Beef and Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie

Beef and Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie

A warm and healthy Beef and Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie loaded with so many beautiful flavors….where do I start? The beautiful beefy filling? The crispy Parmesan cheesy top? Or the creamy layers of pumpkin?

This recipe has been handed down to me by my one and only mother. I may only ever change a couple things, but really, this is perfection.

The beef mixture inside this Beef and Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie is like beast mode a la Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Terminator of Shepherd’s Pie…or Cottage Pie. Whichever one rocks your socks. So much happening it may not be like your normal average Shepherd’s Pie, but since when are we normal anyway?

One slice of this mountain of glory and you’ll be so full and fulfilled in every way possible, you won’t want a nothing else after it.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg | 2lbs butternut or kent pumpkin , washed, peeled seeded and cubed (I usually use 1/2 a kent pumpkin)
  • 3 large potatoes , washed, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat butter/spread of choice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 2 medium carrots , peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red capsicum/bell pepper , seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced (or 3 teaspoons minced garlic)
  • 500 g | 1lbs ground/mince extra lean beef
  • 2 ripe tomatoes , diced
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • salt to season
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable stock (I use Vegeta)
  • 2 tablespoons gravy powder , whisked in 1/4 cup boiling water (until free of lumps): or you can substitute the gravy
  • powder with cornflour/corn starch.
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves , washed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200C | 400F. Combine pumpkin and potatoes with just enough water to cover them, in a large saucepan/pot over medium heat, and boil until tender. Alternatively, microwave or steam them until soft. Drain well, add the butter/spread and mash until smooth and creamy. Season with salt to suit your tastes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a separate large pan over medium – high heat. Add onion, carrots and capsicum, and cook stirring for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until onions become transparent. Add the garlic and cook stirring again, for about 2 minutes. Add beef and fry until meat is browned on all sides (break up all lumps with your wooden spoon). Add the tomatoes, cover pot with lid, reduce heat and simmer until tomatoes soften. When tomatoes are soft, add the peas, salt and vegetable stock powder, and simmer again covered with lid for about 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft and cooked through. Add gravy powder or cornflour/corn starch mixture. Cook stirring to combine all ingredients together until a sauce forms, reduces and thickens. Stir the spinach and parsley through, and take off heat.
  3. Evenly spread half the pumpkin/potato mash into a large oven proof baking dish. Spoon the beef mixture over the top, and spread remaining pumpkin mash over the top of the beef.
  4. Sprinkle evenly with parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake until the top of the pie turns a golden brown and sauce is bubbling underneath (about 20 minutes).
Beef and Pumpkin Shepherd’s Pie
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DIY Fall Wreaths

DIY Fall Wreaths

Fall wreath

Now that summer’s done and we’ve put away all our summer stuff my daughters and I have turned our attention to fall.

We’ve been busy making wreaths and other fall themed decor.  I love the rich autumn colors that we can use all the way thru Thanksgiving.

We used 12″ wire wreath forms, and made wreaths with tulle rolls and mesh rolls and used different things to embellish the wreaths.

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Fall wreath

My daughter, Jaime, made what she calls her Fall Wreath decorated with mini pumpkins, silk leaves, and her initial, the letter “V” covered in burlap.  She used a wire wreath form and knotted on tulle ribbon in fall colors.

She decided this wreath will hang on her door from now thru Thanksgiving.
Fall wreathShe had some leftover silk leaves and tulle ribbon so she glued the leaves on a mason jar, tied a bow, and made a fall candle holder.

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Fall wreath

My daughter Jenny made this adorable Witch Hat for Halloween.  She used tulle ribbon knotted on to a wire wreath form and tied on the witch hat and legs she found at Walmart.

 

Fall wreath

I made this fall wreath last year using a wire wreath form and mesh material.  I used zip ties to secure the mesh on to the frame.  For step by step tutorial click here!

If you’ll be using tulle strips or ribbons you just cut strips to the desired length and knot them onto the frame until you reach the desired fullness.  Here’s a tutorial that shows how to knot tulle onto a styro-foam form,  It’s the same basic idea but when using a wire form you need to tie on more tulle.  Click here!

It’s a great time to make fall wreaths.  You’ll find a big selection of rolls tulle ribbon at Walmart and most craft stores!

 

How to Be A Conscious Consumer

How to Be A Conscious Consumer

Do you know how the products you are buying were made? Are they environmentally friendly? Do you budget? If you answer yes to these questions then it means you are a conscious consumer.

