Shepherds Pie

Well, it has been forever since I last posted! So much has happened I could spend an entire post just on the last year and half. Mark and I welcomed a new addition to our family! Miss Annabeth was born last fall and she has been such a blessing to our family.

Miss Annabeth

Miss Annabeth

Well, I decided to come and post today because I really wanted to share this recipe for Shepherds Pie with you. For years, I was the person who refused to eat Shepherds Pie. Individually I like every ingredient that it takes to make Shepherds Pie; however, every time I saw Shepherds Pie it looked like pig slop. Mark; however, is a huge fan of Shepherds Pie.

I try really hard to make things that Mark likes, specially when I am on the hunt for a new recipe to try at home. This past fall I was on the hunt for a recipe. Something new. Something I had never made before. As I was searching through the hundreds of recipes I have saved in my Pinterest account I kept coming back to this recipe for Shepherds Pie.

The picture alone looked amazing and I was in the mood to try something new. So, I decided to jump in with both feet and make my own Shepherds Pie. As always, I added quite a few of my own tweaks to the recipe to make it “my own” and OMG I could not believe just how good it turned out! We devoured the entire pot in a two day time span.

The original recipe called for making the pies in individual serving dishes; however, a majority of the time I make this I use a large 7 quart cast iron dutch oven and just make one big pot of it. Either way — one big pot or individual serving dishes — works great. (I like the one big pot because it ends up being less dishes to do after dinner is done!!!)

Since then I have made this Shepherds Pie dozens of times throughout the fall and winter. As a note, the leftovers are just as good! Mark and I usually end up fighting over the last little bit of leftovers left.


Shepherds Pie

For the Meat Base:
1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef (you can use Ground Turkey if you want)
1 Large Sweet Onion, chopped
2 cups Carrots, chopped
2 cups Cabbage, chopped
2 cups Celery, chopped
1 Head of Garlic, chopped
1 bag Frozen Peas
2-3 Tbsp Fresh Thyme
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Oregano
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp Ketchup
1 Package Concentrated Beef Stock
Salt and Pepper

For the Potatoes:
6 Large Russet Potatoes, skinned, cooked and mashed
3/4 cup Milk
3/4 cup Havarti Cheese, grated
3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, grated
3/4 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large 7 quart dutch oven heat 1 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery; and sautee until the carrots begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 Tbsp of the garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes. Add the cabbage and the frozen peas. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Sautee the mixture for 2-3 minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat bring the peeled and diced potatoes to a boil. Boil the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes or until they are fork tender. Once done drain the potatoes and put them in a large mixing bowl. (I start the potatoes at the same time I start cooking the vegetables.)

Using the same dutch over, over medium heat add the ground beef to the pan. Brown the meat until cooked. Once the meat is cooked add the remaining garlic and the fresh Thyme to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and the concentrated beef stock.

Mix the meat mixture with the vegetable mixture and stir until well combined. Spread the meat and vegetable mixture evenly in the bottom of the dutch oven and set aside.

Take the mixing bowl with the potatoes and add in all but 1/2 cup of the cheese and the milk. Mash well until combined.  Spread the potatoes evenly across the meat/vegetable mixture. Garnish the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until the sides are bubbling. If the top has not browned while cooking you can use the broiler on high for 1-2 minutes to brown the top of the potatoes. Be careful not to burn the potatoes using the broiler though!

Remove the pot from from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Try serving with a great side roll like the Cheddar Bay Biscuits!

Source: adapted from STL Cooks

Chicken Marbella

Boy things have been busy for Mark and I lately!  Earlier in November we traveled to the Washington D.C. area to watch my younger sister graduate from college and then a week later we took off to Florida for a week to see family over Thanksgiving.  Mark and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year.  For the first time ever I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my Aunt, Uncle and Grandma from Florida.  Being with my extended family over the holidays is always a great reminder about what is important in life!  I hope each and everyone of you had a great Thanksgiving.

While in Florida we were able to see my Sister-In-Law and her family who live right outside Orlando.  Since we flew into Orlando we decided that we would have dinner and stay the night with then before taking off to the Tampa area for Thanksgiving. We arrived in town around 6:00 pm and as we walked into their house  this amazing smell instantly smacked you right in the face.  With the amazing smells that were coming from the kitchen I could have sworn my sister-in-law had to have been in the kitchen all day long slaving away cooking dinner.

