Making Your Own Sunshine, i.e. Ham, Potato and Cheese Casserole

We're still up here in the panhandle of Idaho, where it is cold, and as soon as a little patch of grass peeks through it snows again. Once in awhile the sun breaks through and we see blue and big puffy white clouds, but mostly it's that gray that coats everything so that the houses and the fences and the trees and everything looks - if we're honest - a little blah.

So happy has to be in our hearts right now.

Because attitude is everything, especially when everything is gray outside.

A few days ago I was walking Miss Lily, mid-morning, on yet another gray day, and as we made our way down the sidewalk the smell of fabric softener filled the air. That smell that comes out of the dryer exhaust vent, so that the entire world, or at least the ten square feet you're standing in, smells like dryer sheets.

And it made me smile. There's something so soul-restoring about doing laundry, taking yucky towels and sheets and clothes, dumping them into a machine, and two hours later they come out fluffy and soft and smelling great.  I envisioned stacks of folded towels going back into the cupboard, socks into drawers, pajamas ready to be worn that night.

Sometimes it's the little things.

Often it's the little things.

There are days I'd like to stuff me in the washer, pour in some good-smelling laundry soap, set a cycle, and two hours later I pop out clean and wholesome and ready to bless someone. To turn a phrase from My Fair Lady, "Oh, wouldn't it be loverly?"

So in this grayness of the northwest, where we'll be for another ten days or so (how fast our time here went!), I defeated the definition of eternity:

Two people and a ham.

Sidenote:  “Eternity is two people and a ham" is an old quip from the days when a ham was huge—far more than two people could finish. Irma Rombauer mentions this line in her famous cookbook, The Joy of Cooking.”

I took that ham I'd cooked the day before, and instead of re-serving it for a solid week, I chopped it up, and turned it into supper to be shared with our daughter's family, and as we sat around the table, I soaked in all their faces, smiling and talking and shoving in bites, and I was thankful. Even more thankful than I am when I walk across the smell of fabric softener passing over the sidewalk I'm on.

And here is what ham, potato and broccoli casserole generally looks like....

Cheesy Shredded Potatoes and Ham (from More Healthy Homestyle Cooking, page 164)

two cartons of dehydrated shredded potatoes or one 24-ounce bag of frozen hash browns
two cups or so of ham, chopped into bite-size pieces (can substitute chicken)
1 jar pimentos, drained (I didn't have any so we skipped)
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp italian herbs
1/4 tsp ground pepper
Handful of dehydrated onions, or 1/2 cup chopped onions
1 can cream of something soup, I used reduced fat cheddar broccoli
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 soup can of milk

Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray, then line bottom of pan with hash browns (rehydrate if you used the dehydrated kind). In separate bowl mix together ham (or chicken), pimentos, soup, milk, cheese, herbs and pour mixture over potatoes.

I also added a bag of frozen broccoli, which I zapped in microwave and drained before adding. Because we are big broccoli fans. If you are not, skip this, or use peas or corn or whatever you are a big fan of. The broccoli gives it a bit of color so the whole mess doesn't look like Idaho's sky right now.

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Find people you love to gather around table, and dig in. Add good conversation, perhaps little ones dancing to music in background rather than sitting at table, and throw in a loaf of some kind of bread with real butter. This meal doesn't technically need another carb but my take is winter calls for lots of homemade bread and you can switch to healthier eating when the sun comes out in April or so. Guaranteed to fill tummies and souls at same time.

If you want to really live outrageously, bake up a box of brownies at same time, and devour as soon after casserole as humanly possible, adding ice cream highly recommended.

Sometimes it's the little things.

Often it's the little things.

Back soon with what I'm reading, seeing at the movies, sewing, knitting, and such.  Stay warm and make your own sunshine!



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