"Mom, what's for dinner?"
If I had a dollar for every time, I heard that I wouldn't have to worry about paying my mortgage. You too, right? And hearing that after a rough day at work and then a commute with bumper to bumper traffic sounds like fingers on a chalkboard.
As I reflect on why that irritates me, I conclude the following. First, most of the time I don't KNOW what heck I am going to serve for dinner. Second, that does not seem like a question. It seems like a demand; I have yet ANOTHER thing to do. Third, I am super tired, and all I want is an adult beverage and a bubble bath.
Splash some cold water on your face, sister, because the beverage and bubbles are going to have to wait.
"What's for dinner" is the predictable question. Forewarned is forearmed. So, I have learned to have the answer ready.
I found that the most manageable way to serve homemade, healthy and delicious dinners was to make them ahead. Often, you can double the recipe and freeze one for another evening, too.
Opening the fridge and seeing dinner ready is like finding a little present right there on the second shelf. All you need to do is heat and serve. Done.
One of my all time favorite make-ahead meals is Shepherd's Pie.
Shepherds Pie makes people feel, well, loved. It is easy to make, and it packs so many healthy ingredients into one little bowl. The combo of mashed potatoes, veggies and beef are heavenly. And I believe that it is what Jesus would make for dinner. Especially if He were a single parent.
For the potatoes:
- 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 ounces unsalted butter melted
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the meat filling:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 small shallot minced
- 2 carrots peeled and diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 pounds ground lamb
- 1/2 pound ground veal
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels 1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the mashed potatoes and carrots
- Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a medium saucepan on the stove and cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
- Place the milk into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 40 seconds.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan.
- Mash the potatoes, add the melted butter, salt, and pepper.
- Blend with a hand mixer slowly adding the milk until smooth
- Slice and boil the carrots until tender. Drain, and then mash them. Set aside.
Prepare the filling.
- Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet (my favorite) or12” saute pan on medium heat.
- Once the oil is heated, add the lamb, veal and ground beef, rosemary and thyme and cook until nicely browned.
- Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the shallots and garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes
- Return the meat mixture to the pan, add salt and pepper and cook with the onion, shallot and garlic for approximately 3 minutes.
- Sprinkle the meat mixture with the flour and toss to coat it and then, continue to cook it for another minute.
- Add the tomato paste, chicken broth and Worcestershire and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and Put the meat mixture into an 11 x 7-inch glass baking dish.
Top with the layer of carrots, then peas and corn and then the mashed potatoes
Place the 11 x 7 glass baking dish on a parchment-lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown.
Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.
And that's the dish....