Tag Archives: celery

Shepherds Pie, American Style


I call this recipe “Shepherds Pie, American Style” because I have read or heard much debate through the years about the authentic ingredients for shepherds, or cottage pie. While it is true that many might say “this is not Shepherds Pie if it contains no lamb!” I beg to differ. Oh yes, I am well aware that because it is made with beef as opposed to lamb that it should rightfully be called “Cottage Pie”. But that’s not what they called it when I learned to love it!

I apologize for bringing up my childhood twice in as many posts but is that not truly when many of our adult likes and dislikes are formed? When I was in elementary school one of my favorite, absolute favorite dishes on the cafeteria (or cafetorium) menu was named “Shepherd’s Pie” and this recipe is my rendition of that dish. This is how I remember it tasting and once again we’re talking comfort food, so this is how I prepare it.

Honestly, I won’t be insulted if you call it cottage pie; call it anything you like…what really matters to me is that it tastes good. After all if we were really going to get down to brass tacks then do you think that stuff they served at the “PTA Spaghetti Dinners” would pass as Spaghetti with a true Italian? Ha! I think not. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t gobble it up with enthusiasm each and every time I ate it. I hope you do the same with this recipe.

Notes: I use a fork to “rake” the top of the potatoes because I think it facilitates browning and creates a crispier crust. I do not use cheese because they didn’t use any when I was a kid. Please feel free to add anything you like to the recipe. (On that note, I think I will add a cup of chopped green onions to the potatoes the next time around.)

Shepherd’s Pie, American Style

1 Lb – Lean Ground Beef
1 Cup – Carrots, diced large
1 Cup – Celery, diced large
1 Cup – Onion, chopped
32 Oz – Lower Sodium Beef Broth
2-3 Tbsp – Red wine, chilled
2 Tbsp – HP (or A1) Steak sauce
2 Tbsp – Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp – Dried Thyme
1 Tbsp – Dried Tarragon
8 Oz – Frozen Sweet Peas
3 Lbs – Red Bliss Potatoes, cut in (roughly) 1 inch chunks
2 Cups – Low Fat Buttermilk, plus a little extra if needed
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Olive Oil

In a large sauté pan over medium heat warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Stir in carrots, celery, and onion along with ½ Tbsp each of thyme and tarragon. Cook stirring occasionally until the onions become translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the ground beef to the pan and break it up with a fork while stirring to mix. Add the remainder of the thyme and tarragon along with about ¼ tablespoon of pepper and the steak sauce. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the beef has browned. When the beef has browned and cooked through, add the broth and simmer while you prepare the potatoes.

Place potatoes in a large pot with enough water to cover them by ½ inch. Add about 1/8 cup of kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.

Pre-Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the beef & broth mixture has simmered at least 20 minutes, strain about 1 cup of the hot stock into a bowl. Add 2 -3 tablespoons of cold red wine and set aside to cool while you mash the potatoes.

When the potatoes are very tender carefully drain them in a colander or strainer allowing them to sit a few minutes to steam off excess moisture. Place hot potatoes in a large bowl and using a potato masher, dough cutter, or a large fork mash in about 1 cup of the buttermilk. Continue mashing until the liquid has been absorbed, then drizzle in the second cup of buttermilk while still mashing the potatoes. If the potatoes are still too dry drizzle in a little extra buttermilk, while mashing, until the mashed potatoes reach your desired consistency.

Whisk 2 Tbsp of flour into the reserved stock and wine mixture then stir this into the simmering beef mixture along with the frozen peas. Stir gently until everything is incorporated, heated through, and slightly thickened then spoon or pour the mixture into a 9” X 13” casserole. Using a spoon and your fingers if necessary spread the potatoes over the top of the beef mixture.

Before baking, smooth the top of the potatoes, then use the back of a fork to create parallel 1/8 inch deep “grooves” along the length of the entire dish to give the topping some texture. Place in the oven and bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove the dish from the oven and rest 10 minutes before serving.



Mother’s Day Brunch – Tzatziki Chicken Mousse

This is the second in my Mother’s Day brunch series. Although it is not truly a mousse; the term does describe the airy and light consistency. Basically a whipped chicken salad, served with celery sticks or crackers, this is a nice savory “munchie” for in between courses. If you prefer, it would also make a nice tea sandwich or canapé garnished with capers or gherkins. Because of the whipped consistency this dish is best served right away, fresh out of the processor. (Note: This recipe came out quite good using the meat from a rotisserie chicken.)

