Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pasta is creamy, cheesy and so good

I cooked a really, really good recipe Sunday. I didn’t make it with a food column in mind, but it was such a success with my family that I decided I must share!
I adapted a popular Allrecipes dish that features bow tie pasta and ham in a cheesy sauce. I cut back on the butter and cheese and added a little more ham to my recipe. I also used ground mustard instead of prepared mustard because that’s what I usually add with macaroni and cheese, and I used more pasta.
The recipe is very simple. You basically make a white sauce and stir in Colby cheese blend before adding in the pasta and ham.
Once it’s blended, pour it into a baking dish and heat until it’s bubbly.
The dish is similar to macaroni and cheese recipes I make, with the addition of garlic and ham. I also seldom buy Colby cheese, so this is a nice change as well.
I chose a Colby blend (Colby Jack) and used 2 cups instead of the 21⁄2 called for in the original recipe. I did add Parmesan cheese to the top, as in the recipe, but if you don’t have it, it’s not worth the extra cost to buy it.
I loved the creaminess of this pasta! And the flavor is very different from other similar dishes I make, probably because of the garlic sauteed in butter.
I often have leftover ham (this time it was ham cubes from omelets a few days before!) and now I have a great new way to use it.
That being said, this dish would also be excellent without the ham!
Ham and Cheese Pasta
12 ounces bow tie pasta
3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups milk (I use skim)
1⁄2 teaspoon ground mustard
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
1⁄2 to 1 cup cubed ham
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions, around 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender; drain.
Melt butter in large saucepan, over low heat. Add garlic to butter and saute around 30 seconds.
With a whisk, blend in flour, salt, pepper and mustard. Continue stirring until blended. Pour in 1 cup of milk, slowly, and continue to whisk until smooth. Add in remaining cup of milk and stir until incorporated. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. 
Remove from heat and add in cheese, stirring until melted. Stir in pasta and ham.
Pour mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sweet treat for Valentine's day

Want a simple idea for a Valentine’s Day treat?
These small cookies, adorned with chocolate hearts, are sure to bring a smile to the face of the ones you love — whether it be a husband, girlfriend or child.
I got the idea from the Nestle’s website verybestbaking.com. The site had a from-scratch recipe for peanut butter cookies baked in miniature muffin pans and topped with chocolates.
I had every intention of making that recipe but decided instead to buy refrigerated cookie dough. I couldn’t find peanut butter cookie dough, so at the urging of my son, I bought sugar cookie dough. I also purchased a peanut butter cookie mix on the cake mix aisle so I could offer options.
I used my very small cookie scoop (about a tablespoon) with the refrigerated cookie dough and made just over 24 sugar cookies in my mini muffin pan. When the cookies baked, the centers sank in a little, make a little cup that’s perfect for filling.
When the cookies came out of the oven, I let them cool a few minutes before adding milk chocolate hearts and peanut butter cup hearts right in the middle of the cookie where it dipped in. The hearts quickly started to melt, so I waited a few more minutes for the cookies to cool at bit before adding more. Although the melted cookies made a mess, they were ooey, gooey good!
The next day, I made the peanut butter cookie mix. In addition to adding peanut butter cup hearts, I also added M&M baking bits to some of the cookies. The centers of the peanut butter cookies didn’t sink in as much, so I helped them along with a small spoon once they were out of the oven.
The peanut butter version was so delicious hot from the oven!
To replicate that warm cookie taste the next day, warm the cookies in the microwave oven for about 15 seconds so the chocolate gets soft again.
There are so many options with these cookies. Use a favorite cookie base and add a favorite candy in the middle for a sweet Valentine’s Day treat.
(Thanks to Fiesta Dinnerware was sending the pretty heart-shaped dish used for the photo.)
Valentine’s Cookies
Cookie mix (refrigerated or other)
Chocolate candies
If using refrigerated cookie mix, scoop dough (about a tablespoon) into miniature muffin tin. I use my small muffin scoop. If using a mix or if making from scratch, follow the same basic instructions.
Cook according to package directions. 
When the cookies come out of the oven, they will probably have a sunken middle. Place a chocolate heart on the cookie when it’s cooled enough so it doesn’t melt the chocolate. Use a spoon to remove the cookie from the muffin pan.