Shepherd's Cottage Pie


This amazingly tasty dish has been making an appearance throughout Europe for hundreds of years. Mutton, lamb, beef and even fish, can easily find it's way into this British pie. I was first introduced to an English Shepherds pie early in my college days while on a short one month missions trip abroad. Previously in my home, we made this with a pastry crust, but recently an English girlfriend of mine told me that they make theirs without a crust all together! So easy to prepare and still just as satisfying! 

This recipe is pretty much allergy friendly and has ingredients that can easily be adapted to fit your dietary needs. Hope you enjoy!!

Ingredients
6 cups Mashed Potatoes (recipe follows)
2 cups Brown Sauce (recipe follows)
2 lbs. Ground Lamb or Beef
½ Onion
Salt and pepper
Butter or margarine
3 cups Dubliner Cheese Grated, I use Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese (*Please see note at the bottom)
3 Carrots cleaned and cut into small squares and cooked till tender.
1 Cup Peas (frozen not canned) cooked
6 Crimini Mushrooms cleaned and sliced

Mashed Potatoes
2-3 pounds russet potatos
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
3/4 to 1 cup raw milk or *Rice milk 
Salt and white pepper to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. In a large heavy saucepan simmer potatoes in salted water to cover by 1 inch 10 minutes, or until tender, and drain in a colander. In pan or bowl combine potatoes, butter or margarine, and 3/4-cup milk. With a potato masher or blender mash potatoes until just smooth, adding more milk and butter if necessary to make a creamy but not pasty potato. *Over cooking and blending your potatoes will make them too starchy. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Brown Sauce
3 shallots or scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
10-½ -ounces beef broth, canned is fine
1 Tb. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce (this is gluten free)
1 Tsp. Fresh Tarragon leaves finely chopped
½ Tsp. thyme
Salt, pepper
Gluten Free Beurre Manie (recipe follows)

Sauté chopped shallots or scallions in butter. Gradually add wortsheshire and beef broth. Let it come to a boil and add the seasonings. Cook down for a few minutes. Add Beurre manié to thicken to taste. Let simmer for a few minutes and strain. Set aside.

Ground Lamb or Beef
Finely chop ½ an onion. Sauté in 2 Tbsp. butter. Add ground meat and cook. Drain liquids. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Vegetables
Mix prepared vegetables together.


Beurre Manié
Ingredients:
1oz Butter
3/4oz Cornflour
1 Blend the cornflour and butter together in a small dish.
2 Add the Beurre Manié in very small lumps to the sauce that you wish to thicken, a few at a time.
3 A good way to stop the sauce going lumpy is to add a few lumps on the tip of a knife, scraped down the side of the pan.  This melts slowly, ensuring no lumps.
4 Stir into the hot liquid until completely blended.
5 Return pan to the heat and slowly bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sauce is thickened.

Preparations
In a lasagna or sheet cake pan, start with mashed potatoes layer your ingredients, always adding cheese and sauce after each layer. Repeat process until you end with mashed potatoes on top. Potatoes can be piped on for a decorative finish but it is not necessary. Bake Shepherds Pie in a pre-heated 375° oven for 20 minutes. If potatoes start to brown too quickly loosely cover with foil.

This recipe can also be found on my allergy friendly blog,  A Favored Life.  

*Cheese can be omitted for those with a dairy intolerance, or substitute your favorite dairy free cheese.


** Any milk ingredient in this recipe can be substituted with rice, coconut or almond milk to fit your dietary need.




Chunky Applesauce


It's been such a long time since I've posted a recipe, but apple season just ended and we had a wonderful crop from our tree this year! Cinnamon and spice and everything nice has permeated throughout the house with apple fare filling the cupboards and dessert trays.  
Now are thoughts of, holiday foods and family gatherings coming up in just in a few weeks!


I wanted to share at least one recipe with photos.

This is a simple crock pot applesauce recipe that makes such a yummy, low sugar, chunky monkey type of sauce! Every slow cooker heats differently, so you decide how long you cook your apple sauce for. The original recipe I read said 4 hours for a saucy sauce, but I found that 3 hours gave me some chunky pieces which I prefer.


