Monday, March 21, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

Don’t you hate to go into your refrigerator and find small amounts of vegetables left over from previous meals?  Not enough for a side dish but throwing them away is just such a waste.   And how about those vegetables you made to share with someone else because they liked them but you didn’t?  What can you do?  How about something like a Shepherd’s Pie.

A Shepherd’s Pie or Potato Pie as it is sometimes called can be made from fresh ingredients and with a more formal recipe but it can also be a catch all for leftovers before they are wasted.  Just use up those peas, corn, green beans, pepper, tomato sauce, sour cream, catsup, milk, onion, mashed potatoes, cheese, celery,  etc. before they go bad, it is pretty ease to make and can be reheated on days when you just don’t have time to fix a big meal.

Now I’m going to give you a more formal recipe but feel free to experiment with what you like and what you have on hand and scale up or scale down the ingredients.  Remember though, food has an expiration date so don’t use anything that is turning green or moldy or went bad already.  You will not enjoy the pain that comes with food poisoning.

1 lb                ground chuck or meat loaf mix
1                    medium onion, chopped
½ cup          minced celery
3 cloves        garlic
1                    medium bell pepper (I used a red bell pepper for color and flavor
1 tsp              fresh basil41/2 chopped fresh rosemary
½ cup          chopped green onions
1 15 oz can   tomato sauce (I used a pizza sauce)
1 ½ tsp         Cajun seasoning
¼ tsp           Tabasco sauce
1 17 oz can   whole kernel corn, drained
1 17 oz can   green beans, drained
2 or 3            white potatoes
½ stick        salted butter
½ cup          milk
½ tsp           black pepper
½ tsp           salt
Vegetable oil spray
½ cup          Swiss cheese, grated
¼ cup          grated cheddar cheese

1.                         put onions, celery garlic, bell pepper, basil, rosemary, and green onions in a small bowl.  I tend to just use  Italian seasoning instead of the basil and rosemary.
2.                        Peal the potatoes, quarter them, and place in a large saucepan.
3.                        Cover the potatoes with water and boil for about 20 minutes.  Check at around 10 minutes to see if they are done.  You can do this by stabbing them with a fork and seeing if they are tender.  You can also puncture the potatoes with a fork a few times, wrap them in paper towels or napkins and nuke them per your microwaves instructions.
4.                        Open the cans of vegetables and tomato sauce
5.                        Heat a large skillet over medium heat
6.                        When skillet is hot add the ground chuck and brown for about 2 minutes
7.                        Add the contents of the bowl of onions, etc. and sauté for about 4 minutes
8.                        Stir in the corn, green beans, tomato sauce, cajun seasoning, and tobasco sauce.
9.                        Preheat the oven to 375
10.                     Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally
11.                      If you nuke the potatoes, skin them and mash.  If you boiled the potatoes, drain them and mash.  Add the butter, milk, salt, and pepper while mixing.  I like to make them wetter than normal so that they spread easier.  The baking will perk them up.
12.                     Spray the bottom of a 2 ½ quart casserole with the vegetable oil spray
13.                     Pour the meat mixture into the casserole
14.                     Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the mixture
15.                     Spread the cheeses over the potatoes
16.                     Lightly dust the top with the paprika
17.                     Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes. 
18.                     You know it is done when the potatoes are getting golden brown, the cheese is melted, and you can stick a knife in the middle and it comes out pretty clean.

This probably wont freeze well because of the potatoes but it does well covered in the refrigerator for a few days,  You can then reheat it in the microwave or oven at 300 degrees.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sausage Casserole

Here is a great breakfast you can fix on the weekend and enjoy during the week.  That way you can fuel your engine before work without missing sleep.

You can find several versions of this recipe on the internet but I started with on from and made a few changes such as doubling all the components and adding a little heat.  It worked out quite well.


·         1 lb      Bulk pork sausage
·         5          Eggs
·         2 cups  Milk (I used non fat milk)
·         1 tsp    Salt
·         1 tsp    Ground mustard
·         2 tsp    Red pepper flakes
·         6 slices Bread (I used some great sourdough bread that I had made earlier but since sourdough comes in a round loaf you have to make your own decision when you have added enough
·         3          Green onions chopped
·         1 cup    Shredded Cheddar Cheese


1.           Brown the sausage in a skillet then drain and set aside
2.           While the sausage is browning or once it is done depending on your confidence level crack the eggs into a small bowl one at a time.  This will help you tell if they are still good.  Then add them to a large bowl one at a time and beat.
3.           Add milk, salt, and mustard and mix
4.           Add the bread, red pepper flakes, green onions, and sausage and mix together
5.           Spray or grease an 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish
6.           Pour everything into the baking dish
7.           Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 or more hours, preferably overnight
8.           Remove from refrigerator for 30 minutes
9.           Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a knife can be inserted near the center and is clean when withdrawn

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ravioli Lasagna

Lenten meals don’t have to taste like Lenten Meals.  I grew-up eating PB&J, Mac & Cheese, Tuna fish, and fish sticks during Lent.  It wasn’t bad enough I had to give something up that I enjoyed but I had to forfeit satisfying my taste buds also.  On top of that were those fasting days where all I got was three meals and the best was cereal in the morning.