Tzatziki Chicken Mousse

1 Cup – Cooked chicken meat, white & dark, cubed
1 – Small Shallot, chopped
1 – Celery stick, chopped
¼ Cup – Tzatziki Sauce
1 Tablespoon – Mayo
1/2 tsp – Dried Tarragon
1/2 tsp – fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Pulse the chicken in a food processor until crumbly and continue pulsing while adding the shallot and celery. Add the Tzatziki, mayo, tarragon, and lemon juice and process until quite smooth and fluffy. Check for seasoning and add salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately with celery sticks and crackers.



Using Leftover Turkey – Shepherds Pot Pie

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

In one of my last posts I talked about all the stuff I’d been doing with leftover turkey, then, I posted a recipe for pork. Surprise! I got a few emails asking for the turkey recipes I had mentioned. Since I didn’t have pictures of those I thought I would use a little more of that turkey last night. Even after making this one, would you believe I still have more turkey in the freezer? Wow, I do love making good use of those leftovers!

This is sort of a fusion recipe; a pot pie filling with a shepherd’s pie topping. All of the ingredients are fresh and honestly, with the exception of a couple of recipes my daughters will never let me quit cooking, I doubt I could ever go back to making casseroles with frozen veggies and canned soups! When you take that first bite of good fresh food the wholesomeness is immediately apparent…the richness of the leeks and the mushrooms, the depth of flavor in the homemade broth.

I can’t recommend enough cooking with fresh food. The payoff in enjoyment (not to mention compliments) is almost as nice as the health benefits!

In this recipe I used my own homemade turkey stock, another great way to use leftover turkey (and bones). Chicken broth would work almost as well as would leftover chicken. The idea behind cooking the mushrooms in this way is to get the pan just hot enough so that the juices exude and evaporate very quickly, rather than pooling in the pan. As the liquid evaporates it leaves lots of flavor behind. Then as the mushrooms begin to caramelize, they will be at the peak of their flavor.

Yes, I do use a little butter here; I think it adds richness to the potatoes and a polish to the sauce. I honestly feel there is no harm in using butter as long as it is used in moderation. If you think about it in terms of, two tablespoons of butter in a dish of 10 – 12 servings, it actually works out to very little fat per serving. Just enough in fact that I didn’t miss the whole milk (or cream) that I used to use in mashed potatoes. As the potatoes come together the goal is a fluffy creaminess with still a little stiffness…too much liquid would result in a watery final dish.

Start to finish the dish took a little over an hour to prepare…40 minutes prep work and 30 in the oven. This one is definitely good enough for company as the friend that came to dinner simply couldn’t stop eating it. It was, for sure, a great way to use up a little more of that leftover turkey!

Shepherd’s Pot Pie

For the filling…

2 Cups – Cooked Turkey, cut in roughly ½” cubes
2 Cups – Good stock
2 Cups – Leeks (white part only) quartered lengthwise, rinsed well then sliced
8 oz – Button mushrooms, quartered (approx 2 cups)
1 Cup – Celery, diced large
1 Cup – Carrots, diced large
3 Tbsp – Unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp – Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ tsp – Rubbed sage
½ tsp – Dried marjoram
½ tsp – Dried thyme
2 tbsp – Olive oil
1 tbsp – Unsalted butter
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

For the topping…

5 large – Red potatoes, quartered lenthwise the cut into (approx) 1” chunks
1 Cup – Low fat cultured buttermilk
½ Cup – Fat free plain yogurt
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
One sprinkling – Paprika

Kosher salt

Place the potatoes into a large saucepan or soup pot and add enough water to cover. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling reduce the heat to medium and cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking…

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. When the pan is nice and hot add the olive oil and swirl in the pan to distribute. Add the mushroom and sage and cook stirring frequently until the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms and they are showing signs of browning. Then, add the leeks, carrots, and celery to the pan along with several good grinds of pepper, the marjoram, and the thyme. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often until the celery is tender-crisp.

Stir the Turkey into the pan along with 1 Tbsp of butter and cook, stirring, until the butter has melted. Stir in the flour and cook two minutes more stirring gently to incorporate. Stir in the broth being sure to loosen any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer and thicken, stirring only occasionally, while you prepare the mashed potatoes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

When the potatoes are fork tender carefully pour into a colander or sieve to drain. Allow the potatoes to sit for 5 minutes to allow the steam to dry the potatoes before returning them to the cooking pot. Crush the potatoes slightly then add ¾ of the buttermilk and the yogurt. Mash well with a potato masher (or mixture) until well mashed. Add the butter and the remaining buttermilk and continue mashing until your desired consistency is reached. Taste the potatoes and season with salt if needed.

