Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crowd-Pleasing Shepherd's Pie

I call it crowd-pleasing because it has been pleasing a lot of my crowds for almost ten years.

I have always liked experimenting with food, and one day I was visiting with my dad and he made me shepherd's pie for lunch. Now, while his rendition may have been closer to authentic, I thought it was gross (sorry, Dad) and that I could really make it a whole lot better. So, I did :)

This recipe is one of the first I created on my own and remains a favorite of a lot of friends who have sampled it over the years. It's undergone a lot of refining, but this recipe is what I've found so far to be the most tasty. It's great for a no-hassle midweek meal, and it is completely customizable depending on your palate.

It's not gonna win any points for presentation, but I can guarantee you won't be disappointed in the taste!

1 package lean ground beef
Dried sage
About a half an onion, diced
A bunch of carrots (chopped)
A bunch of mushrooms (chopped...I use Baby Bella. Your choice)
1 zucchini
1 can of Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup
A bunch of potatoes (russet makes the best mashed, but red have better flavor)
Light sour cream

About 15-20 mins before you start cooking, prepare the potatoes by boiling them. I cut mine into pieces so they boil quicker.

Preheat your oven to 350

Heat meat in a skillet at medium-high heat with the onions, garlic, and spices. I use lean ground beef because there is too much grease runoff otherwise, and ruins the flavor. If you want to use regular ground beef and drain it, go for it. I'm just too lazy for that lol. Use as much of the spices as you want per your taste buds.

When meat is cooked through, add the carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini. Turn heat to medium and add the soup. Cook until the veggies are tender (especially the carrots) and the soup has coated everything.

When the potatoes are tender, drain and mash them, adding as milk, butter, and sour cream per your taste buds. When they are the consistency you want them, pour the meat mixture into a baking dish and top with the potatoes. Bake for about 15 minutes or until potatoes start to look golden in places.

Remove from oven and enjoy with some crusty french bread and a glass of red wine!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Grilled Chicken and Pasta Carbonara with White Wine Sauce

I know it's been awhile, but that is because I got obsessed with trying out new recipes I found on Pinterest. I know it sounds lame, but it actually helps me expand my knowledge of food and flavors, thus giving me more to play with in the kitchen!

When I lived in Arizona years ago and was barely making enough money to get by, I was living off of frozen pizza and canned soup. One day, I did a side job that gave me enough money to actually go to a real restaurant for a change. I ordered a pasta carbonara dish and have been trying to make something similar to it ever since. I think I hit the nail on the head with this one...

Although, I think mine is better ;)


Boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2  a white onion (finely chopped)
2 generous teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup diced prosciutto
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon fresh chopped Italian parsley
1 cup chopped portobello mushrooms (chopped in large chunks)
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup artichoke hearts (drained and rinsed)
1/4 can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic soup
1/2 or so cup of half and half
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Herbed poultry seasoning

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. Add the onions, garlic and prosciutto. Saute stirring frequently until onions start to become translucent. Add the wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc) and reduce the heat to bring to a simmer.  

Add the parsley, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, rosemary, thyme and artichokes. Let it simmer until the wine reduces a bit. Don't add the salt and pepper until you have added everything else and tasted it. The prosciutto can be very salty and overwhelming, so you don't want to oversalt. 

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil with salt and olive oil. Cook pasta of your choice until al dente. Drain, toss with a small amount of olive oil, and set aside. 

While your pasta is cooking, set up any grilling device you may have (BBQ, electric grill, grill pan etc). Salt and pepper your chicken and add the herbed poultry seasoning to both sides. Grill, turning every so often, until cooked through and you have some nice grill marks on the outside. 

When the wine has reduced a bit in your sauce, add the soup and the half and half. The measurements are not set in stone here. A lot of the sauce is up to your own personal taste. Stir together and taste. Add more soup, half and half, and salt and pepper depending on what you would like. Add desired amount of cheese as well. Play with the flavors till you get it to your level of perfection. I even added more wine to mine toward the end. 

Once the sauce is how you want it, add the pasta and toss to coat and heat through. 

When the chicken breast is done, slice and place on top of pasta, top with Parmesan cheese, then enjoy your dinner with a glass of the wine you used to cook with!