My apple tree produces a Fuji Apple, but I also added Red Delicious apples to cut down on the sugar addition. Plus, my previous batch of apple butter took a lot more apples than I expected.
For a completely sugar free apple sauce, find out from your produce man what the sweetest apples are for the season!! 

Yield: 3 ~ 16 oz Jars

Prep Time: 45 minutes to an hour (unless you have a rotary apple peeler)

Cook Time: 3-4 hours

INGREDIENTS

A mix of 6 pounds Fuji and Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks. 


1/4 cup light brown sugar (if needed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in the Crock Pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours. 
2. For chunky applesauce as pictured, stir and mash the apples with a large spoon close to the end of the cook time.  Store applesauce in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze in freezer jars for up to 6 months.
Enjoy!! 
xo

The Inspired Plate | December | Cast Iron


I always have mixed feelings this time of year. Our last post usually means changes with our TIP group of gals. We have all grown in our art, our photography and even our businesses. It's a good thing.. but it often means our schedules change and we all can't keep up with the demands. I'm going to miss those gals who won't be participating next year!

This last post of the season is Cast Iron Cookware/ or Favorite pots and pans. My favorites are definitely my cast iron. So.. everything cooked here today has been baked, browned and grilled on three different forms of cast iron. My Artisan Boule bread was baked in an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven, my leg of lamb was warmed/browned in my favorite antique cast iron pan, and my panini sandwhich was pressed and grilled on my cast iron grill and weighted down with a cast iron pan.

So here we go..

Grilled Rosemary Lamb Panini
with Currant Jelly, Spinach and English Cheddar 
on a Fresh Artisan Boule


I hope you enjoy the photo journaling of this recipe.. I enjoyed preparing it just as much as my little family enjoyed eating it!


I used the no knead procedure here. It made a WONDERFUL dough with beautiful air pockets, crunchy crust and a perfectly chewy crumb! The best recipe I have yet used for bread!



Baked in an enameled cast iron pot. So easy and quick!!


Mmmm.. perfect loaf!!


This pretty little piece of pottery is from my daughter Kat, who bought it for me at her college's Art Department Christmas Boutique. She bought it specifically for my photo stylings. :) I love the colors and have decided these shades really do need to appear more in my photo shoots!


I made a rosemary & herb crusted roasted lamb for Christmas dinner. It was SO moist and made the perfect grilled panini sandwiches!


Spread a hearty helping of currant jam on the inside slices of bread, thick slices of English cheddar cheese, good sized portions of lamb slices. Spread butter on outsides of bread. Place on hot cast iron grill and place a heavy cast iron pan or pot on top to weight it down. Turn over to grill on other side. When done add spinach.. Voila!


Be sure to head on over to see what my dear friend Stacey Siegal | Kitchen Serendipity | Longobat Key & Bradenton FL Photographer is cooking and photographing! 
And check out her beautiful recipes and food photos when your there.. this gal can cook!! :)

Till next year.. 
Buon Appetito!! 

Celebrate | The Inspired Plate's December Issue


Celebrate.. The Inspired Plate's theme for the month of December! We all came to this 
month with different idea's and varying plans, but all of our ideas were novel just the same. 
I really intended to end this year with a "BANG".. photographically that is. Until December
actually came along and that BANG went "BUST" with all sorts of unexpected expectations.
Do you ever feel like your head is in a whirlwind and it's spinning round and round like one
of those awful tea cup rides at Disneyland? :) Honestly, I have been feeling overwhelmed
like that since October!


"I’m hurried and frazzled and sometimes bedazzled, 

I’m a jewel in the rough on a pink powder puff, 

I’ve got here to go there to go everywhere a kids show, 

Behind me, beside me, around me, “Please guide me!” 
Mom do this and mom do that, My dear husband reminds, 
“Don’t forget that”. I need a break, and I really do mean it, 
Just need to slow down so I don’t go ballistic, 
Inhale, exhale, don’t forget to breathe, 
I think if I pray, I’ll remember what I believe, 
On the wings of an eagle, He mounts me up high, 
Don’t have to be weary, with Him I can fly, 
He gives strength to the tuckered, and to him who lacks might, 
He increases with power to those who’d take flight. 
How absolutely awesome the Creator I know, 
So down on my knees in prayer I shall go." 
By Laurie M.Vengoechea ©


It's in one of these moments that I wrote this.. tap tap tap.. "I must remember to take
my own advice!" Needless to say, I didn't get everything done for this post that I would
have liked to. I did do all the shooting, but some of the other AMAZING gals are putting
together their end of the year Magazine Covers. WOW! I am so impressed and if time permits..
which, by golly Miss Molly I'm going to make happen, I too will put my efforts in creating
my magazine issue with the recipes included! I did start my Prep School layout.. but by 7pm
I knew I was too fizzled out to get beyond these photos. So here we go...