Stir the turkey mixture once more, stirring in the fresh parsley. Taste the mixture to check the seasonings, add salt & pepper if needed, then pour evenly into a 9 X 13 baking dish. Top the turkey mixture evenly with approx. ½” thickness of the mashed potatoes using the back of a spoon to even out the surface. Sprinkle the top with a little paprika then bake 30 minutes. Rest 10 minutes and serve, garnishing each plate with a little more fresh chopped parsley.



Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 1)

As a follow up to Singing The Praises Of Chicken Stock I wanted to post a series of recipes that use chicken stock (or broth) in various ways. At the risk of repeating myself, stock is a valuable ingredient in healthful cooking and a means of boosting the flavor in what otherwise might be a boring and uninteresting dish. My recipes will always call for stock because I like the flavor but you may certainly substitute broth if you like.

Second only to the chicken stock, the mushrooms create a lot of flavor in this recipe. To coax as much flavor as possible from them I start cooking the mushrooms in a hot, hot pan. Because of the high water content in mushrooms, they create a lot of liquid in the pan as they cook. With the pan very hot, this excess water cooks away quickly leaving the mushrooms to brown. On a lower temperature the mushroom would steam instead of browning…that’s not what I want in this recipe!

I know I have mentioned Seeds Of Change quinoa & whole grain brown rice in a previous post. I can’t recommend this product enough; if you come across it at Costco or otherwise please do give it a try. I use it here because it is convenient, healthy, and the spices blend perfectly with the other ingredients. Other starch suggestions for this recipe would be brown rice, couscous, or even orzo. Check for seasonings if you use a mix, I needed no additional salt with the quinoa.

This one is rich enough that the only side I served it with was a nice green salad and was plenty for two with leftovers.

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

1 – Large Boneless Chicken Breast Half (about 12 oz.), halved lengthwise from the top and sliced very thin (as for a stir fry)
8 oz – Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 – Small Onion, chopped
2 – Celery branches, sliced (leaves add flavor…use them too!)
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh Thyme, left whole
2 Cups – Chicken Stock
2 Cups – Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice, pre-cooked
2 Tbsp – Unbleached Flour
Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
About 1/4 Cup – Panko Breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large (12”) skillet over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the mushrooms dry and begin to brown, stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and ½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the onions soften. (Note: The mushrooms should be getting nice and brown by now. Don’t worry if some of the vegetables stick a little bit…they will loosen when you add the stock.)

When the onions become tender and translucent stir in the chicken, separating the slices and blending them carefully into the mixture. Continue cooking and stirring gently for another 5 minutes then Stir in one tablespoon of the flour until well mixed. Stir in the second tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring gently, for one minute more. Stir in one cup of stock and cook until some thickening begins. Stir in the other cup of stock and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Remove the thyme sprigs and discard, then stir in the quinoa and gently mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour all into a 9X9 casserole, sprinkle just enough breadcrumbs to cover evenly on top. Bake 25 minutes, allow a few minutes to rest and enjoy!


Singing the praises of Chicken Stock

Singing the praises of Chicken Stock

As I populate my blog with more and more recipes you will notice that chicken stock will show up in the ingredients over and over again. Indeed, I use chicken stock in a ton of different ways and find it to be an invaluable ingredient especially in healthful cooking. Aside from the obvious soups, risottos, and sauces I use chicken stock in place of water nearly every time I cook rice or couscous. Adding a little chicken stock to simmered beans adds body and richness, especially if you are going to make a puree. And, don’t forget those veggies either! A little stock boosts the flavor of blanched then sautéed vegetables nearly as well as a pat of butter and with much less fat.

Inasmuch as I tout the glories of chicken stock, I cannot emphasize enough how much better it tastes if you take the time to make your own! While I will at times use a canned chicken “broth”, there is simply nothing better than homemade. I say “broth” because I have yet to find a commercial stock that comes even close to the goodness of homemade. If I must used canned broth, I nearly always go with my favorite, Swanson’s Certified Organic Chicken Broth . For flavor, sodium level, and value, most others pale in comparison.

