Meal prepping and such

Shepherd’s Pie topped off with colcannon and a mix of cheddar and parmesan cheese.

We’re trying to be better about planning meals for the week, so we’re going to give meal prepping a go again. This week I made Enchilada Suiza and Shepherd’s/Cottage Pie in large 9×13 casseroles that I froze as well as single serving portions for lunches and dinners this week.

Since it’s March, and St. Patrick’s Day is a few weeks away I thought I’d share my recipe for Shepherd’s Pie/Cottage Pie. Shepherd’s Pie now  refers to a casserole with any type of meat that’s topped with mashed potatoes but traditionally Shepherd’s Pie used lamb and Cottage Pie used beef. My version of Shepherd’s Pie uses ground turkey for no other reason than that’s what we had in the house and I top my pie with colcannon, which are super buttery mashed potatoes that are combined with sautéed garlic and kale. This recipe will be enough to make two 9×13 casseroles worth of Shepherd’s Pie. Here’s the recipe.

Shepherd’s Pie Filling

3 LBS ground turkey

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup chopped or grated carrot

1 garlic clove finely minced

2 TBS tomato paste

2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 TBS corn starch or flour

¾ cup chicken or beef stock

oil for cooking

In a large skillet, heat cooking oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, carrots and garlic to the oil and cook over medium high heat until they are soft and the onions start to turn translucent. Push the onion/carrot mixture to the side and add the ground turkey stirring frequently until the turkey browns. Add in the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and Worcestershire sauce mixing thoroughly so that the tomato paste is incorporated. Place the flour/starch into a bowl or measuring cup then add the stock. Mix with a fork until the starch/flour is dissolved. Pour into ground turkey and stir. Turn the heat down to medium low and let cook for about 5 minutes to cook the flour/starch then remove from heat and set aside.


3 large russet potatoes peeled and cut into1 inch cubes

2 cups chopped kale

1 clove garlic finely minced

2 scallions finely minced

1 TBS bacon fat

3 strips of bacon cooked until crispy and crumbled (reserve the bacon fat)

1 stick/8TBS of soften butter

½ cup heavy cream

4 cups grated cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 TBS salt for bowling with the potatoes

Place the peeled and cubed potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water so that the potatoes are just covered. Add in 1 TBS of salt and bring to a boil. Boil over high heat until the potatoes are soft when poked with a fork. This should take about 15 minutes.

While the Potatoes are cooking saute the kale, garlic in 1 TBS of bacon fat until the garlic browns and the kale starts to wilt. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain in a colander and then return the potatoes to the pot over medium low heat. Add the softened butter and cream and mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer to mash. Taste for seasoning. Add in the crumbled bacon and sautéed kale and stir together.


Preheat oven to 350F. Divide meat mixture and place into baking dishes flatten with a wood spoon. Top the meat mixture with the colcannon and then top with the grated cheese. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes until the cheese is melted. Enjoy.

Comfort Food……

Braised chuck sitting on top of mascarpone whipped potatoes and garnished with lemon zest and parsley

We were in Denver a few weeks back and happened to be there for their first snow fall of the year, and a really awful game 3 of the 2018 NLDS (and not because it was cold and rainy but because it was just a really bad one-sided baseball game). Having lived in Southern California for the past few years, my body has forgotten what actual weather and cold feels like. So I spent the entire time there shivering (I literally had to buy a blanket and hand-warmers during the game) and craving hot chocolate (spiked of course), soup and hearty rib stickin’ comfort food.

My wife travels to Denver quite a lot for business and she has been talking about  taking me to Steuben’s for years (Steuben’s your Steubie Snacks are pure culinary genius but I’m sure you already know this). They’ve got a great menu and take on American Cuisine (and cocktails). I opted for their pot roast which looked like it was actually braised beef shank versus a roast. It was so good that I will go out on a limb and say that it is one of the best pot roasts I’ve ever had. I’ll go further still and say that it topped a lot of ossobucos and braised short ribs as well. It was so good that even though our hotel room didn’t have a microwave I still took the leftovers and attempted to re-heat them using the iron in the hotel room (unsuccessfully mind you so I ate them cold and they were still good).

I’m now back in perpetually sunny Southern California (we actually had a thunderstorm the night I got back into town.) it’s still warm  and I still have a craving for some comfort food. So I’m going to make pot roast with mashed potatoes. This is going to be scheduled to publish on Election Day so some comfort may be needed (Don’t forget to vote!).

