Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds Pie1

When people find out that I love to cook, try my food, or find out that I have a food blog I get several pretty regular, frequent reactions:

“Oh, you’re a REALLY good cook: have you ever thought about going to culinary school?”

“Wow, you should open up a restaurant and/or catering company!”

“You should totally go on ‘Chopped’ ‘Next Food Network Star’ or ‘Master Chef’!” (Popular food tv shows)

I always politely laugh off these remarks and questions in the real world. However, since this happens to be my blog and here I’m not obligated to laugh or even be all that polite about it, I can just give the straight up honest answers that go off in my head when this happens. Because I know you guys can take it.

Shepherds Pie3

Do I ever think about going to culinary school?

Never.  Not once. It’s a notion that has not, nor ever will be a possibility in my life. For one, culinary school tuition is not cheap. I already signed my life away in five years worth of student loans for my B.A. degree- I’m still trying to get it back now in the small loan re-payments I make now every month. Signing off on more loans to go to culinary school? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Second, culinary school is not something I would ever want to pursue because for me, shaping the act of cooking around the very regimen and structure of school would completely take all the fun out of it for me. When I cook for myself and my family, I like having the freedom to not only add or take away from a recipe as I see fit, but also to mess it up. In culinary school you learn so-called rules of making this and that, having to add this many ingredients, and these exact seasoning with very little wiggle room for freedom and personal interpretation of a dish. And if you do make a mistake and blow a dish, you could fail a mid-term or a final. Where’s the fun in that?

I’ll pass, thank you.

Shepherds Pie2

Would I ever open a restaurant?

Heh. Honey, you couldn’t pay me enough to do that. Long, endless hours of thank-less work. An almost guaranteed loss in profit in the first 1-2 years. Disgruntled, rude customers. The stress of continuity in putting out good food. Just a few reasons for me to steer clear of the restaurant business like it’s the Plague. I would want to have a life outside of my restaurant- most restaurant owners don’t. I want to be able to see my family on a regular basis- most restaurant owners don’t. I don’t do so well with failure- statistically speaking, most restaurants go belly up. There are virtually no pros to balance out those cons, at least not for me. A restauranteur, I am most definitely not.

Do I want to go on tv shows like ‘Chopped’ or ‘Master Chef’?

H-E-double hockey sticks, NO! No. No. No. And, uh no. I don’t do very well cooking under pressure,much less the added pressure of cooking on national television. Although it would certainly be nice if I did get to win one of those contests,the emotional repercussions if I didn’t wouldn’t be pretty. I’m a really sore loser, folks. Plus, if I had to cook for celebrity chefs (several of whom I really like and revere) and they didn’t end up liking my food, I would seriously give up cooking for the rest of my life, no joke. Why put myself through all that?

Shepherds Pie4

Okay, moving on.

It’s fall, and that means you have to have a shepherd’s pie. Seriously: you HAVE to. I keep mine pretty simple; it’s a real meat and potatoes kind of dish-literally. If you’re not in the mood to make mashed potatoes from scratch, then please feel free to use the potato flakes you can microwave- I’ve done that in the past and the dish still comes out perfectly fine. We also don’t add cheese to ours, but I know that most people do, so I added it in the recipe. My only regret is that I didn’t make some brown gravy for these pictures, because that’s how I serve it to my family. This is pure comfort food, folks. No frills, no fancy stuff. But it sure is good for what ails you on chilly winter nights.

******************************************************************

 Shepherd’s Pie

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 4.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 12 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 12 oz. frozen, mixed vegetables, thawed and drained
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 15.25 oz. can of tomato sauce (like for Hunts Meatloaf sauce)
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tbsp. onion powder, divided
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. basil leaves
  • 1/2tsp. Ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. pepper, divided
  • Cheese (optional)

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°

2. Set a large pot of boiling water over the stove. Cook potatoes, fully submerged in water for about 15 minutes, or until they are fork tender and drain.

