Category Archives: casseroles

Shepherd’s Pie

Today was the last day of the semester, and for that I was grateful.  As I’ve mentioned before, this semester has been particularly trying, and I am just thankful to have made it to the end!  I have the next two weeks off on holiday, during which I plan to rest, relax, and do a fair bit of cooking.  I started this evening with our dinner–we’d been eating out all week long as the end of the semester usually is so busy that I don’t have much time to cook, so we resort to going out.  This week we also had a few social engagements that involved dinner, so eating at home happened very rarely this week at dinnertime.

Sometimes you just want a meal that soothes and comforts.  And sometimes you just want something that is easy and quick to fix that doesn’t require a terrible lot of work.  This dinner is both.  We’d been out earlier in the week to one of our neighborhood favorite joints, the Allen Wickers.  It’s a great pub/restaurant that we frequent, and the food there is quite good and includes a few British pub favorites such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.  Their version is ground beef with mixed vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes and a bit of cheese.  There isn’t a gravy or sauce, so while it is good, there isn’t anything that really holds it together.  I decided I’d make a remixed version of their recipe for dinner tonight, with a few modifications to accommodate for SB’s onion allergy.

Comfort food at its best: shepherd's pie. Easy to make, full of vegetables, and sure to be a repeat guest at your dinner table.

Now I’d made shepherd’s pie before, but it had never turned out anywhere near as good as this one did.  As SB said while he ate, “This is off the chain.”

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 package steamable frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 package Alexia Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes (about 3 cups)*
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • salt to taste

*you can always make your own mashed potatoes; I used these because they were in my freezer and cut the prep and cook time significantly.  Additionally, this particular brand of steamable mashed potatoes is really good and tastes homemade–SB couldn’t tell the difference!

In a Dutch oven, brown the ground sirloin.  While the meat is cooking, steam cook the mixed vegetables according to package directions (about 5 minutes).  Drain the fat from the meat and add in the garlic.  Carefully open the package of cooked mixed vegetables, and add them to the pan, stirring them in with the meat to combine.  While you are cooking the vegetables with the meat, cook the mashed potatoes according to package directions (about 10 minutes).  Add the dried spices to the meat-vegetable mixture and cook for about 5-6 minutes to allow the spices to flavor the mixture.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

After this has cooked, sprinkle the flour evenly over the mixture to lightly coat it and stir to distribute the flour.  Stir in the milk so that a gravy is created, and turn the heat off of the meat and vegetables.  After the mashed potatoes have finished cooking, carefully remove them from the package using a rubber spatula and spread them over the surface of the meat and vegetables so that you create a mashed potato “crust.”  Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Allow the pie to set for about 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe made 4 large servings, but would make 8 small servings if eaten with other vegetables or side items.  We elected to eat it as a solo dish.


Savory Breakfast Strata

It’s a snowy day here in the Metroplex, which is an event that is truly a rarity for us here in North Texas.  It began snowing this morning around 11, and hasn’t stopped yet.  The weathermen here are predicting we’ll get around 3 or 4 inches, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  When they cancel school tomorrow, THEN I’ll believe that we’ve had a real winter storm.  Until then…

The cold weather was a good excuse to whip up something warm and stick to your ribs delicious, so I decided to make a breakfast strata.  Strata are casseroles typically made with chunks of bread, an egg custard base, cheese and vegetables or meat (or both).  I decided to convert a series of recipes I’d seen for strata that used full-fat ingredients into one that was more on the healthy side, and that was egg allergy-friendly.  Here was the result:

Chock full o' whole grains, dairy and vegetables...can't go wrong with this one! And it's really easy to make too.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 cup Egg Beaters (or your favorite egg substitute)
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli
  • 4-5 slices whole wheat bread (I used 2 large store-made whole wheat hamburger buns, which I think would equal this much bread)
  • 10 ounces cooked Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • cooking spray
  • optional:  paprika

In a skillet, cook the sausage and crumble it as you cook it.  You will notice that since it is super lean, it will render very little fat.  Also, cook your broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap for 2 minutes.  When the broccoli has finished cooking, remove it from the microwave and remove the plastic wrap so that it cools quickly.

Slice your bread into smaller pieces and layer them in a 2-quart baking dish which you have sprayed with cooking spray.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the Egg  Beaters, milk, pepper and 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Once these items have been thoroughly combined, pour them over the bread in the baking dish.  Distribute the cooled broccoli over the bread-egg base and allow this to sit for 20 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the casserole has had an opportunity to rest a bit, sprinkle the sausage over top of the base, and then sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over this.  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes have passed, remove the foil and let the strata cook for 30 more minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow the strata to sit for 10 minutes to firm up a bit before cutting into it and serving.

This recipe makes 6 pretty good sized servings.  We had enough for leftovers for tomorrow’s breakfast…hopefully we’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow if the roads are icy and school is cancelled!