Shepherd’s Pie

When I think of comfort food, I think about pasta, cheese and soup. This is to be expected, but I also think about the feelings these foods can provoke. They’re called comfort foods for a reason, so of course they bring a sense of comfort and security.

Along with these feelings also come memories. Chicken and dumplings transports me back to being just above eye level with the counter in my grandmas chicken as I cut the dough into strips for her to drop in the hot broth. Chili makes me think of chopping firewood with my sisters and Dad in the middle of winter. Spaghetti puts me right back at my other grandma’s kitchen table as I watch her douse the boiling water with salt.

Shepherd’s Pie isn’t a dish I grew up eating, but it always sounded cozy to me, probably because the word “pie” was in the title. So I only have two memories of it. The first was the one time I decided to make it when I was younger. It was nothing more than ground beef covered with a layer of the blandest potatoes ever then taken out of the oven while they were the same color.

The other memory is when my family and I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To say we were tired and hungry after a day on our feet at Disney World is an understatement, so we plopped down at The Three Broomsticks. My sisters and I were dying at the fact that we were eating there (we love HP). The rents couldn’t have cared less. Dad ordered Shepherd’s Pie.

That’s it. Those are the only two run ins I’ve ever had with the stuff. Not much, but I decided it definitely qualifies as a comfort food and it should definitely be on this blog.

I hope that this recipe, should you decide to try it, brings back some of those memories for you that certain foods brings back for me.

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Shepherd’s Pie

So let’s talk about the recipe and ingredients themselves.

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a ton of items you’ll need to make this. But beef and potatoes need just a bit of help when it comes to flavor…

Rich, creamy potatoes are completely necessary for this dish. I made mine a bit thin because some of that moisture is going to come out in the oven. To make them even more decadent, try adding some cream cheese.

Feel free to add any kind of seasonings you want into the meat mixture, and don’t be afraid with them either. Ground beef is rather bland on its own, which is why I created a gravy.

It’s a pretty simple gravy. And it’ll be thin, but that’s okay.

So give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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Ingredients

For the mashed potatoes:

  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (I like a lot of pepper in my potatoes. Tone it down if you want)
  • 1 tablespoon butter

For the meat mixture:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced the same size as onions
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 15oz can corn
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf

For the gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet over medium to medium high heat, cook beef about 15 minutes, breaking up the big chunks. Drain and pour beef into casserole dish.
  3. Peel and quarter potatoes and place in a large pot with just enough water to cover them. Add salt and boil about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain and set aside.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, return the beef skillet back to stove and melt butter over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, bay leaf and seasonings. Cook till onions are translucent and carrots begin to soften, about 25 minutes. Add peas and corn to heat through.
  5. For the gravy, melt butter and add flour in a small saucepan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then drop in bouillon cubes and pour in water. Whisk till the gravy thickens and the cubes have dissolved. Add Worcestershire and pour into vegetable mixture along with the beef.
  6. Add sour cream, milk, salt, pepper and butter into potatoes and beat with a hand mixture till smooth. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  7. Pour meat mixture into bottom of a casserole dish. Carefully spoon potatoes on top, covering all of the meat.
  8. Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes until potatoes have browned.

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

So I know I’ve been posting a ton of roasted recipes lately, but I can’t help what i’m in the mood to cook.

And I want to make this blog full of easy recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients. This isn’t to say I won’t post something that takes hours and 34534083 components, but you get it.

One of first times I cooked with rosemary was when I was in college. My roommate found had this recipe that used the fresh sprig mixed with cream cheese, spread onto buttery dough then baked. The rolls were delicious, but man did we use too much rosemary! Needless to say, we didn’t know what we were doing.

I do love the herb, though. It gives us an earthy, warm flavor you can’t get anywhere else. Once it’s added to a bowl of garlic, onions and potatoes to be roasted?? Say it with me: “Yes, please.”

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Like I said, we used too much rosemary for those rolls, so I stayed away from it for quite a while. I recently started tossing it into my cart at the store because it’s pretty and green and it’s fun to chop. (It doesn’t take much to make me happy.)

