Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You say Cottage Pie, I say Shepherd's Pie

So, during the day today, while I was thinking about making tonight's dinner, I kept referring to the dish I was going to make as Cottage Pie. I can't even remember at this point where I first learned that Shepherd's Pie made with ground beef instead of ground lamb should be referred to as Cottage Pie. And since I've never made either before, I really had no reason to worry about the specifics. Turns out, here in the good old US of A, we refer to it as Shepherd's Pie whether it's made with lamb or beef. From what I read on Wikipedia, in England they make the distinction, based on what type of meat is used. But the article I read said that in Ireland, they will refer to it as Shepherd's Pie whether beef or lamb is used. Why might this be so important, you might ask?? Well, because today is St. Patrick's Day and, being the good Irish girl that I am, I decided to make something traditionally Irish for dinner tonight. I've made Irish Soda Bread in past years, and had totally planned on making some today. But my laziness got the best of me and my family is lucky I bothered to cook anything at all :) So anyway, for my purposes, this dish will be known as Shepherd's Pie, being that I'm both American and Irish :)

This is a tradition Irish dish that is made, usually, to use up leftovers. So I'm pretty sure you could use any vegetable you have in the house. I considered adding green beans, but I thought my husband might boycott, since there are already peas in it and he doesn't much like either peas or greens beans. So I left the green beans out. But, like I said, I'm sure most any vegetable would go well here.

I saw this recipe on this morning's CBS Early Show and decided it would be perfect for dinner tonight because I had everything I needed and because I had been trying to think of something Irish to make. I was happy that this recipe turned out to be kosher-friendly. I found that a lot of the Irish recipes I was finding weren't. I mean, I know I can always omit the bacon or ham or whatever. But still, I needed something that was already easily made kosher without having to make a whole lot of substitutions due to my lack of motivation :) The only thing I had to do was scale the recipe down a bit. I only had a pound of beef to work with and the original recipe calls for 2 pounds of lamb. Also, I chose to omit the celery since I pretty much despise the stuff, so I just added an extra carrot. I used an 8x8 baking dish to bake mine and the "gravy" started bubbling over the sides. Probably because I forgot to scale down the amount of broth I used. But it turned out OK. I just put a baking sheet underneath of the baking dish while it was baking to avoid any drippings ending up on my stove. And I like lots of gravy anyway, so it all worked out. The only other changes I made were to use beef broth instead of chicken broth and I did not brush my potato topping with heavy cream and I used dried basil instead of thyme.

Shepherd's Pie ( source: CBS Early Show)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, diced
1 large celery rib, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
Simple Mashed Potatoes (recipe below)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the lamb and use a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it browns, season with salt and pepper. Transfer browned lamb to a paper towel lined dish to drain. Wipe skillet clean.

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme. Cook until the onions are translucent and vegetables are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Return the lamb to the skillet and stir in the tomato paste. Add flour. Cook about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Stir in the corn and peas.

Transfer to a casserole dish and spread mashed potatoes on top. Use a fork to create swirls on top. Brush with heavy cream. Bake 20 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Simple Mashed Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted and milk is very hot but not simmering.

Return the potatoes to the pot and add the hot milk mixture and 2 teaspoons salt. Using a handheld electric mixer, whip the potatoes until smooth and creamy with no lumps. Adjust seasoning to taste.

I did not use Katie Lee's mashed potato recipe since it would have made this dish not kosher. I just boiled my potatoes in salted water until they were fork tender, drained them, and mixed them with some chicken broth and parve margarine. They were pretty tasty, but if you're not worrying about keeping it kosher, I'd go with the butter and cream version :) Mostly because I think butter and cream makes everything better. But honestly, I didn't miss it in this recipe. It was super flavorful and my whole family loved it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Beef Stew

So, incase you hadn't heard, the Mid Atlantic was hit by a HUGE snowstorm on Saturday. Here in Columbia, MD, we got 30+ inches of snow, and we're expecting another 12-20 inches tomorrow night. Needless to say, we've been pretty much stuck in the house, no school (I happen to be on vacation this week) and lots of free time that is getting harder to fill. I'm trying not to bake too much, because I know we'll just sit around and eat it all out of boredom. I have some chili leftover from last weekend, but since Rob and Maura don't like chili, I knew I needed to make something warm and comforting for them.

