GooGoo’s Baked Ham & Other Easter Menu Ideas

This week we’re excited to conclude our three-part Easter menu series with a recipe for baked ham from my great-grandmother, Florence Murphy, aka GooGoo.

GooGoo died before I was born, but her ham recipe has been a holiday staple in our family since I can remember, first at my grandmother’s Easter table, and then at my mother’s.

The torch has been passed this year, and I will be making the Easter ham for our family’s celebration on Sunday. I was grateful to be able to test out GooGoo’s recipe in advance for our photo shoot, and am happy to report that the process was one-hundred percent pain-free.

Aside from tradition and the general ease of preparing this ham for baking, there are several things I like about GooGoo’s recipe. Just minutes after I placed the ham in the oven, my kitchen smelled heavenly. Tony came home about fifteen minutes after the ham went in and practically swooned with delight. Seriously, he was almost weak in the knees – reason enough to make this ham again. And again, and again.

But my favorite discovery was that this is the perfect recipe to make with kids. From studding the ham with cloves, to preparing the paste and basting it as it bakes, watching the water level in the pan, and even whisking the gravy, kids can be a part of the entire process. If you’re a parent or grandparent, I hope you’ll consider inviting the little ones in your life to help out – I guarantee they’ll never forget it, and will probably even volunteer to help next year.

When buying the ham, I was confronted with the choice between a shank half or a butt half. (Yes, I know I just said butt. You can too – it will give the kids a good laugh.) Both were close in price and looked essentially the same to me, so I asked the friendly butcher at Hornbacher’s which one would be better. He explained that there are more bones in the butt half, and that the shank half, which was the slightly more expensive option, had just one bone and better flavor. I took the shank half.

Ham comes already cooked, so you could just eat it straight from the wrapping if you like. But GooGoo had a better vision, as baking the ham intensifies its flavor. GooGoo’s recipe is delicious, straightforward, easy to follow and practically foolproof. The one key to remember is to add a little water to the pan once the ham is in, which will help prevent the sugar from burning. I had to add a tablespoon or two of water several times as it baked, so be sure to check the pan often. This will be a great job for Gio.

We’re including GooGoo’s recipe for ham gravy today, so this step is important to ensure that the drippings can be used; however, if you don’t intend to make gravy it’s not such a big deal.

GooGoo’s ham is excellent served either hot or at room temperature, which means you can prepare it in advance for an Easter brunch if desired. But, if you do plan to make the ham gravy it is best to when made and served right after the ham is removed from the oven.

We hope you enjoy GooGoo’s baked ham at your family’s Easter feast, but it will brighten up your table even on a plain old Monday. I know it did for GooGoo. Happy Easter!

CLICK HERE for GooGoo’s Baked Ham RECIPE

Other recipes you might enjoy for your Easter feast:
Easter Egg Strata (eggbake)
Apple Sausage Breakfast Ring
Raspberry Friands
Honey Gorgonzola Hearts Salad
Apple Spinach Salad
Marilyn’s Easy Potato Salad
Easy Fresh Fruit Salad
Perfect Whipped Potatoes
Green Beans Nasello
Marianna’s Roasted Red Peppers
Prosciutto e Melone
Tuscan Bean Salad
Honey Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb
Grilled Top Sirloin Roast
Coconut Macaroons
Flourless Chocolate Torte
Tiramisu
Angel Food Cake

A Year of Food…In Review

It’s finally time to say goodbye to 2013, and although it’s been a generally good year we are nonetheless perfectly happy to see it come to an end. As former sailors (albeit on luxury cruise vessels), Tony and I could never really get comfortable with the idea of spending an entire year mired in the number “13.”

You see, every vessel we sailed on, with the exception of one, was free and clear of this number. Cabin numbers would skip from 112 to 114, crew and passenger manifests would do the same, as would dining room table numbers, muster assignments, etc. The one ship that didn’t follow this mariner’s tradition was plagued with a series of unfortunate events, and we were relieved that our contracts that season were on the shorter side.

