Category Archives: Vegetables

Salads

Today’s post is dedicated to Salads. Salads are on our dinner table almost every night mostly because they are Healthy, Quick and Easy. Basic lettuce and tomato salads are a little too plain to make it on our table. I prefer adding various ingredients that touch on the five food groups which are vegetables, dairy, grains, fruit and protein.

I have to admit in my early days of cooking I made a lot of plain salads. I thought I was spicing it up if I added avocado or seasoned croutons. I didn’t start experimenting with making more robust salads until I expanded my dining choices from food chain restaurants (no offense) to downtown restaurants with new age names (again, no offense) like “Planet One Bistro” which featured out of this world meals. Cute right? Okay, I made the name up because I didn’t want my local restaurants to be mad at me for saying their name was “new age”.

Building a salad is like creating a work of art. Various colors, textures, shapes and sizes blend together into a beautiful edible piece of art both pleasing to the eyes and mouth. One of my signature salads is one made with a 50/50 mix of greens, bright red tomatoes, English cucumbers, deep blue blueberries, shaved parmesan cheese, croutons and crumbed bacon. I top it off with my favorite dressing Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yummy! My Big Salad is also a family favorite.

If you ask me, it is hard to make a bad salad. No matter what you add to a salad it is a reflection of you and your taste in food. So, go crazy and create your own master piece salad. It’s sure to get rave reviews.

Salads

Ingredients:

Fruity Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup blueberries (sliced strawberries and raspberries optional)

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

parmesan flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Avocado Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

1 ripe avocado cut half then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

ranch flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Mushroom and Egg Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

4 large baby bella mushrooms sliced

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

2 boiled eggs diced

2 slices bacon cooked and chopped

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

seasoned croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Layer the ingredients for each salad into two bowls. Top with Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade or your favorite salad dressing.

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Lemony Potatoes

Lemony Potatoes is one of those quick side dishes that compliments any entree. I am the potato lover in the family so although I don’t prepare this dish often I enjoy making it in a pinch when I am lost for dinner ideas.

I like using fingerling potatoes in this recipe for a couple of reasons. One: fingerling potatoes have an interesting shape. They are small with a tubular shape and a thin skin so there is no need to remove the skin prior to cooking. Two: Fingerling potatoes are waxy which means they are lower in starch and calories compared to other types of potatoes. Starch, as we all should know, turns into sugar so eating a potato low in starch is a plus for me. Three: The flavor of fingerling potatoes is delightful. The Russian Banana fingerling potato is the one I usually cook because I can easily find them at the local grocer. These potatoes have a buttery and nutty taste. Who could ask for more? I could. These potatoes are also good in potato salad because they hold their shape when cooked.

Fun Fact: Russian Banana potatoes are nicknamed “salad potato”.

The best thing about my Lemony Potatoes side dish is that you can control the degree of lemony flavor. To make this a very lemony dish add more lemon juice or use a little less lemon juice (juice from ½ a lemon) if you only want a hint of lemon. Either way, pucker up because this is one delicious dish.

Lemony Potatoes

Ingredients:

1 small bag fingerling potatoes sliced in half

1 clove garlic minced

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp black pepper

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp capers

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp fresh basil chopped

juice from 1 lemon

Melt butter and olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and stir around the skillet for 1 minute. Watch closely to make sure garlic does not burn. Add potatoes then season with salt and black pepper. Pour lemon juice over potatoes and add water. Sprinkle with lemon zest, basil and capers. Stir to mix. Let simmer until potatoes are fork tender.

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Chicken and Gnocchi Stew

Since my #1 food tester is in college now (yes, hubby is my #2 taste tester) I sometimes have to rely on myself to eat leftovers. Even though I don’t mind eating leftovers for lunch or sometimes breakfast, there are times I have to make them more exciting in order to eat them. That is why I came up with Chicken and Gnocchi Stew. I had a leftover roasted chicken that needed a little tender love and care so it was perfect for a new recipe.

