Creamy Ham ‘n’ Cheddar Chowder



In anticipation of the rapidly approaching holiday season, next week will be spent eagerly preparing in all the quintessential ways: decorating and cleaning the house for guests, planning menus and buying groceries (and groceries and more groceries!). Recently, I’ve also been thoughtfully planning for when my favorite time of year is, sadly, over.

A common side effect of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, besides some extra inches around the waist, is tons of leftovers. I really hate seeing all that delicious food go to waste, so every year I try to find new and creative ways to utilize every last scrap.  This recipe is the perfect way to make use of that uneaten holiday ham! Loaded with veggies (even carrots!) and a delectible creamy base, one batch of chowder makes plenty to feed the entire extended family for an encore feast. But feel free to halve the recipe for a smaller crowd.

Creamy Ham & Cheddar Chowder

  • 3 ¼ cups water
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed Butter Gold or Yukon Gold potatoes (cubes about ½” to ¾”)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (I buy shredded carrots and chop those in thirds)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 2 cans corn (or about 3 cups fresh)
  • 4 cups cubed cooked ham

In a large pot, bring water, potatoes, carrots, and garlic to a boil. Stir in salt, garlic salt, and pepper.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the ham cubes and corn. Reduce heat to lowest setting.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in cornstarch until fully combined. Add the milk to the butter/cornstarch mixture and whisk together. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add cheddar cheese and stir until melted.

Pour milk mixture into the large pot of ham and vegetables and stir to combine. Heat through over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until read to serve. Serve topped with extra cheddar cheese and a small slice of bread or pita, if desired.



Cheesy Cornbread Casserole

DSC02028This recipe is a bit of a guilty pleasure (you’ll see it contains butter and sour cream…oops), but it is absolutely delicious. So moist and creamy, you can eat it with a spoon and it pairs amazingly well with my Hearty 30-Minute Chili.  Plus, it’s so simple to make. What more could you ask for?!

Cheesy Cornbread Casserole

  • 1 8.5-ounce box corn-muffin mix (Jiffy)
  • 1 16-ounce can corn, drained (my suggestion, cut the same amount of fresh corn off the cob)
  • 1 16-ounce can cream-style sweet corn
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream  (reduced fat works well)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
DSC02027Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and pour into a casserole or baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve with a huge, delicious bowl of chili.

Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

With a dollop of fresh guacamole on top (and some extra for chip-dipping, of course), these enchiladas more than satisfied my craving for Mexican food!

When planning my menu for the week, I had a craving for some good Mexican food. You can always find this kind of cuisine in Colorado; I have yet to locate any in Chicago. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist, but I decided to cook up some of my own.

Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (use the lesser amount for less heat, greater amount for a bigger kick)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese (or a combination of both)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6 burrito-size flour tortillas
  • 1 jar store-bought green chile

I wanted the process to be relatively easy and fast (it was one of those days), so I defrosted a couple of chicken breasts and decided to use my Cuisinart Griddler to prepare it (one of the hands-down most useful kitchen gadgets that I own). I simply sprinkled both sides of the chicken with some salt and pepper, put them on the griddler with the lid down for about 8 minutes, and they were ready to go! As an added bonus, this method is a lot less greasy than sautéing the chicken with oil in a pan.

I shredded the cooked chicken with two forks, placing it in a large bowl. Then, I added a can of black beans, a teaspoon of chopped adobo peppers, about a cup and a half of quick-cook white rice that I had leftover in the refrigerator, and a cup of shredded cheese (I like to use a blend of cheddar and monterey jack).

To assemble the enchiladas, I warmed 6 flour tortillas in the microwave and then laid them flat on the countertop, pouring a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture onto each one. After folding each of the tortillas, burrito style (sides first, then lift one flap and roll the whole tortilla over so that the seam is on the bottom), I placed them side-by-side in a glass baking dish and covered them liberally with some store-bought green chile and more shredded cheese. So easy! The whole thing went into a 450 degree oven for about 12 minutes, and they were done!

To go along with the enchilada goodness, I wanted some fresh guacamole (this is just one of those ingredients that is never as good store-bought as fresh). Thankfully, I had bought some avocados at the grocery store (I LOVE sliced avocados on sandwiches), so I used three of them, along with some leftover fresh corn that I had from another recipe, to make this delicious chunky guac, adapted from a recipe I had seen online. All it took was mixing the following ingredients in a large bowl:


I love fresh guacamole!

  • 3 avocados, cubed
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 3 dashes Tabasco

Add a little salt and pepper to the mixture to suit your tastebuds and enjoy.


Summer Corn Salad

Summer corn

Summer Corn Salad

Since moving to Chicago over a week ago, we realized suddenly that we still had not tried any legendary deep dish pizza — gasp!  So, naturally, on my last night of freedom before Fall semester classes began we decided to indulge ourselves.  I could not have been happier with the decision, and I highly recommend The Art of Pizza (get Art’s Special pizza).

Boiling Corn

Break the corn cobs in half so that they cook faster and are easier to cut later.

That being said, I did not want to entirely desert my commitment to a well-balanced diet; I decided to prepare a salad to go with the meal. Instead of a simple green salad, I had seen so many summer corn salad recipes on the internet lately that I decided to utilize the five ears of corn I had bought on sale in my weekly shopping and try out a recipe of my own. Corn is pretty starchy, so I wanted to incorporate another light, crisp veggie, as well. I chose red bell peppers (nutrient-rich and delicious!) in order to give the salad some additional color and texture. Here are the ingredients I used:

Summer Corn Salad

  • 5 ears of fresh corn
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped finely
  • 4 green onions, chopped finely
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cherry tomatoes for garnish

Assembling the salad was fairly easy, making it the perfect addition to a low-maintenance Sunday night meal (especially since this week marked the beginning of football season, meaning my attention will always be slightly compromised by whatever game on TV). I started off by shucking the corn and placing it in a pot full of water to boil for 8-10 minutes. In the meantime, I chopped two bell peppers along with a few green onions.

Bell Peppers

Combine the chopped bell peppers and green onions in a bowl while the corn is cooking to blend the flavors.

Once the corn was cooked, I drained the water and let the cobs sit until they were cool enough to handle, at which point I cut off all of the kernels and added them to the bell pepper/green onion mixture. I then drizzled some olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) on top of the assembled veggies, as well as the juice of one lemon and a splash of salt. As a garnish I sprinkled on some sliced cherry tomatoes. Voila! A vibrant summer salad to complete our pizza night.

The best part of this salad is that the leftovers are very versatile; I simply added some crumbled feta cheese for extra protein and took it to school for lunch the next day! You could also chop up some tomatoes and avocado and use it as a salsa with tortilla chips, or add some grilled chicken on top for another complete meal.


Summer corn 2

Art’s Special pizza with Summer Corn Salad. The perfect combination of savory and sweet!