Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall Cooking

This week's menu definitely reflected my excitement about the cooler temps. I love what fall means in the kitchen: soups, cinnamon-scented baked goods, heartier meals, fresh apples...and finally, it's not too stinkin' hot to enjoy cooking. (I must admit I am a little sad to say goodbye to strawberries, though!)

So, on tap this week: Italian Wedding Soup, Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings, Shepherd's Pie, Tilapia (my first attempt...we'll know tomorrow how it turned out) and Chili Chicken Tacos.

Last night we enjoyed the Shepherd's Pie, also a first for me. The recipe was great for anyone who works outside the home. Phil and I actually made both the filling and the topping the night before, refrigerated them seperately and then all I had to do last night was put them together and pop it in the oven.

C also enjoys time in the kitchen. Last night, he made a salad with lettuce, spinach, diced apple (I cut those), halved grapes (he did these), cranberries and honey roasted almonds. It may have been better than my Shepherd's Pie.

This recipe makes at least 8 servings. (Next time, I may make a 1/2 recipe.) We'll be eating it around our house for a few more days! Oh, and one other recommendation: Season the meat/vegetable mixture liberally with salt and pepper.

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie (from Everyday Food)

2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.
Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.
Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.