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!

Homemade Strawberry Milk

Growing up, I loved strawberry milk. As most kids loved chocolate milk, I leaned more on the strawberry milk. Heck, I even loved Franken Berry cereal, only to be done with the actual cereal and be left with the strawberry milk. Genius. So as our local farmer’s market has been selling these amazing strawberries, I decided to pick up a bunch of them and make something with them before my daughter ate all of them. Yes, that happened. When I bought my first quart of them, and went to the store to pick up a couple of ingredients, I returned only to find two of them left. I was flabbergasted. That being said, I made to secure the next bunch of freshly picked strawberries and asked if my daughter would like to help making some homemade strawberry milk, something she loved as well. Who knew?

Homemade Strawberry Milk Recipe
Homemade Strawberry Milk Recipe

If you love store bought strawberry milk, you are going to love this one. Simple, easy, and delicious, plus you know what’s going into it.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound strawberries, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 cup of regular sugar
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 4 cups of milk

Start by adding everything to a blender, and blend until everything is nice and smooth. You do not want any strawberry chunks in your milk. If you do, more power to you, but I know my kids would not want anything to do with that. If you feel like straining your milk, feel free, to remove any small chunks of strawberries, but I have been using a Ninja blender, and that thing does amazing things to blend.

Once blended, store in a pitcher, chill in the refrigerator, until nice and cold, then serve.

For one, there is nothing like simple ingredients that make something so delicious, and two it is great to show your kids how things are made. This strawberry milk was perfect, and we pretty much had it done within a couple of days as it was that good. If you are looking for something simple and delicious, give this one a try. It’s awesome. Hope you enjoy!

Lemon Curd Cake

My daughter has been a baking machine lately. Every chance she gets she asks if she can make some cupcakes. Cupcakes are her thing. As a matter of fact she is measuring sugar in front of me as I right, only to bake away an orange dream cupcake creation. On the contrary, I am not a baker by any means, probably because I am not that much into sweets. I do love ice cream, but not so much a fan of cakes, pies, and unfortunately, cupcakes. BUT, I do try my best to help her out and give whatever guidance I can outside of her cupcake journal. Yes, she keeps a journal of her recipes which I think is pretty awesome.  So recently I wanted to show my daughter that you can make other types of desserts that does not require heating the oven on a summer day. That’s when the lemon curd cake came into play.

Lemon Curd Cake Recipe
Lemon Curd Cake Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 heaping tbsp powdered sugar
  • 10 oz jar of lemon curd
  • 11 oz box of Nilla Wafers
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

The cool thing here, and a great teaching moment for my daughter, is making homemade whipped cream.

Start by chilling your mixing bowl, and whisk in your freezer. I think this always helps when making whipped cream. Chill those two for about 15 minutes, then remove and get ready to make your whipped cream.

I use my KitchenAid mixer, and once attached, pour in the heavy cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Mix on a medium-high speed until the heavy cream thickens and forms stiff peaks on your whisk. This should only take a matter of minutes. If you want a sweeter whipped cream, add more powdered sugar prior to mixing.

Once you have whipped cream, get a 12×8 baking dish out, something in that range, and get ready to make the lemon curd cake.

Lemon Curd Cake Ingredients
Lemon Curd Cake Ingredients

I say cake here, but it uses those delicious Nilla wafer cookies. Once set however, and placed in the refrigerator for a period of time, those Nillas soften up and make this great cake like texture.

So take a bit of your whipping cream (I made sure my daughter got every little bit left on that whisk), and from a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.

Next, make a layer of Nilla wafers, then another layer of whipped cream, then another layer of Nillas. Next, take the lemon curd, all of it, and gently spread over the layer of cookies. Once evenly spread, add the remaining Nillas, arranging with however many you have left, then spread out the remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle on the cinnamon powder.

Cover, and place into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream jive with the cookies.

Serve in bowls, or glassware and dig in. Talk about a simple dessert and one all of my family loved!  It’s slightly lemony and creamy which had my family coming back for more. Heck, I even had two servings and that’s saying something.  If you are looking for an easy dessert, one that is perfect for this time of year, then look no further as this lemon curd cake has it all!

Candied Ginger

Recently I visited a local grocery store in town called Cermak. I’ll state that I pretty much love this place, especially their produce section. You can pretty much get anything you want at this place as it is also an ethnic market. On this recent trip I ended up buying, among other things, a huge chunk of ginger. At that time I had no idea what I was going to make with it.  At first I thought I was going to make a ginger paste and use if for a bunch of Indian cooking I’ve been doing lately, but that’s when I decided to change gears and try to make a candied ginger. Good idea? Yes.

