Friday, September 11, 2009

Meat As An Ingredient

One great way to stretch food dollars is to use meat as an ingredient instead of as the main entree. Small amounts of meat added to casseroles, soups, pastas, stir-fries, and skillets will satisfy the craving for meat without breaking the budget.

Before we went camping over the Labor Day weekend, I bought a small ham that weighed about 2-1/2 pounds. My thoughts were that we'd eat it on sandwiches for our lunches while camping. When that didn't happen, I decided to see how far I could stretch that small ham by using it as an ingredient. In my opinion, ham isn't quite as versatile as ground beef or chicken, but it was still easy to come up with ideas. By the time that little ham was gone I'd made:

Au Gratin Potatoes with Ham (4+ servings)
Ham and Potato Baked Chimichangas (4 servings)
Spicy Ham and Beans over Rice (4 servings)
Ham and Cheese Quiche (4 servings)
Ham-Seasoned Green Beans (side dish - 4 servings)

And I still have enough left for ham sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. That's a lot from such a small piece of ham! All of our meals were filling, and none of us missed having a big slab of meat on our plates...not even Shane.

Here are the recipes, and pictures when I remembered to take them:

Au Gratin Potatoes with Ham

8 medium potatoes, peeled if desired and sliced
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon dry onion flakes
3 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar or co-jack cheese, divided
1 cup (or more) diced cooked ham

Place sliced potatoes in pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes; drain.

While potatoes cook, make sauce by placing cornstarch and dry onion flakes in a saucepan and adding milk gradually, whisking until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of shredded cheese until melted and smooth.

Heat oven to 350°F.

Pour about 1/2 cup of sauce into 13x9 baking dish that has been sprayed with pan spray. Layer half of the potatoes in the prepare dished. Sprinkle diced ham evenly over potatoes and spread half of the sauce over all. Layer remaining potatoes and pour remaining sauce over, spreading to coat all potato pieces.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Remove foil, sprinkle potatoes with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and return to oven until cheese has melted, allowing cheese to brown if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Crispy Baked Ham and Potato Chimichangas

2 cups (or so) of leftover au gratin potatoes with ham
1 cup additional diced ham
1 cup shredded cheddar or co-jack cheese
8 large flour tortillas
2-4 Tablespoons butter, melted
Taco sauce, salsa and sour cream as desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9 baking dish with pan spray.

Combine leftover au gratin potatoes with additional ham and shredded cheese. Divide filling evenly among 8 flour tortillas. Fold sides of tortillas to the middle and then roll burrito-style. Place seam down in prepared baking dish.

Brush rolled tortillas with melted butter. Use as much as you dare; the more butter, the crispier and flakier the tortillas.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until chimichangas are golden brown.

Top with salsa and sour cream if desired.

Makes 4 servings (2 chimis each)

NOTE: These are very good for breakfast as well.

Spicy Ham and Beans over Rice

1 cup dry beans of your choice (I used adzuki beans)
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup diced ham
cooked rice
chili paste, hot sauce, or picante sauce of your choice
other toppings as desired (shredded cheese, sour cream, ranch dressing, etc.)

Rinse beans with water; drain. Place in medium sauce pan along with salt, pepper, ham and enough water to cover by 1". Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender. Time will vary depending on type and freshness of beans.

When beans are tender, taste for seasoning. The ham should make them salty enough, but add more if desired.

Serve hot over cooked rice, stirring in "heat" (chili paste, etc.) as desired. Top with additional toppings.

Makes 4 servings

Ham and Cheese Quiche

3 or 4 large eggs (I like firmer quiche, so I used 4 eggs)
3/4 cup half-and-half or milk
1 cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar or co-jack
1 cup diced ham
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
dash nutmeg
1 8-inch or 9-inch pie crust (homemade, refrigerated or frozen)

Heat oven to 350°F.

Break eggs into large bowl and beat well. Whisk in half-and-half until well-combined. Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell.

Bake at 350°F. for about 40 minutes or until knife inserted near center of quiche comes out clean.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Ham-Seasoned Green Beans

2 cans green beans (or equivalent frozen)
1/4-1/3 cup diced cooked ham
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
pepper to taste
pinch of sugar

Drain one can of green beans, but keep the liquid from the other. (If using frozen, add enough water to cover all green beans by about 1/2 an inch.) Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.


Frances said...

Those recipes sound delish! My mouth is watering and I am eating lunch RIGHT NOW. LOL!

It sounds like that little ham did a great job at your house!

Leanne said...

Ooh the Chimichangas sound good. I just love the name, they're not as common here.

Chimichangas heehee:)

A.Marie said...

You are inspiring me! Now I want to go and get a small ham and see just how much I can makeit stretch! :)

Annie Jones said...

Frances: It went farther than I imagined it would. And it was yummy!

Leanne: You make me laugh. I have words I love to say, too.

A.Marie: You should...and then post about it. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm replying to your reply on my "Cooking Ahead" post - I did read this post of yours and we also buy those little hams sometimes. I usually break it down like this, though:

ham and potato gratin (similar to yours)
ham and cheese cabobs for lunch
ham salad sandwiches for lunch
ham and cheese omelets for breakfast or dinner
small chunks of ham are also good in split pea soup (my personal favorite!) or potato soup
thinly sliced ham simmered in bbq sauce for sandwiches (lunch/dinner)
small chunks of ham are also good in split pea soup (my favorite) or potato soup

One can stretch a ham quite a long way using a little imagination. I'm a big fan of making food last as long as possible!