Using an already roasted chicken meant my prep time was cut in half which made pulling the rest of the recipe together easy. Chicken and Gnocchi Stew is mostly a different take on chicken and dumplings. Instead of nice big fat dumplings, there a little plump pillows of potato gnocchi. Gnocchi are right up my alley because I love potatoes. Adding gnocchi also eliminated the need to include potatoes in the stew. It was like a two for one deal!

I put Chicken and Gnocchi Stew in the comfort food category. It is packed with vegetables and protein along a little of the other stuff we shouldn’t eat too often. Fortunately, the best ingredient in comfort foods like this one is love.  Corny but true.

Chicken and Gnocchi Stew

Ingredients:

1 roasted chicken skin and bones removed then shred meat or

2 chicken breasts

2 chicken thighs

3 carrots peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery sliced

1 pkg gnocchi

1 pkg frozen peas

½ onion diced

½ onion sliced

1 can cream of chicken soup

3 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried parsley

Prepare gnocchi per package instructions. Drain and set aside.

If using chicken breasts and chicken thighs, cook in 4 cups water with 1 tbsp salt for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and let cool then remove skin and bones. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot. Add carrots, celery, peas and onions along with remaining salt, pepper and parsley. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Whisk in cream of chicken soup. Add chicken and gnocchi cook for 15 minutes more. Serve with or over biscuits. Tastes even better the second day.

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Dee’s Egg Salad

When I was a kid, my mom made egg salad like everyone else did with eggs, mayo and mustard. Of course she added her southern twist by including sweet relish to the mix. Instead of eating the egg salad on sandwiches, we ate it with crackers. My version, Dee’s Egg Salad, is not like your typical egg salad. I like a little color and crunch to my egg salad to make it more interesting.

Basic egg salads are pale yellow and white with sprinkles of dull green sweet relish. Me? I left out the relish and added a vibrant green by putting diced English cucumbers in the egg salad for the crunch and color I enjoy. I love to eat with my eyes so adding more colors to compliment the white and yellow was right up my alley.

Besides being a salad unto itself Dee’s Egg Salad is a great addition to a regular salad or spinach salad. Rather than having eggs and tomatoes as a single ingredient in a spinach salad use it as a topping for the salad. Sprinkle with chopped bacon and you have created a masterpiece. So shake up your plain egg salad and try Dee’s Egg Salad.

Dee’s Egg Salad

Ingredients:

6 large eggs

1 roma tomato diced

2 cups water

¼ English cucumber diced

2 tbsp salt

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp parsley

¼ tsp cilantro

In a medium sized pot bring 2 cups of water, eggs and 1 tbsp salt to a boil. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove eggs from heat and let cool. Peel and chop eggs. Add eggs to a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Gently mix together.

Serve on a bed of mixed greens, with crackers or on a sandwich.

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Stuffed Flounder

Fish Sale! I was at the grocery store looking for something to prepare for dinner and passed by the seafood counter when something caught my eye. Low and behold, they were having a fish sale. One of my favorite types of fish (Cod) was $3.00 less than usual. They also had another one of my favorites on sale – flounder. The flounder looked nice and fresh so I bought four fillets to make Stuffed Flounder for dinner.

The reason I decided to make Stuffed Flounder was so I could use the rest of the cornbread stuffing we had the night before. Now, that our youngest son is in college I actually have leftovers. I don’t like wasting food so I try to find different ways to “re-purpose” the leftovers. Making a spinach and cornbread stuffing for the flounder seemed like a great idea.

Guess what? It was a great idea and hubby was happy with a full belly after he cleaned his plate. This was definitely one of my Health, Quick and Easy meals. The flounder was light and healthy. The stuffing was quick to make and putting the two together was easy. What could be better than that!?!

Stuffed Flounder

Ingredients:

4 flounder fillets

1 pkg baby leaf spinach leaves

1egg

1 ½ cups cornbread stuffing

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp water

1 tsp dried dill

black pepper

paprika

salt

juice from ½ lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and water. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Cook until spinach is wilted stirring occasionally.