This is about as fancy as it gets for me when I roast potatoes. Really. I normally toss the spuds with whatever dry spices my eyes land on first when I open the cabinet. Sometimes it’s a mixture of Lawry’s and black pepper, and other nights call for onion powder and garlic salt. And I definitely slather them in barbecue sauce.

When I told Aaron we were having rosemary on our roasted potatoes one night, he said, “Ew that Christmas tree stuff?” He doesn’t even like rosemary and he ate these, guys. No barbecue sauce needed. 🙂

Let’s talk about the type of potato. I used yellow potatoes here. I absolutely cannot get passed their creamy, velvety texture. They also seem to keep their shape better than other potatoes, but a red or a russet would probably work just as well. It’s also up to you weather or not you peel the spud. I know some people have a ~thing~ when it comes to skins on their food. If you do decide to peel them, try not to move them around too much or they’ll turn into mashed potatoes..

You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup a snap. I rarely use foil anymore because they always seem to stick to that and watching someone spit a piece of foil out of their mouth after eating one of these is sooooo embarrassing.

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Strangely enough, these potatoes make a great side dish along side a few fried eggs. Any kind of potato roasted any kind of way with eggs is honestly one of my favorite weeknight dinners.

And who doesn’t love potatoes??

Garlic Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 3-4 yellow potatoes, cut into one inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Make sure each cube is coated with oil.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 25-30 minutes, turning them around about half way through to brown all sides.
  4. Serve immediately.

30 Minute Alfredo with Sun Dried Tomatoes

No matter how much I try to come up with a unique or different recipe, I always end up coming back to pasta.DSC_0199

When I first started making my own Alfredo sauce, I was a kid, so I didn’t really know what I was doing. All I knew was that if Ina could make it, so could I. I started with butter and way too much flour in the pan then added milk and whatever processed cheese Mom had in the fridge. And it was SO GOOD.

Correction: It was not good.

I wanted so desperately for it to be creamy and delicious and not seize up the second it started to cool down. Being the kid I was, I pretended it was just that. I pretended that it was the best thing anyone had ever created in the kitchen. I looked past the chalky, grainy texture and I kept telling myself how awesome it was.

Seeing the congealed blob in the fridge the next day didn’t do much for my confidence in the kitchen, but it did make me more determined to create a better, more edible sauce, if we’re being honest here.

Join me in the future now, where my sauce is no longer grainy nor chalky. Its silky, rich and smooth texture is what I wanted to achieve all those years ago. Its creaminess is what makes me keep coming back for more.

I tried to make this recipe as easy as possible, while keeping the number of ingredients to a minimum. This isn’t a recipe you’ll need to make a grocery trip for, because most of the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen.

The only thing I don’t always have on hand is heavy cream, but it’s not a necessary component (especially if you’re watching your calorie intake). I’ve made this plenty of times without cream and it’s just as good.

I also use linguine for this. As much as I love pasta, fettuccine noodles have always been too thick for me. So any kind of pasta you have is fine.

Start by melting the butter in a skillet or saucepan. Add the flour and cook for just a few minutes. The only reason you’re adding flour is so the sauce thickens. So because we don’t want to actually taste the flour, it’s important that it cooks.

To keep the sauce as smooth as possible, I don’t chop the garlic. I crush a few cloves with the side of my knife and take them out before i’m ready to serve.

Carefully add the milk and cream while whisking out any lumps. Once the sauce thickens, you’ve made a Bechamel sauce (with some garlic). Congrats!

Go ahead and add salt and pepper at this point. Some people will say to wait until you’ve added your cheese, but we’re only adding one kind of cheese here, so it won’t be over salted.

And while we’re talking about cheese, you want a good quality kind. The cheese is the main flavor in the dish so you want it shine through. Grating it straight from the block or wedge is your best option.

The most important step is next. You have to take your pan off the heat before you add the cheese. Remember that grainy sauce from earlier? This is where that happens. You can always put it back on the heat after the cheese starts to melt.

Add those sweet, tangy sun dried tomatoes and you’re done!

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30 Minute Alfredo Sauce with Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes

Directions

  1. In a medium pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes.
  2. Slowly add in milk and cream. Whisk out any lumps of flour. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Take pan off the heat and add Parmesan. Once cheese is mostly melted, you can put it back on the heat to keep the sauce warm.
  4. Remove garlic cloves and stir in tomatoes.

Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

I feel like broccoli is one of those controversial foods where most people really really love it or they really really hate it.

Roasting broccoli seems to turn it a bit sweeter and it also offers a different kind of crispy crunch than when it’s raw or steamed. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that roasting vegetables adds a complexity that you don’t get when you eat them raw or fry them on the stove.

This is something that you can do with pretty much any vegetable you want, because you’re just adding some Parmesan.

It’s a super quick and easy side dish, too. It’s perfect with roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. It’s perfect with a steak and baked potato. I just really like broccoli, okay?

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It’s imperative, though, that the broccoli is served right out of the oven. It seems to cool down in no time so everyone better be sitting at the table, fork in hand, when the stuff is done.

When preparing the dish, it’s important to mix everything together before dumping it onto the baking sheet. If you don’t, none of the Parmesan will stick to the broccoli. That happened to me the first few times I made this.

I do plan on using this very basic recipe to roast more veggies, (hello butternut squash, red peppers, asparagus, potatoes, I mean the list goes on and on) so keep checking back if broccoli ain’t your thang!!!

Oven Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • Broccoli florets cut up into bite size pieces. I used about 3-4 cups.
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons oil, or enough to evenly coat broccoli
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut broccoli into bite size pieces, cutting off most of the stem. I find the easiest way is to turn the large stem around as you cut the florets.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, oil, salt, pepper and cheese.
  4. Pour onto a sheet pan. You can line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easier cleaning.
  5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until broccoli stems are soft and florets are a bit crispy.
  6. Serve immediately.

Roasted Snackpeas

I’m always trying to come up with good snack ideas because I LOVE to snack. Do you guys follow Mario Batali on Insta? He has these short videos where his crew hands him a random ingredient and he comes up with a snack on the spot. Catchy, right?

I tried his like, ham and cheese roll up we’ll call it. It was sliced meat and cheese with a pickle and spicy mustard rolled up in there. Delicious. Okay where was I going with this?…

Oh yeah SNACKS.

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I love chickpeas. I add them on salads, I eat them plain, and I obviously roast them. I’ve been making these for so long I don’t really know where the idea or inspiration came from.

I do know that you can literally add ANY dry spice you want to these. Garlic salt, paprika, red pepper flakes. You can make them as simple or as complex as you want. A ginger and nutmeg mixture might be lovely, too.

To roast these, make sure the chickpeas are rinsed and dried. You can lay them out on paper towels or a kitchen towel. If they’re still wet, the spices won’t stick to them.

Roasting them at a high temperature is best because we want all that liquid out of the peas so they’ll have a nice crunch. If the oven is too low, they’ll dry out but they won’t be crispy.

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While the peas were in the oven a few days ago, I called my mom. I definitely lost track of time before I yelled into the phone, “OH NO MY CHICKPEAS.” I jumped off my couch so fast I almost tripped over my own feet trying to get to the oven.

“Mom I burned them,” I said. “I have to start paying attention when things are in the oven.” (Again, this is why I’m not much of a baker.)

She assured me that they are, indeed, just chickpeas, and that life will go on.

Turns out I didn’t burn them after all! I think the batch could’ve come out a few minutes earlier because they were a tad dry, but a drizzle of olive oil brought them right back to life.

These roasted peas are deliciously crunchy and will healthily satisfy a craving for something salty.

Roasted Snackpeas

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Dash of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, or whatever oil you have

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Drain chickpeas then pat dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all spices, then add peas once they are dry.
  4. Pour onto a baking sheet (mine was lined with parchment paper for easier cleaning) and bake for 25-30 minutes. They should be a golden brown color.
  5. Remove from oven and coat peas with oil while they’re still warm.

 

Strawberry Avocado Chicken Salad

WARNING: HEALTHYISH FOOD AHEAD. Let me back up, though.

Most recently, I started to think of just where I wanted this blog to go. I looked back at a few of the recipes, (which isn’t many) and noticed they all have one thing in common: carbs.

