Unbelievably Easy Shepherd’s Pie

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It was 27 degrees this morning when we woke up.  Time to start thinking about all of those wonderful, homey, and comforting winter dinners. Shepherd’s pie is one of my favorites. However, my husband and I have been battling the flu for the past couple of days and even though we were hungry for dinner, I certainly didn’t feel like slaving over the stove for very long.  A traditional Shepherd’s pie isn’t all that hard to make, just time-consuming because of the mashed potatoes and then can be even more time-consuming depending on the type of meat you want to use.

I used Betty Crocker boxed potato flakes (go ahead and gasp…I can handle it), frozen mixed vegetables, boxed beef broth, and ground beef. Easy, easy, easy, and totally delicious and satisfying. So judge if you will, but sometimes even us foodies don’t feel like standing in the kitchen all afternoon preparing dinner.

I put this recipe into 4 oversized ramekins (Pier 1 – $2.95 ea.). They are the perfect personal size. It would also work just fine in an 8 1/2 x 11 baking dish. The cooking time may increase a bit. You can also make this a couple of hours ahead of time, cover, and refrigerate. Allow to sit on counter for 1/2 hour before baking.

Unbelievably Easy Shepherd’s Pie

About 1 lb. of High Quality Ground Beef

1 Small Bag Frozen Vegetables (about 2 Cups)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano (you can use whatever herbs you like, this is what I had fresh on hand)

1 Small Onion, diced

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and diced

1 Box Beef Broth (make sure it’s gluten-free, I use Pacific Organic Beef Broth)

1 Tablespoon Dairy Free Butter

Potato Starch or Corn Starch

Betty Crocker Potato Buds (follow directions for serving size for about 8, I also used dairy free butter and almond milk )

Sea Salt & Pepper

Olive Oil

Diced Green Onions

*Individual Oversized Ramekins or an 8 1/2 x 11 Baking Dish

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and set aside. Preheat oven to 425°.

Drizzle olive oil in a large skillet and heat on medium to medium high heat. Saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the beef and oregano and cook until done, season generously with sea salt and pepper (I also added a little garlic powder). Add the frozen vegetables and toss until heated through. Fill 4 oversized ramekins 3/4 full, set aside.

Next, add the butter to the same skillet and melt. Add the box of beef broth and bring to a boil. In a small glass add about 2 Tablespoons potato starch or corn starch (I prefer potato). Fill the glass with enough water or beef broth (I had another box) to cover the corn starch and stir with a fork until completely combined. Turn the broth down to a low boil and slowly whisk the potato starch mixture in. It will thicken pretty quickly so you’ll be able to see within about a minute or two if you want to add more or not.

Pour a couple of large spoonfuls over each meat filled ramekin and set aside.

Make the potatoes according to the instructions on the box. I use water, dairy free butter, and sea salt in the pan. Then when the potato flakes are stirred in I add warmed almond milk to think them out to a mashed potato consistency. It’s really a  no-brainer and so easy. Sometimes you might need to add more potato flakes and sometimes you might need to add more warmed milk.

Place the ramekins on the covered baking sheet and top with the potatoes.

Place in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes until it is bubbling and the potatoes are beginning to brown. They are hotter than heck when you take them out of the oven, so be careful!! Sprinkle with the diced green onions.

Halloween Menu- Mexican Style

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It’s interesting how certain gatherings become a tradition in families. I love family traditions and always welcome the beginning of a new one. A few years ago we started “celebrating” Halloween at our house. I put celebrating in quotes because really, none of us are into Halloween, but we do love to eat, have a cocktail, and visit. In fact, pretty much all of our family traditions revolve around those three things. The only thing I typically ask people to bring for this gathering, is a lot of candy. Seriously, we have a ton of trick or treaters. We each take turns answering the door and handing out candy. I never get tired of seeing all the sweet little princesses, ballerinas, angels, pirates, and action heroes showing off their costumes. And then later in the evening, there’s the teenagers trying to eek out just one more candy filled, childhood Halloween.

Now that this day has become a dinner tradition at my house, for some reason, a Mexican theme just stuck. It’s really not that hard to understand why, I suppose. I don’t think I know one person in my life, both friends and family, who doesn’t like Mexican food. Mexican food has comfort and party written all over it. Perfect for a family tradition night. Last year I made enchiladas, home-made tamales, a taco bar, a Mexican style salad, and spicy rice. For dessert I made a coconut cream pie and a death by chocolate tart. This year, I purchased a cook book specifically geared toward our new tradition. The Complete Mexican South American & Caribbean Cookbook (which by the way, has a picture for every single recipe! I love that.)

I really like all of the old Mexican standbys but I also wanted to add a few new things that are authentically Mexican that I’ve never tried. As I type this, ahead of time, because I will be cooking and preparing for the party over the next few days, I already have 11 recipes dog-eared and I haven’t even made it through the entire cook book. These will need to be whittled down of course, but it’s so hard! And then there’s the dessert decisions… Drinks are easy. Tequila of course! And wine… mmm…I’m getting excited to get moving on this!

Well, today is the day. Lots to do! Here’s the menu, gluten-free and dairy-free, of course . Stay tuned for recipes and pictures tomorrow. 

Halloween – Mexican Style Menu

Starters:

Coconut Shrimp

Stuffed Jalapenos

Tortilla Chips with Homemade Pico & Guacamole

Main Dishes:

Steak, Chicken, and Shrimp Fajitas

Chicken Tamales with Pablano Peppers & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Beef Enchiladas

Side Dishes:

Corn Souffle

Mexican Sweet Potato Hash

Cocktails:

Lime Margaritas On The Rocks

Wine

Sparkling Cider

Desserts:

Coconut Cake

Lime Tart

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Rockfish In A Pocket – Asian Style with Tangy Sesame Salad

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I am not a lover of fish. It’s not necessarily that I don’t like it, because I do. But…it just doesn’t seem like a real meal to me for some reason. So when I do make it, I like to add things to it, some excitement, so that it seems like it’s more “meal-ish”. I know it sounds weird, but what can I say? I was raised in a meat, vegetable, and potatoes household. A biscuits, bacon, pancakes, homemade soup, steak, turkey dinner and pie kind of household. You know, real food.

