Thursday, June 14, 2012

Baked Ham Macaroni and Cheese

Let's go back to my other post. The one where I was talking about those delicious microwavable macaroni and cheese things. You know, these things. The things that save me as a college student. If you have a microwave, you have dinner. If it's 2AM and you're studying and your stomach is growling (and the caf is closed), you have late night dinner. Forget the calories! Forget that fact that you're microwaving a plastic cup and eating out of it (just kidding, that's something that pains me to think about...). But anyways, they save my life and keep my belly full.

But, if I had an oven... that's another story. I would be making this.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Ham.

Can I just say that I love the the pre-packaged cubed ham with water added? Its one of those things I buy every time I'm at the store. But I promise, I really will grow (ahem, a pair) and buy real ham one day. The deli counter scares me, I'm sorry.

Now my inspiration comes from Dashing Dish. She is just adorable. If you haven't become a member of hers, you need to. And watch her video! You will fall absolutely in love with her.

Her recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese I followed basically to a T. Except I added ham. (I promised my dad some meat this time around..)

And when you read the recipe, don't be scared by the first ingredient being cauliflower! Katie has an amazing way of incorporating a much-needed veggie without you even tasting it!

Baked Ham Macaroni & Cheese

Adapted from Dashing Dish (recipe)

- 2 cups of cauliflower florets
- 1 cup elbow macaroni noodles
- 8oz./1 package cubed ham, chopped smaller
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- a pinch of sugar
- 3/4 cup (more or less) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons (more or less) Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup (more or less) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup cottage cheese
- 1 tablespoon (more or less) Parmesan cheese, grated (for toppings)
- 2 tablespoons Italian breadcrumbs (for toppings)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Prepare four small individual baking dishes, or one medium baking dish, by spraying them/it with nonstick cooking spray. If you choose four individual dishes, put them on a cookie sheet to easily get them in and out of the oven
2. Begin to boil a pot of water. Salt the water, if desired.
3. While you are waiting for the water to be boiled, chop your cauliflower or chop your ham into smaller cubes, if desired

4. Once the water is boiling, cook the cauliflower on medium high until soft

5. Drain cauliflower, while saving the water. Use the same water to cook the pasta. Cook according to directions on package, or until tender

6. Drain the pasta (now you can get rid of the water, but save the pot!). Set the cooked pasta aside.

7. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, mustard powder, garlic powder, and the pinch of sugar

8. In the same pot that you saved above, pour the egg mixture in. Put the heat on medium-low, and add the 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese along with the 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

9. Stir constantly, for about 5-6 minutes, until the cheeses are completely melted and the sauce has thickened
10. Remove the pot from the stove, and put the cheese/egg sauce mixture into a food processor along with the 2 cups of cauliflower florets
11. Puree until smooth
12. Add the sauce to the pasta, and stir until well incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste
13. Add the cubed ham, and stir until well incorporated
14. Stir in the extra 1/4 sharp cheddar cheese, but don't let it melt all the way
15. Scoop into serving dish(es)
16. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and extra tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on the top of the macaroni
17. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the toppings are golden brown

You really can't even taste the cauliflower! And it adds such a rich texture to the sauce. I'm going to try this again, but add more spices this time. And I'm going to chop the ham much smaller. I was in a hurry, I must admit. And my pet peeve is running into huge pieces of meat in my smooth meal! Otherwise, this was absolutely delicious.

And it has to beat those darn microwave cups, right?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Three Cheese Tomato and Onion Pizza

I hope everyone spent their Memorial Day outside in the (hopefully) beautiful weather with great friends and great family. I know I got a little browner (safely, I might add). SPF 50 all the way! Pale people rule.

For today, pretend you are a college student. Or, pretend you are back at college. In your dorm. It's a Friday. You just got back from a night on the town (presuming you went to a very large college, like I do). You don't have an oven. All you have is a microwave and those microwavable macaroni things. (Yum, but not after having them 5287341 days in a row.) All order-for-delivery places are open until 4AM. What do you order?

A nice Hungry Howie's cheese personal pizza with butter garlic crust. And its cheaper after 8PM. (Oh, college town deals..)

But regardless, this pizza is better than anything you can order. I call it "classy pizza."

The inspiration for this "classy pizza" comes from Pam at For the Love of Cooking. I love the inspiration she gives me for all of her recipes! Great tasting while still trying to be conservative and healthy.

And this would have been perfect for anyone's Memorial Day! It was very hassle-free and easy for me to whip up!

