July 31, 2012

Honey Baked Ham

Every year around Easter time, I always buy a couple of hams.  One to serve on for Easter dinner, and another to put in the freezer for the summer.  I love having a big ol' ham in the summertime, but I don't like paying a fortune for it - which is why I buy it when I do because the price is lower.

Now, I don't know about you - but I like my hams sweet, and reminiscent of the expensive honey baked hams that cost a fortune.  This, my friends, does not cost a fortune to prepare.  Quite budget friendly actually, and even more frugal since after the initial ham dinner you are left with all that great leftover meat, not to mention the ham bone.  

Honey Baked Ham


1 bone-in spiral sliced ham 
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups honey
2/3 cup butter
pineapple rings & cherries (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, & butter on low heat.  Keep glaze warm while baking ham.  

Brush the glaze over the ham & use toothpicks to secure the ham & cherries if using. Bake for 75 minutes, making sure to baste every 15 minutes.  During the last 3-5 minutes of baking, turn the broiler on to caramelize the top.  Less if you like it less crispy, and more if you like the tops a little more crunchy.  

Remove from the oven, and let sit a few minutes before serving.


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July 29, 2012

Makin' You Crave Monday

Welcome to another edition of Makin' You Crave Monday!  

This week, I'm sharing the recipe for Creme Fraiche Cheesecake, aka - The BEST Cheesecake EVER!

Here are my favorites from last week.

Thanks to everyone who linked up last week - I can't wait to see what you all bring this week!!


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July 25, 2012

California Dairy Tour - The Foodie Edition & The BEST Cheesecake EVER Recipe!!

If you missed Part 1, click here to read it.

Ok now, foodies.  I know this is what you've been waiting for.   Pictures of all the yummy food I was served, all using California dairy products.  Everything I ate was incredible, and I think eating the food is what really convinced me that products carrying that Real California seal really does make a difference - and that is coming from a Carolina girl!  

This is a food journal, I guess you can say, with a recipe at the very bottom for the BEST cheesecake ever that was given to me by Chef Robert West. When my colleagues and I bit into that cheesecake at the time, we all went silent and closed our eyes because it was so indulgent.  It was that good.

Ok, let's take a photographic food journey here.  You can find the descriptions under the photo if you want to try and recreate something yourself. But remember, you've gotta look for that California seal on the products you buy - it's surprising what a difference it makes!!  

Oh - you might want to prepare yourself with some extra absorbent paper towels first though - you know, to catch the drool. 

Panzanella - Bellwether Farms Crescenza, Arugula, Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Cucumber, Olives, Red Onion, Crusty Bread,  & Balsamic Vinaigrette

Saffron Risotto Arancini - Point Reyes Toma, Lemon Artichoke Aioli

Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut - Thai Curry Spaetzle, Glazed Carrots, Ruby Hill Reserve Chardonnay California Beurre Blanc

Sea Salt & Herb Crusted All-Natural Prime Rib - Horseradish mashed potatoes, Terra Bella Family Farms Seasonal Vegetables, Ruby Hill Elevato California Compound Butter

Portobella Stack - Grilled Zucchini, Galbani Mozzarella, Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes

White Chocolate & Ruby Hill Bella Gemma Port Mousse

Brick Oven Flatbread - Wild Mushroom Medley, Sauteed Leeks, Smoked Tomato California Creme Fraiche, Fiscalini Farms Lionza

Arugula Salad with Baby Artichokes & Strawberries - Herbed California Buttermilk Dressing, Fiscalini Farms San Joaquin Gold Tuile

California Yogurt Free-Range Chicken Breast - Potato Cream Gratin, Fiscalini Farms Scamorza

From left to right: Lumpia - Chicken, Joseph Farms Pepper Jack, Shiitake Mushrooms, Sweet Chile Sauce
Chicken Skewers - Saffron Marinade, Coconut Peanut Sauce
Stuffed Mushrooms - Rouge et Noir Brie, Spinach, White Truffle Oil