One of the photos I'm including here is my DMC Italian Filled Cookie. It's my favorite
cookie that our family has been making for years. It's quite similar to the Sicilian

Cucidati Fig Cookie, with the exception that mine is made with apple butter instead of Fig.

I will have this recipe up soon! Over the years my Dalla Mia Cucina cookie has had 
quite a few searches and raves. If you are looking to get your hands on this recipe soon.. 

 you can find it here. Although.. in my updated recipe I add a new ingredient that cuts down a bit on the sweetness and ads another flavor component that rocks the recipe! "Espresso Powder". :)


Our yearly Christmas celebration wouldn't even start without my Manicotti, Meatballs and Sausage! My kids beg us to stay home for the holidays to ensure they get their fill of this Holiday 
favorite. And then there is my traditional hot spiced cider with my DMC twist.. cherries! 
It's yummy for the whole family.. and perfect for a night of playing kid friendly games by the fire!


Before you go any further, please be sure to visit my friend Jennifer Grant | Metro Detroit Editorial Food Photographer. I'm so pleased that she has been with us all year and will continue
to rock our socks off with her amazing photography for another year!

I am SOOO excited to get through the circle this month.. we have some amazing talent here
at The Inspired Plate and it has been an honor to watch them grow throughout this year. I have
made friendships that I will forever treasure.. and even though some of the girls may not be with us full time this next year, we will see them for Alumni Posts and they will still be an ear shot away for us to chat and gab about creativity and business advise for new growth
within our group and our own successes.

Coming January we have new themes and some new talent too, so please come back,
we look forward to your visits and your comments too! If you haven't done so yet, visit our Facebook page and become a "friend"! We love visitors!


Smokey Spicy Beef Skewers




Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies is a product I have mentioned a few times here at DMC. It not only is a product I photograph, but it is a product I use quite often! It makes a beautiful glaze for biscuits,  a sweet and spicy addition for seasoned nuts, and as we've used hear for beef skewers, a wonderful addition to a tangy grilling sauce. But please.. PLEASE don't hesitate to eat it alone by the spoonful!! It's that YUMMY and perfectly balanced with heat on sweet! 

Depending on your own style, you have a few flavor options. I love the JA-HA for it's versatility, I can puree figs, cherries, prunes or apples, and make a chutney style barbecue sauce with it, or use it plain with an addition of crushed garlic and red pepper flakes.. these would be my preferences to accompany beef.  But for a chicken or fish perparation, I prefer the Jalapeño Garlic Lime, Mango Ginger and Peach habanero. (ohh the countless recipes I have yet to create) :)

For this Photo Shoot, I strictly used Mrs G's recipe from her web site. It's DE-LICIOUS! :)
Be sure to check out some of her other amazing flavor pairings and recipes!













Peppermint Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark

Who doesn't love chocolate.. and what better, than to make it and give it away as gifts! In 
my home it's a tradition to start our baking when the kids have Thanksgiving break. This week
our youngest was off earlier than usual so here we are, celebrating mom and daughter time and looking forward to the holidays with Peppermint Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark. 


This is the easiest candy to make.. you don't even need a candy thermometer, which I love. Every year when I pull mine out to use, it's either broken or just not calculating the correct temperature. So voila!! No stress about running out to grab a thermometer.. this time! While I have a link to Callebaut chocolates, you can use another good quality chocolate, I think Ghirardelli Chocolates are yummy too. Quite a few years ago I was fortunate enough to find this chocolate in a local candy making store and I fell in love with the taste and texture. Oh my.. it's so buttery and smooth! I hope you enjoy.. Buon Appetito and Happy Holidays!!

