Easy Shepard’s Pie

I was having one of those evenings where the babies were see-sawing between mildly entertained and fussy, but I also really wanted to cook something yummy. I had ground beef and carrots in the fridge, onions and seasonings in the pantry. I didn’t feel like pasta, especially because my homemade Alfredo sauce the night before was an epic fail. But suddenly, I looked in one of my cabinets and spotted this handsome devil to the right.

Now, before you get all judgy, I’ll have you know that instant mashed potatoes are freakin delicious. They give you that whipped texture without all the added work. For a mom of twins who doesn’t have very much free time for cooking – that’s everything.

I took a glance at a few recipe combinations before making it my own. I knew that Shepard’s Pie with ground beef would be pretty straight forward, but the gravy-like mixture needed to be good. Rachel Ray has a great base for this (Rachel Ray’s Shepard’s Pie), but I made lots of changes and ultimately created…THIS:

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound (ish) – Ground Beef
  • 1 – medium/large Yellow Onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 – medium Carrots, diced
  • 1 cup – Frozen Peas
  • ½ teaspoon – Red Pepper Flakes
  • 3 cloves – Garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons – Butter
  • “a pinch” – Celery Salt
  • “to taste” – Regular Salt
  • 2 tablespoons – All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup – Beef Broth
  • 2 ½ teaspoons – Worcestershire Sauce

…and for the Mashed Potatoes :

  • one 8 oz “Family Size” package – Instant Mashed Potatoes (quick & easy for the win! I ADORE the garlic kind)
    • OR two of the normal sized 4 oz packages will do just fine
  • 4 cups of water

Step 1

Brown the ground beef in a pan. Drain the excess fat, then return it to the pan.

Step 2

Add in your chopped onions, diced carrots, peas, red pepper flakes, pinch of celery salt, regular salt (to taste) and minced garlic to the cooked ground beef and stir together. Cover and let it all heat together at medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3

Meanwhile…gotta get yo gravy goin’! In a separate pan, whisk together the beef broth, flour,Worcestershire sauce and butter over medium high heat. Bring just to a boil while stirring continuously, then remove it from the heat and add the gravy to your ground beef mixture. Let this sit without heat while you jump into step 4. Also – now’s a good time to turn on your oven’s broiler to low heat.

Step 4

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Add the 8 oz package (or the two 4 oz packages) of powdered mashed potatoes and quickly stir it all together until it’s smooth. Within seconds you have gorgeous delicious garlicky mashed potatoes. Sooooooo easyyyy!

