Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dinner - Curried Chicken Potpie (with Vegetarian option!)

Last night's dinner was delicious, perfectly curried, and a wonderful twist on a classic favorite. It was so good, everyone should make this immediately! I even think it could be altered to be vegetarian-friendly (see my notes on the recipe below)! Even my sister could eat this (hi Melissa)!

The recipe itself was a little tricky. Perhaps it was because neither Matt nor I decided to read the recipe in full before we made it. Oops. But it did work out well and was really, really good!

The recipe came from an old issue of Rachael Ray, from a spread that included recipes from many favorite diners throughout the U.S. This recipe comes to us (via Rachael) from the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. I should have had a meal there when I was in San Francisco 4 years ago, as I recall seeing its beautiful chromed exterior as I walked down past the piers of that beautiful city. Just gives me a good excuse to make a return visit, I guess!

This is a two-part recipe, where you start by making the crispy pastry rounds for the tops of the pies, then you make a stew of sorts to fill the pie. You can find the original recipe at this website, but I will try to break it down as easy as possible below. We also added some parsnips we had leftover from a recipe we made last week. They cooked up wonderfully, and almost tasted like potatoes!

Curried Chicken Potpies
(Please see edits in parenthesis for vegetarian option! Note I have not tried vegetarian option, only thinking it could work, so apologies if it is not super delicious!)

For potpie pastry crust:
-1 cup flour
-6 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small pieces
-Pinch salt

To make the crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour and salt. Using fingers, work butter into flour to form coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water and mix together to make a dough. Add more water if necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time.
Knead and transfer to work surface. Roll dough out to form a 10" square. Cut four 4-5 inch circles from the dough.
Place dough circles on parchment-paper lined baking sheet and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes. Let cool while you prepare potpie filling.

For potpie filling:
-1 teaspoon curry powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-2 tablespoons butter, divided
-2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (Vegetarians: substitute firm tofu, or feel free to leave out, subbing another vegetable of choice)
-1 cup chicken broth (Vegetarians: substitute vegetable broth seasoned with a bit of curry, perhaps a 1/2 teaspoon or so)
-1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
-3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds (optional)
-2 cups small cauliflower florets
-1 cup cut green beans (we used fresh)
-1 onion, finely chopped (we used maybe a quarter of an onion)
-1 1/2 tablespoons flour

Combine curry powder, salt and pepper. Season chicken on both sides with the mixture.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet. Add chicken and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Reserve the skillet.

In medium sized pot, bring chicken broth (or vegetable broth) to a boil. Add sweet potato (and parsnips, if using), cover, and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in cauliflower, cover and simmer additional 5 minutes. Stir in green beans, cover and simmer 1 minute longer.

Strain broth into a bowl, keeping vegetables in the pot. Shred chicken up and add to vegetables with any chicken juices.

In reserved skillet, melt remaining tablespoon butter. Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, stirring, and cook until thickened, about 1 minute.

Stir in vegetable mixture, season with a little salt and pepper.
Divide between serving bowls, and top each with a pastry round.
Serve immediately.

Cookbooks - 2 to check out

On a recent visit to the library, I was able to pick up two books I had on hold. They are both wonderful books, so I want to recommend them to you!!

A few weeks ago, I was having a discussion with Laura (a girl I work with at the cafe) about ratios in baking. She's a baking student here in Milwaukee, so we often talk about recipes, delicious treats, and baking in general. She was telling me that they work off of ratios in her class, and that intrigued me. If I could just learn ratios, it would be awesome!!! I could make anything, anywhere, any time, and with NO RECIPE. It really couldn't be that simple, could it?!

Fast forward a couple days. I am perusing facebook (ok, sub "spending too much time on" for perusing...), and another friend Stacey (who I worked with at another cafe in the past) had posted a link to a book. This book was "Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking" by Michael Ruhlman.

This book is exactly what Laura and I had been talking about! A book with ratios for many common recipes that make it easier to make them on the fly! The book contains ratios and variations for many things, including:
-Doughs and batters
-Stock, roux, and slurry
-Meat related ratios (i.e. sausage)
-Sauces (mayonnaise, vinaigrette, and Hollandaise)

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make anything from the book yet, and it is unable to be renewed since someone else has it on hold. But, I am excited to see that used copies are fairly inexpensive on I would love to make a basic list of some of the recipes to stick on the fridge for quick reference!