Ingredients
1 block good quality dark chocolate (minus a few extra squares)
1 block good quality milk chocolate (minus a few extra squares)
* a few extra squares of chocolate for tempering
1 cup white chocolate nibs or chips
2 tsp. solid coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil also)
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup dried cherries
Offset spatula
Baking sheet covered with parchment paper
Wooden skewer or knife


Directions
1. In a heat proof bowl, add your white chocolate nibs and 1 tsp. of coconut oil. Heat for 1 minute in microwave oven. Stir and heat again for 30 seconds. Stir again and it should be ready.
2. On the stove top in a heavy duty pan, add 1 tsp. of coconut oil and all but a few blocks of the dark and milk chocolate. *The saved chocolate will be used for tempering. Heat on medium low heat so the chocolate melts slowly without it scorching.
3. When chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and add a few of the extra chocolate squares.
Stir till incorporated.
4. On prepared baking sheet, pour your dark/milk chocolate blend onto the paper. With the offset spatula smooth it out across the paper to fill the parchment.
5. With a spoon, drizzle the white chocolate horizontally across the dark chocolate to create lines.
((Pictured below))
6. With your skewer or knife, run up and down through the white and dark chocolates to create the swirl pattern. ((Pictured below))
7. Sprinkle Peppermint candies, dried cherries and chopped almonds on top.
8. Chill in refrigerator till firm. Cut diagonally or in long strips, or for a rough look, break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. 


Quite a few years ago I was fortunate enough to find Callebaut Chocolate in a local candy 
making store, and I fell in love with the taste and texture. 

   Pour the white chocolate horizontally across the dark chocolate to create lines. 
   With your skewer or knife, run up and down through the white and dark chocolates to       create the swirl pattern.



















































Two Toned Cocoa and Amaretto Pizzelles


Pizzelles.. they are the quintessential Italian treat that look wonderful plated at an elegant dessert table with it's beautiful floral lace pattern and it's crisp texture. It is a quick an easy cookie to prepare that is the talk of the room at many school parties or family get-together's.

The traditional recipe calls for anise and anise seeds..yes, like my Spungna Di Biscotti Cake.. but also like the Biscotti, it works well with many flavorings. During the holidays I'll give Pizzelle cookies as gift's, side-dipped in a chocolate coating and for more of a festive look sometimes sprinkled with fine glittery candies.

Here I made a two toned pizzelle with cocoa on one side and a dousing of Amaretto in the lighter version. Oh so yummy and flavorful,
and according to my husband, addictive.
Amaretto Pizzelles
(Makes about 2-3 dozen)

3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur
1-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar.
Add the butter, vanilla, and amaretto.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix well.
The batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon.
The batter can also be refrigerated for later use.

Cocoa Pizzelles
(Makes about 30)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.

*Heat the pizzelle baker and follow the directions for How to Make a Pizzelle.
Put half a teaspoon of each, cocoa and amaretto, side by side onto the iron to achieve the two toned affect. It takes practice.. but the result is beautiful and delicious!



Colored Sugar Shapes



This isn't my first post about sugar shapes, in 2008 I also wrote about these wonderful sugar creations that are SO easy and quick to make. I actually have to give the credit for this batch to my 8 year old daughter who was so excited about playing in the color stained water and filling the candy molds. I was happy to have her help.. because at this point I was more interested in clicking away with my camera and getting some pretty photo's.

I wasn't just shooting for Dalla Mia Cucina this time around, Simone from Jungle Frog Cooking is a professional Food Photographer who periodically has food photo challenges on her blog. I thought it would be fun to join in THIS particular one, themed on the use of "white". My experience with shooting all white has usually left me with burned and over exposed images. Even this time around, the light in my studio wasn't "all that", and I had the wrong bulbs in my lamp stands (which cast a yellow light) so I went "tout naturel" and upped my exposure trying to eliminate the shadows. Oh how I HATE shadows! :)

I usually use my 24 -70 mm lens f2.8, but I knew I was going to need as much light as possible filtering in, so I used my 50mm f1.4 lens. Other than having a smaller cropping area to play with, it was a pretty good choice. Hope you enjoy the photo's.. and the Sugar Shapes!! 


