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Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie (topped with Butternut Squash!)

Shepherd’s Pie (topped with Butternut Squash!)

Growing up, we had Shepherd’s Pie quite a bit! In our house, it was essentially leftover mashed potatoes, frozen or canned corn and ground beef all baked in a dish together.  To be honest, I did not love it.

But now as an adult, I realize that was my mom’s way of using up leftovers and she didn’t get fancy with ingredients because she had 5 kids and at least one of us at any given time was a picky eater.

While I didn’t love the combo of plain beef and corn, I do see the appeal of a one pot dish and a form of Shepherd’s Pie appears in our house at least a couple times a month.  I like to call it Mix and Match Shepherd’s Pie.  It’s essentially one part protein, one part assorted cooked vegetables, a little tomato paste, worcestershire and appropriate spices, topped with mashed root vegetable or starch of your choice. This is not really a recipe, but more a loose formula, so go crazy if you like.  It’s a phenomenal way to use up leftovers, it’s full of comfort food, and it’s comprised of whole foods . . .what’s not to like?

The options are endless – almost anything you’ve got in your fridge can work here! I’ve made some really crazy combinations and so far neither John or I have turned up our noses at the result.  When you can’t think of anything to make – make this! The amount of nutrients you can pack into it are endless!

sausage, bell peppers, spinach, celery, onions and who the heck remembers what else! Filling for Shepherd's Pie!

sausage, bell peppers, spinach and who the heck remembers what else! Filling for Shepherd’s Pie!

Ingredients
16 – 20 oz protein of choice: try ground turkey, beef, lamb or pork, or sausages (casings removed), thinly sliced chicken breasts or canned beans.

3-4 cups leftover mashed root or starch: try potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, celeriac, turnip, rutabaga, kabocha squash or cooked polenta.  (If I don’t have leftovers, I boil and mash and then stir in 2 tbsp pasture butter or coconut oil to my starch/roots, plus salt and pepper. I usually will leave potato & sweet potato skins on)

3 cups chopped mixed vegetables of your choice: try mushrooms, broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, bell peppers, carrots, peas, zucchini, mizuna, cabbage etc.

1 cup diced onion or thinly sliced leeks
1 tbsp pasture butter, olive oil or coconut oil
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried herbs (one or two): try ground sage, savory, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, dill
optional: 1/2 tsp garlic powder, onion powder or smoked paprika
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of coconut or olive oil (or butter) and saute 3 cups of chopped mixed vegetables and 1 cup of diced onions/leeks until they begin to soften and the onions are almost translucent. Remove the vegetables from the pan and cook your meat (you don’t need to cook canned beans if you are using them), stirring occasionally until cooked through.  Stir the vegetables back into the pan, add the worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, herbs and any optional spices until everything is well blended.  Most meats will yield a small amount of liquid during the cooking process, if you use something that doesn’t and the pan seems dry, feel free to add a couple tbsp of water while working in the tomato paste and other flavorings.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pour the meat / bean & vegetable mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish or 9X13 pan.  Top with mashed root or starch and bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Some toppings will brown better than others, if your top doesn’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes (keeping an eye on it as roots brown quickly).

Remove from oven and let cool briefly before serving.  Makes 4 generous delicious, comfort food servings.

Note: If your mash topping seems soupy (as the case might be with things like butternut squash) stir in a beaten egg before cooking and it will firm right up during cooking!

My favorite combos:
Topping: Colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale, leeks & cabbage stirred in)
Filling: Ground Turkey, broccolini & carrots (photo below)

Colcannon/Butternut Squash shepherd's Pie with ground turkey, carrots and broccolini!

Colcannon/Butternut Squash shepherd’s Pie with ground turkey, carrots and broccolini!

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Topping:  Butternut squash
Filling: Sweet Italian Sausage, Kale, Bell peppers, peas

Topping: Smashed Parm Potatoes
Filling: Ground Beef, mushrooms & carrots

Do you make Shepherd’s Pie? What are your favorite filling and toppings? Are you a traditionalist or do you like to veer off and clean out your fridge like me? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear your side of things!