I have made beef stew once before, in my Crock Pot, and it was ok, but nothing I was head over heels for. My mom makes a wonderful beef stew, but I wanted to try something a little different. When I saw that this recipe called for red wine, I knew this would be the one I'd try because I'm always looking for a reason to cook with wine, and because I had half a bottle sitting around that needed using up. Also, I found this recipe on my good friend Chelle's website, and I know that any recipe that she has endorsed is going to be a good one. This will, from now on, be my go to Beef Stew recipe.

I plan on playing around with a little to make it more broth-y. The potatoes and beef soaked up most of the liquid, and the stew was amazingly flavorful, but I would have preferred more broth.
I am amazed by how few ingredients this stew called for, yet how much flavor it has. I was floored and I can't wait to eat the leftovers. It was so simple and so comforting, and I am quite sure I will always have beef stew meat waiting in my freezer to make this dish.

I will link to the recipe on Chelle's site, but I will also post my slightly adapted version below. Chelle originally found this recipe on Good Things Catered, but I believe it was originally an America's Test Kitchen recipe.

Hearty Beef Stew

2 lbs. beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes
Salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium onions, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes
4 large carrots (about 1 lb.), peeled and sliced 1/4 in. thick

Dry beef throughly and season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add half the meat so that pieces are not touching and cook not moving until brown (about 2-3 min). Use tongs and rotate pieces until all sides are browned (about 5 additional min.). Transfer beef to medium bowl and add another 1 tablespoon oil to pan, repeating previous steps with other half of beef (I wasn't able to do this process in just 2 batches. I had to do it in thirds.)

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now empty pan and swirl to coat bottom. Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook, scraping bottom of pan for brown bits until softened (about 5 mins). Add garlic and continue to cook for 30 sec. Stir in the flour and cook until lightly colored (1-2 min.). Add wine, scraping the bottom and stiring until thick and flour is dissolved.

Gradually add the beef broth, stirring constantly, scraping up the remaining browned bits on bottom of pan. Add bay leaves and thyme and return to simmer. Add beef, return to simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add potatoes and carrots, leave uncovered, increase heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes.

Discard bay leaves and serve immediately.

This is the wine I used. It is one of the best Kosher wines I've found, so far, and I know that this wine is a huge reason why my stew turned out so flavorful. I plan to use this wine next time I need to cook with red wine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So, I don't like turkey. On Thanksgiving, I pile my plate with side dishes and save room for dessert. Call me crazy, but I have just never liked the stuff very much. But when I saw Turkey breasts at Trader Joe's I decided I wanted to try to roast one. Because I love the idea of roasted turkey this time of year. Also, my daughter loves turkey so I knew that even if I didn't like it too much, I could slice it up and make turkey sandwiches for her lunches.

I had the day off today (thanks Veterans!) so I decided that since it was rainy and gross outside, and I had a few extra hours to spare, I'd give the turkey breast a shot. I knew that it couldn't be that complicated. I've roasted meats before and it's one of my favorite ways to prepare proteins because it's so simple and produces such great flavors. All I really needed was a guide to oven temperature and what temperature the turkey needed to come to before we could dig in. So off I went to Surprisingly enough, when I typed "turkey breast" into the search field, I came up with a big fat nothing. I was dumbfounded. It's November people! Sites such as this one should be bursting with turkey recipes. Then I remembered seeing a delicious looking roasted turkey recipe on Annie's blog and traveled on over to see what I could see.

Annie's recipe was everything I was looking for. Not only did it sound like an amazingly simple but delicious recipe, Annie told me everything I needed to know about oven temperatures and internal temps for the meat. I knew Annie wouldn't let me down :) The woman is a cooking and baking powerhouse and never ceases to amaze me with her awesome skills in the kitchen. But I digress. Back to the turkey.

