Monday, December 27, 2010

Lovely Meat and Veggie Pies

We had meat pies at Dickens Fair in San Francisco this year and loved them so much that I decided I wanted to try to make them. My husband even helped out a little! It was fun and not as hard as you might think. The baby loved them too! We bought small ramekins at World Market for $4 a 4-pack to make individual pies.


1-2 pounds ground meat (we used a mix of lamb and beef)
1 sweet onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 small/medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 red potatoes, chopped small
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 Tbsp parsley flakes
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper


2 cups flour
2/3 cup softened butter
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold water

Brown the meat in a large pan on medium heat, breaking up into bits as it cooks, while you chop the vegetables.

Put carrots and potatoes into a small pot and cover with water, then boil about ten minutes until softened.

Drain meat once it's cooked. Add butter to pan and throw in the onions and garlic to brown up a bit. Then add the meat and the cooked potatoes and carrots and mix it all together. Turn the heat to low and throw in the peas, milk, flour, parsley, and as much salt and pepper as you like the taste of. Mix it all together until it's creamy, adding more milk if needed.

Mix the dough with your hands and roll out thinly. Use a bowl as a cookie cutter to make a circle large enough to fit into the ramekin. Spray inside of ramekins with cooking oil and push the dough circles into them, tucking loose ends in neatly.

Save enough dough to make smaller circles of dough for the tops of the pies. Fill each crust with the meat mixture and then top with another crust, pinching closed at the edges. Cut a small cross in the top of each pie to let out steam.

Place on a baking sheet for ease of removing from oven and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

So I've been using jarred spaghetti sauce for about 4-5 years now, and finally thought I'd try a cheaper way out. The baby is 15 months old now, can you believe it? So I am able to sit her in her play area and let her watch one of the Your Baby Can Read dvds while I prepare a meal. Since I just threw this one together in the crock pot, it took no time at all and will be very easy to throw together come dinnertime.


1 14oz can tomato sauce
1 14oz can diced tomato (mine was flavored with olive oil and garlic)
1 pound ground meat (I used turkey this time)
1 can artichoke hearts or quarters
2 fresh scallions/green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
a few shakes of seasoned pepper and onion powder
1 Tbsp each fresh chopped sage and oregano
1/2 tsp fresh thyme

Throw all ingredients into the crock pot. Mix together if you can; my ground turkey was still partially frozen when I put it in so I'm going to have to stir it all together in a few hours once it's cooking. Cook in slow cooker on low for 6+ hours or until dinner, then serve over freshly cooked pasta of your choice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Atrocious Frozen Beef Makeover

I realized it was my night to make dinner close to noon today, so I hope I'm not cutting it too close using the crock pot. I'm going to start it on high for a few hours before turning it down to low later on... though I'm sure whatever this is would taste better cooked on low for 8-10 hours. I found a package of badly freezer-burned thin beef steaks in the freezer and am trying to reconcile them with the beef gods for dinner tonight.


1 1/2 pounds of old, frozen beef something-or-other
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 bag of baby carrots
2 medium/large red potatoes, chopped
1 tsp parsley flakes
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
a few shakes of seasoned pepper and seasoned salt
1 cup leftover red wine (ours was a zinfandel)
1 cup frozen green beans

Unwrap the beef atrocity, thawing a little under warm running water to get the wrapper off and using leverage to break the frozen meat in half, or however it will fit into the crock pot. Add all the other ingredients on top of the meat, and cook either on low for 8-10 hours or high for 3 hours and then low until dinner time (another 3-5 hours) In the last 20 minutes of cooking, toss in the green beans and then mix in with the rest of the stuff before serving.

Let's hope this turns out well and rescued... it looks like it'll serve about 3-4 people.
UPDATE: Though it could have used a little more salt, it was actually pretty decent, as a sort of stew/potage.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Veggie Stir Fry Over Rice

This was a quick meal, thrown together for lack of any thawed meat in the house. Hooray for the local Farmer's Market!


1 cup rice
2 cups water
2 Tbsp sesame or olive oil
1 zuchinni, sliced into 2 inch strips
2-3 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 garlic clove, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
sprinkle of fresh thyme

Prepare the rice as directed; bring to a boil then simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes until all water is absorbed. Saute the vegetables in a large frying pan with about 1-2 Tbsp sesame oil, adding the soy sauce, thyme and pepper once the veggies begin to wilt. Push the veggies to one side and drop in the beaten egg, stirring around til it fries, then mix in with the veggies.