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Roasted Radishes & Greens with Lemon & Butter

photo 1 Are you a fan of radishes and their greens? They’re a great source of vitamin C, folate and potassium and they contain several phytochemicals and antioxidants that help keep our liver, kidneys and bladder running smoothly. Most people eat them raw in salads so they probably aren’t eating enough of them to get much nutritional benefit from them but eating them cooked is a great way to take in more in one sitting (they’re a little spicy otherwise, don’t you think?).  I actually prefer to eat them cooked because it completely changes the flavor!  They become a whole new vegetable, I promise!

Here’s my favorite way to prepare them. Radish greens can be a little spicy so cooking them and adding lemon can really take the bite out of them. Let me know what you think!

Ingredients
2 tsp olive or coconut oil
2 heads of radishes plus their greens
2 tbsps unsalted pastured butter
sea salt
1 lemon

Directions
Cut off the greens, wash them well, chop roughly and put aside (you’re going to eat them too!). Scrub the radishes well and then cut each one in half. Toss the radishes in a little coconut or olive oil and spread out cut side down on a sheet pan and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast them in a 425 degree oven for 15-18 minutes (depending on size).

Towards the end of the cooking process, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter and when hot, saute the greens just until they wilt and reduce in size. Add the cooked radishes to the pan, melt the 2nd tbsp of butter and squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over them. Add more salt if necessary and eat! This makes two hearty vegetable servings for me and john (because we’re veggie monsters) but if you’re new and timid with cooked radishes, this could be enough for 4!

I swear these taste way better than this picture makes them look.

I swear these taste way better than this picture makes them look.

German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad - Light, tangy and crunchy!

German Potato Salad – Light, tangy and crunchy!

Potatoes have a bad reputation.  They’ll make you fat.  They’re a nightshade vegetable. They’ll raise your blood sugar.  They’re a white simple carbohydrate so we shouldn’t eat them.  I turn up my nose at all of that.  Potatoes are the bomb!!

They’re an amazing source of potassium, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B3 and fiber and these are all things we need more of.  Due to the high amount of processed food people in America eat, most don’t get enough potassium in their diet and this can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. Sadly, when people eat potatoes the most common way they eat them is fried, as in french fries and potato chips.  It’s not the potatoes fault we choose these horrendous versions of them. Poor potatoes.

But if you keep the skin on (organic and well scrubbed), pair potatoes with protein and eat a moderate serving of them in a non-deep fried version, they can be part of a healthy diet.  Potatoes are a whole food. A single ingredient.  From the earth.  These are all good things.  I’d much rather see people eating potatoes they made at home, than purchasing processed white hamburger rolls, pasta, white rice etc.  Please don’t put the potato in the same category as these white simple carbs.  It’s really all about making good choices.  If you’re going to eat a huge helping of potato salad and have two hot dogs on white rolls – yeah, you’re going to have a massive blood sugar spike and feel like crap (especially after you top it all with a bowl of ice cream).  But if you have a moderate serving of potato salad, with some grilled chicken or a burger on a portobello mushroom cap (and with some veggies), you’re going going to fare much better (even if you do have a little ice cream later).  It’s actually pretty simple.  Just eat smartly and you can enjoy potatoes for a good dose of potassium and fiber.

My love for the potato grows strong this time of the year because it’s cookout season and that means lots of opportunities for it’s appearance in cold salads.  While a creamy, mayo or buttermilk drenched salad is delicious occasionally (especially if there are delicious herbs and veggies in there), sometimes my stomach churns at the thought of yet another overly mayonnaised potato salad.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of mayo (the homemade kind) but come on, sometimes it seems like some recipes are just potatoes and mayo.  That’s ridiculous.  That is not a recipe.  That is phoning it in.  Driving to the store and buying premade pasta salad would actually take more effort. When I feel mayo-ed out, I turn to German Potato Salad to change things up.

This isn’t a fancy recipe and you don’t need much to make it, some yukon or red potatoes, vinegar, oil and then some herbs or veggies.  Maybe some mustard (and bacon if you are feeling it).  You probably have all the ingredients already in your kitchen.  So for those times when you just might dump the whole bowl of mayo salads over the head of their maker, you can smile and hand them this instead.