3. Mash potatoes using a potato masher (or a mixer fitted with paddle attachment). Don’t worry about making them completely smooth– lumps aren’t a bad thing here. Add the heavy cream, butter, 1 tbsp. garlic and onion powder, and 1/2 tsp garlic  salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

4.Brown beef over stovetop, then add mixed vegetables beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, remaining garlic and onion powder, sugar, basil leaves, Ground thyme and garlic salt and pepper. Bring to a medium high heat and allow to cook for a further 10 15 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed (it’s okay if there’s a little bit left). Taste and adjust for seasoning if needed.

5. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish (or any casserole dish) with cooking spray. Spoon meat filling into bottom of dish, then spread mashed potatoes over the top. Make sure potatoes completely cover the meat to prevent any juices from bubbling up and spilling over.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until potatoes begin to barely brown across the top. Remove dish from oven and turn on broiler.

8. Spray the potato layer with Butter-flavored cooking spray, or dollop with unsalted butter. You may also add cheese here if you like. Place dish back into oven, directly beneath the broiler and allow to cook a further 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are golden and browned.

Herb Roasted Rutabaga

Roasted Rutabaga2Tagged

When I was very little girl, there was this show that used to come on the tv station Nickelodeon called ‘Allegra’s Window’. It was a very Muppet/Sesame-Street-esque show about a little girl puppet named Allegra that had these mild 3 year old problems (if those can even really exist) that she, her brother and best friend would spend the entire episode trying to solve and overcome. It was a pretty cute show and I still smile even when I think about it now. I don’t know why shows with puppet and human interactions like Allegra’s Window and the Muppets don’t seem to come on that much anymore on kid’s stations. Maybe they figure little kids of today in the age of the iPad and Wii don’t have the attention span of kids from the 90’s like me did- which i find to be kinda unfortunate. Moment of silence for Childhood Nostalgia.

Roasted Rutabaga3Tagged

Now onto the main point: what the heck does Allegra’s Window have to do with today’s recipe? Well believe it or not, the truth is that Allegra’s Window was the very first mention that I had of the vegetable rutabaga. Honest, it was. One of the puppets in Allegra’s town was a zany, goofy kind of chef  puppet called Mr. Cook. It’s been nearly 20 years, so naturally I don’t remember a whole lot from the show, but the one thing that I do still recall is that the only ingredient that Mr. Cook ever wanted to cook with was rutabagas. He was legit always trying to shove a dish of rutabagas into Allegra and her friends faces, to which they would always squeal and yell in disgusted protest. Because apparently for little kids rutabagas are…not very tasty. I know it sounds crazy you guys, but the truth is that for twenty years, Allegra’s Window has successfully put me off ever wanting to have anything to do with rutabaga- which is crazy because anyone who knows me knows that I’m a vegetable-addict. There’s little to nothing I won’t try…except rutabagas (and peas. Don’t ever ask me to have anything to do with peas. It’s just not gonna happen.)

Whenever I saw rutabagas anywhere, I always remembered Mr. Cook and his nasty looking dishes of rutabaga and turned my nose up at it. So I guess that’s really saying something about the power of television over our minds.

….Yeah, I know. I’m weird. Moving on.

Roasted Rutabaga1Tagged

About a month ago, I was having dinner at my grandparent’s house and my grandma offered me this orangey-looking mashed dish that she’d made as a side. When I asked her what it was, she said that it was mashed rutabaga.

Duh- duh- duhhn!

I knew that I’d avoided rutabagas my entire life. I knew that Allegra’s Window had taught me that they were ‘nasty’…but I also knew that it was an impossibility that anything that came out of my grandma’s kitchen could ever, ever EVER be nasty. I tried the mashed rutabagas.

I’ve been believing a lie for the past twenty + years, guys.

Rutabagas are absolutely DELICIOUS.

That night began a semi-obsession with rutabagas that is still ongoing as I speak. This recipe is a result of that, and I can’t recommend it enough. Roasting is the perfect method of bringing out all the natural sweetness of the rutabaga, while the herbs are the platform on which it can stand. Try this, guys…because Everyone need rutabagas in their life.

