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.

Christmas Eve with Deviled Eggs

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This afternoon I made deviled eggs as a Christmas gift for my husband. I doubt most home cooks would make a gift of a such a highly perishable dish, but this creation is truly a labor of love for me. I hate eggs and mayonnaise, along with all of their various analogues and any recipe wherein they are employed for any purpose beyond cohesion or leavening. I hated them as a child and have yet to outgrow this dislike. I detest the sight, smell, taste, and texture of eggs and/or mayonnaise.

When my daughter was very young, I surpassed my revulsion toward eggs long enough to fix them a couple times in the unlikely event she might enjoy them. I have no clue if the eggs I cooked for her were palatable to someone who actually likes eggs, for she soon declared herself a fellow egg hater.

My husband is a fan of eggs, and it is only my love for him that lets me tolerate handling eggs long enough to make a dish featuring them. I have cooked over easy eggs for him in bacon drippings heavy enough to enclose the egg smell. I have made deviled eggs for him twice (including today). The first time was a cluster of sorts because I had no idea what a delicate operation peeling boiled eggs can be. Apparently this is a skill that takes lots of practice that I’m unwilling to devote to eggs.

Today I realized that I could make quick work of deviled eggs by buying peeled, hard-boiled eggs from the grocery dairy case. At this moment I do not care that I paid a premium for this convenience. Anything that cuts my time with eggs is worth the price.

While it is tricky to make something that I won’t sample to adjust the seasoning, the deviled eggs turned out fairly well, at least according to my husband who considers himself a connoisseur of this dish.

Deviled Eggs

Makes 24

  • 12 hard boiled, peeled eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip)
  • 2 t yellow mustard
  • 1 t white vinegar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • dash black pepper
  • 1/2 t paprika, for sprinking

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolks into small mixing bowl. Crumble yolks with fork and stir in mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix until smooth. Fill yolk space of each egg half with a heaping teaspoon of yolk mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

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.

Johnny Marzetti: My Way

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I recently found the original recipe for Johnny Marzetti online, and I was surprised to see that it featured lots of cheese. I don’t recall seeing any cheese in the version I ate at school back in the late 70’s to early 90’s. Since I love cheese, I thought I’d try making the original, but I just don’t like the idea of making any dish with a pound and a half of cheese. That may be too much of a good thing, so I reduced the cheese and doubled the mushrooms.

Serves 12

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 1 lb dry elbow macaroni
  • 1 t seasoned salt
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t dried parsley
  • 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 14 oz jar or 15 oz can traditional pasta sauce
  • 12 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 5 oz shredded parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 13″x9″ casserole dishes with cooking spray. Toss mushrooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper in one of the casserole dishes and place in oven. Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. While macaroni is cooking, brown ground beef with onion and seasoned salt in dutch oven, drain fat. By this time, the mushrooms should be ready to come out of the oven. Combine tomato sauce, pasta sauce, macaroni, mushrooms, and ground beef mixture in dutch oven. Stir in 2 cups cheddar and half the parmesan. Pour half of the contents of the dutch oven into each of the two casserole dishes. Sprinkle each equally with the remaining cheese, oregano, and parsley. Cook in oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until cheese is nicely browned.

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Butterscotch Candy Bars

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The bar on the left is plain. The one on the right has some chopped, toasted pecans added.

Butterscotch is magic that happens when butter and brown sugar are melted together. It is a flavor I love. I even enjoy the synthetic renditions of it in instant pudding and dessert chips. When I make oatmeal scotchie cookies, I wish they could bear more than an 11-12 oz bag in a batch.

Today I tried making butterscotch candy bars. After seeing oddball candy bars such as cookies and cream or peppermint stick in stores, I figured it must not be impossible to make a butterscotch one.

Making a butterscotch candy bar is so simple that it actually doesn’t need a recipe. Just buy a candy bar mold tray from a local craft store and a bag of butterscotch chips. Melt a couple ounces of the chips in the microwave (at 50% power for 30-60 seconds) and spoon the melted chips into the candy mold. Let set for 30 minutes at room temperature or 15 minutes in the fridge. The bar should unmold easily once it is set.

I also made one bar with nuts by sprinking a teaspoon of chopped, toasted pecans into the mold before I put in the melted butterscotch chips.