The best (Americanized) Shepherd’s Pie EVER

and I stand by that.

Shepherd’s pie is. What it is. I guess I am just not a huge fan of ground beef (see: Meatloaf for people who hate meatloaf). I like everything else in Shepherd’s pie – the veggies, the mashed potato, the (fingers crossed) cheese – but I find that generally, the ground beefyness of it all outweighs the other components.

Let’s fix this, I say. So, I set out to make a Shepherd’s pie that I like which basically means I did what I always do and I take something that Isaac likes (in this case: plain old ground beef and mashed potato) and overwhelm it with things that Dara likes (in this case: lots of roast veggie, goat cheese and tomato vinaigrette). So I did that and I made the best Shepherd’s pie ever. It’s kind of what I do.

Please do not be put off by the seemingly tedious nature of this recipe. I promise it requires very little thought, prep and/or work (I wouldn’t make it otherwise).

Ingredients:

1 lb. Baby Carrots, halved if you’re so inclined
1 Red Onion, roughly chopped
1 Head of Garlic, top cut off (for roasting)
4 Roma Tomatoes, quartered
1 tbs. Herbs de Provence (yes, go buy it)
1.5 lb Ground Sirloin (or beef or whatever)
1 pkg. Lipton Onion Soup Mix
3 Baking Potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 c Beef Stock
1 c Heavy Cream
4 tbs. Butter
4 oz. Goat Cheese
1.5 c Parsley
3 tbs. Red Wine Vinegar
4 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 oz. Shredded Cheddar Cheese (optional.. I GUESS)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a baking dish, combine carrots, red onion, tomatoes and herbs de Provence with salt, pepper and some olive oil. Add head of garlic to baking dish somewhere so that the garlic roasts while the veggies cook. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

In a large pot, bring beef stock to a boil and then add potatoes. Simmer for 30 minutes.

In a large pan, brown ground sirloin and onion soup mixture at medium-high heat for 10 minutes. You will probably want to drain this.

When the vegetables finish, remove from oven and take out garlic and tomatoes. Place tomatoes in food processor with parsley, two cloves of roasted garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Blend until vinaigrette forms. Add beef mixture to vegetable pan and mix in vinaigrette.

Drain potatoes and combine with heavy cream, goat cheese, butter and four cloves of roasted cloves of garlic. Whip until potatoes are smooth.

Top beef and veggie mixture with potatoes and then sprinkle cheddar cheese all over.

Bake in oven (you left it on, right?) for 5-10 min. Eat that s up!

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Cream of Mushroom Soup.. with Chicken! and Leeks! Hold the soup!

No, I don’t think there is anything wrong with this recipe’s title.  Adapted from this Jamie Oliver recipe:  “Chicken and Leek Stroganoff”  just doesn’t hit the same mental flavor notes as my title does. So says I.

I love leeks but I feel like they turn a bit grey and truth be told, the end result of this dish isn’t the most beautiful. It’s white and grey and a little green and brown and a soupy-muddled mess. But it tastes. Divine. My husband told me well over ten times that he LOVED it and he “hates” mushrooms and leeks.

Ingredients:

2 leeks, washed and sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Some butter, oil, salt, and pepper
3/4 c Chicken Broth
1 cup of mushrooms, chunked
2 chicken breasts, chunked
1/2 heavy cream
1/2 lemon

Directions: Make sure to clean your leeks! It’s kind of tedious but I find it cathartic to seperate and wash each individual layer of leek. Once the leeks are cleaned and sliced, add to a pan with 1 tbs. butter, a swirl of olive oil, garlic, chicken broth, and salt&pepper. This is leeks in their prettiest state:

Let this cook for about 8-10 minutes on medium high heat. Now add chicken, mushrooms and cream. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes (or when chicken is cooked through).

Lastly, squeeze the lemon half over the pan, give it a stir, and serve! We at ours over boil-a-bag rice because we’re classy like that.

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Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Dara and I are horrible at being consistent about blogging. We suck at this, we know.

My heart hasn’t been in the kitchen much lately, I have to say. This summer was a scorcher and the last place I really wanted to be was in the kitchen, cooking. And with Darin traveling as much as he does in the fall, I just don’t get into cooking a lot; he generally likes everything I make and usually I have at least one child making some sort of complaint otherwise. And complaints don’t usually motivate me.

What I’m really trying to say is I haven’t been cooking like I was last year and the year prior. And when you cook the same boring recipes, you don’t like to blog about them, ya know?

I’m hoping this will break my spell, but don’t hold me to it.