Beet Salad - Don Francisco Queso Fresco, Arugula, Toasted Hazelnuts, Green Beans, Champagne Vinaigrette

Almond Crusted Salmon - Leek California Cream Sauce, Israeli Pearl Cous Cous, Green Beans

Capellini Pomodoro - Alta Cucina Tomatoes, Garlic Basil, Fiscalini Mozzarella, Sciabici Olive Oil

Grilled Ribeye - Brandy Peppercorn California Cream Sauce, Creamy Polenta, Sauteed Spinach

Baked Alaska - California Strawberry & Coconut Ice Cream, Sponge Cake, Meringue, E & J Caramel Sauce

Fresh Fruit Crisp with California Vanilla Ice Cream

Yeah, I'll never eat that good again.  -wink-   And, I probably should have brought some elastic pants with me too.  ;)

Ok, now that cheesecake I was telling you about.  Chef Robert West made this for us while we had lunch at the Fiscalini's house.  I do not even have the words to tell how incredibly delicious this was.  Oh my word.  Ya'll are just going to have to make it because honestly - it would be a tragedy for you to go on in life without savoring this decadent concoction.  So, huge thanks going out to Chef Robert West for sharing this recipe with me, so that I could share it with ya'll.  

Crème Fraiche Cheesecake
Robert West-Corporate Chef/Culinary Specialist
Sysco Food Services of Central California

Equipment needed: 9” springform pan, heavy duty foil, heavy bottomed baking pan


For the Crust:
  • 2 ½ cups toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ cup butter melted

For the Filling:
  • 1 ½ pound crème cheese softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1T vanilla(can sub vanilla bean)
  • 3 eggs

For the Topping:
  • ½ cup crème fraiche
  • 1 t sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Crust: In a food processor grind the almonds and sugar together, stir in melted butter, cool.  Using your fingers, pack the mixture into the pan and bake for about 3-4 minutes; or until edges start to brown.

Filling:  In a mixer whip the cream cheese and sugar until incorporated.  While mixer is on low, add eggs one at a time and keep blending until all eggs are mixed in.  Add vanilla.  Set aside.

While pan is cooling wrap bottom of springform pan with foil coming up the sides all the way.   You might need to use 2-3 sheets.
·  This is to ensure that water from the water bath does not leak into the cheesecake.  The reason for the waterbath is to make sure the bottom of cheesecake does not burn.

Pour mixture into pan and using a flat spatula, spread evenly.  Place in baking pan and fill pan to about half the springform pan with water.  Bake in oven until slightly browned, about 1 hour. 


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July 24, 2012

Real California Milk Dairy Tour, Part 1

Recently, I had the opportunity of flying cross country from my little boonie town in North Carolina all the way out to California for a dairy tour hosted by the Real California Milk Advisory Board!  It made for an experience of a life time, and I wanted to share some of my trip with you.  

Now, I'm doing this in 2 parts because I just have so much that I want to share. Part 1 is what I'm bringing you today, detailing all the things we did - and then in Part 2, you will have a little food tour with me as I show you all the yummy foods I was served, all made with products bearing the Real California Milk seal. 

When I got off the plane, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then headed out to begin our tour.  Our first stop was for a delicious cone of ice cream at the Meadowlark Drive-Thru Dairy in Pleasanton, California.  They had some yummy flavors, but being a chocolate addict lover, I opted for a chocolate-vanilla swirl.  So good!

Our next stop was at the Alviso Adobe Community Park, where we had the pleasure of meeting & chatting with Johan Bartelink of Bartelink Dairy - a Dutch immigrant who came to the US in 1957.  Johan has spent most of his life as a dairy farmer, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak about his life & experiences in the dairy industry.  