I have a lot of co-workers that are partial to their slow-cookers and Insta-pots and as my wife will surely attest I need more kitchen appliances and gadgets like a hole in the head, I prefer to make things like pot roasts and such in a dutch oven. I like that I can sear and brown all in the same pot. This method works for short ribs, shanks and roasts. I’m going to use a 2 lbs boneless chuck steak today because there’s only going to be 2 of us to eat it and it will cook fairly fast.


2 carrots peeled and diced

1 medium union diced

2 stalks of celery diced

2 cloves of garlic crushed

1 15oz can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

2 cups beef stock

1 2-3 lbs beef or pork roast

2 TBS bacon fat or oil

salt and pepper

bouquet garni of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley

parsley and lemon zest for garnish

½ cup red wine (optional)

Dry beef with a paper towel then season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large oven proof pot or roasting pan over medium heat, heat 1 TBS fat or oil until shimmering. Place the beef in the pan and brown both sides.

Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Drain and retain the liquids from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the stove-top and add in the remaining 1 TBS of oil. Add onion, celery, garlic and carrots and sautée until vegetables start to soften and brown.

Add the beef back into the pan along with the juices. Add the can of tomatoes and enough beef stock (or water) to so that the roast is completely covered.

Toss in the bouquet garni, cover the dutch oven with its lid and place in a pre-heated 325F oven. Check for tenderness periodically and add liquid as needed. Roast should be easily shredded. Taste for seasoning and serve over mashed potatoes or grits or along side roasted vegetables.


Chicken Soup for the Soul

Egg noodle flakes, chicken, carrots, celery and an airy matzo ball float in chicken broth

We’ve been struck down by some virulent form of rhinovirus or flu in these parts which is one of the down sides to working with the public. When I’m sick I crave soup though sadly when everyone in the house is also sick that means I either have to motivate myself to get out of bed and make it or order it. There are no Jewish Delis close by (one of the things I miss about living back east) to deliver soup so making the soup it is. We tried some canned matzo balls the other day and while not awful they weren’t good either so they didn’t satisfy the craving.

Veggies water and chicken simmering away for stock

I thought I had posted some time back how to make basic chicken stock, but scrolling through my past posts, I didn’t find one.  I save veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer to use for stock when the bag is full I will then simmer the veggies along with 8 quarts of water for simple veggie stock and simmer for about 4 hours. To make chicken stock I add a whole chicken and let them simmer away for a few hours periodically skimming and discarding the foam. After about 4 hours I taste the stock for seasoning adding salt and pepper to taste (and a couple of teaspoons chicken bouillon granules). I strain and retain the stock and chicken and discard the vegetables. I let the stock cool then place into freezer safe containers and store in the freezer until needed. The chicken I’ll cut up to use in salads or soup

Now for Chicken Noodle Soup with Matzo Ball….

Matzo Balls

¼ cup matzo meal

¼ cup vegetable oil or schmaltz

2 whole eggs

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients until well mixed.

Set aside for approximately 15 minutes to allow the matzo meal to hydrate.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and and add salt.  Put a few drops of vegetable oil on your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Form dough into golf ball sized balls and drop into the boiling water. Once all the dough has been used, cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the matzo balls for about 30 minutes. This will typical yield 8 golf ball sized matzo balls.

Chicken Noodle Soup

herbs, chicken and mirepoix waiting to go into stock pot

2 quarts chicken stock (see above)

2 cups cooked chicken meat cut into cubes

½ cup egg noodles

2 carrots chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

½ large onion chopped

herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano)

salt and pepper to taste

mirepoix and herbs sweating in stock pot

In a large stock pot, sweat carrots, celery, onions and herbs until vegetables are soften.  Add stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add chicken meat and noodles and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the chicken is warmed through and the noodles are cooked.  To serve, drain a matzo ball and place into a soup bowl and ladle the chicken noodle soup over the matzo ball and garnish with fresh thyme or chopped parsley.

Mac & Cheese

Rich and creamy mac and cheese ready to go in the oven.

Rich and creamy mac and cheese ready to go into the oven.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I apologize for that. Things have been pretty busy around here. I’ve been finishing up my degree and today was the final day of classes. All the projects have been turned in. You can see some of the things I’ve been working on at my portfolio site. Graduation is next week and I have family traveling in from the West Coast to celebrate.

To help unwind from all the craziness I decided to make mac and cheese. One of my annoyances with mac and cheese (a lot of food really) is that people tend to under season. Mornay sauce itself can be pretty bland as is plain pasta. My way to combat this problem is to make sure to cook my pasta in heavily salted water and to season my mornay heavily. I use sharp cheddar cheese and an aged gouda, as well as add piquant spices like chili flakes, dried mustard, freshly ground black pepper and a hot paprika/pimenton.