The other cookbook I checked out was mentioned on another blog I found while making the homemade oreos. The title of the book immediately caught my eye because I love all things retro, "Retro Desserts" by Wayne Harley Brachman. The recipe I used is quite similar to the one in this book.

The book is really cute, full of vintage and vintage-inspired photos of the recipes. It includes some very classic recipes, for instance:
-Bananas Foster
-Cream puff swans
-French silk pie (a fave of mine that reminds me of my grandma)
-White-chocolate grasshopper pie
-Brandy Alexander pie (ohhh man, do I want to make this!! Yes mom, you can come have some.)
-Marshmallows and marshmallow cream (!!)
-Various classic cookies (such as black and whites)

It really does have a ton of recipes. And also used copies on this one are fairly cheap! If you're looking for a delicious dessert, I am sure you will be able to find it here.

I hope you will be able to check these books out, they are definitely worth a look!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dessert - Chocolate Toffee Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Matt recently completed his 2-month long training for his new job. To celebrate, the people in his training group decided to have a potluck for lunch! Matt really wanted to bring some sort of dessert, eventually he decided on cookies.

We went through a bunch of recipes, but he wanted to use these Heath Toffee Bits that we had in our pantry. He also got this idea in his head to use cinnamon chips too. Seriously, I adore cinnamon chips, and they usually make everything more delicious, but the toffee/cinnamon combination sounded downright weird. Oh how wrong I was!!

I had to work all day/night last Thursday, so Matt was on his own, baking (what he says) was his first batch of cookies (I don't know if I believe that). He decided to find an entirely different recipe from the one we had looked at the previous night. The resulting cookies are super delicious! They combine toffee bits, cinnamon chips, and chocolate chips into a sweet batter that baked up crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. It was quite a treat to come home to freshly baked cookies after working a 12-hour day!

We have been trying to get on the website where the recipe came from, but it is not working!! Here's the link if you would like to try for yourself. Not sure if it's temporarily down or what...hmmm.

Here's the recipe as Matt wrote it down:

Chocolate Toffee Cinnamon Chip Cookies

-2 cups flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup butter (melted)
-1 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (Matt accidently used my double strength Penzey's vanilla, but forgot to half the amount!! heehee, I was wondering why the cookies taste so good!!)
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk
-2 Tablespoons milk
-1 cup toffee bits
-1/2 cup cinnamon chips
-1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Cream together (in separate bowl) butter, brown sugar, sugar; then add vanilla, egg, egg yolk, and milk.
Mix until creamy, then add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix to combine.
Add flavor chips by hand with a spoon.
Chill 1 hour (optional), then drop by rounded spoonful 2-3 inches apart on a cookie sheet.
Bake 15 minutes or until edges are brown and cookies are baked through.
Makes 20-30 cookies.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dinner - Garam Masala Chicken with Basmati Rice Pilaf

I have been really slacking on my updates lately!! We had this for dinner a couple nights ago, and it was a delicious and really simple meal!

We picked up a couple of these Kitchens of India instant rice side-dishes on a recent visit to Woodman's grocery store. At 99 cents, we couldn't pass them up!! We decided to pair the rice with a simple chicken breast coated in White Jasmine's garam masala spice blend.

Let's start with the Kitchens of India review. The "rice delicacy" we chose was Basmati Rice Pilaf with Vegetables & Nuts, Kashmiri Vegetable Biryani variety. The ease of preparing this side dish was incredible! The rice came in a pouch, so it was heat and eat style. It kinda weirded me out, since you just popped the pouch in a pot of boiling water, and in 5 minutes, you had a hot side dish! Strange, but not too bad.

The flavor of the rice was not quite my favorite. Matt enjoyed it, but I think the flavor was too much for me. It was heavy on clove, quite smokey, and overall I was surprised that the rice was pretty spicy-hot as well. I am not sure I would buy this flavor again, as it just wasn't my favorite, but the preparation time makes me want to try more of these side dishes to find the one I do enjoy!

