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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2007
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HAM AND ALMOND PASTRY RING
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HAM AND ALMOND PASTRY RING

It's brunch time: a twist for Easter

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

Planning an Easter brunch?

For a refreshing new taste, try this main-course recipe for Ham and Almond Pastry Ring, which incorporates bits of apples and grapes, as well as green peppers, egg, ham and almonds.

Serve it with Four Fruit Salad and Asparagus Spears with Citrus-Ginger Dip, along with cheese grits or other brunch favorites.

Later, if you have leftover ham, make Florentine Ham Casserole, which includes spinach, mushrooms and cheese.

Ham and Almond Pastry Ring

1 cup diced cooked ham
1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese spread
2 tablespoons Caesar dressing
1 large apple, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup quartered red and/or green grapes
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup diced green pepper
2 cans (8 ounces, each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
Nonstick cooking spray

In large bowl, blend cream cheese spread and dressing. Add ham, apple, grapes, onion and green pepper; gently stir until coated. Set aside.

Line a large baking sheet with heavy foil. Lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Unroll both cans of crescent rolls and separate. On prepared baking sheet arrange triangles overlapping with shortest side of each roll toward center leaving 5-inch circle open in center. Points of crescent dough may hang over edge of baking sheet. Press overlapping dough to flatten and close center circle to 4 inches.

Spoon mixture evenly over widest part of dough. Pull points of dough over filling and tuck dough under dough in center to form ring. (Some filling will be visible.) Brush dough evenly with beaten egg and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden and pastry in inner circle is baked. (If necessary, loosely cover outer edge of pastry with foil during the last 10 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.) Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.

Using large spatula, carefully slide onto large serving platter. (If desired, use foil to lift and transfer pastry ring to serving platter. Cut foil in center of ring and underneath pastry ring; pull foil pieces to remove.) Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Asparagus Spears with Citrus-Ginger Dip

2 pounds asparagus
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
11/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Snap tough ends off asparagus. Peel stalks, if desired. In large skillet, bring about 1 inch of water to boiling. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until barely tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and dunk in ice water until cold; drain, cover and chill until serving. Meanwhile, combine well all remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Transfer to serving bowl, serve with asparagus spears or cover and chill until serving. Serves 8.

Note: This dip can also be made with the reduced-fat versions of mayonnaise and sour cream.

Florentine Ham Casserole 2 cups fully cooked ham, cut into thin strips
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Cook frozen spinach according to package directions; drain well. Set aside.

In a small saucepan cook mushrooms, onion and garlic in hot butter until tender but not brown. Stir in flour and milk. Cook and stir over medium-low heat 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.

Gradually stir about half of the hot mixture into beaten eggs; return all to saucepan. Stir in ground oregano, pepper and nutmeg. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in spinach and ham. Turn mixture into a 11/2-quart casserole; sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese atop. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4; good with angel hair pasta, garlic bread and a salad.

Four Fruit Salad

3/4 cup seedless grapes
3/4 cup orange segments
1 large apple, cut-up
1 large pear, cut-up

Toss all ingredients together. Serves about 4.

Here are three different ways to serve the fruit salad: on lettuce-lined plate with scoop of low-fat cottage cheese and lite dressing; in a glass dish with a scoop of sherbet on top; or in a bowl topped with yogurt.

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