Over the past decade consumption levels have increased across the globe. As the income level rises, so is the greater access to a wide variety of consumer products. Presently, unconscious and unethical consumerism has brought about several problems such as pollution and erosion of income savings. It is for this reason that the idea of a conscious consumer is being propagated.

Therefore, how do you become a conscious consumer?

Know the Product Background
Ever wondered how your favorite snack or t-shirt is manufactured? Well, many people are not aware of how many of the products they consume are made.

Over the years, several companies have been accused of unethical and inhumane manufacturing practices regarding their products. So, to be a conscious consumer, it is prudent of you to dig a little and find out the background details. How are they made? Where are they manufactured? Who manufactures them? How are they shipped?

Knowing all this will ensure that you consume products that have been ethically produced. Besides, it will allow you to hold accountable the companies should they contravene the consumer protection laws and regulations.

Avoid Unbudgeted Spending
Currently, consumption rates have increased tremendously as people’s spending powers also increase. However, it is prudent to undertake sound budgeting to ensure conscious consumption every day. It calls for sound financial and budgeting skills.

Start by determining your net monthly income and then use it to budget as per your needs. As a conscious consumer, you should be able to meet most of your monthly needs comfortably without feeling the need to overspend. Moreover, with a budget, you will minimize spending your money on unnecessary purchases.

Aim for Lower Cost Purchases
Well, with lots of money comes the power to spend. Nonetheless, it is imperative to cut on cost where necessary. Shop well, shop less, and shop consciously.

If you can find a way to make purchases at a lower price, then take it. By doing so, you will be able to save extra cash on the side for other essential life investments such as education.

Aim to cultivate a more conscious consumer mindset by distinguishing between wants and needs. For instance, you could make purchases on second hand retail stores, where surprisingly, you will find quality stuff for low prices. But as you do that, also be mindful of the quality of your purchases. You do not want to buy a piece of furniture only for it to break within a few days.

Embrace Environmental Consciousness
Much of the products people consume have their raw materials sourced from the environment. So, it makes sense to take care of Mother Nature in return.

One way would be to ensure that you minimize using plastic products and embracing disposable and biodegradable made products. For instance, instead of buying products from fast food stores that serve using plastic cups and plates, you could opt to visit a store that uses disposable take out boxes.

Proper management of trash is also an excellent way to cultivate ethical consumer consciousness. As a conscious consumer, you should prioritize on recycling and reusing where necessary.

Stuffed Turkey Breast with Bacon, Cranberry, Breadcrumb Stuffing

Stuffed Turkey Breast with Bacon, Cranberry, Breadcrumb Stuffing

Boneless turkey breast pounded skinny and filled with breadcrumbs, mushrooms, dried cranberries and sage, rolled and tied and cooked. My father jogged my memory the opposite day tfhat Thanksgiving turkey ought not to be a full bird. If your gathering is just few individuals, and you don’t wish to own many weeks of turkey leftovers, there’s no have to be compelled to roast a fifteen avoirdupois unit gobbler. You could roast simply some turkey legs if you wish meat or if you favor white, stuff and roll a turkey breast.

The following formula is for simply that, a turkey breast, pounded skinny, unfolds with a stuffing of breadcrumbs, bacon, porcini, shallots and dried cranberries, and rolled up into a roulade and cooked.

Now, the sole issue I see with preparation simply the turkey breast is that you just find yourself with scant drippings for gravy. If you wish gravy the maximum amount as I do, I like to recommend adding a fatty wing to the cooking pan, and victimization those drippings for your gravy.

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Click here for Turkey Breast with Bacon recipe.

Even if you end up not eating the skin, it’s important to wrap it around the turkey roll for roasting. It will bathe the turkey in flavor and will keep the breast from drying out.

INGREDIENTS

1 boneless turkey breast (about 2 lbs)
Butter, olive oil, OR bacon fat
Salt
1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 thick slice of bacon*
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 Tbsp chopped dried cranberries
1 teaspoon minced sage
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 Tbsp turkey or chicken stock (can sub water)
1 turkey wing (optional)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup turkey or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Poultry seasoning
*If you don’t eat bacon, you can skip, just use a generous tablespoon of butter instead, to sauté the shallots.

METHOD

1 Rehydrate and chop the dried porcini mushrooms: Place dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl. Cover with hot water and let sit for 15 minutes or so while the bacon in the next step is cooking. Once rehydrated, then chop.

