Shepherd’s Pie my way

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As you can see in a post prior to this, I had recently made a large amount of mashed potatoes & cauliflower. I had quite a bit left over, so I was browsing some of my favorite recipe web sites for ideas. I wanted to make pierogi (I am slovak & polish you know) but I was out of eggs (used my last one in my breakfast BELT recipe!) so I couldn’t make the dough.
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Then I stumbled across this recipe for “Italian Irishman’s pie” on Allrecipes.com. It used sausage instead of beef in shepherd’s pie. Since I had a pack of Johnsonville Cheddarwurst Brats in the freezer, I figured this could work. So with what I had on hand, I pared it down to serve two (since a large amount of food almost always goes to waste) and gave it a try. It came out pretty tasty!
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Ingredients:
2 brats, sliced thin (reserve the drippings)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cream or milk
Salt & pepper
1/2 zucchini, diced
1/2 yellow squash, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 – 2 cups mashed potatoes
Optional: 2 slices cheese, or 1/2 cup shredded cheese
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Step 1: Cook the brats until they’re done, put into a loaf pan.

Step 2: To drippings, add flour & brown for 2 minutes. Add water, cream, salt & pepper to taste, whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, cook until thickened. Pour the gravy over the brats.

Step 3: In the same pan, add diced vegetable. Cook until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, squash and onion to the loaf pan.

Step 4: Layer the mashed potatoes on top of everything. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Now you have layered your sausage, gravy, veggies and potatoes. You can brush the top with some melted butter or margarine if you like.

Step 5: Bake in the oven set to 350 for 20 minutes.

Step 6: The gravy and potatoes should be bubbly. I added 2 slices of colby cheese on top and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes to melt.

Step 7: Spoon a big helping onto a plate and enjoy! You can top with extra shredded cheese and salt/pepper if you like.

Delicious, filling and not as bad for you as you might think, assuming you used the potatoes/cauliflower mixture!

Mashed potato & cauliflower

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I have read about mashed cauliflower several times and never had tried it. Since my grocery store had cauliflower on sale this week, I decided to give it a go. Cauliflower has far less calories than potatoes, and aren’t starchy. So you can eat more of this when you mix half and half, and not feel guilty!
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Ingredients:
3 small potatoes
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 cup milk
Optional: 2-3 green onions
Garlic salt
Large pot of water
Salt
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Step 1: Put several cups of water on the stove to boil, adding salt to make it boil faster. Rinse and dice the potatoes (you can peel them if you don’t like the taste, but the peel is where most of the nutrients are so I left mine on.)  Cut up the cauliflower.
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Step 2: Boil the potatoes and cauliflower together for 10-15 minutes, until both are easily smashed with a fork.
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Step 3: Using a spoon or a mixer, mash the potatoes and cauliflower together. Level of smoothness vs. chunkiness is personal preference, I made mine pretty smooth. Mix in butter or margerine and milk. Add garlic salt to taste.
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Step 4: Optional – slice green onions thinly and add for crunch and flavor.

These taste almost exactly like simple potatoes, so if you don’t tell I won’t! 😉

 

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Breakfast BELT with avocado & feta

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I’ve read several articles lately that say a breakfast with eggs are the most filling. Since it was the weekend, and I had one egg left and several veggies in the fridge I had just bought yesterday, I wanted to make a super-healthy and filling breakfast.
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Tim Horton’s makes a breakfast BELT sandwich with bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato on a bagel. To lighten it up, I used one slice of wheat bread as the “B” and in place of the bagel, no bacon, lettuce tomato one egg and added a slice of avocado and a sprinkle of feta for healthy fat and flavor.
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Ingredients:
1 slice wheat bread
1 egg
1 tbsp oil
1 romaine leaf
1/2 roma tomato
1 slice avocado
1 tbsp feta cheese
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Step 1: Put 1 tbsp in a pan, and fry the egg. If you like the yellow, you can leave it runny. I cooked it all the way through.

Step 2: While the egg is cooking, layer the lettuce, tomato, avocado and 1 tbsp feta on a slice of wheat bread (toasted or not).

Step 3: Lay the cooked egg on top of the feta, and enjoy! The feta gives it a tangy flavor, while the avocado is creamy and soft. If you’re vegan you can omit the egg and cheese.

