Succotash Dinner

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This recipe is my take on Cooking Light’s Edamame Succotash. It’s one of those simple recipes that value whole foods, and it looks as if can be adapted liberally to suit a wide array of preferences. I prefer lima beans to edamame. While canned lima beans are infamous for adding a bitter note to mixed vegetables, the dry and frozen forms have a neutral flavor and smooth texture that yields well to seasoning.

I should mention why I decided to blog about what I’m cooking. I have a tendency to make a dish differently over time based on the contents of my fridge and pantry. My husband suggested that I start making notes of how I’d made a dish a particular time it turned out well. For someone as disorganized as I am, a blog is an ideal place to record recipes.

Writing about cooking also honors a task that it is vital yet so undervalued among tasks done day to day. When there is no record in writing or photos to show what I’ve done in the kitchen, it is all too tempting to strip meaning and purpose from all the time I devote to this kind of work. When I click through my recipes here, I am reminded that my time has value, and time spent on cooking is not wasted.

By the way, ham isn’t necessary to this finished dish. It could taste intriguing with a pound of shrimp or chicken instead. The beans provide a decent amount of protein, so the meat can be omitted entirely to create a vegetarian main as well.

Succotash Dinner

8 servings

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3 shallots, finely chopped

8 oz white mushrooms, sliced

1 T salted butter

1 T olive oil

1/2 t black pepper

1/4 t salt

2 cups frozen corn, thawed

1 lb frozen lima beans, thawed

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

2 T white vinegar

1 t dried thyme (or 1 T fresh thyme)

1/4 cup flat leaf parsley

1 lb cubed ham

1 large fresh tomato, diced

Hot cooked jasmine rice, for serving

Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, shallots, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, until onions are transculent. Stir in corn and let sit for a minute or two over the heat so the corn browns just a little. Pour in stock, add bay leaf, and sprinkle in thyme. Add lima beans, turn down heat to medium and let the mixture simmer for ten minutes. Stir in ham and vinegar and heat five minutes more. Remove bay leaf, sprinkle parsley and tomatoes over all, and serve over rice.

Canned Ham and Dill Pickle Dip

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I adapted this recipe from a dip that my mom’s late friend Carol was apt to make for holiday gatherings. Carol excelled in both kindness and her flair for making simple things festive. It was no surprise that her birthday was none other than Christmas day.

My favorite Carol story does not have meal time appeal, but since almost no subject is forbidden at my dinner table, I will relate this particular anecdote. When Carol was a newlywed back in the 50’s, she found herself unexpectedly in need of feminine products near the end of her honeymoon. Her husband was a true gentleman at this moment and went forth to buy these supplies. Since he had no idea what size or brand to buy, he bought the largest box of pads he saw. This enormous box lasted past their 10th anniversary, for Carol had most of her eight children during that decade.

I’ve admired three women who had eight children each: Carol, my former secretarial co-worker Sue, and my late mother-in-law Fannie. I am impressed that each of these women retained their sanity, personality, and individual interests while raising so many children.

Carol’s original dip recipe was simple and good: mix a block of cream cheese with a drained can of smoked ham and a 1/4 cup each of chopped onion and green olives. Finish by studding the outside with more green olives.

Since I am very fond of dill pickles, I revised the recipe to feature them.

Canned Ham and Dill Pickle Dip

  • 2 oz blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 2 – 5 oz cans smoked ham, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped refrigerated dill pickles, such as Claussen brand
  • 1 T pickle brine

Mix all ingredients in medium mixing bowl until well incorporated. Transfer to serving bowl and offer with crackers and cut vegetables.

Easy Potato Soup with Ham

Here’s a simple potato soup recipe that skips most of the rich add-ins that can lower such a vegetable soup to a guilty pleasure. Gone are heavy dairy ingredients like half and half or sour cream, unless you use indulgent leftover mashed potatoes.

Serves 8

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 14 oz can sliced potatoes, diced
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 14 oz diced ham (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 32 oz mashed potatoes (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 T dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/2 t pepper

Melt butter in dutch over medium heat. Add onions and pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are crisp tender. Add broth, ham, and canned potatoes. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in mashed potatoes and sprinkle with parsley. Soup is ready to serve when heated through.

Experiment: Simple Ham Slow Cooker Dinner

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My quest for new simple dinners continues. Today I tried to push the limit of how basic I could make a complete ham dinner with a slow cooker. This experiment was of limited success. The long hours of stewing produced a rich amber broth that lent a robust flavor to this dinner, but I made some mistakes in cooking time and volume of ingredients that toughened the ham and potatoes.

My 5 qt. slow cooker has a liner that can be removed, so I decided to assemble the dinner the night before and store it in the fridge until morning. As I was filling the crock, I noticed that I had erred in a scaling the recipe: the crock would be full to the brim if I continued. I’ve had three slow cookers over the years, and all of them came with instructions that the cooker should be 1/2 to 3/4 full for best results. Today I learned that I should not have ignored this advice.

I also learned that a ham can’t quite withstand an entire work day of slow cooking. It starts to fall apart and dry out a bit, even if it is submerged in liquid.

I present this recipe with the corrections I’d make if I were to cook this again. The taste was great, but I think these alterations would greatly improve the results.

  • 3 lb boneless hickory ham
  • 8 oz sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/2 lb baby carrots
  • 1 lb baby red or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup water

Place ham cut side down in slow cooker. Add sliced mushrooms around the ham. Top mushrooms with cut onion, separating wedges if needed to make a full ring around ham. Next layer the potatoes and carrots over the onions and pour the cup of water over all.

Cook on low 6-7 hours.

Ham and Cabbage Dinner

I value simplicity when I cook. Although I enjoy reading many recipes, I typically cook without one. Often there are ingredients in recipes I can’t tolerate due various food intolerances and aversions, so I improvise based on culinary reading and past cooking experiences. I cooked this meal a couple days ago, and I was pleased that something so simple had a satisfying result.

  • 1 2lb presliced boneless quarter ham
  • 1 medium head cabbage, chopped
  • 2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 8 oz can mushrooms, undrained
  • Cornbread for serving with meal

Place chopped cabbage into dutch oven over medium low to medium heat. Empty undrained tomatoes and mushrooms into pot and stir gently into cabbage. Place the ham on top of the cabbage so it looks a bit like a bird sitting on a nest. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. You may wish to lower the heat if the pot starts steaming out of the lid to prevent having a home perfumed with cabbage. For each serving, use a meat fork to pluck out a few slices of ham and then fill most of the rest of your plate with the cabbage mixture. Serve with cornbread.