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Is it Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie?

Most people call this dish “Shepherd’s Pie”. Period.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

There are food purists out there that will argue you on this, though… and here’s the real titles, as far as my research shows:

COTTAGE Pie= beef

SHEPHERD Pie = lamb

FYI… This is cottage pie.

This is common fare for us in the winter, and especially in the month of March around St. Patrick’s Day.  I know, I know… shouldn’t it have been corned beef and hash? Alas, this is probably where the other parts of my genetic make-up take over. Can’t stand corned beef.  So I this is a classic dish, British-Isles-Ish, that I feel good about eating on March 17th.

And yes, I’m late posting it. But I’m making it again in a week or so… so see. You don’t have to only eat it for St. Patrick’s Day.

I also love it for the following reasons:

  1. Cheap. It can be as cheap as you need it to be… however…
  2. You can definitely “take it up a notch.”

I would argue that “taking it up a notch” doesn’t really keep true to its roots in the British Isles, BUT, it does seem to better appease our American taste buds.

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds Ground Beef
Potatoes – about 4-6 russet potatoes, preferably, peeled and chopped
2 tbl butter, 1/2 c milk (for making mashed potatoes)
2-3 tbl Butter (for saute veggies, as needed)
Sprinkle of ground sage
1 tsp thyme
1 Onion (small), chopped
4 Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cups Peas
Splash of whiskey (for deglazing, but you could use additional broth instead)
1/4 c broth (or water)
Salt/Pepper

TAKIN’ IT UP A NOTCH…

One small can of tomato paste
Shredded cheddar cheese – about 1/2 cup

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 400*.

Brown your beef and chop your veggies.  This is almost always my first step, because I like to use the fat leftover from your beef to saute the veggies… I’m big into waste not, want not.

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While your beef is browning, bring a pot of water to boil for your potatoes.  Once it’s boiling, drop in your peeled chopped potatoes.  You are making mashed potatoes to top off the pie.

After the beef is browned, use a slotted spoon to remove.  If you can do it quickly, you don’t need to reduce to heat (keep the fat simmering).  Then, plop in your onions, carrots, sage, and thyme.  You may need to add more butter to prevent sticking.

After they’ve sauteed for about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper generously, but if you plan to use salted broth for deglazing and/or later in the recipe, just go easy if you don’t like things over salted.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Once the onions and carrots are tender, put the beef back in with the onion, carrots and herbs, and splash your whiskey (you can use broth if no whiskey).  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of your pan.  This makes the food divine.  I do not joke. Do not skip this step of deglazing!

I like to think using whiskey makes it more authentic. I mean, we ARE trying to tie ourselves to Irish, roots, aye?

Now add your peas. Fry up for a few minutes until they start to thaw.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Add your meat and broth (or water) Bring to a boil and you want to ensure your peas are cooked all the way through if you’re using frozen (which is pretty much what I always do).  If you used canned you probably don’t want to cook as long as they don’t turn to complete mush.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Once the liquid is reduced some, peas are cooked, dump your veggie beef mix in the largest pan you have.

Now, about this time, those potatoes are tender and falling apart in your pot.  Strain them, mash ’em up with butter and milk.

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This is the only tricky part to the recipe: Dollup the potatoes around the beef and then spread it out, as if frosting a cake.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

Cover your dish and cook for about 20 minutes.  Peek at it.  If you’re using a clear glass dish, you should see the liquid boiling inside.  This is a good sign.

Uncover the dish, and put it back in the oven.  Let it cook for another 5-10 minutes.  This is really for however crispy/browned you want your mashed potatoes.  (The good news of course is that all the ingredients are actually cooked before you put it in the oven.  It’s entirely safe to eat, if you like.  This is just more about “melding the flavors.”)

TAKING IT UP A NOTCH:

Right before putting your beef+veggie mix into the pan, mix in one can of tomato paste.  Probably not authentically Irish, but I llllooovvveeee the flavor it adds.

After you’ve spread the mashed potatoes on top as described above, sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top of the potatoes and then cover.  When you remove your cover/lid/foil during the bake process, you can watch the cheese to how melty/brown you like.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

For THIS time, I added the cheese.  We can’t go wrong with cheese in this house.

This is what it looks like, pulled out of the oven after a total of 25 minutes (5 uncovered).

fter you've spread the mashed potatoes on top as described above, sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top of the potatoes and then cover.  When you remove your cover/lid/foil during the bake process, you can watch the cheese to how melty/brown you like.

This is what it looks like served, and about to be devoured, like the true Irish woman I am. I adore potatoes (check out this and this and this if you don’t believe me). I love them sooooo much.

Cottage Pie - Foodies Gone Real

 

 

Cinnamon Granola a.k.a. Best Granola of Your Life

We love cereal in this house.

