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

Chicken Corn Chowder

Chicken Corn Chowder
Soup, stew, bisque, chowder…they are all fairly similar and slightly different from each other. Chowders are prepared with milk, cream or a roux and often made with potatoes. I love them all. Plus, it makes a complete meal all by itself, especially when you have enough “stuff” to make it hearty. I used to think of soups as a wintery type meal. You know, warm and comforting on a cool day. Then I realized it is the perfect hot day meal because you don’t have to start your oven. My mom got this recipe many years ago. It was a family favorite then and now my family loves it just as much. My favorite part of this chowder is the cream style corn and the bit of sweetness it adds to the chowder. Or is it the bacon…everything’s better with bacon!

Chicken Corn Chowder
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3 slices bacon, diced
½ lb. potatoes, unpeeled and diced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1” chunks
3 green onions, sliced
2 T. flour
1 chicken flavored bouillon cube
2 cups milk
1 17 oz. can cream style corn (I usually add 2)

Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon; set aside.

Add potatoes to drippings. Cook until tender. Add chicken and green onions. Cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Sprinkle flour over chicken; stir to blend. Add bouillon, milk and corn.

Cook covered until mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with reserved bacon.

Makes 7 cups

Spinach Pasta Salad

Spinach Pasta Salad
In my last post I talked about my office potluck. This salad was my go to dish. I have served it at home as a main dish and a side dish. I have taken it to other potluck’s and there are never leftovers. I mean what’s not to love about cheese tortellini with crispy bacon and some spinach just to make it seem healthy. The best part is the dressing which is made with chutney. Mango is the most common flavor I can find and it pairs well with the other flavors in the salad.

The street I grew up on always had a block party all day long on the 4th of July. For dinner, the BBQ’s would be wheeled into the street at the end of the cul-de-sac. Everyone would take some sort of side dish or dessert and it was just a plethora of food. Our next door neighbor, Carolyn, brought this salad one year. I’m not kidding, this salad really is a great potluck item. Carolyn got this recipe from her sister-in-law’s friend who got it out of a magazine way back in the day.

Last month my oldest son and I were attending a potluck dinner. I asked him what we should sign up for and he wanted a salad. I handed him a stack of recipe cards and told him to pick a salad he wanted to take. Guess which recipe he landed on?

Spinach Pasta Salad
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7oz. package cheese filled tortellini
6 cups fresh spinach
1 cup shredded red cabbage or torn radicchio
6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained and crumbled
4 green onions, sliced
¼ cup chutney
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
⅓ cup canola oil

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain again.
In a large bowl, toss together tortellini, spinach, cabbage, bacon and green onions. Cover and chill.

For dressing, combine chutney, vinegar and oil in a jar. Cover and chill. Just before serving, shake dressing well. Toss with tortellini mixture.

Classic Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington
I watch a lot of cooking shows. I watch a lot of shows involving cooking. One chef we really like is Gordon Ramsay. There was a series on BBC America back in 2005 called The F Word; F standing for food of course! One thing Chef Ramsay always serves is Beef Wellington. Not only have I wanted to eat it, I have also wanted to make it. The latest issue of Taste of Home magazine, that my mom gave me, had a recipe for a Classic Beef Wellington. I mentioned to my husband that we should do a test run and if all goes well, we should serve this for Christmas Eve dinner. As I’ve said before, my husband is not in the kitchen very often but he is a great cook. The Wellington was just as I expected…phenomenal. The crust on the puff pastry was flaky, the filet simply melted in your mouth and the mushroom duxelles added so much flavor. Even our kids gave the test run a two thumbs up! I can’t wait for Christmas Eve dinner.

Classic Beef Wellington
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4 beef tenderloin steaks (6 ounces each)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1-3/4 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten

Sprinkle steaks with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a large skillet, brown steaks in 1 tablespoon oil for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and refrigerate until chilled.

In the same skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in remaining oil until tender. Stir in remaining salt and pepper; cool to room temperature.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each puff pastry sheet into a 14-in. x 9-1/2-in. rectangle. Cut into two 7-in. squares (use scraps to make decorative cutouts if desired). Place a steak in the center of each square; top with mushroom mixture. Lightly brush pastry edges with water. Bring opposite corners of pastry over steak; pinch seams to seal tightly.

Place on a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Cut four small slits in top of pastry. Arrange cutouts over top if desired. Brush with egg.

Bake at 425° for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and meat reaches desired doneness (for medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145°; medium, 160°; well-done, 170°).

Yield: 4 servings

Adapted from: Taste of Home

Mummy Dogs

Mummy Dogs
So remember those simple holiday meals (St. Patrick’s Day and Easter) I have mentioned before?

Halloween is when we get to have Count Chocula for breakfast. Lunch is usually the fun meal for the kids. We make mummy dogs, which are hot dogs wrapped in crescent dough, orange jello and Jack-o-lantern California cuties the kids decorated.

Jack o lantern Cuties

For dinner, my mom brought over White Bean and Ham Soup, her traditonal Halloween dinner. It was very filling and something warm before we headed outside. Our side dish was Peach Pumpkins, which are peach halves filled with cottage cheese and raisin faces.

Peach Pumpkins

How much longer until we go trick-or-treating?