Steam the potatoes in a colander for a less crumbly result.

Steam the potatoes in a colander for a less crumbly result.

Add lots of crunchy veggies and some vinegar, oil & mustard.

Add lots of crunchy veggies and some vinegar, oil & mustard.

Add some salt and pepper and give a good stir and you're ready to eat.

Add some salt and pepper and give a good stir and you’re ready to eat.

Ingredients
2 – 2.5 lbs Medium sized Organic Red Potatoes (or Yukon Gold)
3 scallions, sliced thinly
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
a big handful of fresh organic parsley, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried)
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp white vinegar*
1 tsp dijon or whole grain mustard
1 tsp salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Wash the potatoes well, cut them in half and boil in a pot of salted water for 15 minutes (until they give slightly with a fork). When they are mostly tender, drain the water and put the potatoes in a colander, then put the colander back over the pot you boiled them in and cover the potatoes with a clean dish towel.  Let them steam for 15 minutes.  Finishing them off this way instead of boiling for longer time prevents that overly mushy crumbly thing that happens to potatoes when you stir them a lot.

After the potatoes are done steaming, cut each potato half into quarters (depending on the size of your potatoes) and toss into a big bowl.  Add the scallions, parsley and celery to the bowl, then add the vinegars, oils, mustard, salt and pepper and give a good stir.  Serve at room temperature or chill for at least two hours to give the flavors time to develop.  If the salad seems too dry when you are ready to eat it (potatoes are thirsty buggers), add a couple tablespoons of water or chicken broth or a little more oil and vinegar. Serve with whatever amazing bbq you’ve got going on and don’t forget to invite me over!

Makes 4 – 6 good sized servings

*I didn’t put the gluten free tag on this because it contains white vinegar.  Most celiacs and gluten sensitive people tolerate white vinegar just fine but for the very sensitive, it could be an issue since it is made from grain, including rye or wheat.  The distillation process breaks down the gluten proteins so that the product is virtually “gluten free” from a testing standpoint (under 20 parts per million) but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe for everyone.  Complicated stuff!
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Red White and Blue Popsicles

Strawberry, Coconut & Blueberry Popsicles

My ugly but delicious dairy free popsicles!

My ugly but delicious dairy free popsicles!

No one is ever going to tell you I make pretty food.  I make tasty food that is usually pretty good for you but it usually looks like a train wreck.  But that’s ok with me if it’s ok with you.  Don’t judge my ugly 4th of July popsicles by their outer appearance.  It’s what’s on the inside that counts.  And if you make these yourself you won’t have to go dig up some change when you hear the ice cream man’s music come rolling through the neighborhood. The best part about these popsicles is that you don’t need to worry about gross ingredients like food coloring and high fructose corn syrup and since they contain real fruit you are giving your kids (and yourself) a treat that you can feel good about.  Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of most store popsicles?  They’re usually not even food. I’m looking forward to trying these with other fruits – I’m thinking mango & lime juice would be good too! This made 6 good sized popsicles out of small solo cups.  Despite using small solo cups they were still pretty large popsicles.  I think if you are using molds you’ll get a few more out of the mixture. It’s strawberry season right now in NH so by all means, use fresh if you can get them!

Ingredients
3/4 can full fat Coconut Milk
8 – 10oz organic fresh or frozen strawberries
8 – 10oz organic fresh or frozen blueberries
4 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of sea salt

Directions
If your honey is very thick or crystallized, you’ll want to melt it first.  You can do this by heating it in the microwave but I prefer to put it in a glass measuring cup and then setting the measuring cup in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes.  Once the honey is melted, blend the strawberries with 1 tbsp + 1 tsp of honey, plus a dash of vanilla and a tiny bit of salt.  Once they are well blended, scrape the blender out and set the strawberry mixture aside.  Rinse the blender and then do the same with the blueberries (+ honey, vanilla and salt) and again with the coconut milk, setting each one aside in a separate container.   Once all have been blended, spoon a heaping tbsp of the strawberry mixture into each popsicle mold, then a couple of spoonfuls of coconut milk, then a heaping tbsp of the blueberry mixture and so on until you run out of the mixtures.  Freeze for at least 4 hours before eating.

