Shepherd’s Pie that is really Cottage Pie

imageThere it is in all it's glory.

So I found out from Wikipedia that Shepherd’s Pie is only called Shepherd’s Pie when it is made with mutton or lamb. I had to google what mutton was, and that is any meat that comes from a sheep. However, not just any sheep. Lamb is a young sheep, under 1 year old that does not have any permanent incisor teeth. A hogget is a sheep that is male or female with no more than 2 permanent incisors. A mutton is a female sheep (ewe) OR a castrated male sheep (wether) having more than two permanent incisors. And all this time I thought there was just lamb.

Anyway, I love shepherd’s pie, but I don’t love it with lamb. I prefer lamb in the form of a chop with a nice Cabernet reduction poured all over it. I always make my Shepherd’s Pie with ground beef, but I learned something today. Although the name has been used interchangeably, when Shepherd’s Pie is made with meat other than lamb or mutton, it is actually called Cottage Pie.

Apparently around 1791, the potato was being introduced as an edible crop that was affordable for poor folks. This meal was a way to use leftover roasted meat- a pie dish was lined with mashed potato filled with meat, and topped again with mashed potato. It got the name Cottage Pie because poor people typically lived in cottages, and well, because they baked it like a pie.

It wasn’t until 1877 that Shepherd’s Pie began to appear in cookbooks, this time with lamb or mutton, because shepherds are concerned with sheep and not cows.

So now I know that it is actually Cottage Pie, unless I make it with lamb or mutton. Which I won’t, ever, so there it is. But I haven’t quite come to terms with the name Cottage Pie, so for today we are going to just call it Shepherd’s Pie, but know that it is really Cottage Pie. Also, I am adding bacon, so that just throws everything off.

Before you freak out if you are coming here for Paleo recipes and you see that there are mashed potatoes, first, what Robb has to say here about potatoes, and second read  this post from The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate, and third, keep reading…

Because The Hubs and The Kiddo love mashed potatoes, I decided to make half mashed potatoes half sweet potatoes. Please note, I typically use the names yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably. I rarely call anything a yam and call everything a sweet potato. However, I always have both in the kitchen. Sometimes I like cooking with the ‘orange’ one sometimes the ‘yellowish white’ one. Today I chose the white one since it closely resembles a potato when mashed. If you are looking for Paleo recipes and didn’t like what Robb Wolf, or the Primal Palate had to say about potatoes, simply don’t use them. The great thing about this recipe is I made it half and half- you can choose which half fits your eating, and if both halves have a place in your kitchen and in your tummy, then you get to taste two different versions of delicious. But either way this is definitely a gluten free Shepherd’s Pie!

What you will need:

  • 7 pieces of bacon (I used 1 package of Trader Joe’s Apple-wood smoked bacon)
  • 1 large carrot or 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 large celery stick or 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 leek, dark green part removed (only use the white and light green part when chopping)
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 6 yukon gold potatos
  • 1.5 #’s of ground beef
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Unsalted seat cream butter or grassfed butter (optional)
  • garlic salt with parsley, 4-6 fresh chives, heavy whipping cream (optional for mashed potatoes)
  • sea salt and ground pepper

If you decide to use mashed potatoes that’s great, I will include my mashed potato recipe. If you choose to eliminate mashed potatoes then increase to 3 large sweet potatoes.

I am very lazy when it comes to peeling potatoes. So I don’t do it. Instead, I cut the sweet potatoes in half and pop them in the pressure cooker, on high pressure, for 13 minutes.

When they are finished, the skin is a bit loose and easy to peel off. If you are burning the tips of your fingers off, you can also use a fork to loosen and unravel the skin.

At the same time as the sweat potatoes are cooking in the pressure cooker, I boil the Yukon gold potatoes. Those too I easily peel after. *note, if your potato skins aren’t quite loose after boiling, which they should be, you can run them under cold water for a few seconds and this will help loosen them up.