However, many good things did happen this year, and we’d be remiss to send 2013 off without at least a little fanfare. So, here are a few of our favorite 2013 moments at Home with The Lost Italian:

1) Blogging is a fluid process, and over the past twelve months we have come to know our readers better. We know that you love chocolate desserts, as proven by the number of visits to the post “Classic (and Amazing) Flourless Chocolate Torte.” which is the #1 most-visited post on our site. This dessert is decadence at its most refined, and it’s also gluten-free which means virtually everyone can enjoy this chocolate cake. Cut it into slices for an elegant after-dinner dessert served with a lovely Tawny Port. Or, cut into small bars topped with a dollop of Real Whipped Cream and fresh berries, served with a glass of cold milk.

2) While you enjoy decadence, you’re also health-conscious, as evidenced by the #2 post on the site, “Tony’s Tuscan Bean Salad.” But don’t be fooled by the super-healthy nature of this side dish: with the right ingredients receiving an extra kick from balsamic vinegar, this salad is big on flavor and pairs well with seafood, poultry, pasta and even beef. It’s the perfect way to kick off your healthy-eating ambitions for the New Year.

3) Our #3 post for the year was for such a simple dish, but one that Tony predicted would become popular after enjoying it himself: Our “One-Pan Fried Egg Sandwich” was a post that surprised us with its following, but who can resist a recipe with good toasting bread, Canadian Bacon, aged Cheddar Cheese, sauteed Spinach, and of course, a Fried Egg? Not us, and apparently, not you either.

4) In the fall of 2013, Tony joined the team at KVLY-TV’s new lifestyle morning show, North Dakota Today, as a featured guest each Monday morning. This new experience is the perfect complement for his talents, and Tony loves bringing new recipes and food ideas to Andrea and Chris each week. What a fun new adventure this has been for our family!

5) Our #4 post in 2013 was “Thanksgiving 101: Turkey Day Tips & Guidelines” where we shared Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips, Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, Turkey Thawing Guidelines and a whole host of recipes perfect for this harvest holiday. We received a terrific amount of questions over this holiday, with many of them focused on our recipe for Sarello’s Perfect Whipped Potatoes, which prompted us to create another popular post called, “Whipped Potatoes Q&A…”

Congratulations to Jean Eppler and her Cranberries Gone Wild Dip!

6) We hosted our first recipe contest last fall, “In Search of the Perfect Party Dip,” and with the traffic that has been generated by Jean Eppler’s (now-famous) Cranberries Gone Wild Dip, we’d say that the public definitely chose the right winner. We bumped into Jean’s dip at nearly every holiday party we attended this season, and we even enjoyed it on Christmas Day, with lime chips and a lime margarita, just as Jean recommends. Jean’s recipe has been posted on our blog for less than three months, but in that time it has catapulted itself into the #5 most-viewed page on the blog, for the entire year. Now THAT’S a winner!

7) Our year ended with our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest, our second big recipe event, and we were thilled to have three amazing recipes and heritage stories in the finals. Neither Tony, Gio, nor I were able to agree on one favorite among these three, and we were happy to turn the decision over to the public, who chose Astrid Axtman’s Great-Grandmother’s Swedish Spritz Cookies as the winner, making 12-year-old Astrid the happy new owner of a brand-new Kitchen Aid Mixer sponsored by Sarello’s. We are predicting that kids will emerge as a big trend on the culinary scene in 2014, and Astrid’s win definitely supports this theory.

8) Our theory on the Kids’ Culinary Invasion may be somewhat homespun, as our nine-year-old son, Giovanni, has really begun to come into his own in the kitchen this year. Last winter Gio and I decided to create our own recipe for meatballs, which we promptly named “Gio’s Meatballs.” We shared this recipe with our newspaper readers, and here on the blog, and Tony and Gio had a blast making the DEMONSTRATION VIDEO together.