I can now honestly say that I love turkey. Prepared just like this. It was amazing. Tender, juicy, flavorful, just the right amount of herbs. The vegetables were out of this world and made me want to jump up and down. I didn't have any white wine in the house, so I used chicken broth instead, and I think I will do this every time I make this recipe. It made for an amazing pan gravy, which we enjoyed pouring over our meat and veggies. We all enjoyed this meal immensely (my husband looked at the pictures as I uploaded them to my computer and said "I miss that meal" heehee) So thanks Annie, for providing me with just the right recipe for an amazing meal for my family :) I strayed from the recipe only slightly, so I'll type it just as a made it, but I"ll link to the recipe on Annie's blog here.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with Vegetables

3 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 lb. turkey breast
4-6 carrots, chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into small pieces
6 red potatoes, quartered
3/4 cup chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Combine the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Spray a 13x9 inch roasting pan with cooking spray and arrange the vegetables in the pan in a single layer. PLace turkey breast on top of veggies. POur olive oil and herbs over turkey and vegetables, making sure to cover the turkey with the mixture liberally. Rub the oil and herbs into the turkey. If your turkey breast still has the skin on, rub some of the herb mixture underneath the skin as well. Pour the broth over the vegetables, as well as a few splashes over the turkey breast itself.

Bake uncovered for approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours (mine only took about 1 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 170-175° F. Transfer the turkey breast to a serving platter and surround with the roasted vegetables. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apple-Oat Cookies

Another winner from the Betty Crocker Fall Baking cookbook! I knew this cookbook would serve me well. These cookies are very yummy, and I am excited to take them to my coworkers tomorrow. The only issue I had is that the drizzle was not thick enough and basically soaked right into the cookies. So, aesthetically, they may not be too pleasing, but they sure are yummy.

Apple-Oat Cookies (source: Betty Crocker Fall Baking cookbook)

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon abking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old fashioned or quick cooking oats
1 medium apple, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup shredded)
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons apple juice or milk (I used milk because we never have apple juice in the house)

Heat oven to 375. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, scraping sides occasionally, until blended.

In medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually beat flour mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in oats and apple. Onto cookie sheets, drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart.

Bake about 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

In medium bowl, beat powdered sugar and apple juice (or milk) until smooth, using wire whisk or fork. Drizzle over cooled cooking on cooling rack. Let stand about 1 hour or until glaze is set.

Makes approx. 3 dozen cookies.

Chicken Soup with Rice

So the pictures of this soup pretty much speak for themselves. There's not much more that I can say, except that this was one of the most comforting, delicious soups I have ever made. This was my first time making chicken soup with rice instead of noodles, and I definitely prefer the rice. Of course, Maura and Rob both said they prefer noodles, so there ya go. Anyway, I loved this soup and plan on making it this way from now on. So there! I decided to go ahead and cook the rice separately. I figured that way the rice would not soak up all the yummy broth.

I normally use boneless skinless chicken breasts in my soup, but I opted for chicken legs and thighs this time. My reason for this was that I was making my own stock, and I used chicken leg quarters to make it. So I just used the meat from making my stock in my soup. I definitely prefer the flavor of the dark meat over the white, and it is so much more affordable. I doubt that I'll ever use white meat in my soups again. It just dries out too quickly.

Chicken Soup with Rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 cups chicken stock (I used homemade. You could definitely use store bought)
3 chicken thighs and 3 chicken legs, cooked and de-boned (You could definitely use pre-roasted chicken here. Or you could use boneless skinless breasts. I just find that the dark meat is juicier and more flavorful)
Thyme, basil, oregano, salt and pepper (I did not measure these at all. Sorry!)

1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook until softened. Add carrots and celery and cook over medium heat for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Add stock, chicken, and herbs and spices. Cook over medium-low heat, testing the seasoning as it cooks, for approximately 45 minutes.

In a separate pot, add rice and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed into the rice and the rice is light and fluffy. Fluff rice with fork and spoon into soup bowls. Ladle soup over rice and enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting

So, apparently, the big pumpkin scare is over. I was worried there for a while that I wouldn't be able to find any canned pumpkin this season, and I have to admit that I was getting kind of anxious about it. I did end up finding a bunch of sugar pumpkins to roast, which kept my anxiety at bay. But now the shelves in the stores seem to have an ample supply of the canned stuff so everyone can stop panicking :-) I grabbed a few small cans at Target last week, and my Mom grabbed me 4 of the big guys. So now I should be set until next year :) I'd also like to thank my good friend Meredith for picking me up a can of pumpkin when she found some at the grocery store. Sorry I had to turn it away Mere, but I just don't know what I'd do with one more can! Thanks for thinking of me anyway!

