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


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


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



Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-cheese

Sweet Potato Enchiladas





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)


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


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 It would a bright start or accompaniment to the main meal for your guests.

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


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


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!


Red, White and Green Lasagne

Lasagne is a staple for many this time of year. It is easy. You can make it ahead of time and it feeds a crowd. While there are some gluten free noodles out there, I usually substitute vegetables sliced super thin, like zucchini or butternut squash. However, at the Celiac Kids Connection (a support group for kids with celiac disease based out of Children’s Hospital in Boston) Holiday Party, I picked up a free sample of Organic Green Lentil Lasagne from Explore Cuisine. It was delicious and made for a festive tray of lasagne. I believe you can order it from Amazon or local to me here, south of Boston, at Good Health and certain Stop and Shop and Shaws locations.

Green Lentil Lasagne


1-8 ounce box of Green Lentil Lasagne

24 ounces of tomato sauce

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

10 ounces of tomato puree

6 Tablespoons of butter

6 Tablespoons of gluten-free flour (My favorite is Cup4Cup)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

about 1 1/2 cups of milk (add more if bechamel is not the right consistency – should cover the back of a wooden spoon)

1 cup of ricotta cheese, reserve about 1/3 cup for top

8 ounce block of mozzarella, shredded, reserve about 1/2 cup for top


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, mix tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar and tomato puree, then set aside. In a medium sauce pan, add the butter, flour and spices. Cook for a couple of minutes, add milk and whisk until smooth. Take off the heat and mix in ricotta and mozzarella, saving the amounts mentioned above for the top.

Ladle about 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer with the green lentil lasagne noodles (or your vegetable/noodle of choice). Pour cheese sauce over to cover noodles. Repeat at least 2 more times. After top cheese sauce layer, sprinkle mozzarella and add dollops of ricotta.

Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15-20 minutes until cheese starts to brown and is bubbly. Resist putting a fork into and taking a bite for at least 15 minutes to let it rest.

My sister-in-law once made a lasagne when we visited for the holidays and added the bechamel. That is where I got the idea. It makes for a decadent and delicious holiday meal. No one will even notice that you are using lentil noodles or vegetables as noodles. They will never believe its gluten free!

What are you making for the holidays?

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)


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


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

Italian Stuffed Meatballs

A week later and its time to forget about turkey for a little while and switch up your menu! Try these Italian stuffed meatballs and leave your family and friends asking for seconds and thirds! Thanks to my family and friends who tested this for me 🙂

These meatballs would be great for a weekend dinner or even holiday appetizers meal! If you in the mood for Asian flavors, try these Bahn Mi Meatballs.

Italian Stuffed Meatballs



About 3.5 lbs ground beef, chicken or pork (I like to use 2/3 pork and 1/3 chicken thighs or 2/3 beef and 1/3 pork for the best flavor)

3 pieces of bacon, chopped finely (or pulsed in the food processor)

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

½ teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon garlic paste (or 1 clove of garlic, minced)

2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely

1 egg

1/4 cup of bread crumbs (use gluten-free breadcrumbs if making this gluten free)

6 to 8 oz of mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes

2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil


Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix salt, pepper, onion powder, oregano, garlic, basil, egg and bread crumbs. Place meat and bacon in a large bowl and add 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 stuffing and cooking the whole batch.

Roll meatballs. Take a cube of mozzarella and stuff it into the center of the meatball, making sure it is completely encapsulated by the meat mixture.


Heat a large not stick-pan to medium-high, add olive oil. Brown meatballs and transfer to a baking rack that sits on top of a cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes. You can skip the browning step if you like and just add about 5-10 minutes of baking time.


Serve with your favorite tomato sauce and spaghetti, make meatballs subs, serve as an appetizer or freeze for another night when you need an easy meal.

Now, let’s talk ground meat. I grind my own meat using this attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. I love it. The meat tastes so much better when freshly ground. You can ask a butcher to do this for you, just make sure if you are keeping gluten free that they are taking necessary precautions to not cross contaminate the meat with marinated meat or spices that contain gluten.

One post down and 30 to go! A post a day until the end of December! Posts filled with gluten-free holiday treats, easy meals and ideas for your holiday gatherings through the new year that everyone will enjoy!

Here are some links to past holiday posts with the regular disclosure that if it was written before April 2014, it may not be gluten free.

Last minute holiday prep!

Rethinking my cooking bucket list and looking forward to 2015

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


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


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.


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!

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!

Ask Mamma – Freezer meals…but wait until Irene passes :)

I started this blog before Irene was an issue here in New England, after a friend who is pregnant with her second child asked me for some ideas for stocking her freezer before the new baby arrives. So if you want to stock your freezer, now that it may be empty or unfortunately the food is spoiled because you don’t have power, here are some ideas of easy meals to restock!

(1) Enchiladas – (just leave out the meat if vegetarian)

(2) Mac – n-cheese –

(3) Lasagna – (I have more lasagne recipes in my head, that I haven’t written down yet, so if you have any questions, let me know). Here is one from a Year of slow cooking too that sounds good.

(4) Chili – (leave out turkey if vegetarian)

(5) Rice casseroles – look at and Year of Slow Cooking blog. They both have good suggestions. I recently made a good turkey curry rice casserole. Brown some ground turkey (can use chicken, pork or beef). Season with onion powder, thyme, garlic powder, coriander, curry powder and sweeten with some apricot jam.

Cook your brown rice however you like. I use my rice cooker. Add to cooked meat. Then add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas and cover on low for about 10 minutes. Serve or freeze!

(6) Soups! Butternut squash soup, Black Bean Soup (from Year of Slow Cooking), or whatever you like to make.

(7) Stock up at Trader Joe’s or your local grocery store! Buy the frozen rice, raviolis, sweet potato fries, soycatash and your other favorites!

We have been eating down our fridge/freezer for the past few days in anticipation that we might lose power. Yummy egg hash this morning with the 4 eggs we had left, 2 slices of bacon, one baked potato diced, couple of tablespoons of sour cream, about 1/4 cup of milk, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and a handful of shredded cheddar. Whisk eggs, sour cream, milk and spices together while you microwave the potato and saute bacon in skillet. Dice potato when cooked and add to bacon, then toss cheese into egg mixture and add to skillet. Mix until eggs cooked through. Serve with vanilla and berries smoothie. I am trying to use up the yogurt we have left and frozen berries in the freezer, add some milk and blend! So good.

Hopefully we can hold on to power until after lunch or it will be ice cream for lunch! I’m sure Karina won’t mind 🙂