Category: kitchen

Whatcha Got Shepherd’s Pie

shepherdspieI had a bluesy, stressful few days. The first of those days was potluck night with friends, and all I had to make was a ham-cheese-egg casserole. Easy enough. Last night, I used leftover spaghetti, frozen meatballs, and the last of the delicious meat sauce my Dad made a few weeks ago when he and Mom were visiting.

Today, I was feeling better and ready to give out in my love language: cooking. It relieves my stress and produces something useful, nourishing, and usually, appreciated.

Along with Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate brownies (thank you, Costco) sprinkled with a little sea salt (thank you, Pioneer Woman), this went in my oven. It’s not all traditional, because it was spur-of-the-moment, so I didn’t have everything on hand, and my people don’t really love peas or mushrooms anyway….

Whatcha Got Shepherd’s Pie
– Serves 6ish
1.5 ground beef
3ish strips of bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-5 carrots. chopped
1 bag of frozen green beans (traditional: peas)
2 tablespoons flour
2-4  bouillon cubes/beef brother/Worcestershire sauce (make a combo depending on what you have)
red wine/apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (depending on what you have)
mashed potatoes (I used 6 medium whole potatoes, made extra creamy)
1 cup cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  1. Brown the ground beef. Remove beef from pan and reserve some of the drippings for next step.IMG_5201
  2. Cook bacon and carrots for about 10 minutes. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Add flour and stir thoroughly.
  3. Add beef, green beans, and your combination of bouillon and red wine vinegar. This shouldn’t be more than cup of liquid total. Add about a teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, and thyme. Stir thoroughly and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer everything in the pot to a lightly greased casserole dish (I used an 8×8). Cover with mashed potatoes and then cheese
  5. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

food and movies

It has been a long and relaxing weekend. It started with a half day for Randa on Thursday – and concluded about 45 minutes ago when I put the girls to bed. In between was a few ‘events,’ but mostly, we stayed in… and cooked stuff, and were lazy.

It was nice.

The Movies

Paige and Kirsten and Josh have been quoting a movie since summer that I knew I would have to see eventually but felt somewhat cynical about. Turns out, Pitch Perfect is the (somewhat less inappropriate) Dodgeball of collegiate a capella films. Teehee. I have always liked Anna Kendrick, and Rebel Wilson is, of course, hysterical, but what I didn’t anticipate was that I would dig the music (especially discovering this song) and the sweetness of the friendships. And a Rocky reference never hurts.

juice packets and rocky

The other movie was Silver Linings Playbook. I have waited and waited for it to be showing near us, and I guess the Oscar nominations got it a wider release. Rod and I went to see it Sunday night, and I had high hopes. As a story, it didn’t disappoint. The ‘issues’ at stake were intense and messy and realistic and the performances were stellar. What took me by surprise (and was confirmed by my husband) was how much the lead female, Tiffany, reminded me of me in my early 20s. I mean, yikes… the temper, the rash/bad choices, the coping mechanisms, the fierce emotions and reactions. Oh, and the fabulous hair, of course :)







The Food
Other than watching movies, I cooked. This was coming off a 2-week fast and noting how less crap intake makes me feel less crappy. Even so, I managed to OD on pizza and Mexican food and discover a few great-tasting recipes and ingredients. Allow me to share:


I realize the whole of America (well, and Greece…) is already on this band wagon, but substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, milk, etc. in a few recipes has been the Bomb Diggitay. For a Lia Sophia party I had on Saturday night, I used it in a Spinach Artichoke Dip = yum! Tonight, I used it and salt and a splash of milk for mashed potatoes and they were the best I have ever made. YAY for better ingredients.

Meanwhile, I baked some bread today. Even though Rod and Randa both like store-bought ‘barely bread’ better (what?!), it’s good for me to get in the habit of baking it again. Unfortunately, I used one of the loaves (I baked Italian) for a very, very naughty recipe. Darn The Pioneer Woman. (before you click, just know that it involved *2* sticks of butter and the 5 of us ate the whole darn thing…)

I also made homemade granola (note to self: needed more sticky-stuff, because half the pan is granola cereal…), biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and finally, finally, a passable substitute for my favorite soup in the world, served at El Cortez in Country Club Hills, IL, and ordered faithfully by me for the last 20 years. Yes. There is a menu item I have been faithful to for 20 years. Yikes. This one:

I still have some trial and error to get this perfect, and it will never be like it us “up there,” but in case you are interested in a little pizazz for your wintry chicken soup, here you go:

Kel’s Caldo-Whatsit Soup

3 or 4 limes
~about a pound of shredded chicken (I used leftovers from chicken tacos, but I am including the instructions for the chicken per the original recipe)).
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (I use my garlic press for this…nice consistency)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 oz. chopped green chilies
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp.  oregano
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
~garnish: cilantro, avocado, maybe a pinch of cumin, more lime!

Cut 1 lime into 4 to 6 wedges; set aside for serving. Juice as many of the remaining limes as needed to measure 1/4 cup.

{Season the chicken with the 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate}. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, water, lime juice, Chili’s, rice, and oregano, then return the chicken to the pan.

Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and simmer until the chicken shows no sign of pink when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife near the bone, about 40 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, keep the soup at a simmer. Remove and discard the skin and bones, and shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken into the soup. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and garnish to your heart’s content. Warm flour tortillas dip nicely.

Serves 4 to 6.


beachy keenTomorrow I am going to go back to consuming more berries and lettuce than bread and butter. It’s about to be winter here in SC, and the next phase of my fast has started. If you see me, I’ll be wearing one of 7 things. More on that later this week… have a happy one!


