Shepherd’s Pie

Happy 7th Blogoversary to me! Last year (2016) I made a pie for Pi Day. This year is a different kind of pie, a meat pie aka Shepherd’s Pie. I love a good Shepherd’s Pie. A Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb but a Cottage Pie is made with ground beef. Ok, so I guess I love a good Cottage Pie! They both include ground meat, cooked in gravy with vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes.

Last year I decided to switch up our usual St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I saw this Shepherd’s Pie recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network and I had to make it…into a Cottage Pie! It was an instant hit with my family. Recipes that are basically a one pot dish are so easy. Plus, I love the convenience of this classic comforting dish.

Shepherd’s Pie
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For the potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 ounces unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the lamb mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

Kelly’s note: If short on time, it’s ok to use frozen carrots. Just add them with the peas and corn.

Adapted from: Alton Brown

French Silk Pie

Happy 6th Blogoversary to me (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016)! I guess I hadn’t realized this day falls on 3/14…Pi Day. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, pie as a dessert is just ok for me. I could leave it really. Shocking if you know how much I LOVE desserts. One time many years back on a visit to Marie Callender’s I saw this dark satin-y chocolate pie with a chocolate cookie crust called French Silk Pie. To Die For…really, it’s that good. I searched and searched for a recipe so I could make it on my own. Most recipes I found were for a more chocolate cream pie, definitely not the same thing. Then, Pioneer Woman entered my life and she made this on her show in season 6! It has been life changing! I have made it several times since I first saw the airing of this show and I’ve made a few changes, I thought regular sugar made the pie taste too grainy/gritty so I use powdered sugar. Instead of unsweetened chocolate, I use semi-sweet. And, I only make it with the chocolate cookie crust. French Silk Pie is so creamy and silky good it will literally melt in your mouth.

French Silk Pie
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4 ounces, weight semi-sweet Baking Chocolate
1 cup Salted Butter, Softened
1-1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
4 whole Eggs
pie shell/crust

In small microwave safe bowl melt 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate until stirrable (about 45 seconds on high). Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer and paddle attachment beat 1 cup (2 sticks) of regular (salted) butter and 1 ½ cups of white sugar until fluffy (about 1 to 2 minutes). When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined.

On a Kitchen Aid mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment. Turn your mixer to a medium speed and over a period of 15 to 20 minutes add in the four eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into the baked pie shell, scraping every last speck of it out of the bowl. Smooth out the pie filling and place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer).

Cook’s Notes:
• This recipe contains raw eggs; some stores sell pasteurized-in-the-shell eggs which would work well in this recipe. It is recommended that pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and the infirm do not consume raw eggs.

Chocolate Cookie Crust

25 Chocolate Wafer Cookies
5 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

Finely crush the cookies in a food processor; mix with butter. Press firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Whipped Cream

⅓ cup Heavy Cream
1 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar

In a deep mixing bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 1 powdered sugar over cream; beat until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat.

Adapted from: Pioneer Woman


Happy 5th Blogoversary to me!

It is hard to believe that 5 years ago today I started this blog (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). My paternal grandma passed away 1 1/2 weeks ago and tomorrow is her funeral. My cousin recently asked me for some of her recipes (Biscotti, Artichokes and Neapolitan Meatballs). I’ve been making this granola recipe for several years now and while this granola recipe is not from my grandma, I hope my kids will always remember cooking in the kitchen with me and our music playing loudly.

My kids love when certain foods get made and this is one of them. My oldest wanted to help me make this batch of granola and asked if we could triple the recipe. My hubby and youngest are giving up processed carbs for breakfast and lunch during Lent. As my youngest says, “I never met a carb I didn’t like!” So his options for breakfast have been very limited. He loves eating this with milk for breakfast. My oldest will have the granola added to yogurt for an afternoon snack. What I love most about this recipe is you can start with the basic recipe and modify it by adding what you want or like in yours. I’ve added cinnamon before, or pumpkin pie spice and pepitas during the fall; you can change the nuts (as I did here) or change the dried fruit. It all turns out delicious!

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3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Adapted from: Alton Brown’s Good Eats

Pistachio Coffee Cake

Pistachio Cake
Happy 4th Blogoversary to me!

I started this blog four years ago. As time goes on I hope this will be a way for my kids to have the recipes they grew up with. I love knowing the history of a recipe and reliving memories of years past.

While I have previously talked about St. Patrick’s Day before (2011 and 2012), I haven’t talked about this Pistachio Coffee Cake. My former boss, Linda, used to make this for every office potluck because we all requested it. I love making it close to St. Patty’s Day because of the green color in the pistachio pudding. The pudding mix helps make this cake so moist. Oh how I do love a good coffee cake!

Linda got the recipe from a PTA cookbook she helped create. Her friend submitted a recipe for a pistachio bread, but Linda tweaked it to make it more of a coffee cake. She then started giving the coffee cake as her Christmas present to her neighbors. Linda’s younger son requested she make several of these cakes for his wedding reception in addition to his wedding cake. It’s stories and memories like this I hope to pass on to my children.

Pistachio Coffee Cake
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Crumb Filling:
¼ cup of each:
brown sugar
cinnamon-sugar mixture
pecans, chopped
4 T. butter, cold
1 T. amaretto or almond extract (optional)

Cake Mixture:
3 ½ oz. pkg. pistachio pudding
1 box of white or yellow cake mix
4 eggs
¼ cup oil
½ cup water or amaretto
8 oz. sour cream or plain yogurt

Icing Glaze:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup milk, amaretto or water
2 T. butter, melted

Grease bundt or tube pan and sprinkle the sides with cinnamon sugar. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix crumb filling together, adding cold butter; cutting it in. Mixture will be coarse and easy to sprinkle. If you add the extract to this, cover it while you prepare the cake mixture to intensify the flavors.

