Quarantine Recipe for the leftover ham after Easter

Ingredients for scalloped potatoes and ham recipe
Ready to make dinner from leftover ham and red potatoes

My email inbox has no less than FOUR Quarantine Recipe Exchange chain mail letters. And each with these famous last words at the end: “Send to 20 friends via BCC. … The turnaround is fast, as there are only 2 names on the list and you only have to do this once.” This is a lie. If I only have to send it to 20 friends and 4 different people emailed me the letter, I have to email a copy of the letter to 80 people.

But I do have a blog, which although it has been pretty inactive lately, it is the perfect place to post recipes. This recipe is perfect for after Easter; I didn’t make as many mashed potatoes as usual since we didn’t have guests due to the quarantine, so I was able to use up my leftover red potatoes. We had plenty of leftover ham as well. The ham was a lovely ham, before I baked it. The packaging said it was the best ham around; I, however, dried the dickens out of that ham. Perhaps it was the bottle of wine I finished after the Easter BYOBAB (bring your own bottle and bread) social distanced communion service I attended; perhaps it was the lack of guests so I wasn’t as careful in the preparation of our dinner. As I took the ham out of the fridge, I thought, “This is a pretty heavy ham. I think 3 hours will do the trick.”

Three hours at 325° was waaaaay too long. Right before the three hour mark, I decided it was time to finally make the mashed red potatoes, so my lackadaisical planning added another half an hour. That 8 pound ham should have only been in the oven for 2 hours or less. It was completely dried out. But it still was very tasty in these scalloped potatoes I made for dinner last night.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

About 4 cups sliced potatoes (I like to keep the skins on, but that is your preference.)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 350° F. Grease or spray a 9X13 inch casserole dish. Layer the potatoes, ham, onions and cheese twice. Melt butter and stir-fry garlic in a medium saucepan. (Due to my limited shopping trips right now, I don't have garlic, so I threw in some chopped onion. It worked out just fine!) Blend milk, cornstarch, salt and pepper. (I usually use a little less salt because the ham is salty, and a little more pepper just because.) Pour milk mixture slowly into saucepan with butter; cook and stir until thickened. Pour over potatoes. Bake for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender.
Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Scalloped Potatoes and Ham with Cheese, garnished with green onions

Print this recipe by clicking on this link!

Sunday Night Supper

Last Sunday, Ed and I volunteered for the Sunday Night Supper, which is at a local church for people in need. This church is in a prosperous suburb of Chicago; and yet, there is definitely a need to provide food for people who are just scraping by and perhaps are even homeless.

Our group of volunteers provided the food and servers that night. I was assigned to a drink cart with two other woman; an assignment I thought would be an easy gig. We had six tables with 8 people at each table in our section, and we offered them apple juice, coffee, water and milk. Some of them wanted just apple juice, some wanted apple juice and milk, and some wanted everything. So we were kept very busy pouring drinks! Not only that, but most of them wanted refills throughout their meal of bratwurst, German potato salad and a hot apple compote. (Someone later told me that they loved the food we served, since many of the groups bring pasta since it is easy to make, and they get tired of it!)

It seemed that the same people come most Sundays; they are friends, and save room at the table for latecomers. The meal is over by 7:00, though, so you can’t be too late!

Back at the drink cart, if we ran out of apple juice, the person whose glass I was refilling would look concerned. No need to be, however. There was plenty of apple juice back in the kitchen. It seemed to me that our guests were stocking up on calories; the food and drinks we were providing may have been the most substantial and nutritious meal they would get that week. Altogether, about 96 people came to the Sunday Supper.

On the way out, however, they all received “goody bags” of fresh vegetable and some cookies, donated by a local grocery store.

Would I volunteer to pour drinks again on another Sunday?

That would be a yes!

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Gardening Update for August

Disclaimer: I’m participating in Hey, Let’s Grow!, a home gardening program sponsored by Monsanto, which provided me with a seed starter kit, Seminis Home Garden seeds, and a gift card for additional gardening supplies. All opinions, along with gardening skills or lack thereof, are my own.

Hey, you guys, I planted my garden this year only using SEEDS, and my garden is beautiful! I’m so excited about this because I’ve never grown a garden from seeds before. I just came in from picking tomatoes, cucumbers, and custard beans, and I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fresh produce from my own garden!

Sun Sugar Tomatoes

My photos don’t do my garden justice; the picture above looks like it has a 1970’s glow, doesn’t it? I think it was really sunny when I took it. Sun Sugar tomatoes are like cherry tomatoes, small, orange, and sweet! My two plants have been producing tomatoes like crazy, and they are still producing lots of flowers and green tomatoes. They are great in salads, of course. I also cut them in half and tossed them in a chicken stir fry I made today, waiting until the last minute so they would be just warm but not cook down at all. They added a great flavor!

