Once in a while I come into contact with sage advice or truisms. I’m not talking about Facebook memes of ugly cat’s views on the world in general, nor am I talking about those ‘Hey Girl’ memes featuring Ryan Gosling (though they ARE great). I am talking about honest to goodness advice such as the kind that mothers impart upon their offspring. Here’s a good one that my momma taught me:
“Hate is such a strong word. You’ve got to be really serious if you’re going to throw around the ‘H’ word”
I mean, darn it…she was so right. As I get older it get easier to admit that sometimes my mother really did have a point. She has had lots of ups and downs in her life but I have yet to hear her say she hates anyone or anything. She will admit that bananas are a ‘strong dislike’ though. Besides, isn’t it easier to go through life being mildly tolerant of people that have been less than a friend to you? It takes much more energy to hate and it changes the person that you are inside.
Here’s another ‘truism’, though I can’t for the life of me think about where I picked it up:
‘The mark of a true good cook is their ability to create an entirely different, delicious meal with leftovers’
My farm upbringing and thrifty family living have led me to appreciate the value of this statement. I am always trying to make something better using leftovers, whether it be a simple stir fry with left over steak or something that turns out completely different than the original meal. There is a moment of intense pride when I set those plates of previously used dinner on the table and everyone complements me on the reused meal. To use a video game reference…’Achievement Unlocked’!
In keeping with the leftover theme as outlined above, here is one of my all time favourite sage advice nuggets:
‘Always, always keep a spare ham in the freezer’
It seems self explanatory and it’s probably a remnant of my childhood since I spent a great deal of that time in my life retrieving frozen food from one of our two huge freezers in the basement. One chest freezer contained all the garden vegetables that were frozen from the previous fall, plus all the bread that my mom baked. The other was the meat freezer, stocked full of every cut of beef (later it was
bison) wrapped in plastic, then butcher’s paper and labelled in my writing as that was my job during family meat cutting days. There were stewing chickens from the egg lady, Sharon, and pork cuts from my uncle Keith’s hogs. Sometimes there was deer, elk, and moose; gifts from hunters that we allowed right of way on our land. And always, there was a ham.
It was my baby boy’s 15 th birthday last week and even before I had asked what he would like for his birthday dinner, I knew he would suggest ham and perogies. I was fairly busy that day, but it took very little time to grab the shoulder ham I had defrosted the night before and rub it all over with a honey/mustard mixture. I placed it in the slow cooker and added a can of coke. It’s not high end cuisine folks! In fact, it’s pretty ghetto…but everyone in our family loves ham this way, except for the vegan.
Then, a couple of days later, we had company for dinner and I made the usual layered potato and ham dish. You could call it ‘Scalloped potatoes on ‘roids’ or you could be fancy and call it a ‘gratin’. I’ve been making this dish ever since I’ve had leftover ham…so for years. Usually it consists of layered sliced potatoes, small diced onion, frozen corn kernels, and cubed leftover ham. As I stack each layer, I sprinkle a little AP flour, salt, and pepper. Then I add a bit of melted butter and repeat this after each layer. Before baking, I finish the dish with a light sprinkling of bread crumbs and some grated cheese.
This time, because the ham had been originally covered in mustard, I decided to try something a bit different. I added more mustard and some dried thyme to the sauce mixture (see recipe at end of post).
I couldn’t believe that we still had leftovers after two full meals featuring ham. It truly was the ham that kept on giving. I managed to prevent hubby from throwing away the ham bone and I had saved all the original juices (which included the can of coke) that had appeared while the ham was in the slow cooker. I enlisted the help of my son to chop some of the vegetables while I layered them with the peas in the ‘still dirty’ slow cooker and together, we made split pea and ham soup.
Ham and Potato Mustard Gratin
- 2 cups small diced cooked ham
- 5 large potatoes; peeled and sliced as needed
- 1 cup finely diced onions
- 2 tbsp dijon herbed mustard with tarragon
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbsp flour
- salt and pepper
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 cups grated cheese (any kind really, for this recipe I just used cheddar)
Grease a 8 x 10 baking dish. In a large measuring cup, mix flour with milk until no lumps remain, then add mustard, butter, whipping cream, salt, pepper and 1 tsp thyme. Combine. Slice two potatoes using food processor into 1/4 inch thick rounds and layer them on the bottom of the baking dish. Scatter 1/3 cup onion and 1/3 of the diced ham, then spread another layer of potatoes. Repeat until all ingredients have been used, making sure to finish with a layer of potatoes. Pour milk and mustard mixture over all the potatoes. Scatter bread crumbs over all, then top with cheese and the other teaspoon of thyme. Bake in 350F oven for about an hour. Remove from the oven and test potatoes are done with a skewer. Let sit for 8 minutes to allow for a firmer slice.
Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup
- 1 pound (450 grams) dried green split peas
- 3 medium carrots; peeled and diced
- 1/2 onion; diced
- 2 medium garlic cloves; minced
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 meaty leftover ham bone
- leftover ham juices (I had about 2 cups of wiggly ham jelly)
- 4 cups water (enough to cover the bone but not overflow the slow cooker)
- 2 tsp chicken stock paste (if you think it needs it)
Arrange split peas in an even layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and parsley in another layer. Add bay leaves and ham bone, then cover with jiggly juices and water. Cover and cook until the peas are very soft and the meat is falling off the bone, on high for 5 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 10 hours.