Waste Not, Want Not

Waste not, want not—that Depression-era philosophy sounds good in principle. But I spent so much time and money trying not to waste leftover ham over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that I never thought I could face another ham, ever again. And yet, Easter is this Sunday and I can’t disappoint my family.

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey, no problem. One of the families within our family likes dark meat, so that goes home with them, leaving just enough white meat for a few yummy sandwiches. And half of a $116 beef tenderloin roast leftover from Christmas was exciting. “We’ll just put some au jus gravy from a jar on it and reheat it,” I told my husband, anticipating a great meal.  Unfortunately, everyone was anticipating a great meal. When I left the beef on the counter and headed to the pantry for gravy, the dog treated himself to about $70 worth of choice beef.

But after both holidays, we were left with mountains of ham. I surfed the web for simple leftover recipes and started cooking. But here’s the rub: a huge spiral sliced ham from Costco costs about $27, and I spent at least $150 on ingredients so as not to waste any. Plus, our water probably doubled because the salty ham routed us out of bed several times a night to quench our thirst.

Here are some of the ways I assuaged my Depression mentality guilt: grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, slow cooker ham and scalloped potatoes, creamy cheese tortellini with ham and peas, split pea soup with ham and oven baked jambalaya. Unbelievably, these recipes each called for only a cup or two of ham. Only the jambalaya, which serves 16, called for a pound of ham. I couldn’t get rid of it, so I finally tossed what remained in the garbage (don’t worry, not the recycling; we had recycled enough ham.)

If you’re similarly burdened by your mother’s or grandmother’s costly waste not, want not philosophy and also are stuck with ham, here’s my recipe for jambalaya from allrecipes.com.

Oven-Baked Jambalaya

Prep time: 45 m

Cook 2 h

Ready in 2h 45 min

(Ha! Not really—and don’t forget the cleanup, which takes longer than the prep).

Ingredients:

½ c. butter

1 large onion, diced

1 large green pepper, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

3 bay leaves

3 T. Creole seasoning blend

4 t. Worcestershire sauce

2 (28-oz.) cans chopped tomatoes

7 c. chicken stock

3 c. chopped ham

3 c. cooked andouille sausage, sliced

3 cups cooked chicken

3 cups cooked shrimp

4 cups uncooked long-grain white rice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Melt butter in large stock pot. Sauté onion, green pepper, celery and garlic until tender (don’t burn garlic). Add tomato paste and cook to brown slightly. Stir in bay leaves, Creole seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour into large roasting pan. Add tomatoes (with juice), chicken stock, ham, sausage, chicken, shrimp and rice. Mix well. Cover with foil.
  3. Bake for 1 ½ hours, stirring once halfway through. Remove bay leaves before serving.

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