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

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Strawberry Sauce

Having different sauce recipes in your repertoire to change up meals and desserts can expand your menus tremendously. Sauces are not just for savory dishes. My strawberry sauce is simple and delicious! Strawberries are so tasty and sweet. My kids love them, so when they are on sale, I buy them up! Often that means that they can start to go bad before we have had a chance to finish eating them. With all the amazing fresh fruit and vegetables coming into season, they are more cost effective and much more abundant. Here is this crazy easy recipe that you can use to top pancakes or waffles, ice cream or yogurt or whatever you like!

Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

16 ounces of fresh strawberries, sliced

2 Tablespoons of sugar (add ½ Tablespoon at a time and taste because it depends on how sweet your strawberries are naturally)

2 Tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, optional (but I think it adds such a great depth of flavor! Doesn’t taste vinegary)

Directions

Add all the ingredients to a sauce pan on medium high heat on the stove. Stir every couple of minutes until the fruit breaks down and it becomes a sauce, about 15 minutes. Serve warm over pancakes or cool and pour over ice cream or swirl in with yogurt. Can keep in the fridge 3 or 4 days in an airtight container.

You can also make this with blueberries, raspberries or blackberries and just adjust the sugar based on how sweet the fruits are. Don’t let those summer fruits go to waste!

There are just so many uses for this sauce. You can make ice cream sundaes, pour this sauce over gf angel food cake or my biscuits for a version of strawberry shortcake.

What is your favorite summer sauce? How do you use it?

Please follow and like us:

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?

Please follow and like us:

Basic Recipes You Can Adjust To Your Own Taste

After taking a much needed break, the blog is back! I’ve been busy cooking, cleaning out closets and celebrating. I turned 40 and then had a restful Mother’s Day. I have so many great recipes and gluten-free finds to share from the past couple of weeks! Stay tuned!

I am continually thinking about how to put into words the kinds of recipes I like to make and then I had an epiphany while driving by myself in the car the other day. I turned on NPR (WGBH Boston, 89.7) and heard Christopher Kimball’s voice. It was Milk Street Kitchen Radio with Christopher Kimball (formerly of America’s Test Kitchen) and Sara Moulton (who has a show on PBS now but I used to religiously watch her cooking show on the Food Network, over 15 years ago). They took an interesting caller, asking about how to get his fiance to eat more of a variety of foods. He wanted to know any good cookbooks for kids, as he compared her palate to that of a child.

Mr. Kimball’s answer is exactly what mine would be, although much more eloquently said. He said that instead of trying to cook down to her taste level, to make what he calls “bridge recipes.” The light bulb went off in my head. That is exactly what I do! His example included finding a basic recipe for fried chicken and then change up the flavors, because most countries have their version of fried chicken (Japanese tempura, etc).

Here are some of my “bridge recipes” and some variations you can make to help expand your family’s palate or just change up your weekly menu.

My basic meatball recipe can be changed up by making Italian Stuffed MeatballsVietnamese flavored meatballsTex Mex flavored meatballs, Greek MeatballsSwedish Meatballs or even Meatloaf meatballs! Meatballs are a familiar shape for kids or even picky adults 🙂 By changing up the flavors you can expose them to new tastes.

There are a million ways to make roasted chicken. It is also something many people like and are familiar with, so it is another great vessel to make “bridge” recipes from. So instead of Herb Roasted Chicken try my  One pan Roasted Chicken with tomatoes and feta, Honey Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs or Marinated Roasted Teriyaki Chicken.

Another great way to create “bridge” recipes is to change up the sauces you use. Try these sauces to change up your grilled chicken, steak, fish or even veggies: Barbecue Sauce, Balsamic Honey Mustard Sauce or Tomatillo salsa (this post also has a basic quesadilla recipe which you can make many variations of! A great “bridge”recipe!).

Thank you Christopher Kimball for helping me articulate my style of cooking.  I make basic recipes and create “bridge” recipes from them by using different sauces or spices from a different culture. What is your favorite “bridge” recipe?  Check out Milk Street Radio to find out when it is on in your area or download the podcast! They are great!

Please follow and like us:

Sheet Pan Shrimp

All over the internet you see sheet pan dinners. They are the new one pot meal.  I have three sheet pans and they are well loved. I use them to cook wings, meatballs, shrimp, salmon, roast vegetables and not to mention all the cookies we make on them.