As for the chicken, we decided to do a simple spice of garam masala. For Christmas a couple years ago, Matt's mom got us a beautiful set of Indian spices from White Jasmine. White Jasmine spice mixtures are made by the people who do the Everyday Cooking show out of Madison, WI. They have a great variety of recipes on their website, as well as cooking videos from past segments. Their garam masala mixture is very delicious, and includes cumin, cloves, black peppercorns, coriander, and cinnamon. Matt and I have used this mixture many times, and it is as delicious on tofu as it is on chicken.

To make the chicken, we put a little vegetable oil in a skillet, then sprinkled the seasoning over each side of the chicken. We then cooked the chicken in the skillet for maybe 15 minutes (until no longer pink), and our meal was complete! The chicken turned out delicious and was incredibly easy to make. Overall, the meal was pretty good. I could see making it again (especially the chicken!!).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dessert - Bourbon Brownies

As a special Valentine's day treat for my 2 favorite guys in the world (obviously my husband and my dad), I decided to whip up a quick treat. I referenced my current favorite dessert cookbook, Booze Cakes by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone.

The book is filled with delicious desserts (mainly cakes) which all have a special, surprise, boozy ingredient. Of course, some of them contain more than one booze, and the resulting cake can taste just like a cocktail! What's better than being able to eat and drink your dessert all at once?! I can't think of anything.

I ended up trying a variation on the Mocha Rum Brownie Bites from the book, which was Bourbon Brownie Bites with Chocolate Bourbon Frosting. In the book, the brownies are topped with raspberries, but I was quite influenced by Kentucky's famous Bourbon Balls, as made by Rebecca Ruth, and therefore decided to top the brownies with a sugared pecan. (By the way, those Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls are incredible.)

The brownies turned out quite well!! I used the Four Roses bourbon that we purchased on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (highly recommended) this past summer. The recipe was also very simple and quick!! It starts with a boxed brownie mix, and you only add a couple ingredients to make them extra delicious!!

Bourbon Brownies

-1 (19.8 ounce) box brownie mix
-2 eggs
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/4 cup half-and-half
-1/2 cup bourbon
-1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 baking pan.
Mix all ingredients well and pour into pan. Bake 40-45 minutes until knife inserted comes out clean.
Let cool, then cut into pieces. (I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make them cute.)

For the frosting: (This is the full recipe. I cut it in half and it yielded PLENTY of frosting.)
Mix together until smooth:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
-2/3 cup cocoa powder
-3 cups powdered sugar
-1/3 cup milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1-2 teaspoons bourbon

Top brownies with frosting and sugared pecans (if desired).

Dinner - Sweet Simmered Chicken and Vegetables & Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet Walnut Dipping Sauce

I am a couple days late on posting this meal. Matt and I decided to again cook a meal from that "Let's Cook Japanese Food!" book by Amy Kaneko.

Now, I was kinda iffy on whether we should purchase this cookbook for our collection. If you don't know, I have a cookbook obsession so I tend to buy them more than I should. And I have often stood in front of my cookbook case (yes I have a bookcase dedicated solely to cookbooks. It is pretty big too.) and thought to myself "Jamie, you will never be able to make every recipe in every one of these books". The thought actually makes me really sad!! haha.

Anyways, this cookbook I think has managed to make me want to purchase it. The meal we cooked from it last time was good, but the two dishes we made from it for this dinner were fantastic!! The sweet simmered chicken and vegetables tasted amazingly like takeout food, while the side of cold soba noodles with sweet walnut dipping sauce was so good it was like eating a nice sweet dessert noodle (sorry I know that last part is going to gross some of you out!!).

The chicken dish was really not too bad to prepare. I'll post basics here and if you're interested, pick up the book and check out the real recipe!

Ingredients for chicken and veggies sauce:
-5 tablespoons mirin (rice wine)
-5 tablespoons sake
-3 tablespoons soy sauce
-2 tablespoons sugar

We cooked chicken in a skillet with high sides, using sesame and vegetable oils to coat the pan.
Next we added some cut up parsnips, bamboo shoots, and carrots to the dish, and cooked until nearly tender.
Add the sauce next and cook for about 5 minutes longer, adding cut up green beans at the end of cooking so they maintain crunchiness.