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Crock Pot salsa chicken tacos

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I have heard so many recipes raving about how easy and delicious Crock Pot salsa chicken is, it is on nearly every Crock Pot recipe list I’ve seen. So one day before leaving for school, I decided on a whim to try it. Turns out, all these people know what they’re talking about! It was amazing by itself over rice, and it is even better shredded on a taco!
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Ingredients:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups salsa
1 flour tortilla
2 tbsp refried beans
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup diced bell peppers
2 tbsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp sour cream
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Step 1: Put the chicken and the salsa in the crock pot. Cook on low at least 6 up to 10 hours. The chicken will be slightly browned, lightly salsa flavored, and fall-apart tender. It tastes amazing on its own, serve with a vegetable and a starch side dish.

Step 2: Put a tiny amount of olive oil or stock in a frying pan, and fry the onion and pepper until soft. Add the taco seasonings, cover and cook another 2 minutes.

Step 3: Smear refried beans on half the tortilla, heat in microwave 20 minutes. Add cheese so it melts, and about 3-4 oz of the chicken. Then pile on the veggies and smear the sour cream on the other half. Pour salsa on top, roll up and enjoy!

This is super filling, and all the flavors combine into a taste bud party in your mouth! Makes enough for several meals, probably 10 tacos depending on how much you stuff them. The meat could also be used for quesadillas or tamales.

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White bread with flax

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I have always loved fresh baked bread, and have been dying to make my own! Now that I finally have an oven, I plan on making my own as much as possible. So I found a simple recipe online, and decided to try my hand at it. Take a look at my first attempt!
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Ingredients:
6 cups flour
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground flax
2 cups warm water
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Step 1: Add the sugar to the warm water and dissolve. Then add the yeast. Let it sit somewhere warm until it starts to foam. That means the yeast ‘woke up’ and is breaking down the sugar to make CO2, which makes the bread rise.

Step 2: Add the oil & salt. Then add the flour 1 cup at a time. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and no longer sticky. Let sit until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).

Step 3: Knead again on the floured surface. This recipe makes dough for 2 loaves, so divide and place into an oiled bread pan. I made one regular loaf, and one twisted loaf, like french bread.

Step 4: Let rise again. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Brush the top with butter so that it stays soft.

This loaf ended up breaking, because I didn’t let it rise above the level of the pan. So more patience next time. Other than that, it came out beautiful! I will be trying again soon for sure. I dream of the days of sandwiches on homemade bread, and dipping my own buttered bread in warm spaghetti sauce…

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Salsa & egg breakfast burrito

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This is something I came up with when I realized I woke up 20 minutes earlier than I needed to for class. Since I had time to actually cook something, I decided on eggs. I looked in the fridge, and as I had been preparing for tacos this week, I had tortillas and salsa and a bag full of cut up bell peppers.
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So I figured why wait for these awesome Mexican-inspired flavors! I could make a protein and veggie packed breakfast that could even be portable.
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Ingredients:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 diced green onion
3-4 tbsp salsa
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1 flour tortilla (10″)
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Step 1: Fry the peppers and onion in a skillet with a tiny bit of oil if needed.

Step 2: Whip the eggs in a small bowl or cup. You can add a splash of milk for a fluffier texture. Add to the pan and cook slowly over medium heat. Use a wooden or plastic spoon to continually push the egg around until it is all cooked through.

Step 3: Heat a tortilla in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Add egg and veggie mixture, then a handful of shredded cheese to melt on top. Top with as much salsa as you prefer.

Step 4: Roll up and enjoy!

As always, the add-ins are optional, put whatever veggies you like in it. You could even add beans, potato, sausage, bacon or tofu if you have a big appetite in the morning. You could wrap these in plastic or aluminum foil and carry them with you for a healthy, filling breakfast on the go. Much better for you waist and wallet than a fast food drive through breakfast burrito!

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Crock Pot Veggie Stew

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I recently moved across America to the great state of Colorado! That explains my lack of posts for a while. However, since my new place has an oven, my repertoire has quadrupled, and thus I intend to make up for it!
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So this post was inspired by a trip to a local farmer’s market. There was so much delicious produce, to be had super cheaply! Then a few days later, I needed to do something with the veggies I hadn’t eaten yet. As many cooks know, fresh is best but it also spoils quickest.
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Another complication I will be dealing with this year is my first year of doctoral classes and research, so I will be gone the majority of the day, 6am – 6pm most days. So you will likely see a lot of make-ahead or Crock Pot meals!
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Ingredients:
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1/3 of a red, orange & yellow bell pepper (or 1 of any color) diced
2 small heads broccoli, cut into small florets
4-5 green onions, diced
3 cups chicken stock or 3 bouillon cubes + water
Turmeric, chipotle chili pepper, paprika, black pepper, garlic, salt
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I don’t add amounts for the spices because it depends on how hot you like it. I found out after the fact that I added a *bit* too much chipotle pepper, because man did this soup clear the sinuses! I need to make it again mid-winter…

Step 1: This is the only work-intensive step. Dice all the veggies and layer in the Crock Pot.

