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?

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