Happy Holidays!

A friend of ours happened to take a trip to London for the Holidays this year, and gave us permission to use one of his photos for our e-greeting here on TheWanderingTexans.

Please allow us to share with you a vision of the Eye of London by photographer Jay Lee. More of his work is on display in his own blog, Bald Heretic.

10393775_10154941095270223_7322520720589916562_n EyeofLondonbyJayLee

Crock Pot o’ Ham

Do you have a frugal streak and like to buy holiday hams after the holiday when they are on sale, but don’t have a lot of freezer space to store them? I discovered a trick for rendering those shoulders and haunches into serviceable size pieces.

Buy smaller hams to begin with. The price per pound won’t be any different, and while you do get a bit more bone, for this project, I find it worth it.

We started with an 11 pound ham. It was placed into a crock pot flat side down. Some of the pointy end of the ham did have to be sliced off so that the lid would close. It was allowed to slow roast over night on a low setting. Nothing was added, as this was the first time this process had been tried in our kitchen.

In the morning, the ham looked whole and brown, and was sitting in about 4 inches of it’s own juices. The top seemed a little dry, but not excessively so. The bits that had been sliced off which had not been covered by the juices were practically jerky, but re-hydrated well. Using tongs and a fork, I peeled back the top meat, and removed the bones with a bit of a tug. They slid right out, clean of any meat or cartelidge. Likewise, the fatty bits were very discernable, and could be lifted or scraped from the meaty parts.

Some of the chunks of muscle were sliced, some pulled (shredded), and some simply eaten right off the mass. This enabled us to freeze whatever we didn’t need right then into smaller packages that fit well in the freezer. Other bits became pulled pork sandwiches and salad toppings immediately. Yet more was set aside for dirty rice (which turned out exceedingly well). The remaining meat was nibbled on as sandwiches and ready snacks for the next two days.

The broth, while salty and concentrated, was reserved for later use. The plan is to set up our New Year’s black eyed peas with some of it. By using the broth, there is no worry over bone flakes from a hambone, no need to add bullion or salt, and it’s ready to use. The broth may be frozen if it won’t be used within a couple of days, or simply kept refrigerated.

Another portion of the broth, the leftovers once the meat and fat has been removed from the crock pot, had two pounds of split green peas and lentils, 12 oz of spinach, and 4 cups of water added. The resulting pot of peas cooked quickly and served as supper and breakfast. Given a little less fluid and some form of lard and appropriate spices, it would easily have become refried beans.

I’m calling this experiment a success. Given that 11 pounds of ham (fat and bone included) was rendered into meat components for at least five 4-person meals, broth for at least 2 more meals, scraps to supplement several more meals for our House Husky, and 2 dog well-cooked bones for her as well, we managed to stretch this out a lot further than we had expected.

Depending on the need for the next foray into slow roasting a ham like this, we may season it with roasted garlic, or cinnamon and ginger.

We’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

— Ann Cathey

 

PS: Sorry I didn’t include photos for this entry. The Holidays are a bit nuts at our house!

Not the Turkey You Were Looking For

For Thanksgiving this year, I was unfortunately unable to secure the turkey I was looking forward to cooking and consuming. Instead, I wound up scrounging in the kitchen to come up with a passable meal. I think this one counts as a win.
IMG_0471We had a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Wine for Dummies collection to start with, that my partner found in, of all places, a dollar store (but not for a buck). It had a lovely, dark color, a somewhat fruity nose, and a delightfully full-bodied tartness.

IMG_0476In the chest freezer I found a pound each of ground buffalo and lamb. When mixed with the right spices (onion, garlic, and white pepper) and with a bit of red wine, this became what is affectionately known as a BAM loaf. With all the ingredients thoroughly mixed by hand, it went into a 300F oven for about two hours.

IMG_0475Then there were the sweet potatoes. they were peeled and washed rather than simply baked whole. We played with spiral cutting them, the spirals becoming “butterflies” and the leftover chunks going into a pan to roast. We seasoned with garlic, cinnamon and seasoned salt. While the chunks cooked to a turn, the spiral butterflies did not bake so well. I think we will try deep frying them next time.