9) Tony and Gio created another one of my favorite food moments from 2013 when they demonstrated how to make our family’s favorite holiday treat - Peppermint Bark - on North Dakota Today. You’d think the pressure of LIVE TV  might have gotten the best of Giovanni, but, as the saying goes, the olive doesn’t fall far from the Sicilian. Or something like that. :) It makes my heart sing to watch the two of them cooking together, and you can watch the video RIGHT HERE.

.At the start of 2013 this blog was just one month old, and our goal for the year was to double our monthly traffic numbers by the end of the year. The results are far beyond our expectations, as we have seen our web traffic increase more than ten times over from the first month to the twelfth, and we are delighted that many of you have chosen to interact with us either by entering one of our contests, leaving your comments for us, or emailing us with questions about our recipes.

We absolutely love having this opportunity to connect with our readers through our shared passions for food, fun and the good life, and we are so glad you have found us here at Home with The Lost Italian. We can’t wait to share our vision, and recipes, for 2014 with you, and wish you a very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year! Bring on 2014!

Tony, Sarah and Giovanni, in the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

We have a WINNER in our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest!

Merry Christmas! We can’t believe we’re here already, about to announce the winner of our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest. Over the past month we have received 39 entries from 15 states and two Canadian provinces, and narrowing down our contestants to just three finalists was a difficult task.

Tony, Gio and I spent an entire weekend poring over each recipe and its heritage story to determine our top five favorites. We then made those five confections for a round of tasting by a panel of volunteer judges, who tightened up the race by determining which three entries would advance to the final round, where the public would vote online for the winner. We were relieved at this stage, as the three of us could not have reached a consensus on our own.

Giovanni was a fan of the Swedish Spritz cookies and was championing the only entry from a fellow kid in the entire contest…until he tried the chocolate-coated Joy to the World Balls, a recipe submitted by Donna Kelly of Provo, Utah. Donna’s heritage story pulled our heartstrings with images of faraway family members being comforted at the holidays by the familiarity of tradition. After savoring this sweet, coconut confection, Gio followed his taste buds and declared this decadent treat the (symbolic) victor.

My favorite entry was the Belgian Lukken Cookies, a family recipe submitted by Suzanne LaPalm of Oakdale, MN. I enjoyed reading her heritage story nearly as much as the wonderful photos she included. And then there are the cookies themselves, made with a special lukken or pizzelle press which we ended up buying so that we could make Suzanne’s cookies for the semifinals. It was worth every penny because these cookies are to-die-for. To me, Suzanne’s entry embodies the very essence of this contest, and her story and photos are evidence that this sweet treat will remain a holiday tradition for generations to come.

But, in the end, after four hundred and two votes were cast over two days of online voting, only one finalist could emerge the winner, and that honor goes to twelve-year-old Astrid Axtman of Fargo, ND, with her Great-Grandma Elsa’s recipe for Swedish Spritz cookies.

Of course, Tony claims bragging rights, too, as the voters  agreed with his top pick, but who can blame him? Astrid was the only youth to enter our contest, and she was competing against some seasoned competitors, as well as two food bloggers in the finals.

Before tasting the cookies, Tony was rooting for Astrid because he is a tender-hearted dad who loves to cook with his son. Spritz are an old-world favorite for many of us with Scandinavian heritage, but they were new to Tony, who kept poking fun at their name. But after Gio and I made our first batch with our brand-new cookie press, Tony knew he’d picked the winner. He loves a sweet treat that isn’t too sweet, and these Spritz cookies are right up his alley. Besides, who can resist a story with names like Elsa, Elvie and Astrid? Not many, especially in our region.