Today is my stepdaughter’s fifth birthday and, per our tradition, I decided to make her cupcakes. And we went with pink again this year (after chocolate in 2009 and strawberry in 2008). Last week my mom gave me a little recipe book that included a recipe for pink lemonade cupcakes, so that was on the menu for Emma Day Grace’s big day. Continue reading

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Let’s Beet Breast Cancer!!

As you are probably (hopefully) aware, October is National Breast Cancer Month.  I think it is pretty awesome that breast cancer awareness has become such a national platform that even our professional football players wear pink all October long (while hopefully donating huge portions of their salaries to cancer research).  At my previous job we purchased pink shirts to wear every Friday and had at least one luncheon,  in efforts to raise money for breast cancer research and awareness.  The following recipe would be PERFECT to bring to such a luncheon.

Now, the ingredients that make up this dip (think of it more as a spread for toasts) might horrify or disgust some but I assure you.  I ASSURE YOU.  It is so, so good.  I made it up (I think) one night when my husband was out-of-town so I could eat whatever I wanted and all that I wanted to eat was pickled beets and goat cheese.  So I mashed them together, and viola!  The most delicious, most beautiful in color dip/spread ever created.

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. Goat Cheese
  • 12 oz. Pickled Beets (or whatever size jar you have)
  • 1 tbs. Horseradish
  • Zest of 1/2 Orange
  • 1 tbs. Fresh Thyme
  • Sourdough Bread (or toasts, or baguette, whatever you like)

Combing all ingredients, except bread, in a pan and heat through.

Once the mixture is heated (about 3-5 minutes), blend together with an immersion blender, or in the food processor.

Serve with toasted bread.

The end result is sweet from the beets, tangy from the cheese and a little bit of spicy from the horseradish.  Beets make a great addition to many foods, solely for their gorgeous color alone.  Shred some raw beet in coleslaw or potato salad to turn your dish hot pink!

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Love Me Tender Elvis-Inspired Muffins

Love Me Tender Muffins

This morning I told Darin I was tired of the house being so messy and that I was ready to clean after church. And so when the children and I returned, I sent them upstairs to get started on their rooms and I rested for a bit before getting to work. As I cleaned the kitchen I noticed the bananas I bought last weekend either needed to be used or tossed. That pretty much means Echo Day will be doing some baking!

The last time I made the kids banana-chocolate chip muffins, it was a pretty big hit. And because I like it when they like me – the kind of like where they are throwing their arms around my waist and declaring me the best mommy EVAR – I decided it was about time for a freakin’ encore up in here.

Enter the baking.

I used a recipe I found online and modified it to include peanut butter chips. These are what you call Elvis-inspired (my kids are Elvis fans, oddly, so that was one way to convince them the muffins would be fantastic before they’d ever tasted them). All we’re missing is bacon fat (no thank you).

(I also baked blueberry muffins for my husband and he asked if I was trying to get out of doing laundry. I hadn’t even thought of that as a plan! Maybe next time? Note: I still didn’t get out of it, it’s still there, waiting to be folded.)

I wasn’t sure how well they’d really go over, but they LOVED them! And so did I! I am the best mommy EVAR once again (even after I made them all cry today!) They will definitely stay in our rotation. Or, well, they will be made again. I’m not consistent enough to have a rotation, let’s be real here.

Bagged - Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender Elvis-Inspired Banana-Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(Recipe adapted from one found at epicurious.com)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar (I used light brown sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
2 tsp applesauce (or 1 large egg)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter chips and milk chocolate chips, mixed

All shook up:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups with foil muffin liners. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Mix mashed bananas, applesauce (or egg), melted butter and milk in medium bowl. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not overmix). Stir in peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 32 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack; cool.

But before they cool completely, cut one open, slather on the butter and shove directly into your face. Repeat until you’ve ruined your supper.

These are TO DIE FOR! Just ask Elvis. (Bada-bing! Thanks! I’ll be here all week …)

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Team Daylicious does ZZ Top

This has nothing to do with food (not really!), but I wanted to cross-post one of our adventures. On August 1, Darin and I, Dara and Isaac and my father-in-law, Jim, went to see ZZ Top in Southaven, Miss.

Oh yeah, in a limo, so we could partake in adult beverages if we wished and still be safe.

A limo, yeah. A white one.

“We’re making memories!” Jim said over and over.

(I haven’t been in a limo since I went to prom when I was a junior. I didn’t even ride to either of my weddings in a limo. Fancypants, aren’t we?)

On the way there Jim karate-chopped the lid to the styrofoam cooler. The rest of us were chatting and all of a sudden, the lid is breaking into two pieces and he’s grabbing a beer. lololol. Probably not funny to anyone else, but we have been giggling over that for weeks.