This amped up chicken salad recipe came to me after my mom had sent me home with half a rotisserie chicken. “MOM CAN I TAKE THE CARCASS FOR CHICKEN STOCK?” “Sure,” she said. “I was about to throw it out anyways.”

When I got it to my apartment that night, I realized there was still a ton of meat left on the bones. Having no idea what to do with it, I salvaged what I could and tossed it in the fridge.

Even though chicken salad is something I really love, I don’t make it very often. It can get kind of boring, but adding different ingredients changes it up a bit.

Last weekend I was buying a whole chicken at Whole Foods and it’s very difficult for me to walk out of the grocery store with just one thing, so naturally I had to peruse the produce section. It was here that I decided to add chunks of creamy avocado to chicken salad.

I’m also terrible at checking prices when I’m buying only a few things. My mind thinks I don’t spend as much if I get a few things at a time. Well I spent two dollars and fifty cents on ONE avocado, guys. I’ll go to Whole Foods for their whole chickens, but never again for their “organic” avocados.

Rant over.

I only buy strawberries occasionally because they only keep in the fridge for a few days and I’m back and forth between Chattanooga and home so much that half they time they go bad. I could use them in a smoothie, of course, but I feel like they’re being wasted when I could use frozen ones for that. I mean, does it get any better than a fresh strawberry?

When I go on morning runs, I know it’s best to eat something soon after, but I’m not exactly ready to sit down to a huge breakfast. So I’ll just snack on some fruit, cheese and maybe some turkey slices. One morning I didn’t have any protein, but I remembered that chicken I had shredded earlier. I ate that with a strawberry and it was oddly satisfying.

And then the chicken salad was born.

Along with the avocado and strawberries, I add celery because it needs a crunch to offset all the creaminess. My sister loves to add grapes in her chicken salad, so you can do that too.

I used a rather firm avocado, because it will turn in mush if it’s too ripe. I also salted it before I added it in. A touch of salt does wonders for an avocado.

I also never liked any kind of salad like this on a sandwich. I always ate chicken and egg salad with crackers. I ate this on some plain old saltines, but would probably be delicious on some Triscuits or any kind of flavored cracker. This is definitely more of a snack or a super light dinner.

Try it out and let me know what you think. Good or bad!

[recipe-title=”Strawberry Avocado Chicken Salad” time=”10-15 minutes” difficulty=”easy”]

Ingredients

  • 1 cup strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or diced rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery, cut down the middle vertically then chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • dash of salt for avocado

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except avocado.
  2. Once combined, gently mix in avocado.
  3. Serve immediately.

Simple Buttercream Frosting

So I noticed I don’t have ANY sweet recipes on my blog. There’s a simple reason for that: I really am not the best baker.

It’s a damn good day when I decide to make the cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle bag and it doesn’t go awry. I over mix things, under bake cakes, and still can’t figure out what’s going wrong with my caramel sauce.

So this definitely isn’t to say I don’t try. There’s just a science to baking and I am no scientist.

Like I said earlier, burned caramel sauce after burned caramel sauce does not bode well for one’s self esteem, so I created a buttercream frosting. I knew I couldn’t burn that!

It’s pretty simple, buttercream frosting. It’s just a few ingredients and takes virtually no time at all.

Start by beating the butter with a hand mixer. In order to make the frosting fluffy, which is what we want, it’s important to fluff the butter up a bit before adding the sugar. Confectioners sugar is best here, given its powdery texture.

I added the sugar a cup at a time for two reasons: 1) You don’t want a lumpy frosting, so adding it in slowly gives the mixer time to catch up 2) I don’t like powdered sugar all over my kitchen walls and island.

About half way thorough adding the sugar is when I added the cream. You can use milk here, but I figured it’s already so full of fat and sugar, a few spoonfuls of cream won’t make a difference. If you want a thinner frosting, just add more cream or milk. Add a few drops of vanilla and you’re done.

This is a very basic recipe, so the flavors you choose to add are endless.

Simple Buttercream Frosting

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, or as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, beat softened butter for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Add sugar a cup at a time, incorporating well after each addition.
  3. Add in heavy cream or milk to desired consistency. Add vanilla and mix well.