Friday, September 30, 2011

Turkey Shepard's Pie

For creating almost every traditional casserole I could think of, I suddenly realized I've never made Shepard's Pie. Tator Tot Casserole is my childhood equivalent, but the cream of mushroom soup is essential for that dish, and I was looking for another option for the typical potato layered casserole.

I took a helping hand utilizing the instant gravy mix, but I was in a bit of a confused state to figure what exactly goes in a Americanized-Shepard's Pie, and thought I couldn't really go wrong with beef gravy. Instead of making my own gravy or using another canned soup or gravy, I thought the typical commercial gravy would work as a starting point.

I froze half of the recipe for another night, and it re-heated well and made for a no-brainer night for the cook! Hooray!

Turkey Shepard's Pie
recipe adapted from

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 (1 ounce) packages instant beef gravy mix
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
2 cups frozen mixed veggies of your choice (peas, corn, carrots, green beans, limas, etc)
3 cups mashed potatoes(instant or homemade - whatever works for you!)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Cook and stir ground beef or turkey in a skillet with onions over medium-high heat until beef is browned. Drain to remove the fat. Return to skillet, and add gravy mix and water; stir often, until gravy is thick and bubbly. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

Pour beef mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch dish and top with mixed veggies. Spread mashed potato on top. Top with shredded cheese, and bake in the preheated oven until the pie is hot, about 30 minutes.

This is how I froze half of the casserole: with two layers of foil in a glass 8 x8 pan, and put it in the freezer until almost completely solid. Then I lifted it out of the pan, folded the foil over top and put it into a large plastic bag. That way I had the pan to use until I wanted to eat the casserole, so I just popped it back into the pan.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yogurt Pancakes

These were a bit of a science experiment. I wanted to make Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes one morning, but didn't have any sour cream. I did, however, have many little containers of yogurt playing chess around my frig, so thought I'd give it a try.

Turns out, my husband loved them. My 4 year old would never turn down pancakes, so he gobbled them up. The blueberry fruit on the bottom yogurt I used added a subtle tinge of color and slight taste of blueberry. You could really play around with different flavors, or just use plain yogurt.

Yogurt Pancakes

1 cup yogurt (I use fruit on the bottom)
7 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Combine yogurt, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir together gently until almost combined.
Whisk eggs in a separate bowl, add vanilla (if using) and stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into yogurt/flour mixture. Stir together gently.

Ladle the pancake batter into the pan with a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute, until browned.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

I'm always looking for new side dish recipes, and especially for new ways to prepare green beans. For some reason, I rarely venture out of Roasted Green Beans, and green beans aren't my absolute favorite. But, they are a vegetable that is often on sale, so I usually throw 'em in the menu rotation.

I didn't have bacon on hand, but I usually have bacon grease saved in a glass jar in my frig. I very rarely buy or eat bacon these days, but I think this would still be good with olive oil and maybe some diced pimentos for visual contrast.

This recipe added the note to make a triple batch of these and freeze them in quart size freezer bags for another meal. Perfect for the Holidays! I am plotting in my head about making a huge batch, then using them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Any part of those meals that I can do ahead would be fine by me!

The 4 year old wasn't interested in these. My husband thought they were fine. I thought they jazzed up the (somewhat boring grilled chicken breast) meal, and really enjoyed them. The leftovers the next day were even better, but I was the only one interested, which just left more for me!

I used blanched fresh green beans, but I would have preferred the texture of frozen or canned green beans. I could have cooked the daylights out of the fresh ones, but felt a small betrayal.

Sweet and Sour Green Beans
recipe adapted from Southern Plate

6 slices bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 2 tablespoons bacon grease)
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
32 ounces french style green beans (or any other green beans)
2 T vinegar
2 T sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

Place bacon and onions in skillet. Cook over medium heat until browned, stirring often. Remove to plate. Add beans to bacon grease and continue cooking over medium heat until they are to desired tenderness. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir. Add bacon and onions back and let simmer a few minutes, stirring often. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough

One Friday night, our grill was out of propane (a cardinal sin in the summer, right?) so grilled pizza was not an option, so the thought of firing up the oven might be worth it to get some thick crust pizza!