2 Cook then chop the bacon: Slowly cook the bacon in a medium frying pan on medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate. Once cool enough to touch, chop. You should have at least a tablespoon of fat in the pan. (If not, add butter or olive oil to make up the difference.)

3 Make the stuffing: Heat the same pan on medium (do not drain the fat rendered out of the bacon), add the minced shallots and cook until the shallots begin to brown. Add the chopped dried cranberries, minced sage and chopped mushrooms. Stir well and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the breadcrumbs, the parsley, chopped bacon, and the turkey or chicken stock and stir well. You want a rough paste, something that will stick to itself. Remove from the heat and allow the stuffing to cool.

4 Remove the skin, then pound turkey breast to even thickness: To make the stuffed turkey breast, remove the skin from the turkey in one piece and reserve.

Put the turkey breast between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap and gently pound with a mallet until it is about 1/4 inch thick. (It may be easier to butterfly the breast first, depending on how big the breast is.)

5 Spread stuffing over turkey breast, then roll up: Trim the pounded breast until it is roughly a rectangle. Spread a thin layer of the stuffing over the breast, leaving about 3/4 inch border around all sides.

Starting with one of the shorter ends of the turkey rectangle, roll up the turkey breast.

Lay the skin over the top of the rolled breast and tuck any under the edges.

6 Tie up the turkey breast: Tie the rolled turkey breast tightly with kitchen string (cotton, not nylon!) and set it on a roasting pan. Paint it with olive oil, or smear butter or bacon fat over it and sprinkle with salt. If you want more drippings for gravy, place pieces of a turkey wing on the roasting pan as well.

7 Roast: Roast at 400°F for 20 minutes, then drop the heat to 325° and roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the breast reads about 155° on a meat thermometer.

8 Rest: Once the turkey reaches that temperature remove it from the roasting pan and tent it loosely with foil. Let it rest at least 10 minutes, and up to 25 minutes.

9 Make gravy with pan drippings: While the turkey breast is resting, if you want, you may be able to make a little gravy with the drippings. If you are only cooking the breast, and not the optional turkey wing as well, you may not have much to work with. But even a little bit of drippings can flavor a gravy. (If you really don’t have much fat to work with, you can melt two tablespoons of butter into the roasting pan.)

Take the roasting pan with drippings and place over two burners on the stove-top on medium (if using turkey wing, remove first). Sprinkle with flour and stir until the flour is incorporated into the drippings.

Slowly add stock, whisking constantly, until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning or ground sage or thyme. Let simmer on the stove until thickened to your preference.

Stuffed Turkey Breast with Bacon, Cranberry, Breadcrumb Stuffing
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Brown Paper Bag Roasted Turkey

Brown Paper Bag Roasted Turkey

Thanksgiving foodMany years ago as a newlywed I was faced with making my very first Thanksgiving meal for myself and my new husband.  This of course entailed roasting a turkey.  I was clueless!

Seriously, in my single life Thanksgiving meals were prepared by mom, grandmas, and aunties; I think they took turns hosting the family for Thanksgiving each year.  Whatever the case may be I just popped in to where ever it was served and stuffed myself with all the yummy stuff they made.

Alas that year it was not to be.  Mom had moved back to New York where all the relatives were and I was alone in Hawaii, yup, just me and new hubby left to fend for ourselves on Thanksgiving. These days it probably wouldn’t have been a problem, one can just order a Thanksgiving meal for the entire family from one of the local restaurants or supermarket.  But back then this wasn’t an option.  So if I wanted a Thanksgiving meal I would have to figure out how to make it myself, starting with the turkey. (Yes that meant I had to stick my hand into the bird’s cavities and pull out its innards, seriously gross!)

Luckily I had a neighbor who showed me how to roast a turkey using a brown paper bag.  I was hesitant at first thinking the bag would catch fire, burn the house down, and we would be homeless on Thanksgiving day.  After all it was me roasting this bad bird and I could barely make toast unsupervised at that time!

Well my kitchen disaster never happened and I’ve been using this method to roast turkey ever since.  The only issues I’ve run into in recent years is finding large brown bags!

Years ago groceries were packed in large brown bags, perfect size for this roasting method.  The emergence of plastic grocery bags made it nearly impossible to find the paper ones.  Never one to give up I used brown craft paper when I can not locate large brown paper bags. Recently our state outlawed the use of plastic grocery bags and most supermarkets have started selling us large paper bags when we don’t bring our own grocery bags.  Umm that would be me, I always forget to bring the bags I have in my trunk into the stores so I end up purchasing even more bags.

