Cake and Sympathy

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

This past week, the father of a friend of mine had to undergo open heart surgery.  It was a rather unexpected development, and has shaken the family.  Though he came through the surgery with flying colors, his recovery will take some time, and his health will be priority number one for some time.

To take some stress away from the family, I decided to send up some food.  This is a natural instinct for me, and for many southerners as well.  Food is comfort.  By giving a meal, you take some stress off that family.

Since this family resides up in New Jersey, I was at a loss as to how I could give them my food/comfort.  Luckily, my friend and his wife are heading up there to assist in the recovery effort.  Huzzah!

I tried to think of something that would travel well and also last a decent amount of time.  The idea came to me almost instantly: Smitten Kitchen’s blood orange olive oil cake!  Olive oil is very heart healthy, and blood oranges are beautiful (and currently in season.)  Plus, I feel that cake is particularly well suited for recovery.  You can’t be sad while eating cake.  Cake is happy food.  Happiness is always needed and appreciated for a speedy recovery.

I got this recipe (exactly) from SmittenKitchen, so I don’t feel the need to include the recipe.

However, I would like to know what y’all like to make (or eat) when you or someone you know is feeling ill.

Please do leave comments.


Shepherd’s Pie, a la Tex-Pat

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ah, shepherd’s pie.  Simple ingredients.  Simple prep.  Simple tasting.

Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious.  Traditional shepherd’s pie is comfort food 101.  Meat, a little veg, and a pile of mashed potatoes.  I love all of these things.  However, last week, I wanted to jazz up the traditional meat and potatoes mainstay.

As y’all may have gathered, I enjoy cooking.  However, living alone is not the best thing to do when all you want to do is feed people.  So, using this urge to my advantage, I often call up friends that live in the area and foist my food upon them.  I’m lucky to have friends that let me do this.  I also borrow their kitchens, knives, free labor, and (most importantly) dishwashers.  I think it’s a win-win.

Last week went a little different in the cooking department.  I had some sweet potatoes that were about to go off, delicious ground beef from the local butcher, and various frozen vegetables taking up valuable real estate in my freezer.

So, that late morning/early afternoon, I browned the ground beef with various spices, tossed some fresh/frozen veg in the pan too, and added a little red wine just for good measure.  That hung out while I prepared the sweet potatoes in the same manner as one would with the basic mashed method.  I assembled in my round casserole dish (with lid), and stuck it in the fridge.

What could I do now but call people?  Luckily, some folks were available for dinner, or else I’d’ve had to eat the whole thing myself.  Over the course of a week.  Alone.  With the cats.

These was some of the best leftover lunch ever. Promise.

Without further ado, I give to y’all:

Shepherd’s Pie a la Tex-Pat

3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 lb lean ground beef (I used a 90/10 ratio)


freshly ground pepper

1/8 tsp cinnamom

1/2 Tbsp ancho chile powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chipotle chile powder

1 tsp smoked hot paprika

small pinch freshly ground nutmeg

3/4 lb fresh carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 medium sized onion, diced

1 C frozen corn

1 C frozen green beans

1/2 to 3/4 C red wine (I used a zinfandel b/c that’s what I had.  I imagine a burgundy could be awesome here too.)

1/4 to 3/4 C milk, depending on how liquidy you like your sweet potato topping

Get out the big saucepan.  Put all the sweet potatoes in it.  Add cold water, enough to cover everything completely.  Set it over medium-high heat.  Let it come to a steady, low boil.  Drain the water when the potatoes are fork tender.  Let the sweet potatoes hang out in a mixing bowl until ready to assemble.

While the sweet potatoes are hanging out in the jacuzzi, get out your big skillet.  Put the stove on medium.  Toss in the ground beef and start browning it.  Break it up into little pieces with your wooden spoon.  Add in the onion, carrots, and all of the spices.  Once the meat is just brown, add in the red wine.  Let it simmer and hang out for a little, maybe letting the wine get to second base with the meat.  Add in the frozen corn and green beans, and heat through.

Turn off the heat.  Dump the meaty mixture into the casserole dish.

Turn to the sweet potatoes, getting out your hand mixer.  Add in the desired amount of milk and slowly mix/beat the potatoes into a smooth consistency.  Maybe add a little salt and pepper.  Empty this out over the meat mixture, smoothing out the top with a spatula or wooden spoon.

You can choose to stick this in the oven now, at 350 for around 15 minutes or until the sweet potatoes start showing a little toasty brown color.


If you let this hang out (covered) in the fridge all afternoon, and then heat it at the same temp for around 30 minutes, it’ll taste even better.


If you can’t finish it all for dinner, then by all means eat it the next day.  The flavor will have enhanced even more.

So basically, the longer you let this hang out and mingle with its delicious self, the better it’s going to taste.  That is, until it starts growing bacteria.  Then it might not taste so good anymore.

And you may want to call some friends, because this’ll serve around 6 people.

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