Place cornbread in a bowl and add spinach with juice. Beat egg and add to cornbread and spinach mixture. Mix well then set aside.

Season fish with salt and black pepper. Place two fish fillets on a rimmed cookie sheet or in a long casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon stuffing onto each fillet. Top with remaining fish fillets then sprinkle with paprika. Place 1 tbsp of butter on each fish fillet. Bake fish for 10 to 15 minutes until fish is cooked through but not dry.

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Panzanella Salad

I had never heard of a Panzanella Salad until I saw a cooking challenge on television. The amateur chef was Italian and decided to make a Panzanella Salad because ingredients were limited and time was short. After all, it was a challenge.

Salads in general don’t take long to pull together and Panzanella Salad fits that bill. The most time consuming part of making this salad is crisping up the bread cubes. Of course, if you are really short on time you could use prepared toasted bread cubes or even croutons. In a pinch use whatever is quick. I like crisping up my own bread cubes because I like to use different types of bread when making this salad. Ciabatta, sour dough bread or even a french baguette are a few of my favorites. One day I want to try and use cornbread but I am afraid it may come out mushy. I will let you know once I figure it out.

I took a few liberties with my version of Panzanella Salad by adding vegetables not included in the traditional versions (there are many versions of the traditional salad in the universe). The straight forward version does not use peppers or meat. I wanted the salad to be colorful since we often eat with our eyes. My family and I are meat eaters. Plain and simple. We love veggies and can go a few days without eating meat but we always go back to eating fish, fowl, pork and sometimes beef. I offer no apologies to my vegetarian friends. Adding meat is optional.

Like I always say …. make this recipe your own. I did!

Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

2 – 3 cups cubed ciabatta, sour dough bread or french baguette

3 pearl tomatoes cut into wedges

3 slices prosciutto torn into pieces (optional)

1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 English cucumber

3 oz fresh mozzarella torn into pieces

3 oz fresh feta cubed

½ red pepper seeded and cut into chunks

½ yellow pepper seeded and cut into chunks

½ orange pepper seeded and cut into chunks

½ cup kalamata olives pitted

¼ cup red onion thinly sliced

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese (garnish)

4 tbsp olive oil

Dressing:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic minced

1tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp ground black pepper

pinch red pepper flakes

Place ingredients into a small jar and shake to blend. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and allow to crisp up but not toast. Shake and toss the bread cubes to make sure they do not burn. Let cool and set aside.

Cut cucumber in half and scoop out the center then cut the cucumber into chunks. Place vegetables in a large bowl. Add prosciutto, feta, mozzarella cheese pieces and bread cubes. Shake dressing then pour over salad and gently toss to combine all the ingredients. Set salad aside for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours so that the flavors blend together. Sprinkle with shaved parmesan cheese for garnish.

 

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Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta

Salmon is probably my favorite fish next to cod. Cod is my go to fish for frying because it is tender and flaky. Salmon tastes great when it is broiled or baked and dripping with butter and lemon. To compliment salmon I like to add a side dish of vegetables and pasta. On some occasions I like to combine everything into a single dish.

My Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta is one of those dishes that can be combined into a single dish. Beautiful curls of pasta topped with a tenderly broiled salmon fillet and a cascade of roasted tomatoes and fennel can only make your mouth water when you look at your plate of deliciousness. Okay, Seriously! This is a beautiful dish that tastes wonderful. The type of salmon used in the recipe will change the taste of the dish so use whatever your taste buds like. I am not a fan of sockeye salmon which has a deep reddish orange color and a strong flavor. I prefer Coho or Atlantic salmon which is lighter in color and has a much milder flavor than sockeye. No matter which type of salmon you choose you are sure to get a ton of Omega-3s.

Roasting tomatoes brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. Fennel is aromatic and has a sweet licorice flavor. Cooked fennel has a milder flavor than raw fennel so it goes well with the salmon and tomatoes without overpowering the dish.

