The Inspired Cook

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Why we eat ham on Easter

Have you ever wondered why Americans eat ham on Easter Sunday? Well, the answer is one of practicality. In the early days, people slaughtered pigs in the fall. Since there was no refrigeration, they cured all the leftover pork not consumed in the wintertime to avoid waste. Because the curing process was lengthy, the first hams ready for consumption coincidentally occurred around Easter. Therefore, ham was the practical choice for Easter dinner.

Still today, families get together to feast on succulent ham dinners with all the trimmings. Afterwards, leftover ham takes up residence in refrigerators all across the country. A few years ago, my overabundant supply inspired me to create this recipe for an easy, baked western omelet.

Easy, Baked Western Omelet

Ingredients:

                8 large eggs

                1 c. half and half milk

                1 c. cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

                3/4 c. Fiesta-blend cheese, shredded

                1/2 c. each of finely chopped red onion and green and red bell peppers

                1/2 t. each of seasoned salt and ground cumin

1 t. Texas Pete® hot sauce, more or less depending on your preference

                1/4 t. black pepper

                1-2 sliced scallions for garnish, optional

Directions:

                Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

                Into a large mixing bowl, add eggs, milk, spices, and hot sauce; whisk. Add red onion, peppers, ham, and cheese; stir well. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake it for 45-50 minutes or until done in the center when tested with a toothpick. When done, remove pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before slicing. To serve, garnish with scallion slices, if desired.

Yield: 4-6 slices

In addition, I’m sharing one of my favorite original recipes inspired by my own desire to improve the flavor of my old one. This cake would be a delightful addition to your Easter menu.

Luscious Carrot Cake

Cake Ingredients:

                2 c. sugar

                1 1/2 c. organic coconut oil, melted

                3 extra-large eggs (can use 4 large or 5 regular-sized eggs)

                2 t. vanilla extract

                2 1/2 c. flour

                2 t. ground cinnamon

                3/4 t. ground cardamom

                1 1/2 t. each baking powder and soda

                1 t. finely-ground sea salt

                1 c. golden raisins

                1 c. walnuts, chopped

                2 1/2 c. carrots, grated

                1 c. crushed pineapple, not drained

                3/4 c. sweetened and flaked coconut

Directions:

                Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9- by 13- by 2-inch metal baking pan; set aside.

Note: If planning to put cake on a stand or in a cake chest, line pan with parchment paper, leaving at least one inch overhanging on each long side to use as handles to lift out cake. Secure handles with four metal stationery clips, two on each side. Grease and flour parchment paper. Remove excess flour; set aside.

Into a small bowl, place raisins, cover with boiling water, and soak to plump; set aside.

Into a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift the flour. Add cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking to combine; set aside.

Into bowl of a stand mixer, cream together melted coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla extract, using paddle attachment, for 7 minutes. Scrape down sides at least twice. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

On Low speed, blend in half of flour mixture. Add remaining half, blending just until incorporated.

Drain raisins onto paper towels. Press lightly to absorb excess water. Add them into batter along with walnuts, carrots, pineapple, and coconut, stirring until thoroughly distributed.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until done in center when tested.

When done, remove pan and place on rack to cool completely before applying frosting.

Note: If putting cake on stand or in chest, allow cake to cool for 20 minutes and then remove from pan using handles.  Place onto rack to cool completely before applying frosting. When cool, remove clips, lift out cake using handles, set down on countertop. Place rack onto top of cake, flip over carefully, set rack down, and remove the parchment paper. Then invert cake again onto stand or cake-chest bottom.

Cream-Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

                12 oz. cream cheese, softened

                1/2 c. butter, softened

                3 1/2 c. powdered sugar

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 t. lemon juice

Frosting Directions:

                While cake is cooling, make the frosting. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating on Low speed until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Then, increase the speed to High and beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.

When the cake is completely cool, spread the cream-cheese frosting onto top and sides of cake using an off-set spatula.

Yield: 16 servings for a sheet cake