Friday, April 16, 2010

Cottage Pie… or Shepherd’s Pie…

You can name this simple yet complicated dish… on your choice of meat... according to the history if it is made out of beef it is called cottage pie if it is lamb you can call it a shepherds’ pie.

I started to make this after getting pie book as a gift and didn’t want to get rid of the book for some reason. It was a neat book because it had recipes with no crust and work great for getting something ready in a hurry. I have cooked couple of dishes from this book.
After trying the traditional cottage pie I came up with my own spices to ROCK it! (my version)

Going back to the history this is a very simple dish that is made out of minced meat and mashed potatoes. Also the term cottage pie was been used in 1791 it has a long history since the potatoes was introduced as an edible vegetable, it was cooked in cottage a modest dwelling used for rural workers. Also in early cookery books suggested using leftover roast meat… (I don’t know about this)

I know that’s me always make changes… I guess you can call it personality disorder whatever it is I can get my kids to eat carrots, peas, potatoes, and meat. My little one dines this as I have fed this since she was a baby but I have not. Older one likes it, I guess the spice blend reminds him of other food that I have made.
So here is the recipe since I have added and changed I have to type this recipe not my favorite but its O.K. Hopefully someone will give it a try…

For the crust
1 ½ pounds potatoes
¼ cup half- and –half
2 oz unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk

For the Meat filling
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
11/2 pounds minced beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup milk 2%
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
½ cup fresh or frozen English peas
½ teaspoon peppercorns
2-3 cardamom pods with the case
2 cloves
1 piece cinnamon may be 1- 11/2 inches long (place all these ingredients in a coffee grinder and pulse until very fine)

Peel and diced the potatoes and cooked them until tender and easily crushed with tongs about 10- 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add the egg, half-and-half, and butter. Mashed it and make sure it is all combined well add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

While potatoes are cooking make the meat filling.
In a saucepan heat the canola oil add the onions and carrots and sauté them just until they begin to take color 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Now add the minced beef and the spice blend combined well to coat the meat. Make sure the meat is browned. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and combine to coat the meat and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and toss to coat the meat and continue to cook. Add the milk, Worcestershire sauce and bring to boil and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Add the corn and peas to the meat mix and spread evenly into a 11x7 inch glass baking pan. Top with the mashed potatoes and make a seal around the dish with mash potatoes. Bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes are begins to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Quote of the day “Be a shepherd – lead from behind”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oatmeal made with 3 grains…

I want to post this on my blog for someone who is looking for an alternative for traditional oatmeal. Oatmeal was a staple food at our house but being expose to many meal plans and the number of nutrition classes I have attained I had fun assembling this recipe for my little one. After introducing many grains and paying attention to vitamins and starches I combined this power house grains to make my version of oatmeal.

I have seen my little one flourish on these grains also I have introduced these individually prior to this combination. What’s great about this dish is you can make ahead for couple of days and have it refrigerated. I have stored this in the refrigerator for 3 days but in the freezer up to three weeks (that’s my kind of food which speaks convenience as well as nutritions).

You may want to choose a fruit to make a sauce or if it is very ripe you can simply cut them into small pieces to blend with this meal. I usually go for homemade apple sauce, pear puree, peach, or nectarine there are many choices. You can also make fruit purees with blueberries, blackberries, & raspberries. Our favorite is blueberries way up with antioxidants. I will be lucky if I can get them to blend in order to make the puree usually it ends up in the stomach before it makes its journey to the blender but I don’t care as long as it get digested in some ones stomach…

What you need… equipments a coffee grinder…

¼ cup barley
¼ cup millet
¼ cup buckwheat
3 cups water
Pinch of salt (preferably kosher)
¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Powder the grains in a coffee grinder to your preference (if your child likes texture pulse once or twice)
If your child likes food pureed you may want to pulse it 4-5 times you can always check. Let the water boil in a medium high heat then slowly whisk in the powdered grains. While whisking, lower the heat. Continue to whisk until there is no lumps, add cinnamon and salt and cover it to simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
When it is done you can add your choice of fruit puree to sweeten or simply server with cut up fruits and watch out for colorful bibs with new designs.


Quote of the day “live in detail”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Humming Birds…

These are wonderful birds. My neighbor is a humming bird watcher and a lover. She had really wonderful feeders you can get them close to the window. I really liked it. I bought this less expensive humming bird feeder from the local hardware shop and having been used last summer still in good shape. Out again to attract more this summer. We had one humming bird visiting us on a regular basis last summer. I also had some flowers growing on my window boxes last year which I think helped them too; in order to find the feeder.

This year I have already filled the humming bird feeder and set it outside just curious to see if we are going to have any visitors. Because I thought I saw some but there are huge bumble bees out there too so I could easily mistaken a humming bird to a bumble bee. This is a cool activity for kids to get their hands on or simply enjoy nature.

If you got older children they can fill it or simply help you to rinse the feeder periodically.


Quote of the day “see yourself as a work in progress”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Seeds, Dirt, & Little Hands…

I love to show children mine or others the wonders of the earth, and seeds could be plants. I have perform this in front of many kids and showed them what they could do with seeds. I remember once a kid plant an apple seed in a pot and brought it to school to leave it in our classroom. We watched it grow and we learned so many cool facts about apples and Johnny Appleseed.

This spring my son and I planted herbs from seeds we are very anxious to see the outcome.

