Brittany wrote this on 24 November 2014
I have posted about it before with this non-traditional version and I have to say that I stick to my original thoughts about this: If it is covered in mashed potatoes, it is a good thing. But today’s recipe wasn’t my brilliant idea and it is still, I have to say, ‘non’ traditional shepherd’s pie. I’ll explain.
Years ago, when all six of us siblings still lived at home, we used to travel to my Aunt Mary’s house on New Years Day to celebrate the holidays with her and my Grandmother. With such a big family, we knew how exhausting it could be to cook for us. My Aunt solved that problem by making a big turkey dinner earlier in the week, then assembling this casserole with the leftovers. Then all she had to do on the day was to heat up this big pan in the oven and it would feed everyone, with almost no effort from her. Genius, right?! She was free to play and visit and catch up with us. Now, mind you, my family is not full of picky eaters and we will generally devour anything you put in front of us.
But the first year she made this version of shepherd’s pie, I began to look forward to those holidays at my Aunt Mary’s house for the food, just as much for the company. What is not to love? It is all the wonderful parts of a holiday meal rolled into one dish. Meat? Good. Veggies? Good. Stuffing? Gooooooood. It is like home and family and comfort and love all wrapped up right there and topped with potatoes. I am sure Aunt Mary has no idea that I remember what she used to serve us all those years ago, but really. Is it all that surprising that food is at the center of my memories? I didn’t think so.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it with whatever you have. Beef? That is perfect. No stuffing? Fine. Sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes? Great. It is ALL good. The point is that you are just layering in the different categories of your leftovers, wrapping it up, and tossing it in the oven whenever you have need of it. Heck! Freeze the darn thing and enjoy it later if you like! You have already gone to the trouble of making all these individual dishes, and now you can use them up in one perfect meal. No matter if you have a little or a lot of any one thing, it all works. My favorite part? All those little leftover containers that you end up having to find a place for in your fridge? Gone. One casserole and you are done. And then you can take that one casserole and feed whoever you are getting together with the next weekend and you don’t have to lift a finger. Nice, huh? I told you my Aunt Mary is a genius.
Holiday Shepherd’s Pie
Remember. The key to this is the process, not the specific ingredients. Every version you make will be different based on your leftovers so just embrace the spontaneity. Also, feel free to make each layer as big or little as you like. No stuffing? Just skip it. If you are vegetarian, just omit the first layer of meat. Customize it to whatever you have on hand.
leftover meat-turkey, chicken, beef, or ham chunked or shredded into bit sized pieces
leftover vegetables-steamed, candied, or even green bean casserole
leftover mashed white or sweet ptoatoes
In a large casserole dish (or even just a small one, depending on who you are feeding), spray or butter the dish lightly. Spread the cooked, leftover meat in the bottom of the dish. Layer on vegetables or spoon on leftover gratin or casseroles. Whatever works. Evenly top with stuffing, or dressing, and top with a layer of mashed potatoes. Cover well and chill or wrap well and freeze. When ready to serve it, put the dish, uncovered, into a cold oven and turn it on to 350. Heat the casserole through until it is hot in the middle and potatoes are lightly browned, about 45 minutes if thawed. Serve with a side of gravy to pour over the top if you like. Leftover cranberries and rolls are good too!
Brittany wrote this on 22 November 2014
We all want to enjoy the holiday season, but none of us want to gain 10 pounds doing it. My advice? Balance the indulgent with the sensible. Not every recipe you enjoy these next 6 weeks has to be laden with fat and sugar. Some dishes are just naturally more healthy than others. Here is a collection of Brittany’s Pantry recipes that fit that bill, along with a few tips for each one on how to prep it ahead of time to make your special day less hectic. You can feel good about making them November, December, and every other month of the year!
Green Beans W/Mushrooms & Bacon
Lighter and definitely more appealing looking than a traditional casserole, this green bean dish is bursting with flavor and so darn good you may never make the old version again! This takes minimal time and travels well too. To prep it ahead of time, cook the bacon a day or two ahead and chill. A quick pass through the microwave at the last minute will crisp it up when you are ready for it. Chop the mushrooms so they are ready to sauté, and steam the green beans a bit the day before so all you have to do is assemble the dish in a minute or two in a pan on the stove. An easy task to pass on to someone else!