Step 5

In a casserole dish, layer the ground beef mixture first, then top it off with the mashed potatoes. Be sure to cover the ground beef completely with the mashed potatoes so that the ground beef mixture won’t bubble over and ruin the pristine potatoey topping. Pop that dish in the oven and broil it on low until it’s juuuust golden brown on the top. Let it cool a bit before serving, garnish with a little parsley on top, then serve it up!

~~~

This dish is a total hit since the first night I made it. Some nights I made it without carrots, sometimes without peas. It’s super adjustable depending on what you have in stock. Hope y’all enjoy a slice, or 3, on an upcoming cold winter night! Be sure to comment/share if you give it a try. I’d love to see pics of your “pie”!

Big hugs,

Katherine

 

 

Veggie Lentil Soup

It’s been a nice and easy weekend here in Oklahoma. I love weekends like this where there’s no agenda aside from cleaning a bit (but only “a bit”), guilt free laziness, and attempting to be healthy from time to time.

On that healthy note – I’ve heard lots of good things about lentils lately. So yesterday, when I was grocery shopping, I saw a bag of them sitting on the shelf just staring at me. Normally I’d just continue on my merry little way, but this time I checked the back and saw a good lookin’ recipe for lentil soup! It was a little dreary outside with rain due last night and all of today. “Hmmm……I can totally do this!” I thought. So I chucked it in my cart and off I went feeling all proud of myself 🙂

The back of the label was a recipe for Lentil Soup & Kielbasa. Since I was already planning a slow cooker heavy beef stew for tonight (Sunday), I just wanted to keep it veggies & lentils only; nice and light. I researched a few other recipes on the web and ultimately came up with this little number below. I hope you enjoy!!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 4 Carrots (mine were on the smaller side), sliced
  • 4 stalks Celery, sliced
  • 5 small Red Potatoes, peeled + cubed (roughly the same length as your carrots)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Oregano
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon rubbed Sage
  • 1 can crushed Tomatoes OR 1.5 whole tomatoes chopped + crushed
  • 1 & 3/4 cups dry Lentils
  • 6 cups Water
  • 2 & 1/5 cups Chicken Broth
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

STEP 1

In a large pot, heat the oil then add in the onion, carrots, and potatoes.

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Let it all heat up & soften for a couple of minutes, then add in your seasonings: garlic, oregano, bay leaf, basil, sage, salt, and pepper.

Stir & let it all together and let the seasonings snuggle up and say “heeyheeey!” to the veggies for a minute or two.

STEP 2

I didn’t have a can of crushed tomatoes at home like I thought I did (womp womp) but I DID have two tomatoes ready to be messed with! Score! I chopped them up and used a potato masher to lightly crush them up a little (not too much though – I still wanted some chucks of tomato still in tact). I used one and a half tomatoes for this and it was perfect!

Add those crushed lil’ “toms” to your soup mixture and stir it on in.

STEP 3

Right after adding the tomatoes, go ahead and add in the water, chicken broth, and lentils. Stir it all up, cover, and lower the temp to allow the soup to simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add salt to taste if needed, but remember that the taste of salt really comes out at the end after letting it simmer for a while…so don’t go crazy ;).
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Enjoy!

Remove the bay leaf, pour, and enjoy!

Well goodness gracious. This was just about the most delicious, wholesome, healthy, and simple homemade soup I’ve ever made! Want some?!

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If you prefer your soup to be more brothy, you may want to add in more chicken broth or water towards the end. The broth gets absorbed by the lentils & veggies as you continue to cook it, especially when it also sits overnight in the fridge.

Can’t wait to have more for lunch todaaaaay! 🙂 Lemme know if you give it a try!

 

 

Slow Cooker Recipes, Please!

Earlier this week as I meandered around Target, trying to keep my paws off of everything and stick to my shopping plan, my eyes suddenly landed on…a slow cooker. The Hallelujah Chorus suddenly erupted over the loud speaker. I vaguely recall confetti falling gracefully from the ceiling. Target shoppers everywhere stopped to applaud me on my brilliant decision to wrap my arms around it and place it into my cart. I waved at everyone, wiping away tears of joy. I then stepped up to a microphone which had magically appeared in front of a gorgeous sparkling banner with “WAY TO GO, KATHERINE!” written in bold, and I began to thank my blog, Newlie, for the inspiration to make this purchase. That’s what I remember at least…

I have the best memory.

Slow Cooker