Now, on to these cookies. I believe I started hearing about these last fall on a cooking message board I used to frequent a lot more often than I do these days. I'm pretty sure I recall these babies being pretty popular and I'm not sure why I never tried them. I guess I just had so many other things to try, they never made it close enough to the top of the list. Well, I am really glad that I decided to give these a whirl because they are really yummy! A note of caution though, the frosting is very rich. I mean, 3 cups of confectioner's sugar will hurt your teeth, and your tummy. The recipe says to frost the cookies generously, but I think just a thin spread would be sufficient. I went ahead and generously frosted mine, and they are very yummy, but maybe a bit too much frosting for me. I think spreading too much frosting on hides the real flavor of the cookies. And these cookies deserve to shine. They are light and cakey with a hint of spice from the cinnamon. I'd even venture to say you could go without the frosting, if you're the kind of person who prefers their cookies frosting-free. Either way, these are a winner, and I'm excited for Maura to test them out when she gets home from school today.

Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting (source: Betty Crocker by way of Carrie's Sweet Life)

2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pumpkin ( not pie mix)
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Browned Butter Frosting

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup butter (do not use margarine or spread; it will burn)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, 3/4 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended. Beat in pumpkin and eggs until well mixed. On low speed, beat in flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. (I always mix my dry ingredients together with a whisk before adding them to my wet mixture. This way, I'm sure that everything is as evenly incorporated as possible.)

On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 45 minutes.

In medium bowl, place confectioner's sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk. In 1 quart saucepan (I used my 9 inch nonstick skillet and it worked just fine) heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until light brown,

Pour browned butter over powdered sugar mixture. Beat on low speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Gradually add just enough of the remaining tablespoon of milk to make frosting creamy and spreadable. Generously frost cookies. (I did not need to add any additional milk. Three tablespoons was perfect.)

I wanted to add that I think this frosting would pair well with other types of desserts. I'm thinking some kind of spice cake or apple spice cake. Maybe I'll experiment with it a bit...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dutch Apple-Pumpkin Crisp and the (possible) return of my blog

Fall is officially here. Which means I'm probably going to be doing more baking, much to the chagrin of my bathroom scale. I had to cut back on my baking because we were all eating way too many sweets and no one could fit into their pants. So, now that I have lots of coworkers who are willing to eat all my yummy goodies so I don't have to, I figure I'll bake more and see how it goes. My problem is that when I take the goodies into work, I still have to face them and the temptation that comes along with them. So we'll see.

The other main reason for my complete abandonment of my blog is that I just don't make anything new and exciting. Pretty much the same stuff every week. All stuff that has already been posted here. So obviously, I had no reason to blog.

Well, while shopping over the weekend, my mom and I found one of those wonderful little Betty Crocker "cookbooks" in the checkout aisle at Target. It was full of a ton of really yummy Fall Baking recipes, so we both grabbed one and pored over it when we got back to her house. It was so hard to decide what to make first. A few things stood out to me, but I just couldn't pick something. So with the help of the lovely ladies on The Nest's What's Cooking message board, I decided to go ahead and try the Dutch Apple-Pumpkin Crisp.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about this one. For some reason, the idea of pumpkin and apple together just sounded a little off to me. I don't know that I've ever had them together before now. Well, Betty Crocker sure does know her stuff. Cause this is a seriously delicious dessert. And incredibly easy as well. Chopping the apples is the most complicated part of the whole process. I highly recommend looking for Betty Crocker's Fall Baking mini cookbook in the checkout aisle of your local Target/grocery store. There are some really great looking recipes that I'm sure you'll see featured here in the near future.

Dutch Apple-Pumpkin Crisp (source: Betty Crocker's Fall Baking cookbook)

1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apples (2 small) - I used 2 small apples and didn't measure. But I don't feel like that was quite enough. I"ll probably do 3 small or 2 medium apples next time
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup of milk- I used half and half because all I had was skim milk and I really wanted this to be rich and creamy
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 egg
whipped cream, if desired

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread apples over bottom of 9-inch glass pie plate. Microwave uncovered on high about 4-6 minutes or until apples are crisp-tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss 3/4 cup flour, the brown sugar, butter and 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice until crumbly. Set aside.
3. In medium bowl, beat remaining ingredients except whipped cream with wire whisk until smooth. Pour over apples. Sprinkle with flour mixture.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool 20 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.