Shepherds Pie

As I was recovering from being quite ill for a few weeks I started craving shepherds pie – don’t ask me why but it was all I wanted to eat.  Strange but true. Even now as I am pretty much back to normal, I still feel a craving to eat it. Must be a comfort food thing.  Anyway I decided to make a few containers of it so that I could freeze it for when I just had to have it again.

I do put a slight twist on the traditional pie. The secret which makes it very healthy is adding a can of lentils to the ground meat. It adds to the volume and fibre but also the taste. I also added a spice paste called harissa, a middle eastern spice combination that gives a slightly spicy (heat) note to your food. Another addition was about a tablespoon of hoisin for a slight sweet note. Then there is the topping…I added shredded parmesan to the top of the potato before putting in the over to bake.

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Shepherds pie

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1.5 tbsp Harissa paste

1 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1/4 cup low fat yogurt

1 can cooked lentils

Potato – white not yukon – 1 per person

Shredded parmasean cheese

 

Directions

Sauté onion in a large pan till browned (tip – I add a pinch of brown sugar to help it caramelize). Add garlic and sauté till cooked but not burnt.

Add ground beef (or turkey), mix and cook till lightly browned. Add frozen mix veg and cooked lentils, harissa and hoisin. Mix well. Cook on stovetop till well browned and veg is no longer frozen.

Peel potatoes and chop into even pieces. Boil or microwave until soft. Transfer to a large bowl or mixer, add yogurt and mix with a mix master or hand held mixer till light and fluffy and mashed.

Add a punch of salt to taste if you like (I don’t add salt as the cheese on top adds enough salt for my liking).

Put meat mixture into a pan, or glass container (I divided it into four double serving glass containers so I could freeze it). Spread the mash potato on top of each container and sprinkle parmasean over top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes till slightly browned. Serve warm or let cool, cover and freeze.

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Chef Michael Smith – the Lentil Hunter

The other night my friend and fellow blogger Zannat invited me to a food blogging event featuring chef Michael Smith and his travels around the world looking for interesting lentil dishes.  You won’t believe the info I walked away with – aside from the fabulous food and presentation…

Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest producer of lentils?

Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest exporter of lentils?

We export to places like India, Morocco, France, Dubai and Italy!  It turns out we have a perfect microclimate for growing lentils and not just one or two kinds of lentils but apparently lots of varieties, most grown in Saskatchewan. Our Canadian lentils are the gold standard in the world.  Who knew?

The evening was made up of tasting stations from each country Chef Michael visited. The tour and recipes can be found on his Tumblr page – http://chefmichaelsmith.tumblr.com or go to his own webpage – http://chefmichaelsmith.com/lentil-hunter/  Make sure to watch the videos of his travels – they are really interesting and the recipes in most cases are not difficult. Check out his new cook book too – “Back to Basics”.

I am now on a lentil craze and will be trying many of these recipes.  Below is a sampling of pictures taken at the event.  Thanks Zannat for inviting me, thanks Crave PR for putting on such a great event!

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Another Taco Night with my Neighbours

Spur of the moment decision….. Lets do a taco night tonight!  That was the conversation my neighbour/friend Zannat and I had while picking up some groceries.

I always love the look of the table when we do this because it is full of colour.

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This time Zannat made a yummy main for the taco using ground turkey with vegetables and hoisin.  The flavour was great (so much so that I made a batch of it the next night to have for lunches and dinner when I didn’t feel like cooking).

We had tomatoes, cucumbers, sautéed mushrooms, grated old cheddar and pineapple pieces.  We moved between the hard taco shells, soft tortilla shells and lettuce wraps.  Simple meal, not hard to prepare and fun for all of us. I will admit though that it is not the tidiest meal we have ever had but that was part of the fun :-).

FYI – the ground turkey was browned in a pan with chopped and frozen vegetables, onion, a bit of garlic and just under a ¼ cup of hoisin sauce to 1 lb. of ground turkey. Add a can of lentils, stir and then add the hoisin in small amounts until it is fully mixed and you get the flavour you want.

Lunch the next day with leftovers was ground turkey and lentils with hoisin wraps 😉

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Enjoy!