Step 2: Add spices and broth. If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, use vegetable broth or plain water instead of the chicken stock.

Step 3: Cook on low at least 4 hours up to 12 hours. The longer it cooks the softer the vegetables will get, but the more flavors will come out and mingle.

You can add really any vegetable you have on hand that you need to use up. If you don’t want to take the time to dice everything, you can buy pre-cut from a salad bar or use frozen vegetables and just throw them in! Couldn’t be easier. Plus it makes quite a bit, so you have several meals for very cheap, and likely enough to freeze for later meals.

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Hawaiian shrimp & broccoli

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I am once again moving, so I make due with whatever is left in the house for dinner.
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I had in my freezer:
1/2 bag frozen broccoli
1/2 bag frozen shrimp
In the fridge:
1/4 fresh pineapple
Soy sauce, Worchestershire, BBQ, ketchup
In the pantry:
1 bag simple rice, brown rice

Step 1: Microwave the rice 90 seconds and fluff.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix 2 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce, 2 tbsp BBQ sauce, 1 tbsp sugar. Add shrimp, coat well. Microwave on high 4 minutes.

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Step 3: Add broccoli, microwave another minute.

.Step 4: Dice pineapple very small. Add and mix well. Put 1/2 cup rice on plate, add 1 cup shrimp mix and some sauce. Dinner in under ten minutes! Enjoy!

Sweet and tangy, protein plus fruit & veggies!

Moroccan Beef & Couscous

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So this is another one where I had some odds & ends, found a recipe that used most of the ingredients, then changed it to fit what I felt like making. Original recipe is from GoodHousekeeping.
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Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 can chickpeas
1/2 zucchini, diced
1/2 yellow squash, diced
1/2 cup carrot, sliced
2 tbsp dried onion (I would have preferred a whole onion diced, but didn’t have one)
2 tbsp dried cranberries
Cinnamon, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper
1 box wheat couscous
1 cup chicken stock

Step 1: Dice the vegetables and saute in a frying pan over medium heat.

Step 2: The recipe called for the beef to be cooked in the same pan, but if I were to do it again I’d cook the beef separately so I could drain the fat easier. Cook the beef until no longer pink.

 
Step 3: Add 2 tbsp of the cumin and paprika, and 1 tbsp of garlic and cinnamon.
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Step 4: Open and drain the chickpeas, add to the pan and heat through. Stir in the cranberries and cover 2 minutes.

Step 5: Cook the couscous as directed. I put it in a microwave-safe pan with a cover, added the stock and included spice packet and microwaved on high 5 minutes.

Step 6: Fluff the cooked couscous. Put about 1/4 cup in a bowl, and spoon 1/2 cup beef and veggie mix on top. Enjoy!

I was given the advice to add onion (which I definitely will next time) and pineapple to add a bit of sweet, which I totally agree with. I might try adding eggplant too. You could use any vegetable you like, and try different spices too. The beefy, soft veggie, sweetness combo is perfect over soft fluffy couscous.

The versatility of stir-fry

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Especially during the summer, when fresh produce is cheap and plentiful, a veggie stir fry is always an awesome option. Cheap, easy, very filling and excellent for you. It is also very versatile, as my many meals from the stir-fry will show!
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Ingredients:
1/2 red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, julienned
1/2 zucchini, diced
1 large radish, diced
2 turnips, diced
1 med carrot, diced
1 can black beans
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup cous cous
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Extras:
Torn romaine lettuce, tomato chunks, sour cream, salsa, diced avocado

Step 1: Saute all the veggies in order of hardness, until all are tender. Add the black beans and heat until warmed through. Season if you want with garlic and other spices.

Meal 1: Add the stir fry and all extras into a flour or corn tortilla, eat as a burrito.

Meal 2: Put the hot stir-fry over some freshly cooked cous cous. You can top with hummus, salsa or a dressing if too dry.

Meal 3: Cover a large plate with torn romaine, add cooked cous cous, and veggies and extras on top, eat as a salad.

These meals were all eaten on different days, because the stir fry makes a ton and keeps well in the fridge. This is easy, cheap and very versatile. Add whatever veggies you like and have on hand. These 3 meal types will work well with any kind of stir fry, so go crazy!

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