The Best Shepherd’s Pie Ever! (Gluten Free)

Ok, so “best ever” is a pretty big claim to make, but I feel pretty secure in making the statement.

As an Irish Canadian, I’ve eaten my fair share of Shepherd’s (Cottage, to be more accurate) Pie. As a chef, I’ve tinkered with the recipe many, many times. I’ve done a “Thanksgiving Leftovers” version. I’ve made a cottage pie with moose meat, partridgeberries, and wine. Boeuf bourguignon hybrid pie, cottage pie with caribou meat… yeah, you could call me a connoisseur!

So, when I say that this is the best ever – know that there’s a lot of experience behind the claim!

First, a quick distinction: The vast majority of what people call “Shepherd’s Pie” is actually “Cottage Pie”. Cottage pie that uses lamb for the meat is “shepherd’s pie”. Sheep, shepherd… you know. This recipe was developed to be a shepherd’s pie, but was changed to a cottage pie at the last minute. After a morning of shopping for ingredients, I chose convenience over nomenclature 🙂

Anyway, that little bit of pedantry aside…

I created this cottage pie for our recent “St Pi-trick’s Day” party. As every food had to be Irish themed and round, I sized this recipe around a 12″ round cake pan, big enough to serve our party. Should you want to be a bit more traditional with it, and make it up in two 9 x 13″ pans.

In keeping with the Irish theme, I didn’t make this “American Style” – you’ll notice there is no creamed corn, and no cheese. Instead of the more common choices of corn and frozen peas, I decided to go more “Irish Canadian” with it, using carrots, parsnips, and turnips – a very popular set of veggies on the East Coast of Canada, which is heavily Irish. For many/most people out that way, those root vegetables are served at least weekly, as part of “Sunday Dinner” – very traditional. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, getting these veggies ready will be a snap. If you have to grate them by hand – trust me, it’s worth the effort in the end!

As an additional nod to the Irish-Canadianness of it, you’ll notice the use of savory. Savoury, as we spell it back home, is an extremely popular herb in east coast Canadian kitchens… for good reason. The savoury that grows in the hills of Newfoundland is the best savory I’ve ever had. It’s commonly used in soups, on poultry, in stuffing/dressing, on pork… yum. If you’re a foodie and have a chance to get your hands on some Mt. Scio brand savoury… send me some, too!

While shepherd’s pie really isn’t anything elegant to look at, no matter what the ingredients, this one has an elegant taste to it. The use of the root vegetables in combination with these seasonings provides an awesome merge of flavors… truly, I think I’ve come up with the ideal cottage pie here!



St Patrick’s Day Pizza Recipe

Whoa! I’ve really neglected the blog recently… sorry about that! Racing to get the main areas of the house organized and cleaned up. No small task, considering that the dining room was still being used as temporary storage for everything that belonged in the kitchen. As we have enough of the shelves done to move forward, I’m re-populating them with everything that’s been in the dining room. It may not sound like much, but it’s a lot of fussy decision making, as much as anything. The new cabinetry layout is completely different from the old one, so I need to figure out where I want everything to be.

Anyway, the big cleaning rush is on account of our “St Pi-trick’s Day” party this weekend. Just finished the menu up last night – it’s going to be GOOD! For the uninitiated: My husband’s favorite “holiday” is Pi Day (He’s a major math nerd), while my favorite is St Patrick’s Day (Irish Canadian, here!). Usually, we celebrate the two together, ON Pi day. Loads of pi trivia, round foods, etc… with a heavy Irish theme running on top of it. Just finished our menu last night – it’ll be awesome!

If you’re looking for something unique to serve for your own celebrations this time of year – I’ve got the recipe for you! Behold: St Patrick’s Day Pizza!

I created this recipe for our pi day celebrations a few years ago, and it’s been a March staple for us ever since. It’s basically the result of wondering “What’s the best way to combine the two themes, in one epic main dish?”. Well… now you know!

This recipe starts with a flavorful, tender beer based rye crust, and continues with (Canadian style) colcannon, one of our favorite things ever. Top with some corned beef, cabbage, and Irish cheddar… there you have it. St Pi-trick’s Day perfection!


St Patrick's Day Pizza

St Patrick's Day Pizza

Milk Chocolate Chai Truffles Recipe

If you’re looking for a little pre-Thanksgiving dinner treat, a hostess gift to bring along with you, an after dinner sweet…. or just want to get your chocolate on – here’s a great recipe for you!

These truffles are based on our famous Chai cake flavor. The warmth of the spices – cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg – pair fabulously with creamy milk chocolate, for a super satisfying sugar rush.