There are certain questions I get asked when I don’t need to think before I respond. When my grandma calls and says, “I made some artichokes. Would you like to come get them?” I don’t think I have ever said no to that question before. I have eaten artichokes at restaurants, but it is never the same. They grill them and pair it with a dipping sauce. When artichokes are made the Italian way, they are steamed and the fleshy base of the leaves simply melt in your mouth like butter. My favorite part is the chunk of Parmesan cheese my grandma stuffs in the center. The saltiness of the cheese which has been slightly melted is amazing. Once we have eaten all the leaves and removed the choke, comes my second favorite part…the heart. It is so much better than I could ever describe. I am glad my kids love the artichokes too, but I’m sad I have to share.

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Cut stems off artichokes and pare the outside covering off. Cut the top of the artichokes flat and cut the ends off all leaves with scissors. Put the stem along with a piece of Parmesan or Romano cheese in the middle. Sprinkle olive oil inside the leaves. Sprinkle with salt, oregano and Parmesan cheese. Put in a pot. Pour olive oil and water over the artichokes to half way up the artichokes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 hours.

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough
My dad once said, “I would eat pizza everyday if I was allowed.” When I was growing up, my dad would occasionally make pizzas. And boy, were they the best! We would go to the local Italian market and buy our dough balls. Fast forward to my married life and our wonderful Italian market. My husband and I almost choked at the price of a little dough ball. We decided it was worth the effort to make our own. The recipe we have used for years is a basic pizza dough recipe from my California Pizza Kitchen cookbook. This recipe is for two 9” pizzas, so we will usually double the recipe to make three 12” pizzas.

Pizza Dough
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1 tsp. yeast
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water (105 – 110 F)
1 ½ cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure the water is not hot; temperatures of 120 F and above will kill the yeast, and your dough will not rise.

If using an upright mixer, use the mixing paddle attachment because the batch size is too small for the dough hook to be effective. Combine all other ingredients (except the additional teaspoon olive oil) and combine them with the dissolved yeast in the mixing bowl. (Do not pour the salt directly into the yeast water because this would kill some of the yeast.) Allow these 2 ingredients to mix gradually; use the lowest 2 speeds to mix the dough. Mix for 2 – 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Over mixing will produce tough, rubbery dough, and friction will cause dough to rise too fast.

Lightly oil the dough ball and the interior of a 1 quart glass bowl. Place the dough ball in the bowl and seal the bowl with clear food wrap; seal air tight. Set aside at room temperature (70-80F) to rise until double in size; about 1 ½ – 2 hours.

About 2 hours before you are ready to assemble your pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Use a sharp knife to divide the dough into 2 equal portions.

To Stretch and Form the Dough for Pizza:
Sprinkle a medium dusting of flour over a 12×12-inch clean, smooth surface. Flour the dough liberally. Place the floured dough on the floured smooth surface.

Use your hand or rolling pin to press the dough down forming a flat circle about ½-inch thick. Pinch the dough between your fingers all around the edge of the circle, forming a lip or rim that rises about ¼-inch above the center surface of the dough. You may continue this outward stretching motion of the hands until you have reached a 9-inch diameter pizza dough.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Anyone who knows my youngest child knows that burritos are his favorite food.  Those taco or burrito seasoning packets are pricy, plus if you have ever looked at the ingredients, some of them you can’t even pronounce.  So about one year ago, I did some experimenting and came up with a great recipe from spices I already had in my pantry.  I use this recipe for either tacos or burritos; they are just folded different, right?  Our Cinco de Mayo dinner tonight was burritos with all the toppings and Mango Margaritas!

Homemade Taco Seasoning
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1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Brown 1 pound ground beef.  Add seasonings and ½ cup water.

Chicken Divan

Chicken Divan

This recipe is from Prevention magazine.  I enjoyed it for many reasons: there aren’t many ingredients; it’s quick, easy and only one pot to clean up!  The next day I ate the leftovers and it was just as good cold.

Chicken Divan
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8 oz gemelli, rotini, or ziti pasta
1 lb broccoli, tops cut into florets and stems peeled and sliced 
1 tbsp butter 
2 tsp dried basil 
4 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour 
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth 
2/3 cup 2% milk
3/4 tsp salt 
1 sm rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone (2 1/2 to 3 c total) 
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Boil pasta. Add broccoli during last 5 minutes. Drain. Melt butter with basil in pasta pot and stir in flour. When light brown, whisk in broth, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil. Toss with chicken, pasta/broccoli mixture, and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Yields  4 servings

Adapted from: Prevention Magazine

Tortellini PPP

Tortellini PPP

Years ago, before kids, my mother-in-law turned us on to this authentic Italian restaurant in Newport Beach called il Farro.  Dylan will order the same pasta dish 9 times out of 10 which is Tortellini PPP (prosciutto, peas and parmesan cheese).  It is similar to a carbonara, so what’s not to love, right?  A couple years ago I found a recipe to make at home and surprised Dylan.  In the picture you see here I used pancetta instead of prosciutto.  Buon appetito!

Tortelli PPP
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1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half cream
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
10 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine flour and cream until smooth; stir in the cheeses. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat.

Drain tortellini; add to the cheese sauce. Stir in the prosciutto, peas and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 4 servings.

Recipe from: Taste of Home