Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

It's the middle of Janurary here in Michigan and we've had a few 40 degree weather days but we're on a streak of 20 degree days and who knows how cold it is when the wind is blasting against your face. This is the kind of night where you want to curl up on the couch with something warm to put into your belly and since my husband and I live in a culinary wasteland, I am left to come up with something for dinner. So, I've decided to share with you a simple recipe that I have came across on the Pioneer Woman's website. It's a humble dish with few ingredients, the original recipe is a side dish but I thought I'd add some delicious ham to make it even more fat people friendly!

Alright, enough talking-

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes 
(adapted from the Pioneer Woman's Perfect au Gratin Potatoes)
- 2 tbl butter
- 2 tbl flour
- 3-4 gloves of garlic (I used 3 because one was pretty huge, you could use the garlic powder if you aren't a huge fun of chopped garlic but it cooks down and is hardly noticeable)
- 1 tsp salt
-  fresh ground pepper to taste (I used roughly 1/2 tsp, use however much you like and of course, use whatever you have in your pantry but I used fresh ground pepper)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 russet potatoes
- 1 1/2 cup cubed ham
- 1 heaping cup of grated sharp cheddar (I say heaping because I very rarely measure cheese, I just eyeball it, probably why I have such a lovely figure)
- few sprigs of chives (if you come across fresh chives in the middle of January and they aren't $$$ then go for it, but you could substitute a small onion, the chives are just less pungent)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Butter a 3qt baking dish, making sure to get all the sides. Chop the ends off the russets and slice them all roughly into the same size and set aside. Finely mince the garlic cloves and set aside. In a medium size bowl, whisk your salt, pepper, flour, half & half and heavy cream. Arrange 1/3 of your potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish. Add in 1/3 of  cream/flour mixture on top of the potatoes. Also add 1/3 of ham, toss in some cheese and your chives. Repeat once more. After the 2nd layer, add the rest of your potatoes once more and pour the rest of your cream mixture . Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil. Take out and add remainder of ham, cheese and chives and bake for another 15-20 minutes without foil.


I used a 3qt baking dish and rubbed 2 tbl of butter all over it. I scrubbed my 4 russet potatoes and rinsed/dried them off. I do have a mandoline slicer but I thought I would practice my knife skills. It's important to get all your slices about the same size or else the potatoes won't cook at the same time, you'll end up with some perfectly cooked and then under cooked ones.

A lot of people are turned off by raw/under cooked garlic and I am one of them. I hate biting into something and getting a chunk of garlic but I hate replacing garlic powder for fresh garlic in most of my recipes. I only used three garlic cloves but one was decent sized. The easiest way to 'peel' the garlic clove, is to take your knife flat side down and gently smash it down on a board.

The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and a 1/2 cup of whole milk. I used what I had on hand and ended up using 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup half & half and 1/2 cup whole milk. You certainly can use whatever mixture of milk, cream you'd like but the heavy cream really makes this dish. Be sure to mix the flour, cream/milk, salt/pepper and garlic mixture really well.

Place a single layer of potatoes into your buttered baking dish and add in 1/3 (not 1/3 cup) of your cream mixture on top of the potatoes. Toss on 1/3 of your cheese and ham as well and sprinkle some chives over.

Repeat this process once more!

Now add your final layer of potatoes and add the rest of your cream on top. Don't be stupid like me and add the rest of your ham (the ham didn't burn but it would be best left till the end). Foil it up and let it cook 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Remove from the oven and remove the foil and add the rest of the chives, ham and cheese and let it cook for another 10 minutes (or until nice and golden brown).

The end result-

Behold, the best ham and scalloped potatoes, ever. They are creamy and cheesy and there is just the right amount of garlic. The best thing I could come up with around here to compare it to would probably be a bowl of pastey, bland potato soup that's been sitting out that you would find at one of the local places around here. Why bother going out in the cold and be disappointed when you could whip this up at home? Look, I even threw some green on the plate to make it look somewhat healthy! Even better the next day as leftovers (that is if there is anything left to eat!).

-Happy Eating!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Post and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies!

For the past few months I have been spending a lot of my time searching through cooking and baking blogs. I first came across the Pioneer Woman a few months ago and immediately indulged myself in every food blog I could come across. I have no culinary training but cooking and baking are very near and dear to my heart. The fact that I can put time and effort and produce a product and present it to a loved one and watch them enjoy the end result is a feeling I can't explain; pure happiness. I am not really expecting anyone to read this blog but wanted to see if I could actually make one on my own and keep photographs of favorite and new recipes that I come across.

So, who am I?
I'm a housewife stuck in a small Michigan town (a culinary wasteland, my husband and I like to call it). I did the college thing and now I'm 25 and I believe I was put on this earth to bake and cook :)

So, shall we begin?

My mother in law is (in my husband's opinion) the super mega awesome baker. My first trip to meet her, she taught me how to make pie crust from scratch. For years my husband has been asking me to make these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that his mom used to make. Well, it took about three years but I finally got a hold of the recipe and managed to get him to hang up some shelves in exchange for cookies! So, if by chance you have a can of pumpkin in your cupboards left over from the holidays, this would be a good time to use it!

-Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies-
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick, I used unsalted)
1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin (I used the kind without any spices in it)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 all purpose flour
1 cup of chocolate chips (I used just plain milk chocolate)
1 egg
1 tsp of the following ingredients-
baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, cinnamon and yes, a whole teaspoon of nutmeg!
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy.
Add egg, pumpkin and vanilla to mixture - mix well.
In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet and then add in chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 for 12-15 or until golden brown. Makes about 30 small cookies.

Ingredients- (minus one egg! oops)
With a hand mixer, cream together your butter and sugar until it becomes fluffy. If you have planned ahead and have a stick of butter that is room temperature then I would skip dirtying the mixer  and just use your muscles and a wooden spoon. Add in your 1 egg pumpkin and vanilla. 

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients, the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Here is where most recipes would say to sift all your dry ingredients but normally I just put all my dry ingredients into a bowl and use a wire whisk and mix them all together.

Slowly incorporate your dry ingredients into your wet bowl mixture. Stir until everything is combined well and then add in your chocolate chips. The original recipe calls for a 1/3 roasted almonds (which you would add now too) but my husband and I aren't huge nut fans so I omitted them.

      I covered my bowl up with some tin foil and threw it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to let the dough firm up a bit. I used a small sized cookie scoop on my non-stick cookie sheet (sprayed with a little baking NOT cooking spray) and baked them for 12-15 minutes at 350. If I had to endorse a baking utensil, it would definitely be the cookie scoop. All of my cookies are the same size and my hands aren't all messy after having to fuss with spoons and sticky cookie dough. I bought mine at the local grocery store for about $8, definitely worth it. These cookies do not expand/spread out like a normal cookie so you could definitely fit more than your usual amount on a normal sized cookie sheet. They puff up and look like little cute muffin tops!

The end result-

Happy Eating!