My son had done these kinds of projects, I remember once he planted me an herb garden. I did not use all the herbs but it was a wonderful experience for him. I recall he would bruise some of the leaves and sniff its aromas. We had peppermint and pineapple mint and lemon balm I cannot think of anything to make with these herbs. It was the best mother’s day gift I ever received from my son.

I wonder how these herbs are going to turn out this year. I can’t wait to make pizzas with basil and potatoes salad with chives.
Hopefully he will try my potato salad this year with home grown chives.

How I got this project to be a success I planed everything before and gathered all the materials needed to this project. By eliminating steps to find tools while working with the project especially with children could be a HUGE distraction. By having everything prepared allows us to spend time together, have a good conversation, and enjoy the activity. Plan ahead when working with children is rule # 1 for a successful project.


Quote of the day “Draw with children”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This is not procrastination

I love chapter 9 of the book I am reading. I couldn’t get before pictures but I have after pictures and plenty of them. I was procastinating to organize this pantry cupboard. I know this is an ongoing task to maintain order hope I typed it right. Finally I just did it. First I wanted to buy a list of things to make it organize. I knew something is not right so I used the items I had sitting around to hold small items for baking and what not. I was happy with the result. I was amazed with what I did. So far I have handle two things and I am motivated to handle some more closets cleaning/organizing and what not.

What I am most proud of is I am being an indirect teacher to my kids they automatically learning to be organized and that is priceless.

I am trying to hold on to basics this will aid be to become more organized. I drop off 5 bags at consignment. I am making progress with my sort it out and organizational skills.

Few tips that I incorporated towards motivation and to stretch the dollar. I used my cake stand as a center piece inside my cupboard to display items that needs to be used in near future. It stands up on a pedestal and telling me hey, its time you bake with me or whatever it is. I had two beautiful trays I used them to gather small items. One I used to place water bottles also this will give me quick access to use it when I have visitors over. Storage problem is solved productively/ small place/getting out of clutter/artful reminder to drink water what more can you ask.

Best thing is I did not spend a penny to organize I didn’t buy baskets used what I had sitting around.
I am glad I checked out this book and I love it…

Quote of the day “Hard work is often the easy work you did not do at the proper time” Bernard Meltzer


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chocolate Chip Brownies & Vanilla Ice Cream…

Baking Madness… Monday… after long week of filing papers and long list of to do… I am glad I was able to bake. I wanted chocolate and kids wanted lemon. Yep, I am tired of baking the regular lemon tart. I wanted a change (who would not) and twisted it with some raspberry preserve… it was the hit of the week. I love to hear older one keep adding all his complements on this simple mouthwatering recipe.
If I ever have a garden I would certainly consider planting a lemon tree I just love it and we like all kinds of meals made out of this natural ingredient. Raspberry adds a sweet layer to this tart. I simply want to quit baking this summer to keep it simple so we can enjoy seasonal vegetables and fruits we will see about this.

Last summer my younger one was eating solids I spend the entire summer getting her fruits and preparing them. Yes, I was a baby jar food free mom. My little one was delighted to taste all kinds of grains and vegetables. I had a great time introducing her to food I have to admit comparing to older one she is very liberal when it comes to her meals and independent. She started feeding herself very young. I am glad it worked out that way.

Going back to my chocolate craving I went all the nine yards to make this Brownie with lot of chocolate and nuts. It was sooooooo good. I want try to make a brownie without flour I wonder how it’s going to turn out could be a fun project. Mmmmm… Everyone enjoyed brownies with ice cream, it’s a great treat. If anyone wants to try chocolate brownies here is the link

Quote of the day “Keep your commitments even when it hurts”


Hens & Chicks…

This is a wonderful plant that I brag about earlier writing. I snap this one early morning as I was cleaning the balcony. Since we live in the back we do not get much sun. I notice recently that the moss started to grow on wooden slats that concerns me. I was able to arrange pots on balcony I really like to get it raised so it won’t leave any marks/stains on wood; it's a working progress.

I have seen many varieties of hens and chicks on catalogs and on the internet but I love my collection and adore it.
I love colors and the formation of the rosette it is one of a kind plant.
Other wonderful fact about this is it doesn’t need much attention and can leave it outside and bring it in anytime…

Quote of the day “learn a relaxation routine”


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Old Dirt…

I enjoy gardening a lot. I recall my experience on gardening when I was a child and it was my parent’s garden and some documentary programs on TV. I miss my little garden in our house. I make sure to bring nature in contact with my kids in many ways as much as I can.

Last year we got two window boxes; hung them on our balcony railings this year we got some plants from back home(VA). One of my favorites and it is called hens and chicks. I really like to find the Latin name for this. You cannot go wrong with these beautiful succulents/perennials.
Specially if you are in a budget for watering, or fertilizer… this plant is ideal if you are not a green thumb person not a problem this plant will make your thumb green…

Today after managing many tasks I was able to feel the good old dirt and work with window boxes I have no clue what I want to plant but they are ready. I was able to plant a Rosemary plant, I love its aroma and we enjoy lemon and rosemary chicken. It’s amazing everyone love this Italian dish even my little one I have to post it when I get a chance to make this. Speaking of Rosemary this has many medicinal values I remember I read somewhere if you place a sprig of Rosemary in your wine bottle it will enhance your memory. I like to try that… This plant possesses so many healing powers…

I cleaned out the birdfeeder. We didn’t get many birds on our bird feeder last year may be this fall we might have some luck. I am ready to put out humming bird feeder to see some visitors.
This is my garden note.


Quote of the day “Strengthen your skills”