Watch CBSN Live

Dinners To Make Ends Meet

Cooking dinner for a family of four each week can bleed a wallet dry.

To make ends meet, The Early Show invited Cook's Illustrated's founder and editor, Chris Kimball, to recommend some delicious frugal meals.

Kimball explains how you can cut corners and still feed a family of four very well for a week. No, you don't have to eat leftovers.

The growing sophistication of the national palate, even with kids, has truly made leftovers a thing of the past. These days, if something new isn't served for dinner every night, even the best mom or dad runs the risk of losing a captive audience. Yet coming up with five totally different, great-tasting meals can be a little expensive.

Kimball says one way to save is to think big.

From one large ham, Kimball created ham and asparagus quiche; ham and asparagus with mint-mustard vinaigrette; white bean casserole with ham; and hearty ham and split pea soup with potatoes.

Kimball recommends ham with a shank end, because the bone configuration makes it easier to carve. Look for the half ham with the tapered, pointed end.

The Recipes:

Hearty Ham and Split Pea Soup With Potatoes
Serves 4


1 piece (about 2 1/2 pounds) smoked, bone-in picnic ham
4 bay leaves
1 pound (2 1/2 cups) split peas, rinsed and picked through
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
2 medium celery stalks, chopped medium
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
Pinch sugar
3 small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into medium dice
Ground black pepper
Minced red onion (optional)
Balsamic vinegar


  1. Bring 3 quarts water, ham, and bay leaves to boil, covered, over medium-high heat in large soup kettle. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is tender and pulls away from bone, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove ham meat and bone from broth; add split peas and thyme and simmer until peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, when ham is cool enough to handle, shred meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard rind and bone.
  2. While ham is simmering, heat oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots and celery; saute, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low; add butter, garlic, and sugar. Cook vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30 to 35 minutes, set aside.
  3. Add sauteed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to soup; simmer until potatoes are tender and peas dissolve and thicken soup to the consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes more. Season with ground black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with red onion, if using, and serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.

White Bean Casserole With Ham
Serves 6

Note: Coarse homemade bread crumbs make the best topping for this casserole; store-bought bread crumbs are too fine and easily soak into the filling. Smoked ham lends nice flavor, but it is often very salty; if you use it, season the filling with care.


2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing baking dish
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced very fine
12 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
3 cans (15 ounces each) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
Salt and ground black pepper


  1. For topping, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix bread crumbs and butter together in baking dish; bake until light golden brown and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, transfer to bowl, and mix with Parmesan cheese; set aside.
  2. For filling, Butter 13 X 9-inch baking dish and set it aside. Heat butter and oil in heavy, 12-inch skillet over medium-high until foam subsides; add onion and saute until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and ham; saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in stock, tomatoes, beans, and thyme, season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer.
  3. Transfer mixture to baking dish and bake uncovered until bubbling around edges, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top and bake until bread crumbs are toasted and deep golden brown, about 8 minutes longer. Cook casserole 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

White Bean Casserole With Ham

Wash, stem, and shred 1 bunch kale (about 10 ounces) into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips. Follow Master Recipe, adding kale to skillet after onion has softened; saute' kale until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and ham and proceed as directed.

Ham and Asparagus Quiche
Serves 8


1 9-inch partially baked pie shell, warm
4 ounces baked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 asparagus cut on bias, 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 large eggs, plus 2 large yolks
3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Pinch grated nutmeg
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1/2 cup)


  1. Blanch 8 asparagus cut on the bias into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup) in 1 quart salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
  2. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk all remaining ingredients except cheese in medium bowl.
  4. Spread cheese, ham and asparagus evenly over bottom of warm pie shell and set shell on oven rack. Pour in custard mixture to 1/2-inch below crust rim. Bake until lightly golden brown and a knife blade inserted about one inch from the edge comes out clean, and center feels set but soft like gelatin, 32 to 35 minutes. Transfer quiche to rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Asparagus and Ham With Mustard-Mint Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as a side dish

2 medium scallions, white parts only, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, tough ends snapped off
1 2-ounce piece deli or other ham, about 1/4-inch thick


  1. Either light a medium fire in grill or pre-heat broiler. Whisk scallions, mint, mustard, lemon juice and oil, along with salt and pepper to taste, in medium bowl. Brush asparagus with about 2 tablespoons dressing to coat lightly.
  2. Either grill asparagus, turning halfway through cooking time, until tender and streaked with light grill marks, 5 to 7 minutes, or line up spears in single layer on heavy jellyroll or rimmed baking sheet and broil, placing sheet about 4 inches from top heating element and shaking it once halfway through cooking to rotate spears, until tender and browned in some spots, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Cool ham slightly and cut into thin strips; toss with asparagus and remaining dressing. Transfer to serving platter, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.