This week, I have been the recipient of love in my mailbox. Twice. As a direct result of this blog. There have been many a post lately about life on a budget, and I like to think that this is benefiting more than just myself to chronicle this phase in my kitchen. This week though, two very kind and thoughtful people were thinking of me and sent me a recipe from their kitchen that they thought I'd like. Recipes that their families have enjoyed, and could be made by someone on a budget. And honestly, both recipes look delicious and are right up my alley. They'll both be going on the menu for next week sometime, and I'm looking forward to being able to share those recipes with everyone else. It was just amazing to me to open up my inbox (both times) and find a recipe from someone that I don't even know. And not one of those silly e-mail chains, but a kind e-mail telling me a little about the recipe they've sent, and what recipes of mine they've made and enjoyed. It just was so heartwarming and thoughtful. And unexpected.
This is why I love blogging. It's connected me with people all over, and so many wonderful people! Just yesterday, my blog-friend Mimi hosted an event called Biscuit Baking Mix Day where a whole group of bloggers celebrated friendship together. It was so fun to play with an ingredient unfamiliar to me and then to see what everyone else did with the same ingredient... some of the results are simply priceless, so make sure you hop on over to French Kitchen In America and check them all out.
And speaking of sharing the love. I have some love to share too. Seeing how tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, I thought I should share last night's dinner with you in case you're still looking for a wee bit o' Irish to put on your table. I am not a fan of corned beef. In fact, I pretty much despise it. The corned beef and anything else that gets cooked in that icky brine. One of the few things that I refuse to touch is corned beef. (Sauerbraten is on that list as well- beef should not be pickled in my world.) So to honor my Irish roots, I need to feature something else for St. Patrick's Day, and one of my favorite touches of comfort is Shepherd's Pie. It doesn't make an appearance often because is is a casserole type dish, and my kids always seem to look at me like I'm an evil alien when I hand them a plate with anything resembling casserole on it. But it's comfort food to me. And last night, it was practically free as well.
I don't have a recipe for you. Just vague directions. However, if you want a recipe, head on over to Recipezaar. I did just that yesterday and found 226 recipes for Shepherd's Pie. Some are all homemade from scratch, some use a canned soup, some use instant spuds, each one is just a touch different. Mine happened to use up a fridge full of leftovers that were languishing away.
I started with a pound of ground beef and browned it up. Well, the beef wasn't a leftover, so I guess technically we can say that cost me $2.29 to add to the pot, even though it was already in the freezer. After that was browned, I added a handful of green onions that were wilting, and some mini sweet bell peppers that were past their prime. As I was seasoning this mixture with salt and pepper, I was mourning the fact that I didn't have any mushrooms when I remembered that I had the tiniest bit of Porcini Pesto left in the fridge. 2 tablespoons to be exact, so that went in. Along with a container of leftover cooked carrot coins, and the remainder of a bag of frozen peas. Then I added about 2 cups of beef gravy leftover from a pot roast I'd made last week. All this cooked together before pouring it into a baking dish. See picture here to the right.
The last step involved about 3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes- also from the previously mentioned pot roast dinner- and a tiny nub of Aged Irish Cheddar Cheese. One of my favorite cheeses, it made excellent grilled cheese earlier in the week, and it seemed that since I was making an Irish dinner to be the best choice of cheese. I shredded up the nub and mixed it into the potatoes. Then the potatoes were layered on top of the stew mixture already in the baking dish. And finally, for a touch of color I added a tiny sprinkle of regular cheddar cheese to the top. This whole thing baked in the oven for about 30 minutes- until bubbly. It was perfectly comforting with some homemade buttermilk oatmeal bread, and I felt great for having used up all the languishing bits from my fridge. What I love about Shepherd's Pie is that it is never the same twice. Sometimes I use shredded beef, sometimes I use turkey. Sometimes I add some kidney beans and corn and a pinch of cumin. Sometimes there's zucchini lurking about and that finds it's way into the pot.
Shepherd's Pie, in my opinion, is the better way to celebrate Irish freedom from the snakes. From a country known for its potatoes, peasant food, and excellent beer, trust me when I say it should be Shepherd's Pie on your St. Patrick's menu, and not the American corned beef and cabbage. ;-)