Anyway. So we get there and Edward, our driver, has to drop us off about half a mile from the gate because there was nowhere for him to turn around. Or something. But we had to walk. From our limo.

If you’re, say, approaching 30, have four kids, been married twice and generally unhappy with your appearance, your self-esteem is never so low as when you happen upon bikini babes wearing barely there bathing suits and posing with hairy, shirtless drunk guys. The hairy drunk guys I can do without, true, but seriously young bikini babes, you made me feel pretty freakin’ old right then. I look short and chubby compared to Dara, much less an even taller, even tanner, scantily-clad barely legal chick. Ugh.

Oh, that pizza sucked, by the way.

Right after this I saw a former co-worker. Yes, in another state. What can I say? Darin said he can’t take me anywhere, then of course we sat down and behind us was a couple he used to live next door to (and the wife works with his mother). Ha.

The concert was pretty good. We all enjoyed ourselves, except when this jerky lady kept telling Darin and Isaac to sit down. As Dara so eloquently put it, “Sit down? At a rock concert? Seriously?” She pulled on Darin’s shirt at one point and tried to force him to sit, but we exchanged some not-s0-pleasantries and it didn’t happen again. I wanted to punch her because, for real, don’t put your hands on my husband you angry jerk.

I knew five songs the entire night. The last five songs they played. But we had a good time.

When we were done, Edward was somewhere outside. Dara called his cell phone to make sure he was at the amphitheater and he said, “I’m the only white limo out here!” Touché, Edward, touché.

The ride home was … fun? I remember laughing a lot, but I don’t remember why. And that is probably for the best because I can’t share anything incriminating. When we finally got home, Edward scared the bejesus out of me by popping up by the door when I was getting out. Just out of nowhere, there he was! And he was handing me his business card – for his life insurance business.

Ah, memories.

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The best steak you will ever eat.

Period.

While I am (probably) known in my real life to be a bit leaning towards facetiously over-exaggerating superfluity (see?), I assure you that the title of this post is, in fact, total truth. One should not be intimidated by cooking steak, it is EXTREMELY easy and deceptively inexpensive. Case in point: Uh.. this recipe.

The most important aspect of this recipe is the meat itself. It HAS to be freshly cut when you order. Which also means you HAVE to order it from a butcher. (Be it a “real” butcher, or one at your local grocery store.) Ordering meat from the butcher is really easy and there is a sense of old-timey hokeyness to it that I also enjoy. For this best steak, simply walk up to your meat counter and declare (or politely state): “I need four, six-ounce, one-inch thick filets, please!” That easy! The last time I made this, filet was running $19.99 per pound. My steaks ended up costing about $25.00. Now don’t freak out.  My brother, the math genius, tells me that means that each steak was less than $6 per person. As compared to your $20.00 restaurant steak (per person) that sits under a heating lap.

Ingredients

  • 4 six-ounce, one-inch thick Filets
  • 2 tbs. Butter
  • 1 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 wedge (or container of pre crumbled) Blue Cheese
  • 1 tbs. Sherry OR 1 tbs. Sugar

“But Dara, filet is supposed to have bacon!”  If you want to take the time to wrap your filets with bacon, BY ALL MEANS.  I’m not here to judge you.  First turn your oven on to about 375-400 degrees.  Then combine the balsamic vinegar and sherry (or sugar, I just happened to not have sugar but had sherry) in a small pot and bring to a boil, then simmer.  This sauce will need to simmer for at least 20 minutes.  It will get syrupy and coat the back of your spoon.  Stir it occasionally. 

When you are ready to cook the steak, place a pan over medium-high heat (closer to high then to medium), and melt the butter.  If you are afraid of your butter burning (like I was) melt the butter over a lower heat before jacking the heat up to cook the steaks.  When butter is melted, salt and pepper your steaks, and add to the pan.  Cook over the higher heat for four minutes.  The bottom of your steak will be cooked but the top three-fourths will be raw.  Flip and cook the other side for three minutes.  When the three minutes is up, there will probably be a small line of raw meat going around the middle.  Top each steak with a spoonful or so of blue cheese and place the pan in the oven.  Let the steaks cook in the oven for NO MORE then three minutes.  This will produce a perfect medium steak, the inside will be hot pink, but not bloody.

Top steaks with balsamic sauce.  Serve with whipped potatoes.

Send me money, flowers, and gifts.

Side note:  Because I am SO thoughtful, I should tell you that if, GOD FORBID, you are a vegetarian, you can still enjoy one of the finer points of this dish: the sauce.  This balsamic sauce would be insane over strawberries.  Like, really crazy good amazing.  So there you go, hippies.

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