This year for Thanksgiving we made a turkey and a ham. Both turned out fabulous, and leftovers were gobbled up. But, after my husband’s family had gone home – I was left with the bottom portion of the ham shank. I remembered a dish that my mom always used to make with leftover ham. It was a recipe that her mom often made. I knew I wanted to try my hand at it with the remnants of the ham.

Her version included thinly sliced potatoes, layered with a thin sprinkling of flour and plenty of butter. Everything melds to a delicious mess, but I wanted to try my own spin on it. I looked up a couple of recipes, and decided on one that used a cream sauce. The original recipe didn’t call for ham, so of course I added that. I also have a surplus of frozen peas, (as I keep forgetting we have plenty, and end up buying yet another bag every other week at the grocery store) so I added some of those as well. I assembled the casserole mid-afternoon, and placed it in the refrigerator to keep until we were ready to bake it in the evening. I had our book club meeting that night, so Jon put it in the oven and baked it himself. Everyone enjoyed it, especially little Will. He devoured huge quantities of it for 3 nights in a row, until it was gone.

I always enjoy recipes that allow me to use my mandoline. But, if you don’t have one, the potatoes can easily be sliced thinly with a knife.  Also, don’t be alarmed if the dish looks a bit liquid-ey when removed from the oven. After you let it cool for about 10 minutes, it thickens right up. This is the definition of comfort food to me, folks. Add this to your menu to add warmth to one of these cold winters nights!

I can’t believe I’d never made egg salad prior to this. You think it’s something that your grandmother made, and it is, but for good reason! It’s a quick, inexpensive lunch or dinner. I’ve always been a huge fan of deviled eggs, but I never make them for just us. Egg salad is a wonderful way to get those flavors without all the work. Plus, it’s VERY open to adaptation. You could easily make it more healthy by using yogurt for some/all of the mayonnaise. I’m also really looking forward to playing around with the flavorings. I added a bit of curry powder for this batch – but tons of flavor combinations are possible. The sky is the limit! Next time I think I’ll be adding some chipotle peppers to the mix. Mmm, or some of my best friend’s mother’s pepper relish. I’m hoping to score another jar this year!

I served it on rye toast this go round. I wouldn’t suggest toasting the bread as much as I did. For something with a delicate texture ,like egg salad, you need a relatively soft bread. So, if you’re going to toast, heed my advice and tread lightly. It would probably be wonderful in a whole-wheat tortilla with some additional veggies – tomatoes and sprouts, perhaps? Or, there’s always the classic presentation on a bed of lettuce or greens. However you mix it up, or serve it – it’s sure to please. A definite classic that everyone needs in their recipe box!

In the past, I haven’t been a huge fan of Swedish meatballs. The only rendition I’d had of them was from a frozen microwavable meal, and certainly left something to be desired. A couple of years ago, while we were on travel with my husband in DC, Andrew and I were looking for something to do. We’d been to the museums, the National Zoo, and all the upscale grocery stores in the “big city” to stock up on provisions to take home with us. I’d noticed that there was an Ikea about 5 minutes from the hotel, and thought that could be a fun activity to spend some time waiting for “Dad” to get out of work.

Andrew was confined to the stroller at the time, but was a trooper as I investigated ever nook and cranny of the store. I loved the bright colors and patterns of all the textiles, the organization options- a place for everything, the clean simple lines of the furniture. Oh yeah, and the Swedish Meatballs! Halfway through our journey Andrew and I stopped at the cafeteria for a bite to eat. We shared an order of the meatballs, with a side of mashed red potatoes and lingonberry jelly. A far, far cry from the dreaded microwave meals! I knew this dish had to be even better made at home as well. Their meatballs are okay, but they’re still frozen, mass-produced, and chock full of fillers.

I Googled recipes and bookmarked a few, but finally decided on Elise’s version after a recommendation from my best friend. They were absolutely delicious. The rich, beefy, creamy sauce en robes the tender bites of the beef/pork mixture. I was always of the school of the beef meatball, but I think this recipe has made me a convert. They literally melt in your mouth, a different texture completely from a beef meatball.  The recipe makes a lot of meatballs. I think they’d be delightful for a party as an appetizer instead of the traditional red sauce meatballs. The meatballs and sauce would be fine in a Crock-Pot on low for a few hours. I did change the spice combination in them, as I diddn’t have cardamom, and had no problems. I stock up on Lingonberry jelly (and the drink concentrate too!) when I’m at Ikea, but if you can’t find it then I think boysenberry jam or cranberry jelly would be a good alternative.

This great little BBQ joint opened on Chincoteague a couple of years ago. They have numerous  wonderful specialty sandwiches, but if I was hard pressed I would have to say my favorite was “The Clipper”. It’s pulled pork, with a fresh fried boneless chicken breast on top, smothered in (get this), bacon jam. It was love at first bite. The sandwich is so large, it feeds you for about 3 days. Sadly, the place is seasonal, so you aren’t able to get this wonderous sandwich in the fall and winter months. I’d been thinking about recreating the bacon jam at home for over a year now. Well last week I finally broke down and took a swing at it, and it turned out wonderfully!

Seemed like the general consensus of the internet pointed to Not Quite Nigella’s recipe. It seemed like a winner to me. I knew the version I had at Woody’s contained bacon, brown sugar, and lots of caramelized onions. The coffee seemed like an interesting addition. Coffee is one of the main ingredients in Red Eye Gravy, which I love. Just like with chocolate, adding coffee doesn’t make it taste like coffee. It just  melds with and intensifies the porkiness. I was a little skeptical of the addition of  maple syrup, but went ahead and went with it anyways.

It is kind of time consuming. It took around 2 hours to cook down to the consistency I wanted. But, once I tasted it, I knew it was well worth the effort. The finished product is not greasy at all. I had expected a ton of fat to settle at the top when I had refrigerated it, but in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to find there was none! Draining most of the bacon grease before cooking the onions takes care of that issue. Since it’s cooked down so much, then pulsed in the food processor, it spreads on toast like a dream. With an over easy or poached egg, and a glass of orange juice it’s an ideal breakfast for the bacon lover without all the mess of frying bacon. It’s also wonderful spread on a crostinis for a quick appetizer.