Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shepherds Pie

There are some people in my family won't eat certain foods as left overs.  It makes me a bit crazy sometimes.  Whether it is because it changes the taste or consistency they are very picky about what they will eat a second time around.  This dish is definitely NOT one of those. Ground meat and vegetables in it's own gravy all topped by mashed potatoes and a touch of Parmesan cheese and pepper.  This only gets better the next day.

The mashed potatoes used in this dish can be freshly mashed or from a box, the choice is yours.  I like to make an extra large amount of mashed potatoes for dinner on the weekend and then have plenty of left overs to use for this dish a few days later.  

Making these in individual ramekins just makes this fun for my family but it is also easily done in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Shepherds Pie

6 cups prepared mashed potatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcester sauce
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet heat the oil and saute the onion until it is soft.  Add the beef and pork to the skillet and season with salt and pepper.  Cook the until the meats are cooked through and the juices run clear, breaking up the meats and stirring often. Add the broth, Worcester sauce and flour to the meat mixture and cook over medium heat until broth thickens slightly.  Stir in the thawed vegetables.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste if needed.  

Pour meat and vegetable mixture into the bottom of a casserole dish or divide evenly between ramekins (I use a dozen 10 ounce ramekins). Top with mashed potatoes, pushing potatoes to the edge of your baking dish or ramekins, sealing in the meat and vegetable mixture beneath it.  Top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a dash or two of freshly ground pepper if desired.  Bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden.  If baking in ramekins I find it best to place them on a cookie sheet and bakeg them on the cookie sheet.  Doing this makes it easier to move them in and out of the oven and avoids having to clean the bottom of the oven should some of them bubble over a little.   

Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kit Kat Cake and a Birthday

I have five adorable nephews one of which celebrated his 10th birthday last month.  And one thing he knows is that his auntie will make the cake he desires.  The one thing I can count on when it comes to his birthday cake is that it will include chocolate.  This year he decided he wanted a cake that would reflect his favorite candy bar, Kit Kat.  This was not a surprise as last year he wanted cupcakes, you guessed it, Kit Kat.  I decided that the cake would look like a normal chocolate cake on the outside but I would try to make the cake look like the layers of a Kit Kat when it was cut into. My nephew agreed to this but he had one stipulation, there MUST be Kit Kat pieces on top.  I think he was happy with the results.

Friends came over, pizza and cake were eaten and presents were opened.  We had a wonderful time socializing and celebrating this very important mile stone, the first decade of life.

Kit Kat Cake

Vanilla Buttermilk cake (make a double batch)

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups sugar
4  large whole eggs, room temperature
1 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan.  I used a deep roasting pan in order to insure it would not spill over while baking. REMEMBER - YOU NEED TO DOUBLE ALL INGREDIENTS.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small mixing bowl.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, beating until each is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl as needed and continue to beat on medium heat until pale yellow. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in vanilla, continue beating for 1 minute.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Transfer pan to wire racks to cool 20 minutes; turn  cake onto cooling rack and cool completely.
Chocolate Frosting (make a double batch if using for Kit Kat cake)
Very slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup (2 sticks) real butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

REMEMBER TO DOUBLE ALL INGREDIENTS.  Melt your chocolate chips and set aside to cool to room temperature.  chocolate shoud not harden but should still be stir-able and soft.

In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, and milk. Bring it all to a low boil, whisking frequently. Boil 1-3 minutes or until thickened like a thinned pudding.  Do not allow to get too thick or the next step will be difficult.  Remove pan from heat and strain mixture through a mesh strainer, stirring and pushing it through and into a small bowl to remove any lumps. Cool completely in the refrigerator or freezer stirring occasionally.

When chocolate flour mixture is completely cooled, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute.  Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture until well combined fluffy, about 1 minute.  Finally add in cooled  melted chocolate and beat again until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Spread frosting on  cake and use to decorate.


Cut the cake into three even layers.  You may use a long serrated knife or a long piece of floss by wrapping it around the cake at the level you want to separate the layers, cross the ends of the floss and pull it through the cake.  Remove the layers.  

Place bottom layer of tray.  Spread a thin layer of chocolate frosting over the top of the bottom layer and top it with the second layer.  Spread another thin layer of frosting over the second layer and top it with the top layer.  Frost and decorate the cake as you like.