Candied Ginger Recipe
Candied Ginger Recipe

This stuff is not only way too easy to make, but it lends for a spicy, and sweet snack. I’ve minced it up and put it in sauces, marinades, and even smoothies. Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • About 3 cups of thinly sliced ginger, peeled
  • Water to cover
  • 1 generous pinch of salt
  • Reserved ginger water
  • 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • Wire rack

You get a couple of win wins on this recipe. Once you get to reserve the ginger water, which can be used in drinks, or smoothies, and you get the ginger simple syrup. What’s not to love about that!

Start by peeling your ginger. This is probably the only time intensive part. You can use the back of a spoon to accomplish this, or a pairing knife. I’ll let you decide. Once you have the ginger peeled, take a sharp knife, and slice the ginger into very thin slices. Try to be consistent on this process. I went with about a 1/4 inch.

Take the sliced ginger and place them into a pot, covering them with water. Add in a pinch of salt for good luck.

Bring this to a simmer, and cook to tenderize the ginger for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, or so, take out about 1/2 cup of the water and set it to the side. Strain the water (feel free to reserve it for later drinking or mixing into drinks), and return the sliced ginger back to the pot.

Add in 1 cup of the sugar and reserved 1/2 cup of water. Bring the pot to a medium-low heat and cook for about 45 minutes. This is where things will get interesting, allowing the sugar to dissolve and meld into the ginger. It’s fun to say the least.

Candied Ginger Ingredients
Candied Ginger Ingredients

Strain the ginger once again, and reserve that syrup for later use as well. It’s golden and delicious and is perfect to use in your summertime cocktails. Here is the next time intensive (not really) process. Lay out a baking sheet, placing a wire wrack over it. Take each slice of ginger and lay it on the rack to cool. This takes about 1 hour or so.

Take the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and place it into a mixing bowl. Take the slices of slightly cooled ginger and add them to the bowl, shaking, and coating the ginger along the way. You want full coverage here. Return the sugar coated ginger back onto the rack, and let them air dry overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Now you are ready to store. I store mine in a large mason jar that can be sealed, and placed into my spice cabinet. Feel free to eat them freely, or use them in sauces, baked goods, etc. They last for a few months, and that is always great when you are looking for that sweet heat from ginger. Hope you enjoy!

Candied Ginger
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • About 3 cups of thinly sliced ginger, peeled
  • Water to cover
  • 1 generous pinch of salt
  • Reserved ginger water
  • 1½ cups of granulated sugar
  • Wire rack
Instructions
  1. You get a couple of win wins on this recipe. Once you get to reserve the ginger water, which can be used in drinks, or smoothies, and you get the ginger simple syrup. What’s not to love about that!
  2. Start by peeling your ginger. This is probably the only time intensive part. You can use the back of a spoon to accomplish this, or a pairing knife. I’ll let you decide. Once you have the ginger peeled, take a sharp knife, and slice the ginger into very thin slices. Try to be consistent on this process. I went with about a ¼ inch.
  3. Take the sliced ginger and place them into a pot, covering them with water. Add in a pinch of salt for good luck.
  4. Bring this to a simmer, and cook to tenderize the ginger for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, or so, take out about ½ cup of the water and set it to the side. Strain the water (feel free to reserve it for later drinking or mixing into drinks), and return the sliced ginger back to the pot.
  5. Add in 1 cup of the sugar and reserved ½ cup of water. Bring the pot to a medium-low heat and cook for about 45 minutes. This is where things will get interesting, allowing the sugar to dissolve and meld into the ginger. It’s fun to say the least.
  6. Strain the ginger once again, and reserve that syrup for later use as well. It’s golden and delicious and is perfect to use in your summertime cocktails. Here is the next time intensive (not really) process. Lay out a baking sheet, placing a wire wrack over it. Take each slice of ginger and lay it on the rack to cool. This takes about 1 hour or so.
  7. Take the remaining ½ cup of sugar and place it into a mixing bowl. Take the slices of slightly cooled ginger and add them to the bowl, shaking, and coating the ginger along the way. You want full coverage here. Return the sugar coated ginger back onto the rack, and let them air dry overnight, or at least 4 hours. Shake off any excess sugar before storing.
  8. Now you are ready to store. I store mine in a large mason jar that can be sealed, and placed into my spice cabinet. Feel free to eat them freely, or use them in sauces, baked goods, etc.