Sunday, April 26, 2020

Garden Update and Potato Ham Casserole

Nights are finally staying above 50 degrees and the days are warmer, too. That means that I can finally put the seedlings in the ground and expect that they will begin growing soon. The rest of the seedlings, which I grew from seed in my sunspace, are being claimed by neighbors for their gardens, just as I had hoped would happen.

It's not too late to plant seeds yourself. With farmers plowing under their crops because of closed restaurants across the land, come the fall, if not sooner, home grown food will be important to have. You can even put planters on your balcony if you live in an apartment that has one. One year when I lived in a one-bedroom apartment I put a milk crate on the outside stairs to the roof which hardly anyone used. I put a plastic garbage bag inside, used twist ties to secure the top edge and poked a few drainage holes in the bottom, then put in potting soil and grew carrots and a cherry tomato plant. Cherry tomatoes and lettuce are both easy to grow. A friend of mine grew her cherry tomato just outside her window on a wide ledge. Herbs can be grown on an inside window sill...get the idea?

This year I was planning on traveling during the summer and early fall so I was only going to plant one tomato plant and one zucchini and some beans, all where the drip irrigation system would keep them watered while I was gone. Now that I'm going to be staying home I decided to plant a lot more plants, with multiple tomatoes, four kinds of squash, two summer and two winter, cucumbers, three kinds of beans and sunflowers, too. Who knows, I may poke some pumpkin seeds in the ground, too, and see what happens. We don't really get enough heat for peppers or I would grow them, too.

What kinds of veggies do you plan on growing this year? Any?

Life isn't all veggies, sometimes it's flowers and tea. Sweetie and I are celebrating our 40th anniversary today. Time has certainly flown and life has, by and large, been good to us. Here is a photo of the iris blooming right now, surrounding my teacup garden art which is sort of an homage to my Mom and her love of gardens and tea. The photo below is of a similar tea cup stake which I made for a friend for her birthday. She loves to garden, and she says the birds are eating bird seed out of the cup.

Easter this year included a ham. A lot of the leftovers went into the freezer and I made some sandwiches, but I did have an idea one day last week (or was it the week all runs together these days) for using some leftovers for dinner. I have a recipe I enjoy which uses potatoes and onions and chicken broth to make a casserole. I decided to try it with some diced ham added. It was a hit. A nice green salad on the side was all we needed to make this a delicious meal. One of the nice things about this casserole is that it doesn't use milk or cream, so it has a nice clean profile. If you can use a knife to make even, thin potato slices, that makes for easy cleanup, but if not, break out the slicer on the mandolin or food processor since you'll need a lot of slices.

The casserole tastes wonderful the day it's made, but like many things made with onions, it's even better reheated the next day. I used a cast iron skillet, but you can bake it in a shallow casserole dish, too.

Potato Ham Casserole with Broth

3 all-purpose potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled ( I used Idahos)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons finely minced onion (I used red onion since I was out of yellow and about twice this amount...I love onions)
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/2 cup diced cooked ham - you can use a larger quantity if desired, up to 1 cup
1 cup beef broth or chicken broth (I used a bit more -see note below -and used chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel potatoes and slice them 1/8-inch thick. (Rinse in cold water, then drain and pat dry with paper towels - this part I skipped and it came out fine, but you can do it if you like).

Combine the butter, onion and garlic. Use on third of the mixture to grease a shallow 1 quart baking dish or cast iron skillet. (A shallow dish is important so that you get plenty of browned topping!)

Make a single layer of potatoes over the initial butter mixture, seasoned it with salt, pepper and nutmeg and sprinkled on about 1/4 of the diced ham, then put in a second single layer and treated it as I did the first layer, repeated that process until there were no more potatoes to layer...about 4 layers. I also mixed 1/4 cup non-dairy ricotta with 1 egg and put dollops between layers. You can also shred a cheese that melts and do the same.

Pour the broth over all and dot with the remaining butter mixture. Note: I made sure that the broth comes up almost to the top of the layered potatoes so that they will cook evenly may need to use more broth than the recipe calls for but it is worth it and the broth cooks into the potatoes and cooks off so the potatoes keep their shape and are not soggy, so it's OK, the potatoes become really tender.Bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender throughout and golden brown on top. Serves 4 - 6.


  1. Happy Anniversary!!
    I finally got everything outside - and we ordered more seeds. I have a bad feeling about the autumn. We DID go to Farmer's Market today for the first time in forty days, and it was glorious... strawberries, cherries and blueberries were a balm - so grateful people are still out there bringing in food.

    We've had so much time without milk that D no longer bothers, and drinks my oat, almond, or whatever plant milk. The Farmer's market had eggs, though, so that was lovely.

  2. Should I mail you some more morning glory seeds? I also have sunflower seeds, beet seeds, and maybe radish. So great that you went to the farmer's market. Jealous about the strawberries...still none here. I think plant milk is delicious, too. Fortunately we have neighbors who give us eggs now and then. Really can't complain although I do miss visiting with friends and working out at the gym...home just isn't the same (or as effective). Happy Spring!

  3. Happy Anniversary to Sweetie and Elle!