Shepherd's Pie - a comfort food that delights
“Dat dere is sum darn good food.”
Son #2 was digging enthusiastically into round one (of two) of Shepherd’s Pie. It appears Tasty Tuesday was living up to its moniker. After waxing on about the merits of gratitude in my last post, I was practically speechless. “Well, thank you.”
My version of Emeril Lagasse’s Shepherd’s Pie was more homespun: Ground beef instead of lamb. Timesaving shortcuts like ketchup instead of tomato paste, and canned mushrooms instead of fresh. Hey it’s comfort food. And it worked!
I figure tonight’s meal earned me some brownie points as we head into Whole Grain Wednesday. Must find wheat berries tomorrow.
Filed under Uncategorized
Meatloaf is one of those dishes that fails to inspire me. It ends up on our meal rotation because it’s a reliable kid favorite … until the day I decided to change things up a bit.
I figure meatloaf just begs for excitement. Anything to take it from blue-plate-special status to the latest inspiration of celebrity chefs. (Indeed! A search on Food Network yields 524 results.) So it’s not surprising that a chat with son #2 last week went something like this:
Son: “So, what’s for dinner?”
Me: “Meatloaf. But I’m thinking of something different … maybe a surprise ingredient.”
Son, wearily: “Uh, like what kind of surprise?”
Me: “Well, I once made a Russian version that had hard-boiled eggs inside.”
Son (roar): “Oh NO! Don’t do that!”
I knew eggs inside might forever remove meatloaf from our family meal plan. But the remnants of a Trader Joe’s pesto and sun-dried tomato torta in the fridge sounded very tempting. I mixed the ground beef and pork, threw in some crumbled feta, and layered the pesto spread in the middle of the loaf before baking. We ended up with Greek Meatloaf with Feta, thanks to a little doctoring to the recipe on Recipezaar. With mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli, the diner favorite took on an appealing twist for a weeknight meal — for the adults, anyway. The boys put feta in the same category with blue cheese — too strong for their young tastebuds. Hmm, I’ve heard this somewhere before.
Andy Warhol knew all about Mom's favorite ingredient
As a child I noticed my mother and grandmother relied on Campbell’s condensed soups as the foundation for many a meal. Boxed mixes were the next best thing. Instant potatoes, Hamburger Helper, and more — these were exciting options for homemakers looking to cut their time at the stove.
When starting this blog I decided to be truthful about what we actually consume on a weekly basis. No prissy talk and airbrushed photos. What’s disclosed here is how we really eat, week in and week out, at the end of busy work/school days. Perhaps it’s inevitable that a mix or two would show up in the meal plan. Truth is, I do have a couple of mixes that save me on nights I just don’t feel like cooking. Still in post-vacation mode this week, I wasn’t inspired to sift through cookbooks.
If you’ve read this blog, you know Shake and Bake is one of my pantry shortcuts. The other is Zatarain’s – a New Orleans-inspired line of meals that serve as our own version of Hamburger Helper. I keep a stack of these boxed mixes in the pantry for “just in case” nights. Tuesday night was one of them. Brown a package of natural ground beef, simmer it with Zatarain‘s Garlic and Herb Mix, add steamed sugar snap peas and carrots plus a green salad — all done. I ate a quick spoonful before heading to a meeting. When I returned, the guys had scraped the pot clean. As they say, Mother knows best.
The rest of the week’s plan was a speedy endeavor as well:
Wednesday: Pan-roasted pork chops with paprika; cabbage braised in cream; mashed yams.
Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken from Costco; basmati rice; green salad
Friday (my favorite meal this week): Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts; braised kale
Ravioli with Apples & Walnuts; braised kale
Work demands kept me out of the kitchen this week — not such a bad thing, actually 😉 It was time to rely on shortcuts — fast recipes and favorite quasi-convenience foods.