So what is the difference between stock and broth? To put it simply, stock utilizes more bones than meat in its preparation and nearly always involves browning of the ingredients before simmering.  Broth on the other hand uses more meat than bones and generally involves no browning of the ingredients before simmering. Stock is typically cooked longer than broth and usually contains less salt. While the two are entirely interchangeable, stock is essentially a richer more flavorful version of broth which is why it is preferred in sauce-making while broth is used more often in soups. Because I always seek to maximize flavor in my cooking, I nearly always use stock.

What is my secret to a good pot of chicken stock? Store-bought Rotisserie Chicken no less!

Out of habit, I freeze all of our chicken scraps stashed in a zip lock bag and when I have enough saved up, I make stock. While I have long browned my chicken parts before making stock, when I started buying Rotisserie Chickens from Costco for quick dinners on busy nights, I noticed an immediate improvement in the richness of my stock. Maybe it is the browning the rotisserie imparts on these chickens or maybe it is the marinade they use. Whatever the case the difference is remarkable enough that before I make a pot of stock I always wait until at least half of my stash of ingredients is from these chickens. To add additional flavor I also freeze any fresh herbs or vegetables (IE: onions, garlic cloves, apples, etc…) that were originally cooked with a home cooked chicken. Brown these right along with your chicken and you would be amazed how much flavor they can bring to the party!

When I make a batch of chicken stock, for convenience alone, I keep a quart or so in the fridge for up to a week. The rest I freeze in usable batches of 2 cup and ½ cup measures. For the former I pour two cups of cooled stock into a 1 quart Zip Lock Freezer bag, squeeze out the excess air, seal and stack them in the freezer. For an approximate ½ cup portion I pour the cooled stock evenly into a silicone muffin pan, cover loosely with stretch wrap, and freeze. The next day I pop the frozen portions out and store them neatly in another Zip Lock Freezer Bag. An ice tray does the same trick for even smaller portions but I don’t usually bother. I am a big stickler for fresh foods and perhaps it is because I go through it so fast but I really haven’t noticed a difference between fresh or frozen homemade stock.

Please remember, for the sake of food safety it is always best to refrigerate or freeze your stock as soon as it comes close to room temperature. To hasten cooling you can:

  • Pour the hot stock in to smaller and/or flatter containers to cool.
  • Set your stock pot into a sink or tub of ice water or even cold water, refreshing the water a time or two as it gets warm.
  • Freeze water a day or two ahead of time in a sanitized an empty ½ gallon milk container. Gently place the frozen container into your stock.
  • Fill a gallon sized Zip Lock Bag with ice cubes. Gently lower this into your “warm”stock.

Google “food safety” if you have any doubts and always use care in your handling of any food.

Homemade Chicken Stock

1 – One gallon Zip Lock Bag stuffed full of chicken necks, wing tips, and carcasses, thawed.
1 – Large yellow onion, sliced very thin
3 – Branches celery including leaves, chopped
2 – Large carrots, chopped
2 – Large garlic cloves, crushed
12 – Black peppercorns
1 – Tablespoon kosher salt
4 – Springs fresh thyme (or 1 Tbsp dried)
1 – Bay leaf
Olive Oil spray or mist
Fresh water to cover all by 1 inch.
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with an olive oil spray or mist. Cut or chop chicken into manageable sized pieces and spread evenly on cookie sheet. Mist lightly with olive oil spray or mist then season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in upper third of oven and cook 20 minutes undisturbed. Carefully remove and cool for safe handling. (Note: If chicken pieces do not show substantial browning, bake 8 to 10 minutes more before continuing.)

Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a large stock pot with a spray of olive oil and cook the remaining ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, to release flavor.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, add all of it including any collected juices, to the stock pot. Carefully swirl a small amount of fresh water in the cookie sheet to dissolve any browned bits and add this to the stock pot. Pour in enough fresh water to cover all ingredients by about 1 inch. Increase heat to high and monitor closely until nearly boiling, skimming off any excess foam. When the liquid reaches a near mild boil reduce the heat to simmer and cook 3 to 4 hours checking from time to time to keep from reaching a full boil.

After 3 – 4 hours remove the stock pot from heat and allow to cool somewhat before straining. When the stock has cooled enough to handle, using a slotted spoon, remove the largest solids to a colander or sieve set in a bowl to capture any draining stock. When most of the solids have been removed, strain remaining stock through cheesecloth or a sanitized dish cloth to clarify. Skim any remaining fat as it accumulates at the surface and/or remove any fat accumulations after the stock had been refrigerated.