Ham and Peas Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese has got to be a top ten comfort food. I’ve made all sorts of different kinds of mac and cheese in my lifetime, and granted that it is summer time here in Wisconsin that did not stop me from making another delicious batch of mac and cheese. This time it was ham and peas mac and cheese. Ham and peas are a perfect match, and as I was digging through my freezer to purge things that I have stored for the past couple of months, I decided it was the ham that was going to get purged. This ham and peas mac and cheese is not only a great pairing, but it ended up being one great one pot meal.

Ham and Peas Mac and Cheese Recipe
Ham and Peas Mac and Cheese Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cups of cooked ham, chopped
  • 1 cup of onion, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco, optional
  • 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 slices of American cheese, optional
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 lb penne pasta, cooked until al dente

Start by adding the canola oil to a large pot, and cook on medium heat for a minute or so. Toss in the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, Tabasco, and cooked ham. Cook until the ham gets a bit crisp, and the onions cook through, about 7 minutes.

During that time, cook your pasta.

In a sauce pot, add the butter, and let it get melted on medium heat. Once melted, add the flour, and using a whisk or wooden spoon, cook the flour for a few minutes. Once the flour is a bit golden in color, this is when you want to add in your milk, continuing to stir, mixing in the roux and thickening it. Once the sauce thickens, add in the cheeses and let that melt, making the cheese sauce.

ham-peas-mac-cheese-ingredients

Drain the pasta, and add it to your ham mixture. Add in the cheese sauce, along with the frozen peas, and give it a great stir. Once everything is nicely incorporated, cover, and place into a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Remove and serve. The end result is nothing but pure comfort, and yes I did crumble goldfish on mine. That’s the type of mood I was in that day, and boy were they ever delicious.  Hope you enjoy!

Cheesy Corn Casserole

Summer is almost over <sigh>, but with that said, there has been some really, and I mean really good corn this year. We have tried a variety, but there is one batch that my coworker brought in from Fondy’s Farmers Market that was probably hands down the best corn I’ve had in quite some time. The texture was spot on and the sweetness just blew our mind, plus they were some of the larger types of corn I have seen in some time now. With that said, my coworker brought in two large paper bags of corn, loaded to the top and said take what you want. I probably took about 12 or so ears of corn, and this recipe was inspired not only by the corn, but a conversation my colleague and I had about a cheesy corn casserole. His idea sounded so good I was going to go out on a limb and try coming up with my own version.

Cheesy Corn Casserole Recipe
Cheesy Corn Casserole Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 lb thick cut ham, cubed
  • 2 whole banana peppers, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted, mashed
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs

Start by heading a medium sized pot on medium heat. Add in the butter and let it melt until it comes to a bubble. Next, toss in the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon so that all of the butter soaks up the flour. Continue to stir for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour. Don’t let it get too dark, just a light golden, if any color at all. Now add in the milk and continue to stir. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens. This is your standard bechamel sauce.  Once the sauce thickens, add in the cream cheese and cheddar cheese, as well as the garlic salt. Lower the heat, and stir until all the cheese is melted, and you have a smooth consistency.

Cheesy Corn Casserole Ingredients
Cheesy Corn Casserole Ingredients

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To a large mixing bowl, add in the corn, the cubed ham, black pepper, banana peppers, roasted garlic, and tomato. Mix to combine everything. Next, pour in the cheese sauce, and continue to stir until everything is nice and coated.

Add the mixture to your casserole dish, top with the bread crumbs. Place into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, uncovered. The top should be nice and golden brown, and the casserole itself should be a bit bubbly. Carefully remove, and get ready to dig in.

The end result is nothing short of fantastic. You get the sweetness and the pop from the corn, the cheese blend (don’t get me started on how good that is), and the savoriness from the ham. Did I mention the garlic? Good Lord this stuff is great and is perfect for your backyard gathering, plus this one feeds a small army. Comfort all around, even in the summer. Hope you enjoy and hoping everyone has a great rest of your summer!