Freaking out because you don’t have popsicle molds? If you don’t have popsicle molds (I certainly don’t!), you can use small plastic or paper cups instead!  The popsicles won’t look as fancy and they may be a little awkward shaped but it will do. You just pour the mixtures in then cover with plastic wrap and make a small hole for a popsicle stick or plastic fork/spoon, then insert one into each hole.  The plastic wrap will keep the stick in place.  Pop into the freezer and wait patiently.  When the popsicles are frozen you may need to run the sides of each cup under warm water for a few seconds to release the popsicle from the plastic cup.  If you use paper cups you can probably just peel them off.  We used plastic forks in ours in place of popsicle sticks (since we didn’t have those either) and the cool thing about that was as your popsicle starts to melt you can just stick it back in the cup and eat it with the fork that has been acting as your stick.  So fancy.

You don't need popsicle molds to make your own popsicles.  Look around your kitchen, you'll find something that you can use.

You don’t need popsicle molds to make your own popsicles. Take a good look around your kitchen and I’m sure you probably have stuff you can use in a pinch!

I will totally be having one of these tonight! Yum!

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Wild Cod with Parsley, Lemon & Shallots and Arugula Salad

Wild Cod with Lemon, Parsley and Shallots - can't go wrong.

Wild Cod with Lemon, Parsley and Shallots – can’t go wrong!

Yay for summer!  I secretly (or not so secretly) love heat and humidity but that doesn’t mean I love being in a hot kitchen on those days (like today!).  When it’s a perfect summer day outside, I want to minimize the amount of time I have to spend indoors so I love having quick dinners at my fingertips and that’s where fish and a raw salad come in.

Wild cod takes just a few minutes to cook and a little chopping and slicing is all this arugula salad takes to make.  You can have healthy and delicious dinner on the table in 15 minutes tops.  Feel free to use any white mild tasting fish for this recipe.

If you are brave (and have amazing grill skills), feel free to grill your cod outside.  I find fish a little too delicate to do on the grill with my clunky bear-like coordination (unless it’s on a wood plank).  But by all means show me up with your gracefulness and report back.  And then come over and get grilling, thanks!

A tip for you:  Keep things like parsley, lemon, shallots, garlic, vinegars and oil/butter regularly in your kitchen.  Why?  Because almost anything tastes like you slaved over it when you add some of those ingredients.  Almost any combo of those ingredients makes a delicious salad dressing, chicken marinade, pasta or potato salad dressing and of course in this recipe, a topping for fish.  Get into the habit of keeping a few simple ingredients in your kitchen and you’ll always be able to whip up something delicious at a moments notice.

Ingredients
4 Wild cod fillets (skinned/skinless)
1 tbsp olive oil

1 organic lemon zested and juice reserved*
2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 tbsp pastured butter
1 large shallot, minced
sea salt to taste

Arugula Salad
4 cups baby arugula, chopped (try other baby greens if you don’t have arugula)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 large carrots, shredded or sliced thinly
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt to taste

*it’s really important to use an organic lemon in any recipe that uses the peel or zest.  That is where all the pesticides are and they are not easily washed off.  If you are just using the juice of a lemon, conventional is ok but please go for organic when using zest (and rinse well before using anyway).
Arugula salad -a simple and quick way to get a spicy new green into your diet.

Arugula salad -a simple and quick way to get a spicy new green into your diet.

Directions
Cook cod in a hot sauce pan with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. When hot, cook the cod for 3-4 minutes on one side, flip and then immediately put in hot oven.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes in the oven (exact time will depend on the thickness of your fillets) and remove when fish is opaque and flakes easily.

While the fish is cooking, heat 1 tbsp of the butter in a small saucepan, cook shallots for 3 minutes or until softened/browning.  Turn off heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, parsley, sea salt and remaining butter.  Spoon over fish.

Make the arugula salad before you begin making the fish or during (it takes just 5 minutes to make). Chop and prepare all your veggies and then dress with the oil and vinegar, salt and pepper.  Serve the cod and salad immediately.  Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings.

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