Roast Broccoli and Roast Cauliflower
These methods are identical and both make for a fantastic, light, side dish. Either (or both) go great with any roasted meat you can throw at it. The flavor mellows a bit as well so picky eaters are more apt to give it a try. Prep the veggies a day or two ahead of time so that all you have to do is dump them on a sheet pan, toss with oil and seasonings and throw in the oven!
Baked Sweet Potatoes W/Apples & Onions
We all love the traditional Sweet Potato Casserole that could easily pass for dessert. But the fact that sweet potatoes (or yams) have a natural sweetness works in their favor-and yours! Loaded with nutrients, they are a great vegetable to add color and a boost of vibrancy to your holiday meal. Just be sure to pick and choose your recipes carefully. This baked version can be put together earlier in the day and just baked off when the turkey or roast comes out of the oven, and it is MUCH less fattening than the traditional route. It still has a bit of sweetness and the flavors we all love so no one will notice the pound of sugar and butter that are missing.
Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal
Whats not to like? Oatmeal and fruit are baked while you sleep. ‘Nuff said.
Gluten-Free Apple Carrot Muffins
Not only are these sweet little muffins gluten free, but they are special enough to frost! Add a just a dollop of cream cheese frosting to the tops and you have an instant dessert! They are also great to bake and freeze ahead of time and just pull out to add to a breakfast or lunch buffet.
Chicken (Turkey) & Barley Soup
Use your leftover meat to make this super fast, yet healthy soup for lunch! When you still have a crowd but you don’t want to take a ton of time for another meal, this is will fill you up without weighing you down! Freeze the leftovers for later in the month.
Good-For-You Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bake them whenever and freeze them. These are loaded with healthy ingredients and mix up super fast. You can switch out the chocolate chips for white chocolate chips to make them even more festive looking. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Fruit & Nut Rum Balls
These little gems are definitely sweet, but the fact that they are gluten free and full of fruit and nuts earns them a spot here on this list. The tiny bites also help with portion control-one or two is enough! Make them ahead and store them in a sealed container in the fridge. Gorgeous and ridiculously good, they will be talked about for holidays to come!
Pomegranate Sorbet W/Mini Chocolate Chips
I cannot say enough good things about this recipe. It is healthy and loaded with antioxidants, and the color makes it perfect for this time of year. But it is just so incredibly fresh and clean and bright and tangy that you are going to want to make a double batch. So light in fact, that it is absolutely a pleasure to polish off a dish after a heavy holiday meal. Being frozen, this can obviously be made anytime BEFORE you serve it, as long as it has time to freeze.
Brittany wrote this on 20 November 2014
Just a quick post to share one of our favorite autumnal dinners! Believe me when I say that this recipe is a winner. I mean, you should always believe me (I am very trustworthy) but for SERIOUS, you should believe me now.
It is fast to throw together, full of flavor, and inexpensive to make; three points that make this a great fall dish and perfect for this time of year. As our days get busier as we get closer to the holidays, I love being able to make this in a matter of minutes. This meal is one of those things that I just kind of make without a lot of thought and that means that it is virtually fool proof. Handy when I am in and out of the house between ballet, church, playdates, meetings, book club, and appointments. You can practically just throw it in the pan. Like, take a pan, and throw it in. Throw it.
These flavors are a natural fit for my family, seeing as how we have quite a streak of German blood. It is very much inspired by dishes of my youth. Cabbage and sausage is rather prevalent in Minnesota cuisine and this reminds my husband and I of home. A little warm, Northern comfort food here in South Carolina!
Grilled Sausage W/Apple-Cabbage Saute
This is great served with extra applesauce on the side and a huge hunk of whole grain bread with salty butter.
1 whole beef sausage, such as Hillshire Farms
1 onion, sliced
4 T butter
salt and pepper
1/2 c applesauce, preferably chunky
2 T brown sugar
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c apple cider or juice
1 small green cabbage, outer leaves removed and sliced to shreds, or one large bag pre-shredded cabbage
Grill the sausage over medium high heat until it has nice color. Alternatively, sear it in a tiny bit of oil in a cast-iron pan.
While the sausage is grilling, melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan and toss the onions in. Season with salt and pepper. When onions are soft, add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and keep the heat good and hot to wilt the cabbage and thicken the liquid a bit. When the cabbage is just wilted but still has some crunch to it, remove the pan from the heat and taste for seasoning. Serve with the grilled sausage.