But seriously, y’all…Hallelujah for a SLOW COOKER in my life! How have I not had one of these before? Before this bad boy, we did actually have a very tiny little red slow cooker that Sean randomly won from a night at Dave & Buster’s…but…I think that speaks for itself as to why I’m way more excited about this new purchase – the real deal.

I already have a gorgeous looking Beef Stew cookin’ away in there at the moment. It’s got about 4 hours to go, so I’ll probably post those step-by-step instructions & my thoughts on the outcome tomorrow for anyone interested. Our home smells amazing, by the way.

But this post isn’t my usual how-to story; it’s more of a call to action. Will you (please oh please!) share a favorite slow cooker recipe (or twelve) in the feedback form below? I’ll select a few favorite submissions and try them out here on Newlie, with cheers and praise back in your direction of course.

Ahhhh I cannot wait to try out your favorites. Looking forward to your submissions!

Happy slooooow cookin, Saturday!

Katherine

Bacon Mac & Cheese

Oh yes. Yes I did. I know what you’re thinking…

BACON aaaannnd Mac & Cheeeese?! Whaaaat?! Oh my gosh, Katherine, you’re such a little rebel!!!!

– you.

No? Not what you’re thinking? Fine. But I’ve gotta show you how fun and easy it was to make. It was a dream to eat and relatively simple to throw together.

Sean has been working ’round the clock on a work project lately, so I decided to make this for him/us earlier this week. I don’t cook dinner like…every night, but I try to as often as I can. When I used to come home exhausted from my last job’s awful commute, he would often cook for me and it made me so happy. So now that I work from home (anyone else work from home!? Isn’t it AMAZING!?) I’ve tried to “spice” up my cooking skills (proud pun moment # 438839058430). The look on his face when he comes home exhausted and sees a home-cooked meal waiting is just priceless.

He loves bacon. I was in the mood to make home-made mac & cheese. Put ’em together and what’dya yet?! Wooohooo! Bacon Mac & Cheese. I researched a few recipes and liked this one the most: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/mac-n-cheese-with-bacon-and-cheese-recipe/index.html (thanks Food Network!). I threw in a little of this and that to change it around a bit though. Here’s what you’ll need to make what I made:

*Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

  • 1 box (which is usually 1 pound) – Elbow Macaroni
  • Salt (just have plenty handy)
  • 4 cups – Milk
  • 3 or 4 sprigs – Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp – Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbsp – Paprika
  • 3 Tbsp – Butter
  • 3 Tbsp – Flour
  • 5 1/2 cups – Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
  • BACON

Got ’em? Let’s do this.

STEP 1:

Start by doing something very important. SHRED THE CHEESE YOURSELF!!!!! DOOO IIIIITT!!! I’m hoping I scared you a little just now so that you do it. It’s an annoying but necessary step! I’m a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman (hey Ree!!!!! you’re probably not reading this…but ya never know…) and she really hits home how important it is to shred the cheese yourself. Sounds silly? It makes a difference. She says she doesn’t buy store-bought pre-shredded cheese and that “…It’s against my religion.” Love her. I live by that now! So shred your own cheese. We clear?! Great. Moving on.

Boil a pot of hot water (salted) to cook the macaroni. Watch it…and keep tasting. Those little guys will cook fast and you’re gonna want to drain them once they’re al-dente. Once they’re there – set the macaroni aside.

STEP 2:

Once your ingredients are all set up, start with the milk and butter. In a large skillet, warm the milk on medium to medium-high heat while whisking so that you don’t burn a layer of milk at the base. Add the thyme sprigs to the milk and let it make a little melody of the milk. Just give it some “thyme” … I’m sorry (not sorry) but did you really expect me to not have fun with that one?!

Meanwhile, in a SEPARATE skillet, gently melt the butter on medium heat, then add in the paprika, garlic, and flour but do it very graaaaadually while whisking. Add the mixtures from both skillets together into one (thyme + milk in with the buttery paprika garlic flour mixture. Nice and slow. No one likes ugly redish brown clumps in their harmonious thyme scented milk. No one.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Thyme’s up! Haaahahahaaa!

Add in the cheese slowly while whisking…

Keep whisking! You’re doin’ great! If you get stressed out just have a glass of wine 😉

STEP 3:

Pour the macaroni into a casserole dish and follow that up with your cheesy harmonious skillet sensation. Or in other words, add the cheesy blend to the mac. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Into the oven it goes for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how crispy you may want the top to get.

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STEP 4:

