Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe already. My boys love it. Every single one of them. And the recipe itself is so simple and versatile that you can usually make it without a special trip to the grocery store.
Mashed potatoes - fresh or made from instant
1 can of whole kernel corn
1/2 chopped onion (or dried minced onion)
1 pound of meat - sausage or hamburger
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of shredded cheese (more or less depending upon your love of cheese)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Begin browning the meat of your choice together with the chopped onions. I'm a big fan of breakfast sausage.
3. Prepare the mashed potatoes. I prefer homemade but instant is, well, faster.
4. Use a casserole dish and begin layering your ingredients.
I like to start with a small amount of mashed potatoes, then all the brown meat/onion, followed by the can of corn, then a thick layer of mashed potatoes (Yes, use the rest of them.), finally add a layer of shredded cheese.
5. Cover with foil.
6. Bake for 30 minutes then remove the foil for an additional baking time of 5 minutes.

Tah dah! You have meat, vegetable, and dairy all in one. You can be creative with it and add other veggies if you like.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It's really close to Christmas now. If you haven't thought of anything to bring to Grandma's house, here's an idea: BUCKEYES. Everyone loves them. (Pipe down, you in the back.) I mean, what's not to love? Chocolate and peanut butter.

If you already have your bring-along dish planned, you may just want to make these for yourself. Keep them for after Christmas so that you don't have chocolate withdrawals after the big day. Kinda ease yourself into the new year. Eat one a day, then half a day, then a quarter a day.... or just gobble them up and go cold turkey later. Whatever works for you.
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 block paraffin wax *(Use 1/3 of a block)
1 1/2 sticks margarine
1 pound powdered sugar (4 cups)
1-12 oz. jar peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

1. Melt the chocolate chips and the wax together in a double boiler, low
heat. I don't have a "double boiler" so I placed a pan inside another pan. Put
water in the big pan and the chocolate in the little pan. This keeps the
chocolate from scorching. You don't want to ever waste good chocolate!

2. Mix all the other ingredients (margarine, powdered sugar, peanut butter,
3. Roll it into nickel size balls.
4. Then place them on wax paper and refrigerate. I recommend 4 hours but
until they aren't smushy.
5. Insert toothpicks into each one.
6. Dip into chocolate leaving some peanut butter showing at the top then
place each back on the wax paper to set.
7. Store in can or airtight container.
8. Devour as desired.

*If you're wondering what paraffin wax is, you're not alone. Just ask at the grocery store but I think you can find it near the chocolate chips ... maybe. Yes. You should ask. On my recipe card which is compliments of my mother-in-law and Aunt Rita it looks like "paraffin way". Thankfully there was someone knowledgeable at the grocery that recognized the word paraffin and ignored my ignorant way then directed me to the proper aisle and handed me a one pound box of Gulf Wax (household paraffin wax). Inside the box are 4 bars. You only need 1/3 of one bar. (Don't worry, the wax will keep a long time.)

These also make great gifts because... chocolate and peanut butter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit, Part 1: Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s Christmas.  Where are the festive dishes?  Where are the visions of sugarplums?  Well, let me tell you a tale of the darker side of culinary Christmas.  The scrimping-and-saving side.  The side where meals are made BEFORE Ebenezer Scrooge comes to his (still questionable) senses.  It is the meal of penny pinching which makes the more festive dishes possible.  And penny pinching in our house means beans.  Lots of beans.

The bean is an amazing food.  Is it truly a fruit?  Well, that’s for another, more heated discussion certainly.  But I digress. 

The bean can be made into almost anything - and cheaply.

One of the favorite dishes I like to throw the little guys into is Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili, courtesy of Joy of Cooking.  I make this dish a lot (and have tweaked it here and there, but not enough to take any real credit).  My family and this dish are on quite familiar terms.  I buy ground sausage in the three-pound chubs at Costco (akin to Sam’s, for those that know not the greatness of Costco) and divide it up and freeze it – mostly just for this meal.  Kidney beans I keep on hand – sometimes dried, but mostly canned as I’ve found they are about the same cost as dried when bought at discount grocery stores.  I’ve made this chili the stove and even recently in the crockpot.  It’s just a rockin’ chili.  So without further adieu, I present, Jessica’s version of Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili:

Ohio Farmhouse Sausage Chili
     4 to 6 servings

Brown in a large skillet:
     1 pound pork sausage
     1 large onion, chopped

Toward the end of the browning, add:
     2 celery stalks, diced

When the celery is softened, add:
     One 28-ounce can (3 ½ cups) diced tomatoes
     2 cups tomato juice or chicken broth or a combo of the two (**I like to use V8)
     1 to 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or molasses (**I prefer maple syrup and always use 2 Tablespoons)
     2 teaspoons ground cumin
     1 ½ teaspoons powdered sage
     ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Simmer for 20 minutes.  Add:
     3 ½ to 4 cups cooked red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (**I use 4 cans, drained and rinsed)

Simmer for 15 minutes more.  Serve with:
     Sharp cheddar cheese, cubed (**this is excellent in the steaming chili)
     Corn bread (**see my cornbread post), or buttermilk biscuits

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ginger Tea

While my Ghanaian friend, Afi, was here I learned that ginger tea is great for sore throats. Are you ready for this elaborate recipe?


