I don’t deserve the day I had today. The weather: 70 degrees and sunny. Light breeze. The plans: fun small-town events, gardening, playing with kids, and finishing my grading for the semester, grilling, running around until everyone was exhausted, and then tucking the kids into bed with sweet, cuddly stories. I know I don’t deserve it, but I’ll soak it in.
All this goodness can feel bittersweet. These pink flowers were a gift today from our local greenhouse. We’ve been going there for years and we always get our Christmas tree from them in the winter. Lately, I heard rumors that they were closing after this season. I bought the first plants in my first home just before the birth of my first child there. Now, kids in the stroller, the woman at the counter hands my daughter these pink daisies I was eyeing. “Are they perennials?” I had asked the woman earlier in the visit.
“Annuals. Beautiful ones, though,” she said.
When she tucked them in my daughter’s hands, she rubbed her toddler nose deep into the center of the flowers. When she pulled back, it was pollen-covered like yellow powdered sugar. I planted them in a pot in the backyard after we got home.
And so I know that it’s okay that beautiful things don’t always last as long as we hope they will. I won’t get to enjoy these flowers again next year– no guarantees. This greenhouse, in fact, is closing after this summer. Retirement meets realities of modern agriculture– it just wasn’t sustainable any more. This won’t be my greenhouse again, but I’m enjoying it this season.
Not every day is a good day. We’ve had some hard ones lately, but I’ll take the good when it comes, even when I don’t feel deserving.
My kids and I walked over to a local park yesterday, and my son decided to gather up all of the first-of-the-season dandelions. I forgot the wonder of dandelions as a kid– the joy of every stage of them from a bright yellow flower to the wish-blowing-seed stage. Part of the joy of parenting is getting to experience the wonder again through your kid’s eyes. Confronted with a pile of lopped-off flower heads, we decided to make something of them:
I use this anecdote to introduce the daunting world of ham leftovers. There’s a truism: Eternity is two people and a ham. Not surprisingly, adding two additional smaller mouths doesn’t seem to diminish our ham surplus by much and so I’m trying to get creative with our Easter ham leftover meals. Yes, by the end of a week of ham dinners they can be as ominous as a yellow-head in your lawn, but I swear you can make something good from the situation.
My top three favorite ham meals with quick recipes:
Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
- 2 1/2 to 3 lbs potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I like to use a mandolin– it’s worth the investment!)
- 1 cup of diced ham
- 4 tbsp salted butter
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar, with additional cheese for topping if desired.
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp of pepper (white if you have it!)
- Preheat oven to 375 and spray the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan with cooking spray.
- Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Lower temperature, and add flour, mixing until mixture turns golden (don’t burn!). Then, add milk slowly, mixing constantly.
- Once mixture is smooth, add cheese, garlic powder, and pepper and keep at a low temperature.
- Line the bottom of the casserole dish with a third of the sliced potatoes, topping with a third of the ham. Finish the layer with a third of the cheese sauce.
- Alternate potatoes, ham, and sauce until all three layers have been put down, and top with additional cheese.
- Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until potatoes break apart easily with a fork and the casserole is bubbly.
Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
- 1 lb of dried green split peas
- 1 ham bone with meat, additional ham as desired
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1/2 tsp of dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 tsp of pepper
- 4 cups of veggie broth
- fresh lemon (if desired)
- Combine ingredients in a crock pot and cook for 8 (if pre-soaked the split peas) -10 (if didn’t presoak) hours on low.
- Before serving, remove the hambone to a cutting board and cut remaining useful meat, stirring it back into the soup. If desired, squeeze fresh lemon over soup and stir in (adds a nice, citrusy freshness).
Savory Waffles, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
- 2 cups flour (I use a 50/50 split of whole wheat and all-purpose)
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk (or make your own)
- 4 tbsp melted, cooled unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup finely diced ham
- 3/4 cup of shredded cheese (cheddar, fontina– any mild cheese is a good choice for this)
- Preheat waffle iron and preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, and egg.
- Combine wet and dry ingredients gently– just like most recipes involving baking powder, you don’t want to overmix. You might see a few lumps remaining, but that’s normal. Fold in the ham and cheese until incorporated.
- Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray, the add the correct amount of batter for your particular waffle iron. Cook until golden brown, and place on a baking sheet in oven until all waffles are prepared.
I can vouch for each one of these recipes, and the savory waffles are an special favorite in our household!
Happy ham season– sometimes eternity can be just the right amount of time to enjoy something good.
How does your garden grow?
Some days beg to be enjoyed outside, like the strangely cool late July day we’ve been having here in the Midwest. Days like this one seem choreographed to bring a smile to my face. The woodpecker landed at the suet feeder just as I step outside. Six butternut squash were waiting to be picked in the garden, and my sunflowers are getting close to flowering.
I know flowers are part of the life cycle of the plants, just external reproductive systems, but it seems like such a gift to be able to enjoy their ephemeral beauty. Even things like green beans and eggplant get the cutest little flowers on them. Continue reading Garden Wonderland/Disaster
I’m a fairly new gardener, and until this year I’ve focused primarily on the edibles. If I can slice it, roast it, can it, or cover it with tomato sauce, I’m probably attempting to grow it. I’ve always been slightly put off by the idea of tending to flowers, however.
My husband and I bought our house two years ago with all intentions of beautifying the place. The woman who had lived in it before was elderly, and the landscaping had slumped a bit in the past few years. Luckily, time provided excuses to keep me from making the attempt. The first growing season was past by the time we moved in, and the second growing season our attentions were on a newborn. I barely managed to weed my vegetable garden, let alone think of uttering the word “mulch”. This year, though, I swore I would make in-roads. I’ve been battling the long-time resident weeds and laying down landscaper’s plastic like it was going out of style (which indeed it may be.) I also had the chance to plant my first flowers from seed. Continue reading Snapdragons