Put a big scoop of rice in a bowl and top with the veggie mix. Quick and simple, and feeds 2.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sausages with Colcannon and Roasted Pumpkin

Okay, so I found this pumpkin recipe somewhere online and it's not fully mine, but I had to share it because it was delicious, and managed to get rid of at least one of the fresh pumpkins we've had hanging round the house since Halloween. The Colcannon I made on Halloween, but forgot to write down the recipe, so I BS'd it last night and it still tasted great! Just had a little extra kale because of some unfortunately rotten potatoes. Did you know that they don't sell bags of red potatoes in California? You have to buy them individually. It sucks.

Pumpkin Ingredients:

One 2-3 pound whole fresh pumpkin
6 shallots, peeled and quartered
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
1 Tbsp fresh sliced sage leaves
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coarse ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Chop the ends off the pumpkin and cut it in half, and take out the seeds. Then slice it up into wedges as you would a watermelon. Toss them in a large roasting pan with the shallots and garlic. Mix all other ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the pumpkin as if it were a dressing, then toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 60 minutes, but make sure you toss the pumpkin every 20 minutes of that time. Serve immediately. You will have leftovers if you're not feeding a ton of people. Sorry, but I totally forgot to take photos of the process here.


4-5 red potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 pound (minimum) fresh curly kale, ripped into 2-inch strips and the stems pulled out

1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup onion, chopped small
salt and pepper

Place the cubed potatoes in a pot and just cover with water, then set to boil. Once boiling, turn down to medium heat and cook for about ten minutes or until they are fork tender.

Using the chicken broth in place of water, steam the curly kale until wilted, about 5-6 minutes once broth is bubbling, on medium heat. Drain potatoes and add the milk, butter, and some salt and pepper. Toss in the steamed kale and mash like you're mashing regular potatoes. When thoroughly squished, add the onion and mix well, adding more salt and pepper if desired.

If potatoes are too thick, add a little of the chicken broth from the kale pot. Serves 4.

I served this up with store-bought sausages (which I just steamed in a frying pan with some water for 20 minutes, then fried with the lid off for another 15 minutes). A very tasty, filling meal!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tyler Florence Roast Chicken

Well, mostly... I got his recipe from a cookbook my mom sent me and it looked so simple I had to try it!


1 whole chicken, 4-5 lbs.
1 whole small garlic bulb
1/2 lemon, cut in half
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 or 3 bay leaves (fresh if you've got them)
kosher salt and black pepper

Rinse off the chicken inside and out, removing the giblets (you can toss them or give them to your cat). Set on rack in roasting pan and season well inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper. Cut the garlic bulb in half horizontally and stuff inside the cavity along with the lemon, bay leaves and thyme.

Roast at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes (depending on exact weight of bird), or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Soul Cakes

Soul Cakes are an echo of the sacrificial foods of the Celtic festival of Samhain held in early autumn. These little cakes were traditionally set out with glasses of wine on All Hallows Eve (31st October) for the souls of the dead. On All Saints Day (1st November) children would go "souling" calling out "Soul, Soul, for a Soul Cake: pray you good mistress, a soul cake". You can read the Wikipedia entry, at least part of which I wrote myself, here: Soul Cakes.
I try to make these every Halloween, so we can have a treat and leave some out for our dead ancestors in memorium. I realized this year that I made mine a little too big; if you can get the dough a good consistency, try rolling it out and cutting circular cookies so you can get more out of a batch.

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
4 cups plain flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons currants
a little milk

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy in texture. Beat in the egg yolks. Fold in the sifted flour and spices. Stir in the currants. Add enough milk to make a soft dough. Form into flat cakes and mark each top with a cross. Brush the tops of each lightly with the leftover egg whites. Bake on a well-greased baking tray in a hot oven until golden (350 degrees F for about 17 minutes worked on my big cakes).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Amazing Shepherd's Pie and Beer Bread

My daughter is almost 14 months old now, and can pretty much amuse herself with some toys in her play area for as long as it takes to make dinner. However, for those of you dealing with babies too young to entertain themselves, this version of Shepherd's Pie is easy to make and tastes absolutely phenomenal when you use ground lamb instead of beef. I was drinking a new and interesting bottle of Italian wine while I was cooking, however, and completely forgot to take any photos, so you are left with the next day's leftovers.


1 lb. (or so) ground lamb
1/3 cup beef broth
1 celery stick, chopped
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
3-4 red potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 heaping spoonful light sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup grated cheese (any kind will do)
1 12 oz can creamed corn

Put chopped potatoes in a pot and cover with water, then put the lid on and cook on high heat until the water starts to boil. Take the lid off, turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Brown the lamb, onion, garlic and celery in a frying pan on medium heat, chopping up to loosen as it cooks. When mostly browned, add the beef broth, a little salt and pepper, and flour then mix to coat evenly, simmering on low another 4-5 minutes. When potatoes are done, drain and mash along with the butter, milk, sour cream, seasoned salt and pepper.

Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour the meat mixture in the bottom of the dish first, then dump the whole can of creamed corn on top of that, spreading evenly. Top with the mashed potatoes, spread out evenly over that and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Do not cover, but place in oven for 20 minutes.

Eat and enjoy! I know I did.

As an extra side to this dish, you can also make a quick homemade beer bread.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 12 oz can/bottle of beer (we used Sam Adams Honey Brew last night)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, using your hands if necessary. The dough will be sticky. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, until hard on top.
Excellent served warm with butter as an accompaniment to the Shepherd's Pie.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Easy Corn Chowder

My mother said this was my grandma's easy cheater recipe for making corn and potato chowder, and since I had four potatoes from the farmer's market to use up I figured I'd give it a shot. It even made a decent breakfast, though it was meant for lunch.


4 medium white potatoes, scrubbed and chopped with the skin left on
1 shallot or 1/4 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 celery stick, chopped small
1 12 oz can creamed corn
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp parsley flakes

Rinse off chopped potatoes in the pot, then add just enough water to almost cover them. Add a dash of extra salt and pepper to that and cover, then put on medium/high heat and bring to a boil.

Add celery, shallot, and garlic, and turn down to medium heat. Stir well and let cook about 5 minutes, until potatoes start to get tender.

Add all other ingredients and stir well, turning heat down to low and simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soup has the consistency and the potatoes as soft as you want.

Makes about 6-8 bowls of soup.

*Late edit: My mother told me I did it a little differently from grandma, but to make the soup even better, add a spoonful of bacon fat at the beginning and 1/4 cup of milk after you add the creamed corn near the end.*

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Butternut Squash and Carrot Medley

When I made this, it was supposed to be a side dish to meat and other things. Then I realized I'd totally forgotten to thaw the pork chops. So dinner it became!


1 medium-large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Turn a large frying pan on medium heat and add the butter, letting it cover the bottom of the pan. Drop in the squash and carrots, and stir around to coat.

Cover and let cook about 12-15 minutes, turning the heat to low if it burns and occasionally stirring.

Then add the other remaining ingredients and stir well, cooking another 5 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Serves 4-5 people.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

I made this recipe at Thanksgiving as a starter last year, and it was wonderful once I added a few extra ingredients. So I tried it again as a light dinner last night. I used my father-in-law's new immersion blender for the first time, and I really want one of my own now. If you don't have one, just blend the soup in batches in your regular blender.


1 Tbsp butter
1 butternut squash, about 1 1/2-2 pounds, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots (or about 3/4 cup), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Melt butter in a large pot, letting it cover the bottom. Drop in squash, carrots, and onion and sauté for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add chicken broth, bring to a boil. Add the herbs and pepper and mix together, then cover and reduce heat to low, simmering for 30 minutes. Then turn off heat and add in milk and salt.

Blend all together well with immersion blender or regular blender until soup is smooth.

Feeds 6 people.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Low-Fat Yet Delicious Taco Salad

It's been awhile since I've had the opportunity to cook anything new. Life is a little chaotic, with a toddler running around and my husband working nights. But this was made with leftovers and freezer food, so it was incredibly cheap AND tasty!


1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I used a combo of Turkey and beef)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Taco seasoning packet or mix (or if all else fails, throw in a mixture of chili powder, cumin, black pepper, paprika, and garlic salt)
chopped lettuce (about 2 cups)
1 chopped tomato
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6-7 corn tortillas
1/4 cup cooking oil (Enova if you have it, or Smart Balance)
light sour cream
guacamole (pre-packaged)

Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and turn on medium-high heat. Add ground meat and brown evenly all over.

Then add black beans and spices and mix well together, turning heat to low. Cook about 4 minutes or until all is heated through.

In a separate, smaller pan, heat the cooking oil until steam rises, or about 3 minutes. Then toss in one whole tortilla and fry until golden and crisp. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, then chop them or beak them up into slices or fork-ful bits.

Put meat/bean mix into a large bowl. Then add the tortillas, cheese, lettuce, salsa, onions, cilantro and tomato and mix well.

Set guacamole and sour cream in separate bowls for each person to take as much as they wish as toppings, and serve taco salad in bowls to everyone.

Extremely tasty, and feeds 4.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zucchini Bread

This is a belated post, as I made this bread several days ago, but it is a wonderful, sweet bread great for snacking or breakfast. This is my grandmother's recipe, so pay no attention to the fat content. My in-laws don't own any regular loaf pans so I had to make due with about 6 mini loaf pans. Even the baby liked eating this, though I suspect she got more of it on the floor than in her mouth.