Heat the water.
Slice the peel/skin off the fresh ginger.
Grate ginger into the water until it tastes tea-like.

No, you don't have to remove any of the ginger bits from the tea.

Yes, I was kidding about the elaborate part. It's so simple! Add a little honey and your throat will be feeling better quickly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peeling Potatoes

Saturday, I decided to make mashed potatoes AND to try this new-to-me technique of peeling potatoes to see if it would work.

It did! Although not as easily and flawlessly as it worked for Mary Ann, it spared me any sliced fingernails and saved on the actual peeling time. I think it is worthy of using again. What do you think?

Update: I do not recommend this method for thin skinned potatoes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Meat Pie: Ghana-style

Another Ghanaian meal that Afi taught me to make is the meat pie. Think Hot Pocket but healthier. Afi told me these are great to eat on the go because they are filling and no utensils are necessary.

Meat Filling
1. meat, about 1/2 pound - any protein will do. We used tuna but I want to try browned breakfast sausage the next time I make this. Mm.... sausage. I also plan to use my leftover turkey meat with this recipe. What is your favorite meat?
2. chopped onion
3. chopped green pepper
4. salt and pepper
You can get creative in what you want to add.

Use precooked meat or cook it yourself before adding the other ingredients and filling the pie crusts.

The crust has a nice flavor to it.
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
dash of nutmeg
dash of salt
sprinkle black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
*approximately 1/4 cup of butter or margarine*
1/2 cup of milk - add more as needed until the mixture is "rollable"

1. First mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl then stir in the milk.

2. Roll the pie dough flat.
3. Cut out a circle. You can use a soup bowl as a template.
4. Add your filling and fold the crust over and pinch it shut. You can add a little water to the edge to help it seal if the crust won't stay closed.

5. Brush with evaporated milk.* This causes it to brown while baking. *Because you use so little evaporated milk, I was thinking about trying to brush on egg white which would actually give your meat pie a little shine.
6. Place your half moon-shaped pies on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees until brown. Important: You should also poke the tops of the pies with a toothpick or fork before baking. Enjoy!

Okay! Now that I have meat pies on the mind, I think I'll be making them for lunch today!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fried Plantain: Ghana-style

When my friend mentioned fried plantains last weekend, I couldn't help but ask Afi about going shopping for the necessary ingredients and learning how she makes them. I've had plantain in Haiti before and loved it but I've never had fried plantain here. Thankfully, Afi loves to cook and she not only showed my how to make fried plantain but three more of her favorite Ghanaian meals too!

First, Afi showed me how to pick out a ripe plantain. It has to be yellow and brown (but not too brown) and soft (but not too soft).

Next, I learned what ginger looks like before it is ground and placed in a spice bottle! You must first "skin" the ginger with a knife before grating it.

Then, Afi showed me how to skin the plantain. She sliced open the peel from top to bottom then unwrapped the plantain. Okay, I may be getting ahead of myself here.

4-5 plantains
grated ginger (1 tsp if using powdered ginger)
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, powdered
1/2 tsp. cloves

1. Slice the plantains. You can cut it in half then slice the plantain into little half moons, slice it into little circles, or slice it into longer, steak fry-like shapes.
2. Put the plantains into a large bowl then add grated ginger, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, and cloves. If you use powdered ginger, you may add just a bit of water to help it coat. Try a teaspoon at a time.
3. Fry the coated plantain in a large skillet with enough oil to cover them or nearly cover them. Afi told me that a deep fryer is best because they all cook at the same time; when using a frying pan, you have to watch over them and turn them until they are golden brown.
4. When they are sufficiently brown, plate them with a paper towel to remove the excess oil. Then watch them disappear!

The finished product is a tasty combination of sweet and subtle spiciness.

Afi and I made these twice this weekend. I'll be making some on my own in a couple of days so perhaps I'll adjust the spice measurements. Afi measures according to taste and feel so the teaspoon measurements are an estimate. Of course, you can adjust the amount to please your own taste buds!

Sincerely, Sarah