Three Cheese Tomato and Onion Pizza

- Cornmeal
- Pizza dough (you can make your own or use store-bought!)
- Pizza sauce
- Shredded Mozzarella cheese, to taste
- Shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste
- 1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Grape tomatoes, cut in half
- Red onion chunks/slices
- Fresh or dried basil
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425°F
2. Sprinkle cornmeal generously on a pizza stone. Heat the pizza stone before spreading the dough if that's what you like to do

3. Spread dough evenly onto the hot or cold pizza stone
4. Spoon the pizza sauce onto the dough. Put as much or as little as you like
5. Sprinkle as much or as little Mozzarella cheese as you like on your pizza
6. Sprinkle as much or as little Parmesan cheese as you like on your pizza (I put just slightly less than the Mozzarella)
7. Mix the minced garlic with the ricotta cheese, and top the cheeses with little dollops of ricotta cheese
8. Put as much or as little grape tomatoes and red onion chunks/slices as you wish to eat on your pizza

9. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste
10. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until the crust is brown and the cheese is melty and bubbling

11. Add fresh/dried basil, slice immediately after, and serve!

Hey, not too bad for my first pizza crust ;)

This is a recipe that I don't even want to add to or change. All I want to do is make it again!

"Classy pizza." Now that's something you can't order in!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Balsamic Cucumber Salad

I am always looking for new vegetable recipes. I'm not talking broccoli or tomato pasta, or a chicken dish with vegetables. I'm talking about small "side dishes" that are good, wholesome, tasty ways of eating more veggies. If I'm just serving pasta, I go "...something's not right here" and I look for a small veggie side dish that's more than just chopping the vegetable and saying "here it is!" My mom did that when I was little. Not cool. Raw carrots are not fun. (But they will be in a few days, when I make some homemade ranch dressing...)

Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen came to me in my time of need. I pinned her recipe a few weeks ago, and I couldn't wait for the perfect opportunity to try it. Tonight was that night. Mmmmmmm. I have no words.

My beautiful cucumbers. They had no idea what was coming at them. Er, going to be put on them.

Balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, some garlic, sugar, and mayonnaise.. Yum.

Balsamic Cucumber Salad

Adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen (recipe)

- 2 medium cucumbers
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I had baaarely 3, but it still turned out fine)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon garlic puree (I minced 2 cloves really teeny)
- Sea salt and black pepper

1. Chop the cucumbers into small pieces - shape, size, and thickness is up to you!
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and garlic puree
3. Put the cucumbers in the serving bowl of your choice. Drizzle dressing over the cucumbers, and stir until evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper
4. Serve immediately, or chill for an hour before serving

Picture my family, looking at me, thinking "why on earth is she taking a picture, can't I just dig in already?"

Yeah, my life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Breaded Parmesan-Spice Baked Perch

Yesterday and today were not fun.

Somehow my computer came down with a virus, and I spent all day yesterday and today trying to get rid of it. For the most part, I think it is gone. Although I am extreeeemely lucky that I didn't get one of those nasty viruses that completely wipe computers. So, I'm grateful. :)

Therefore, this post was supposed to be up last night. I was really excited for it too! But, things happen, so it's going up right now.

My boyfriend went on a fishing weekend with his friends this past weekend. He told me to expect some walleye, but he came back with some beautiful perch. That I, naturally, cooked for him. As he lovingly warned me not to "ruin his fish." Never! (He obviously forgot who he was talking to ;) ).

I sprinkled breading over the perch and baked it. Absolutely delicious.

I started out with everything I wanted the breading to have in it, basically. So happy I had bought the Italian breadcrumbs earlier for those delicious Zucchini Fries, and I couldn't wait to use them again! My boyfriend was excited I pulled the cayenne pepper out because he wanted a little kick to the breading.

Breaded Parmesan-Spice Baked Perch

- 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne red pepper (can always be omitted or replaced)
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 pound of perch (I had just shy of a pound)
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 420°F
2. Grease or place parchment paper on a baking pan

3. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil
4. In a very small bowl, melt the tablespoon of butter or margarine
5. Brush each fish fillet with butter, then immediately sprinkle or dip the fillet into the dry bread crumb mixture

6. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork

A perfect date night, eating baked fish by candlelight.

(And let me tell you, I had two pieces, but boyfriend had every. single. other. piece). He loved it!

I'm very sensitive to spice, but this was soo good. I can't wait for him to go fishing again, or for me to try this with another kind of fish!