Cheesy Corn Casserole
Author: 
Recipe type: Casserole
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 lb thick cut ham, cubed
  • 2 whole banana peppers, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted, mashed
  • ½ tbsp garlic salt
  • 1½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Start by heading a medium sized pot on medium heat. Add in the butter and let it melt until it comes to a bubble. Next, toss in the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon so that all of the butter soaks up the flour. Continue to stir for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour. Don’t let it get too dark, just a light golden, if any color at all. Now add in the milk and continue to stir. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens. This is your standard bechamel sauce. Once the sauce thickens, add in the cream cheese and cheddar cheese, as well as the garlic salt. Lower the heat, and stir until all the cheese is melted, and you have a smooth consistency.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. To a large mixing bowl, add in the corn, the cubed ham, black pepper, banana peppers, roasted garlic, and tomato. Mix to combine everything. Next, pour in the cheese sauce, and continue to stir until everything is nice and coated.
  4. Add the mixture to your casserole dish, top with the bread crumbs. Place into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, uncovered. The top should be nice and golden brown, and the casserole itself should be a bit bubbly. Carefully remove, and get ready to dig in.

 

Taco Pie

This past fourth of July, we decided to break from our normal routine of staying put in our neighborhood, and instead decided to go to our sister-in-law’s house for the weekend. It was fun to say the least. We were able to go fishing along the Rock river, as well as just spend good old time with family. Granted we did not catch many fish, but my kids were able to spend some good quality time with their cousins, and they loved every second of it! With that said, my cooking responsibilities were set aside as well. My sister-in-law did not even let me help. WITH ANYTHING. I will be honest, it actually felt pretty good not to cook for a bunch of people. Regardless, there was one dish she threw together that was so simple, and one where everyone devoured. It was a taco pie.

Taco Pie Recipe
Taco Pie

This taco pie is everything you could probably love about tacos, but done in a pie kind of form. In my case, I decided to use pre-baked puff pastry sheets as my top and bottom crust. Did my family love it? Heck yes, and it was so, so good.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, cooked according to directions
  • 1 1/2 lb ground chuck, cooked and fat removed
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 1 whole jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds removed if you do not want it spicy)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup of cooked corn kernels
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa (I used a blend)
  • 3 cups colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Doritos, crumbled
  • black olives, optional
  • sour cream, optional
  • shredded lettuce, optional
  • additional jalapenos, optional
  • lime wedges, optional
  • hot sauce, optional

Start by heating a large skillet on medium-high heat. Once heated, add in your ground chuck, and cook until browned. Strain and discard the fat.

Return the ground chuck back to the heat, and toss in the onions, corn, jalapenos, salsa, and seasonings. Stir and cook until the vegetables have softened. Once softened, remove them from the heat, and prepare your taco pie.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To a baking dish, one large enough to fit one of the pre-cooked puff pastry sheets, place the puff pastry sheet on the bottom.

Ingredients for making a Taco Pie

Top with some of the cheese, then layer on the meat mixture, then layer on the rest of the cheese, and then the crumbled Doritos. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melted. Once melted, remove and top with the remaining puff pastry sheet, and then back in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the top puff pastry is warmed through.

Now you are ready to dig in. I let the pie rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into squares, but you do what you want.

Once sliced, place onto your plate, and add sour cream, olives, hot sauce, lettuce, and limes. Or don’t. It’s your call.

The ultimate is the taco pie. It’s a bit sweet from that awesome puff pastry, and then an explosion of flavor from everything you love about a spiced taco meat mixture. You could do this with chicken or pork if you want, but the classic ground beef mixture hit a homerun with my kids. Did I mention my oldest even ate it, and loved it? To me, that’s a win, win, and I’m thankful my sister-in-law turned me on to something so easy, yet so comforting to make. Hope you enjoy!

Taco Pie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, cooked according to directions
  • 1½ lb ground chuck, cooked and fat removed
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 1 whole jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds removed if you do not want it spicy)
  • ½ tbsp salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup of cooked corn kernels
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa (I used a blend)
  • 3 cups colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Doritos, crumbled
  • black olives, optional
  • sour cream, optional
  • shredded lettuce, optional
  • additional jalapenos, optional
  • lime wedges, optional
  • hot sauce, optional
Instructions
  1. Start by heating a large skillet on medium-high heat. Once heated, add in your ground chuck, and cook until browned. Strain and discard the fat.
  2. Return the ground chuck back to the heat, and toss in the onions, corn, jalapenos, salsa, and seasonings. Stir and cook until the vegetables have softened. Once softened, remove them from the heat, and prepare your taco pie.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. To a baking dish, one large enough to fit one of the pre-cooked puff pastry sheets, place the puff pastry sheet on the bottom.
  5. Top with some of the cheese, then layer on the meat mixture, then layer on the rest of the cheese, and then the crumbled Doritos. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and melted. Once melted, remove and top with the remaining puff pastry sheet, and then back in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the top puff pastry is warmed through.
  6. Now you are ready to dig in. I let the pie rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into squares, but you do what you want.
  7. Once sliced, place onto your plate, and add sour cream, olives, hot sauce, lettuce, and limes. Or don’t. It’s your call.