Colored Sugar Shapes

This is an easy and elegant way to serve sugar at your holiday or everyday table. My children and I started making these a few years ago and now regularly enjoy these shaped and colorful cubes for our coffee and tea.
With holiday dinners and family gatherings just around the corner definitely make time for this easy preparation.


Ingredients
Sugar
Food Coloring *
Water
Candy or Chocolate Molds



Instructions
Color your water to desired shades.
Add 2 teaspoons of water to 1 cup of sugar, combine until it's the consistency of wet sand.
Pack moistened sugar into plastic mold trays (with shapes 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide available at Joanns Fabrics & Crafts or kitchen-supply stores).
Scrape level with a spatula.
Let harden.
Turn plastic molds over gently on cookie sheet, they should release easily.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.





* My son came up with an alternative to colored water. He places colored sugar crystals (sold in craft stores) on the bottom of the plastic molds before he adds un-colored sugar. This also lends to a very beautiful display!

Enjoy and Buon Appetito!
Laurie

Apple Dumplings in a
Warm Crème Anglaise Sauce


We love comfort food in all shapes and sizes.. but for me a true comfort food has to be warm and include something creamy. It wasn't till I first met my husband that I had ever had the pleasure of enjoying an apple dumpling. We used to go to this wonderful little bakery in Belmont Shore, Long Beach and indulge in the most wonderful sweet treats. This is where I first had my dumpling. But to be honest with you, it still didn't give me that warm comfortable feeling that I got when I had hot peach or apple pie ala mode. So this is where the Crème Anglaise comes in. If you have never had apple dumplings with a warm crème anglaise sauce you have never really enjoyed apple dumplings the way you should! :)

This is a perfect fall dessert and dressed up in this custard sauce it makes quite an elegant holiday presentation!



Apple Dumpling Ingredients
2 cups water 
1-1/4 cups sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup shortening 
1/3 to 1/2 cup half-and-half, light cream, or whole milk 
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts 
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
6 small cooking apples (about 1-1/2 pounds) 
1 tablespoon butter or margarine


Directions
1. For sauce, in a medium saucepan combine the water, the 1-1/4 cups sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup butter or margarine. Set aside. 

2. Meanwhile, for pastry, combine the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the half-and-half, light cream, or milk over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening dough, using 1 tablespoon of the cream or milk at a time, until all of the dough is moistened. Form dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to an 18x12-inch rectangle.* Using a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut into six 6-inch squares.

3. In a small mixing bowl combine the walnuts, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.

4. Peel and core the apples. Place an apple on each pastry square. Fill centers of apples with walnut mixture. Drizzle sauce over apples. Moisten edges of each pastry square with water; fold corners to center over apple. Pinch to seal. Place dumplings in a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Bake in a 365 degree F oven for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown. 


Crème Anglaise Ingredients
2 cups light cream or half and half 
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (can be found specialty food stores) or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
5 large egg yolks


Directions
*Have a fine medium-sized strainer and bowl ready near the stove.

In a stainless steel bowl stir together, using a wooden spoon, the sugar and yolks until well blended. (Do not let this mixture sit too long or a film will develop on the yolks.)

In a small saucepan heat the cream and vanilla bean (if using) just to the boiling point. Remove from heat and whisk a few tablespoons of the cream into the yolk mixture. Then, gradually add the remaining cream, whisking constantly.

Pour this mixture into a medium sized saucepan and, over medium heat, gently heat the mixture to just below the boiling point (170 - 175 degrees F). You will notice that steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle! Check to see if it is the right consistency by holding a wooden spoon sideways that is covered with the custard and run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the streak remains without the cream running down through the streak, it is ready.

Immediately remove from the heat and pour through the strainer, scraping up any thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until seeds separate. For maximum flavor, return the pod to the sauce until serving time. (If you are using pure vanilla extract, instead of the vanilla bean, add it to the cream now.)

The crème anglaise can be refrigerated covered with plastic wrap for a couple of days. 

Note: If sauce was overheated and curdling occurs, pour instantly into a blender and process until smooth before straining. If necessary, add a little heavy cream to the mixture before blending.

Makes about 2 cups .

To serve, spoon Creme Anglaise in bowls. Place a dumpling in each. Use reserved sauce for drizzling over dumplings. Makes 6 servings.