Mix all cake ingredients together until well blended.

Pour ⅓ of the cake mix into the prepared pan. Sprinkle ½ of the crumb filling over the cake batter; continue alternation cake and mixture, topping off with the cake mix. Once all the ingredients are in the pan; lift up the cake pan and tap around the bottom of the pan to release any air bubbles that may have formed.

Bake for about 50 minutes in the middle rack of your oven.

Once the cake has finished baking and has been cooled, invert onto a cake plate. Pour icing mixture over the cake; sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar, if desired.

Icing Directions
Mix ingredients together until smooth and creamy. It should drip off the spoon slowly, but not be runny. Cover with a damp cloth until ready to use or the icing will harden.

Cook’s notes:
•I always add the almond extract to the crumb filling.
•I only use water for the cake mix. (I don’t ever have amaretto in the house!)
•I never do the icing because I feel too guilty at breakfast!

Queen Mary

Queen Mary
Happy 3rd Blogoversary to me! While I’ve been too busy eating to post much in the last year, I thought today would be a perfect time to update my site. (See previous blogoversary posts: Lego Marshmallow Pops, Pistachio Ice Cream and The Original Chex Party Mix.)

I have been to the Queen Mary many times for all sorts of occasions including my senior prom, an engagement party, a wedding and even a funeral. This latest outing was for my bi-annual tea with my mom, Debbie and Kim in December. (See previous tea outings: Millennium Biltmore Hotel and Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge)

RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967. Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She sailed for the last time to the port of Long Beach, CA, where she remains permanently moored. The ship now serves as a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum, and hotel. The ship is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Queen Mary Tea Room did not disappoint. It was a rainy day but cleared up just before arriving at the ship. We sat near a window which overlooks the Queensway Bay. The four of us all had the Windsor Tea; they also serve lunch. The staff here was quite attentive and was able to get us what we needed before we really needed it. As usual we were all quite stuffed by the end of our visit.

Queen Mary2

There is currently an exhibit with Princess Diana memorabilia. While we did think about going, Debbie and Kim said they had gone to Kensington Palace while they were in England in 2002. I said I had been there in 2001. We all thought it would be similar to what we had already seen.

Lego Marshmallow Pops and Lego Water Bottles

Lego Marshmallow Pops
Happy 2nd Blogoversary to me!

Two years ago I started this blog to share my love of food. Some recipes and restaurants have not made it on because we ate the food so fast I forgot to photograph it!

Last year’s Blogoversary talked about my love of Pinterest. My youngest child recently had a birthday party. A Lego theme was requested so I scoured Pinterest for some goodie bag ideas. While I’ve always wanted to make my own cake pops, I wasn’t really sure how. I thought big marshmallows would do just fine. I affixed an M & M with frosting on top before dipping them in yellow candy melts I bought at Michaels. The problem with that was the M & M started to melt. Next time I will try a small marshmallow. Then I melted chocolate chips to make their little faces.

Lego Water Bottles
For the water bottles, my hubby created these on Photoshop and I had copies made at Office Max. I removed the water bottle label and taped our own on.

Pistachio Ice Cream, Blogoversary, Pinterest

Pistachio Ice Cream
One year ago today I decided to start food blogging because not only do I love to bake and cook, but I wanted to share recipes with friends and family. I’m so excited to share this fabulous recipe for Pistachio Ice Cream on my first Blogoversary!

Ice cream is my absolute favorite thing to eat (remember Leap Day). I was just telling my kids the other day how my brother and I would ride our bikes to Thifty (aka Rite Aid) for some ice cream. At the time cones were only 5 cents for a single scoop, 10 cents for a double and 25 cents for a triple!

My hubby and I got an ice cream maker from my cousin as a wedding present over a decade ago. Lately, I’ve been getting rid of things I no longer use. I decided to give the ice cream maker one last try and if it did not work (again), it was outta here. I turned to a friend’s blog, Pure & Yummy, who featured some amazing ice cream recipes last summer. Since one of my children gave up chocolate for Lent, my ice cream options were dwindling. As luck would have it, I just happened to purchase shelled pistachios at Costco. The flavors in this ice cream are AMAZING! It’s sweet, a little salty, crunchy and creamy smooth all at once. I kept telling my family, it was the best ice cream I have ever tasted…and that’s saying a lot considering it’s not chocolate! I will be making Pistachio Ice Cream again this week for St. Patrick’s Day.

I realized my previous mistake when making ice cream; I did not chill the mixture long enough so the ice cream never formed or set properly. In the last week I have made two different ice creams and one sorbet. I’m thinking the ice cream maker gets to stay!

Pinterest – Since Christmas, I have been highly addicted thanks to my child’s teacher! If you are not familiar, it is a virtual photo bulletin board where you create collections you like. I have gotten some great ideas for redecorating my family room and I have baked and cooked some fantastic recipes I have found. Now if only I could get around to some of those crafts. Come follow me on Pinterest!

Pistachio Ice Cream
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1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
¾ cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup unsalted shelled pistachios, toasted, coarsely chopped

Finely grind 1 cup pistachios and ¼ cup sugar in a food processor. Bring milk and ground pistachio mixture to boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and pistachio mixture. Return the milk and egg mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat stirirng constantly until custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of the spoon when your finger is drawn across, about 10 minutes (do not boil).

Strain into a large bowl. Stir in the whipping cream and the almond extract. Cover the mixture and chill completely in the refrigerator.

Once chilled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. Add the chopped toasted pistachios in the last 2 minutes of churning. Put in an air tight container and freeze in the freezer for several hours before serving.

Makes about one quart.

Adapted from: Pure & Yummy