April 21, 2014

We were fortunate to have absolutely perfect weather for Easter weekend. Our family spent Saturday morning at Living History Farms in Clive for their annual family Easter party. Our boys, Kellan, 6, and Carsten, 3, took part in traditional egg and toy hunts, Easter bonnet races, and egg races. They also visited with the Easter Bunny, rode a horse-drawn wagon and petted bunnies in a historic barn.

Yesterday, families across the country gathered to share their Easter meal. If your meal included ham and your refrigerator contains plenty of leftovers, here are some ways to make it into a recipe redo.

Mexican Ham and Bean Soup

If ham and bean soup is a favorite of your family's, surprise them by serving them a hearty soup with a kick. Cooking Light's recipe calls for Manchego cheese, a Spanish cheese made from sheep's milk. If you can't find Manchego, use Monteray Jack instead.

1 lb dried pinto beans

8 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups cubed smoked ham steak (about 8 oz)

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

3 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 chipotle chile (or dried ancho or pasilla chile)

1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded Manchego or Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.

Combine beans, broth, and next 8 ingredients (broth through garlic) in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Partially cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender.

Stir in tomatoes and chile; simmer 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves and chile. Ladle soup into 8 bowls. Top with cheese; sprinkle with cilantro.

Spicy Southwestern Potatoes and Ham

Scalloped potatoes and ham are one of the easiest ways to use up leftover ham. Betty Crocker has a way to add a little spice to this traditional comfort food.

1/2 cup gourmet spreadable cheese with garlic and herbs (from 4 to 6.5-oz pkg)

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, if desired

1 (1 lb 4-oz) pkg. refrigerated sliced home fries potatoes

1 (1-lb) pkg broccoli, thawed

1 cup cooked ham strips (2x1/4x1/4-inch)

4 oz (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place spreadable cheese in medium bowl. Gradually stir in half-and-half and chiles; blend well. Set aside.

In sprayed baking dish, layer potatoes, broccoli and ham. Pour spreadable cheese mixture over top; sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Cover with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.

Cauliflower and Ham Hash

Instead of browning potatoes, brown cauliflower to make Real Simple's ham and egg hash. It's perfect for a weekend breakfast or a simple supper.

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (5 cups)

1 medium onion, chopped

½ lb baked ham, chopped (2 cups)

1 teaspoon paprika

Kosher salt and pepper

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and onion and cook until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the ham, season with the paprika, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cook, tossing, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Fry the eggs to the desired doneness, 2 to 3 minutes for slightly runny yolks. Serve on the hash and sprinkle with the parsley.

Ham and Cheese Pinwheels

Misty Kearns has a fun way to add ham to a kid-approved snack and a popular appetizer. Pinwheels can be made with a variety of fillings and they are always fun to eat.

2 cans crescent rolls (can use reduced fat)

thinly sliced leftover ham

8 oz package cream cheese (can use low fat or Neufchatel cheese instead)

8 oz sour cream (can use light or low-fat)

1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dip/Dressing Mix or spinach and herb dip mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the cream cheese, sour cream and dip mix together well until mostly smooth.

Roll out 2 crescent rolls and pinch them together to make a rectangular shape. Add 1 slice of ham to cover most of dough. Spread a thin and even layer of the cream cheese/sour cream dip mix onto ham. Carefully roll the crescent roll into a cylinder shape. Cut into 5-6 smaller pieces using a chef or other large knife (be sure to wipe the knife off with a paper towel between every few cuts - this will make it easier to slice through).

Place pinwheels (cut side down) onto a baking sheet or cookie pan. Bake 8-10 minutes until the crescent rolls are golden brown.

Other Ideas for Using Leftover Ham

Cut ham into extra-large matchsticks (almost the size of string cheese) and wrap with a slice of sandwich cheese (provolone or Swiss works well). Eat as a snack or send in kids' lunch boxes.

Dice up ham and sprinkle on salads.

Add diced ham to omelets. Add onion, green pepper and cheese for a Western omelet.

Cut ham into chunks and sprinkle on homemade pizza along with pineapple to make Hawaiian pizza at home.

Add ham to macaroni and cheese (store bought or homemade).