Monday, March 21, 2011

Shepherd's Pie (even kids will love)

I wanted to make an Irish meal since this was St. Patrick's day week, but everything I was going to make was followed by a not so happy look from my husband. So I just stayed in the isles instead and made a Shepherd's Pie. Basically a Shepherd's Pie is a beef, mutton or lamb stew that is covered with mashed potatoes and baked. This recipe was a hit with both my husband and son.

Shepherd's Pie

3 medium carrots
2 leeks, tops removed*
2 celery stalks
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/8 cup fresh parsley
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste

4-5 baking potatoes
2 tablespoons margarine
3/4 - 1 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Rough chop and clean vegetables*, add to a hot pan along with the garlic and olive oil.  Saute until leeks and celery are just translucent. Add the beef and brown.

While the beef browns peel and cut the potatoes. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once the beef is browned, add the broth and tomato paste. Stir to combine, add the flour andcontinue to stir until the flour is Incorporated. Add the thyme and parsley to the mixture and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and place back into the pot, add the margarine and milk.  You may want to add more or less milk depending on how smooth you would like your potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Add the peas to beef mixture, and season to taste.  Transfer the mixture into a casserole dish.  Top with the mashed potatoes.  Use a spatula to completely cover the dish.

Place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes to really marry all the flavors. During the last few minutes, place under the broiler just until golden.

*Because leeks are grown in a sandy soil you really want to clean them well, cut the leek lengthwise and then slice place in a large bowl of cold water.  Agitate the water slightly, all the dirt will sink to the bottom and the leeks will float.  Just scoop the leeks out of the water and leave the dirt behind.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken Pot-pie with Biscuit Topping

It was a cold and rainy Sunday last week and I wanted to make something that was warm and comforting.  I was originally going to attempt chicken and dumplings but I couldn't find a recipe that I liked and I didn't really want to call my husbands grandmother either.  So I looked around our pantry and freezer and decided on a pot-pie.

When I make things like casseroles, I like to make enough so I can freeze one for a later date, and with this I did just that.  I actually made three, I used an oval casserole dish that would serve 4-6 and two smaller rectangle dishes that would serve 2-3 good size portions. (As you can see in the pictures.)  You can use what ever vegetables you would like with this, use what you have on hand or in season, works well with out meat also.

The recipe is as follows:

For the Filling:

2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
4-5 medium red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 – 10 oz bag of frozen shoe peg corn
3 cups frozen peas
2 ½ cups chicken broth
2/3 cup whole milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

For the topping:

Biscuit mix, enough for 6-8 biscuits
¼ cup Cheddar cheese

In a large pot, boil the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.  In the same pot, cook the chicken until no longer pink (do not over cook the chicken will continue to cook in the sauce.) Remove the chicken from pot.

Add carrots, celery and garlic to the pot (you can add onion at this point if you would like, I did not since my husband doesn't eat onion.) Once the carrot is tender, add the frozen vegetables, potatoes, herbs and chicken broth.  Cook until all vegetables are cooked.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, temper the milk with a small amount of the broth.  Add to the mixture, along with the flour.  Stir/Whisk until smooth.  Add the chicken.

Simmer over low heat to allow the sauce to thicken.  Meanwhile, prepare biscuits as directed (or make your own from scratch if you have the time.)  Mix the cheese with the biscuit mixture.

Pour filling into baking dishes.** Top with the biscuit mixture, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until topping is cooked.

**If you plan on freezing, allow the filling to cool completely.  Add the topping; refrigerated biscuit dough or pie crust also works well.  Wrap the container very well with plastic wrap and foil; try to get as much of the air out as possible. When you are ready to cook, thaw in the refrigerator completely, cook at 400 degrees for about 50-60 minutes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spread the Word...

Today is the national day to Spread the Word to End the Word. The word "retard(ed)" hurts millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends. Take the pledge and help promote the new r-word Respect.

I have always felt strongly about not using this word just like a lot of people are strongly against the n-word. I don't boycott movies, actors, etc. because they use the word. Yes it makes me cringe, just like other words I my find offensive. Does that make me a supporter? A hypocrite? Sometimes I think is does. But then I think of all the other things in movies; if they are bad mouthing religion does that mean I don't really believe in God, or when it is strongly racial does it make me racist? No I don't think so. Now if the r-word is dropped like every other word, yes it will get turned off. I personally do not use the r-word and I do usually say something if some one uses the word around me.  I can't change the way people use the word, but I will try and make them aware of it.

Why do I take this personally? Well I have always had, and still have, a special place in my heart for special people. I am a volunteer with our local Special Olympics and with best buddies. (Who are both sponsors for end the word.) So I have seen first hand how it affects people and their families.

I took the pledge and do every year to help end the use of the r-word. I then pass the information on, it is my way of spreading the word. There are groups and organizations that do more, there is a list on the website. There are also resources to help your group plan an event, plus a lot of other tools. But at a minimum you can take the pledge, and pledge that you yourself will do your part to end the word.

Remember that no matter how you use the r-word it is always derogatory and will offend or hurt someone.