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Friday, March 30, 2012

Sheppard's Pie, Home Made Cream of Something and how to make extra to freeze (First publishes 1/15/2012)

I almost never make this recipe the same way twice. I like to tweak my flavors depending on what spices I am into at the time. Please remember I am not used to documenting my food adventures so please bear with me J If You have questions please let me know! I want you to take these recipes and ideas and make them your own.
I will attempt to write this as if you were only making 1 pan of this. If you want to make extra to freeze just multiply accordingly.
1 pound of ground beef
herbs or seasonings of choice ( I used a rosemary blend)
1-2 cups of canned or frozen veggies (I used corn today)
2-3 potatoes
½ to 1 small yellow Onion (we like the sweet onions)
1-3 garlic cloves depending on how much you like Garlic
Beef bullion  
(I used Watkins beef soup base)
Your favorite “cream of something soup” or you can make your own. A recipe I like is below…
Optional! ¼ cup Quinoa, don’t know about Quinoa yet? Read more here… 
Quinoa, a super food!
Start you potatoes boiling to mash later, my wonderful Hubby peeled some for me J Also start the Quinoa (if you are going to use it), you just need to let them boil until cooked.
Throw your meat into a pan and get it cooking. Dice up your onion nice and fine and add it to the meat. If your family says they do not like onion try shredding it on a cheese grater or mutilate it in a food processor. They will not even know it is in there and it adds great flavor! Next add your garlic preferably pressed with a garlic press. You could also mutilate it along with the onion in the food processor. 
While the meat is browning I start my Cream of soup mixture. For my Sheppard’s pie today I followed step 1-6 (skipping the salt) then added 2 tsp of a rosemary herb spice blend I like and a couple TBSP of Watkins Beef consume powder for extra flavor.
Yes you will likely have 4 burners going at once but it’s really OK. This is a big reason I like to make enough for multiple meals.

 Basic Cream Of Soup 
  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat.
  2. Blend 2 tablespoons of flour into the melted butter.
  3. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. (or not if reducing salt in your diet)
  4. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes. Cooking for this length of time will minimize the ‘flour’ taste. Stir or whisk continually.
  5. Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring constantly. (or chicken / beef / vegetable broth)
  6. Continue cooking slowly until smooth and thickened
You can now tailor this to what flavor you need, Want Cream of onion or celery? Dice some up, melt some butter (Just a tsp or so) in a pan and sauté the desired veggie until translucent; add to the soup base mixture and simmer. You can make large batches of this and freeze into serving size portions. Also if you want your end result smooth you can use a stick blender or pour the cooled mixture into a regular blender. If you choose to use bouillon definitely wait until the end to add any extra salt!
Please taste this as you go. If you think it needs something add it! Since you will be adding it to the meat later it is ok if your seasonings are a bit strong. You actually want them to be since the flavor will mellow a bit when you add it to the meat.
NOTE: I would not use this as a plain soup! I personally would only use this in place of canned Cream soup that your recipe calls for.
Mix your cream of something into your meat mixture. When the Quinoa is finished cooking add it as well. If your meat mixture is a bit soupy just cook it on low for a bit until it thickens up. You can also add a bit more salt and pepper at this point if you think it needs it. Then turn the heat off and let it cool a bit.
(Mine was a bit soupy so I let it cook down)
Hopefully your potatoes are done about now so drain them, Mash them with a few Tbsp. of butter and milk. Add a bit of salt and pepper if you like it that way. If you have it add a bit of shredded cheddar cheese, just because it’s yummy :)
You will need a baking dish to assemble your Sheppard’s pie, 8x8 should do or something of similar size. If the pan you cooked the meat in is oven safe to at least 350°then you can leave the meat in the pan and not dirty another :)
Now all you do is layer the meat, then veggies then potatoes. Just try to make each an even layer. Bake in the oven at 350° for 30 minutes or so. If you are not sure if it is heated all the way through a quick read thermometer inserted in the center should read 145°.
If you are making some to freeze you have a couple options…You can use aluminum throw away pans. I get them at my dollar store or watch for sales. If they are nicer ones that will hold up for a few uses I will go one step further and line it with foil for easier clean up. Parchment paper would work too. Or any glass pan will do. I like to freeze the meal in the same container I will cook it in later. Now you may be thinking, “But what if I need that dish before I want to cook that meal?” All you have to do is line the dish with foil or Parchment. After it is frozen you can pop it out of the dish and wrap it with foil or plastic wrap and just to be safe put it in a large zip top bag of it will fit. You can find lots of tips online for how to safely package items for the freezer.

When it comes time to bake this it is helpful if you can take it out of the freezer the night before, unwrap it and place it in the dish it will be baked in, cover and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. It should take about 30-40 minutes in a 350° oven. If you forgot to take it out the night before you should still be ok it will just take longer to cook. I would cover the dish with foil to help it heat through faster. It will probably need about 60 minutes to heat all the way through.
WARNING! Never put a glass or stoneware baking dish straight into a hot oven from the freezer! This will cause thermal shock and your dish could shatter in the oven leaving an icky mess to clean up.
I know all this seems like a lot of work (I tripled the above recipe) but in a bit over an hour I had enough prepared for 3 meals!  Tonight’s dinner will also yield enough left over to freeze a lunch size portion for my husband to take to work.
I personally thought this tasted great! I did add a bit of salt to mine but not much. I had 2 helpings and could have eaten more but we are working on portions here and I wanted Hubby to have a lunch portion for work, oh and let’s not forget the girl made one of my favorite deserts so I had to leave some room for that As well J
The consensus from the rest of the family was…
The girl said “it is OK but Sheppard’s Pie is not my favorite”. She ate her entire portion without complaint.
The boy said “It’s GOOD!” and gobbled his up once it cooled off enough.
Hubby said it was “pretty good” he added salt and lots of black pepper because that’s just how he is. After he left the table he did enthusiastically say “another good dinner, thanks hun!”
Here are the Printable Versions...
Sheppard's Pie

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