I usually make sure I have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer so that I can throw together a quick and easy meal. This is one of the simplest and tastiest recipes you can make.

Sheet Pan Shrimp

Ingredients

1 pound cooked frozen shrimp, defrosted

Juice of 1 lime

½ teaspoon of salt

Pinch of ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of agave

½ cup of diced red onion

1 to 2 diced sweet peppers (or broccoli)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl mix lime, salt, pepper and agave. Toss shrimp in the lime mixture and let sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Combine onion and vegetables on sheet pan with vegetable oil, salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add the cooked shrimp. Roast for another 10 minutes and serve over rice or polenta or inside a tortilla.

You can easily make this recipe solely with vegetables so it is easy to make this vegetarian, vegan and its already gluten free! It is such a versatile recipe! Let me know what you like to make on your sheet pans.

Please follow and like us:

Gluten-Free Breakfast Ideas

You always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It also happens to be my favorite, but there never seems to be enough time! That is why I am a firm believer that breakfast is great anytime of day. When I have time, whether its morning afternoon or evening, I’ll make breakfast! Sometimes I’ll eat dinner for breakfast or breakfast for lunch, there are no rules 😉

My family’s breakfast preferences are on the sweet side, so I impose my savory tendencies on them as much as they allow. I’m not really a sweet person. I don’t really like waffles, unless there is fried chicken involved or pancakes unless they are wrapped around sausage. Breakfast Pizza and Gluten-Free Buttermilk Biscuits are two favorites in our house. A frittata is an easy way to get breakfast on the table fast and so versatile.

Frittata

Ingredients

8 eggs

½ cup of milk

½ teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 ½ cups of your choice of vegetable (peppers or asparagus or potatoes or mixture)

¼ cup of your choice of sausage or bacon (optional)

½ cup of your choice of cheese (shredded cheddar or feta)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  If vegetables and meat are not cooked, saute in oven proof skillet. Then pour egg mixture into pan and place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until center is set and it no longer jiggles. If vegetables and meat are already cooked, just mix in with egg mixture before pouring into the pan.

I do sometimes give in to their many, many requests for sweet breakfasts. For pancakes, we usually use the Gluten-free Bisquick mix, but occasionally will make them from scratch using Cup4Cup GF flour or a variation like these Gingerbread Pancakes. These blueberry muffins make for a great breakfast on the go.

During the week however, we keep it simple and quick. My husband and kids mainly have cereal, yogurt or fruit and toast with Nutella. Even my kids who do not have celiac disease love Goodbye Gluten‘s gluten-free bread, which I can usually get at Wegman’s. When toasted, I even like it. I usually choose to top my toast with avocado or cream cheese and tomato or have a sunny side up egg. What are your favorite gluten-free breakfasts? I would especially love to hear your favorite smoothie recipes!

Please follow and like us:

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

When my son was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I thought that meant saying goodbye to all my cookbooks. I definitely have learned that is not the case! So many recipes in my favorite cookbooks (like Mastering the Art of French Cooking) are naturally gluten free or can be adapted. The tricky adaptations come when I want to bake something and can clearly remember what the full gluten version tastes like.

Making these blueberry muffins from the First Edition of McCall’s Cookbook (1963) has been challenging, but I finally got it right! We have been housebound this school vacation week due to one kid with pneumonia, who is luckily on the mend, so the kids wanted to bake. In between marathon games of Monopoly, playing Angry Birds Star Wars on the Ipad and watching many, many movies, this recipe finally came together!

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins (adapted from McCalls, First Edition 1963)

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups sifted gluten-free Cup4Cup flour

¼ cup sugar

3 teaspoons of baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1 1/3 cup of milk

6 Tablespoons of melted butter

3 eggs, beaten

8 to 10 ounces fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

Cinnamon sugar, optional for topping (1/4 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and either grease muffin tin or line with paper liners. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add cinnamon and grate in nutmeg. In another bowl combine milk, melted butter and eggs. Add wet mixture to dry and mix using a fork, just until all dry ingredients are combined. Fold in blueberries. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop a little less than 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, around 3/4 full. Sprinkle about 1/8 of a teaspoon of cinnamon sugar over each muffin, if you like. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

These muffins are not very sweet, so the cinnamon sugar on top helps give a little more sweetness to each bite. This usually makes 14 to 15 muffins each time. We made these yesterday and are already down to 5 this morning 🙂 I’ve only had one. These are great to throw in with school lunches or bring as a snack on a road trip.

