
There is no definite answer as to why the cake is named Devil’s Food cake.  Some think it was named the opposite of “Angel Food Cake” since it is different in flavor and texture.

 

 

 

 

Mashed Potatoes

Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner would not be complete without mashed potatoes on the table.  This comfort food also shows up at a lot of our family dinners.

These are not just regular mashed potatoes.  In fact, they are actually riced potatoes.  I discovered the potato ricer many years ago after I messed up some mashed potatoes for a special family dinner.  I’m not sure what happened at that dinner, but the potatoes turned out very gluey and not good at all.  Possibly, it was the type of potato or the fact that I beat them too much with my hand mixer.

I went on a hunt for perfect mashed potatoes and found recipes using the ricer.  Many years later I’m still using the ricer to make perfect mashed potatoes.  Using a ricer almost guarantees light and fluffy mashed potatoes with no lumps.

I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this recipe.  Yukon Golds are a light yellow-fleshed potato and make wonderful mashed potatoes.  We can thank our good friends to the North for this potato as it was developed in Canada in the 1960’s.

The first published recipe for mashed potatoes can be found as far back in history as 1747.  Hannah Glasse’s cookbook The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy was published in 1747 in England.  The  cookbook was very popular in England.  Her recipe for mashed potatoes is very similar to the way they are made today:

Boil your potatoes, peel them, and then put into a sauce-pan, mash them well.  To two pounds of potatoes, put a pint of milk, a little salt, stir them well together, take care they don’t stick to the bottom, then take a quarter pound of butter, stir in and serve it up.”

I bought a paperback copy of The Art of Cookery Made Plan and Easy  from Amazon.  However, there are free digital versions available.  Here is a link to a digital version on Google Books.

These potatoes are light, fluffy, and incredibly smooth.  It may take a little extra work using a potato ricer, but the results are worth it.  Below is a photo of the riced potatoes I made for this post.  Even with using the potato ricer, this is a really easy and fairly quick recipe.

Mashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened (use more butter, as needed)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Half and Half, (or more, as needed)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel, wash, and cut the potatoes in medium sized chunks.  Place in a Dutch oven and cover with water.  Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain the potatoes.  Using a ricer, press potatoes into a large bowl.  Stir in the butter, cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Add milk until of the desired consistency.  Do not over stir the potatoes or they could become gummy.  Serve immediately, if possible.  If not serving immediately, reheat in microwave in 1-minute intervals until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.  

Below are pictures of the potatoes from our Thanksgiving Day dinner.  My son-in-law made the potatoes using the ricer.

 

Note:
Potato ricers are available from Amazon starting at $14.

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