So much better than using the f’ing potato peeler for 107 minutes before hand, right??

For the sweet potatoes, you can add 2 tablespoons of grassfed or unsalted sweet cream butter, but this is optional if you don’t include butter in your cooking. I think it is delicious when melted in a sweet potato! Once you have peeled them all, get out your hand mixer and whip them up! I don’t do any mashing beforehand, you can, but it is not needed. After coming out of the pressure cooker they are nice and soft and can be mashed easily with the hand mixer.

You want to whip them for 1-3 minutes or until creamy.

Set those aside and move on to the mashers (if you aren’t including mashers, skip this step). Add 3 tablespoons of butter, about 1/3 cup (a little more is ok) of heavy whipping cream, 3-4 shakes of your garlic salt with parsley, a pinch or two of pepper, and 4-6 diced chives.

And whip up with your handy hand mixer…

…until deliciously creamy.

Set both the mashers aside.

In 1 pan, brown your ground beef. Do not add any seasoning because we will be adding other flavors later, and the saltiness you get from the bacon will be flavorful. I always say, peeps eating your food can always season more after the food is finished, but will not eat it if it tastes like a salt lick. Just brown, do not complete the cooking of the ground beef.

Set that aside, and warm a pan on medium heat. Dice up your bacon…

… and put it in the pan. Yes my knife is pink. Don’t be jealous. It is also very, very sharp. Cook the bacon until it is just shy of the perfect doneness for your tastes where you want to just stick your hand in the pan, burning oil or not, and grab a delicious handful. I say just shy because it will get a few more minutes of cooking in a minute, and I hate burnt or overly crispy bacon.

Scoop it out and set it aside on some paper towels.

Save a tablespoon or two of bacon grease in your pan.

While your bacon is cooking, or after it is finished if you are not savy at kitchen multi-tasking, you want to dice up your carrot, celery, and leek. Or if you are lazy, and had already bought the already chopped carrots and celery from Whole Foods, then measure out about a cup of each, and add a couple more chops to it. We don’t want it super chunky.

With your left-over bacon grease on warm, add and saute your chopped up 3 garlic cloves for about 1 minute.

Then add your carrots, celery, and leeks along with a couple cranks on the pepper mill and 2 pinches of sea salt. Let that cook for about 7 minutes, until your veggies are soft. Around this time you should also preheat your oven to 385.

Mix in the ground beef…

…and then add 1 small can of tomato paste. Be patient mixing this in. It can be a major butt and want to clump to one part of the meat. Just keep folding the meat and veggie mixture in to the center where the tomato paste is and it will eventually blend well!

Once the tomato paste is all mixed in keep stirring for about 2 minutes so the tomato paste has time to brown and melt in to the fixins. Then add about a cup of chicken stock. This should be enough to coat all of the fixins. If you need extra that is ok, but don’t completely drown the meat. If you are unsure, and totally freaking out right now regarding what is enough, just use a cup.

Mix in your bacon chunks, then add your single bay leaf and your sprigs of thyme (just place right on top). Once that comes to a boil, turn your heat down to simmer and let cook for 2 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme and bay leaf and transfer the fixins into your favorite baking pan.

Top half with the mashed potatoes and half with the mashed sweet potatoes.

Put it in the oven! Because everything is pre-cooked, and you just took your meat off the stove, you only need to oven-it until the potatoes are warm. Approximately 10-15 minutes or until the top of your potatoes look like they are forming a bit of a crisp!

Cut it and serve piping hot! Here is a picture of mine, with sweet potato mashers:

This meal takes roughly an hour to prepare. In my opinion the left-overs taste even more amazing than when it was for dinner because after being left to sit in all of it’s own juices all night, the flavors are just enriched. Unfortunately I never have the patience to prepare it the day before I am going to cook it.  But I do make a huge batch so I can eat it for breaky or lunch the next couple of days.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato and Leek soup with BACON

imageGet in my belly!