Cinnamon Granola - Foodies Gone Real

But I am faced… EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN’ MONTH making the same choices everyone else makes: spend less on food and eat ingredients that aren’t as beneficial, or spend more on food and sacrifice something else.  Sometimes, I don’t have a choice. Medical bills from ongoing issues (story here), car repairs you don’t expect, the vacuum cleaner breaks. You know, life. And then it means we have to eat cheap because if I don’t have the money, I DON’T HAVE THE MONEY.

And you all know what I’m talkin’ about.

Now, I have my methods around this. First off, Aldi’s, y’all. ALDI’S. This store saves me. In the perfect world I would be a perfect locavore. But… when it feels like everything breaks in your home at the same time and the family still has to eat… Aldi’s. I’ve told you all before how this store makes up for my imperfect life.

So back to my cereal… the ingredient lists are mostly disheartening.  And if the ingredient list is not disheartening, then the price tag is… I can guarantee it. Do I sacrifice ingredients or my money?

My work around: granola.

Oats are CHEAP. I throw in nuts when I have them (a.k.a. can afford them) but you can easily sub in more oats instead. Run out of milk already? Sub in more water. I use coconut oil (back to finding something awesome at Aldi’s!) but you can put in whatever oil/butter you have on hand.  You can make this what you want and as expensive OR cheap as you desire.

Cinnamon Granola - Foodies Gone Real

INGREDIENTS:

  • 10 Cups of Rolled Oats
  • 1 Cup of Slivered Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup of Melted Coconut Oil
  • 4 Cups of Warm Water (just not ice cold…. does funky stuff to that oil)
  • 1 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup of Whole Milk
  • 1.5 Cups of Sweetener of Choice
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tbl Cinnamon (or Pumpkin Pie Spice is great, too!)
  • Good Dash of Salt

TOOLS:

  • Large Bowl for Mix, one that you can seal up for several hours (cling wrap is fine)
  • Dehydrator OR You can use the oven (see instructions further down on this)

DIRECTIONS:

Okay, so are you ready for this: MIX ALL THE INGREDIENTS THOROUGHLY.  Let it sit on your counter at room temperature for about 7-8 hours. (You can let it sit for longer if you need to!)

YES.

You read that right.  That’s all you gotta do before the cooking.

I recommend covering it… but really just to ward of bugs and hands who want to taste it early.

Cinnamon Granola - Foodies Gone Real

Now onto the cooking part:  You’ll need to cook this one of two ways:  either a dehydrator on its highest setting or an oven.   I’ve made it both ways, my preference is a dehydrator.  I own this dehydrator and L-O-V-E it.  You can buy it new, you can also buy it used. I mean… I am talking about saving money here. I asked for one for Christmas a few years ago and my dear, sweet husband who knows his wife’s heart found a used one, in good condition, on ebay.  You do what you gotta do.

1) You can leave it in a dehydrator for days and it won’t go bad.  Don’t have time to deal with it right then? It’s fine.  Leave it (you’ll just keep using electricity).
2) It doesn’t burn.
3) No stirring required or watching.
4) It takes about 6 hours at the highest temperature on the dehydrator.

If you use an oven, preheat to 350* and spread it as thin as you can across at least two cookie sheets. You have to watch it, take it out and stir frequently. (And taste frequently!) This method will work, it’s just more time intensive.  You can’t put it in and walk away like you can with the dehydrator… you need to stir it about every 15 minutes until it’s just starting to crunch when you taste-test it.  In my experience this can take an about an hour, but will depend on how thin you spread your granola across baking sheets.

You can store your in an airtight container… for a couple of weeks.

Here’s how I usually do it: I start the granola in the morning sometime.  In the evening, I put it on the dehydrator.  The next morning… viola. Breakfast ready.

No yucky ingredients.  I mean, you know exactly what’s in it.  You’ve got around 12 cups of crunchy goodness for breakfast. Depending on appetites and family size, this can carry you for quite some time!

We eat it like cereal… but is great with the traditional yogurt, too. Enjoy your money-saving treat as we do.  My girls say it’s the best granola of their life.

Cinnamon Granola - Foodies Gone Real

 

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

Ramen, a Slurpy Soup

So, I love soups.  I would eat them every day.  I love broth ones, porridge ones, creamy ones.  In a box with a fox, in a house with a mouse.

My wonderful, long-suffering Italian husband… he’ll eat them. He’s a good sport. But he doesn’t love them.

I love Asian food.  I’m a military brat who spent a total of 6 years of her childhood on Okinawa (and some other random places, too). I grew up in a home that appreciated this “ethnic” food, and we ate it frequently.

My wonderful, long-suffering Italian husband… he’ll eat it. He’s a good sport.  But he doesn’t love it.

UNTIL.

Homemade ramen soup.

