Month: August 2006

How to Make a Ham and Cheese Omelet

We enjoy making breakfast on the weekends. It’s a nice break to take the time to cook in the morning instead of rushing to get to work. And so while we always try to vary our diet and to cook different meals, one we have quite often is the good old Ham and Cheese Omelet. I learned to cook this dish when I was in the service and had to help out in the kitchen. For the most part the work in making a ham and cheese omelet is in the preparation. So here is how we make a ham and cheese omelet for two.Ham and Cheese Omelet

Making a Ham and Cheese Omelet
Start with 3 free range chicken eggs*. Break the eggs by rapping them on the kitchen counter, and drop the egg white and yolk into a small bowl. Repeat for the other two eggs. Some cooks crack eggs on a sharp edge but we feel that increases the chance of getting shell into the eggs. Once you’ve got all 3 eggs in the bowl, use a fork to beat the eggs vigorously for 10 – 15 seconds until the whites blend with the yolks to an almost even yellow color.

Take two slices of luncheon ham such as DAK. If using large ham slices from the deli counter, adjust down to one slice. What you want is to end up with about 1/3 cup of chopped ham. We simply place the ham on a cutting board, and cut long ways across several times about 1/2 inch apart, rotate the cutting board, and cut the short way across at 1/2 inch widths. The end result should be a pile of ham chunks containing about 1/3 cup of ham. We’ve also had wonderful results using leftover dinner ham slices that are about a 1/2 thick. If you’re using that type of ham, then make the cubes of ham about 1/4 inch wide instead. Once we used a dinner ham slice that we had for dinner and had been cooked with pineapple. That made a very nice tasting omelet.

The final ingredient you’ll need for the ham and cheese omelet is Cheddar cheese. You might be tempted to use American processed cheese, but in our opinion, real Cheddar cheese is best. You may use pre-shredded Cheddar cheese, shred it yourself on a grater, or use slices of Cheddar. All will produce a nice omelet since the cheese is going to melt and spread. Using shredded Cheddar helps you somewhat since you can spread it evenly, but sliced Cheddar works fine. For our omelet, you will need to have about 1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese or 1 1/2 to 2 slices of Cheddar cheese.

Time to cook the omelet
Now that everything is prepared, place about 1/2 to 1 tbsp of olive oil or canola oil in a 9″ non-stick skillet, such as T-Fal. Using the corner of a paper towel, spread the oil around in the pan. Then place the pan over low heat. Beat the eggs another time for about 5 seconds, then add to the pan and make sure the eggs run over the entire bottom of the pan. Cook the eggs over low heat until the top sets up.

We’re going to fold the egg over on top of itself to form a half circle. So add the ham to only one half of the omelet. Which ever side you choose will become the bottom of the omelet. [Note: You’re going to be tempted to over fill the omelet with lots of ham and cheese, but resist the temptation. You only need about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of each to make a nice omelet]. Top the ham with the Cheddar cheese, then carefully, using a spatula flip the other half of the omelet over top of the half of the omelet with the ham and cheese on it. You should make sure the omelet is loose from the bottom of the pan first by slipping the spatula under the omelet all the way around. Once you flip the egg over top of the ham and cheese, let the cheese melt about 20 seconds before serving.

We cut the ham and cheese omelet in half to make two servings.

We served the omelet in the picture with Old Bay Hash Brown Potatoes and a glass of orange juice.

*We always buy free range chicken eggs because we feel it’s inhumane to place 7 chickens in a 7″ x 8″ cage as is done in non-free range chicken farms. Certainly free range eggs cost more than factory produced eggs, but the chickens are living creatures so we choose not to support low cost inhumane farming practices.

About Cinnamon

Cinnamon StickCinnamon, perhaps one of the most popular and tastiest of spices (although many don’t think of it as a spice), is a substance which many enjoy on a daily basic but do not know much about. Despite its wide use throughout the world, especially in America, millions of people are not even aware of where it comes from.

Cinnamomum verum, also known as Cinnamon (the tree), is an evergreen ranging from ten meters high to fifteen meters. Cinnamon (the spice), is made from the bark of this tree. However, while producing its edible bark (after some preparation, of course), the tree also composes fruit, which comprise only of very small, purple berries. The berries are not the prime product of the tree that humans are concerned with. While the tree is only native to Sri Lanka, it has been cultivated commercially in many tropical countries including Brazil, Vietnam and Madagascar. Surprisingly, and contrary to the smell of cinnamon, the leaves of the tree give off a foul odor. The name “Cinnamon” is from Greek origin, but also has some Hebrew and Malaysian roots.

Besides making cinnamon spice itself, there is another thing that the bark of the Cinnamon tree is good for. That use is the creation of the cinnamon oil, which is made through a slightly complicated process. First the bark has to be pounded roughly, soaked in sea water, and finally distilled. The oil has a gold-like color, and smells very similar to regular cinnamon.

Cinnamon is not a spice that can be made hastily. The tree must be grown for at least two years before it can be coppiced, which is cutting off the shoot (the upper-portion of the tree) but leaving the roots, so a new shoot can grow. The severed shoot is stripped of its bark; the inner bark is used to make the cinnamon while the outer bark is made into quills (cinnamon sticks) and sold. While many countries where the Cinnamon tree is not native (all other countries except Sri Lanka) produce it commercially, the Sri Lanka Cinnamon trees are believed to make the best cinnamon.

There are different types of cinnamon, and when people say the word “cinnamon” with no other description, the variety is assumed to be the pure cinnamon, or Ceylon Cinnamon. This is the Cinnamon that comes from the Cinnamon tree Cinnamomum verum. However, there is another type of Cinnamon tree, Cinnamomum aromaticum, which doesn’t produce the true cinnamon, but something very similar. This imitation cinnamon is called Cassia Cinnamon, and although it is not the “pure” kind, the majority of all cinnamon sold it in the United States is Cassia. Cassia Cinnamon is different from Ceylon in that it is stronger, thicker, and harder. The reason for this is that with Ceylon Cinnamon, only the inner bark is used to make the cinnamon, but with Cassia, all the bark is used (and it’s a different species of tree). While the sticks of the two cinnamon types are easily distinguishable, the ground form is not, although there are different techniques that can be used to figure out what is what.

Ground CinnamonCinnamon can basically be put in any food. It is put in pancakes, eggs, cakes, chocolate, candy, and is even used to add extra flavor to fruits (apples, cherries, pears), and cereal. In the Middle East, it is put in other foods that many Americans wouldn’t think about adding cinnamon too, such as lamb. Besides being used heavily as a spice to make tasty foods even tastier, and add flavor to bland foods, it also has some medical uses. It can treat colds, and people used to believe it was a straight up cure for it. Cinnamon is also used to treat a variety of digestive problems, such as upset stomachs and diarrhea. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, which are important in reducing damage that cells endure regularly. Many commercials promote the fact that their product is high in antioxidants, and cinnamon is no different. The oil that cinnamon has is antimicrobial, which kills or slows the growth of bacteria, viruses, and other things of the like. While this does little for the human body, when cinnamon is placed around other foods, it prolongs their life (how long before they come inedible). Studies have shown that cinnamon has great effects on people with Type II diabetes, but while the media portrayed the studies as showing that true cinnamon was beneficial, it was actually cassia that was used in the studies. Another fantastic use of cinnamon is its use as an insect repellant (kind of odd considering how good it smells). Many independent farmers do not like using insecticide because of its harmful side effects on humans, but cinnamon is a safe way to keep the bugs out and the crops safe.

The history of cinnamon is not a brief one. It dates back to as far as 2000 BC, and at that period was given as a gift to high leaders and rulers (it wasn’t as easy to make back then). Cinnamon is also mentioned many times in the Bible, adding to its value. In the Middle Ages, western world dwellers didn’t even know how cinnamon was made, as it was just exclusively imported from the other side of the world. Over the years, many different peoples dominated the spice trade (therefore the cinnamon trade as well). It was the Portuguese who actually discovered Ceylon is Sri Lanka, and they had a monopoly for over a century, and they fought hard to preserve it. However, the Dutch defeated them by making an alliance with another kingdom, and they completely expelled the Portuguese and used their own methods to produce and trade cinnamon. By the time Britain dislodged the Dutch, cinnamon was already declining in popularity and was spreading to other areas. Also, Cassia was becoming more popular, and Ceylon was no longer the only bark from which cinnamon was made.

About Old Bay Seasoning

Picture of can of Old Bay Seasoning
Old Bay Seasoning has been a favorite in the state of Maryland for decades. Ever since it’s development in late 30s, many have been using it to enhance things from crabs to hamburgers. While the seasoning used to only be enjoyed by Chesapeake Bay residents, its mass production and popularity have allowed it to spread across the country. However, it will always be most popular in Maryland, famous for its crabs, but especially Baltimore, where crabs are eaten most frequently.

Back in 1939, a German immigrant named Gustav Brunn came to America, with the goal of starting a famous spice business. It was him who developed Old Bay seasoning with a primitive spice-grinder and a few basic ingredients. Because he was in Baltimore, and crabs were plentiful, people quickly took to his unique brand of seasoning, and Brunn got to live the American dream. He even named the seasoning after an old steamship line that served passengers and moved cargo on the Chesapeake Bay (Old Bay). It’s been over sixty years, and Brunn’s seasoning still enjoys moderate fame. Unbeknownst to many people, Brunn was one of the many Jews to escape from Germany after Kristallnacht. However, little else is known about the man who invented Old Bay.

Back when Gustav Brunn created Old Bay Seasoning, crabs were so plentiful in the Chesapeake Bay that bars often offered crabs for free, and seasoned with salty seasonings in order to sell more beer to the patrons. Old Bay is just one of these bar seafood seasonings, and is the seasoning that has survived the test of time.

Of course, Gustav Brunn does not make Old Bay Seasoning anymore. His company, The Old Bay Company was sold, and the company which purchased the rights to Old Bay is McCormick & Company [McCormick also a Baltimore, Maryland based spice company], which now manufacturers Old Bay and many variations of it. McCormick sells Old Bay across the nation through it’s distribution channels and has transformed a regional taste into a national product, almost certainly generating millions of dollars a year through their ventures. Besides the classic “Old Bay” seasoning which McCormick markets, the company also produces varieties such as “Old Bay with Lemon and Herb”, “Old Bay with Garlic and Herb”, “Old Bay Crab Cake Classic”, and many more. It’s for certain that McCormick will be here for a long time, perhaps making even new kinds of Old Bay, with new and possibly exotic flavors.

Picture of Old Bay Seasoning
What exactly is in Old Bay seasoning? It is a mixture of different herbs and spices; it contains a multitude of ingredients. If one doesn’t want to buy Old Bay seasoning, they can make it themselves! Old Bay contains mustard seeds, celery seeds, peppercorns, and much more. An official ingredient list for Old Bay seasoning follows:

Celery seeds
Mustard seeds
Whole black peppercorns
Bay leaves (Laurel)
Whole cloves
Dried Red Pepper (Pimento)
Mace (the outer casing of the Nutmeg seed)
Whole Cardamom
Sweet Hungarian paprika
Picture of ingredient list in Old Bay Seasoning

As the ingredients list shows, it is quite a tasteful and flavorful seasoning. Recipes for making Old Bay Seasoning at home can be found on the Internet, and many people have changed the recipe to customize it just for them.

Old Bay Seasoning is used for more than just crabs, much more. While as we’ve said Old Bay was developed for serving crabs in the bars of Baltimore, people put it on basically anything, such as popcorn (it would be hard to get the seasoning into a movie theatre though, ha), eggs, salads, fries, chips, hamburgers, other seafood, and more. It really can be used on anything, and there are even people who probably put it on pancakes in place of maple syrup! Of course, the majority of people use Old Bay to season their crabs, and other seafood, which is what it will always be predominantly used for. Old Bay not only brings out the full taste of crabs, but adds additional flavor to the dish. And with the right combination with other seafood seasonings, crabs can taste perfect.

Old Bay isn’t the only seafood seasoning, there are several other pretty famous ones. Another great seasoning is Nantucket Rub, which is used mainly for fish, but can also be used on meats such as chicken, and even on breads. The seasoning contains garlic, lemon zest, peppercorns, tarragon, and dill. It’s is named after how it is used; it is rubbed onto the food. Another fine brand is Zatarain [also produced by McCormick & Co.], which has produced many different kinds of seasonings. Most of the seasonings McCormick produces under the Zatarain line are meant to be used on seafood, and some are to be used exclusively on certain fish, such as shrimp. The Zatarain also includes products other than seasonings, and it is famous all over the United States. Another “Rub” seasoning is Bayou Rub, Cajun Seasoning, and Red beans & Rice. The Zatarain’s Cajun seasoning is used for blackening different meats, mainly poultry and seafood. It contains garlic, paprika, onion, black and red pepper, thyme, oregano, and lemon peel. When mixed with other seasonings, the result can be quite delicious.

Here is a recipe for a Maryland Crab Cake, which uses Old Bay Seasoning. The source of the recipe can be found here:

1 lb fresh jumbo lump crabmeat
1 egg
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
6 tsp real mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp prepared mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
7 tsp King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning

1. Mix all ingredients except the lump crabmeat.
2. Carefully pick through the crabmeat and remove any remaining shell and cartilage keeping as many lumps intact as possible
3. In a large bowl, gently mix crab and mayonnaise mixture. Shape into 5 or 6 cakes. Place shaped cakes on a cookie sheet covered with non-stick aluminum foil.
4. Broil about 10 minutes until tops begin to brown. Turn and broil other side 2 – 3 minutes.
5. Serve with tarter sauce.

Author: Matthew Schroebel

Stuffed Bell Pepper Recipe

Stuffed Pepper Recipe
Since it’s summer and the vegetables are rolling out of the garden quite regularly, we thought we’d share a recipe of our for Stuffed Bell Peppers. We’ve enjoyed this recipe for years, and it’s been handed down a couple time throught our family. I’m sure we’ve made adjustments to this recipe over time, and this is our current formulation of Stuffed Bell Peppers.

Stuffed Peppers Ingredients
The number of steps listed below make this look like a complex recipe but honestly stuffed peppers are a simple meal to make.

  • 3 or 4 large peppers (We prefer red peppers because we feel they have a sweeter taste than green peppers but, they can be any color you choose.)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey works as well)
  • 1 small onion chopped, finely
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped garlic (We prefer to use Nina’s chopped fresh chopped garlic because it’s so easy to use and for some reason imparts a better garlic flavor into foods)
  • 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 14 ounce can low sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsps Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsps butter, melted

To make Stuffed Peppers

  1. Place beef broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the basmati rice to boiling beef broth. We prefer basmati rice and you’re welcome to substitute your favorite rice instead of basmati.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 12 – 15 minutes.
  4. Cook lean ground beef (or turkey) with black pepper, chopped onion and garlic.
  5. While rice and beef are cooking you can cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds. If you want to speed up the cooking time at the end you can blanch the peppers first but cooking in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
  6. If necessary drain any grease from the cooked ground beef.
  7. Mix the cooked basmati rice with cooked ground beef.
  8. Add tomato sauce to beef and rice mixture. Only add enough to bind the beef and rice together. (Depending on what our mood is and what I have on hand in the pantry I may use tomato soup which is not as zesty as sauce or beef broth)
  9. Melt butter in a microwave oven.
  10. Add bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese to melted butter. This will create a crumb topping for the stuffed peppers.
  11. Place cooked beef and rice mixture into peppers.
  12. Top peppers with crumb mixture.
  13. Cook stuffed peppers for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees (if you blanched the peppers first) or for 1 hour at 350 degrees (if peppers were not blanched first.)