 

I have been really in to making soups lately, maybe because of the rainy days… It makes you want to curl up in your favorite sweats and watch a movie with a hot bowl of soup.

This was really easy, and was the best soup I have ever had on a lazy Sunday.

First I peeled and cubed 4 medium-sized sweet potatoes.

I then chopped up 5 garlic cloves, 1 large shallot and 1 leek (white and light green part only. Discard the dark green part of the leek).

Shallots, Garlic, and Leeks

 

 

 

 

 

Heat up a pan over medium heat and add 8-12 pieces of bacon, diced  into small chunks. I used 1 package of Trader Joe’s Apple-wood smoked bacon.

Cook until browned, and than transfer to a paper towel to get rid of excess grease.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to your bacon pan, there should only be about a tablespoon of bacon grease left, if there is a huge amount more than this, pour it out, leaving 1-2 tablespoons. Over medium heat, add to the grease, 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (grass-fed preferable). Once melted add your garlic, shallots, and leeks, along with a pinch of sea salt and 4-5 turns on the cracked pepper mill (or to taste). You don’t want to add more salt than this because the bacon is salty. You don’t want your soup to taste like a salt lick. You can always add more to the finished product.

Turn the heat up to  medium-high and let that saute until the butter and grease is bubbling and the leeks have become tender and your kitchen smells amazing, 4-6 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Transfer the sweet potato chunks to your favorite stock pot or soup pan, top with the bacon, and pour in your whole pan of sauteed leeks, shallots, and garlic. Don’t leave behind any of that buttered bacon grease!

You want to add enough chicken stock to cover the sweet potatoes. If you don’t have time and/or are simply too lazy to make your own stock, just buy a couple boxes. I used an organic gluten free chicken stock that I buy at Costco. Always check your chicken stock to see if it is gluten free, sometimes it is NOT. And you wouldn’t want to ruin a whole batch of delicious soup!

 

 

 

I ended up using 1 whole box plus about a cup of chicken stock in order to nicely cover all the goods. Use a big spoon to stir it all up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover and turn up the heat, bringing your soup to a boil.

Once it is boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and mix in 2 cups of heavy whipping cream.

Let your soup simmer for 30 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.

Pour half of your soup into a blender. The chunks may sink to the bottom, so make sure you aren’t pouring liquid only.

I used a large strainer spoon and scooped what I figured to be roughly half of the goods and half of the liquid in to the blender.

I left half of the goods in the soup because I wanted the soup to be chunky. If you want the soup to be more pureed, or like a bisque, you could blend the whole batch, or use an immersion blender. I like the idea of having a smooth creamy soup with some delicious bites in between.

Blend until creamy and then pour back into your soup pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix it all up and it is ready to serve!

To me, the good thing about blending only some of the soup is that it allows for some versatility in your eating. If you feel like a cup of creamy bisque like deliciousness, just skim off the top. Otherwise ladle in some of the creaminess and add a big spoonful of chunkiness and you have a mighty fine bowl of amazing.

*While some folks who are Paleo include heavy whipping cream and grassfed butter in their cooking, some do not. To make this soup go from PRIMAL to PALEO, simply do not add butter (add a touch more bacon grease), and eliminate the heavy whipping cream.

Just add BACON

imageDinner!

Yesterday for lunch on our Sunday lazy day, I had planned on making bacon wrapped burgers. But I was right in the middle of a very intense part of Super Bad, while also reading my book, and couldn’t pull myself away from the couch. The Hubs went in to the kitchen to start dicing up the bacon, and this is me: ‘why don’t we just add the ground beef to that bacon instead of making the patties… it’ll be delicious!’. READ: I am too lazy to get off the couch to do anything remotely close to forming patties for lunch, so ground beef is much quicker. I got up to add the seasonings, then got back to my laziness.

This is what went down in the kitchen.

