RECIPES: EASY, CHEESY MASHED POTATO TOPPED SHEPHERD'S PIE

Shepherd's Pie is a great, inexpensive recipe when you need something comforting to feed a big crowd and it is absolutely perfect for St. Patrick's Day celebrations! Ground meat, potatoes, onions.... the ingredients are simple, the prep time is minimal and you can bake it off right before guests arrive. With the ground beef and potatoes, your picky eaters will never notice the carrots or peas hiding in the filling. I normally use ground beef for this recipe but made it once with ground lamb and it was fantastic... just not my favorite.

St Patrick's Day Shepherd's Pie topped with mashed potatoes

TRADITONAL SHEPHERD'S PIE with PARMESAN MASHED POTATO TOPPING

Makes 4-6 small ramekins or 1 medium casserole

INGREDIENTS

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or ground lamb if you prefer- or a combination of both)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 small yellow onion, diced small (about 1 cup)

2 carrots, diced very small

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup frozen English peas

1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves, minced fine

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced fine

For the mashed potato topping:

2-3 large potatoes, peeled and diced small

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided n half

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Dice the potatoes. Rinse in cool water. Fill a pot with water. Add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain well. Mash the potatoes while they are hot and allow to cool slightly. Add the milk, salt, and pepper. Using a hand mixer or any method you prefer, whip the potatoes until they are fluffy. Add the egg yolk and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Mix together. Set aside.

In a large skillet or pan, heat the olive oil. Add the ground beef and brown it. Add the onion and carrots. Brown until they are softened, about 3-4 minutes. Drain off excess fat if there is any. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and cook that for about 1 minute. Add the red wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits of flavor on the bottom of your pan. Add the thyme and the parsley. Cook until the wine is mostly reduced. Stir in the chicken stock. Cook 3-4 minutes more. The mixture should be quite thick and paste like. If it is not, cook and stir until most of the liquid is cooked off. Check the seasoning- you may need a bit more salt and pepper. At this point. I often put a quick dash of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne pepper for some faint heat.

Spray your ramekin or casserole dish with non-stick spray or do what I do and brush the ramekin with a little olive oil and then dust it with some of the grated Parmesan cheese. Fill the ramekin 2/3 full with the meat mixture. Top with the potatoes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Use a fork to pierce the top so the juice will bubble up through the potatoes. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly hot.

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GOOD FOOD FAST: HOBO PACKS WITH CHICKEN AND VEGGIES

Hobo packs are one of the best ways to make good food fast.  I'm trying to cut back on calories but want to eat something other than cardboard or lettuce. These meals on the fly cooked in foil or parchment paper are so good and so easy because you can cook, serve, and clean up very quickly. These are not only good for a party; (we used to make them at Girl Scouts with hamburger, cooked on the campfire) but they are perfect for busy nights when you just want to get dinner on the table. I make up a few at the beginning of the week and cook them as I need them. Use any flavor profile you want: Greek, Italian, Southern, Cajun, you get the picture. I typically use what I have on hand and want to get rid of... onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, parsnips, butternut squash, and more are all great choices. NOTE: Make sure to slice the potatoes and other fast cooking vegetables larger than your carrots and other dense root vegetables so they'll cook at the same time.

CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES HOBO PACKS

INGREDIENTS

1 small yellow onion, sliced very thin

2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin

1 potato, peeled and cubed

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

thyme, rosemary, oregano, or other herbs as you desire

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Tear off two 18' pieces of foil. Arrange the veggies on the foil. Begin with the onion, carrot, and then potato. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Add the chicken breast on top and a bit more olive oil, salt and pepper. Add any herbs you like. Seal the top and the sides of each package carefully so that no steam will escape. Place on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on how large your chicken breasts are. (Chicken is done at 165 degrees.)

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RECIPE: PARMESAN CHEESE SKILLET SPAGHETTI CAKE

If you're like me, you always make too much pasta and have a ton left over. Here's a way to use it! My Parmesan Cheese Skillet Spaghetti Cake uses pantry or fridge items you simply bake in a cast iron skillet. It's pretty fantastic. In fact, you can throw just about anything you want in there... leftover roasted veggies, a bit of sausage or even leftover short ribs. This easy recipe is great for an impromptu party or for  dinner, as a side dish or anytime you have leftover pasta. Add some marinara on the side. You’ll love it!

PARMESAN CHEESE SKILLET SPAGHETTI CAKE

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, smashed

12 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

2 eggs

1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese, grated, plus 1/4 cup more for serving

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain. Toss with ½ teaspoon olive oil. Set aside.

Put the eggs in a large bowl and whisk them well. Whisk in the salt, pepper and the garlic. Add the pasta and the cheese. Toss to coat evenly.

Put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron or oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When it gets hot, add the smashed garlic clove and let it cook 1-2 minutes but don’t let it burn. Remove from heat. Use the back of a knife to turn the garlic clove into a paste. Mix it into the pasta.

Turn the heat down to medium. Carefully spin the hot skillet to distribute the olive oil. Pour the pasta mixture into the hot pan. Let it cook 3-4 minutes or until well-browned. Use a large spatula or two small ones to flip the cake and brown the other side; about 4 minutes more. The cake is done when the eggs are set and the cheese is melted.

If you prefer not to flip the cake, no problem. You can finish it in the oven. Before you start, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Once you've cooked the cake on the stove to brown the bottom, move the pan into the oven and cook for 10 minutes more or until the top is golden brown and the eggs are completely set. (Make sure to use an oven safe pan like a cast iron skillet)

To serve, run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and turn it out on a heat-proof platter or wooden cutting board. Sprinkle with more freshly grated Parmesan and some finely chopped Italian parsley.

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