While the mac & cheese is cooking in the oven, wipe down the skillet and get ready to cook the BACON! Make sure to cook the bacon so that it’s really crisp. Once it’s ready, remove and let it cool and dry over paper towels. Chop up the bacon into small pieces and then add that to the top of the mac & cheese once it’s out of the oven.

YAY! Enjoy with some oven-roasted veggies! I’ll post some of my veggie side favorites soon. For now, go enjoy your Saturday night. As for me? I’m going to bed. I have a big day tomorrow. I’m running the Annapolis 10 Mile race with my friend Carrianne! Woooohooo!

Big hugs!

Baked Artichoke Parmesan Chicken

This was glorious. The perfect combination of tangy, parmesan…y, tender and juicy, and carried a perfect little punch from the cayenne pepper and artichoke.  I always keep canned artichoke hearts well-stocked in my kitchen because I love cooking with them so much. Love love love them. If you’re in the mood to make this delicious dish, then here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 Chicken Breasts 
  • 2 cans of Artichoke Hearts…then chop them up. (One can is probably fine, but I always want more artichokes, so 2 was perfect.)
  • 1/2 cup of Light Mayo (I can’t stand mayonnaise  Ugh. wfjdsalfjaslfjda. Not a fan! I do, however, understand how well it reflects in sauces/toppings once it’s mixed and cooked…so I gave in. Glad I did – it made the dish!)
  • 3/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese 
  • 1 tbsp of Garlic (Either powder/freshly chopped works. I wasn’t in the mood to chop it up though, so I just used garlic powder. If you go for chopped, use 2 cloves)
  • Either 1 to 2 tsps of Paprika, OR Cayenne Pepper to taste (only if you want! I personally think that either one …not both…of these ingredients are totally necessary. None of the other recipes I researched called for it. What the heck? This was such a fun addition, even considering how much of a wimp I usually am to spicy things. I loved it!)
  • 1 tsp of Salt
  • 1 tsp of Pepper

Ingredients

….reeaadyyyy?! Wohoo! First, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Here we go:

Bake those bad boys in the oven for 40 minutes…or until the sauce is bubbling up in the oven. I think I would’ve left mine in there for another 5-ish minutes actually. I just like the look of slightly browned sauce over the chicken, but that’s just me. 40 minutes allowed the chicken to be cooked PERFECTLY. Like…omg…the juiciest most deliciously cooked chicken in the world. That’s right…IN THE WORLD!!!

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Thanks, by the way to Sean Mason Photography for his coverage of this special dinner making event.  I love it when he takes photos of my cooking – he’s so good at photography!

Sides: as far as sides go, I got a little excited about making them. Our new favorite side lately is sautéed cherry tomatoes in just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I also wanted to use up the gorgeous yellow squash that was sitting in our fridge, so I chopped those up and stove-top sautéed them too. Those two cooked so quickly, so I’ve learned to chop everything up while the oven does its thing…then I don’t actually cook the veggies until the last 10 minutes on the oven’s clock. Times out perfectly.

I was also in the mood for a little pasta-side as well. So once the chicken was baking…and before I cooked the veggies…I cooked the pasta until super al dente. I drained the pasta, put it back in the dry pot and added some fabulous little friends to the mix: a little white wine (always a pleasure to cook with), some butter (don’t judge…just enjoy), a little garlic salt, some dried & chopped basil and parsley. SO GOOD!!!

Thanks for reading. If you end up making this and love it…or if you’ve changed a few things to make it better – please let me know! I will definitely be making this again and again. Sean was a huge fan! So was Stella who was anxiously sitting under the table, awaiting a taste of any leftovers.

Happy Friday.

Cheers for Chicken!

I was struggling with this post’s title. How on Earth am I supposed to make the subject of this post condensed from: “Chicken, lightly breaded and seasoned, then cooked in white wine, lemon, butter, vegetable stock. Oh, and a side of creamy pesto whole wheat pasta” – yeah, I don’t think that would fit. Due to the extreme popularity of this dish’s deliciousness, I think the title I decided to go with is pretty fitting. It was so delicious that Sean went back for more…but even more impressive…he never once went for the hot sauce, salt, or pepper to add it in! HUGE SUCCESS! He loves hot sauce, so he does that. But not for this recipe! It must come from heaven.

Here’s the series of events when I made this a few nights ago: 