Ramen, A Slurpy Soup - Foodies Gone Real

He actually asks for this. I’m not entirely convinced it’s because it has a pasta-like carb in it ;-) but for us… happy medium when I’m craving Asian and he’s not feeling so tolerable to my other dishes. Like cabbage stir-fry or fried rice.

Now, my disclaimer is this: there is probably going to be some ramen purist out there that will claim I didn’t do this the correct way.  You’re probably right.  There’s likely many restaurants out there that could make this more authentically.  However… this foodie is on a budget. With legit health concerns over the food I eat. So I think this is a balanced compromise.

We start this soup like any other soup or stew-like food, like my chicken soup, chili, or even stroganoff – frying the onions in butter. You can create no better base than this!

INGREDIENTS:

butter, for sauteing
1 small onion, or about 1 c. chopped
1 medium carrot
1 pound of ground pork… as best sourced as you can afford
1 clove garlic (or two!)
1/2 c. san-j soy sauce (I can’t recommend any other brand)
1 tsp. ground ginger
dash red pepper flakes
ground pepper to test
5 cups water (or broth)
1 cup frozen peas, optional (but delicious!)

Note on the veggies: by all means… feel free to increase them. I often do, to increase vegetable intake

Other items:
ramen noodles
hard-boiled egg, at least 1/2 per person
chopped scallions or chives
diced carrots, mushrooms… lots of topping ideas. We usually stick to green onions, but if you know you have a favorite asian topping, I promise you can add it and it will be fine!
And… I recommend chopsticks :)

DIRECTIONS:

Do your thing with the butter, onions and carrots.  I would recommend using a big pot or dutch oven.  Also, side note, this smells like heaven. If you were slightly hungry before starting, now you’re likely salivating.

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Remove the vegetables (I use a slotted spoon) once they are softened (they don’t have to be mushy… you’re going to boil it later) and brown the the ground pork.  DO NOT SALT IT. If you’re a home cook and you’ve done browning meat any length of time, a lot of recipes call for salting it.  You will regret it because of that soy sauce that’s coming on later.  However, feel free to go nuts with the pepper. The soup can be as spicy or peppery as you want, so do this as what you feel is appropriate for your tastes.

Ramen, A Slurpy Soup - Foodies Gone Real

Now that the pork is browned, add the veggies back in.  Sprinkle on the ginger and red pepper flakes.  Stir and let it saute for just a minute.  Now you may add the soy sauce.

Use the soy sauce to scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot … this is also called deglazing.  You want the brown bits because it adds flavor. I promise it’s true, because the depth is not as great if you tried to clean it off (and not use it) and then continue cooking with a clean pot.

Add your water.  You could use broth… wouldn’t hurt.  However, if it’s salted you might run into issues make the soup too salty.

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Throw in your peas if you’re using … and begin the boil.

Now while this is boiling, I recommend doing the following:

  1. get your hard-boiled eggs ready, if necessary
  2. get your ramen noodles ready
  3. chop your garnish

I know there are guides out there for how to boil eggs. I just use this sucker (check it out here). Love it. Had it for years and it was a cheapy kitchen spontaneous buy.

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You want to boil the soup for about 10 minutes, (this is about cooking the veggies the rest of the way), then let it simmer for another 15 minutes or so.  Just honestly, you could rush this. Or draw it out.  Whatever you are working with in time. I wouldn’t recommend letting it simmer for an hour or anything… I think the peas and carrots would go to mush. Unless you like that kind of thing… then knock yourself out.

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Now here’s how it’s going to vary… prepping whatever ramen you’re using. I use gluten-free ramen noodles. I’m still not over this… my ITALIAN HUSBAND LOVES THESE THINGS. 1) They’re Asian and 2) they’re rice (not wheat). My noodles call for me to boil them for a very short amount of time, then run then under cold water. I just have to tell you… if you buy them and they say to run it under cold water…. DON’T SKIP IT. It prevents them from cooking further and not turning gross and mushy. The benefit of the soup still simmering is that once I drop the noodles in, it rewarms them! It works beautifully.

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Because I have to limit my carb intake, I do not put 4 servings of ramen noodles in the big pot once they’re done.  I ladle out the soup into individual bowls then put in the cooked pasta as per our carb preferences.  (You can buy a big pack of these noodles here.)

And then… top it.  That egg, y’all. THAT EGG. And those scallions. I really wouldn’t skip these garnishes!

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Isn’t this soup great and forgiving? it really is what you want it to be. Maybe that’s why my Italian husband loves it, too.

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DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$.

Cajun Beans + Rice, and Fish If Ya Want It

In this house, we do SPICE.

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Sometimes, we enjoy a good tongue-burning experience, and I ain’t lying.