My fascination with making Pizza Hut at home continues. I have made their Breadsticks before but a new recipe for dough intrigued me.

I had to really dust off my bread machine to use it for this recipe. It's been awhile since I fired that baby up. Luckily, it whirled like a champ! I love the smell of dough rising, and since this dough has onion and garlic powder in it, the smell was even more tempting.

Once the pizza was baked, it was solid, thick, chewy and very yummy. The bottom of the crust browned up nicely, and it wasn't "floppy" as usually is my issue with homemade pizza. It was a hit with the whole family, and the leftovers reheated in the toaster oven were good, too.

As for being like Pizza Hut's, I'd say it's 80 percent there - it needs to be a lot more greasy to match up to the 'Hut, but I happen to prefer my fingers grease-free. Next time I'll try brushing on some melted butter on the crust edges with a little sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top to see if that amps it up, but I'm still happy with this version!

This pizza dough can hold up to some massive toppings, so don't be shy about piling them on. I totally wussed out and just did cheese, but it needs some toppings to balance out all the crust.

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough
recipe adapted from Group Recipes

1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

1 cup pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
Toppings, including but not limited to: cooked sausage, diced ham, chunks of onion, green pepper, mushrooms, pepperoni, or olives

Add ingredients to bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer. (My order is listed above). Set machine to Dough, and start machine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once dough is ready, place in two greased 9 x 13 inch pans. I used one 11 x 17 for a big, thicker pizza. Let rest in pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Bake just the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust is baked and has some light brown touches (don't brown the whole thing). Remove from oven, top with sauce, sprinkle on shredded cheese, and add toppings of choice. Return to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted, bubbly or lightly browned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What's been going on in my kitchen...

An update as to what is going on in my kitchen!

First off, aren't those mushrooms cool? I got them a few weeks ago in my Produce Club basket. I was hoping to do a funky Thai coconut soup with them, but life got in the way and I ended up chopping and throwing them into a jazzed up spaghetti sauce. Still tasty, and fun to look at!

We have survived Birthday Season in our house... mine, my husband's and my oldest son (Happy 4th Birthday Big Man!) happen within a month of each other's. I'm kinda sick of cake, if that's possible.

It's been about a month and a half of starting 2 week Menu Planning, which has really flexed my budgeting and planning muscle. I've had a few hiccups, but overall it's been nice to save some time shopping with two little boys in tow. Hopefully once I get more comfortable with the 2 week plans, I'll start posting them here. Nobody wants to see a list of "Chicken something with some sort of Potato" meals. But so far we're all getting fed healthy and balanced meals.

Writing for my first ebook about Freezer Cooking is just about wrapped up, which is where most of blogging brain has been focused. It's just about ready to be released for PDF and Amazon Kindle sales.

My 8 month old is crawling, pulling himself up, standing and a.l.m.o.s.t. taking those first steps. How did that happen already? And why do babies lead with their heads when they fall?

I've been busying cooking, as always, so look for some new recipes soon!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Italian Salmon Patties

I don't know if this is truly "Italian" but the Italian breadcrumb flavors added some great gusto. Our other favorite Salmon Cakes is more low-key in flavor, and it's dominant essence is salmon...this is like the salmon had a party! The cheese in the breadcrumbs doesn't help the health factor, but does bring some flava' to the party.

This is yet again another go round with the pink protein from a can. I can't beat the price, and the grown-ups really enjoy anything I whip up with it. There were no leftovers! A sign of a victorious dinner!

Italian Salmon Patties
Makes 4 servings

1 (14.75 ounce) can salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I used homemade)
2 Tablespoons onion, grated
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together salmon, breadcrumbs, onion, flour, egg, salt and pepper. Shape into four patties. Spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until thoroughly cooked and set.