Spinach salad with Kale-potato-sausage soup
Monday started out with a traditional long-cooking pot roast made quick in the pressure cooker. Next came one of my faves, a kale, potato and sausage soup starring Aidells sausage with roasted garlic and gruyere cheese. The soup teamed up with a tasty and simple spinach salad recipe from PCC Natural Markets — a keeper for future meal plans. Wednesday I left the guys with leftovers as I headed out to my monthly business dinner. On Thursday Trader Joe’s save the day. Here’s how it all played out:
Monday: Yankee pot roast; roast potatoes and turnips; steamed broccoli
Tuesday: Kale and potato soup with turkey sausage ; strawberry and spinach salad.
Thursday: Trader Joe’s carnitas and homemade flour tortillas; fresh guacamole; strawberry and spinach salad.
Filed under Favorites, Quick
Capanile's Spaghetti and Meatballs
We had a particularly quiet weekend since our sons were away on a Scout winter camp-out. They slept in tents in the snow, pushed a human “dog sled” around a farm and did all the other things that boys do when they’re free to roam and there’s lots of white stuff on the ground. It was a fun, but exhausting event for the guys. My husband thought it would be a nice to treat them to a Sunday dinner that fits their tastebuds, not ours. I immediately thought of spaghetti with meatballs because:
— they requested it last week but the meal fell off our “while dad’s away” plan
— I never make meatballs from scratch but …
… I had dog-eared a page in the current Sunset magazine for a recipe from the chef of L.A.’s Campanile restaurant.
My husband and I decided to team up to manage the handmade meatballs. Thank goodness or I’d still be in the kitchen. The sauce was simple — garlic, olive oil and three large cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes plus sprigs of fresh basil. I threw in several cloves of roasted garlic (prepped yesterday for a party) instead of fresh. It was the meatballs that took FOREVER. I’m still trying to decide if the effort was worthwhile. At least the recipe produced enough to feed a small army. We have leftovers for later this week plus a batch of sauce stored in the freezer. And we entertained ourselves watching the documentary Young at Heart (about a chorus of senior citizens who perform rock cover songs in concerts – touching and funny).
The boys showed up to dig into their much-requested meal, along with a salad and garlic bread (a loaf of French split lengthwise and smeared with butter and more of those roasted garlic cloves). Happy campers!
As the week came to a close, our dinner plans loosened up considerably. Thursday night was a hodge-podge.
Son #1 stayed home with a chicken bake while son #2 delighted in a Big Mac meal at the McDonald’s drive-thru (two more votes to put me in the Bad Food Mom Hall of Fame). My excuse: we were short on time between play rehearsal and the district honor choir concert. We dropped off son#2 for the pre-concert festivities and headed to a nearby Japanese restaurant. The longest menu I’ve ever seen. And the sushi was suspicious — too pretty, with artsy swirls of some sort of sauce dribbled over the shrimp tempura roll and around the plate. All adorned with a crunchy topping. Just too cute. Tasty but a strange cultural experience.
Friday came with no real plan, as usual. I learned late in the afternoon we’d have an extra boy around, a friend visiting for dinner, so dinner became a split shift: Meatball subs (easy fixings with Trader Joe’s party meatballs and marinara sauce), french fries and caesar salad for the boys; rib-eye steaks, baked potatoes and caesar salad for us. All while watching the pre-season show and first two episodes of the new (and final) season of LOST. Getting through the pre-season show seemed to take twice as long since we had to stop, replay and ponder several dialogues to get “unlost” in the plot.
Monday craziness. Sometime between the end of play rehearsal and the start of basketball practice I churned out a Shepherd’s Pie and a salad. Comfort food at its finest, inspired a few years ago by a good friend with small children. She served us Shepherd’s Pie and my sons raved so much, I had to find a recipe.
Emeril Lagasse’s version on the Food Network website earns its stars. I used ground beef instead of lamb, but remained true to form otherwise. It’s a big hit with the guys. Must be that touch of Worchestershire sauce.