Well, things have changed.  I have done my own research and experimenting and developed some meals that can be enjoyed both during and outside lent. 

The baking dish should have high sides if you want more than two levels of Ravioli’s.  I used a standard 8x8 only to find that I had enough material left to do an additional smaller pan.  That was OK though, I just had more leftovers that were very easy to store in the freezer.


·         2 cups ricotta cheese
·         1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach - thawed, drained and squeezed dry
·         1 1/2 to 2 cups of grated Romano cheese divided (I used 4 cheese Italian)
·         2 eggs (still don’t know why eggs don’t count as meat)
·         salt and pepper to taste
·         1 cup spaghetti sauce (I used an Artichoke Pesto Pasta Sauce)
·         1 (25 ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli (I used a mixture of Spinach & Cheese and Asparagus & Cheese ravioli)


1.           Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2.            Spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
3.           Mix the ricotta cheese, spinach, 1 cup of Romano cheese, eggs, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
4.           Spread 1/4 to 1/3 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish
5.           Place frozen raviolis on top in a single layer, flat side up.
6.           Spread about 1 cup of the ricotta mixture over the raviolis.
7.           Repeat the layers until the baking dish is almost filled. 
8.           The last row should be ravioli, spaghetti sauce, topped with the remaining cheese.
9.           Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
10.      Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling.   It took mine closer to 50 minutes,
11.      Remove the aluminum foil, and bake another 10 minutes to brown the cheese on top.
12.      Let sit for 10 minutes before serving

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

English Muffin Bread

People shy away from making their own bread because they think it is too difficult, time consuming, or you need an expensive bread machine.  Well, that isn’t really true.  While I have made it for years using a bread machine I have also done it with an oven and it is quite simple.  Here is one I made while Nancy and I were watching a great old movie.  I put everything together before the movie and let is rise during the flick.  Then I baked it after the movie but you will have to watch and make sure it doesn’t rise too much.

I’m passing this on to you because it is easy, takes little time, less expensive than store bread, and the aroma in the house is fantastic.  Try it and see if you don’t agree.

What you need:
·         Measuring devise for liquids
·         Measuring devises for dry goods
·         Larger mixing bowl
·         Two 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ loaf pans

o       5 cups           All-purpose flour, divided
o       2 packages    Active dry yeast
o       1 Tbl             Sugar (I used honey)
o       2 tsp             Salt
o       ¼ tsp            Baking soda
o       2 cups           Milk (room temperature or slightly warmer)
o       ½ cup           Warm water
o       Cornmeal

1.            Combine 2 cups of sifted flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda in the mixing bowl
2.            Add the warm mild and water.  Use the same measuring devise to cut down on dishes
3.            Mix the above together.  I used a Kitchen Aid for about 30 seconds at a slow speed and then 3 minutes on high but you can do this by hand.  Remember to scrape the sides and bottom to get everything mixed.
4.            Sift in the remaining flour and mix until the batter is stiff.  Don’t kneed.
5.            Grease the loaf pans and sprinkle the insides with a small amount of corn meal.  I put in about a tablespoon full and move the pans around until the insides were fully covered.  Feel free to add more cornmeal but remember it is only an insulator so don’t use very much.
6.            Pour or spoon the batter equally into the two pans
7.            Sprinkle the top of each loaf with a small amount of cornmeal
8.            Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled.  If the house is cold or drafty you might start the oven for a minute and place the covered loafs inside.  The oven walls should only be warm to the touch though as high heat can kill the yeast and possibly start a fire.
9.            Bake the loafs at 375 degrees or until they are golden brown
10.        Take the bread out of the loaf pans right away and let them cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sourdough Starter

Making a starter is very easy but will take about a week initially with less than ten minutes of actual work.  Once it is made though it can last for years with minimal care.

1.            Glass or plastic container large enough for about three cups of material.
2.            Wooden or plastic spoon or spatula.
3.            One cup measuring devise.

1 cup   Unbleached flour (Bread flour, whole wheat flour, or all purpose flour work well)
1 cup   Warm water (not over 100 degrees)

1.            Mix the water and flour together.
2.            Place the container in a warm place.  70 to 80 degrees is great.
3.            About every 24 hours throw half the starter away and add a half cup of flour and a half cup of warm water.  This is called “Feeding”.
4.            In about 3 or 4 days the starter will get a bubbly froth and it is done.
5.            Use it or cover it and refrigerate or freeze.  The cover should have a hole in it about the size of a small nail or wine cork screw.
6.            If you refrigerate don’t forget to feed it one a week like in step 3 above.
7.            If the starter develops a watery liquid on top just mix it in or pour it out.  This is called “Hooch”.  If your starter is very wet, throw the hooch away.  Normally though I mix it in.