So, if you are looking for a nice healthy flavorful dish to impress your family and friends try out my Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta. You cannot go wrong with this one.

Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta

Ingredients:

2 – 3 salmon fillets

6 -8 plum tomatoes cut into wedges

1 small bulb of fennel

1 shallot sliced

1 pkg campanelle pasta

¼ cup reserved pasta water

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

6 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp dill

paprika

Preheat 425 degrees.

Prepare pasta according to package reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

 

Place tomatoes, fennel and shallots on a rimmed cookies sheet. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss to coat veggies with olive oil and seasonings. Place in oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes.

Prepare salmon by placing on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt, black pepper and dill. Place 2 tbsp of butter on each fillet. Place in oven with tomatoes and fennel. Cook for 20 minutes. Set aside to rest while tomatoes and fennel finish cooking.

Remove tomatoes and fennel from the oven and pour pasta water over veggies. Spoon pasta onto a plate. Add a salmon fillet then spoon roasted tomatoes and fennel over the salmon. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese.

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Pepper Steak

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Today was a non-chicken day since we had just enjoyed a chicken pasta dish and I planned on making chicken again in a couple of days. Only certain folks can eat chicken almost every day but I am not one of them. I do like chicken just not every day. There are times when I think I might grow feathers if I eat one more chicken dish.

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Because it was a non-chicken day and I had run out of ideas I decided to flip through a food magazine to get help with what I could prepare for dinner. Half-way through the magazine I saw a beautiful picture of a Pepper Steak meal and Bingo I knew what we were having for dinner. I had a few red and green peppers that were getting soft and I always have onions on hand. I checked the freezer and I had a package of thinly sliced sirloin petite steaks. One pepper steak dinner coming up!

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Granted, I had not made Pepper Steak in many, many years. I couldn’t even find my original recipe so I had to look up a couple of recipes online. I more or less combined a few of the recipes I found and then added my own twist.

A few tips on how to make a good Pepper Steak.

  1. Be sure to buy thinly sliced steak. Trust me. If you use a thicker slice of steak, the meat will be tough and chewy.

  2. Marinate the steak to make the meat flavorful and tender.

  3. Use ginger in the marinade. The flavor is bold and pairs well with the beef.

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Pepper Steak may become one of my new favorite dishes besides pork chops. I surprised myself with how good this dish was on the first try. I think the next time I prepare the recipe I will add snow peas or pea pods to jazz it up even more. Then again, why mess with a good thing.

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Pepper Steak

Ingredients:

1pkg sirloin petite steak sliced thin. Cut into strips.

4 plum tomatoes cut into chunks

1 red onion cut into chunks

1 lg green pepper cut into chunks

1 lg red pepper cut into chunks

¼ cup beef or chicken stock

Marinade:

¼ cup soy sauce

4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp corn starch

½ tbsp Adobo (optional)

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

Mix marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Place steak in marinade and stir to coat meat. Set aside and let stand for 10 – 15 minutes. Reserve any marinade not absorbed by the meat.

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Brown meat in batches. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Once all of the meat is browned, pour off all but 1 tbsp of oil (if necessary, add a little oil). Add onions and peppers to the wok along with seasonings. Stir then cook for 1 – 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, steak, beef stock and any remaining marinade. Stir to mix. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 5 – 10minutes stirring occasionally. Serve over rice.

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White Bean Chicken Soup

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OMGoodness! It is COLD today so what better time to make a big pot of soup. That is exactly what I said to myself on the way to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few items for dinner. I might not have felt so chilled if I had cranked up the heat in the car but that still would not have warmed me on the inside. To make that happen I needed a nice bowl of homemade soup.

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My choice was either chicken noodle soup or a White Bean Chicken soup. I planned to have spaghetti the next day for dinner so chicken noodle soup was out and White Bean Chicken soup was in. Keep in mind I did not have a recipe for White Bean Chicken soup but not having an actual recipe has never stopped me from cooking. So, while strolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s I made up the recipe that would become “the soup”.