IMG_0481In a heating skillet we dropped some butter and minced garlic with white pepper. Once it was browned a bit in went some sliced crimini, fresh baby spinach leaves, and a couple of tablespoons of red wine. Stir, heat to wilting stage, and serve!

 

 

 

 
IMG_0487The plate turned out attractively, and everything passed the discriminating taste testing. Voila!

— Ann Cathey

Holiday Season Activities

There is a lot to see and do in the Greater Houston Area around the holidays. From Galveston Island up to Huntsville, from Beaumont over to Katy, the region is jam-packed with sights and delights!

I stumbled across a list of activities on another blog, Big Kid Small City, and thought I might share it. Things to Do in Houston During the Holidays + Christmas Activities in November and December 2014  is a good starter list for anyone traveling to or living in the Greater Houston Area this holiday season. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and all other great reasons to get together with family right around the corner, now is the time to start making plans for what you would like to do with that family, other than simply go to the movies. From ice skating to visual extravaganzas to specialized shopping venues, this list will get you moving and smiling.

I hope to be able to provide some more in-depth information on some of these items in the weeks to come.

Happy Holidays!
–Ann Cathey

Celestial Seasonings Holiday Teas

This Holiday Season, I feel the need to plug some of my favorite tea blends. Celestial Seasonings may not be the highest end tea, but it offers very pleasing offerings at a modest price.

Available in most grocery stores (even if the selection is limited), it has become a favorite tea company of mine. I believe that all of the Celstial Seasonings products contain all-natural ingredients and flavors, and no artificial colors or preservatives. This makes them very friendly to folks with restricted diets who are keeing Kosher, require gluten-free alternatives, and who are diabetic.

I can’t describe these lovely seasonal blends any better than the Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster, so I will just borrow his words from their website.

Candy Cane Lane
“This delectable holiday blend starts with naturally decaffeinated green tea and adds unmistakable seasonal flavors like cool peppermint, creamy vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. Candy canes have been cherished symbols of holiday spirit for centuries, and Candy Cane Lane® is sure to become a festive and healthy tradition at your celebrations!”
—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

Gingerbread Spice
“Stepping into a cozy kitchen warmed by the spicy aroma of freshly baked gingerbread — what a wonderful way to thaw a frosty winter chill! This handcrafted blend is a nostalgic medley of ginger, cinnamon and other time-honored ingredients. Because it’s naturally caffeine free, you can indulge in this unmistakably merry tea any time!”
—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

Nutcracker Sweet
“Nutcracker Sweet is an irresistibly simple blend of fine black teas made more festive with creamy, nutty vanilla and just a pinch of cinnamon. A decadent-yet-healthy treat, this delightful tea captures the magic of the world’s favorite ballet, The Nutcracker, which has been synonymous with holiday cheer for more than 100 years.”
—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride
“This cheerful holiday blend will warm your heart with the inviting aroma and delightfully simple taste of freshly baked sugar cookies straight from the oven. Like all of our teas, Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride has no refined sweeteners or added sugars — giving you a guilt-free way to partake freely in the pleasures of the season.”
—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

Sugar Plum Spice
“This celebratory blend combines juicy purple plums and aromatic spices like ginger and cardamom with tart hibiscus, floral chamomile and just a hint of sweetness. Every sip is a journey to the Land of the Sweets in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, where the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy presides over a flavorful assortment of sensory delights.”
—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

Sweet Harvest Pumpkin
“Just like big piles of pumpkins at roadside stands and perfectly baked pumpkin pies on kitchen tables, Sweet Harvest Pumpkin™ Holiday Black Tea in tea cups everywhere is a sure sign that the holidays are near. Featuring rich black tea, harvest-fresh pumpkin flavor and traditional spices like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg plus a touch of natural sweetness, this festive blend is a delicious little slice of the season.”
—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

The “no strings attached” tea bags are natural fiber with no extra stings, staples or wrappers. This means that you have to close the wax paper bags inside the box properly to keep out moisture, but that’s a small price to pay for a lowered environmental impact. Learn more about Celestial Seasonings sustainability here.

Whatever tea you choose to drink and share this holiday season, enjoy it!

 

— Ann Cathey