Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole

I believe, and I only say ‘believe’ because I am somewhat uncertain, that casserole is or has neared the end in our beautiful state of Wisconsin. Just like the seasons, it is one of the things I think we all love. You know when you start new recipes based entirely on the weather. As it was cold and rainy a few weeks back, I decided to once again review the contents of the freezer, cupboards, and pantry, and come up with something for dinner. I’m so glad I did, and as surprised as I was (and probably should not have been) this entire casserole was devoured by just three of us. Please don’t judge us on a rainy, cold day. 

This casserole is definitely not pretty, but my oh my is it ever comforting and delicious.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe
Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe

Told you it’s not pretty.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 cups of Ore-Ida frozen hash browns
  • 3 cups of cooked, diced ham
  • 2 cups of Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup of fine bread crumbs, optional

Start by heating a large skillet on medium heat. Add in the canola oil, and once heated through, add in the hashbrowns, and gently push down, as well as push in the edges a bit to form a nice potato patty.

Let these cook somewhat low and slow. The goal is to get them nice and crispy on the outside while keeping them nice and tender on the inside. Granted these will be mixed and baked but the texture is nice at the end.

During this time, let’s make the cheese sauce, or mornay sauce if you will. It’s your standard bechamel in a way but with cheese added.

To a sauce pan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the flour, and cook out the flour on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Stir until it forms a bit of a paste, yet doesn’t turn color on you.

Slowly pour in the milk, continuing to stir and breaking up the flour to create your sauce. Once all of the milk is added, season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe
Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

You’ve been keeping an eye on those hash browns, right? Good. Now give them a flip, reform them into a patty, and continue to lightly crisp on the other side.

Once the sauce begins to thicken a bit, reduce the heat, and slowly add in about 3/4 of the cheese, reserving a bit to finish during baking.

Get a large bowl out to mix everything.

Add in the crisp hash browns, top with the ham, then pour over the cheese sauce. Give this a good mix, breaking up the hash browns to your desire, then pour into a casserole dish.

Top with remaining shredded cheese, and lightly shower on the bread crumbs. Place into the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown.

Remove from the heat, let cool for about 5-10 minutes, then scoop into a bowl and dig in.

Talk about comfort food. Two of my kids were out for the evening so I thought it would be just my wife and I in front of the television watching LaLa Land (sigh), but then one of my picky eaters (doesn’t like melted cheese on most if not all foods) comes in with a bowl (and then helped himself to thirds) and we all could not stop eating this stuff. We finished the casserole. Yep, this one is that good.

If you are looking for an easy casserole to make, and have a few things lying around in your freezer and pantry, give this one a shot. Until the fall season starts, this one will have to wait. Sorry, ham, cheese, and potato casserole, but you will be missed!

 

Daikon Chips

Our farmer’s market recently opened and that is always a great thing. Granted, there is not a whole lot there, but things (in terms of produce) are slowly starting to appear, and that is even better. Fortunately I was able to make it to the market a couple of weeks back and as I really wanted to get some asparagus for that evening’s dinner, I ended up getting a nice daikon radish. When I got home I thought I would pickle the daikon, something I like to use in salads and probably more importantly in banh mi sandwiches, but as I had some time on my hand, I thought I would do something different. That’s when I remembered the food dehydrator, and that’s when the thought of daikon chips came into play.

Daikon Chips Recipe
Daikon Chips Recipe

Why daikon chips you might ask? Probably because I was thinking about the radish chips that I made that were really good, and seeing that the daikon is part of the radish family, then why not, right?

These daikon chips were way too easy to make, a bit funky, but a good snack to say the least.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large daikon, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp canola oil

Start by washing your daikon. Next, using a peeler, remove the peel. Using a mandoline, or a sharp knife, thinly slice the daikon. I went about a quarter inch thick, if that. Not paper thin, but pretty darn thin.

Add the sliced daikon to a bowl, and drizzle with about a one tablespoon of canola oil.

How to make daikon chips
How to make daikon chips

Mix the salt and paprika in a small bowl.