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Most soups are pretty easy to make. They are a one pot dish that only needs a little tender love and care and lots of seasoning. Because it was freezing outside I was in the mood for a healthy, hearty soup. I figured the white beans and chicken would make it hearty plus filling with lots of protein while the mirepoix and cabbage would make it healthy. Did I just hear someone say what the heck is mirepoix? Yes, I did. It was my hubby. He asked me this question while I was writing down the recipe when I got home. I was talking out loud to myself trying to remember how to spell mirepoix and hubby asked “What the heck is that?” When I told him it was diced carrots, onions and celery he said “Why don’t you just say that?” My response was I wanted to sound fancy like the chefs on TV. I know. It is always better to keep it simple.

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Simply put, White Bean Chicken Soup is comfort food. Whether it is freezing cold outside or you want a flavorful homemade meal in a bowl, this soup will do the trick.

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White Bean Chicken Soup

 Ingredients:

3 cans cannellini beans rinsed

1pkg sliced pepper chicken

1 container mirepoix (diced onions, celery and carrots)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups chopped cabbage

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp Adobo

1 tsp thyme

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp parsley

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp lemon pepper

Shred chicken and set aside. Mash ½ cup of white beans (this will help soup to thicken) and set aside with remaining beans.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add mirepoix and seasonings to the pot and stir. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 3 – 5 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and add white beans then stir. Reduce heat to medium. Mix a spoonful of broth into the measured heavy cream. Add the mixture to the pot. Stir and let simmer 3 minutes.

Place chicken in the pot and stir. Cook for 20 minutes then add chopped cabbage. Stir to mix in the cabbage. Simmer for an additional 20 minutes until cabbage is softened and cooked through. Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

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Ham Hash

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While my hubby and kids love all types of pasta I am a fan of potatoes. I love mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and of course fried potatoes. Since I am the only one that craves potatoes I don’t make them too often. But, when I do I want to make sure everyone will eat them.

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I figured out a while ago that in order to get my hubby to eat potatoes I needed to make them for breakfast. Why breakfast instead of dinner I still have not figured that one out yet. Hey, I don’t mind as long as I can eat potatoes.

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I first flirted with making a turkey hash but put that recipe aside because I did not have turkey at the time I decided to create a breakfast potato recipe. I did however have a package of diced ham I was going to use in a ham salad recipe. Preparing Ham Hash was a nice choice mostly because I had all the ingredients on hand. A lot of recipes are created based on what is in the pantry or refrigerator when chefs put on their creativity caps. At least, that is how quite a few of my recipes are pulled together. Using a little bit of this and that based on what you have to work with is a great way to create new tasty meals. I am never afraid to try something new and fortunately my family does not mind participating as my taste testers in my crazy kitchen laboratory.

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Creating a Ham Hash recipe was not a big stretch. This is a very simple recipe that is full of flavor. One of the best things about the recipe is that it is quick to fix. The potatoes and veggies do not take long to cook especially since I used packaged shredded potatoes (I do shred my own Yukon Gold potatoes when I have time).  Plus, the ham was already cooked.  So…. Viola! Quick and Easy.

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Ham Hash

Ingredients:

3 – 4 Yukon Gold potatoes shredded or 1 pkg shredded potatoes

2 scallions sliced (both white and green parts of scallion)

1 pkg diced ham

1 small onion diced

¼ cup green peppers diced

¼ cup red peppers diced

2 tbsp bacon fat

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp parsley

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat bacon fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced ham and stir to coat with fat. Cook until ham is slightly browned. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add potatoes and veggies to the skillet and sprinkle with seasonings. Stir to mix veggies with potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and allow potatoes to crisp up a little for 5 – 6 minutes then add ham back to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Stir to mix in ham with the potatoes. Cook an additional 8 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked through. Serve with eggs and biscuits.

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