As for the soba noodles with sweet walnut dipping sauce: we actually added the walnut paste to the noodles and drizzled them with the sauce. The sauce had a nice, sweet and almost creamy flavor. A slight saltiness helped to balance the sweetness from the sugar, and the walnuts add a beautiful nuttiness.

For the walnut dipping sauce:
Make a paste by grinding 1 cup walnuts with 2-3 teaspoons sugar (I accidently used 2 tablespoons...oops). Then add 1-3 tablespoons tsuyu sauce (see below) to make a paste.

For "Tsuyu" sauce:
-1-1/4 cups dashi or water (we used water)
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-2 tablespoons mirin

Cook soba noodles according to package. When tender, strain out water and move noodles to an ice water bath to cool them. Strain out water, then serve with dipping sauce and tsuyu sauce.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dinner - Japanese style ramen soup

I recently picked up a new book from the library titled "Let's Cook Japanese Food!" by Amy Kaneko. Matt flipped through it the other night and selected a few dishes he thought we would both enjoy.

A little background info - Matt and I spent our honeymoon in the beautiful country of Japan. We toured Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa for the glorious span of two and a half weeks (not nearly long enough).

While we were in Okinawa, we had a delicious meal the folks there called "Okinawa Noodle" (see photo at left), which was a nice soup with thick soba noodles, a warm and slightly salty broth, and an added bonus of a pork spare-rib. I think tonight we both had this meal in mind as we ate.

Unfortunately, it was not very similar, but it was still pretty tasty and brought back great memories of our trip. It also allowed me to eat soup with chopsticks, sipping the broth from the bowl in classic Japanese fashion (it really is the best way to eat soup).

The ramen soup we had tonight from the book was called "Shohei's Special Pork and Sesame Ramen Noodle Soup". I'll give you the general idea of how this recipe is made, and if you're interested, I highly recommend you check out the book! The recipes seem relatively simple to make and the photos are quite beautiful, so it's worth it just to give it a look.

The thing I really enjoyed about this meal was the fantastic contrasts you could taste with each bite. The meat was a bit salty with a spicy kick, while the bean sprouts added a clean and refreshing crunchy element. It seemed to be a really nice balance of flavors, with no one flavor overpowering another.

Matt actually made dinner tonight, which was a huge treat! I seriously did nothing to help him aside from switch two pots around on the stovetop. This is not to say he never makes dinner, because he does, but he was trying to get me to relax and not worry about making dinner for a night.

Here are the basics for the recipe (without giving away the whole enchilada):

Cook 1 pound pork (we used chunks) in a teaspoon of sesame oil.
Add 1 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce (we subbed this for another ingredient in recipe) and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Stir until cooked, then set aside away from heat.

Prepare 4 cups chicken broth (we use Penzeys Chicken Soup Base) and bring to boil.
Prepare 4 packages instant ramen noodles (discard/save flavor packet for another use) as directed on package.

In soup bowls, put about a teaspoon of sesame seeds (we used black sesame seeds) into each. Top with broth. Drain noodles and add to bowls, and top with any other desired ingredients. We used bamboo shoots, green onions, and bean sprouts. Matt also hardboiled/peeled an egg for his bowl, as suggested in the recipe, a very authentic Japanese touch.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dinner - Emeril's Three-Cheese Baked Macaroni

Tonight's dinner was nice and easy. It was a great one that Matt and I could fix up together, and it didn't take long to make. It is from an issue of Everyday Food magazine, from a section called "Cooking with Emeril". (I have forgotten to write down the issue number, but it had to have been one from the past year as it was still in library archives.)

It was a good thing this meal was as quick and delicious as it was, since tonight I am feeling gross. You know the feeling, I'm sure. Stuffed up nose, gross thick cough, and just all around tired. I am getting sick (again). Not fair. So, the gross feeling led me to skip hula class tonight (the one thing I look forward to every week!! BOO!) and lay around the house, mainly in bed, watching TV. Double shift tomorrow is going to be awful. (In other words, sorry if this post is incoherent.)

OK enough complaining. The meal was delicious!! Emeril knows his stuff, which I guess everyone already should know. I think I will be searching out more recipes from him soon.

Generally, I'm not a fan of vegetables/meats that are added to macaroni and cheese. Matt and I often have this conversation, and we have decided that it becomes something else. Like a regular casserole or something. Anyways, this meal has just a slight alteration to the classic, so slight that it doesn't fall into casserole category.