You can find all of the contest recipes on our blog right HERE. We wish to thank everyone who participated, either by sharing your heritage recipe with us, or by voting. Congratulations, Astrid, and Merry Christmas! We wish you a happy new year filled with wonderful goodies made in your new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

Astrid Axtman’s (Great-Grandmother’s) Swedish Spritz Cookies

HERITAGE STORY
My Great-Grandma Elsa immigrated to the United States (from Sweden) in 1920. She taught herself English by reading the back of sugar sacks and comic books.  I’m fortunate that one ten-pound sack of sugar has made an impact on the following generations. With that sack of sugar, my Great Grandma Elsa started a tradition of making spritz cookies, dying wreathed shaped cookies green, and garnishing them with red icing, or sometimes even sugar dyed red!

My Grandma Elvie remembers how these cookies were a staple around the holidays. As my grandmother shares, this was passed down and by the time she started making them, sprinkles had become popular thus the icing was replaced. My mother says they go back as far as she can remember; sometimes her mother would even shape them as trees.

Grandma continues to make them for us grandchildren, and that’s where I come into the picture. Even though I’m only 12, I have enjoyed learning family baking from my Grandmother. I would really enjoy making many batches of cookies with the KitchenAid mixer and passing on this tradition!

Astrid Axtman’s (Grandma’s) Spritz Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted flour (all-purpose)
green food coloring
red sprinkles

Directions:
In a stand mixer or large bowl; cream butter. Gradually add sugar; cream well. Add egg, salt, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat. Gradually add food coloring until it turns a nice green color. Blend in flour. Once it forms a dough, put the dough through a cookie press.

Bake to a delicate brown at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Makes 6 to 7 dozen.

VOTE TODAY & Help Us Pick A Winner!

***VOTING IS NOW CLOSED***
THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON CHRISTMAS DAY!

Welcome to the Final Round in our Holiday Heritage Recipe Contest, and CONGRATULATIONS to our Top Three Finalists:

We can’t believe we’re here already, with Christmas just one week away and our contest coming to a close. We love all three of these entries (and so many more), and if it was up to Tony, Gio and me there would probably be a 3-way tie.

All three recipes are unique and special in their own way, but they do share some common threads.

  1. To our delight, all three of these recipes are ideal for making with kids, which means that they stand a pretty good chance of remaining a tradition in our contestants’ families for generations to come.
  2. All three of them have wonderfully touching heritage stories, and knowing the story behind each sweet treat somehow makes them taste even better.
  3. We have made each of these recipes at least twice now, and they are solid – we have had consistently good results each time.
  4. Gio and I love to prepare bags, baskets and boxes full of holiday goodies to give as gifts to friends and family, and all three of these recipes will be included in our repertoire from this year forward.
  5. All three of these cookies can be made early in the season: the spritz will keep well in the freezer, the chocolate balls can stay in the fridge for up to one month, and the lukken cookies can be stored in an a cool, dry place for several weeks. Love, love, love this fact!

So: Who is going to take home this brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer? And who are we rooting for? While we love all three recipes, we each have our favorite…it’s a good thing we’re not choosing the winner, or this Christmas could get ugly in our house.

TONY’S PICK:
Will it be the young baker Astrid Axtman of Fargo, ND, with her Swedish Great-Grandmother’s recipe for Spritz cookies? We loved her heritage story of Elsa’s American journey, especially her creative methods for learning the English language. This is a great recipe to make with kids – we’ve made them twice with Giovanni already and have loved working with a cookie press. Gio has added a light glaze and LOTS of sprinkles to them, but Tony loves to eat them plain. These cookies were Gio’s hands-down favorite – until he tried the Joy to the World Christmas Balls.But that’s okay, because they definitely have Tony’s vote

SARAH’S PICK:
Will it be Suzanne LaPalm of Oakdale, MN and her family’s special recipe for Belgian Lukken cookies? Suzanne’s story and photos capture the heart and soul of this contest, with a multi-generational recipe passed down through the ages, and her photos of three generations still making these cookies together. And let’s be honest: who can resist a cookie with a little whiskey in it? We had to buy our own pizzelle maker to create these old-world favorites, but these cookies are worth it – now we can experiment with other goodies like pizzelle and waffle cones/bowls. Take it from us: Suzanne’s family cookies are amazing, and they are Sarah’s favorite to win.