This meal actually shocked me. I really liked it. Every flavor was distinctive. Even the tiny amount of clementine zest and ginger added a unique and powerful dimension. Maybe the addition of a starch, the rice, made it feel like more of a normal meal to me, I don’t know. But either way, it was quite tasty and it received great reviews from my husband.

Tangy Sesame Salad

2 Cups Napa Cabbage, thinly sliced

1 Cup Shredded Carrots

1/2 English Cucumber, peeled, cut down the middle and thinly sliced

1 Green Onion, sliced down the middle and thinly sliced

1 Heaping Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped

For The Dressing:

1/2 Cup Rice Vinegar

3 to 4 Drops Dark Sesame Oil, about 1/2 teaspoon

1/8 teaspoon Grated Fresh Ginger

1/2 teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce

Prepare the salad ingredients.

Prepare the salad dressing. Whisk until fully incorporated.

Place the vegetables in a medium bowl, toss, cover, and refrigerate. Cover and refrigerate the dressing. Don’t dress the salad until the fish is finished cooking or the salad will become limp.

Rockfish In A Pocket – Asian Style

Preheat Oven to 350°

4 Non-Oily Fish Fillets (I used Rockfish)

1/2 of a Large Red Bell Paper, thinly sliced

2 Green Onions, thinly sliced on an angle

1 Clove Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Grated Ginger

1/2 teaspoon Clementine Zest

Olive Oil

White Rice

For The Sauce:

1 Tablespoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon Sweet Chili Sauce

1/2 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce

Get the rice going first so it can cook while you are preparing the fish. Rinse and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Set aside. Prepare the pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, and clementine zest and set aside. In a small dish, add the soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, and sriracha sauce.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Cut 4 pieces of parchment for the fish pockets.

Place two fish fillets in the middle of one piece of parchment. Drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil and rub it over the fillets. Take 1/2 of the clementine zest and grated ginger and rub into the fillets, dispersing it as evenly as possible. Spread 1/2 of the sliced garlic over the top.

Layer 1/2 of the peppers and onions over the top.

Stir the sauce well and drizzle 1/2 of it over the fillets.

Place another piece of parchment over the top of the fish, joining the long edges together by folding them over.

Continue rolling the sides and pressing along the edge with your fingernail or the handle of a butter knife until there is a sharp edge and the folded parchment reaches the fish.

Then roll the short edges the same way until it is completely folded and sealed.

Repeat with the remaining fillets. Place both pockets on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. While the fish is baking, toss the salad with the dressing.

Remove the pockets from the oven. Carefully slit open the top and pull apart. Be very careful, the steam from the fish is very hot.

You can eat this two ways. you can place the pocket on a plate and put the rice in it to soak up the juices and eat it that way. Or, you can put rice on your plate, place the fish on top of the rice and then pour the juices over it, which is what I did.

Oh, and in case you were ever curious about the “behind the scenes” recipe writing in food blogs…here’s how I do it. Recipes scribbled on napkins, minus a picture of the incredible mess I made. A glamorous hobby, huh? Complete with a soy sauce stained pen. ;)

Crockpot Turkey Meatball Soup

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I’ve been singing the praises of the crockpot for years. If you don’t have one, you need one. They are an inexpensive investment for saving time. I don’t know one person that wouldn’t like to save time who doesn’t at least occasionally dread the thought of making dinner when they’ve worked a long day inside or outside of their home. This can be prepared the day before, refrigerated, and then you just pop it in the crockpot in the morning before the start of your busy day. Six to eight hours later, you’ll be greeted by the soothing smells of homemade soup. Kick off your shoes, warm up some bread (gluten-free of course) and you’re done for the day.

Crockpot Turkey Meatball Soup

2 Packages of Ground Turkey

2 Eggs

1 Tbsp. Basil

1 Tbsp. Oregano

Small Sprig of Rosemary

About 1/4 Cup Dairy-Free Parmesan

1 Tbsp. Chopped Garlic

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

Olive Oil

1 Large Onion

1 Heaping Cup of Pre-Shredded Carrots

3 Large Kale Leaves, Stalks Removed & Leafy Parts Chopped

2 Tbsp. Chopped Garlic

2 tsp. Sea Salt

1 tsp. Pepper

About 4 Boxes of Gluten-Free Chicken Broth

Place the ground turkey, eggs, chopped basil,oregano and rosemary, chopped garlic, dairy free parmesan, and 1 tsp. of sea salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper in a large bowl. Combine all of the ingredients with your hands, being careful not to overwork the mixture. You want all of the ingredients completely combined but not “mushy” and without at least a little texture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form the turkey into about 1 inch balls. I would say it makes between 45-50 (Almost two trays.)

Bake in a 400 degree oven until lightly golden. About 30 minutes or so. Don’t overcook them as turkey has very little fat and they will become dry.

While the turkey is baking chop the onion and remaining garlic and saute in olive oil just until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the chopped carrots and toss for 2 minutes, add the chopped kale and toss for two minutes more. Place meatballs and sautéed ingredients in crock pot, fill with chicken broth, season with remaining salt and pepper and cook on low for 6-8 hours depending on your schedule for the day.

This is a full crockpot so I would say that it would serve at least five hungry people with a little left over. I served it in the infamous Pier 1 debacle ramekins and I think the contrast was quite nice.