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Family-friendly recipes from a frugal gal that likes to eat

Archive for the tag “cheese”

Make Ahead Meal – Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas

I’ve heard other parents talk about how hard mornings are for them. Waking kids up, getting everyone dressed, fed and out the door in time for the school bus certainly sounds like a challenge, but right now, with just me, my husband and our almost-two-year-old, mornings aren’t too bad. Our most challenging time is the minute Addie and I walk through the door at the end of the day. If her dinner isn’t perfectly portioned out on her purple Doc McStuffins plate, ready to be devoured, it’s melt down city!

Luckily, Scott is a super husband and usually has this under control, but sometimes, well sometimes mama needs to go to Happy Hour after work, and even Superdads can’t pick up kids and get dinner on the table simultaneously, so to ease some of my mama guilt and make life easier for all, I whip up a meal the night before and leave Scott with simple pop in the oven and serve directions. Everyone wins! (Especially me… carefree glass(es) of wine FTW!)

This is a simple, crowd-pleasing supper that makes a TON. Yay for lunch leftovers.


Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Printable Recipe


1 pound farfalle pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups of shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack, but you can use any cheese you like in your mac and cheese)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed* (see tip below)
1/2 pound finely diced smoked ham


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13 x 9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cook pasta in lightly salted water following package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain.
  2. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until well blended; cook 1 minute. Whisk in 1 cup of milk and cook, whisking continuously, until smooth. Whisk in remaining 1 cup milk and continue to cook, whisking until thickened and smooth, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper. Whisk in 2 cups of the cheese until smooth.
  3. In the saucepan, add the pasta, peas and ham to the cheese sauce. Pour into prepared baking dish. Scatter remaining 1 cup cheese evenly over the top.
  4. If doing as a make ahead meal, let dish cool on the counter. Cover with aluminum foil and put in fridge until ready to bake.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven; allow to cool 10 minutes.

*An easy way to thaw peas is to pour them into the strainer you will drain the pasta in. When the pasta is ready to be drained, dump it directly on top of the peas and voila! Perfectly thawed peas.



Loaded Potato and Buffalo Chicken Casserole

Last Thursday, Luke had his yearly appointment at the vet. He had to get two shots, and this was my first time taking him. We were both pretty stressed out about it, but luckily it went really well, and we made it home in less than an hour. After such a stressful ordeal (oh the drama!), I wanted to make something comforting for dinner. Typically casseroles like this are reserved for football-watching fall Sundays, but by now you should know that I don’t play by the rules when it comes to cooking!

When you see the picture of this casserole, your brain will scream Calories! Fat! CARBS!, but don’t you worry because this recipe is actually pretty light. Obviously potatoes are not the most nutritious vegetable (if you can even call them that), but hey, it’s the theme of this weekend’s posts, so you just gotta run with it.

Beautiful! I really loved this casserole, and I hope you will too. Maybe hold off on making it until the temperature stops hovering around 90, as it requires lots of hot oven time.

Loaded Potato and Buffalo Chicken Casserole
Slightly adapted from Cook Lisa Cook


1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
4-5 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs paprika 
2 Tbs garlic powder
6 Tbs hot sauce
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used reduced-fat Mexican blend)
5 strips of turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup chopped green onion


  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  In a large bowl mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and hot sauce.  Add the cubed potatoes and stir to coat. 
  2. Carefully scoop the potatoes into a baking dish coated with cooking spray, leaving behind as much of the olive oil/hot sauce mix in the bowl as possible. 
  3. Bake the potatoes for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and crispy & browned on the outside. 
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, add the cubed chicken to the bowl with the leftover olive oil/hot sauce mix and stir to coat. 
  5. Once the potatoes are fully cooked, remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. 
  6.  Top the cooked potatoes with the raw marinated chicken. 
  7. In a bowl mix together the cheese, bacon and green onion and top the raw chicken with the cheese mix. 
  8. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the topping is bubbly delicious.  Serve with ranch dressing or sour cream.



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