Tag Archives: parenting

Favorite Ham Leftover Solutions

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

Ingredients:

  • 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!)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. 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.
  3. Once mixture is smooth, add cheese, garlic powder, and pepper and keep at a low temperature.
  4. 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.
  5. Alternate potatoes, ham, and sauce until all three layers have been put down, and top with additional cheese.
  6. 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

Ingredients:

  • 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)
  1. Combine ingredients in a crock pot and cook for 8 (if pre-soaked the split peas) -10  (if didn’t presoak) hours on low.
  2. 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

Ingredients:

  • 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)
  1. Preheat waffle iron and preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, and egg.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Plant Potatoes on Good Friday

There’s an old wives tale that the gardening season officially begins on Good Friday, that this day, set from the church calendar, is the day to plant potatoes. Tomorrow is absolutely booked up– and scheduled to be rainy– so I started a day early.

Potatoes are odd plants, and last year was the first time I tried them in my garden. I admit that the experiment was spurred by my reading of The Martian last year. I dare you to read 200 plus pages about tubers in space and not come away with a respect for the plant. I have a few favorite potato recipes that you must check out, if you doubt my love (here and here).

Yesterday I cut old potatoes with one or two eyes per segment and let them sit. This morning, I dug trenches and put them a distance apart. You need the space because, like prairie dogs, potatoes burrow underground. One of the joys of potatoes is discovering them, finger deep, as you root around the base of the plant. My father told me you can “steal” potatoes as the season goes on– taking baby potatoes early in the season for the tenderest and sweetest and letting some mature to tide you through the fall. If you’ve never planted potatoes before, I highly recommend it.

The peat pellets and my pretty potential peppers- A spring tongue twister

I return to gardening every year for more than the harvest. Gardening is an education in itself. I can feel the accumulation of my successes and failures like tree rings, and it seems foolish not to keep experimenting year after year. Potatoes were my experiment last year, and this year it is seed starting. I bought one of the domed kits from the hardware store and started a few of my veggies from seed. I’m trying peppers, bush cucumbers, and basil this way, so we will see if anything comes from it. Any tips from you who have done this?

This year will be the first season that my son, aged four, can really participate in the gardening process. He helped me pick out the seeds from the seed store (TURNIPS, he exclaimed with glee, as if he actually ate them). My daughter, aged two, is at the reckless but fascinated stage. Both of them enjoyed our annual trip to the farm supply store to gaze at the chicks. God help me if that isn’t my experiment next year….

 

My daughter and the chicks

 

What have you planted so far?

Weeds, weeds, and more weeds

The old cliche “kids grow like weeds” only gets more true the more kids I have and the bigger my garden gets. My kids now grow out of clothing every few months and are both old enough to alternatively shove and hug eachother. Kids, thus, are cute, at least in the non-shoving moments.

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Weeds. Are. Not. Cute.

A few hints to newbie gardeners for eradicating — or better yet, preventing– weeds (chemical free) in the garden.

  1. Grass clippings (or shredded newspaper). After a good lawn mowing, spread the clippings around your already planted garden plot. Like the more expensive options below, the clippings will form a layer which heats the ground beneath it (to kill seedlings) and also gives less space for weeds to grow than open ground. I love grass clippings because they add extra nutrients to the soil, as well!

Unfortunately, my husband let some of the grass go to seed and so the most recent spread of mulch caused a little lawn to appear in my garden… so….

2. Landscaper’s cloth. Held in by metal landscaping staples (or biodegradable staples), this cloth works even more fully to provide the heat because of its reflective black surface. It’s not pretty, but it does the job. I cut “x”s in the material to make room for my plants which I WANT to be there and picked most of the weeds and grass before I laid it down.

before
My tomatoes, kohlrabi, and peppers surrounded by grass seeds and weeds.

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Landscaper’s cloth before it’s fully tacked down… still, much better!
A caveat here: unless you use the biodegradable staples, you’ll have to dig around for the metal later in the season when you clean up the garden. For me, the little bit of effort on the back end is worth the time saved on this side.

3. Burlap. Another option, which my sister-in-law uses is burlap material between her plant rows. On many websites you can purchase old coffee bags and cut them into sizes useful to you in the garden. Unlike the artificial-looking black landscaping cloth, burlap softens in color to a natural-looking gray as the season progresses and works quite well to reduce weed growth.

There are many chemicals out there– we’re lucky to live in an age of agricultural wonder– but one of the pleasures of growing my own food is the simplicity of the process. Just like I like food with simple ingredients I can pronounce, I like that take on gardening, too.

A general garden update:

Perennials: Asparagus, Chives, Dill (just barely), Raspberries (but no flowers yet)

Annual Vegetables: sugar snap peas, “seed” potatoes, onion sets, green beans (one row, with another to follow next week), two blocks of sweet corn (with one more to follow next week), zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, banana and sweet peppers

 

Snapdragons

 

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