It’s me, Natalie, writing today.  Jennifer will start soon.  Not sure exactly how soon, but soon.  Until then, there’s me.  Tisk, tisk – wipe off the disappointed face.  I have a good one today.

I’m not always cool.  I think I might have been at one time but truthfully, I don’t really care if I’m considered cool or not because FINALLY, after a very long time of NOT being comfortable in my own skin, I can now say that most of the time, I am.  Not all of the time.  But most of the time I like the chica I’ve become and embrace my freak side and wave the flag proudly.

Today’s recipe is not cool.  You will not find it in the pages of the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks nor will you see it in “Food and Wine” magazine.  Sorry. It is certainly not a New York City kind of recipe.

However, what today’s recipe might be lacking in sophistication it makes up for in yummy, hearty goodness that sticks to your bones on a cold, winter’s night and makes you want to put on those polar fleece pants and curl up with a good book.  Not that that exact scenario would happen in my world but maybe it would in yours.  If it does, please know that I am very, very envious of you.  I will try not to say snide comments about your type.

I wish I could say I have a good picture of this but I don’t.  Click here if you need a reminder of how challenged I am in the food photography department.

I also must mention that it comes from a cookbook I find myself using more often than I care to admit.  The title is 9×13: The Pan That Can by Better Homes and Gardens.  Everything I’ve made from that book is tasty, tasty and all recipes can be made in a 9×13 pan.  Just call me Mrs. Obvious.

Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin

3 tablespoons of butter or margarine

3 tablespoons of flour

1 3/4 cup milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil

2 small onions, thinly sliced

1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained (optional)

12 ounces cooked ham, cubed or in bite-sized strips

1 20 ounce package of refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes (I use two bags of Simply Potatoes)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; stir in flour. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Remove from heat.Stir 1 cup of the hot mixture into eggs; return egg mixture to saucepan. Stir in cheddar cheese, mustard, and pepper until cheese melts. Set aside.

2.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions; cook until tender. Stir in spinach (I don’t use this but maybe you will like it! Chillens will disqualify anything that contains something green and slimy); set aside.

3.  Spread half of the ham in an ungreased 9×13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle half of the hash browns over ham. Spoon half of the cheese mixture over hash browns. Spoon the spinach mixture over cheese mixture in dish. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

4.  Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a salad or steamed broccoli.  Or any other kind of vegetable you can get your child to eat.  Take it and run, I say.  Take it an run.

For the record, my family really hearts the cheese “Sauce in Seconds” from Schwan’s.  I melt it up and spread it lightly over veggies and voila!  We are all over the green stuff.

Schwan’s delivery?  Casserole-making?  Mini-van driving?  Yep, I don’t think I’m cool anymore.

Meals for Mamas: First of all, be sure to make in a throw-away baking dish.  There is nothing worse than trying to remember who brought what especially if said mama is a new one with a screaming newborn causing her to sleep in 45 minute increments.  Include dinner rolls or salad and fruit.  I forgot to mention in last week’s Mmmm Monday how much I love the Banana Chocolate Chip Monkey Bread by Archer Farms (Target’s brand).  It’s easy and SO delicious and everyone thinks you made it from scratch.  Wink, wink.  I won’t tell.

If you have an awesome recipe that would be good for Mmmm Monday, please let me know!!! I will give you a shout-out and won’t try to act like I came up with it.  Promise.  I have one in the queue that is hysterical and submitted by a MAN.  It’s perfect for the Super Bowl so you’ll have to wait until then.  Also, I love to know of good products (like the Target monkey bread!) that are delicious quick, and easy.  Do share, do share!

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