As we sat down to eat she pulled a large baking dish out of the oven that had chicken swimming in a sauce with prunes and olives that she put in the middle of the table.  I sat there almost drooling on myself it smells and looked so good!  After saying grace we dug in and I have to say that this is one of the best chicken dishes I have ever eaten.  The chicken is amazingly moist and tender to the point where it just falls apart with your fork.  The sauce — oh the sauce — I was literally spooning the sauce right out of the pan and into my mouth it was that delicious.

Since getting home a little over a week ago I have already made this dish twice.  Yes, I promise you it is that good!  My sister-in-law served this with smashed potatoes but I love serving it with rice.  Spooning the sauce over the rice just gives the rice this amazing flavor that even Mark — who is not a fan of rice — cannot get enough of!

A few notes — make sure you marinate the chicken overnight.  Do not take a short cut and try to make this recipe all in one night.  I promise you it will not taste the same and marinading the chicken is easy and completely worth it!  Plus it means that all you have to do is pull the chicken out, put it in the baking dish and bake for about an hour and — Ta Da — an amazing dinner with basically no effort!  The original recipe calls for using chicken breasts and I know a lot of people use regular chicken thighs or legs; however, Mark does not like chicken with the bone in it and I do not think the chicken breast gets as tender as the boneless thighs while cooking.  If you are going to back this dish with bone-in chicken you will need to add additional cooking time.

I know without a doubt this is coming to become a staple in our monthly meal rotation.  I am already dreaming of the leftovers sitting in the fridge waiting to be reheated for dinner tonight!



Chicken Marbella
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10 boneless chicken thighs
1 head of garlic, chopped
¼ cup dried oregano
Salt and pepper
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
¾ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers, with 1-2 tablespoons of the caper juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white wine

In a large bowl add the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, prunes, green olives, capers and bay leaves and stir to combine.   Add the chicken thighs and stir to cover the chicken with the marinade.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a 9×13 pan arrange the chicken in a single layer and spoon the marinade over the chicken evenly.  Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the chicken and the pour the white wine over the top of the chicken.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, basting once or twice while baking.  Once chicken is thoroughly cooked, enjoy!

Source: a recipe  by Harrison and Sydney Autebach in a Taste of Home Cooking Cookbook.  

Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese — There is nothing more comforting on a cold fall day than a hot bowl of macaroni and cheese.

The other day was a typical fall day here in Michigan.  It was cold, wet, and windy.  Mark is only a month away from his first marathon — I am so proud of him and all the training he has been doing — and had an 18 mile training run to do.  Knowing that a good bowl of hearty, warm and comforting macaroni and cheese would be perfect for dinner I set off on my Pinterest boards to see what recipe spoke to me.  For weeks now I had been looking at this Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese and when I came across again I knew instantly this was the one I wanted to make.  What is more delicious than bacon with pasta????  Although I have to say — I am partial to recipes that are filled with butter and cream — Paul Dean was right when she said “butter makes everything better!” — this recipe has zero butter and zero cream.  Ekk, I said to myself!  How can you make a hearty and rich macaroni and cheese without butter or cream?

Bacon and Pea Mac & Cheese

Knowing that Mark likes to watch what he eats I decided to take the plunge and make this “healthier” version of macaroni and cheese.  I did add more bacon and more cheese to the recipe, so in reality I probably cancelled out the fact that there is no cream or butter — opps!  This macaroni and cheese is amazing!  Even using yogurt it is rich, cheesy, and oh so comforting.  The peas add the perfect bite of sweetness to the mixture and the bacon adds a nice crunch and flavor to the mixture.  This will absolutely become a regular meal in the Reckling household!!!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Bacon and Pea Mac n' Cheese

Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese
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8 ounces Penne Pasta
8 ounces Frozen Peas
8 slices Thick Cut Bacon, cooked & cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
5 ounces White Cheddar Cheese, shredded
5 ounces Fontina Cheese, shredded
Hot Sauce

In a large stock pot cook the penne pasta in well salted water according to the directions on the pasta package.  When there is one minute left on the pasta add the peas into the pasta water.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat add save one cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta and the peas in a strainer.  Return the pasta and the peas into the large stock pot once drained.

Add the yogurt, a few dashes of the hot sauce (to your taste), about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and about 1/3 of the grated cheese.  Stir the mixture until the cheese has melted.  Slowly stir in the remaining cheese by adding in small handfuls of cheese at a time.  If you add too much cheese at once the mixture will probably clump.  If you need to thin and melt the cheese slowly add a small amount of pasta water as needed.

Add the bacon and season the macaroni and cheese with salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well and serve immediately.

Source: adapted slightly from Confections of a Foodie Bride