Sprinkle the seasoning over the daikon, tossing along the way. Try and make sure all of the daikon is lightly coated. Some will get coated more than others, and that is just perfectly fine.

Add the slices, being careful not to overlap, onto food dehydrator trays, and once set, turn on the dehydrator, and let it go until the chips are fully dry, about 6-8 hours depending on the thickness you sliced.

Store in a sealable bag and enjoy as a snack, or heck even put them on salads if you desire.

The daikon chips are a bit of a surprise. You will get questions right away as to what they are, and then biting down you get that mild radish flavor, with a bit of that earthy funk. Good funk, but you will know you are eating something other than a potato chip!

If you are looking for something new to make with your produce, or to use your food dehydrator, give these a shot. Next time I think I might try giving a bath in vinegar and water and make some good old vinegar and salt daikon chips. Hope you enjoy!

Ranger Cookies

If there was one cookie I truly loved it was a cookie, a straight up oatmeal cookie, that my grandma made. I tried to recreate them off of her recipe many years back and they were just not the same. Maybe it was grannie’s touch, who knows. As I keep beating this one down, I am not a sweet tooth, and really do not consider myself to ever have been one. Sure, I liked Jolly Ranchers, would not turn down candy, but I would have to say that during my late teens, through today, I have not had any interest with sweets. But for whatever it is worth, these last few weeks I have wanted nothing more than sweets. I have had an ice cream sandwich, probably each day, candy, and have been making a dessert when energy allows, for my kids about once or twice a week. This recent one probably has many different names, but I’m going with the Ranger cookie recipe on this one.

Ranger Cookie Recipe
Ranger Cookie Recipe

I want one now, they are that good. The only reason I came up with the Ranger cookie recipe is that I wanted to start purging things, you know the half open bags of things that your kids once showed interest in, and essentially toss them into a cookie mixture, bake, and serve.

TRUST ME ON THESE COOKIES. You will have a hard time just eating one, and trust me they are huge. Huge in the sense that you are fitting about 6 on a cookie sheet. A large cookie sheet!

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup frosted flakes
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup lightly toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of nuts (walnuts, cashews, almond slivers), optional

See what I mean about the purge?

Start by getting your mixing bowl ready, and add in the butter. Beat the butter until it is a bit light and airy, only a couple of minutes, if that.

Next add in both of the sugars, continuing to mix on medium-low speed, then add in the vanilla extract, banana, and eggs.

Stop your mixer, then add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Turn your mixer on low and slowly let that flour incorporate into the mixture. If you go back to medium speed, you are going to have flour flying out onto your countertop. Let’s not go that route!

How to make Ranger Cookies
How to make Ranger Cookies

Once the flour starts to incorporate and stick with the rest of the mixture, slowly add in the frosted flakes, oats and toasted coconut. If you wanted to add in nuts, go for it. My kids are not fan of nuts, but my wife and I are, but in this case I was thinking of the kids.

Lastly, add in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and mix until everything is nicely blended.

The trick here is chilling your dough. I think this lends to a crispy, yet chewy cookie in the long run, and those are my favorite type. So place the bowl of dough mixture into the refrigerator for 1 hour.

About 45 minutes in, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. Have I mentioned what a fan I am of parchment paper?

How to make Ranger Cookies Recipe
How to make Ranger Cookies Recipe

Take your cookie mixture out, and spoon, or use about 1/4 cup, of the cookie mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving a few inches in between each cookie. I fit about 6 on my sheet.

Place into the preheated oven, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown, and cooked in the middle.

Once achieved, remove the cookie sheet from the oven, let cool for a few minutes, and carefully remove onto a cookie rack to cool.

Repeat with remaining dough.

I probably ended up with 18 of these cookies, maybe more and they lasted only a couple of days. These cookies are so freaking good, and my kids questioned not once, not twice, but three times as to what was in the cookie. Believe it or not but they got most of the ingredients with the exception of the toasted coconut. Regardless, not complaints, and after about a gallon of milk and a dozen cookies later, I think I made each of those kids happy!