We do flavor.  This is not a surprise if you’ve followed for awhile… chilisloppy joesBBQ saucechicken wings… even pumpkin pie oatmeal.  All of this oozes flavor.

This is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite “I need something quick and easy” meals.  It’s quick and easy because beans are already cooked, rice takes so little time to prep, and fish cooks QUICKLY. You don’t have to add the fish to make it enjoyable, but it helps us move towards the “one meal in one pan” kind of thing.  (It’s not an entire meal in one skillet though. Eat your veggies!  You could always saute some green peppers and onions to throw in!)

I do cook a large pot of beans regularly, and then freeze it into smaller portions.  This is WAY WAY WAY cheaper than canned beans, and healthier too.  When you soak and cook them, you reduce the phytic acid (which prevents you from absorbing nutrition), and consequently you are less gassy. :)  (You’re welcome!)

I do this in a crockpot.  If you’d like more information on my process, you can read about it here in this post from Deep Roots at Home.  (Or just google it.  There’s LOTS of info out there on soaking beans.)

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Personally, it’s better to do it in large amounts, which is why I go with the crockpot.  It’s not labor intensive, just takes time (as does all good/real food!).

My finished beans:

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Here are the basic ingredients:

Fish filet (This pictures 4 small Cod filet)
butter for frying (go grass-fed! it’s the healthy butter!)
1 cup prepared rice
1/2 cup prepared beans (pictured are kidney beans)
1/2 to 1 tbl favorite cajun spice blend (depending on your favored level of spice! we do 1 tbl and it’s pretty hot)

Fry up your fish in the butter.

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Throw in your rice and beans.

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Mix them together (the fish will likely fall apart, but that’s ok!), and sprinkle your spice mix, and mix until well combined.

You may have to add more butter as you go to prevent sticking.  I definitely had to as I was using stainless steel, not cast iron.

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And voila! Yes, it’s that easy.

We served ours with some of my much loved roasted tomatoes with cheese. (And I really wish I had thought of green peppers and onions before writing this post! That would be a phenomenal add!)

Do you do spice? Flavor?  What’s your favorite flavor explosion?

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Changes and Biscuits

This recipe was created out of a desire to make a gluten-free goody for a special occasion where the person honored is on a strict no-gluten diet.

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And then real life happened, and I find myself cutting gluten to deal with an ongoing issue that COULD be chronic if I don’t nip it now.

So now… this recipe is for me, too.

Let’s be real, here:  gluten-free flours are expensive.  If you’re accustomed to a food budget that uses conventional flour, switching that out can really take a chunk out of what you eat/make.  Some people increase what they’re willing to spend on food when needing to go gluten-free, others cut most carbs out entirely.  And I know that there’s that whole logic, “you pay for it now with more expensive food OR you pay for it later with increased health issues and medical bills”… but y’all, that just doesn’t work for people who REALLY don’t have the extra money.  If you have $400 leftover in a month to spend on groceries for two people, then you ONLY HAVE $400.  I have to tell you, $400 for two people to eat real food is not impossible, but it can definitely be tricky.  Telling someone with only an extra $400 to “pay for it now or pay for it later” is just simply faulty logic.  We can’t certainly expect to advise people to go into debt in order to eat.

(Insert a thoughtful pause.  I understand that the last statement could be construed to be political.  I don’t think so.  It’s called stewardship.  Read my rant on that here.)

So, here I am, trying to go gluten-free.  Rest assured, it’s a legitimate health issue.  I’m not doing this on a self-diagnosed (aka hypochondriac’s introspection) logic.  I’m doing this from a place where a doctor told me my body is NOT doing what it’s supposed to.

It’s not a “new” topic to discuss how I manage a strict food budget that consumes 90% real food (no processed, additives, GMO-free, etc.).  I don’t expect I’ll make these often… because again, pound for pound, gluten-free flour is expensive.

Needless to say… it was a FABULOUS treat.  They freeze AND thaw well! This was about as close to a “real” biscuit as it gets!  And if you’re wondering if it’s possible to have a gluten-free biscuit that tastes like a “real” one… ask my taste-testers… a.k.a. my biggest picky eaters. (Yes. They cleaned the bowl afterwards.)

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INGREDIENTS:

2c gluten free flour, plus extra for dusting your hands
4tbl salted grass-fed butter (this version is HEALTHY. Please don’t get me all wound up about dairy fat.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 plain whole milk yogurt
3/4 c whole milk

DIRECTIONS:

Mix your flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda in one bowl.  With a fork or pastry cutter, cut in the butter.

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Mix in your yogurt and milk.

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Grease your cookie sheet.  I used butter.  What isn’t improved with butter?

Dust your hands with flour, and make a 2″ ball of dough, then flatten it out a little bit.

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Space them well on your greased baking sheet.

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Bake at 425* for 10 minutes.  And VOILA! Biscuits.

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