Jahan Bartelink & his wife,

Visiting the Alviso Adobe Community Park, which used to be the Meadow Lark Dairy, felt like it took me back in time, and I didn't even need a flux capacitor to get there.  -wink-  We got to see how the dairies were operated in the past, and while lots of things have changed - one thing that hasn't changed is the extreme care that is given to the dairy cows, and the quality of the products put out by the California dairy families.  Yes, families.  Most of the dairies operated in California are done so by families - and that speaks volumes.

Take a look at this gorgeous old stove in the kitchen area of the dairy bunkhouse.  I would love to have this in my kitchen, so if any of you would like to send me one - I wouldn't object.  ;)

The evening ended with a beer/cheese pairing hosted by Chef Andy Wild & a fantastic dinner.  

The next day, we visited Fiscalini Farms, which is the home to the 2007 winner of the best extra mature cheddar cheese in the WORLD!   John Fiscalini is the forth generation dairy farmer behind it all, and the methods that he uses in both his dairy & in making his cheese really show in his final products.  

John Fiscalini in the cheese aging room

Growing up in farmland myself, I've been to many dairies over the course of my life - and his was unlike any I've seen.  The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the smell, or lack there of. As a country girl, I know how strong the stench can be at a dairy farm, and I was surprised by how it didn't smell like what I was expecting.  The reason behind this is John's environmentally friendly approach to running his dairy.  Several years ago, he invested in a methane digester.  To sum it up rather simply - it converts the cows waste into power to run the farm.  How cool is that?

The Methane Digester at Fiscalini Farms

The cows all seem so happy, loved, and are exceptionally cared for.  They have their own personal vet who comes every week to check on them, and is on call at all hours in case there is an emergency too.  

Aren't they cute?!  I may have started talking to them in baby talk, and gotten some funny looks from the cows.  

Moo-dels - Get it?   I'm such a comedian.

Inside his cheese making facility - we got a behind the scenes look at how his prize winning cheeses are made.  One advantage he has over the competition is his cheese maker, Mariano Gonzalaz - one of the top cheese makers in the world.

Seeing how the cheese was made was very intriguing, and even more intriguing was the way they were aged - or how long to be specific.  They are aged for 18 months in the aging room before they are packaged, which creates the rich flavor in their variety of cheeses.  

After we had seen everything, we got to divulge in a sampling of their cheeses.  Did I say sample?  I may have gorged just a little because they were absolutely delicious!  If I had an award to give, they'd certainly receive it because the hard work, dedication, & love that goes into their cheese making process is just so evident when you take a bite into their cheese.  Just incredible.

You can view Fiscalini Cheese's online store here.

On my third and final day on the tour, I visited Karoun Dairies & met with cheese maker Rostom Baghdassarian.

Karoun was started by Rostom's father, Anto - an Armenian immigrant who came to America to follow a dream & make a better life for his family.  For quite a while, every dollar he made making cheese he turned right around and put it right back into the company - making it what it is today, along with the support from his family & friends.

From all his hard work & dedication, the company has grown and now sells a variety of cheeses nationwide, including hand braided mozzarella (which was an absolute joy to watch being made), basket feta cheese, Labne, and grilling cheese.  

Karoun Dairies takes extreme measures to be sure their cheese is made in the cleanest of clean environments.  We put on some extremely fashionable suits before we were allowed to enter.  That's me, 4th from the left. Pure hotness, right?

While we toured their facility, we were able to see them hand braid their mozzarella cheese right there in front of us. Wow - they did it so fast!  It was like Speedy Gonzales, arriba, arriba!  It was truly amazing to watch.

You can view Karoun Dairies online store here.

While I was touring all this, I saw why California is recognized as the leading dairy producing state in the nation.  The climate, strict regulations put in place to protect the air & water quality, & the love and care given by the California dairy families influences all their products dramatically.  They certainly made a believer, and a fan, out of me.  After my experience there, I will most definitely be looking for that California Seal on my dairy products from now on.  How about you?


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