Cheesy Ham & Broccoli Pasta Bake

It’s tough to beat a good cheesy pasta bake. One night I was really feeling macaroni and cheese, but wasn’t feeling much else than that. I knew I needed to give my guys some protein and veggies though, so I assessed what I had in the refrigerator – a ham steak and a couple of heads of broccoli, threw them into the mix, and came up with this.

I tweaked my original baked macaroni & cheese recipe by adding two different kinds of cheese. My standard classic cheddar, but also a rich and creamy Gruyere to really bump up the wow factor. Plus, it was kind of a fun twist on ham & cheese!

Ham steaks are great to have around. I love to dice them up and put them in pasta sauce, or on pizza, or even just warmed up in a skillet and served on a biscuit for an easy breakfast. I also topped it with garlic breadcrumbs, which isn’t something I usually go for on my macaroni and cheese – but the savory crunch with a hint of garlic was a nice contrast to the creamy tender pasta.

A great one pan meal that was easy to throw together and bake, and that everyone enjoyed. Love those kinds of dinners!

Red Beans & Rice (Slow Cooker)

I’m convinced that I was Cajun in a previous life. Maybe it’s just something about the land and the lifestyle that reminds me so much of my life here on the Eastern Shore – but I definitely feel a connection to those bayous in Louisiana. Even though I’ve never stepped foot in one…

I was shocked when I realized I’d never made red beans and rice. Sausage isn’t my favorite thing on the planet, but after feeding my three guys – who love it – for a couple of years, I’ve started to come around. The flavor that it gives to whatever it is you’re cooking it with can’t be attained by any other means, and it holds up well to cooking in a slow cooker. Yesterday I had a really busy day running errands and spent most of the afternoon in the dentist chair, so I threw this together in the morning before I left to head out the door. By 4:30 PM when I was finally heading home I was so thankful to know that dinner was ready and waiting for me when I returned.

I used andouille and kielbasa, for a double wallop of smokey porky flavor. Combined with tender and creamy red beans, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and a thick tomato sauce – it was the perfect meal at the end of a long day. I served it over rice to soak up all of those delicious juices, but served it with a salad and homemade cornbread for good measure. The boys both wanted seconds, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest for lunch this week. With Mardi Gras coming up next Tuesday, it would be a perfect meal to put together in the Crockpot while you’re at work.

Giving you more time to pour yourself a Hurricane, and laissez-les bon temps rouler when you get home! This one is definitely a keeper in my book, I hope you guys enjoy it too.

Source: adapted from My Biscuits are Burning

Short Rib Lasagne

A really delicious lasagna is one of the most comforting meals in my book. It’s tough to beat tender pasta, rich tomato sauce, and multiple kinds of Italian cheese all packed into a single casserole dish. But when two of my friends, both Josie and Katie were raving about this version that’s made with short ribs – I had to give it a try!

It doesn’t use any ricotta, which I was worried about. But, you really don’t miss it. The short ribs are braised in the tomato sauce all day long – creating more of a “Sunday Gravy” than a marinara. Then the dish is also layered with a creamy bechamel sauce, another Italian trick to a great pasta dish that many of us haven’t had the opportunity to try. So, that in itself adds a layer of creaminess and richness that replaces the layer of ricotta.

I did go ahead and add more mozzarella cheese than the recipe called for, just because I happened to have a surplus in the fridge. The recipe also called for the addition of porcini mushrooms – which, I didn’t have as many as I’d like. They’re one thing that I always try to have on hand, just because they add such a ton of flavor and keep well in the pantry. My stock has dwindled down, and I have a hard time finding them out here in the Boonies. So, I used what I had which was only about 1/2 cup – but it still turned out delicious. But you could double the quantity of mushrooms if you like.  I’ve got to order some more from the internet this week!

The short ribs are shredded down and layered with the pasta, tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, and cheese…then baked to a browned and bubbly perfection. I served with classic accompaniments to any Italian meal – a nice green salad and crusty garlic bread. It’s also a great place for a glass of nice red wine, where you have to open some for the sauce anyways!

Source: adapted from Fine Cooking via Pink Parsley and So Tasty, So Yummy

Southwest Potato & Corn Chowder

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this soup since I made it two weeks ago. I thought a potato corn chowder sounded great, and remembered  a poblano potato soup my friend Katie had posted. I didn’t have any poblanos on hand, but I did have a couple bell peppers. So I went with that, added a little bit more corn, and topped with some cilantro before serving for a Southwestern twist.

I used bacon this time around, but I’m thinking that chorizo might be a nice addition and spice it up even more – so I’m looking forward to trying that rendition next time. The tender potatoes and sweet corn, along with the colorful peppers made for a perfect marriage of flavor. And the cilantro on top was just the bright, fresh kick that it needed.

It was reminiscent of my favorite Loaded Baked Potato Soup – but much lighter in flavor without the addition of a bunch of sour cream. We all went back for seconds the first night I made it, and Andrew even went back for a third bowl. I enjoyed leftovers for lunch the majority of the rest of the week – and it was one of those things that I was very sad when it was finally gone. It’s definitely going to be making an appearance on our menu again very soon!

Source: adapted from So Tasty, So Yummy