  • 1 whole package of Trader Joe’s applewood smoked bacon, diced in itty bitty chunks. Cook until browned, and nearly done to your liking.
  • Add 1/2 chopped white onion straight to that delicious bacon grease.
  • We mixed in to the bacon and onion, a smidge of applewood smoked sea salt (2-3 pinches), 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp coarse black pepper, 1/8 tsp dried onion powder, 1/4 tsp dried french thyme, and 1/4 tsp dried sage.
  • We then added 1.5 pounds of grass-fed ground beef and 3 turns of crack pepper and 2 pinches of sea salt.
  • Mix it all up until the beef is done.

I added half an avocado to the top, and yum!

We had lot’s of left-overs and since I had established that yesterday was a lazy day, I decided to use our lunch to make dinner.

First I quartered up 1 large yam and 1 large Japanese yam and snuggled them up on a baking sheet. I added a hefty teaspoon of coconut oil on top of each and then sprinkled with fresh ground cinnamon.

I baked these on 385 degrees for 40 minutes.

With about 15 minutes to go I put the lunch pan, still nicely coated with bacon grease, on medium heat to warm.  I added brussel sprout halves and cooked for about 5 minutes until browned.

I then added the meat-bacon concoction from lunch to re-heat. It was finished right as the timer for the coconut cinnamon yams went off.

Who says you can’t turn a lunch in to a completely different dinner? It was delicious! And so simple.

*This meal is GLUTEN FREE and PALEO

 

Sweet Potato Spears

imageSweet Potato Bacon Spears

It is no secret that I love love love bacon. Unless you don’t know me, then you simply don’t know me. So now you know at least that.

I put bacon in just about everything I can, and eat it whenever I can.

The other night we got home late from the gym, and The Kiddo wasn’t home. The Hubs and I didn’t feel like eating a whole dinner, and really just wanted to have a snack and then sit on the couch to watch Alcatraz.

I stood in front of the fridge, not wanting chicken, not wanting left-over steak, not wanting eggs, or fruit or anything resembling a green leafy vegetable, not even wanting dark chocolate. Then, as if a spotlight started shining down and the soundtrack to my life started playing, the fresh bacon from the butcher was all I could focus on.

I wasn’t convinced I wanted to eat the bacon solo, and eating it with anything else in the fridge seemed about as exciting as listening to the Hanson Brothers.

I had already peeled one sweet potato and was waiting for the water to boil so that I could feed The Pups his dinner.

Suddenly, like in the movies, I got the greatest idea! Forgetting that 5,037 other people in this world has likely had, and even probably posted a recipe on, the same idea, and while thinking I was the biggest genius since Dr. Dre or even Einstein, I got to peeling another sweet potato!

I cut it in to long, thick, french-fry like shapes. I boiled them until tender enough to take an easy and smooth fork stab.

Sweet Potato Spears

Sweet Potato Spears

I cut some bacon in half, and wrapped a half around each sweet potato.

I then lined them on a baking sheet covered in foil (because I didn’t want to clean bacon grease off the baking sheet, not because it is magical for the cooking process).

On half of the goodies I sprinkled a touch of brown sugar chile rub to caramelize and add a little kick of a treat (simply mix 2 tablespoons brown sugar with chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste).

wrapped and ready for the oven!

wrapped and ready for the oven!

I baked them at 385 degrees until the bacon was just near perfect to my tasting. I then switched the oven to broil for 3 minutes to add a little sass to the top of the sweet potato (you can skip this part- but if you choose to do it, keep an eye on them… broil can change delicious to charred in seconds if not watched). It gives it a nice crunch, and boils the bacon grease a bit to help caramelize the sweet potato.

They were delicious little things. More filling then eating bacon by itself! Little bite sizes of amazing-so rich and fabulous!

Sweet Potato Bacon Spears

 

* Note, these little bites of amazing are PALEO, however adding the brown sugar is NOT PALEO. You can still add the chili to give a little heat. But all alone, without the brown sugar chili rub, is simply amazing. I was just experimenting.