Truffles are easy to make – much easier than their retail cachet would have you think! Even a novice cook can turn these babies out, with very little effort, stress, or cost.

While chocolate chips may be a highly unusual medium for truffle making, they are easy to find, and lack the sticker shock that comes with the more traditional chocolate options. Anyone can make these truffles at home, with common ingredients, for only about $4.00/30 truffles!!


Colcannon Recipe (AKA Caulcannon)

I had forgotten that today was the official start to fall, when I rolled out of bed. Something about today’s crisp, chilly air awoke something in me, though.

Massive. Colcannon. Craving.

At first, I thought it was a bout of ADD. I had resolved to work on my tornado book today, and had to go through emails, blog posts, and tweets to compile a comprehensive timeline of everything that’s happened since May 22. Yup – about as much fun as it sounds.

I sat down to my computer, and I thought… “Man, you know what would be awesome now? Colcannon. Just a massive bowl of piping hot colcannon. Mmmmm…”

I tried to turn my attention to what I was doing, but even a few hours later, the craving roared for attention. I decided to cave in and make some. I messaged my husband to let him know, and ask for an opinion on how much to make. That convo:

Me: I have decided that I need to make colcannon. How much?
Me: A little or a ton?
Husband: Ton!!!!!!!!!!!
Husband: !!!!!!!!!!!

Yep. We kind of adore colcannon here… as you may have guessed from his copious use of exclamation points! 🙂 (more…)

Sauerkraut Balls (Pyrizhky?)

I recently obtained this recipe from my aunt, by way of my grandmother. My husband was professing his love for sauerkraut, and I recalled the sauerkraut balls that this aunt used to make around the holidays. I remembered them being really addictive little bread balls filled with sauerkraut and bacon, but couldn’t remember much past that – it had been 2 decades since I’d had one!

So, after a couple of calls, I received an email with the vague recipe. I *immediately* set about making a batch for my husband. Between the bread, kraut, and bacon, I think he was about to start foaming at the mouth if I didn’t get right on it!

Sauerkraut Balls (Pyrizhky?)

1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 envelope yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream

1 lb bacon, chopped
1 bag saurkraut (about 19 oz), drained
1 medium onion, chopped

Melted butter

Prepare the dough:

Gently mix together warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Form a well in the middle, and pour oil, eggs, and sour cream into it. Mix

well, then add the yeasty water. Mix until everything is well incorporated, then knead lightly for 2 minutes. Place dough in

a large, greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

As you are waiting for the dough to rise, prepare the filling:

Cook bacon & onions until bacon is almost cooked, but not crispy. Add saurkraut to the pan, cook and stir well until bacon fat is absorbed and everything is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.

Assemble the sauerkraut balls:

Roll dough out to an even 1/4″ thickness. Cut rounds that are between 3″-4″ in diameter.

On the center of each round, place a mound of about 1 Tbsp filling. Gather edges of the round and seal the filling in (like a drawstring bag). Roll around between your hands a bit to get a uniform spherical shape, and place on a lightly greased / sprayed baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling, leaving at least 2″ between dough balls.

Loosely cover cookie sheets with plastic wrap, and allow to rise another hour.

Heat oven to 350F. Remove pastic wrap from cookie sheets, bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and brush liberally with melted butter.

Great served hot, fresh out of the oven, cold, or even reheated. IF they last that long.

Pi Day Pinata!

This article was posted in 2009. For an update – with more ideas on how to celebrate Pi Day, check out 2010’s entry, here.

If you are looking for our epic, “internet famous” Pi Backsplash, check it out here.

With Pi Day (March 14) coming up, my husband and I decided to just go crazy with it. We’ll blog about the festivities later, but for now… I want to blog about the piece de resistance.. our PInata! Neither of us had ever been involved with making a pinata before, and it sounded like a fun – and wholly appropriate – challenge!

This would be a fun project for any couple or family to do together. Or, hey, any pi-obsessed individual… but I will say that two sets of hands REALLY helped it go faster, and there were many times where the extra set of hands helped with handling.

Of course, the principles of design that we utilized in the creation of our PInata could be applied to many different themes and shapes of pinatas, so go nuts with it. If it’s not in the cards for you to make one for this year’s Pi day, consider other occasions that would/could call for a Pinata.

Traditionally, it seems that you’re supposed to paper mache a balloon, and use that as your base. We couldn’t think of any possible way that would fit with our ideas, so we had to Macguyver a solution. Here is what we came up with. (Warning, this will be a fairly photo-heavy blog entry!) (more…)