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Celebrating the season

12/15/2007 @ 11:00pm

What makes a dish memorable is not only how it's presented at the dinner table, but also how it's prepared before your guests take their first bite. The aromas that waft from the kitchen are a true sign of the amazing meal to come.

Before you start to prepare your recipes this holiday season, consider an alternative ingredient or two -- like raisins and almonds -- to bring out the best in your ham and green beans.

Raisins aren't a newcomer to the kitchen. Known typically as an addition to breads and cookies, they can also complement other recipes like the Raisin Sauce included in the Baked Holiday Spiral Ham below.

This sauce calls for golden raisins. For most recipes, you can use different types of raisins, except if a specific variety is listed. If you choose to substitute, it may alter the intended flavor of the original recipe.

Almonds also offer a distinct flavor to any recipe. Included in the green bean recipe, this fruit adds a crunchy texture to the crisp yet tender beans. Enjoy these flavorful ingredients in the recipes that follow.

Prep: 15 minutes, Roast: 1-3/4 hours, Oven: 325 degrees F.

4- to 5-pound cooked boneless spiral-sliced honey-cured ham
3 cups brown sauce or brown gravy
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2/3 cup golden raisins or raisins

Step 1: Place ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer. Bake, covered with foil, in a 325-degree F. oven for 1-3/4 to 2-1/4 hours or until thermometer registers 140 degrees F. and ham is heated through. During the last 15 minutes of baking, make sauce.

Step 2: For sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine brown sauce, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, and vinegar. Bring to boiling, stirring constantly. Stir in raisins; heat through. Remove from heat.

Step 3: To serve, slice ham. Pass warm sauce. Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 349 calories, 17 g fat, 86 mg cholesterol, 2,415 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 27 g protein.

Prep: 15 minutes, Bake: 20 minutes, Oven: 425 degrees F.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil or shortening, melted

Step 1: Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Step 2: In medium mixing bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of dry mixture; set aside.

Step 3: In another bowl combine the eggs, milk, and cooking oil or melted shortening. Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until moistened.

Step 4: Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Makes 8 or 9 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 91 calories, 2 g fat, 56 mg cholesterol, 183 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.

Prep: 20 minutes, Cook: 10 minutes

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons butter
1-1/3 cups slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Step 1: In a Dutch oven, cook green beans, covered, in small amount of boiling salted water for 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain and return to Dutch oven.

Step 2: In a medium skillet, cook garlic in hot butter over medium heat until tender and lightly golden. Add to green beans along with almonds, lemon juice, and salt. Toss to combine. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Nutrition facts per serving: 323 calories, 27 g fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 264 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 9 g protein.

What makes a dish memorable is not only how it's presented at the dinner table, but also how it's prepared before your guests take their first bite. The aromas that waft from the kitchen are a true sign of the amazing meal to come.