Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Kaiser's Country Diner Ham Soup Recipes

12/26/07 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Ah, “leftovers.” I imagine that your refrigerator is overflowing with all kinds of foods left over from your Christmas feast. Those scraps of meat, bits and pieces of vegetables and limp remains from the appetizer tray can be a challenge to work into a meal. A couple of days from now, they’re going to be downright unappetizing.

The day after a big dinner, it is easy to transform the leftovers into a mini-buffet. Most of us ate too much anyway. So, a bite of this and a dab of that will fill up the family’s tummies. The pecan pie, fancy gelatin salad, homemade rolls, olives and stuffed celery will disappear quickly as a flash.

Meat, however, can be a problem. What is one supposed to do with the remainder of all that Christmas ham? A couple of days of ham sandwiches or dry dinners and the best of hams loses its appeal.

In many ways, ham is less versatile than chicken or turkey. And that’s why soups and casseroles were invented. The stronger taste and texture of ham doesn’t lend itself to melding flavors with the variety of dishes that poultry does. Ham enchiladas? Nope. I don’t think so.

Traditional but often forgotten ham combinations are the old favorites of ham and navy bean soup; ham and split pea soup; and not to forget a delicious ham and potato soup. All homemade, of course.

The following ham and lima bean soup recipe was served weekly in our restaurant. It is not a perfect replication, having been reconstructed from our memory banks. Chuck (as with all good cooks) would decide to add a pinch of this or a pinch of that, changing it ever so slightly, according to his whim. You can do the same.

I recently served the potato soup at a luncheon and it was pronounced a success. Both recipes are complimented nicely when served with a green salad and hot corn bread or biscuits.

Kaiser’s Country Diner Ham and Lima Bean Soup

2 cups dried lima beans
2 cups cooked ham, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, shredded
2 pints tomatoes
2 pints hot water
1-8 ounce can tomato sauce
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1-teaspoon basil
1-teaspoon thyme
1-teaspoon garlic salt

Put lima beans in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit one hour. Drain.

Sauté onion, celery and carrots in small amount of oil and put in slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, drained lima beans, hot water, tomato sauce, cloves, bay leaves, basil and thyme. Simmer several hours to blend flavors and finish cooking beans. Add more water if necessary.

One-half hour before serving, add diced ham, ¼-cup brown sugar and garlic salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Simmer and serve hot. This soup keeps well and is even better “leftover.”

Quick Chunky Potato and Ham Soup

4 red potatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup margarine
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1-cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 ounces cream cheese
2 cups ham, diced
1 teaspoon dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions

Put potatoes in pot and cover with boiling water. Cook until nearly tender. Drain, reserving some of the liquid if broth needs thinning. Peel the potatoes, (leaving some of the skin on for color) and dice.

Melt butter in saucepan and sauté chopped onion until tender. Add flour to mixture and stir until smooth. Cook until bubbly to remove starchy taste. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Add reserved broth if consistency is too thick.

Slowly stir in cream cheese, cheddar cheese and ham. Add salt and pepper. Simmer the soup over very low heat, for about 20 minutes, stirring often.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with green onions.

Note: If you have a lot of leftover mashed potatoes, they can be substituted for the red ones.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. Contact her at 942-1317 or email bchatty@bettykaiser.com

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