I should mention however that I’ve only ever cooked using electric ovens, I’m told you can still use this method in a gas oven, just be sure to keep paper away from the flame.  I haven’t had the opportunity to try this so I would advise caution if you are going to try it in a gas oven.

Here’s how I do this using 2 large brown paper grocery bags or a very large shopping bag:

1.  Clean and wash turkey.  Be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the cavity.  Refrigerate giblets if you will be using them in your gravy.

2.  Salt the turkey cavity with about 2 tbls of salt

3.  Place a whole peeled onion in the back of the cavity.

4. Rub butter on top of the thighs, wing tips, and the breast; anywhere the turkey may come in contact with the paper bag.

5. If you will not be stuffing your turkey then place it on the rack inside the roasting pan.

If you will be stuffing your turkey then loosely place stuffing in both cavities.  Do not pack in stuffing.  Stuffing expands during cooking and you will have a big mess in the over and no stuffing.
Truss turkey using lacers and twine.  Place it on the rack inside the roasting pan.

6.  Insert one end of the roasting pan into the first brown bag.*

7.  Work the second brown bag onto the roasting pan.  Make sure the bag overlaps with the first bag.*

Brown bag
8.  Place the whole package in the oven using the chart below from allrecipes.com.

Bag in oven

9.  30 minutes before the turkey is done carefully tear off bags and remove.  Don’t jiggle the pan too much, you don’t want the drippings to spill, you will need the drippings for gravy.  Leave turkey uncovered to brown.

10.  When turkey is done remove from the oven and let rest on the rack for 30 minutes.  Do not transfer turkey on to serving tray immediately after cooking, it will fall apart.  Using turkey lifters makes transferring the turkey easier.

11.  If your stuffing is in the bird scoop it out onto a serving bowl before carving the turkey, it’s just neater than having everyone spoon stuffing directly out of the bird.

These times are based on placing the whole turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C ) oven.

 

 Weight  of Bird

 Roasting Time (Unstuffed)  Roasting Time 
  (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours   3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours   4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours   5 to 5-1/2 hours
  24 to 29 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours

The only true test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin.

  • The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. To get an accurate reading, be sure that your thermometer is not touching the bone.
  • If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing; it should be 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).
  • When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, and makes for easier carving.

* If you can not get large brown bags you can use brown craft paper.  You can buy a roll at Walmart or any discount store.  Wrap the paper around the whole roasting pan.  Staple shut on both ends and on the top.

My Turkey

This is my turkey cooked using the brown bag method. This bird weighed 24 pounds.

Jaime's Turkey

My daughter in Colorado uses my method to make her Thanksgiving turkey. This is a small turkey weighing about 15 pounds.

Decorate With Pumpkins for Thanksgiving

Decorate With Pumpkins for Thanksgiving

Pumpkins for ThanksgivingWho says pumpkins are just for Halloween?  You can use pumpkins for Thanksgiving decor too!

Now that Halloween is over it’s a good time to buy Halloween decor at discount prices.  I grabbed a few foam craft pumpkins at Walmart for half price; scrounged up a few old cups in my kitchen cabinets, I used freebies we got from Bubba Gump, Spaghetti Factory, and Circus Circus; picked up metalic spray paint, ribbons, and dried foliage; and made centerpieces for my dining tables.  It’s a great and inexpensive way to use pumpkins for Thanksgiving!

The whole project didn’t take long to make, the longest part was waiting for the paint to dry.  It’s amazing what you can do with a couple cans of spray paint, some ribbon, and dried leaves!

Pumpkins for Thanksgiving

Gather your materials:

Foam pumpkins
Old glassware
Spray paint – I used metalic gold and silver, but you can use whatever color you want
Ribbons
Dried foliage

Spray paint your pumpkins and glassware.  Spray 6″ away from the item you are painting, otherwise paint will run.

Foam pumpkins will need 2-3 coats of paint.  Wait for it to dry before adding additional coats.
Be sure to spray paint the lip and inside of glassware.

Pumpkins for Thanksgiving

 

Pumpkins for Thanksgiving
Pumpkins for Thanksgiving
Pumpkins for Thanksgiving

Once everything is dried you can add ribbons, foliage, and whatever else you want.  The tumblers can be used as vases and candle holders.  Remember you’re only limited by your imagination!

Pumpkins for Thanksgiving
 Pumpkins for Thanksgiving