Here’s the recipe.

Preheat the over to 400ºF

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded cheese
½ stick butter
1 egg lightly whipped
1 TBS flour
¼ tsp paprika
½ tsp dried mustard
¼ tsp chili flakes
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly ground coarse sea salt

Cook the pasta in a large pot with plenty of salted water to just under al dente. Drain and set aside. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven.

In a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat, melt the butter. When it starts to bubble whisk in the flour. Cook the flour and butter for about a minute. Then gradually add the heavy cream. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to stir. You’ll notice that the cream is starting to thicken up. Add in your spices and make sure they’re well incorporated into the cream. Take a few tablespoons of the hot cream and add them to the egg. Whisk together for a few seconds to temper the egg, then pour the egg into the larger batch of cream. Slowly add the shredded cheese into the cream and let each addition melt completely before adding the next. Once all the cheese is added in and melted, fold in the drained pasta and stir so that all the pasta is coated with the mornay sauce. Pour everything into a buttered casserole dish and bake in a 400ºF oven for 35 minutes. You can top the mac & cheese with crumbled up potato chips, bread crumbs or more cheese. I had some left over garlic crostini that I ground up in the food processor, so I used that as for my crumb topping. Enjoy!

Feeling chilly? Warm up with some football and some chili.


I look forward to Fall, not because I’m a big fan of Halloween or the trees changing colors. I like Fall because I feel like I now have the permission of the Weather/Season gods to stop eating salads and light grilled fare and can now eat heartier comfort foods like soups, stews, and roasts.

Chili is hearty, comforting, easy crowd-pleasing dish for entertaining because you can make it ahead or cook it in a slow cooker. It doesn’t require a lot of attention. Also, you can easily extend it to feed a good number of people by adding beans or serving with some kind of bread or chip.

I’ve found that chili is a good gateway to introduce folks to vegetarian food. I will typically use a combination of different beans in my chili as well as TVP (textured vegetable protein). You can buy TVP at health food stores and I know in my area both Wegman’s and Whole Foods have the powdered form in their bulk food section. I prefer to use MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ . Check for it in your grocery store’s freezer section or in their health food section.

The crumbles look like and are texturally similar to ground beef, this will lend a little familiarity and comfort to folks that are leery of vegetarian and meat-free dishes or have had a bad experience with tofu and tempeh. The crumbles come frozen and don’t require defrosting before cooking. They just need to be heated through. With the relatively short prep and cooking time, you can easily get a hearty meal on the table with minimal planning and effort.

Augment the “meat” with a couple of different types of beans and vegetables. I’m not a big fan of kidney beans so for something like a chili I’ll use a combination of different types like pinto, red beans, black beans or garbanzos. Each bean has its own unique texture and flavor. I like the contrast of texture that each bean lends to the chili. Use what you have on hand and your family likes. In addition to the usual chili ingredients like onions, garlic and peppers, I’ll also add vegetables like corn, red bell peppers, or zucchini, again its whatever you have and like. The version pictured above has corn, garbanzo beans and black beans.

I buy the small cans of beans, even though they are more expensive. I have less waste with a smaller can especially if I’m going to be using more than one kind. Canned beans tend to have quite a bit of sodium, so I’ll pour them into a strainer and rinse them in cold water before using. I also used canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotles are fire roasted jalapeños. The roasted flavor from the chilies as well as the spicy adobo sauce lend a rich smokiness to the chili that typically would come from grilled meat. They can be fairly hot so use in moderation. I haven’t figured out how to make small amounts of chili, so this stores really well in the freezer it also makes for a great topping for nachos.

1 Yellow Onion Diced
1 Bell Pepper Diced
4 Garlic Cloves Crushed
1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Corn Kernals
2 cups of what ever type of beans you like
16 oz of Low Sodium Vegetable Stock/Broth
2 Chipotles chilies and 2 TBS of the Adobo sauce that they are canned with (optional) Add more chipotle if you like things really hot.
2 cups of MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (optional)
1 15oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 TBS Cracked Black Pepper
2 TBS Ground Cumin
2 TBS Chili Powder
Salt to taste
2 TBS Olive Oil

Heat the 2 TBS of oil in a large stock pot or dutch over over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the onions soften. Add the pepper, cumin and chili powder for about a minute then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the the remainder of the ingredients except the salt and cover and simmer until every thing is heated through.

Garnish with shredded cheese and green onions and serve with corn bread or corn chips.

Next up…a wonton three-way or rather, wontons three different ways.