Emeril adds a few strips of bacon, as well as some garlic and the unconventional macaroni and cheese combo of cayenne pepper and nutmeg. The mac has a wonderful flavor, with just enough garlic, a hint of meaty smokiness from the bacon, and a little dash of savory sweetness from the spices. This dish seems to be a keeper in our house already.

Emeril's Three-Cheese Baked Macaroni

-1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
-1/2 pound elbow macaroni
-3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
-1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (we used fresh garlic, 1 large and 1 small clove)
-3 large eggs
-1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar (6 ounces)
-1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces) (For the cheeses, we just subbed an 8oz bag of cheddar-Jack blend shredded cheese)
-1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (1 ounce) (We used shredded Romano cheese)

**Note about the recipe: Emeril wants to you cook this meal at the insanely hot temperature of 475 degrees. I was unsure of the hottest my casserole dish could handle, so we actually cooked the meal at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, until it was bubbly.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Cook macaroni 6 minutes (it will be undercooked) and drain.
In small skillet, cook bacon (we used precooked re-heated in microwave), add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer bacon mixture to a medium bowl and add cooked macaroni, stirring.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and evaporated milk. Add salt, cayenne, nutmeg, and cheeses and mix. Add macaroni mixture and stir to combine.

Place into casserole dish and spread evenly. (I reserved some cheese to top the mixture.)
Bake until just bubbling, about 12 minutes. Let cool 10 minues before serving.

Serves 4-6, with about 485 calories per serving...but if you are eating mac and cheese you probably shouldn't be worrying about the calories in it!

*Another side note, I find this as a great alternative to the mac and cheese dishes you find while eating at restaurants.

Dessert - Homemade "Oreo" Cookies

I have been inspired by many cooking blogs as of late (see my sidebar if you want to check out my faves!), but I find myself being drawn again and again to the delightful confections and genuine simplicity of the tasty morsels found on Smitten Kitchen.

Most recently, I have become borderline obsessed with Oreo cookies. I want to eat them all the time. I've been dreaming about their smooth creamy centers and crunchy "not too sweet" chocolate cookies next to a giant glass of (skim) milk. I somehow found out about a recipe for homemade Oreos (not sure the exact source, could have been, could have been another blog?? Heather, was it you??).

Smitten Kitchen had a recipe for them, and I had it bookmarked on my iPod's browser for a while, tempting me with delicious photos of homemade Oreos each and every day. Then, while looking through one of my magazines over the weekend, I saw her. The founder of Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman, flush across one of its pages. It was a sign!! I had to make these cookies.

So, pre-Superbowl game day movie of "True Grit" (yes, we really didn't watch the game...much), in the span of about an hour, I decided it was time to make these cookies. As Matt said, it was like Iron Chef Jamie in our kitchen. I can attest, these cookies can be made in around an hour!

But I know you are wondering - How do they taste?! Well, I will tell you they are probably about 75% Oreo . The cream is pretty dang close, and the cookies are good but had I used the Dutch-process cocoa or black cocoa (as the Oreo company uses) they probably would have been closer to the real deal.

I will spare the repost of the recipe in favor of you checking out these blogs for recipes:

Smitten Kitchen's Homemade Oreos - This is the recipe I used. I took their hint and used only the cup of sugar (not the cup and a half).

Knead To Be Loaved's Homemade Oreos - The recipe I will probably try next time, at least on the cookie end of things. The shortening in the cream from the Smitten Kitchen recipe grossed me out to begin with (I think shortening is weird...sorry!!), and I think adding gelatin would creep me out more. Although, it probably helps to achieve that precise Oreo-filling texture.

My Baking Addiction's Homemade Oreos -This blog used the same recipe I did, but they made their cookies really cute by tinting the cream filling! (Can I also just say, I SO want to make those mini cake donuts in the recent post!! ADORABLE!!)

If you happen to make your own homemade "Oreos" I would love to know how you like them!! They were a great easy cookie to make, and applying the filling was really easy!! Highly recommended!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Review - Breakfast - Pillsbury Quick Bread in Apple Cinnamon

Matt and I have been on a Sunday morning breakfast kick. We've been enjoying nice, baked breakfast goodies the past couple of weeks, thanks to a healthy supply of coupons for muffin and quick bread mixes.

