Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

I made mashed potatoes on Saturday and I always end up with a bunch of leftovers.  I'm not a big fan of leftover mashed potatoes, reheating them in the microwave just seems to ruin them.  I decided to put the leftovers to a good use and try my hand at making Shepherd's Pie. 

The recipe I used is from Rachael Ray and is one of her 30 Minute Meals.  I'm normally not a huge fan of her 30 minute meals, they always seem to lack a depth of flavor.  (Although, her Sloppy Joes are to die for.  I may have to put those on the menu next week...) I decide to give her Shepherd's Pie recipe a try for two reasons.  1. I had all the ingredients on hand and 2. The ingredients looked like flavors we would like.

Here's a link to the original recipe and below is how I made it.  By the way, look at the prep and cook times, 15 + 25 = 40, not 30.  As I've run across in the past, a lot of Rachael's 30 Minutes Meals take at least 40-45 minutes.  I guess they would take 30 if you had a kitchen full of assistants running around!

Shepherd's Pie
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Serves 4

Leftover mashed potatoes (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (only use if you are using a lower fat ground beef)
1 3/4 pounds ground beef
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat.
2. Add oil to hot pan with beef. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes.
3. Add the carrot and onion and cook with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes.
5. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables.
6. Stir in peas. And cook for 3-4 minutes.
7. Preheat broiler to high.
8. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned.


I will definitely make this again.  I'm going to tweek some things though, I often do that after making a dish for the first time.  The meat mixture turned out a little sweet so I'm going to add onion and garlic powder to the meat next time.  I'm also going to do some research to see what goes into "real" Shepherd's Pie and may do some additional adjustments.  Overall, this was very good and I liked how quick it came together.  Having the leftover mashed potatoes was a huge bonus because it was one less thing to worry about.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Best Mashed Potatoes

I spent 2 hours prepping and making dinner on Saturday night.  I like to cook so spending 2 hours cooking is no big deal, especially when I don't spend that much time that often.  Dinner was delicious.  My boys weren't in an eating mood though.  Carter sat at the table and ate for 9 minutes, seriously 9 minutes.  Eli lasted 16 minutes.  I have no idea what was up with them, they normally last much, much longer.  I had spent so much time cooking and the food was so yummy that Jon and I just let the boys play while we finished dinner.  The joys of parenthood!

This is the first of three of the dishes I made on Saturday.  I wanted to post the chicken I made, but I'm using the leftover mashed potatoes in tonight's dinner so I thought I should post the potatoes today.  I'm saving the other recipes for when we eat out or I make something for dinner I've already blogged about. 

This recipe comes from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.  (Have I said how much I love her yet?)  I make some changes though.  Here's a link to the original recipe and below is how I make them.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 40 mins
Serves 6

3lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
1-1.5 Sticks Butter
1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2-3/4 Cups Half-and-Half
Seasoning Salt
Salt & Black Pepper

1. Cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size.  I quarter mine.  Like this:

2. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes.
3. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
4. Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.
5. Turn off the stove and add 1/2-1 stick of butter, mix/mash well.
6. Add 3/4 up to the full package of cream cheese, mix/mash well.
7. Add about 1/2 a cup of half-and-half, mix/mash well.
8. Next add seasoning salt, salt and black pepper to your liking.
9. Eat and enter mashed potato heaven.

The things I do differently than Ree are; I only use 3lbs of potatoes, she uses 5.  I have more than enough leftovers with the 3lbs as is! I use way less butter and a little more half and half.  (I think the potatoes are creamier that way.)  You can add as much butter, half and half and cream cheese as you like.  I really like the tanginess the cream cheese adds so I use a good amount.  I also don't bake the potatoes.  I'm sure they are delicious baked, but I don't typically have the time for one more step, plus I want to eat the potatoes by that point!

Now these aren't low fat or healthy by any means.  But they are delicious.  The best mashed potatoes I've ever made or eaten!  I only eat mashed potatoes 3-4 or so times a year (Thanksgiving, Christmas and the one or two other times I make them) so I let myself enjoy these.

I'm looking forward to using them in Sheppard's Pie tonight.  I've never made Sheppard's Pie and I'm excited to see how it goes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Farfalle with Pesto, Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes

I've never been a goat cheese person, then I ran across this recipe.  I was leery of it at first, I mean it calls for goat cheese, who eats goat cheese?  I decided to be brave and give it a try.  I'm so glad I did.  The goat cheese gives the pasta a nice tang.  The grape tomatoes are a perfect addition, they balance the past out and give it some texture.  This is the perfect summer time pasta.

I'm still not a big goat cheese person but I am now a fan of the type of goat cheese I use in this recipe, chevre.  The recipe itself calls for 4 ounces of "fresh" goat cheese.  Trader Joe's carries 5oz packages of chevre so that's what I use.  (I like chevre on crackers with a little salami now too, yum!)  Trader Joe's a bunch of different goat cheeses too, they only other one I've tried was goat cheese cheddar.  I'm not a fan.  I'll stick to chevre.