GIOVANNI’S PICK:
What about Donna Kelly of Provo, UT, and her special recipe for Joy to the World Balls, a divine chocolate-coconut Christmas candy that is like an Almond Joy candy bar, but SOOO much better. We loved Donna’s story, too, especially the way these candies have been able to connect her loved ones with special family memories, even from a distance. Her story makes us want to start a new Christmas tradition and ship boxes of these goodies to our loved ones far away. Giovanni took one heavenly bite and fell absolutely in love with these goodies, and who can blame him? With chocolate, coconut (and even healthy coconut oil!), and almonds, these candies are a strong contender, and they have already won Gio’s vote.

Thank goodness this matter is now out of our hands, and IT’S UP TO YOU to decide who will reign supreme and be the proud (and hopefully happy) owner of our grand prize, a brand-new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. VOTING WILL REMAIN OPEN UNTIL 10 PM TONIGHT, Thursday, December 19, 2013.

To vote, we ask you to read each finalist’s recipe and story (posted below) and then cast your vote in the poll, which is located at the end of this post and also along the right side of the page.→→→

Which sweet confection is so enticing that want to run right home and make it? Which heritage story pulls at your heartstrings and/or fills you with the holiday spirit? Which photo leaves you longing to find that sweet treat on your holiday table?

We will tally up the votes and announce our winner on Christmas Day online here at the blog and at www.inforum.com, as well as in the print edition of The Forum newspaper. If you haven’t already subscribed to receive updates whenever something exciting happens here at Home with The Lost Italian, make sure you get signed up today. (Just enter your email address in the box to the right that says “SUBSCRIBE.”)

We’ll also announce the winner through social media on Facebook and Twitter (@sarahnasello or @thelostitalian), so feel free to follow us on those sites, too. :)

Please, read on and VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE!

FINALIST #1:
Swedish Spritz Cookies
submitted by Astrid Axtman of Fargo, ND

My Great-Grandma Elsa immigrated to the United States (from Sweden) in 1920.   She taught herself English by reading the back of sugar sacks and comic books.  I’m fortunate that one ten pound sack of sugar has made an impact on the following generations. With that sack of sugar, my Great Grandma Elsa started a tradition of making spritz cookies, dying wreathed shaped cookies green, and garnishing them with red icing, or sometimes even sugar dyed red!

My Grandma Elvie remembers how these cookies were a staple around the holidays. As my grandmother shares, this was passed down and by the time she started making them, sprinkles had become popular thus the icing was replaced. My mother says they go back as far as she can remember; sometimes her mother would even shape them as trees.

Grandma continues to make them for us grandchildren, and that’s where I come into the picture. Even though I’m only 12, I have enjoyed learning family baking from my Grandmother. I would really enjoy making many batches of cookies with the KitchenAid® mixer and passing on this tradition!

Astrid Axtman’s (Grandma’s) Spritz Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups sifted flour (all-purpose)
green food coloring
red sprinkles

Directions:
In a stand mixer or large bowl; cream butter. Gradually add sugar; cream well. Add egg, salt, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat. Gradually add food coloring until it turns a nice green color. Blend in flour. Once it forms a dough put the dough through a cookie press.

Bake to a delicate brown at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Makes 6 to 7 dozen.

FINALIST #2:
Joy to the World Christmas Balls
Submitted by Donna Kelly – Provo, UT

There are foods that bring a remembrance of Christmases past. Our “Joy to the World” Christmas candies do that for us.

My mom’s family created this recipe and now my children make these candies, a four generation tradition. If a child of mine is not with us for Christmas, I package them up and send them off and I picture my child opening the box, inhaling the sweet coconutty smell and then biting into a candy, flooding their taste buds with memories of their childhood. Kelly Family Christmas in a bite.

