Cooks Corner

5 recipes for your Christmas table

Green Eggs and Ham
Green Eggs and Ham Workman

“I will eat these, Sam I Am ... With friends, on the weekend, in a house, with a mouse (but no mice, because gross), let’s enjoy these greens and eggs and ham.”

Molly Gilbert’s whimsical play on Dr. Seuss introduces a no-fuss, clever and colorful dish perfect for the season. The eggs and ham are nestled in a bed of baked kale, topped off with salty feta. Serve with lots of toast and juice.

The recipe is from Sheet Pan Suppers, Gilbert’s new cookbook that offers 120 recipes like this one, with easy preparation, simple one-pan cooking and little cleanup. Some others I want to try: Honey Orange Shrimp with Baby Bok Choy and Thick Cut Pork Chops with Warm Apple Cabbage Slaw.

Reader Response: Rich’s Fruitcake Bars

Jim Elliott asked for help finding a recipe for Fruit Bars from the Rich’s Department stores of Old Atlanta. His request was for a friend, who described the bars as “melt-in-your-mouth rectangular fruit bars, chewy, light golden in color, with candied fruit and chopped nuts. There was more cookie than fruit.”

Ruby G. writes that she “improvised” a recipe over the years and adds dried cranberries to the candied fruit mix now. Paula Hart Williams sent the recipe here, which she says started out as one in the Atlanta Journal years ago, but then her grandmother — who knew and loved the fruit bars well — wrote her changes in ink on the yellowed newspaper clipping.

I never tasted the fruit bar from Rich’s, but found many fond reminiscences in an internet search. If you love the flavor of candied fruit and fruitcake, you’ll enjoy these bars. If you aren’t fond of candied fruit, consider using a mix of dried fruits instead.

Quick Fix

Reader Arlene Appel wrote saying she wanted to share “a very easy, smeezy recipe. It’s from the 1970s — that’s how long I’ve been making it.” This spin on the spinach-artichoke dip is perfect to serve while opening presents or during a cocktail party. Serve in a bread bowl with the cubes on the side, with pita bread triangles, crackers, raw vegetables or tortilla chips.

Tried and New

Celestial Seasonings has some intriguing holiday teas for a limited run that would make a great addition to your open house or breakfast buffet, such as the Nutcracker Sweet or the Sugar Plum. I’m partial to the Cranberry Vanilla, but you might want to give Santa a break this year from the usual milk and cookies and leave him this dessert martini instead, made with the sugar cookie flavor.

Good to know: If you hate it when seasonal offerings go away, the holiday flavors will be available year-round at celestialseasonings.com.

Apple Maple Bread Pudding

This is a perfect dessert for after caroling or to take to an office party or potluck or to serve after midnight on New Year’s. The cider adds a nice boost. If you aren’t using real maple syrup you should cut the amount of syrup you add in the last step. It really is best warm, with cold ice cream or whipped cream on top. I found a quick refresh in the microwave was fine after refrigerating the leftovers.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172. Replies cannot be guaranteed.

Main dish

Green Eggs and Ham

Olive oil cooking spray

1 (7-ounce) boneless ham steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 to 5 cups packed chopped fresh kale

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

12 large eggs

1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Crusty bread, for serving

Heat oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and mist the foil with cooking spray. Spread out the ham on the prepared pan and bake, using a spatula to mix and turn the ham occasionally, until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the ham to a plate with a spatula or slotted spoon. Do not wipe up any grease from the bottom of the pan. Place the kale on the sheet pan, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Spread out the kale in an even layer. Bake for 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven but leave the oven on. Use a wooden spoon to make eight to 12 evenly spaced divots in the kale to accommodate the eggs. Crack an egg into each divot. Sprinkle the feta, the reserved ham cubes, and some salt and pepper on top.

Return the pan to the oven. Bake the eggs until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, with some crusty bread to soak up the warm, runny yolks. Makes 6 servings..

Source: ‘Sheet Pan Suppers’ by Molly Gilbert (Workman, $16).

Dessert

Could Be Rich’s Fruitcake Bars

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 pound light brown sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon fresh grated orange or lemon zest

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of ground cloves

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup candied cherries, pineapple and citron, finely chopped

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat an 11-by-16-inch cookie sheet with sides with cooking spray. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together on medium-low speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and orange zest.

Reserve 2 heaping tablespoons of the flour. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder and salt. Add to the cake batter and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Toss the nuts and fruit with the reserved flour and fold into the batter. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown and no longer wet. Cut into bars while warm. Makes 32.

Source: Adapted by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner from a reader recipe.

Dessert

Maple Bread Pudding with Cider-Soaked Apples

1 cup Fuji apples, peeled and diced

1 (12-ounce) bottle hard apple cider

8 large eggs

1 quart heavy cream

1 cup sugar

2 cups grade B maple syrup, divided

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure maple flavor

1 pound loaf brioche, cut into 2-inch cubes

Soak the apples overnight in the cider. Whisk eggs, cream, sugar, 1 cup maple syrup, vanilla and maple flavoring in large bowl to blend. Add apples and brioche; stir to coat. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Transfer bread mixture to prepared dish. Let stand at room temperature 11/2 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place in oven and bake 40 minutes. The pudding should be golden brown and risen slightly in the center. Test done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the center and removing to ensure no raw bread remains. Remove from the oven and using a small knife or skewer poke holes all over the pudding. Pour the remaining 1 cup of syrup over the pudding and allow it to cool until just warm. Cut into 12 pieces, top with ice cream if desired, and serve. Makes 12 servings.

Source: Angry Orchard Hard Cider.

Cocktail

Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Martini

6 ounces vodka

3 bags sugar cookie flavor herbal tea

3 ounces half-and-half

1 teaspoon agave nectar

Ice

Sprinkles for decorating rim

Combine vodka and tea bags in a glass container with a lid. Steep 1 hour, then remove tea bags. Combine the infused vodka with the half-and-half and agave nectar in a cocktail shaker. Shake until cold. Wet the rims of 2 martini glasses, then dip in sprinkles. Strain vodka mixture into glass and serve. Makes 2.

Source: Katie Goodman of Goodlife Eats for Celestial Seasonings.

Condiment

Three Greens Dip

1 cup parmesan

1 cup mayonnaise

1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained, finely chopped

1 (9-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained

1 cup hearts of palm, chopped

Mix all and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. May be assembled up to 2 days in advance and baked just before serving.

Variations: Season with garlic and/or chipotle in adobo. Add chopped pimiento or red bell peppers. For a creamier dip, add 1/2 cup sour cream or cream cheese before baking.

Source: Adapted by Linda Cicero for Cook’s Corner from a reader recipe.

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