Leggo my fake-Eggo

One of my two Black Friday purchases (both ordered from Amazon whilst I wore my jammies), was a waffle maker.

Randa Rose looooves her some waffles in the morning. And because I am a good mom, I used to buy Eggos. And because I am a health-conscious mom, for awhile I bought Simply Eggos, because they were made from wholesome ingredients and not preservatives. And because I am a frugal mom, I wasn’t too disappointed when I couldn’t find those anymore, because there were more expensive. And alas, because I am an online-savvy mom, I bought my sweet little red waffle maker for a steal. (I don’t remember how much. That was 2 very full weeks ago).

I thought it would be a no-brainer, that I’d mix up a batch of batter that would leap from the pages of my 22 year old copy of Better Homes and Gardens cookbook into the greased plates of the waffle iron and magically transform into what Eggos tasted like when I was a kid.

Instead, for 2 batches now, I’ve gotten uneven, slightly doughy, not overly tasty squares with divets.

Randa… Looooves them.

Apparently, waffles are a matter of trial and error as well as personal taste. I have now made 2 batches and am testing different oils, different ways to grease the plates, and my own patience. We will have homemade, healthy waffles that taste better than the stupid, marked-up Eggos if it’s the last thing I do.

You’re sensing all the metaphors, right? Because I am way too tired tonight to spell them out for you.

But I am holding up a syrupy fork to you, dear reader. Here’s to do-overs and sweet additions that make plain ol’ nothings taste better.

Friday night lights out

Raise your hand (or  your thumb) if you’re thankful it’s Friday!


I’m thankful that Rod is now home with us for the next 2 weeks. I’m thankful for the effort spent to ‘coupon through’ our Thanksgiving holiday. And clearly, I am 35ish and no longer 21ish, because I am really, really thankful for a Friday night at home to catch up on our “programs” (can you hear me, Jen?) and to tst out one of my favorite new recipes in a long time. It is perfect Friday night food!~

Friday Sliders
1 lb ground meat (I used venison – thanks Tony & Vicki!)
.5 pound pork sausage
.5 pound HOT pork sausage
.5 brick of Velveeta (I wish I could quit you…)

Cut Velveeta into cubes. Brown and drain the meat, and return it to pan. Add the Velveeta and cook until it is melted and the meat is a bit saucy. Spread on Hawaiian dinner rolls. (Or maybe sandwich between 2 Hostess Honey Buns while you still can!) We set out all kinds of fun condiments to go with these…onions, pickles, jalepenos, mayo, mustard, ketchup. We didn’t use any. These were so dang good.

Served with a steamed bag of mixed veggies. Pumpkin cookies for dessert. Bedtime!


I am also thankful that Rod is sitting at the kitchen table singing all kinds of random cool songs while I type this, and that our dear friend Ms. Wanda is all done with surgeries and on the road to recovery. She’s pretty necessary to a whole bunch of us!



For the longest time, we were either travelling or working on Saturdays.

It taught us to really, really love Saturdays at home.

Today Miranda had “the coolest birthday party ever,” at Build-a-Bear (and she got to BUILD a reindeer!), so since we had to drive all the way up to Broadway at the Beach, KK got to pick what she wanted to do. And she picked the “rides.” That kid. So for 12.50, she rode 4 lame little carnival rides…and smiled big the whole time.

KK & I half-crashed the party by catching up with it at Ben & Jerry’s. We didn’t sit with the group or eat the cake, but we did get ice cream. The first time I ever had Ben & Jerry’s was at my friend Shelly’s house in junior high. It was chocolate chip cookie dough. I always love to try new things, but today I went back to basics. That was one good cone.

When we got home, Rod had accomplished a bunch of little things around the house… diagnosing the Noise in the Van (new brakes Tuesday…), changing filters, throwing out the rotten pumpkin, and training Max to bark and poop ONLY in the neighbor’s yard. Just kidding. But I sort of want to (that’s another story). (and the neighbors on the other side are awesome).

We decided to cook out, and for this, I needed to go to the store for More Pork Chops. Then I decided I needed to take advantage of some sales. So I asked for 30 minutes to “coupon” (Yes. The verb. Who am I?) Mostly, I wanted to take advantage of a sale on Butterball turkey, ’cause the day is coming! Anyway, I felt so good about my planning and purchases that I decided to take my first Couponing Picture. I am nowhere near the extreme or champion money-savers, but I saved about as much as I spent, and I feel pretty good about that. Everything in the photo above (including 14 pound turkey) = 41.55. Rod’s thumbs-up was free.

Turns out we ran out of gas, and nothing stops a cookout quicker than that. All this meant was I had to fry the pork chops instead. Allow me to pause and say:
1) My husband is one lucky man.
2) These baked potatoes were perfect.
3) The rub I use for grilled pork chops is also good when mixed with flour to fry them:

Pork Rub
1 teaspoon each:
Chili powder
Garlic powder

– Mix together, rub. Or mix together with 2 cups flour for batter. Should be enough for 2 pounds. Hardly counts as a recipe, but we all love it.

Sigh. Is there anything more civilized after dinner than a nice cup of coffee? I allowed myself to buy fake creamer because I had a coupon, and because, well, salted caramel….

My traveling man had a long, hard week and is facing another. This was nap #2 today.

He will wake up in time to take me to see this. Craig. Daniel Craig. I mean, um, the new Bond movie.

~happy weekend!