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





From the farmer’s market….

So I decided to try something new recently. Goat. I had seen it a couple of times at the Ballard Sunday Farmer’s Market and finally convinced my husband that we should buy some. So I bought a pound of stew meat. I looked online for some recipes. Most of the ones that sounded really interesting involved peanut butter or something else that I figured was probably not a good idea to give Karina (yet! only one more month and she’ll be a year old!) and I really wanted her to try the goat 🙂

I ended up cooking it in the crock pot when I worked from home one day last week. I just put some salt, pepper and coriander on the goat meat, cut up some potatoes and yellow zucchini squash (from Tim’s boss’ garden), and added about a cup and a half of liquid (beef stock, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce) to the pot. After 3 and a 1/2 hours on high, it was done! Karina loved it! She usually goes for the squash first, but this time ate all the goat meat, then the squash and then the potatoes. I guess I’ll have to make it again 🙂

Tonight she really enjoyed some roasted cherry tomatoes from Pike’s Market. I just roasted them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (about 8-10 min for a pint of tomatoes). She ate those before the chicken and potatoes. (Chicken: olive oil, salt, lemon pepper, rosemary and thyme – seared in the pan and then cooked in the oven for 8-10 min + leftover mashed potatoes from when I made shepard’s pie earlier this week).

Last week I made homemade mac-n-cheese for the first time. It is intensive, but was worth it. I also roasted a spaghetti squash. I had a friend over with her two kids (6 and 2 years old). Her new mealtime habit is to put her hands in her hair 🙂 We taught her to put her hands in the air when you ask her how big she is…since she gets such a great response from that, she likes to do it when her hands are covered in food and really work the food into the back of her hair 🙂 Needless to say she has been getting many more baths this week.


My Shepards Pie: For the mashed potatoes: I usually use yukon gold potatoes. Stick them with a fork and cook in the microwave on top of a papertowel. When they are cooked, I thrown them into my Kitchen Aid Mixer, with salt, pepper, milk, butter, neufchatel cream cheese and then turn it on.

For the meat, I tend to use ground turkey. I don’t tend to plan ahead enough to have defrosted turkey ready when I want to cook, so I cook it straight the freezer. First, I saute some onions, garlic and herbs (coriander, sage and pepper) in a skillet (with a cover). Second, I put the frozen turkey straight into the skillet and put the cover on. A few minutes later, I use a wooden spatula to scrape some of the defrosted turkey off the top, turn the turkey over, scrape the cooked turkey off the bottom and repeat until all the turkey is cooked. Then add some salt and other herbs to taste. Third, I put a little sour cream (or cottage cheese and a little milk, if no sour cream). If I don’t have any dairy or don’t want it, just leave this step out. You can also add a can of peas or other veggies if you have them on hand. Fourth, layer the baking pan (I use a pampered chef stoneware deep dish pie plate or lasagne pan), turkey and then potatoes, and repeat. On the top layer of potatoes sprinkle a little paprika and then cook at about 375 for 30-45 min.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

***Bread Crumb Topping*** [Instead of making this, I used plain store bought breadcrumbs]

6 slices white sandwich bread (good-quality), torn into rough pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold) — cut into 6 pieces

***Pasta and Cheese***

1 pound elbow macaroni [I used whole wheat rotini]

1 tablespoon table salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional) [I left out the cayenne]

5 cups milk (see note)

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese — shredded [I used havarti instead]

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese — shredded

1 teaspoon table salt


For the bread crumbs: Pulse bread and butter in food processor until crumbs are no larger than 1/8 inch, ten to fifteen 1-second pulses. Set aside.

For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in colander.

In now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne (if using) and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.

Transfer mixture to broiler-safe 9-by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary for even browning. Cool about 5 minutes, then serve.

Recipe Notes It’s crucial to cook the pasta until tender–just past the “al dente” stage. In fact, overcooking is better than undercooking the pasta. Whole, low-fat, and skim milk all work well in this recipe. The recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch-square, broilersafe baking dish. If desired, offer celery salt or hot sauce (such as Tabasco) for sprinkling at the table.

This recipe from CDKitchen for Classic Macaroni And Cheese serves/makes 8

Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash, butter, herbs, salt, pepper, water.

Cut the squash in half + removed seeds. Place cut side down in dish. (I used a lasagna dish). Cover the bottom of the dish with water. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes (time depends on size of squash). Once soft, use a fork to take the squash out of the rind in spaghetti strands. Mix in a tablespoon or two of butter (to your taste). Add salt, pepper, a sprinkling of fresh herbs [I used sage] and serve.