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Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

Can I have a car air freshener in Shepherd’s Pie??  For Shirley’s birthday, my boss decided we’d all make an ethnic food and share during lunch.  There was everything from Thai food to Polish to my Irish Sheppard’s Pie (mutilated, as Brandon says, because I made it vegetarian and it is usually rich with meat).

You should buy:

  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 ounce portabella mushrooms
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, and cut into large dice
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp. sage leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

With a whisk, whip together the cream of mushroom soup, your choice of dry red wine (I used a cheap brand, but the addition of wine really perked up the adult taste buds), tomato paste and flour. When the liquid is creamy and smooth, set aside for some time to let the flavors meld.

Chop up your potatoes and place in a large, covered, boiling pot of water.  Cook until they almost fall of a fork when poked, about 20-30 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add in a handful of mushrooms (don’t overcrowd them, just enough to evenly cover the bottom of the pan) and cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are browned on both sides.  Place in a separate bowl, and then repeat until all of the mushrooms are completely browned.

Melt another tablespoon of butter in the now empty pan and toss in your onion, celery, garlic, carrots and seasonings. 

 Cook until the vegetables are soft and the onions become translucent, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the wine, mushroom broth mix to the pan making sure to scrape the sides of the pan and bottom to keep from burning. Simmer for 3 minutes.  Plop in the mushrooms and cook at a simmering stage until thick and darker maroon in color, approximately 8 minutes.

Strain the liquid from the potatoes and return to the pot.  

Mash together the potato chunks, 2 Tbsp. butter and cream with an electric hand mixer for about 5 minutes or until smooth and whipped. Season with salt and pepper.

In a pie dish, 9″ x 9″ baking dish or mini bread loaf pans, spread the vegetable mixture over the bottom.

On top, dot the potatoes all the way across to the edges.  Take your fork and sporadically dip in and out of the top of the potatoes to create little peaks and valleys. These will become a crunchy texture in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes. The vegetable mixture may bubble, breaking the potatoes away from the sides.  If you like the top more crunchy and browned, turn on the broiler and heat for 5 more minutes.

I chose to cook this in disposable mini bread tins for the sole purpose of reheating them at lunch in the toaster oven. They fit perfectly.  I tossed them in the oven to cook before leaving for work and by lunch, they only needed about 5 minutes of reheating.  I drove all the way to work (just under an hour) to work smelling this deliciousness and somehow managed to dispel the urge to pop open a pie and dig in.  The mix made about 7 minis: one for my mom, two and a half for lunch, and three for people to take home.


Just the smell was enough to make someone do a happy dance.  The mushrooms (could have been chopped smaller) mixed with cream of mushroom soup helped to make a hearty, thick vegetarian version of this hodgepodge of a dish.  The potatoes fill your stomach right up, as Irish food is known for, and the butter and cream helped to flavor the bland starch some.  I used Lucky Duck Shiraz, a cheap wine, but it supplied the distinct, incomparable oomph necessary to make a meat dish turned vegetarian work.  The potatoes just melt in your mouth, and dissipate some of the saltiness of the cream of mushroom soup.


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Filed under Food, Lunch/Dinner

Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf

A healthy, protein filled vegetarian dinner.

To make this:

  • 1 cup onions
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Several basil leaves
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1-2 cups pine nuts/walnuts
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder

I chose to use frozen corn and onions, as that was what I had lying around, but feel free to use fresh or canned corn and swap out vegetables for what you have in your cabinet.  imageIn a frying pan, combine frozen corn and onions with 1/4 cup water and heat on high with chopped carrots and fresh basil leaves for 10 minutes.  (If you are using fresh vegetables add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat vegetables).

When warmed add in your garlic, tomatoes and fresh zucchini (more of that giant zucchini my boss brought us).  Stir with 2 cups of vegetable broth and 1 cup of quinoa.  image
Heat until boiling and then lower heat to a simmer and cook covered until quinoa puffs up. image
It looked as though I was making a soup, and I started to worry that the quinoa to broth ratio wasn’t right, but when the quinoa is ready it will soak in the extra juice and flavor.

In the meantime, take some walnuts or pine nuts and broil for 2 minutes.  My first batch burned, so you really need to watch these.  image
They’d cook even better in a toaster oven.  You want them to look more like this: slightly browned top.
Set aside for later.

When the quinoa is light and fluffy, add in your spices and mix thoroughly. The cayenne, chilli powder, cumin, curry powder and black pepper adds a great medium spice to this rather bland dish, but any addition, sweet or spicy would help this meal.  You can either take out the whole basil leaves or keep them in.  image

Place the quinoa mix in a bowl and top with the nuts.  Enjoy!


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Filed under Food, Gluten-Free, Lunch/Dinner

Baby Makin’ Machine

Ash asked me to come by and attempt a new project with her. As I mentioned earlier, on Mother’s day she was feeding her baby boy homemade, goopy, brownish-green blended avacadoes. we went shopping and found ideas from the baby food jars then picked up a few ingredients, such as 20 gallons of distilled water, fruits, vegetables and baby formula. She likes to stock up.


So we compared both her blender and my food processor. Then cut, scraped, peeled, diced, steamed, and chopped all but the kitchen sink. Apples, mangoes, butternut squash, pears, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, pineapple, avacadoes, carrots, and peaches.image


Making baby food is actually quite simple after you have everything cut up or steamed.  You just throw in your fruits or vegetables, add water if needed (a lot of the fruit did not need added water as it already is juicy), and a few scoops of formula.  We decided for our first round we would just stick with one fruit per jar, instead of having the baby try apple banana, to see if he liked a certain fruit or not. We taste tested on her neice who loved the mangos.  The pineapple she continued to open her mouth for, but kept spitting it half out.  It may have been too chunky.  While we were blending we came across the issue of the food processor really pulverizing any size chunk we put into it, but it wasn’t a smooth mixture. So we then had to transfer it into the blender which would liquify everything.


Ash had previously bought the perfect grab-one-and-go, stackable, baby food containers.  Everything will last up to 3 months in the freezer, and this way she can take out one tray at a time and thaw in the refridgerator.  The containers do go into the microwave for easy heating.


Each container had it’s own sticker which was then labeled in a book by the correct food item.  The colors and consistencies of each food we made started to blend together with the next item, so this was really helpful.  We also labeled the stacking containers with the date, so she knows when they are no longer fresh.  I learned a new trick too.  Sharpie permanent marker’s can be erased on plastic with a pencil eraser.image

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Filed under Breakfast, Food, Lunch/Dinner