Have a great rest of your Tuesday night, and I wish you a virus-free year!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Today was excessively hot. I don't know if it's because I'm not used to summer weather, or if it really was that hot. I've been suffocating all day. Not that I'm complaining! I hate winter, and I'd much rather it be this hot than snowing. But I definitely don't know what I'd do if I lived somewhere that was this warm year-round!

Oh and when I say today was excessively hot, I mean it still is. There was absolutely no way I was going to slave over a stove (okay, not slave, I enjoy it haha) for a few hours. Looks like its leftover night!

But I did make something delicious, cold, and refreshing. A smoothie!

First, I gathered my ingredients.

I chopped up two delicious ripe bananas.

1/4 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of ice cubes, and 1 cup milk...

Added everything but the ice, blended until smooth...

Added the ice cubes, and blended until smooth.


Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Makes two large smoothies or three small smoothies

- 1 cup milk
- 2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup ice cubes

1. Peel and slice the bananas
2. Add the milk, bananas, and peanut butter to a blender and blend until smooth
3. Add the ice cubes, and blend until smooth
4. Serve immediately in tall glasses

If this is a sign of the delightful smoothies to come, I can't wait for the rest of this hot summer!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Baked Zucchini Fries

I had an extremely productive Saturday. I scored on some sundresses that only need a few alterations (yay summer and yay deals!), ran all around town getting my best friend prepared for prom (sad, I want to go to prom again!), and tricked my dad.

I just love tricking my dad. I told him I was making fries tonight. But, I didn't tell him what kind of fries! (insert evil laugh here)

I made zucchini fries! These are really good. I may or may not have licked my plate (don't judge). And the inspiration came from Delighted Momma! She's great. Her recipe is (here). And I agree with her about her problem with french fries. There's nothing I want more after a long day of shopping than a Small Fry from McDonald's. But I know I must resist.

So instead, I'll be coming home and making these! They're so delicious and so quick. And my dad loved them (that's when you know they're good)!

Baked Zucchini Fries

Adapted from Delighted Momma (recipe)

- 2 large zucchinis
- 1 egg white
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 420°F
2. Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable nonstick cooking spray
3. Chop the two zucchinis into little "fries." Shape, size, and thickness is up to how you like your fries!
4. In a small bowl, mix together the egg white and the milk
5. In another small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese and the breadcrumbs
6. Dip each zucchini "fry" into the egg white and milk mix, then dip it into the cheese and breadcrumb mix until it is fully covered
7. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve hot with your choice of dips

After 20 minutes, they were perfectly crisp and ready to be devoured! They are good with any range of dips, but they are good on their own too! The Italian breadcrumbs give just enough flavor.

The only problem I ran into was I didn't grate my Parmesan cheese small enough! It didn't want to stick to my zucchini fries and I had to sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the fries once they were on my baking sheet.

I guess that means I'll have to make these again (; and I am oh-so-okay with that! And I will be trying these with sweet potatoes very soon!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Technically, I have two "mothers." I've been dating my boyfriend for a very long time, and I'm very close with his family. I wasn't with his mom on mother's day (I couldn't serve her breakfast in bed too), and her birthday is conveniently close to mother's day! So I baked her some cookies.

And we have a lot of those cookies now. I found this recipe and couldn't contain my excitement. It would make enough for Mrs. P and enough for my family to munch on. And they certainly are yummy! (And gooey, and crunchy..). Is that possible? I don't know, but that's how I would describe them. :)

I always seem to have a problem with making small cookies. I call it spoon heavy. When my spoon goes into a nice bowl of batter to grab enough for a cookie, I grab a huge spoonful, almost as if I'm eating it straight out of the bowl! So my cookies are much larger than they are supposed to be. I ended up with only about 4 dozen. I would recommend cutting this recipe in half. Although they are extremely good, it's a lot of cookies...

Double Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup of margarine, softened
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups quick-cooking oats (I used regular oats and put them in the food processor for a few seconds)
- 6oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. In a large bowl, mix sugar, softened margarine, egg, water, and vanilla until well incorporated
3. Then, stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, oats, and chocolate chips
4. On a greased cookie sheet, put rounded teaspoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart
5. Bake until you can touch the cookie and see almost no indentation, about 10 to 12 minutes (my cookies, since they were larger, took about 16 minutes)
6. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and serve warm and gooey

I will be making these again soon. And adding more chocolate chips! And probably cutting it in half. If I keep baking sweet treats.. Looks like I'll need to go to the gym. But for now, I'll just go get another one ;)