This is another Woman's Day recipe, I'm telling that magazine is great for recipes!  Here's a link to the original recipe .

Farfalle with Pesto, Goat Cheese and Grape Tomatoes
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 10 mins
Serves 6

1 lb farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 small cloves garlic, smashed
1⁄2 tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
5 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)
1 pt grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1⁄2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, using a food processor or blender, pulse the walnuts, oil, basil, garlic, crushed pepper and 1⁄2 tsp salt until finely chopped but not totally pureed.
3. Add the basil mixture, half the goat cheese, and reserved pasta water to the pot; toss to coat. Fold in the tomatoes and sprinkle with the remaining goat cheese before serving.

So easy and very yummy!  I typically serve this with some grilled sweet Italian sausage, fresh french bread and a salad.  It's really more of a light summer meal but it's still yummy in cold weather!  It sends me on a mini-summer vacation during cold weather. Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I love the Pioneer Woman.  If I could be her I would.  I wish my blog was as cool and well organized as hers.  I have made a bunch of her recipes and they are always delicious.  She even has a Food Network show now, The Pioneer Woman.  I'm picky about the cooking shows I watch and I love hers.  It has the perfect mix of cooking and real life mixed in.  A show I truly miss is What Would Brian Boitano Make?  I wish that show would come back on.

Ok, back to dinner.  This is one of my favorite recipes, I feel like I say that a lot, but then again, why would I cook something if it wasn't good? :)

I originally found this recipe in this amazing cookbook.

Not only am I picky about cooking shows, I'm picky about cookbooks.  Very rarely do I buy one.  There's too many good recipes in magazines and on the internet!  But this one came with rav reviews from many, many people.  Jon got the cookbook for me for my birthday a few years ago.  Not only does it have great recipes, with step-by-step instructions including pictures-- a huge plus for me-- but it has many other amazing pictures from Ree's day to day life.  All the pictures make me want to live in the country on a ranch!

My cell phone pictures do not do this cookbook justice.

Here's a link to the original recipe which is slightly different than the recipe in the book.  Below is how I make my version of Ree's Chicken Pot Pie.  The one major difference is I don't make my own crust.  I use store bought pre-made, find it in the refrigerated section, pie crust.  I'm sure this recipe would be a million times better with homemade crust but I don't have the time or desire to make homemade pie crust.  Hence, I'm not as cool as the Pioneer Woman. Also, it's super delicious even with store bought pie crust I haven't had the desire to try it with homemade pie crust.

For the chicken I use a Costco rotisserie chicken.  I've tried rotisserie chickens for other stores and they just aren't as good.  I take as much meat off of the breasts and drumsticks as I can and call it good.  It ends up being about 2 cups, or close enough that I call it 2 cups.

Chicken Pot Pie
Prep time 15 mins
Active cook time 30 mins
Oven cook & cool time 40 mins
Serves 6-8

1 box premade pie crust (2 pie crusts total)
1/2 stick butter
1 large onion finely diced
3 carrots finely diced
3 celery stalks finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups diced chicken
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the pie crusts from the box and allow to warm up while preparing the rest of the recipe, or at least 15 minutes.
3. Melt butter in a skillet or dutch oven. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook until translucent.
4. Add the peas and cook for 5 minutes.
5. Add chicken and mix well.
6. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir. Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
7. Pour in chicken broth, stirring constantly.
8. Pour in cream.
9. Bring to a slow boil and allow mixture to cook and thicken.  (This can take up to 10-15 minutes, you want this thick like gravy, not runny, or the final product won't turn out right.)
10. Add salt and pepper to taste and thyme.
11. Pour mixture into a casserole dish or deep pie pan.
12. Place one crust on top of the pot pie mixture and repeat with the second crust, press crust into the sides of the dish. Cut vents in the top of the crust.
13. Place pie on a baking sheet covered in foil, it will over flow while baking and this will save a mess in your oven! Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is very golden and the inside is bubbly.
14. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Step 9
I could seriously eat this mixture alone, Eli loves it! Or over mashed potatoes, it's so yummy.

Step 12
Ready for the oven!

I was very proud of this pot pie. It looks pretty and was super, super yummy!

Yumminess to the max!

This isn't a quick recipe, but it is an easy recipe.  If you prep everything ahead of time it goes faster as well.  I highly recommend giving this one a try!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Turkey Taco Salad

Apparently it's my new norm to go a week between posts.  Sorry, I'm really trying to get better!
We had Turkey Taco Salads for dinner about a week ago.  This is a meal that I created all on my own.  I'm quite proud of it.  It's really yummy, plus it comes together quick.