If you want to try one of my other baking adapations, try these amazing Buttermilk Biscuits! You would never even know that they are gluten free.

I have started quite a cookbook collection, which I keep adding to whenever I go into a consignment shop or get a gift card to Amazon. I love cookbooks. I could sit and read cookbooks all day. What are your favorites?

Please follow and like us:

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?

 

Please follow and like us:

Holiday Side Dish Ideas

Side dishes are often my favorite part of the meal. They enhance the main course. They can be warm and comforting or light and refreshing. They can be vegetarian, vegan and gluten free or full of butter, bacon and cheese, still gluten free 🙂 Side dishes give you an opportunity to use seasonal vegetables to make your meal amazing, butternut squash in the fall or asparagus in the spring.

Last winter we moved into a new house and were very excited for spring to see what was going to grow. We were not expecting asparagus, but one day the kids were playing out back and discovered stalks of asparagus growing out of the ground! We learned that asparagus is difficult to grow. It takes years to establish a patch of asparagus. We are very lucky that the previous owner had a green thumb! Here is a simple roasted asparagus recipe that would be a great addition to your holiday table.

Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

About 1 pound of fresh asparagus, trimmed

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

¾ of a teaspoon salt

1/8 of a teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all the ingredients together on a sheet pan. Spread asparagus out and roast for about 10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and transfer asparagus to a serving platter.

This is such a great, simple recipe that you can prep in the morning and put in the oven just before serving. Similarly you can do this with Green Beans.

I’m going to serve this asparagus dish at Easter with a version of my Twice Baked Potatoes. If you are looking for a decadent side dish try this Sweet Potato Gratin or easy Polenta. However, if you have time, try making Potato Gnocchi or Quinoa Risotto to wow your guests.

You can make your holiday meals as simple or involved as you like. I have learned over the years, for me, I try to keep it simple on the holidays, make things I can prep ahead of time that don’t involve a lot of hands on work the day of. For example, if I am serving mashed potatoes, I make it in the morning or day before and then put into the crock pot to keep warm or reheat.  For us it is easier to make everything rather than worry about cross-contamination if someone brings something with gluten in it. How do you handle the holidays with food allergies or Celiac disease?

 

Please follow and like us:

Basic Chocolate Bark Recipe

Chocolate Bark is a great recipe to have in your arsenal. It is always a hit, so versatile and incredibly easy to make! You can make it for Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day, 4th of July or on a rainy Saturday. It only takes about 30 minutes (5 to 10 minutes of actual work).

Here is the basic recipe:

Basic Chocolate Bark Recipe

Ingredients

1 – 16 ounce bag of chocolate chips (white, dark or milk chocolate)

Toppings, optional

Directions

Prep a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment or wax paper the same size as the pan. Spray with cooking spray. Prep your ingredients. Pour all the chocolate chips into a glass bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, mixing the chips each time in between. It should take about 3 rounds, around 90 seconds total.  Pour the melted chocolate onto the prepared sheet and spread out to about 1/8 inch thick.

After pouring then add your favorite toppings and lightly press in. Place in freezer for about 20 minutes. Break into pieces. Keep refrigerated.

Topping ideas:

Baklava Bark – Add 1/3 cup crushed nuts (pistachios, walnuts or almonds), zest of one lemon and honey drizzled on top.

Holiday Bark – Add 2 crushed candy canes.

Cookies and Cream- Add about 4-6 crushed GF oreos (I like GF Trader Joe’s Os or Glutino cookies)

Trail Mix Bark – Add 1/4 cup of partially crushed pretzels (I like synder’s GF or Glutino) and 1/4 cup of craisins

Smores Bark – add about 1/4 cup of crushed graham crackers (I like Schar’s GF graham crackers) and about 1/ 4 cup of mini marshmallows. If you like, use a culinary torch to lightly toast the marshmallows.

The options are limitless. Bark is a great idea to make alongside your holiday dessert or put them in clear gift bags and give as a parting gift.

If you need some more dessert ideas try my Raspberry Lemon Thyme Tiramisu or Boston Cream Pie Cake or GF Crispy Treats or Chocolate Pudding Pie or if you are feeling adventurous try my Baked Alaska.

Please follow and like us: