1/2/2017: Ham and Potato Casserole and the Celtic Weave Crochet Stitch

Did a couple of things today.

Visited the parents over the weekend and I always like to leave them with something I’ve cooked.  I think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.  So today I made them my most recent favorite, “Cheesy Ham and Potato Casserole”.  All credit goes to the fantastic website Once A Month Meals, which has a vast variety of recipes for all tastes and diets and encourages people to (gasp!) cook ahead of time to have meals ready when you want them.  I’ve cooked a wide variety of meals off of the recipes on the site (often concurrently or sequentially), and while a few have not been great, a majority have been decent enough.  This casserole, however has been a consistent hit.

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Cheesy Ham and Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 cups peel and dice Yukon Gold Potato
  • 1 tablespoon mince Garlic, Cloves
  • ½ cups dice Onion (see notes below on garlic/onion modification)
  • 2 cups dice Ham, Fully Cooked (or ham steak, diced)
  • ½ cups Mayonnaise, Fat Free
  • 1 ounce Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 cup Skim Milk
  • ¾ cups Cheddar Cheese, Shredded

Freezing Directions

  1. Par boil potatoes until slightly tender when pricked with a fork. (They will finish cooking in the oven)
  2. In a bowl combine potatoes, garlic, onion and ham.
  3. In another bowl combine mayo, ranch mix, milk and cheese.
  4. Add mayo mix to potatoes and stir to combine.
  5. Spread mixture into a roasting pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
  7. Cool completely.
  8. Divide between allocated number of quart freezer bags, label and freeze.

I have a few follow up notes on this recipe:

  • Double it.  Possibly triple it.  At one point I did six times the recipe (sextuple it?) to prep for a potluck, a meal for a friend, and meals for myself.  It freezes/thaws with no issues.  You’ll thank yourself later.
  • I like the Yukon Gold (or as my grocery store appears to call them, Yellow) potatoes in here the best.  I’ve tried it with typical white/russet potatoes which are starchier, and it came out slightly grainy.  The smooth texture of the yellow potatoes is more pleasing to my plebian palate.  Note that the recipe says parboil – I had to look that up the first time around – which is partially cook via boiling.  If you fully cook the potatoes when boiling them and then proceed with the recipe, you’ll cook them again in the oven with the casserole, and end up with a not-entirely-unpleasing-but-not-what-you’re-looking-for cheesy ranch ham and mashed potatoes.  I cook the potatoes 5-8 minutes at a simmer until I can just get my fork through them.  Added bonus to not overcooking the potatoes: they suck up the cheese/ranch sauce while finishing their cooking in the oven and become even more delicious.
  • Since I’m not a fan of raw onion, I only put a fraction of what the original recipe calls for in, and I mince it fine and saute the onion and the garlic before adding everything together.  I’ve also substituted garlic and onion powder in the recipe without noticing a decrease in flavor.  Following the directions as they’re written above, I find the onion flavor overpowers all of the other tastes (and when you’ve got ham, potato, ranch and cheese deliciousness, why would you want that to be overpowered??).
  • I’ve tried adding more cheese than the recipe calls for – because more cheese must be better, right? – and surprisingly enough, it doesn’t really work.  Again, the cheese overpowered the rest of the flavors.  So besides the tweaks to the onion and garlic, which is just my personal preference, I’ve left the rest of the recipe alone.  Very occasionally, and this will depend on the potatoes that you use, I’ve had to add either milk or chicken broth when mixing the casserole halfway through the cooking period to keep everything nice and saucy.  That’s not a requirement, just something that my bariatric stomach prefers.
  • The diced ham packets I’ve looked at in the grocery stores are often not as nice – and sometimes more expensive – than simply buying a ham steak and cutting it up.  It takes about two minutes more.  Do yourself the favor and buy the ham steak.

The other project I worked on was a late-night crochet whim.  Driving home from the parents is a 2+ hour endeavour, and this particular drive was populated by a variety of half melted dirty slush being regularly delivered to my windshield via other drivers (’tis the season for windshield washer fluid!).  The canine had crashed and crashed hard since she hit the backseat of the car, and was in bed and giving me the sad join-me eyes before 6:30 PM (heaven forbid I be doing something interesting without her!).  So I was forced to join her in the nice warm bed and crochet instead of cleaning, cooking, or doing any of the myriad of other things that mature adults like myself are doubtless supposed to do after a weekend away.  Of course, one of the wonderful things about being a mature adult is that I can play hooky and the only consequences are to myself and the pile of moldering dishes in the sink.

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I had seen and reposted this particular pattern on Facebook and on a whim decided to try it.  There are plenty of stitches I haven’t tried in crochet – I tend to stick to what I know other people will like, which usually centers around small stuffed objects, hats, and scarves – but I’m a sucker for a basketweave pattern and thought this one was gorgeous.  Someday I’ll write about the adventure of the basketweave blanket and the 30,000 skeins it took me to finish it, or the braided blanket and the hours it took me to finish that one.  Then again…maybe I won’t.  Let’s stay positive, shall we?

The Celtic Weave Stitch (credit and thank you to pattern-paradise.com) is NOT for beginners.  I’ve been crocheting 15 years and have tackled what are considered to be expert patterns and still found this one extremely difficult.  However – it is very pretty.  The tutorials on the website, in particular the video tutorial, are helpful, but at some point I just had to ignore the directions (not unusual for me) and figure out how to do it on my own.

The basics are:

  1. Chain in a multiple of 4 (two rows of braid) or 6 (three rows of braid – recommended), plus 3 chains.  Turn.
  2. In second chain from hook, single crochet and continue across.  Turn.
  3. Alt-DC  in first stitch (there is an excellent tutorial on the website on this as well, and the technique is recommended). *skip 2, FPtc in next 2 stitches, crossing in front of two FPtc just made, work FPtc in two skipped stitches*. Repeat between * to end, dc in last stitch, turn.
  4. Working from the back of your work, Beginning dc, BPtc first 2 stitches, *skip 2, BPtc next 2 stitches, crossing behind the last two BPtc made,  BPtc in two skipped stitches*. Repeat between * to last 3 stitches. Work BPtc in next two stitches, dc in last stitch, turn.
  5. Repeat rows 3 and 4 until your hands and arms cramp, you run out of yarn (this pattern uses it quickly) and you get extremely sick of trying to figure out where to put your hook in order to not screw up the entire pattern.
  • sc – single crochet
  • dc – double crochet
  • BPtc – back post treble crochet – Yarn over 2 times, insert hook from back to front to back around the post of the stitch in previous row, yarn over and pull up loop (4 loops on hook), [yarn over, pull through two loops] 3 times.
  • FPtc – front post treble crochet – Yarn over 2 times, insert hook from front to back to front around the post of the stitch in previous row, yarn over and pull up loop (4 loops on hook), [yarn over, pull through two loops] 3 times.

I had started a little project with a fluffy multicolored magenta yarn thinking that maybe I could churn out a pretty scarf with it, but that was a no-go.  Because of the thickness of the yarn I couldn’t see my stitches clearly and became hopelessly embroiled in despair while trying to figure out exactly where I was supposed to be BP-TCing.  That technique is difficult and awkward to begin with, but triply so with chunky yarn and trying to go backwards and forwards while following a complicated pattern.  So I gave up on the chunky yarn and went back to a trusty Red Hook Super Saver.  It was a blessed relief to be able to SEE my stitches.  After my yarn switch, things went well, with the exception of having to stop and frog my work occasionally because I kept going into the wrong stitch (and the distracting snoring of my canine companion).

By the time I had a 5×12″ patch done it was 4 hours later, half my skein was gone, and I was toast.  However I knew that if I put down my little swatch of pride and effort, I’d never pick it up again.  Since the back of this pattern isn’t particularly pretty, I folded the swatch in half, SC’d around the entire thing (multiples of 6, plus one SC, except in the corners where you do 3 SC) and then did a scalloped border as detailed in the Celtic Weave Baby Blanket Pattern.  Basically, chain 1, sc in same stitch, [*7dc in next stitch (this should be the center stitch of the corner), *sc in next stitch, skip 2, 5dc in next stitch, skip 2*; repeat between * to stitch before the corner, sc in stitch before the corner]; repeat between [ and ] to end, join with slip stitch to beginning sc. Fasten off.

It turned out to be a nice, thick trivet with a deceptively simple design.

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While I have serious doubts I’ll ever tackle this stitch again, I can see it working for a scarf or – if you’re ambitious – a blanket, using a large crochet hook (I used my typical J hook) such as an N or P hook and lots and LOTS of yarn.  It is undoubtedly very pretty.

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