Turkey Taco Salad
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 30 mins
Serves 2 (with lots of leftover meat)

1 package ground turkey
Taco seasoning
1/4 cup water
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can diced green chilies
1 can black beans
Romaine lettuce (1 head per person)
Shredded cheese
Sour Cream
Tortilla chips

1. Brown the ground turkey over medium high heat.  Depending on your pan you may need to add a little oil to the pan first.
2. After the turkey is brown, add the taco seasoning, I use about one packet. You can add as much or as little as you'd like.  Add 1/4 cup of water and cook until the water is gone. 
3. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is soft and brown on the edges.
4. Add the can of chilies and cook about 5 mins.
5. Drain and rinse the can of beans.  Add to the turkey mixture and cook until the beans are warmed.
6. Chop the lettuce anyway you'd like.
7.  Mix a little sour cream and salsa together to make a dressing.
8.  Add half the lettuce to a bowl.  Top with turkey mixture, cheese and dressing.  Serve with tortilla chips on the side for a nice crunch.

One nice thing about this recipe is how much extra turkey you will end up with.  We only used enough of the turkey for two salads.  We used the leftovers for quesedillas and soft tacos.  Plus there was still more leftover that I had to throw away due to age.

Ground turkey is a great alternative to ground beef.  I'm always looking for fun new ways to use ground turkey.  If you have a great recipe to pass along, let me know!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

French Onion Potatoes

Here I am with 4 days between postings.  What happened to posting everyday you say? Yeah, well, I get back there one day.  :)

Here's a look back on our dinners since I last posted:
Saturday- I honestly don't remember.  Must have been pretty boring.
Sunday- Amazing Chicken Alfredo with mushrooms  (Too bad I forgot to take pictures.)
Monday- Baked pork chops (nothing fancy, just Shake & Bake,) mixed veggies and the star, French Onion Potatoes.
Tuesday- Hot Dogs, well chili dogs if you're Jon.

This post is about the star of the show on Monday, French Onion Potatoes.  These potatoes are super simple and easy to make and super yummy.

French Onion Potatoes
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 40 mins
Serves Varies

Red Potatoes (number depends on the number of servings you want)
Olive Oil
Lipton Onion Soup Mix (1-2 envelopes)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Prepare potatoes by cutting into 1 inch cubes.  I use red potatoes, you can use Russets if you like.  I used approx 4 lbs of potatoes, we like leftovers.  :)
3. Spread potatoes on a sheet pan and cover liberally with olive oil.  Once again the amount varies, I use less oil than the original recipe calls for.  I think I use about a 1/4 cup for 4lbs of potatoes.  You want the potatoes coated but not dripping with oil.
4. Cover potatoes with the soup mix.  I used 1 envelope per 2lbs of potatoes.
5.  Bake for approx 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and brown and crunchy on the outside.


I'm hoping to be back tomorrow posting about a new Spanish style rice recipe I'm trying.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Asian Lettuce Cups with Spicy Ground Turkey Filling

That's right, I'm finally back!  We've got a working refrigerator, it's not new, it's old, ugly and almond in color, but it works.  We're going to keep it as our "garage fridge" once we get a real new one.  The only downside is we're keeping it in the garage.  Lots of trips to and from the garage when cooking can be a pain, but at least we have a refrigerator again!

I've cooked a bit in the last week, just nothing too exciting.  Tonight I finally cooked something new and exciting for dinner.  I'm super excited to share this recipe.  It turned out super yummy and Jon and I both loved it.

Cast of characters

Here's the link to the original recipe and here's how I made it.

Asian Lettuce Cups with Spicy Ground Turkey Filling
Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 mins
Cook time 20 mins

1 T vegetable oil (or slightly more, depending on the pan you have)
3 T minced shallots
2 T minced garlic
2 T grated ginger root
1 lb ground turkey
4 T soy sauce
1 T Chile Oil
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (about 1/2 large bunch)
1 small can water chestnuts
chopped peanuts (as many as you'd like, we used a bunch)
2 small heads butter lettuce

1. Chop onion and set aside.
2. Peel ginger root, then grate with the large side of a cheese grater.
3.Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add onion and saute about 2 minutes, then add garlic and ginger root and saute about one minute more.
4. Add ground turkey to frying pan (with a bit more oil if needed) and break apart and spread out with turner.
5. Add soy sauce and chili garlic sauce. Cook until the turkey is brown and crumbling apart, and the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
6. While turkey cooks, wash and chop fresh cilantro to make 1 cup. Also, chop the water chestnuts into smallish pieces.
7. Remove the core end from lettuce, separate leaves and wash. 
8. Chop peanuts and put in small bowl to serve at the table.
9. When turkey is done, add chopped cilantro and water chestnuts and cook 1-2 minutes more.
10. Serve filling and lettuce leaves in separate bowls and chopped peanuts in another small bowl.

To assemble, each person takes a lettuce leaf, fills with desired amount of turkey mixture, adds chopped peanuts and sauce (see below) and then eats the mixture from the lettuce cup.  Like a lettuce filled taco.


I also made a sauce to go on the filling.  I just mixed soy sauce, chili oil and minced garlic together in a small bowl.  It turned out really good.  It reminded me of the sauce P.F. Changs makes for their lettuce wraps.
Like I said, we loved this recipe.  Next time I make it I'm going to make some modifications.  I'm going to add mushrooms and green onions and use fish sauce.  This recipe is differently a "keeper".