The food holidays have ended - but left behind in my house are leftovers. I felt pleased that during our last Christmas celebration, we managed to use up leftovers from our first Christmas event.

I had frozen leftover pork and beef meat. Partial loaves of specialty bread "froze" on the deck in makeshift basket storage after being featured on Christmas Eve. When my kids came home for their Christmas on Jan. 3, we ground up the meat with potatoes and onions to create hash, along with cubing up the bread to make an egg bake entree.

The third was a day that seemed to work both for them and me. Spacing Christmas out a couple of weeks was actually very nice - but in reality was a function of having the holidays in the middle of the week.

We'd actually taken a couple of breaks - one weekend at the cabin and a New Year's Eve birthday party for my oldest son, Doron, at his home in northeastern Minneapolis. After staying overnight at their house, we came home on Jan. 1 and had an afternoon Christmas gathering for Dale's daughter and children.

Throughout our Christmases, I made a good effort to consume down the multitude of garden carrots, bagged up in our garage fridge. I used a wavy cutter to create carrot sticks for more than one meal and we consumed smaller carrots by roasting them for our Christmas dinner.

However, with the dipping temps, I had also fought a valiant fight to keep them from freezing. The cold penetrated the fridge and created ice crystals on the carrots. I brought the bags inside, rinsed the carrots in cold water and sorted through them to weed out any that had frozen to the point where they were becoming mushy when thawed out. Most were OK, but a few were not.

Now with the current icy temps, I again was bringing the bags inside and thawing once again. But this time I found room for them in my kitchen fridge. Many were big husky carrots that make wonderful carrot sticks. I cut up a bunch each week and put them in ice water in the fridge to be packed in lunches throughout the week.

Our final Christmas feast included a giant ham roast (thanks to my farmer son, Logan) and stuffed baked potatoes. Although there were a number of potatoes leftover, they are coveted leftovers and won't go to waste. They are wonderful heated up a third time (first time baked, second time re-baked for Christmas, third time in the microwave for 2 minutes). I froze the ham bone with a generous amount of ham left on it - to be consumed sometime later, perhaps as a split pea soup.

But there was a large container of sliced ham left. With the cold, so cold my work was even canceled one day, I decided I needed to find a comfort soup that would use up some leftover ham.

I found a creamy chowder that included carrots (surprise!), potatoes and celery. It also used up some of the shredded cheddar cheese I'd purchased to top the stuffed potatoes.

Although I love holiday food, sometimes I just want to eat something that's wholly healthy, like a crisp leafy salad. And good thing, I have leftover salad greens from another aspect of our Christmas meal, the first course served on our "Twelve Days of Christmas" plates.

As much as I love serving our traditional menu, I had second thoughts about it this year. I noticed the kids find few items they like of what is served. My dining table can no longer stretch any larger, so 15 around the table is quite a squeeze. And with only 12 days of Christmas, singing the song around the table before the meal, leaves some out - something I hadn't planned for and resulting in a fountain of tears from one.

Our layered green, white and red Jell-O "salad" created challenges for me in finding the ingredients. I had scouted out frozen red raspberries after discovering my usual shopping spots didn't carry them. And last minute, I found that the store I was depending on was totally out of sugar-free Jell-O. Then, when my husband stopped to find them for me, he discovered one flavor (lemon) was not available. I ended up using Knox and apple juice with the cream cheese for the "white" layer.

Preparing the meal is really, really lots of work. I did not do it all myself, but even with guests providing generous amounts of help, we still struggled to get it all ready on time. Thankfully, two adults left behind from the morning sledding trip, generously helped with preparing egg bake, scrubbing tiny carrots and scooping out the insides of baked potatoes (thanks, Molly). Cory was given plant watering duty, then he ground and ground plenteous amounts of hash and later carved the ham for me.

Although traditions are wonderful, I am ready to rethink this whole process to simplify and make sure there is food everyone likes.

One thing that ended up being very nice was having the additional guest room ready. Out-of-town guests arrived on Friday evening and stayed until Sunday morning. This meant I had lots of extra helpers and that we had time to relax together, without anyone having to rush out the door and head home.

After scouting online for a creamy ham soup recipe, I took two versions, added a few ingredients of my own and created a new recipe that I am sharing with you. I am hoping you will find, as I did, that it is truly a winter comfort food. One can use a ham steak, if leftover ham from a roast is unavailable.

The prep bowls I purchased last summer proved to be really handy in measuring the ingredients after they were chopped and waiting to be incorporated into the recipe. The two-cup flat-sided, on one side, bowls have measuring markers inside that helped me translate my recipe into quantities.

I also liked making this soup as it only takes about a half hour to prepare. A basic white sauce forms the creamy part of the soup. Although thick, it can be thinned by adding a bit of water or additional milk. And because I have fresh herbs growing inside my house, I used them in my recipe, but dried ones can be used instead.