*********************************************************************

Herb Roasted Rutabaga

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 large rutabagas, peeled and cubed into equal pieces.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dillweed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning (Like Mrs. Dash)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°

2. Place cubed rutabaga into 2 9 x 13 glass baking dishes. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.

3. Combine remaining ingredients together into a small bowl. Sprinkle over rutabaga cubes and toss again until even coated.

4. Roast in oven until golden and tender, about 45-50 minutes, stirring half-way through. Serve.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Smothered Steak and Onions

Smothered Steak2

Did you guys know that today is National Comfort Food Day?

Did any of you know that there WAS a National Comfort Food Day?

Me neither. At least, not until I saw that it was through my Facebook news feed on on Food.com. I thought it was a great coincidence and surprise considering the newest post that I had for you all. This dish is as ‘comfort food-ey’ as it gets. The ingredients are short, sweet and to the point: meat, gravy, and a starch. Is there anything else you could possibly want from comfort food? I think not.

As a self-professed foodie, I love testing out new recipes that are different, or require a unique cooking or baking form that I haven’t really tried before. I like experimenting with new flavors and spices. There are very few things that I’m not willing to try. However, there are sometimes when I just want to have no frills, bells or whistles, stick to your ribs, comfort food.

Sometimes,I just gotta have the simple things.

Smothered Steak1

I had some steak in my freezer that I wanted to hurry up and use, as well as some onion leftover from Thanksgiving. I asked Ashley what she thought I should do with it, and she suggested making steak and rice with gravy.

Steak and rice with gravy is one of my grandpa’s favorite things for my grandma to make for him, so growing up, I ate my share of it. Hers is (of course) absolutely delicious. However, it’s also one of those recipes that she makes without a real ‘recipe’- meaning, she just throws all the ingredients together and it just turns out tasting fantastic every single time.

I’m working up to that level, guys. I am working on it. This dish was one of those efforts toward Grandma’s level. I took what I had in the kitchen, threw it together, and hoped that it would turn out right.

I also wrote down the amounts of the ingredients as I went along so that I could make sure that you guys could have it too.

I’m actually pretty proud of myself for making this dish off the top of my head: it’s delicious. The steak is made very tender when baked in the oven and thus ‘smothered’ by the thick, hearty gravy. It’s just asking to be served over some kind of starch- my family eats it with rice rice, but mashed potatoes or egg noodles would be just as delicious.

Meat lovers will LOVE this dish. And non-meat lovers? I’m pretty sure they’d like it too in spite of themselves.

***************************************************

Smothered Steak & Onions

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

*2  1/2 lbs of bottom round steak, pounded to about 1/4 inch thick

* 1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

* 1 tablespoon of Weber Chicago Steak Seasoning

* 1 tablespoon Emeril’s Essence

* 1 tablespoon garlic powder

* 1 tablespoon onion powder

* Olive oil, for the skillet

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 2 cups low sodium beef broth

* About 1/4 cup flour

* 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Season steak with steak seasoning, Emeril’s Essence seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder.

2. Pour olive oil in bottom of a cast iron skillet or regular frying pan. Cook steak over medium- high heat until browned on the outside, about 3 minutes per side (note: it does NOT need to be cooked all the way through). Remove steak to a plate and cover with aluminum foil, leaving the drippings in the skillet.

3. Add onions to skillet and cook until they are limp, translucent and slightly caramelized. Remove from pan and set aside.

4. Lower heat to medium. Add flour to skillet, stirring for a minute or two. Add chicken broth and heavy cream, stirring until flour has cooked down completely and gravy has thickened.

5. Place steak and onions back to the skillet and stir to combine with the gray. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

6. Remove aluminum foil from skillet and check seasoning of gravy. If necessary, add the one teaspoon of salt. Stir steak and onions, then place skillet back in the oven uncovered, for ten more minutes.

7. Serve over white rice, egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

***********************************************************