Shepherds Pie (with a twist)

So who doesn’t remember growing up having shepherds pie and loving it? Okay perhaps some of you didn’t have it – but I did, and I always loved it.  For the last few years though I have tried to reduce the number of carbohydrates I consume so I switched to sweet potatoes from white potatoes (when I have potatoes which isn’t that often). The “twist” I learned from my friend Zannat (who’s blog I have reposted a number of times – food4happiness). The twist is to add lentils to your ground beef. It adds fibre, protein and increases the amount of the beef mixture so you get much more for very little extra cost. I happen to love lentils so this is perfect for me. I substituted white potatoes for sweet and didn’t use too too much on top so it still remains healthy and low fat.

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Ingredients:

1 lb of lean (I used extra lean) ground beef

1 tin of lentils (cooked)

1 cooking onion – chopped

1-1.5 cups of mixed frozen vegetables (add as much as you like really)

1 pint of mushrooms chopped (about 10-12 large)

1 egg whisked

4-5 sweet potatoes medium sized (add more if you want a thicker topping)

¼ cup of low fat yogurt

½ cup of grated parmesan cheese

A couple of dashes of ketchup (less than ¼ cup)

1 tsp of Harissa spice mix (if you don’t have just add a pinch of cumin and a tiny pinch of cardamon and a pinch of cinnamon – really only a tiny amount of each).

1 tbsp of chopped garlic – about 2-3 cloves

I don’t use salt but if you want you can add a pinch of salt

½ tsp of cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp of water or beef broth (not obligatory – this step just helps thicken the beef mixture and absorb some of the liquid)

3 tsp olive oil

Directions:

Sauté a chopped onion till tender and slightly browned in 1 tsp of olive oil (I sometimes add a tsp of brown sugar to help caramelize the onion a bit). Add 1 more tsp of oil with the garlic, mushrooms and  frozen vegetables once the onions are pretty much done. Sauté all together and add the broth and corn starch. Remove and put in a bowl for the time being.

Add beef and a tin of lentils to the pan along with the spices, ketchup, salt and pepper. Brown the meat with the lentils and then add back in the vegetables, onions and mushrooms and stir together. Add the egg and mix everything up.

While the meat is cooking, peel and cube the potatoes (try to make them even sized pieces so they will cook evenly). Microwave them in water until they are able to be pieced easily by a fork. You can also boil them if you prefer – if boiling then start the potatoes before the meat and vegetables.

Turn off the heat on the meat when all cooked and let sit in pan. Drain potato pieces into a bowl and add yogurt and parmesan cheese and whip using either a hand blender or a stand mixer. Using this type of equipment whips air into the potatoes and makes them a bit lighter. You can also do it by hand it just takes a bit longer and is more work. Once the potatoes are whipped taste and add seasoning as needed.

Put meat mixture into a deep dish and pat it down so it is firm. Then “frost” the top with the potato mixture as you would a cake. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees (F) to brown the top a bit and then serve. I made it in several containers as you can see in the picture and froze it so I had lots of meals from the one cooking session.

Lemony Lentil Soup

Recently I visited my friend Victoria and in between all our wonderful conversations she cooked some of the most amazing food.  For lunch when I got there we had this lemony lentil soup – the recipe for which comes from the Whitewater Cooks cookbook written by Shelley Adams. (I recommend this book as it was chock a block full of great recipes and beautiful imagery.)

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Here is the recipe – I made it as soon as I got home and froze half for later.

Ingredients

2 cups red lentils

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

2 tsp salt (I didn’t add salt as the feta cheese is salty)

6 cloves minced garlic

3 carrots diced

1 tsp pepper

.25 tsp red chilli flakes

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (I used half this as dried rosemary – didn’t have fresh on hand)

2 bay leaves

8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tsp lemon zest

1 cup feta cheese (or enough to put on top of soup to your liking when served)

2 tbsp fresh dill chopped

Directions

Rinse lentils and drain. Heat olive oil in large pot and add onion to sauté. Add carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, chilli, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves.

Stir well and sauté till carrots are tender. Add stock and lentils and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes till lentils are soft.

Remove bay leaves and add lemon juice and zest.

Serve with feta and dill.

