This meal is perfect to make on a weeknight. It is super easy to make and requires just a few flavorful ingredients. The most time consuming part is boiling the potatoes. Using box mix potatoes would make it ready in a flash, though I used some good old fashioned potatoes. The potatoes in this dish were like the icing on the cake. These mashed potatoes were mixed with butter and cheese, scooped on top with an ice-cream scoop and then broiled to create a nice brown look and flavor. Yes, potatoes, please, get in my belly.
I did use smart balance butter (less saturated than regular butter), sharp cheddar cheese, and unsweetened almond milk in the potatoes to make me feel better about eating this hearty comfort food.
A few months ago, my husband went out to eat with a friend and reported enjoying this dish called shepherd's pie at a restaurant downtown. I tucked that little knowledge nugget away in my mind and decided to make it for our Valentine's Day celebration dinner, along with some gooey dark chocolate brownies. I know, it's a little early to be celebrating, but I have to work Valentine's Day and the rest of the weekend. With 12 hour long night shifts, that means I will be MIA. No cooking those days.
Our little early celebration was a smashing success. Between bites of pie, he told me this was so much better than the shepherd's pie he previously thought was so good. He ate so much, his stomach bulged. Haha, mine did too, especially with a dark chocolate brownie for dessert! I just love being able to make the man I love, love coming home to a lovely dinner. That's a lot of love, but hey, its Valentine's!
Makes two large portions of a savory beef, vegetable, and gravy mixture that is topped with cheesy mashed potatoes. The ultimate comfort food.
2 large russet potatoes
⅓ cup milk
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 can, 14.5 oz, peas & carrots
1 can, 6.5 oz, mushrooms
½ pound ground beef
½ cup water
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
pepper to taste
Boil halved potatoes and start browning meat
Preheat oven to 375 F
When meat is no longer pink, add salt, Mrs. Dash seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir well.
Turn beef burner down to low and add flour, stir, then add water. Then add cans: drained mushrooms and drained peas & carrots.
When potatoes done, or easily able to be pierced with fork, removed from water and take skins off. Mash and mix in milk, cheese, butter, and pepper to taste.
Add meat and veggie mixture to casserole dish(es) then top with mashed potatoes
Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes. Serve. Will need more oven time if dish prepared ahead of time and refrigerated.
(optional) Broil for 2-3 minutes to brown top
I used two large individual serving sized casserole dishes and then used an ice-cream scoop to top meat with mashed potatoes. After baking, I broiled for a couple minutes to make the potatoes brown on top. Be careful broiling because it will burn in a skinny minute.
Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to watch some cooking shows, and one episode had me craving some good ol’ hearty chicken noodle soup. I went off to the store and bought my celery and carrots and was mentally drooling over the idea of a warm soup with crusty bread for dinner. I told my husband my exciting dinner scheme, and he said “no way, I had it for lunch at work yesterday, I would love some spaghetti though,” with a big charming smile. Normally that smile wins me over, but he literally wants to eat spaghetti once a week and then have the left overs for another half a week. The man seriously loves spaghetti. I decided to create a casserole that would satisfy both of our cravings, Venison Gnocchi Casserole, complete with spaghetti sauce, potato dumplings, carrots, and celery.
First, I gathered my fresh ingredients, and boiled the potatoes while simmering diced onion,celery, carrots, garlic, and fresh herbs in olive oil and wine until the onions looked translucent and the whole house smelled wonderfully delicious. I usually use what ever wine I have on hand . If it tastes good to me when I have a glass, I may as well use it in my cookin’ too. In this recipe I used a mildly sweet white wine.
Then, I made the gnocchi, which is not for the faint of heart because it takes a bit more time than simply boiling some noodles. I first fell in love with the wonderful little delicate dumplings in Italy on a study abroad back in high school. I was told it was too complicated to make and was best left to the experts. That did not deter me. After a few trails and errors, I have found a recipe that takes my taste buds back to Italy. It turns out, it is fairly simple; only four ingredients. You just have to have the proportions right and enough time to make it.
Here is a link to the gnocchi recipe all by it self so you can make it for other dishes. It is the perfect side, and is especially great with pesto.
Then mix it all together with some spaghetti sauce, browned deer meat, and cheese, then bake. This casserole turned out to have a taste factor on a whole other level of yum, full of complex favors and textures. I guess it is fitting that this is my first recipe on my blog, because it is pretty epic. Kindo thought it smelled good too.
1lb. potatoes ( about 3 small/medium or 2 large potatoes)
1 tsp. salt (optional)
¾ cup all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut potatoes in halves and boil until soft when poked with fork, about 20-30 minutes. Be careful not to over boil as to make the potatoes full of water. This will make the dough very sticky later and trying to compensate with more flour will just make them too dense. Set potatoes aside in bowl to cool. Keep the pot of boiling water on the stove for later use. Take skins off and mash thoroughly.
While the potatoes are boiling, dice carrots, celery, and onion. Mince basil, oregano, and garlic. Sauté on medium heat in olive oil, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until it starts to brown and oil burns off. Then add wine and simmer on low until onions translucent and liquid evaporates, about 30 minutes.
Pour celery/carrot/onion mixture in separate bowl and saute ground venison until brown throughout. *
To make the gnocchi, first get that pot of potato water boiling again. Then put mashed potatoes in mound and pour egg on it. Mix in with hands and then knead in salt and flour, adding a little bit at a time, knead thoroughly. Dough should feel slightly sticky.
Separate dough into 5 handfuls and roll each into long ropes, about 1 inch diameter. You may need up to ¼ cup more flour, to dust your hands and the dough, while rolling out.
Cut the dough ropes into ½ inch pieces. To prevent the dough from sticking to the knife, coat knife with a little olive oil. Optionally, you many press a fork coated in oil in the side to make indentations to help it hold sauce and make it pretty, but I did not for this recipe.
Drop about 20 of the dumplings into the boiling water, crowding will make them stick. When it floats to the top, about 1 minute, it is done! Remove from water with slotted spoon into empty bowl. Repeat until all dumplings are boiled, then pour off any remaining water from bowl of dumplings. Mix in sautéed veggies, ground meat, ½ cup mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, and spaghetti sauce then pour in casserole dish. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake in covered casserole dish for 20 minutes. Uncover and broil until cheese starts to brown on top. Broiling should only take a couple of minutes (2-3) so watch the dish the entire time so it does not burn.
Serve with fresh basil garnish and rolls. Enjoy!
*Note-I actually browned a whole pound of deer meat and mixed with a whole jar of spaghetti sauce then just froze the extra not used in the casserole for an easy future meal of spaghetti.