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!

Singapore Mei Fun

I love making our favorite Chinese take-out dishes at home. They’re always tastier, healthier, and much easier on the old pocketbook. Jon’s favorite dish to order-out, hands down, would have to be Singapore Mei Fun. Now, I realize this probably isn’t anywhere close to the noodle dishes you’d actually find in Singpore – but let’s be honest, what comes out most Chinese restaurants in this country  actually is authentic? Am I right?

Soft rice noodles, sauteed with all kinds of crispy yet tender vegetables – and a protein if you like, all in a delicious spicy sauce chock full of curry. I’d never had it before her ordered it, he used to be a General Tso’s guy…but switched to this when he was trying to lose a little weight, and years later he’s still never gone back. I’ve almost grown to love it over my beloved lo mein noodles! Our local place always adds a scrambled egg to the stir-fry, which I feel is a great addition as it helps to soak up any extra sauce and flavor, so I added that to my at-home version too.

It turned out really great, and was a fairly quick and easy meal. I just softened the rice noodles while I was prepping the veggies (stuff I had laying around in the fridge and pantry), stirred together the spices with some soy sauce and sesame oil, and stir-fried for a delicious dinner. I sliced up half a pork tenderloin that I had from a meal earlier in the week and added it to the mix, to add a little protein – but shrimp, leftover chicken or beef would also be great. Ff you wanted to make it vegetarian try adding tofu, or even just bulking up the veggies. And by using your favorite soy sauce substitute, it’s easily gluten-free. You can also switch up the spices in a bit – adding more or less Sriracha or red chili flakes to adapt the heat to your liking. We like it pretty spicy, but I realize not all folks do.

This is one I’m definitely glad to be adding to my repertoire, as it’s a favorite of our whole family! 

Source: adapted from Messy Kitchen Stories

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

We have about five inches of snow on the ground this morning here in our little corner of the Eastern Shore. That may not seem like much to many of you, but to us  it might as well be 2 feet! It’s days like this where I’m so thankful I’ve gone down the path of DIY more and more often. To be able to make a kitchen staple from the comfort of your own kitchen, without having to venture out to the store, is really a blessing.

Take ricotta cheese for instance. All it takes is some milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and a few minutes of your time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make, and how delicious it turned out. Creamy and flavorful, unlike that rubbery gunk that comes out of the container in one chunk that you buy from the supermarket. Now that I’ve made this at home, I don’t think that I’ll be able to go back to purchasing it.

I used it in a lasagna, but it really is delicious on it’s own – smeared on a piece of crusty bread. The recipe calls for whole milk, but I’m interested to try it with 2% to see if it turns out just as well –  as that’s usually what I have on hand. Will probably add a bit of heavy cream to up the creaminess factor, which I’ve noticed that other tutorials mentioned to do as well.

If you’re snowed in like I am, and stocked up on milk – make yourself feel productive and give this a try. You’ll be patting yourself on the back for days afterwards, I promise!

Black Truffle Macaroni & Cheese

This macaroni and cheese has been on my “to make” for years, since seeing a rendition of it on Top Chef Season 1. Dave made it, and I remember just being in awe of black truffles as an ingredient. I’d had black and white truffle oil, and loved the flavor it lent to dishes. But, a whole black truffle? I figured that I’d never have a chance to use them in my kitchen.

Then a few years after that, I discovered Wegmans. If you don’t know what they are (they are regional), it’s a high-end grocery store where you can find pretty much anything. Including fresh black truffles…just hanging out in the produce department like it ain’t no thang! Whenever I visited the store, I’d gawk over them – but due to the high price tag I was afraid to buy one. How much did one weigh? What if I got up there and it was $500? That’s definitely too rich for my blood…

I went ahead and took the plunge a couple weeks ago when my girlfriend and I visited a huge craft fair in the mountains at Thurmont, MD. Came home with all kinds of goodies – apples, fresh pressed cider, and one black truffle. It cost me $15.00 for one  pretty good-sized truffle. While expensive, definitely do-able as a treat once in a while. Was thinking I might like to try infusing my own truffle oil at some point!

So, the macaroni and cheese I’d been dreaming about for 7 years finally transpired. And it was worth the wait. Rich and earthy, yet not overpowering. The combination of white cheddar and Gruyere is a great combo that adds plenty of cheesy flavor, but still lets the truffles shine. Black truffle butter is easier to find than  whole truffles, and more affordable. That in combination with a drizzle of the truffle oil would be a good substitution. Or really this macaroni and cheese is delicious on it’s own – with no truffles!

But, it’s getting to be that special time of year where we love to splurge to make a meal a little fancier, or the ingredients a little more special for the Holidays. My mom always called it “the horn of plenty”, and it’s something that I look forward to every year. Can you guys believe it’s November already? Where has this year gone?