I added my own twist and changed the diced pecans to diced toasted, lightly salted almonds. We loved the change, and my son Jake renamed the candies “Joy to the World” balls, since they now have a little of the flavor of Almond Joy candy bars!

And another tweak added by my generation: I switched up the butter to coconut oil, so now these are *** Healthified*** Christmas Candy. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Christmas candy with healthy fat.

JOY TO THE WORLD BALLS

Ingredients:
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
8 ounces sweetened coconut
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups diced toasted, lightly salted almonds
1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions:
In a large bowl with a large sturdy spoon, stir together coconut, powdered sugar, coconut oil, condensed milk, almonds and vanilla. The mixture will be very thick! Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I once left this in my fridge for a week and it was just fine).

Remove coconut mixture from fridge and roll into balls about the size of a walnut.
In a double boiler, melt shortening over simmering water. Slowly stir in chocolate chips and keep over very low heat.

Using a sturdy toothpick, dip coconut balls into melted chocolate and set on a sheet of wax paper to cool. Dip tops of candies in chocolate to cover the toothpick hole. Refrigerate candies until ready to use – will keep up to one month.

FINALIST #3:
Belgian Lukken Cookies
Submitted by Suzanne LaPalm – Oakdale, MN 

The Story:
Shared over five generations, the Belgian cookie lukken is our sweet holiday tradition. When my great-grandmother emigrated from Belgium, she brought the recipe with her and it’s changed little over the years.

Once made on an ijzer (iron) placed over the fire, we now cook them on pizzelle makers or a modern lukken iron. The recipe we currently use was clipped from a US-based, Belgian newspaper in the 1950s and has been adapted for that new-fangled electric pizzelle “iron.”

Growing up, there was always lukken at Grandma’s and Great-Grandma’s during the holidays, but it wasn’t until after they were both gone that I got in on the making of it. For years now the tradition is the day after Thanksgiving, we gather at my brother’s big house for what I call the lukken-making EXTRAVAGANZA!

Three generations, from ages 8 to 80, come together to transform the dough into hundreds of perfectly formed balls. You then place the balls on the pizzelle maker, close it up, say one Hail Mary, open it up and you have perfectly golden lukken. They are then transferred by spatula to the cooling area for stacking and wrapping into packages of one dozen to enjoy ourselves or give as gifts.

Even with some lukken sneakily snarfed up during the extravaganza, with three batches, we usually end up with about 40 dozen.

The Recipe:
From time to time I’ve come across cookies that look similar, although with different names, some even Belgian, but nothing has ever matched the buttery, whiskey-mellowed sweet treat that is lukken!

Ingredients:
1 pound unsalted butter
6 eggs
3 oz. whiskey (yee haw!)
1 pound brown sugar
1 pound white sugar
2 pounds flour
Dash of salt

Directions:
Melt butter and cool. Add slightly beaten eggs and beat lightly. Add sugars—first the brown and beat lightly, then add white sugar, whiskey, and salt. Sift flour, add, and blend well. Store batter in the refrigerator overnight.

Shape into small balls and place, two at a time, on pre-heated lukken ijzer or pizzelle maker. Close and wait approximately 30 seconds. Open, and if cookies are golden, remove to cooling rack. Repeat until all balls have been cooked.

No need to freeze these cookies; just store in a cool, dry place. We make them right after Thanksgiving and the whiskey helps the flavors to develop more over the next few weeks, when they’ll be at their peak! My mom says that when she was a kid, the adults would enjoy their lukken with a shot of whiskey. Enjoy! Makes 12-14 dozen.

TO VOTE, PLEASE SELECT ONE CONTESTANT’S RECIPE IN THE POLL BELOW (you may need to refresh your browser for it to appear) OR ON THE SIDEBAR TO THE RIGHT. You may also record your vote for one of out three finalists by writing it in the Comments section below.

***VOTING IS NOW CLOSED***