Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

I love casseroles.  And fortunately for me, my husband doesn’t mind it when I find a new recipe to try out.  As scared as he might be at the prospect of me playing the mad scientist in the kitchen, he never lets on.  He is truly a brave soul!

Over the years, I’ve found that some casseroles can look better than they actually taste, and vice-versa.  I’ve been pleased with some, and disappointed with others. 

A recipe I found at the Better Homes and Gardens website inspired me to make this dish. 

I also have several other casserole recipes to work through and I’ll be sharing them here too.  If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my blog via email so you never miss one of my posts.  

Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

Ingredients:

2 2/3 c. bow tie pasta (cook according to package)

1 tbsp. margarine

1 small onion, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 mini sweet red pepper, diced

1 mini sweet yellow pepper, diced

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 1/2 c. milk

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c. chicken broth

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, heaping

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. season salt

1/4 tsp. dried parsley

2 c. fresh spinach, rinsed, dried, and chopped

1 c. cooked ham, cubed or sliced

1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced

3/4 c. mozzarella cheese

Directions:

In a large skillet, add margarine, onion, red and yellow peppers, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are soft  and tender.  Add flour, milk and chicken broth; cook until it thickens – stirring often. Stir in parmesan cheese, pepper, season salt, and parsley.  Remove from heat and add ham, spinach, and pasta; mix thoroughly.  Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray.  Top with tomato and mozzarella cheese. 

Bake uncovered for 22-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving. 

Serves 6Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

So what do (we) think about this dish?  It’s a winner.  It’s creamy, cheesy, and has a hint of smoky flavor.  I served this casserole with a tossed salad and garlic bread; it was a perfect meal for a cold winter night. 

The only problem with this casserole? Getting good pictures of it on a dark winter night.

Do you like casseroles?  If so, what’s your favorite? Ham, Spinach, and Pasta Casserole

 

 

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Mini-vanilla scones and your cooking personality

Have you ever wondered what kind of cook or baker you are?  No, I’m not talking about a good baker, or a bad cook, or visa versa.  I’m talking about the kind of cooking personality you have.  Until now,  I really had no clue that  someone had researched this and came to the conclusion that there are five distinctive cooking personalities.   

Looking at my own cooking traits, I admit for the most part, I like to try new recipes. Many times I veer off the recipe trail and tweak recipes.  I like the thought of contributing my own distinctive touch, tastes, or style to a recipe.  I’m always looking for a recipe that I can add to my tried-and-true file, and granted, there are only a few tried-and-true recipes in my file, but what I can tell you is this, once a recipe makes there,  my quest for a recipe for that particular dish is over.  Some of the recipes on my list of tried-and-true’s – my mother’s apple pie recipe, my apple cupcake recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Red Plaid cookbook, a carrot cake from Williams – Sonoma Baking cookbook,  a fudge brownie recipe I tweaked from Martha Stewart, and our family sugar cookie recipe.

From what I’ve found, Cornell University  researchers were the first to conduct a study to determine there are five different cooking personalities.  Their conclusions are as follows:

a) Giving: Friendly, well-liked and enthusiastic, giving cooks seldom experiment, love baking and like to serve tried-and-true family favorites, although that sometimes means serving less healthful foods.

b) Methodical:
Talented cooks who rely heavily on recipes. The methodical cook has refined tastes and manners. Their creations always look exactly like the picture in the cookbook.

c) Healthy: Optimistic, book-loving, nature enthusiasts, healthy cooks experiment with fish, fresh produce and herbs. Health comes first, even if it means sometimes sacrificing taste.

d) Competitive: The Iron Chef of the neighborhood, competitive cooks have dominant personalities and are intense perfectionists who love to impress their guests.

e) Innovative: Creative and trend-setting, innovative cooks seldom use recipes and like to experiment with ingredients, cuisine styles and cooking methods.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a cross-over between a giving and innovative cooking personality. Can you decide what type of cook you are? If you are looking for some interesting reading related to food topics you might want to check out Cornell’s Food and Brand site linked above

Okay, on to the good stuff.  I found this recipe for vanilla scones on cdkitchen.  I  followed the recipe to the letter with the only adaptations made to the glaze recipe. For my glaze I used 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon & sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water.  I made mini-scones by taking small pieces of dough and shaping it into very lightly greased cupcake tins.  I love the results.  These are scrumptious, and go great with a fresh cup of coffee, or tea.  I’m almost thinking these could go into the tried-and-true file they are so good.

A gift idea – treats worth sharing

I just picked up Foodgifts magazine, this is a magazine published by Better Homes and Gardens that  focuses on preparing food, and giving it as holiday gifts (you know the holidays aren’t that far away).  The magazine has some clever, food gift wrapping ideas, and  shows you how to replicate each package they’ve photographed.  For a magazine, it was a bit pricey, but I’ve been eyeing it for a while.  Actually, more than eyeing it, every time I went into  the hardware store I’d grab it to look at while  hubby was looking at guy stuff.    I know I’ll  put the magazine to good use, it’ s  packed with lots of great recipes, and the decorating style it right up my alley.

I’m a big fan of giving food as gifts to those who don’t, won’t, or can’t cook, or bake for themselves.  A little over ten years ago I decided rather than waste my time scouring the mall for that perfect Christmas present (that I was never going to find for some of my family members), my time would be better spent grocery shopping, and spending a day cooking and baking gifts in my kitchen.   No crowds, just me and my Christmas tunes.  This has become a tradition, and every Christmas everyone makes sure there is room in their freezer for their highly anticipated packages. 

The entrée’s and side dishes I prepare can be heated, or re-heated with ease.   I also make homemade quick breads, dinner rolls, snack mixes, and desserts to go in everyone’s goody box.   Many of  these can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.  This leaves  time to actually enjoy the holiday festivities.

I decided since I bought the magazine I might as well do a practice run.  You know, check out some of the recipes.   If  I like them, they might go on the “to make this year for Christmas”  list.  I started with a  simple recipe called Pretzel Snack Mix, and made a few adaptations. 

I liked this recipe, and recommend giving this mix as a gift.  A definite add to this years list.  It makes a large batch, tastes delicious, the ingredients are reasonably priced, and the recipe is simple.   Actually,  I netted everything I needed for this project for about five bucks at Wal-Mart.  This would be a great treat to package, and give, with a nice bottle of wine.  I opted to make little fall treat bags on this trial run.  Won’t a few people be surprised when I deliver these?

Welcome the fall with Mini Apple Pies

If you like apple pie, and have a cookie cutter, you’ll love these little mini’s.  I found a recipe in the September issue of  Better Homes and Gardens  that inspired me to make these.  Their recipe was actually for Apple Pie Pops.  Very cute… but not very practical.  I loved the concept of the pie pops, but knew they wouldn’t last long on a stick, so why bother with the sticks?

The recipe for the Apple Pie Pops can be found on page 212.  I used BHG’s recipe for the concept, but tweaked it with my own apple pie making skills.  I did pre-cook the filling like the recipe suggested.  Otherwise, the apples wouldn’t have a chance to cook completely before the little crusts were finished baking, and I veered off course from their recipe by making my own double pie crust from scratch. 

These are great little dessert’s that will travel well.  They would be perfect for fall gatherings.  We enjoyed our’s with our family after a great dinner. 

Can you imagine them filled with peach, raspberry, blackberry, grape, cherry?