 

Cream Cheese Lasagna

Are you the type of home cook that plans your meals ahead of time, or one that cooks on the fly? I lean more on cook on the fly type, but we do make an attempt, at least talk about it, to think ahead of what we want to eat throughout the week. My wife had suggested that she make a pan of lasagna and freeze it to be had later in the week, and well, I had nothing as again, I’m more on the fly as to what my mood is. With that said, while she was out running errands, I decided to make the lasagna for her, you know, because I’m that type of guy. I had everything in stock with the exception of one ingredient, and I was not about to head to the store. This is when the cream cheese came into play.

Cream Cheese Lasagna

We are typically a ricotta cheese mixture type of family when it comes to making the cheese sauce mixture for lasagna, however I have taken spins on different lasagnas such as this Italian Beef Lasagna with Giardiniera, as well as a Lasagna Carbonara, both of which were awesome, so I was anxious to see how the cream cheese would turn out.

I grabbed my helper, who loves lasagna, and showed him how to make this recipe as well. Trust me, I am not looking back to ricotta ever again.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 12 sheets of lasagna, cooked under al dente
  • 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Start by adding the sausage and beef to a pot, and cook it all the way through. Strain any fat, and return back to the stove. Add in your marinara, and give it a good stir. Season with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and some salt and pepper. Stir again.

Next, make your cheese sauce. To a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, and 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried parsley. Give this a good mix until you have a smooth cheese sauce and everything is nicely incorporated.

How to make cream cheese lasagna

OK, get your lasagna pan out. You know you have one. Take a ladle of the marinara and meat sauce, and get a nice thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Add 3 sheets of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bottom. Top with some of the cheese mixture, into a nice even layer. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella cheese over the top, then more of the meat sauce. You want nice, even layers, reserving enough of both meat and cheese sauce for more layers.

Top with 3 more sheets of pasta, more cheese sauce, a bit more mozzarella, then more meat sauce. Repeat again, making sure the top layer gets the remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese, and take a look at that thing of beauty.

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that, spray side down, onto the top of the pan of lasagna. I find this helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden, and some of the edges are a bit crispy.

Let this cool down a bit as it will be piping hot, then slice and serve.

The end result is a really, really good lasagna. I was always a fan of the standard ricotta cheese sauce, but this cream cheese just added this ever slight tang that I fell in love. Again, I will never turn back to the classic, it was that good.

Cream Cheese Lasagna
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 12 sheets of lasagna, cooked under al dente
  • ½ lb ground chuck
  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the sausage and beef to a pot, and cook it all the way through. Strain any fat, and return back to the stove. Add in your marinara, and give it a good stir. Season with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and some salt and pepper. Stir again.
  2. Next, make your cheese sauce. To a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, and ¾ cup of parmesan cheese. Season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried parsley. Give this a good mix until you have a smooth cheese sauce and everything is nicely incorporated.
  3. OK, get your lasagna pan out. You know you have one. Take a ladle of the marinara and meat sauce, and get a nice thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Add 3 sheets of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bottom. Top with some of the cheese mixture, into a nice even layer. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella cheese over the top, then more of the meat sauce. You want nice, even layers, reserving enough of both meat and cheese sauce for more layers.
  4. Top with 3 more sheets of pasta, more cheese sauce, a bit more mozzarella, then more meat sauce. Repeat again, making sure the top layer gets the remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese, and take a look at that thing of beauty.
  5. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that, spray side down, onto the top of the pan of lasagna. I find this helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden, and some of the edges are a bit crispy.
  7. Let this cool down a bit as it will be piping hot, then slice and serve.
  8. The end result is a really, really good lasagna. I was always a fan of the standard ricotta cheese sauce, but this cream cheese just added this ever slight tang that I fell in love. Again, I will never turn back to the classic, it was that good.