Shepherd’s Pie, easy meal for the freezer or a for a friend

Spring is in full swing! Some days here in New England are 90 degrees and others barely reach 60. Having delicious comfort food meals in the freezer for you, your guests or to bring for a friend in need is very helpful. Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favorites. I love it. It is one of the few ways I can get my kids to eat mashed potatoes! They eat many things and eat potatoes in most other forms, but for some reason mashed potatoes are in their mind, a form of torture that I save only for them 😉

Shepherd’s Pie is great to bring to new parents who need a meal or a friend who has just moved or had surgery. It is great to bring to a potluck or serve at a graduation celebration. It is naturally gluten free by using cornstarch instead of flour to thicken the meat sauce. No one will miss the gluten.

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

3 pounds of ground meat (beef, pork or turkey…I often use a mixture of beef and pork)

1 white onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 sprigs thyme

1 cup of beef stock

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

5 russet potatoes, diced

1 teaspoon of salt

2/3 cup of milk

2 Tablespoons cream cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon of paprika

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown meat in large high rimmed, oven safe sauté pan.  Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and thyme. Stir occasionally and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl mix stock, vinegar and cornstarch. Pour into meat mixture. Combine and cook on medium to low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add potatoes and salt to stock pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for about 20 minutes. When potatoes are soft, drain and add milk and cream cheese, then mash together. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Spoon mashed potatoes over the meat mixture and smooth out with spatula. Top with a sprinkle of paprika and place in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Serve!

If you plan to freeze or gift the shepherd’s pie, first pour the meat mixture into a foil casserole dish and then smooth potatoes over the top before cooking.

For a fancy twist, you can make baked potatoes and scoop out the insides, make mashed potatoes with the insides and then spoon the meat mixture into the skins. Simply cover with mashed potatoes and bake. Twice baked shepherds pie..mmmm!

What is your favorite meal to freeze? What is your favorite meal you have received in a time of need? Here are some other freezer meals or meals to bring a friend:

Gluten-Free Stuffed Shells

Meatballs

Meatloaf

Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-cheese

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

 

 

 

 

Gluten-free Stuffed Shells for a Party

Graduations, end of school year parties and summer holidays are all upon us. It can be a challenge to host a celebration at your house if you have celiac disease or have a family member with it. It doesn’t have to be! Here are some of my ideas for hosting a large gathering that is completely gluten free and no one will even miss the gluten!!

A tray of stuffed shells are a great way to feed a crowd. I was so excited when browsing at my local Italian specialties store (Alfredo’s) and I found an entire end cap filled with different shapes of imported Italian gluten-free pasta. I bought a 1 pound bag of shells, which made 2 large casserole dishes of stuffed shells. Others have found this pasta at Marshalls, TJ Max or Homegoods. The recipe below is for half of the bag. I made the other half with about 8 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained instead of zucchini and froze it for another time.

Gluten-free stuffed shells

Ingredients

2 small zucchini, shredded

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

About 24 ounces of ricotta cheese

4 to 5 ounces of cream cheese

8 ounces of mozzarella cheese, shredded

About 40 ounces of canned tomato sauce (I like to use part diced and part sauce)

½ teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper

4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, torn

¼ cup shredded cheddar

½ pound of shells (I used ½ a pound of imported Italian GF shells from La Fabbrica Della Pasta)

Directions

Cook pasta according to package. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté zucchini with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a bowl mix the ricotta, cream cheese and 4 ounces of the mozzarella. In another bowl mix tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil leaves. Mix cooked zucchini with the cheese mixture. Pour a layer of tomato sauce in bottom of casserole dish. Then fill each shell with 2-3 Tablespoons of the cheese mixture and place in dish.

Cover with the rest of the sauce, rest of the mozzarella and the cheddar. Cook covered with foil for 20 minutes and uncovered for 20 to 30. Serve or Freeze.

You can serve this with your favorite grilled hot dogs, chicken or ribs and a salad. Cut up a watermelon, put out a large bowl of Pirate’s Booty, Skinny Pop and Cape Cod Chips, serve Hoodsie’s so you don’t have to scoop any ice cream or have popsicles (Outshine or Wegman’s brand are gluten free) and you are all set for a gluten-free party! What is your favorite party food?

Meatloaf Two Ways

Meatloaf is really comfort food at its best. What is better than meatloaf? Meatloaf meatballs! This recipes tells you how to make both from the same mixture. I’m a big fan of making more than I need since it is doing the same work for double recipe. That means I can put something in the freezer to easily pull out one night when I need a quick meal.

Meatloaf (Bulk recipe)

Ingredients

2 pounds of ground beef (top round or sirloin)

1 pound of pork sausage (Wegmans sells 1 pound tubes that are labeled gluten free)

½ cup of gluten free bread crumbs

1 clove of garlic, minced

½ of a red onion, grated

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

½ cup of milk

2 eggs

½ cup of ketchup

1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar

3 Tablespoons of honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together all the ingredients up to and including the eggs.  Make a small patty and cook it, so you can taste for seasoning. Repeat with more seasoning if needed.

For Meatloaf:  Once seasoned to your liking, split the meat mixture in half. Form two loaves of meatloaf. Place them on a metal cooling rack over a baking sheet. Make the sauce by mixing the ketchup, balsamic vinegar and honey together in a small bowl. Pour a couple of tablespoons of sauce over each loaf, then brush to cover. Cook in oven for 50 to 70 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 160 degrees (FDA Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures). Take out of the oven and brush again with sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes and asparagus or polenta and green beans.

For Meatballs: Once seasoned to your liking, make one and a half to two inches in diameter meatballs. Heat a large skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil in it.  Sear each meatball and place on a metal cooling rack over a baking sheet. Cook in oven for about 20 minutes. Check your largest meatball close to the center and make sure it is cooked through.  Serve with the sauce for dipping. Tip: you can keep the meatballs warm by placing them in a slow cooker on warm or low with a little beef stock (enough to cover bottom of pot, not meatballs).

You can make either of these methods to feed a crowd or make one of each and freeze half. I know, I know, some of you don’t like making such big batches 😉 Make a 1/2 batch and let me know how it turns out!

For my family, it works for me to cook in large batches when I have time, so for those many times that I cannot cook, we have something delicious and homemade to pull out of the freezer.

As a family with a child who has celiac disease, our take-out options are limited and often more expensive, so having easy meals in the freezer are a life saver for our busy lifestyle. It helps that we have a large deep freezer in the garage. What are your go to bulk meals?

 

Greek Meatballs

Anytime of year is good for meatballs, but especially around this festive time of year they are a great choice for your entertaining needs. Want to add a little different flavor for your holiday appetizer? Try Greek meatballs. Serve with a yogurt sauce, like this one from AllRecipes.com. It would a bright start or accompaniment to the main meal for your guests.

Greek Meatballs for a Crowd (makes 55-60 meatballs)

Ingredients

About 5 pounds of ground beef and pork (I usually do about 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork)

1 pound of bacon, minced in the food processor

1/2 of a large sweet onion, grated

1 egg, beaten

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1 Tablespoon of oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried mint

10 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained

8 ounces of feta, crumbled

Directions

Place ground meat and bacon into a large bowl. In a small bowl mix onion, egg, garlic and spices. Pour mixture into the meat. Add the spinach and feta. Dig in and mix it all together. Make a small pattie and cook it through. Taste for seasoning then adjust and repeat if needed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll meatballs and brown them in a heavy bottomed pan with olive oil. Transfer to cooling rack on top of baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

I know it seems like a lot of meat, but meatballs freeze really well and take some work. If I’m going to do that hard work, might as well make double so you get a couple of meals or appetizers out of it 🙂 If you try to halve the recipe, let me know how it comes out.

Last couple of days before the holidays hit us. Email me or comment with any questions!

 

Meatballs, Plain and Simple

These meatballs are a blank canvas. Flavorful on their own but can easily be served with marinara or to make swedish meatballs or even the popular bbq sauce and grape jelly meatball appetizer. They are perfect to bring to a potluck, to bring to family or friends as an act of kindness or just to enjoy at home.

Meatballs  (bulk recipe – you can 1/2 this recipe)

Ingredients

about 3 pounds of pork (boneless sirloin) (or 3 lbs of ground pork)

about 3 pounds of beef (bottom round) (or 3 pounds of ground beef)

8 slices of bacon

2 eggs

1/4 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/2 cup of milk

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

1 Tablespoon shredded Parmesan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together. Grind the meat and bacon together if you are not using store bought ground meat. If you are using store bought ground meat, finely chop the bacon or put it in your food processor. Form each meatball and place onto cooling rack placed over baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce or freeze in batches to use another time.

You can brown these first for a deeper flavor, but they are just as delicious just baking them. Keep them warm in your crockpot with your favorite marinara. This works well for entertaining. You can cook some gluten-free pasta and toast up some gluten-free garlic bread or make zoodles (zucchini noodles) for a pretty (and healthy!) red and green Christmas themed spaghetti and meatballs.

My kids love to take the leftover meatballs for lunch! Add some yogurt and carrots with hummus and we have a school lunch or a meal my child with celiac disease can bring with him if we are visiting family or friends.

You will find a great new meatball recipe here every Thursday for the next month! Check out these past blogs too for ideas on what to bring to your next potluck or what to serve at your next holiday gathering.

Italian Stuffed Meatballs

Good Food that happens to be Gluten Free

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup. It is one of those soups that can make everything better. Grandmother’s swear that it will heal any cold. My kids definitely buy into that  🙂 Whenever they are sick, and I never know when that is going to happen, they ask for my chicken noodle soup. They don’t know the joy of Cup o’Soup or Top Ramen because our house has to be gluten free. I haven’t really found an already made gluten-free brand that works, so I make this recipe at home and freeze it. Then when someone is sick, I can just pull it out of the freezer and instant comfort.

You can easily make this soup with store bought chicken stock, so go right ahead. I do it all the time. Especially when one kid after the other is sick and then I’m sick and my freezer supply has been depleted.

Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken-noodle-soup

Ingredients

6 ounces (1/2 box) of small pasta (I like the gluten-free Schar Bonta d’Italia anellini), cooked

5 cups of stock

¾ cups diced carrots

1 ½ cups cooked diced chicken

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

chicken-noodle-soup-ingredients

Directions

Heat through and serve or freeze (equals about 8 cups of soup).

In my fantasy world, I would always have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, but that is not reality.  That said, it is so deep in flavor! You have to try it at least once!

Homemade Chicken Stock

chicken-soup-prep

Ingredients

3 to 3 ½ pounds of drumsticks and/or chicken thighs

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

2 stems of fresh rosemary

1 cup of chopped celery

1 cup of chopped carrot

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

1 large onion chopped

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

2 Tablespoons of peppercorns

12 cups of water

chicken-stock-cooking

Directions

Pat chicken dry and rub the salt, pepper and thyme all over each piece. Chop the vegetables and garlic. Pour olive oil into a large soup pot. Brown chicken on all sides and remove from pot. Add chopped vegetables, garlic, rosemary stems and peppercorns into the pot and cook while stirring for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour 6 cups of the water into the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom until you get all the cooked bits off. Return the chicken to the pot and pour the rest of the water in. Stir. Let simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until meat starts to fall off the bone. Remove chicken and set aside. Pour the  rest through a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Set aside of the carrots and celery to add to the chicken noodle soup if you are making some. Allow everything to cool. Either freeze or use stock for the soup. Shred the chicken and either freeze or use for soup or mix with bbq sauce for bbq chicken sandwiches.

You will not regret making this. Your family will love it and your house will smell amazing!

For the next month, every Friday I’ll be posting a new soup recipe for you and your family to enjoy! Everyday you will see something different holiday treats, meals for a crowd and easy dinners that no one will even know it is gluten free! Enter your email on the side in the subscribe box so that you won’t miss one! Happy Friday 🙂

 

Crowd Pleasing Chili

If you are having a crowd over for a big game or just hanging out with friends and family around the holidays and need a big satisfying meal, chili is always a great option. It is a blank canvas and does not require a lot of hands on work. It is also very easy to make gluten free, vegetarian or allergy friendly, which is great when you have a large crowd and don’t know what everyone’s food allergies or preferences are. I don’t think I have ever really made chili the same way twice, but I made this one recently to fuel up some friends before we enjoyed a long walk.

Quinoa Pumpkin Chili for a Crowd

Ingredients

1 to 2 pounds of your favorite beans or mixture of beans

½ of a large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1-24 ounce can crushed tomatoes

About ½ a 15 ounce can of pumpkin

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar

¾ cup of chicken stock (or vegetable or beef stock)

1 ½ Tablespoons brown sugar

½ cup of quinoa

Optional, add 1 to 2 cups of leftover roasted vegetables and/or turkey, chicken or beef

Directions

Pour all the ingredients into your slow cooker and stir. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low 6-8 hours. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Serve with sour cream and sliced green onions.

This is yet another way to disguise Thanksgiving leftovers. To stretch the meal even further, you can serve it over mac-n-cheese, as I did for lunch the day after I made it.

quinoa-chili-for-a-crowd

When you are entertaining for the holidays, having easy meals that can stretch to feed a crowd are very useful. This is a healthy meal and a hearty meal that will give you the fuel to warm you up after hiking, skiing or keep you going during overtime of your favorite team’s game.

What are your favorite crowd pleasing meals? Stay tuned for an extra post this week with some gluten free holiday entertaining ideas and a recipe!

Here are some past crowd pleasing or tailgating recipes and ideas for using leftovers (Always the same disclaimer that they are from before our family started eating gluten free so make adaptations as needed or ask me how I do it! mammascooking@gmail.com

Fall Football and Tailgating

Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving and Cooking in the Aftermath

Pre and Post Thanksgiving Ideas with a Potluck Recipe thrown in

Happy Thanksgiving

Taco Tuesday – Step outside the Taco Shell (Gluten free!)

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Turkey time, a visit to a butcher shop and italian sausage mac-n-cheese (I think I’ll make this mac-n-cheese GF tonight!)

Thank you to Mamapedia for highlighting Mamma’s Cooking 3 Easy 10 Minute Meals on Mamapedia Voices on Friday!

Good Food that happens to be Gluten Free

I am a GF Cook. I make Good Food that happens to also be Gluten Free. For my family and others with celiac disease it is out of necessity. For many others it is a way to eat healthier or just feel better. In the past 2 years since my son’s diagnosis of celiac disease, there have been ups and downs. I have discovered that you do not have to sacrifice taste, texture or being adventurous with new foods. You do not have to throw out your family recipes and favorite cookbooks. Yes there are limitations, but after the first several months, we found our groove and now know the resources that can help navigate the world of gluten-free eating.

Cooking gluten-free food often means making it from scratch because convenience food (like prepared frozen meatballs from Trader Joe’s that used to make a weekly appearance at our house!) often contain gluten. More and more gluten-free items are appearing in the market, which is great, but as I love to cook and now have a giant freezer in my garage, I make my own convenience food packs and freeze them.


I spent a great day testing meatball recipes last spring and had some family and friends test recipes. I made Italian meatballs stuffed with mozzarella, homemade sausage meatballs and the winner – Bahn Mi flavored meatballs. I made about 4 pounds worth and saved them in 2 pound batches, perfect for our family of five for dinner with leftovers for lunch. You can cut this recipe in half. I serve them with cucumber noodles (or coodles) for a spin on spaghetti and meatballs. You can use them in a lettuce wrap or as an appetizer with your favorite Asian dipping sauce. My kids love hoisin sauce and I love peanut sauce. I grind my own meat using the Kitchen Aid attachment but you can buy ground meat in the grocery store or ask the butcher to grind it for you, but know that that contains more fat, so you won’t need to add as much bacon in the recipe below. 

Bahn Mi Meatballs
Makes about 35 meatballs 


Ingredients
2/3 cup cucumber shredded (about 1 English cucumber)
1/3 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons sugar
About 4 1/3 lbs ground chicken and pork (I use 2/3 pork loin and 1/3 chicken thighs. It was also tested with only pork)
3 pieces of bacon, minced (you might have to test how much bacon you add depending on the fat content of your ground meat)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 Tablespoon ginger, paste or grated fresh
handful of Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp coriander
1 egg (still add one whole egg if cutting recipe in half)
1/4 cup of bread crumbs (use gluten-free if making this gluten free)
2-3 Tablespoons of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil


Mix the rice vinegar, water and sugar in a small bowl. Add cucumber and carrots. Soak at least 3 hours, up to overnight. Drain and dry between some paper towels while you prepare the meat mixture. Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix salt, pepper, ginger, cilantro, coriander, egg and bread crumbs. Place meat in a large bowl and add drained cucumber and carrots and the egg mixture. Get your hands dirty and mix it all together. 


TIP: Cook a small patty of the meat mixture to taste and adjust seasonings if you need before cooking the whole batch.


Heat a large not stick-pan to medium-high, add canola oil and sesame oil. Brown meatballs and transfer to a baking rack that sits on top of a cookie sheet.



Roast for 15 minutes. (You can put directly on rack without browning and cook for about 25 minutes, if you don’t have time to brown). Serve or freeze.



I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I love cooking for and writing it. My plan is to post weekly. You will see my own recipes, recipes from my favorite cookbooks (gluten free and not) that I have adapted for my family and ideas for entertaining and cooking in bulk. You don’t have to eat gluten free to enjoy these recipes. They are tasty enough for everyone!  

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