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Ham Days memories and ham recipes

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By Susan Lowery

I’ve been thinking about Ham Days, and there are so many fond memories from days gone by. The first year that my husband, Steve Lowery, worked at The Lebanon Enterprise, 1979, I couldn’t go to the parade or anything else during Ham Days. Our twins, Rachel and Stevie, had only just come home from the hospital after their premature birth, and I was, to put it mildly, busy.
The next year, 1980, our great babysitters from Sallie Ray Pike, cousins Debra and Trena Lee, wanted to push R and S in their double stroller during the “twins” section of the parade. (I don’t think they do that anymore, but they should. It was great.  There were twins of all ages.) I was skeptical, but I said okay. It worked out alright at first, but about halfway through the parade, R and S decided they’d had enough of it, and started crying. I was “crouch-running” along the edge of the parade so they could see me, but it didn’t help much. (I can’t “crouch-run” anymore.)
Boho the Clown was a fixture at Ham Days for many years. R and S really liked him. They never had the fear of clowns that I know a lot of people do. He would tease Stevie, and tell her she was a boy because of her name. Steve took a good picture of her arguing with Boho, and pointing to her t-shirt, which said “GIRL.”
One year in the early 80’s, the forecast was for rain during the parade, but like hundreds of other parade fans, we got our raincoats and umbrellas and decided to weather the storm. They said it might hold off till after the parade, but it didn’t. I have another picture of R and S in their red rain hoodies, looking very much like twin drowned rats, with Boho in the background.
Several times in the years to come, we would watch the parade from the second floor of Borders’ Store, with JoAnne Bramel and her sons, Zach and Gordon.
A couple years I walked in the parade in a dog costume, representing the Marion County Humane Society. Our county animal shelter was in its infancy then, and I appeared quite a few places in that costume. Chris Goode made it, and I still have it. One year R and S joined me as the Pink Panther and Big Bird. Back then, a lot of people would call me and ask for “the dog lady.” It still happens once in awhile.
In 1986, there was a train ride on a REAL train, the one that took Al Capone to prison. (Read about it in the Cornbread Mafia, by Jim Higdon.) Bob Hill of the Courier-Journal went on that ride with R and S and me. My husband, Steve, rode his motorbike ahead of the train out to St. Francis, climbed a hill across from the church, and took a locally-famous photo of the train and the St. Francis Catholic Church. Many readers of this newspaper probably have a copy of that picture in their homes.
OK, enough of the memories from the old days. I could go on, but I won’t.
You already knew I would have ham recipes, didn’t you? Here are some that are easy and good; the first two use crescent roll dough, and the next two are Ham-Cheese Bread and Ham-Potato Chowder. Like I said, easy and good.  

Ham-Pineapple Empanadas
1 large egg, beaten
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
¼ c. soft breadcrumbs
2 green onions, sliced
1 ½ c. ham, ground or minced
½ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
3 (8oz) cans refrigerated crescent rolls

Combine first six ingredients in large bowl; set aside.  Separate each package of rolls into four rectangles, pressing perforations to seal.  Roll each rectangle into an 8x4 Inch rectangle and cut crosswise into thirds.  Place about 1 tablespoon ham mixture in center of each third of dough.  Fold dough over, pressing  edges to seal and crimp with fork.  Place on lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Makes three dozen.

Ham and Cheese Pie
1 (8oz) pkg. crescent rolls
1 ½ c. finely chopped ham
1 (8oz) pkg. Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
2 T. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 T. minced onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Unroll crescent rolls, and separate into eight triangles.  Fit 5 triangles into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing edges together to seal.  Combine ham, cheeses, onion and eggs and pour into pieplate.  Cut remaining three triangles into thin strips and arrange on top.  Bake at 325 degrees, on lower oven rack, for 50-60 minutes.   Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.

Ham-Cheese French Bread Loaf
2 (16oz) loaves French or Italian bread
1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (8oz) carton sour cream
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 c. chopped ham
1/3 c. chopped green onions
1/3 c. chopped green pepper
¼ t. Worcestershire sauce
Paprika

Slice off top fourth of one loaf of bread.  Hollow out bottom section, leaving a 1 ½ inch shell.  Cut the bread top, inside pieces, and second bread loaf into 1-inch cubes.  Put bread shell and cubes on a large baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Beat cream cheese till smooth; add sour cream.  Stir in cheddar cheese and next four ingredients.  Spoon into bread shell; wrap in aluminum foil, and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Unwrap and sprinkle with paprika.  Serve with bread cubes.  Serves 6-8.

Ham-Potato Chowder
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 c. half and half
2 c. chicken broth
3 ½ c. mashed potatoes (can use frozen)
2 c. cubed cooked ham
1 t. thyme
¼ t. black pepper
2 T. fresh parsley
2 t. fresh dill, chopped

Cook bacon; drain and set aside.  In drippings, sauté onion till tender.  Stir in half and half and remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Crumble bacon and sprinkle on top.  Makes 7 cups.