Seven Simple Ways to Cook Better

My friend and neighbour Zannat is a registered dietician (and great cook). She writes for a number of different magazines and on line sources. I came across this blog she wrote called “Seven Simple Ways to Cook Better”. I don’t know about you but I have to try the recipe for “Vegged up dal”  Looks delicious – Check it out at the link below.

http://masalamommas.com/2013/03/13/seven-simple-ways-to-cook-better/

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Fabulous Cod Dinner with Friends

This time I put the picture large size and up front. I am not sure people will believe this incredible meal was prepared by my friends Ted and Judy.  This was what we had for dinner the other night.  I don’t think anyone is wondering why I love to go there for dinner. (They are good fun company too!)

Cod dinner

So the glorious meal showing above was as follows:

Umbria lentils – wonderfully nutty but take a bit longer to cook than regular dried lentils.

Cod – beautiful large meaty piece of cod seared to perfection and popped in the oven at about 350 degrees for a few minutes to finish it off.

Topping – Kale (cut into small pieces) sautéed with garlic slices and grape tomatoes in a light chicken broth.  Scrumptious!

Side of baked sweet potato fries baked at 400 degrees for about half an hour.

All topped off with a squeeze of Meyer lemons (these are my favourite lemon – a cross between a tangerine and a lemon, they are both sweet and sour at the same time).

What a meal – it was so good there wasn’t even a lentil left on the plate!

Veggie Patties

I had some left over lentils, chickpea and vegetables from a light dinner and wasn’t sure how to use them up.  I thought about veggie burgers.  While these might have been called veggie burgers if they were more bulked with ingredients, I ran the food processor longer and it made the “batter” softer hence the term “veggie patties”

I had one for lunch to see what they tasted like and they were actually quite good so I decided to blog the recipe.  This is one of those recipes you can do whatever you want with so please don’t feel obliged to use the ingredients listed below.  Use whatever you have on hand (or whatever is in the fridge that you want to use up).

I put mine into a small baby whole wheat pita pocket with some pickles and a slice of cheese.  It was tasted great and was quite filling.

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Ingredients – made 6 patties medium sized

• Whatever kind of beans you have on hand – I used lentils and chickpeas (1 medium can each)

• Frozen mixed vegetables – at least one cup if not a bit more (again up to you)

• 1 medium onion diced

• 3 garlic cloves diced

• pinch of cumin

• Pepper to taste

• Sweet chilli sauce or ketchup – 2 tbsp

• Dijon Mustard – 2 tbsp

• Half cup bread crumbs – I used an italian seasoned bread crumb – Add more if needed

• half cup of grated parmesan cheese – again add more if needed

• 2 tbsp canola oil

Directions

Saute onions and garlic and when softened add lentils, chickpeas and frozen vegetables.  Add pepper  and cumin to taste. Once this has warmed and the veg is not frozen any longer, put mixture into a food processor and add chilli sauce, mustard, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Pulse till the mixture is soft enough to make a patty – or lumpy enough for more of a burger texture.

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Form a patty and fry lightly in canola oil until browned on one side – only needs a minute or so – flip and brown the other side.  When finished you can eat as a sandwich or on their own.  Garnish with whatever you fancy. (I was in the mood for pickles….)

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Stuffed tomatoes

Saw a picture of some stuffed tomatoes and thought I would try out my hand at making some.  Pretty darn easy to make.  I bought 4 hot house style tomatoes (large).  Using a spoon I scooped out the insides being careful not to break through the outer layer – I left about .25 inch all around the inside.  Turned the tomatoes upside down on some paper towels to drain while I made the stuffing.

Since I wanted a protein in it and I love lentils I used them as the base.

Ingredients

1 can lentils

chopped garlic (as much as you like)

1 cup frozen chopped vegetables

6 large chopped mushrooms

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt as the parmesan cheese has salt

1 tbsp olive oil in the fry pan

Directions

In a frying pan – saute the onions until browned, add in all the ingredients at once and saute  together.  Once mixture is warmed take the hollowed out tomato shells – toss a bit of parmesan on the inside bottom of the shell and then stuff them with the mixture.

Fill to the top and then sprinkle parmesan over the top to cover.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit  for 25-30 minutes depending on your oven.  This recipe could make 8 stuffed tomato shells – I made 4 and kept the rest of the mixture in the fridge for other things.

Lentils and Onions with Mushrooms

Okay this is the easiest, healthy meal that is a great comfort food.
Thinly slice an onion, saute on low – add a spoonful of brown sugar to help caramelize the onions – when browned throw in some chopped mushrooms and stir around, then add a can of lentils. Heat through and voila!. Delicious!