If you are looking for a great cookie, and one that is totally satisfying, give these ranger cookies a try. Hope you enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I think I am pretty good at reading my wife. I know when she is hungry, upset, happy, anxious, and I think I have a pretty good idea of what she really loves to eat. She gets me to, but in so many different ways. I know that I am the cook in the house, but I think I am so much more than that. Sure yesterday I rocked out homemade crepes for my wife, a Thai curry fish recipe, as well as a Thai beef salad that I knew would be a bend to her knees on first taste, but I also think that I provide some other good things such as a great sense of humor, a good hug, and an emotion and discipline to guide my kids through their early times in life (and hopefully much longer than that). My wife has introduced me to things, or maybe reintroduced me to things, that I would have probably never had ever wanted again, and this recipe is one of those. It’s the classic spinach and artichoke dip.

This is one of those dips that she fell in love with back in the late 1980’s, or early 1990’s at the chain TGIF. It’s that iconic image when opening their menu back then. The spinach and artichoke dip. Heck, we even recall going out to eat there when I returned home (I wasn’t going to say no) and sure enough that was ordered as an appetizer.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe
Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe

As I have been home or a couple of weeks, I have been purging things in my refrigerator and cupboard (and doing a pretty good job at it), and this was a perfect creation to use up a can of artichokes, cheese, breadcrumbs, mayo, sour cream, and a bag of spinach my kid was so gung ho to use up for lunch. Do you think he touched the spinach? No.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered, drained, chopped
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, cooked, strained, cooled, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated with microplane
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
  • crackers, bread, vegetables, or other dipping items that you desire

This recipe is way too easy. The hardest part is probably waiting. Waiting for the spinach to cook and cool, or the dip to be  cooked and ready. Seriously.

Start by adding the spinach to a pot. Add in the water and bring this to a medium heat. Basically cook down the spinach until softened, only a few minutes, then strain, press out all of the water, and let it cool.

During this time, get a mixing bowl. If you want to use your electric mixer feel free. Add in the chopped artichokes, half of the cheese, mayo, sour cream, garlic, and salt. Give this a good spin or mix. Yes, we are still waiting on that spinach to cool.

As we wait, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get your casserole dish out. OK, now that the spinach is cooled, and chopped, toss this into the mixing bowl, and give another good mix.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe
Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe

Scoop the mixture into the casserole dish, add the remaining cheese to lightly cover the top, then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until that top is nice and golden and bubbly.

Get ready. You know that molten hot dip you know you shouldn’t dig into but can’t resist? Yeah, this is one of those.

This dip is a crowd pleaser. It’s best served right out of the oven, scorching hot, or warmed. As much as my wife loves it, I will admit that I like it to in moderation. With that said, it’s a dip that is hard to walk away from. You might say things like ‘That’s it for me’, ‘I’m out’, ‘Get that away from me’, but one thing is for sure, I will find you coming back for another swipe of a veg, cracker, or chip. Yep, it’s that good. I hope you enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizers
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered, drained, chopped
  • 3 cups spinach leaves, cooked, strained, cooled, and chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated with microplane
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs
  • crackers, bread, vegetables, or other dipping items that you desire
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the spinach to a pot. Add in the water and bring this to a medium heat. Basically cook down the spinach until softened, only a few minutes, then strain, press out all of the water, and let it cool.
  2. During this time, get a mixing bowl. If you want to use your electric mixer feel free. Add in the chopped artichokes, half of the cheese, mayo, sour cream, garlic, and salt. Give this a good spin or mix. Yes, we are still waiting on that spinach to cool.
  3. As we wait, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and get your casserole dish out. OK, now that the spinach is cooled, and chopped, toss this into the mixing bowl, and give another good mix.
  4. Scoop the mixture into the casserole dish, add the remaining cheese to lightly cover the top, then sprinkle on the breadcrumbs.
  5. Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until that top is nice and golden and bubbly.
  6. Get ready. You know that molten hot dip you know you shouldn’t dig into but can’t resist? Yeah, this is one of those.