Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

In case you missed all the green cookies and candies or the kitschy shamrock headbands and tiaras in your local CVS or grocery store, I thought you should know that St. Patrick's Day is coming up. Huzzah! As a tribute, this month I'm going to tackle an assortment of traditional favorites, such as shepherd's pie, bread pudding (as if you didn't see that coming), corned beef and cabbage, and more!

If you were to ask Mom her thoughts on Irish cuisine, she would probably tell you the term is an oxymoron or that Irish food is more functional than enjoyable. Granted, this is a woman who doesn't see the restorative powers of a warm bowl of gooey macaroni and cheese, either. Dad, on the other hand, knowing the healing influence of comfort food, is a big believer in the meat and potatoes philosophy. In making this recipe I tried for the best of both worlds. I added a couple of zippy touches, but still got to devour a traditional and satisfying success.

Shepherd's Pie 
(adapted from this Cookie recipe on Epicurious)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup beef broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 cup frozen peas
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 - 3/4 cup whole milk
salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet or medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic and lamb; cook until browned, about 8 - 10 minutes. Drain the grease. Return to heat, add broth, Worcestershire, tomato paste, parsely and rosemary. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken. Add peas.  Remove from heat and transfer meat mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.

2. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and remove from heat. Add butter and begin to mash. Add milk by 1/4 cupfuls and continue to mash until potatoes are desired smoothness. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mashed potatoes over meat mixture and spread evenly.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until the top of potatoes are an appetizing light brown.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Orange Cranberry and Wheat Germ Bread

For some reason, I am a bit of a klutz in the kitchen. I like to think that in the rest of my life, while I am not exactly graceful, I don't spill things on myself or fall down - not very often, anyway. I am very proud of this fact. However, get me in a kitchen and something is almost always bound to go wrong. This weekend it was a doozy, as I attempted to (and eventually succeed) in throwing together this munchable bread recipe from Great Grammie's recipe box.

It's a quick bread. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, first, I was so darn excited to make this recipe, I yanked my bag of frozen cranberries out of the freezer and spilled cranberries all over my kitchen, spraying them like a bag of marbles at the feet of a villain in a kids' movie. I gathered them up gleefully, laughing at what felt like the lamest mini Easter egg hunt ever and giggling audibly whenever I found a particularly well hidden berry. (Let's hope I found them all).

As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, shortly after I put the bread in to bake and happily settled down to catch up on some Netflix, I realized my second mistake. The sugar! Yup, you guessed it. I completely forgot to add the sugar. (Sigh). Boyfriend and I apprehensively waited for the bread to finish, took it out, let it cool and adventurously cut off a couple of slices. Two words: dense and salty. Needless to say, after washing down the tough bread wads and tossing the whole thing in the trash bin, I started all over again.

Made the correct way, the bread goes like this:

Cranberry Wheat Germ Bread
(adapted from Great Grammie's recipe)

2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 salt
1 cup cranberries, halved
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 tbsp grated orange peel
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir in cranberries, pecans, wheat germ and orange peel. Combine egg, orange juice, water and oil. Add to flour mixture. Stir just enough to moisten ingredients. Spoon into greased loaf pan. Bake for an hour. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Great Grammie really knew her stuff when it came to this bread. It is wicked yummy and it has the double bonus of iron, a slew of vitamins and oodles of fiber, so it's healthy, too. Well, healthier than you average breakfast bread anyway. In fact, the only problem I have with this recipe, if you can even call it a problem, is the better part of a jar of wheat germ now residing in my fridge. Any ideas?