Let me just wax poet a moment about Pillsbury. I cannot resist trying an item toted by a delightfully giggly, smushy critter (man??) made out of flour. Ever since I was a little kid, I have wished that the Pillsbury dough boy was real. Ok you can laugh now. But really, wouldn't you love to have him serve you a cinnamon roll, or a slice or warm cake?!

A little dough boy trivia, courtesy of the Pillsbury web site:
-The dough boy's voice was originally provided by Paul Frees, better known as the voice of Boris on "Rocky and Bullwinkle".
-The dough boy was "Toy of the Year" in 1972.
-The dough boy gets fan mail!!! (What have I been thinking, I should have sent him a letter long ago...) Apparently, in this fan mail, people request AUTOGRAPHED dough boy photos. (Again, why have I never thought of this?!)

Alright, so now that you know of my soft spot for Pillsbury, I will tell you about our lovely breakfast today which consisted of Pillsbury's Quick Bread in Apple Cinnamon. (Not biased at all.)

Matt decided to take over on the baking today, usually it is my job. I joked that box mixes are "so easy a husband could do it" (it's a joke, see?? Like those ads that think husbands can't cook). Matt does a great job cooking, so obviously he has no issues with box mixes. This one being no exception, easy as promised.

Matt baked them in a muffin pan (instead of a loaf pan). The mix came with a little pouch of apple filling-type stuff, and also a pouch of cinnamon sugar streusel to top the muffins.

They baked up nice and fluffy, and they tasted really good for a boxed muffin mix!! Real chunks of apple, and home-made tasting muffin base. The mix would probably be great as a loaf, almost as a coffee-cake.

We would recommend that if you are looking for a nice, cheap, easy and quick breakfast, you should give this one a shot!! Pretty darn good, and great for a lazy Sunday.

Dinner - (2 nights ago..) Shepherd's Pie

Ok, I admit it. I have been completely lazy the past couple nights. Well not completely. I worked Thursday night so at least that occurred. Matt and I went to have a cocktail or two at Bryant's, our favorite bar in Milwaukee on Friday, and Saturday I really was lazy. I won't go into further detail but this weekend has been delightfully lazy!!

Thursday I randomly had off from my "day job" at the school, thanks to the crazy amount of snow we got here. So I decided to do all of our laundry, watch an insane amount of Dark Shadows on DVD (thanks to the Cudahy Library), and make one of our favorite recipes: Shepherd's Pie.

Shepherd's Pie is a recipe I cannot take credit for. My mom would make this all the time when I was still living at her house. It is simple, delicious, comforting and quick to put together. (I am going to start catagorizing my mom's recipes into a new category "From Mom's Cookbook", so if you want to check out some of her recipes, you should click there!)

The beautiful thing about this recipe is that you can easily have all the ingredients on hand and they keep for a good amount of time. You can literally buy the ingredients for this recipe in January and make it in March if you want.

It is one of the faves in our house because of this, it's great to throw together when you're short on time, and if the ingredients are already there, you have no excuse to go out to a restaurant!

Alright, on to the recipe:

Shepherd's Pie

-2 lbs. ground beef or turkey meat (we actually use 1 lb. and it works just fine!)
-1 large onion, chopped (you can omit if you hate onion, like me, or substitute dried minced onion if desired)
-1 can peas (all canned items are regular 15 oz can size)
-1 can cream style corn
-1 can chopped carrots
-8 servings instant mashed potatoes

(if you feel particularly ambitious, you can use fresh peas/carrots and real mashed potatoes, but that would take a long time to make!! haha)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the instant mashed potatoes according to the package instructions.
Meanwhile, brown the beef or turkey, drain.

Put all ingredients EXCEPT MASHED POTATOES in a casserole dish and mix evenly.
Cover mixture with 8-servings of mashed potatoes and bake in oven 25 minutes.

Serves: I actually have no idea. 6-8?? We usually eat this and have leftovers for 2 days.
As for the casserole dish, I use a CorningWare French White 2-1/2 qt. Oval Casserole.
This is my go-to dish, and it rocks since it has a lid to store leftovers!!