2 cups worth of grated zucchini
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped nuts (also optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients in sifter and sift onto a sheet of wax paper (or something similar). Combine eggs, oil, zucchini, and vanilla extract in bowl, mixing well, then add the pile of dry ingredients. Mix well, and add raisins and nuts if doing so. Pour into 2 greased bread pans and bake for 60 minutes. Or use 5-6 greased mini-loaf pans and bake for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean after being poked in the middle of each loaf.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Roasted Rabbit with Sangria Sauce

This is a long, complicated recipe that my father-in-law came up with and asked me to share because of how interesting it is. He was given a rabbit by a hunter friend, and had also made sangria the other day. He decided to combine them and discover a new flavor. You can purchase rabbit at specialty butcher shops; it's a very lean meat that tastes similar to chicken.

Sangria Sauce Ingredients:

1 green apple, chopped
2 oranges, eighthed
1 white nectarine, chopped
1/2 cup blackberries
1 red pear, chopped
1 bosc pear, chopped
1 stick cinnamon
spice pack: 4 whole allspice and 6 cloves (use a tea ball or something)
1 inexpensive bottle of red Zinfandel wine

Mix all together in a pitcher and you have Sangria. Have a drink or two! Then use the rest to make the sauce. Instructions below.

Stuffing Ingredients:

Center chunk of celery (leftover celery) or about 1 1/2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bosc pear, sliced in 1/2-inch thick wedges
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup seasoned stuffing
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

Spritz salt and pepper inside body cavity of rabbit. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and spoon as much stuffing as you can fit into the cavity of the rabbit. Lay pear slices on top to cover gaps in the opening, then truss the cavity shut with skewers or trussing thread.


One 3-4-pound rabbit, thawed if frozen
salt and pepper

Once rabbit is trussed closed, sprinkle salt and pepper all over the skin.

Lay legs-up in roasting pan and roast at 350 degrees F for 1- 1 1/2 hours, or until meatiest part of the rabbit reaches 160 degrees F. Cook sangria sauce/reduction as soon as rabbit is in the oven, then baste the rabbit once about halfway through cooking.

Sangria Marinade/ Sauce:

1/8 tsp ground coriander seed
pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp/2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup of fruit from the sangria (include a few blackberries!)
1 1/2 cups of sangria liquid
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 Tbsp honey

Drip oil into a large frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and brown slightly. Pour in sangria liquid and bring to a simmer. Add garlic and fruit and stir well, simmering on low heat. Add spices and garlic and stir well again. Allow to simmer on low-medium heat until liquid is reduced by half, then add the honey. Let reduce to about 1/3 of the original amount of liquid, then take off heat and let sit until rabbit is done.

Use to baste rabbit halfway through, then save the rest as a topping sauce for the done rabbit meat.

Serve with rice and a green vegetable. Delicious! Serves 4-6 people.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spiced Up Rice and Lentils

I made this for lunch today after a morning watching wilderness survival TV shows. They always puts me in the mood to go camping and eat whole grains. This can be made as a nice side dish to accompany a poultry dinner. You can replace the spelt grain with millet or barley if you like. The baby is walking now, so putting her in her play yard is the only way to keep her busy while I cook. Thankfully, she ate this happily in her high chair once it was done.


1/2 cup long grain/brown/wild rice
1/4 cup lentils
1/4 cup spelt grain
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1/4 tsp seasoned pepper
2 cups water
fresh sprigs of herbs: I used about the equivalent of 1 Tbsp sage, 1 tsp thyme and 1 tsp basil

Throw all ingredients into a medium sized pot and mix well. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until all water is sucked up by the grains. Makes about 4 cups.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Garlic Chicken and Summer Squash

I was so busy today, between shopping at the farmer's market with the cutest baby in the world and working on my book, that I almost forgot to make dinner.
We bought a free-range chicken at the butcher the other day and thawed it today. In my half-crazed hurry to get it started, I just threw the first few things I found in the house together in a bowl, slathered it on, and got cooking. The squash was a $2 find at the farmer's market.

Ingredients for chicken:

One whole chicken, innards removed and rinsed under cool water
3 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh sage, ripped up into bits
a few random shakes of seasoned salt and seasoned pepper
three sprigs of thyme and a couple of whole sage leaves
two garlic cloves, halved

Once the chicken is rinsed off and set on the roasting pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Gently push your fingers under the skin of the breast and drumsticks to separate it from the meat. Stuff the last three ingredients into the cavity of the chicken. Mix the minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, sage, and the random shakes of spices in a small bowl. Rub this mixture all over the skin and under the parts of skin you pulled up. Bake for 1 hr and 20 mins or until thermometer reads at least 160 in the thigh.

Ingredients for squash:

4-5 small summer squashes, chopped thickly
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp garlic salt

Fill a medium pot with about 1 inch or so of water, then add a steamer grate. Throw squash in and cut up the butter so bits of it are all around the squash. Sprinkle garlic salt over all, then cover and cook, steaming about 10 minutes.