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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Shortcut Central is open again!

    I went a a tear a while ago with shortcuts and lo and behold I have found yet another one! In the spirit of the immigrants of 97 Orchard that I have ranted on about in previous posts I am on a bit of a "stretch the food budget" train. For Easter I made a spiral sliced ham; granted the poor immigrants of the early 1900's  would not have had the luxury of freezing leftover pieces of the ham, but I am not trying to live like they did back then, only  find inspiration in their trials of stretching money and the food it buys.
     When I awoke this morning a little after 9am--I am not an early riser as those of you who know or follow me are fully aware--I stumbled down the stairs to the kitchen where as usual I found the Big E.  He'd been up since 5 or 6 am--how he does that I haven't a clue, but I am too old to change my habits now, so we will just gloss over the fact that he has been enjoying peace and quiet for several hours before I grace him with my presence.
      It is a Sunday morning, so according to our "arrangement" it is my turn to cook. He has been doing the bulk--okay all-- of the weekday cooking since my new employment has me leaving the house in the afternoon and coming home around midnight. Conveniently, he says, I get out of cooking Monday through Friday. The original plan was that I would start something for dinner and he would finish, or I would pop something in the crock pot. Neither of these scenarios have panned out very well and I admit I have dumped the cooking responsibility on him. He, however, has risen to the challenge, and, according to him, my blog has been a "Godsend". So I get a double satisfaction: I am not cooking 5 days a week, and someone is trying out my recipes and tips and giving me feedback. Its a win-win in my book.
     I apparently was feeling a bit "froggy" this morning so I snapped a few times before I realized I needed to get more sleep--this danged cold just won't leave me alone. I reached into the freezer to see what we had and I grabbed the first thing my hand touched: leftover ham. I placed the package on my handy-dandy-speedy-thaw out tray, turned to the Big E and said, "We're having something with ham. Wake me at noon, I need to lay down." He grumbled something, that I probably was not meant to hear anyway and into la-la-land I escaped. I awoke on my own just before noon. I felt much better.
    Leftover ham. what can I make with leftover ham? Immediately scalloped ham and potatoes comes to mind. My family, however needs cheese in this particular dish so I do not know if it is still scalloped ham and potatoes, but  that's how it starts out, so that is what I call it. It is not, by any means, difficult to make, however I did not feel like shredding the cheese, and I use about half a pound of cheese. One thing I have noticed about not cooking everyday is that on the two days I do cook I am getting lazy and look for any way at all to make it all go faster.
     Well, the only potatoes in the house had rooted through the bag and were too soft to really qualify as potatoes, so sorry, I had to trash them.  The Big E was heading to town with #2 anyway for ... gee, I forget what, but I grabbed the sales flier for the grocery store.  Super! Potatoes were on sale and there is a big 10 for $10 sale . Right there in color was a photo of Ragu Pasta Sauce in the 10 for $10 sale...they also have jarred cheese sauce... oh, man, there is my shortcut! Can you believe I got to tell that whole story just to let you know that I used a jarred cheese sauce (added some freshly grated cheddar as well)? Well, we all know I love to talk!
    I did break down and peel the potatoes and then used the mandolin to slice them thin, the ham was still slightly frozen so I was able to slice it into nice strips that won't require the use of a knife at the table, and layered the potatoes, some dried onion(another shortcut), the ham, and the cheese sauce, then a sprinkling of shredded cheese. I ended up with three layers of potatoes, two of ham, and to be sure it is wet enough to cook the potatoes I added about a half cup of milk, covered it tightly with foil and into the oven--oh, I used my Pampered Chef rectangular stoneware casserole dish, sprayed with non-stick spray to aid in the clean-up.
     I estimate it will take at least an hour, those potatoes can be stubborn sometimes, but the thin slices should help in that department. I will poke it after it is in for an hour, and judging by the resistance I get from the potatoes I will then decide if it needs more time or if I can take off the foil, add another layer of shredded cheese and then let it cook until the top cheese is melted and bubbly. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
     Now I do know that I cheated on this recipe, using the jarred cheese sauce, but in this day and age with all of us pulled in 10 different ways at one time, every shortcut is a good one. I would have also like to skipped peeling the potatoes, but #1 complains about the skins and the Big E reminded me that the original recipe uses peeled potatoes so I didn't buck tradition all the way.
     I will find some green vegetable in the freezer--we only use fresh or frozen--no canned here, except for the creamed corn in the corn soup, which I might not have blogged about. Oh, good, new topic to cover! I think I will also dig deep in the pantry and see if I have any more homemade applesauce. I think we are getting down to the end of that crop. 
      C'mon spring! Mama needs some apples on the trees!
       Photo to come:

Ziegelman, Jane. 97 Orchard: an edible history of five immigrant families in one New York tenement. Balance of credits to com

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