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It all started when I got home after an obnoxious hour and forty five minute commute. I was hungry, and so was Sean. He recommended a few frozen things we had in our freezer, but I wasn’t into it. I said I’d be back, and off to the closest grocery store I went. Shout out to our neighborhood Safeway! Unfortunately I got stuck behind an extreme coupon-er. Like…straight out of the T.V. show on T.L.C. Now don’t get me wrong. I secretly aspire to be like them, but for the moment, I wasn’t in the mood. I finally made it to the conveyor belt with these two ingredients: thinly sliced chicken and a package of creamy pesto sauce mix. Easy, and only $8 for dinner! We had everything else at home. If you want to re-create this, here’s what I used:

  • thinly sliced chicken (duh, we’ve been over this)
  • 2 lemons (cut them up into slices)
  • a little white wine (pino grigio is probably best)
  • vegetable stock (or chicken stock, I only had veggie though)
  • butter (always a fan!)
  • flour (meh…like 4 cups would be enough for coating in the bowl before hand)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • cayenne pepper
  • fresh ground pepper
  • garlic
  • salt
  • a glass of red wine. Just to keep you company 😉
  • some Billy Holiday or Frank Sinatra playing on Pandora
  • Comfy after-work clothes…alright you get it! Is the mood set? Are you ready for this?! Woooooo! Here we go: 

Breaded chicken

First step is to put a bunch of flour in a large bowl. You don’t need to measure out the amount I listed above. That was just to give you an idea of how much you need to have handy. It just needs to be enough to coat the chicken slices. But before you do, add to the flour: cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (enough to your liking, and to give the coating a good kick).

In a separate bowl, mix up about 3 egg yolks. This will keep the flour mixture on enough for a good “lightly battered” taste.

Dip the chicken in the flour first, then into the egg yolk, then back into the flour for a good strong coating of flour.

Set those battered chicken slices aside and begin preparing the broth to cook it in. I always love this part. The part when the smells in my kitchen completely come alive with lemon and white wine in a mouthwatering broth. Hehe! So exciting.

Now let’s get this cooking party started….with…BUTTER. When I first began to cook all the time, I was like “AHHH! TOO MUCH BUTTER! I’m gonna hurt my heart with all this!” But as long as you’re also exercising regularly, and not including butter in your every day life style, then you’re just fine. Use it when it’s appropriate. And when you do use it…it’s so worth it 😉 Plop some butter into a large skillet. Start the butter on a slow heat. Next you’ll want to add your lemon slices (from 2 lemons or more), white wine, and vegetable stock to the butter in the pan. No need to measure. Be FREE! Just pour in enough to make a really good amount of broth. Let it simmer for a bit:

Broth

Mmmmmm smells so good! While that simmers, let’s talk wine, shall we? I love wine. Adore it. I’m not a snob, I promise, but I do love tasty wine. Lately my new favorite red is called Apothic Red. Have you tried it? You can check it out here: http://www.apothic.com/wine.asp. Do you have a favorite wine? Please comment and let me know! I’m always excited to try new wines. Well this was a fun chat while the broth simmers.

Moving on!

Now that the broth is hot and ready, it’s time to cook the chicken evenly on each side. I would rotate each of the slices 4 times or so until it is fully cooked, and has soaked up the broth enough. Meanwhile, whip up a side of something yummy. I recommend a side of the whole wheat pasta with creamy pesto sauce that I made. The creaminess of the pasta really calms down the acidity of the wine and lemon that flavors the chicken so well. It’s a good combo. Here’s a little slideshow of the chicken cooking in heavenly aromas:

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Tadaaaa! It’s done and delicious:

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Happy cooking.

P.S. Don’t forget to share your favorite wines with me!

Welcome to “Newlie!”

There’s always a new opportunity to learn more each day, so why not look at each moment as wide-eyed as possible? Typically I’m not the best at sticking to that philosophy. I might think I am, but let’s be honest – I go through my work day, maybe exercise…maybe not, cook, watch t.v., go on Facebook and Pinterest, sleep, and repeat! So, my blog “Newlie” is an archive of me devoting more positive attention to the time I can call my own:

my new adventures in cooking:

my new travel escapes:

being newly engaged:

living in a new house and neighborhood … with a boy : )

…and more newness to come!

I want to share the refreshing little day trip escapes that I normally would’ve never thought to visit. The heart warming restaurant service that made my day. The cooking experience gone horribly wrong, and the unbelievably tasty meal that came from learning my first mistake. The special deal on a kayaking adventure. The genius Pinterest inspiration that turned into a dinner party sensation. Life is too short not share it with each other…am I right?

Happy reading : )