Custard Beans

One custard bean plant produces enough beans for a dinner side dish for my family of four. I cooked them just like green beans, and the kids ate them up! (I did add some butter, so that may have helped, too.) I have three bean plants, and I actually planted them at different times, which turned out to be unintentionally smart! The first bean plant is finished already, and I just picked at least 20 beans off of my second bean plant. I have a third plant that is slowly maturing because it was in the shade, but I transplanted it in more out in the open so hopefully I will get a third bean harvest this summer.

Custard bean plants, and my cucumber trellis

This spring, we had spinach and lettuce growing in one of our raised beds. After they were done, I planted cucumber seeds. I wanted a trellis for my cucumbers, so Ed raided the garage and found a couple of wooden supports that were in our snow blower box. I lashed them together on one end, placed the open ends in the garden and voila! A cucumber trellis! Ed said I’m lucky he never throws anything away. 😉

Jumbo Cucumbers

We are going to have oodles of cucumbers! I already ate three, gave two away, and have two more sitting on my counter. Fortunately, I love them. I tried this sour cream cucumber salad this weekend, and it was delicious.

Sour Cream Cucumbers and Onions

I’ve had such great success with my garden this year that I’m already thinking about what I should plant next year. I’m thinking zucchini–what else should I try? How has your garden grown this year?

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How to Make a Bee House

Disclaimer: I’m participating in Hey, Let’s Grow!, a home gardening program sponsored by Monsanto. As part of this program, I was sent a free bee house kit. All opinions are my own.

I can tell you exactly how many times I have been stung by bees, as I’m sure you can if you’ve ever been stung. Bee stings hurt!

Usually when we think of bees, we think of the very social honeybees. They live in hives and will aggressively defend their hives. These bees, however, are not native to the United States. Settlers brought them over from Europe to help pollinate their crops, and they are indeed extremely useful to our agriculture even today.

Our native bees are mostly solitary bees and are much less aggressive. (Unless you actually step on one in the grass, and then the bee will sting! I’m speaking from experience.) I have watched bees buzzing around my garden many times and have never been stung. My mom used to tell me to leave the bees alone and they will leave you alone. She loved working in her flower garden and saw many bees buzzing around as well.

Bee in my pollinator garden

Bees and other pollinators are very important for our gardens and our natural world. It is very easy to make a bee house to encourage native bees to live by your garden! We made our house by using a bee house kit, but it is very easy to make one using supplies you may already have.

To make the house waterproof, we used a half-gallon milk carton. We cut off the top of our milk carton. We then made little tubes for our individual bees to lay eggs and care for their larvae.

My daughters and our neighbor work on making tubes from construction paper. We also used pre-made tubes.

The bright colors from the construction paper and the outside of the milk carton will hopefully attract bees, just as flowers attract bees with their bright colors. To make your own tubes, cut an 8″ x 11″ piece of construction paper in half. Roll it around a pencil, and tape securely, removing the pencil. Place your tubes into the milk carton. Make sure you have enough tubes for them to stay securely in the milk carton.

Tubes for individual bees

Bee house

We chose to left the outside of our house undecorated, since I didn’t have any contact paper to help with waterproofing the decorations. This was a good call; after an unusually dry June, the day after we hung up our bee house we had several thunderstorms and lots of rain! We hung our house in a lilac bush by my vegetable garden, and chose the branch carefully so that rain water would not be able to get into the bee tubes. I checked on our house after the rain and the tubes stayed dry! We haven’t had any bees move in yet, but I will keep checking!

For more information on how to make your own bee house, watch this video:

Build Your Own Bee House from Monsanto STEM Education Outreach on Vimeo.

Curious about one of my bee sting stories? Visit this blog post:

The Bumblebee Story

This document has some great information about our native bees!

Click to access stelprdb5306468.pdf

Have fun making your own bee house!
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Gardening on Earth Day

Disclaimer: I’m participating in Hey, Let’s Grow!, a home gardening program sponsored by Monsanto, which provided me with a seed starter kit, Seminis Home Garden seeds, and a gift card for additional gardening supplies. All opinions, along with gardening skills or lack thereof, are my own.

Today, Earth Day, was the perfect day to get outside and work in my garden! A few weeks ago I was very eager to plant my seeds, and they grew quite well. So well, in fact, that they are ready to plant outside now even though we still have a chance of frost in our area. So the tomatoes  and peppers will have to stay inside for just a little longer, but I planted the frost-hardy spinach and lettuce today.

These little guys are growing and need to get outside!

I planted both seedlings and seeds in my raised garden bed. The seedlings were growing right by my patio door, which I have been opening every day to let the fresh air in. I hope that was enough to “harden” the plants and make them accustomed to the cool spring weather!

Green Beret spinach

I’m also risking the chance of frost and planted two bean plants and a cucumber plant. They are already flowering! Along with frost, I worry about the two little rabbits I’ve seen running around my yard, so Ed found some garden netting for me to use to protect my baby plants. If all grows well, we–not the rabbits–will be eating fresh lettuce and spinach pretty soon!

Can you see the netting by my cucumber plant?

I’m planning on planting my other plants outside by Mother’s Day. Read my first #HeyLetsGrow post here: Winter Outside, Spring Inside. Happy Earth Day!

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