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.



Gameday Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

With the recent snow and freezing temps in Denver, there was no better time for me to take out that old slow cooker and whip up a nice warm soup. Nothing screams winter like a hearty stew… and just in time for a weekend of football, too!

Resembling a chili (but way better), this recipe has tons of beefy bean and tomato goodness, with more veggies and a plethora of pasta to top it off. Throw it in the slow cooker in the morning and you’ll have a crowd pleasing, well-rounded complement to all that beer, in plenty of time for the afternoon and evening games. Plus, the leftovers will last you all the way til next weekend!image

Makes 10-12 servings
Ideal slow cooker size:  6 quart

Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

  • 1lb ground beef (I always use at least 90% lean… you can also use ground turkey if you choose)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 oz) cans beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 (15oz) can great northern beans, with liquid
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste, if needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 8 oz dry pasta (I used mezzi rigatoni – slightly smaller versions than the original – because it gives the soup a heartier look. Feel free to use ditalini or even shells if you prefer smaller noodles)
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, for serving

Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink, lightly seasoning with salt & pepper. Drain then add to a large slow cooker. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, kidney beans, great northern beans, salt, oregano, basil, thyme and pepper.

Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until veggies are tender.

Add in apple juice (I know it sounds weird but trust me on this one. It gives the soup a slightly tangier touch, a whole new dimension of flavor).

When you are just about ready to serve, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just under al dente. Drain, then add to the soup and let cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  (if you add the uncooked pasta straight to the slow cooker it will absorb all the liquid and all you’ll be left with is pasta and veggies. That defeats the purpose!)

Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into serving bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and a little sprig of parsley to garnish.